Saturday, May 9, 2020

A strange anomaly in this ongoing mayhem, yesterday found us with little in the way of actual ‘celebration’. No special food to make, as we abandoned the coconut cream pie in an effort to stave off the ballooning of our midriffs that quarantine and endless desserts has caused. One special beverage to drink (well, two actually), and one wardrobe instruction – is this celebration? Or merely a manic addiction to a snarling behemoth of a calendar, packed to its spittly gills with arbitrary acknowledgments and recipes? Or could it be that all of this is simply driving us a little mad? These are questions for our 2021 therapists to uncover. For now, there’s this:

National Coconut Cream Pie Day

This week was filled with Jabba-Hutts, with nurses’ struts and endless ruts,

Alas, the weekend brings us coconuts.

Forgive us once; our alibi: we did not buy this creamy pie,

Our tolerance for sweets has said goodbye.

This cream pie may have been the peak, the true unique we can’t critique,

The perfect treat for both us lunatiques;

But we agreed upon collab, were we to grab another slab

We’d melt into a glob of utter flab.

And so we say with grave regret, we must forget this creamy threat,

For fear that we shall both become thickset.

And though in most treats we’ll immerse, we’re not averse to shuck this curse

By writing out a tribute here in verse.

Today we’ll opt for eating fruit: a choice astute, you can’t refute,

And give our endless pastry-run the boot.

But if you’ve got it in your head, to pull this thread, get cream-pie fed,

We’re grateful for the tribute in our stead.

National Have a Coke Day

On this day 134 years ago, John Pemberton was bitten by a radioactive spider, and BOOM! Coca-Cola was invented. I think. I’ll be honest, I may have dropped the ball on my research for this one.

In 2018 Coca-Cola was ranked #87 on the list of largest US corporations by revenue. But looking beyond the balance sheet, there is literally no other brand that has wormed its way into the collective culture of the world. Once intended as a medicinal tonic by its creator, the brand met its destiny when he sold it off to Asa Candler, who masterminded the marketing of the stuff through the 20th century. One of his first moves was to remove the cocaine. Yes, there were about 9mg of coke in Coke at one point, and Pemberton’s original 1886 recipe allegedly contained ten times that amount. A typical line of cocaine contains about 50-75mg, so Pemberton’s tonic would certainly help out with that morphine addiction, that headache or that impotence. But the 1890s version was much more tame.

Multiple volumes have been written on the history of Coca-Cola, from its popularization of Santa’s look, to its invasion into impoverished countries as their first identifiable mass-marketed product, to its foolish (though strategic) decision to change recipes in the mid-80s. I have no desire to delve into all of that. This is a celebration, not a research thesis.

So we enjoyed a Coke yesterday. Jodie had a Diet Coke, which she prefers somehow, while I cracked open a tall glass bottle of Mexican-made Coke, a product I am relieved has gained popularity in these parts. Pre-recipe-change, this was the way Coke was: cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Coke used to market itself as The Real Thing – thankfully some of the real Real Thing can still be enjoyed. And damn it, it’s still the best cola out there.

No Socks Day

Thank you Thomas & Ruth Roy, you concoctors of the cockeyed and campy clashes of craziness, for a completely cromulent concept for a day. No Socks Day, but let’s drop it into May when it’s warm enough for everyone to enjoy. Unless they live in Edmonton in 2020, where the temperature may not scrape up past the single digits.

Fortunately we both have cozy fur-lined slippers. Fake fur? Probably, so don’t throw paint at us. But they did the trick for the most part, except for the unpleasantness of chilled ankles.

In a normal world this might have been fun, popping into work for casual Friday with a tiny breeze circulating about our Achilles tendons, but this is not a normal world. It was a day at home with no socks. A subdued celebration, but hey, it’s a celebration.

Fintastic Friday

This is a day to celebrate everything shark. We are encouraged to eat sustainable seafood from reputable sources that do not mangle sharks in the process of catching their product. We are told to speak up if our country allows the sale of shark fins, or does not have legislation to limit sharks being killed by fishing practices.

Good news, Canadians – we’re off the hook for the fins (pun not intended, but deeply appreciated in retrospect). The actual yanking of fins off sharks has been illegal here since 1994, and last year we became the first nation on the planet to outright ban the import and export of shark fins entirely. I suppose this means no more shark fin soup, but have you ever tried shark fin soup? I still get recurring flashbacks to the slimy texture. There are plenty of other, far better soups out there. For chrissake, save a shark, eat a matzoh ball. That should be the new slogan of the conservancy movement.

