Friday, December 25, 2020

A happy and hopeful Christmas to everyone out there who still occasionally clicks on my links and drops in to see what the hell we’re up to. The answer for yesterday (and today) is “not much”. It’s not only that we’re deep into denouement country in this project, but the calendar is not supplying us with a big heap of potential celebrations. No one was looking down at their breakfast this late in December and thinking, “Hey, why not make today National Honey Nut Cheerios Day?”. This is a sacred time for Christian folk, but in a far more inclusive way, this is a sacred time for families. Even via Zoom. So we grabbed hold of our scraps and fashioned with them what we could:

Christmas Eve

Every family has its own version of a Christmas Eve tradition. Some households gather en masse and splatter their dining room tables with a multi-course feast on the 24th, leaving the 25th for resting and taking one last stab at watching those same predictable movies or listening to that crappy infernal music. Our family traditions mainly involved the 25th for the big festivities.

I’m going to hold off on repeating ad nauseum that this year is different. We all know this year is different. Please, people, celebrate this year differently.

Our family Christmas Eve traditions involve ordering in dinner, cracking open one present (the Christmas pajamas), and watching Die Hard and/or another holiday classic. Last year we decided to put a pin in John McClane’s Nakatomi adventures, as the 2018 screening in our home consisted of all of us on our phones, too bored to even make fun of the movie anymore. So last night it was the Frank Capra classic It’s A Wonderful Life, which also gets airplay at some point in every one of our Christmases.

And yes, we spent much of it on our phones, because there are games to play there and we’ve all seen Clarence get his wings dozens of times in our lives. See my rant from a couple days ago during Humbug Day to understand how I feel about this.

But it was still a great time, with three humans and three dogs all chilled and comfy in front of the TV. And wouldn’t you know it, Mr. McClane was on TV when we finished so we enjoyed a few minutes of that classic. Next year will hopefully involve more humans (and the same number of dogs), and maybe we’ll toast that with another full airing of Die Hard. Whatever happens, we’ll make it feel like Christmas somehow.

National Eggnog Day

Full disclosure: we did not drink any eggnog yesterday. That would have been the ideal way to celebrate this day – and indeed, I strongly considered just leaving this one off the list entirely – but there was no need. Jodie hates eggnog. Abbey doesn’t care for the stuff. I’ll enjoy one glass (two if it’s the kind with booze), then I won’t want another drop for at least a year. Buying a carton of it made no sense.

But I’m curious enough about the creation of eggnog to do a bit of research, and doing a bit of research counts as a celebration this year. I’d be intrigued to try a cup of ponche crema, a Venezuelan variant of nog. This stuff has rum (which explains my intrigue), and used to be heated up and given to children to help them fight a cold. As a devotee of the hot rum toddy whenever a cold strikes me down, I have to say I approve.

The Oxford English Dictionary claims that nog used to refer to a strong beer. The term likely originates with the wooden cup in which the stuff was served, known as a noggin. It’s believed that the term ‘eggnog’ comes from America right around the birth of the country. No doubt its recipe has morphed a lot since then. The Brits were creating a similar drink using sherry or brandy, but rum was easier to come by (and not taxed by the Brits) in the western hemisphere.

Last night I enjoyed a glass of rum, and my tongue felt perfectly satisfied that it would have to wait another year to taste carton-sourced eggnog.

National Regifting Day

Yes. We have regifted. Even this year, we took something that was brought to us earlier in the year as a gift – something for which we had no use – and regifted it to someone in hopes they would enjoy it more. I won’t get into what it was (it was wine), or to whom we regifted (don’t worry, it wasn’t you), but it was done. And we feel no shame. It’s booze we aren’t particularly fond of but many people are. Nothing wrong with that.

Or maybe there is. Maybe the fact that we didn’t head out and spend our own money on this gift was an act of selfish skinflintery. Given that the recipient could not possibly know we didn’t buy the gift last week, and given that it’s a perfectly good quality unused product, I think we should get a pass. After all, it’s not like we Kebbi’ed the thing.

I have ranted about this elsewhere before, but I’m going to explain. 23 years ago I participated in a Secret Santa exchange at my place of work, a retail computer store that no longer exists in this city. Mr. Kebbi (I won’t mention his first name for legal reasons) was the person to whom I was supposed to give gifts. I gave a smattering of small things in the days leading up to the big exchange, and for the final large gift I gave a platter of home-baked goodies, each of which was crafted by my lovely wife.

I was admittedly a bit irked that I hadn’t received any small presents in the days leading up to the big one, but I hoped that final present would redeem the season. At the end of that shift I received the exact same platter of goodies I had given to Mr. Kebbi. He had drawn my name, and not really knowing me had decided to forego actually participating in the Secret Santa experience. Fortunately I was able to advise everyone in the store what happened, thus providing him with a decidedly humiliating reputation.

