Wednesday, November 11, 2020

I faced down our menu of celebrations with little enthusiasm yesterday. Work and other time assassins had my day in their sights, and honestly nothing looked as though it would conquer the greatness of the gumbo referenced in yesterday’s article. Vanilla cupcakes? Area codes? Accounting? None of it revved my engine much. I envied the dogs and their commitment to napping; it seems far more gratifying than diving down any of those gopher holes. Yet here I am, watching the calendar ooze its numbers toward the inevitable conclusion of this year, and I feel obligated to at least try:

(note: this intro paragraph sounded a lot less dreary and whiny before I read it over.)

National Vanilla Cupcake Day

Above is a photo of Liberty, our #3 canine research assistant, after having done some intensive work in our back yard, ensuring our snow is sufficiently snowy. She is remarkably thorough, and we appreciate her dedication to her hard work. What does this have to do with National Vanilla Cupcake Day, you may be asking?

Absolutely nothing. I think that’s quite obvious – we’re not going to try to forge some remote link between the two topics, as much as Liberty might hope we would. The reality is, we did enjoy a batch of tasty vanilla cupcakes last week, home-made from scratch (in that Jodie scratched the outside of the Betty Crocker box as she removed it from the pantry). They were fluffy and wonderful and covered in a delicious home-made (in that we ‘made’ the entry to buy the pre-created icing on our grocery list whilst sitting in our home) vanilla frosting.

They were magnificent. And I completely forgot to snap a photo of them. But we did absolutely celebrate this entry – even a few days early! And that’s the point. The dogs are here to fill in when we lack a photo sometimes. We did post a photo last month of National Chocolate Cupcake Day when we celebrated that, and folks who know us should know that we are not likely to skip over any sort of cupcake day.

It was tasty. And our snow is the appropriate amount of snowiness. All is right with the universe.

Area Code Day

There is no logical reason to celebrate Area Code Day on November 10. Let me be a bit more specific: there is no logical reason to celebrate Area Code Day. At all. To my knowledge no phone exchanges, communications conglomerates or cell phone kiosks are waving any banners to commemorate this celebration. To my knowledge, no other soul on the planet is celebrating this day. You know what? I’m going to get even specificker: There is no logical reason to celebrate area codes.

I mean, area codes are great, in that they are a part of the technology that initially allowed us to use the phone in a long-distance capacity. These days, with cell phone plans covering nationwide calling, we may forget that we used to have to wait until after 6:00PM or for Sundays to make long-distance calls even a city away, because they were slightly cheaper then. We also may forget that there was a time in the very recent past when dialing a phone number within one’s city was a seven-digit prospect, not a 10-digit chore.

The area code, which I wrote about in my last project (at least a little), is overseen by the North American Numbering Plan. And if you think I can make anything about the North American Numbering Plan sound remotely interesting then I’m afraid you’re about to be deeply disappointed. And you don’t have to worry about it; the NANP has assured us that we won’t run out of numbers until about 2049. And by then we’ll mostly be communicating from implanted chip to implanted chip anyway, so phone numbers themselves will be obsolete.

So there you have it. We learned a little about area codes, and there is absolutely nothing about them that merits learning any more. Huzzah.

Sesame Street Day

Fifty-one years ago today (actually, yesterday), television was transformed. It was the perfection of children’s programming, something that combined entertainment and education unlike anything before it. Of course I’m talking about Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo, who was born on that date.

I’m joking. Actually, half-joking: Ms. Pompeo was in fact born on the same day Sesame Street went on the air, so if you’re looking for a piece of mostly insignificant trivia (unless you know Ms. Pompeo personally), consider that my gift to you.

Fifty-one years is an impressive run, and from what I’ve seen – stretching from my childhood in the 70s and 80s through my daughter’s in the 90s and 00s – the quality hasn’t dipped. They know how to tap into the emotional and intellectual cores of kids, to teach reading and math at the same time as addressing issues like death and sadness. I figured we should do a quick run-down of some interesting facts from the Street.

  • It has won 189 Emmy awards and 11 Grammys. Clearly that’s tops among children’s shows.
  • It was the first educational program to base its format and its content on laboratory research. So science wins again.
  • The show still airs on PBS, but its federal funding was pulled in 1981, and the episodes on PBS are not first-run; HBO has been airing the episodes nine months earlier for the last five years.
  • Child psychologists initially advised they should keep the Muppets and the humans separate so as not to confuse the kids. Early test screenings showed kids were more engaged than expected in the human ‘street’ scenes, so they ignored the doctors and blended the gang. Science loses on this one.
  • The show absolutely addressed the events of September 11, 2001. I’d like to see Barney or the Teletubbies pull that shit off.
  • The kids on the Street are not child actors – they don’t use child actors. They are just regular kids.
  • Cookie Monster performed a rap in the 80s about healthy foods, which he later remade with Wyclef Jean. This actually happened.
  • Ernie’s “Rubber Duckie” was a hit. Seriously, it peaked at #16 on the Billboard hot 100. Curious about other songs that never charted that high? I was. Here are some hits that never made it to the top 20: ACDC’s “Highway To Hell” (#47), David Bowie’s “Changes” (#41), The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” (#45), Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” (#41), and the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (#42). Well done, Ernie.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Sesame Street make it another 51 years. Well, it would surprise me if *I* saw it, as I probably won’t be around then. But who knows? Maybe today is brought to us by the letter ‘L’ for ‘Longevity’.

International Accounting Day

First of all, there is a weirdly legitimate day that International Accounting Day is celebrated on November 10. Apparently it was on November 10, 1494 when Franciscan friar / mathematician published Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita, that riveting tome that wound up birthing the method of double-entry bookkeeping that would come to define the profession of accounting.

As of 2018, there are 1,424,000 accounting jobs in the United States, which sounds like the kind of strangely round number that accountants would hate. Mick Jagger studied accounting. So did Bob Newhart. Probably not at the same time, though one wonders just what sort of messed-up accounting firm the two of them would have started together. I also studied a semester of accounting, during which I learned that red ink is a bad thing, and that I don’t love math nearly enough to be an accountant.

Yesterday was the day to give your accountant a present, or at least to wish them well. I did that, in that I told my wife to have a great day. She is the money-brains in this relationship, and even though she will freely state (quite openly and repeatedly) that she is bad at it, we both know I’d be worse. Yesterday we looked at our bank balance, shrugged, and spent no money. It was an accounting fiesta.

Today we’re both off work and doing our best to respect the solemnity of the day. But for some reason other celebrations still show up on this day:

  • Remembrance Day. Obviously this is the one we were expecting today.
  • Bonza Bottler Day. And this one we were not. We will celebrate this a bit late, partly out of respect, partly because we forgot it was coming and didn’t go shopping.
  • National Sundae Day. I don’t think it would be disrespectful to enjoy a sundae on this sacred day though.
  • National Metal Day. Not clear if this is referring to the substance used in manufacturing, or to the music genre.
  • Pocky & Pretz Day. A day to celebrate those little Japanese cookie-snacks? Kind of weird, but okay.
  • Origami Day. Maybe I’ll make a crane. Or watch a youtube clip of someone doing it.