Apparently the folks at, who originated this celebration back in 2011, are not too keen on stepping up to support our finned friends this year. They have plenty of reading suggestions and activity ideas for the 2019 edition of Fintastic Friday, but nothing updated for this year. At least their list of great shark research is probably not too far out of date.

You’ve got Mahmood Shivji, who unlocked the genome sequence for the great white shark. There’s Dr. Dean Grubbs, who researches the deep-water sharks like the Bigeye Sixgill shark – that happy little dude pictured above. And don’t forget Jackie and Graham Hall, who stepped up to monitor and protect the sharks they saw off the coast of the Isle of Man because nobody else was doing it.

Sharks, despite everything Jaws taught us, are pretty cool creatures. It’s an important thing to remember that more people get killed every year by pigs than by sharks. Send out some love to the deep blue sea for these creatures – and please don’t seek out their fins for your slime-soup.

Iris Day

A day to devote to the lovely iris – not Jodie Foster’s ground-breaking underage prostitute character in Taxi Driver, but rather to the plant. Let’s see if we can learn a little about irises.

Iris was the Greek goddess of the rainbow, and the word also came to be the Greek word for rainbow. The flowers themselves are about as stunning as any rainbow I’ve seen, so I get how the name transported over. The flowers are actually quite stunning in design, shaped in a way so that a pollinating insect will scrape off any extra pollen from another flower onto an outer portion of the flower so as not to cross-contaminate.

Irises are big in flower shows, boasting proud and noble names like “Maui Moonlight”, “Raspberry Blush” and “Titan’s Glory”. There are also Irises named “Neglecta”, “Dr. Bernice” and “Depute Nomblot”.

The iris used to be a medicinal plant, though today they’re more often found in aromatherapy. They are also used in the creation of Bombay Sapphire Gin. This worked out well, as we still had enough left to make a stiff gin and tonic last night, which I enjoyed as we dug deeper into our 3,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. This is delicious gin, and a fortuitous opportunity to drink back some iris juice on this sacred and glorious day.

World Red Cross / Red Crescent Day

It’s no surprise that the three big items on the front of the Canadian Red Cross’s webpage are COVID-19, the Nova Scotia shooting, and the flooding up in Fort McMurray. The Red Cross’s mission is to be in the thick of disaster, human-made or nature-wrought. They’re the ones you can send a text to and donate $10 to whichever cause is at the forefront, allowing us all to feel like generous philanthropists without physically dragging our asses off the couch and away from Dancing With the Stars.

The organization came about courtesy of a businessman, Jean-Henri Dunant, who was looking to meet up with Napoleon III to bitch about how difficult it was to do business with French-controlled Algeria in June of 1859. He happened to pop into the town of Solferino on his way, a town that had been devastated just hours earlier in a furious battle, part of the Austro-Sardinian War that literally none of us were taught about in school, possibly because it only lasted two months. Jean-Henri had plopped himself accidentally onto a battlefield where some 40,000 soldiers on both sides had been wounded or killed. He helped to organize the villagers to not only treat the wounded, but to do so without discrimination over which uniform they wore.

He went home and wrote a book about that day, calling for an international treaty that would protect medics and field hospitals in war. Eventually the Red Cross movement was born from this mission, with a slight adaptation to Red Crescent for countries in which that is the more sacred symbol. The Red Cross/Crescent has been through it all, from every war since to terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

And they’ll be here long after this quarantine is lifted and life has adjusted for most of us into whatever the new normal will look like. When you see those ads inviting you to donate, please do. This isn’t one of those organizations that gets raked for pouring heaps of money into its executives’ pockets (looking at you, United Way). These are good people doing great things.

Another bountiful Saturday, chock-full (right up to the chock!) of celebrations, the most fun of which we will have to skip because of this damn virus:

  • National Lost Sock Memorial Day. Sure, sometimes the dryer (or possibly the dryer is just taking the fall for the washer) eats a sock. It’s tragic.
  • National Moscato Day. We may see if we can source some from a local liquor merchant.
  • National Butterscotch Brownie Day. We already did blonde brownies, which is the same thing. But we’ll have more!
  • National Sleepover Day. Every day is like a sleepover with another human and three dog friends for us.
  • National Dog’s Mom Day. A mother’s day for dogs, and two of our canine research companions have been moms.
  • National Train Day. Perhaps we’ll go for a bit of socially-distanced train spotting.
  • National Archery Day. We had plans for this. Alas, no archery.
  • National Miniature Golf Day. DAMMIT!!!!
  • Stomp Out Hunger Food Drive Day. A good time to support your local food bank.
  • Stay Up All Night Night. Not likely. We both still have jobs and internal systems that would not recover quickly from doing this. We’ll see.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The precocious sun lingering over a quieted planet speaks volumes of the potential sequestered into our tiny little tins every day. Do we squint and binge until nightfall, or muster up the chutzpah to venture out into the uncertain air? These are the quandaries that vex most folks in these wavery times, but not us. We have a prescriptive slab of plastic-coated paper staring us down with its gridiron gltare – the holy and sacred Calendar of Stuff. And yesterday it granted us a reprieve from its standard level of manic mirth, leaving us with only this to contemplate:  

National Packaging Design Day

The above mess of future landfill residents is the packaging you receive when purchasing cannabis in Canada through legal channels right now. The first thing you’ll notice is the large amount of plastic. Pot smokers are, in this country, quite displeased with this choice. It’s meant to look medicinal and official, but it’s a plant. You don’t need to secure it from breakage during transit. The leaves won’t shatter. And all this waste is woefully unnecessary.

Yesterday was apparently a day to celebrate the art of packaging design. This is something remarkably easy to overlook as we become more accustomed to receiving our Amazon packages in plain boxes too large for their contents, crammed with a couple of puffy packing bubbles to temper the mid-transit jostling. Can packaging be “art”?

I’m leaning toward a hearty yes on this. Ask anyone who has received an item from Tiffany & Company if that little blue box didn’t do something to tickle their anticipation. Consider the last electronic device you purchased with its perfectly moulded foam inserts, delivering the item in a comfy little home. Think about the satisfaction you feel when peeling off the protective plastic off a new phone, a new laptop – hell, I remember peeling that plastic off the front of a new VCR and it was a joy.

An item’s packaging is its first impression. If the packaging makes you feel comforted, as though some care and attention was put into making sure this item found its way to you intact and all pretty-like, that means something. Today we celebrate by taking a pause to appreciate the good and the bad in packaging design. It doesn’t seem like much – and really, on the grand scale of existence it isn’t much – but it’s something. And what else is our 2020 but a whole bunch of somethings?

National Roast Leg of Lamb Day

This is going to be the most privileged and first-world gripe I’ve made in this project, and it pains me to type these words, but dammit, we couldn’t find a leg of lamb at our local grocery store. We had to settle for a rack. I know – this is suffering of the highest order. It’s a wonder we don’t burst into blue and green flames at the sheer agony of having to endure this horror.

We had this recipe ready to go for yesterday, and we merely adapted it over to the rack, which we hacked up and pan-fried. The result was lamb – if you don’t like the flavour of that meat you would have hated our main course last night. We happen to be quite fond of the stuff, and this was a great way to make it.

Interesting to note, a lamb is only a lamb during its first year of life. In its second year, it’s known as hogget. Any older than that and you’re eating mutton, unless you’re dining on South Asian or Caribbean food, in which case mutton may refer to goats and not sheep. Lamb is the most coveted of all the sheep meats, though Prince Charles felt the need to launch the Mutton Renaissance Campaign back in 2004 to promote the elder alternative. It’s apparently his favourite food, and while the stronger flavour might put some folks off, Prince Charles’ efforts likely helped out some sheep farmers who were having trouble moving their post-lamb elder statessheep to slaughterhouses and restaurants.

We were plenty happy with our rack of lamb – which doesn’t get its own day this year, so it worked out nicely. We could have gone more experimental, of course. Lamb’s liver is a pub favourite, the lungs and heart factored into the haggis we ate in February, the tongue can flavour some soups, and of course the kidneys get speared on kababs in Europe and the Middle East. Then you’ve got lamb fries, which are popular in everything from Chinese cuisine to the chefs in Kentucky – those are fried-up sheep testicles, often breaded and covered in a cream sauce.

Yeah, I withdraw my gripe. The rack was just fine.

National Cosmopolitan Day

For a brief spell about twenty years ago, Jodie and I, along with much of the rest of the western TV-watching world, got briefly into cosmopolitans. My father-in-law, a biker and devoted downer of Bud Light, scoffed at these as being girly-drinks. But a cosmopolitan is simply a vodka martini-like-drink, touched up with some flavours to help you slurp back more of them at a faster rate, thus inviting a more rapid onset of knee-buckling inebriation. Nothing wrong with that.