Regifting sucks. Unless you do it with unopened booze, and you can justify it in a few paragraphs in an online blog the recipient will probably never read.

Read A New Book Month

Jodie has motored her way through dozens of books throughout the year. Thanks to this project, and to my preference for watching films and playing games as a pastime, I have not. Yesterday I decided to crack one that Jodie had recommended for me, and to see if I could hammer through it in the remaining days of December.

I have time now. This project is getting quieter, I’m off work until January, and there are no holiday obligations now that shopping, wrapping and baking are done, and the only other family we’ll be seeing this week is my mom, who will be coming by here to join us in a meal we were going to eat anyway. Now is the time to dive in and read, I guess. At least until I remember that three of the games on my Steam wishlist are on sale, and dammit I’m treating myself.

Happy holiday, whichever ones you are celebrating.

What day is this? Why, it’s Christmas Day, Mr. Scrooge. And what else? Well, this is all the calendar has for us:

  • Christmas. Obviously we will celebrate this one. Actually, we’ll celebrate it with a massive feast and a drive through some pretty cool lights.
  • National Pumpkin Pie Day. I already celebrated this once. I remember, because I celebrated it with a doughnut.
  • A’phabet. This is a day for avoiding the letter ‘L’. No-L. Noel. Ha!
  • Takanakuy. A Peruvian celebration in which people fight one another to settle their differences. Sounds like it fits the day perfectly.

Monday, November 23, 2020

We found ourselves with a short list of celebrations yesterday, which suited our short attention span for celebrations perfectly. I did commit to doing a count of how far we’ve come since January 1, and I’m proud (and a little weirded out) to say that we have achieved 1,983 celebrations so far this year. In a year when most folks are bemoaning the cruel pathway of fate, when a virus, racial violence and ugly politics have conspired to create an ugly stew of widespread disgruntlement, we have found a way to pack that many celebrations into our days. And are we happy and giddy as a result? Well, kind of. We’re still here, and we’re still plowing away. And while most of our yesterday was spent in the warm glow of watching football, we still managed to catch up on these:

National Peanut Butter Fudge Day

This one rolled in a few days late, but honestly we’d expected we’d end up skipping it entirely. We aren’t fudge-makers, and our team baker was hesitant to create something like this without a proper candy thermometer. Alas, this project would have sunk into the depths of futility months ago were it not for her resolve. Every project like this – and I don’t think there has ever been another project like this, but still – needs a solid team, and we couldn’t have done it without her. Thanks, Mom.

She also insisted the fudge was profoundly mediocre, and would have been much better with some crunchy peanuts to break up the texture a bit. Being a passionate fan of creamy fudge with no crunchy interruptions, I disagreed. This stuff is perfect.

There is no history here; we have rocked fudge celebrations going back to the days when I’d bring leftovers into the office because no one feared a deadly virus in the air. Unfortunately for my coworkers, the leftover peanut butter fudge will stay right here in my grasp. These are the sacrifices we must make.

Start Your Own Country Day

When glancing at our limited options for celebrating today, I did not suspect this would be one of the oldest celebrations in which we will have indulged in 2020. Start Your Own Country Day was concocted at the 1939 World’s Fair, and was meant to encourage folks to declare whatever land as their own. I don’t know if that particular pavilion envisioned a world wherein everyone would be their own autonomous nation – a ridiculous and preposterous concept – or if they were simply looking for someone to get it right.

Starting your own country is not easy. First you need land. Simply claiming your home is your land, and that you are seceding from whichever country you’re a part of now, that won’t work. Canada isn’t about to relinquish mineral rights, air rights, and the general ownership of this slab of earth underneath me. But if you can overcome this tricky step, you’re on your way to having your own country. The next step is to develop a government. I don’t know what that means beyond saying, “I am president!” and maybe making up your own stationary, but it’s necessary. You need a permanent population. Our country’s population would be five, because our dogs would be recognized as equal citizens. Lastly you need a means for interacting with other nation-states. We have phones. We have email. That’s easy.

Some folks have actually done this. I wrote about one man’s mission in my last project, an ocean-locked former floating naval base he called Sealand. It’s a bizarre and fascinating story, and it ultimately teaches us that the effort required to start your own country is probably not worth the end result.

That said, I hereby declare this land beneath my feet to be the independent republic of Rufustan, named for Rufus, our first (and still our smelliest) bulldog. All those who visit will have the option to declare themselves citizens. We use no currency, our flag is a photo of Rufus, and our government is a monarchy, with King and Queen ruling equally. Our royal subjects – our dogs – handle our international relations. They do this primarily by barking at anyone who walks by our border. It’s a happy land, and we encourage folks to come and check it out. Once the pandemic is over; for now our borders remain closed. As they should be.

National Sleep Comfort Month

November is the month for us to reflect on our sleeping habits, and if there is something we can do to refine them, to create a more comfy and effective sleeping situation. We have one change we could implement: the removal of dogs from our bed. This would likely improve our lives in multiple ways, but it will never happen. It would likely break Rosa’s heart to not be able to sleep between us, and we’re just not about doing that.

But we have contributed significantly to our sleep comfort in recent weeks. Most significantly we upgraded from a queen to a king-size mattress. When three companion dogs are part of the situation the significance of this cannot be stated enough. We now have – on most nights – enough room to stretch and contort ourselves however we need to in order to achieve an ideal level of comfort.

Next we invested in new bedding (of course) and blankets. Jodie found some $30 duvets online that fit our bed perfectly, and she bought three of them. We have two on the bed at the moment, along with various other blankets that provide a warmth so intense, I find myself waking up in a sweat every night that I don’t kick the majority of them off my body. I’m not complaining though – this has clearly only increased our comfort. And it has somehow ensured that my dreams every night are more vivid and intense, which provides a modicum of entertainment while I sleep. It’s a small contribution, but it’s great.

Along with our new pillows, we have achieved the optimum level of sleep comfort. And we’ll give full credit to the importance of National Sleep Comfort Month in our lives, even if we just learned about it today, after we’d made all those improvements. I’m sure it was sitting in our subconscious this entire time, guiding us toward nocturnal bliss. Thanks, celebrations.

National Pumpkin Pie Day

Folks, I present to you the pumpkin pie doughnut. This was sitting on display at Destination Doughnuts, calling out to us as the perfect way of celebrating this classic Thanksgiving pie. We had dined on sweet potato pie at the beginning of the month, which tasted exactly like pumpkin pie but better. We weren’t craving an actual pumpkin pie even a little, but this was the ideal solution.

And it was fantastic, filled with pumpkin magnificence. And when it was done, there were no leftovers. There was no getting weary of the flavour. We could simply move on to our peanut butter fudge for our next dessert. Life is good. Doughnuts are life.

Today as we slide into another week, poised to celebrate like insane humans (as usual), we glance at our menu. Could November really be almost over already? We hope so. We only have to do 17 more celebrations to hit our target. Will we do more? Maybe. Here’s today’s stuff:

  • National Cashew Day. The pinnacle of all nut-related days this year. We will be dining on cashews.
  • National Eat A Cranberry Day. We… we don’t have any cranberries lying around. Maybe that will change in the next few hours, who knows?
  • National Espresso Day. Damn, I wish we had one of these machines in our house. Jodie might have to tackle this one.
  • Doctor Who Day. I won’t pretend to be a fan of the show, though I’m amazed at its longevity.
  • Fibonacci Day. A day to get all up in numbers. That’s fun.
  • Wolfenoot. It’s a dog thing. I’ll explain in tomorrow’s article.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

One of the high points of the week was watching a clearly inebriated and/or mentally ill man enter our neighbourhood, only to pause and marvel at my neighbour’s giant inflatable yard display for about 45 minutes, all while talking to himself and ignoring any passing pedestrians. One of the low points occurred shortly thereafter, when four police trucks showed up to haul the man away, which included a couple of the officers walking up and down our street with machine guns at the ready. That was unnecessary and a sincere bummer. This has nothing to do with our celebrations, but it’s been guiding my mood lately so there it is. Here’s what we got up to yesterday:

National Absurdity Day

And what, might I ask, is more absurd than the fact that we have been celebrating constantly and reporting on said celebrations for 325 consecutive days? Is it any more absurd that we plan to continue doing this for the next 41? We are now less than six weeks from the end of this project, and the only real absurdity is that it even exists to begin with.

But how do we translate that realization into a celebration? Do we even want to? Is there not enough absurdity in our world already? For example:

  • In the midst of a pandemic, our government advised people should be working from home whenever possible. Meanwhile, my employer (the same government) is trying to get all of its staff back in the office. Why? No reason, just absurdity.
  • People are legitimately complaining that the fact they have to wear masks while they shop for Twinkies and arugula is a violation of their freedoms. People who were alive during apartheid and watched footage of a man being choked out by police earlier this year truly believe this. Absurdity.
  • The presidential race in America has presently nearly 6 million votes separating the winner from the loser, and the loser still claims he won. That people are still following this guy is pure absurdity.
  • Next year we are looking at getting new Star Wars and Star Trek series to match the ones that are ongoing. This is absurdly wonderful.
  • My dogs. My dogs are constant examples of absurdity.