Specifically you need lemon-infused vodka to make this stuff right, along with some Cointreau, some cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime. It’s a terrific drink, and like any great pillar of modern mixological mayhem there’s a huge debate over who invented the thing. It seems as though every bar from New York to Minneapolis to South Beach to the gay community in Provincetown, Massachusetts seems to want to claim ownership of the cosmo. Its roots, however, point it to a very similar recipe from back in the 1930s.

In the end, who really cares who mixed it up first? It’s a terrific drink and one that deserves consumption, not contemplation. Unfortunately we had no lemon vodka and no cranberry juice on hand yesterday, so we had to find an alternative way to celebrate. I pulled up an old episode of Sex & The City and watched it, as the drink made its way to stardom on the heels of that show. Still a great little show – I think the sub-par movies made us forget how much we really dug this show when it first aired. I’m calling this a victorious celebration.

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day / Mental Health Week

Sometimes these days show up at exactly the right time. In order to preserve the overall physical health of society, we have all had to put ourselves into a precarious state of mental health. Whether it’s anxiety over having to visit a grocery store, the crushing weight of imposed solitude or the abject terror of having to actually have contact with other humans in order to maintain one’s livelihood, this is one hell of a gut-punch of a year, mental-health-wise.

Kids, despite having oodles of time off school and potentially much more quality time with their video game systems and TV shows (which sounds like heaven to the child version of me who still provides daily commentary inside my brain), are feeling the strain. Maybe it’s the uncertainty, maybe it’s seeing the adults in their lives dealing with a level of anxiety they’d never witnessed before. Maybe it’s the deconstruction of routine, or the sudden severing of face-to-face contact with their peers. Maybe it’s all of the above.

If you know a kid who may be struggling, you can call 211 to get some direction on supports, and you can check out this page for a link to an anonymous chat with someone who likely understands this a lot more than you. That’s a local link for Edmonton folk, but I’m sure you can work the Google Machine and find something similar for where you live if it ain’t here.

We’re all in a strange new boat in uncharted waters, but we’re in it together. We can make it to the other side, whatever that might look like.

National Day of Prayer / National Day of Reason

Here’s a debate I have no desire to wade anywhere near, except to point out that it exists. Let’s start with the original.

The National Day of Prayer goes back to colonial America, though it wasn’t proclaimed as an official American Day until 1952. Still, it has been intertwined with American history back through the Revolutionary War, when General George Washington ordered a stop to unnecessary labor on May 6, 1779 for a day of focus on faith. Even as recently as yesterday, every president acknowledges the day, and does something tied in with prayer. That said, this is not a Christians-only game. Sikhs, Muslims, Jews and Hindus take part as well. This is not a day off, merely one that a person can use to reconnect with their spiritual telegraph wires to whichever deity fuels their beliefs. In that sense, this is actually the most inclusive religious observance in the country, perhaps in the world.

Then you’ve got the flip-side. The American Humanist Association (also referred to as the AHA, best known for their 1985 single “Take On Me”) helped to create this day in 2003 as an atheist response to the Day of Prayer. They feel the Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment, as it asks governments to set aside tax-dollar-supported time for religious observance that should not be supported by tax money. Okay, I suppose if a government worker drops down and utters a prayer (sanctioned by the government) it is technically on tax-dollar time. But come on, AHA, do you have any idea how much crap gets done on tax-dollar time? Video games? Napping? Intoxication? I’ve seen it all, and I’m just low-level drone in a different country.

Some organizations have put together food drives and other charitable events to promote the National Day of Reason, which is a great use of one’s atheist efforts. We did not observe either holiday in the truest sense, as we are both non-religious and really uninterested in how anyone else devotes themselves, faith-wise. We acknowledge the conflict though, and we sincerely hope everyone used their interpretation of the day for good.

Today we roll into another weekend, a slight brightening of the blur from sunrise to sunrise. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Coconut Cream Pie Day. As mentioned a couple days ago, in an effort to not die from over-consumption of treats, this one will be written about, not eaten.
  • National Have a Coke Day. And a smile! It adds life to everything nice. It is it! The real thing! Etc., etc.
  • No Socks Day. Thankfully this doesn’t show up in the middle of winter.
  • Fintastic Friday. A day to celebrate the shark. We were going to venture to our nearby mall and visit some in the flesh, but of course we can’t.
  • Iris Day. We can take some time to learn about the gorgeous flower.
  • World Red Cross / Red Crescent Day. A bit of love for this mighty organization.