There is absurdity everywhere, and much of it is clogging the headlines and dragging our society through one hell of a mess. I’d welcome some banality for a change, honestly. When is National Banality Day?


Name Your PC Day

This is easy to do, folks. In Windows 10, simply go to your Settings, click on ‘System’, then find ‘About’ down the left-hand side. From there you can rename your PC to anything you want, which is great for identifying it on your network. I am also aware that I may periodically connect to my PC with my Bluetooth headphones, so I went with something I’d hear whenever they linked together. “I-C-U-R-A-0” (the last one is a zero, not an ‘O’) when spoken out loud is a bit of an insult, but it sounds funny in the Bose lady’s voice.

That’s all. There is nothing deeper to this day, no great origin story. I would also advise any and all of you to rename your wifi network with something clever, because that would be seen by folks who live near you, and you can really mess with them.

Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day

Organized by a group called Run The Edge – really a company dispensing running advice – this is a good excuse to create a fundraising run for charity. And this has been done from their website in the past, raising money for deaf children, for folks without shoes, and other assorted charities. I don’t know if anyone is organizing a big running event this year for brutally obvious reasons, but I do appreciate the commitment to doing good in the world.

Naturally, neither Jodie nor myself are runners. We would have to be motivated by genuine danger in order to justify running, and even then we might just turn around and deal with the danger. Not because we’re badass, but because we really hate running. So why on earth is this day showing up in our roster of celebrations for November 20? Why didn’t we just skip it?

Liberty. Not the notion of freedom or the statue in New York Harbor, but our #3 canine research assistant, the golden retriever who joined our celebrate-a-thon earlier this year. The girl loves to run. And given that she can’t run along beside us she instead saves her energy for the end of our walks when I let go of her leash and allow her to gallop wildly into our backyard. She’ll run like a crazed fiend around that yard, in particular when doing so includes the opportunity for her to frolic in the deep snow.

She is our runner. And we hugged her. Not the purpose of the day as it was originally intended, but it follows the spirit of the day. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the celebration’s odd name, it’s an acronym. GO HARD. That’s a term used both in the running world and on porn sets everywhere. Neat.

Beautiful Day

With no specific origin, this is simply the next “appreciate the beauty in the world” celebration in a lengthy succession of similar festivities throughout 2020. I’m going to revert back to the bullet-point format for this one, as I glance around my immediate surroundings and report on the beauty:

  • My dogs, of course. My wife isn’t here at the moment, but my dogs are, and they are plenty beautiful.
  • The snow outside. Winter hasn’t yet been overtaken by dirt and grime, so it still looks pretty pristine out there, especially with a blue sky to break up the monotony of grey.
  • My daughter’s baby picture, which you can see above. She was a gorgeous kid. And since our dogs tried to use that little flower picture frame as a chew toy a few weeks ago, I am now keeping a closer eye on it every day.
  • The art on my office walls. We’ve got a great impressionist skyline above my computer, a beautifully cross-stitched Chrysler Building to my right, made by our project’s official craftsperson (hi, Mom!), and paintings depicting our two bulldogs as Tupac and Biggie, courtesy of our daughter.
  • My ratty Bose headphones. They are charging beside me, and while I need to swap out the foam pads for new ones (which have been purchased, we just lost the little plastic tool that came with it), the sound that comes through them is still phenomenally beautiful.
  • It’s the weekend. That in itself is beautiful.

There is no shortage of beauty, and a focus on it every so often may appear repetitive (and this year it certainly is, with us acknowledging all of these similarly-themed days), but it’s good for the soul.

Geography Awareness Week

What? Geography? Where’s the fun in that?

I went to and did a few quizzes. Why? So I could test my awareness, of course. First off, I named all 13 Canadian provinces and territories accurately. I figured that if I failed that one, I should probably just give up. How about naming all 50 US states? Well, I messed up on identifying six of them. Those southern states and New England states get a bit confusing when you haven’t spent any time in either location.

Moving on to state capitals. I knew I’d bungle this one quite badly. This quiz gives you a four-choice multiple choice for each state. But they aren’t as difficult as I’d expected. The first question is pictured above. Had they included four places that were actually in Tennessee it might have been a bit of a challenge. For Florida, for example, was anyone going to guess Honolulu? I got five wrong. I should have gotten many more wrong.

Lastly, just to make things nice and difficult, I played the world nation identification game. It was only 25 questions, but all countries were in play. I felt particularly smart when I correctly identified Lesotho for question #1. Then it all fell apart when I had no idea where Sudan is located. I wound up finding 17 of the 25 countries. Not bad. It made me more aware of geography and now I’ve found a new place to perfect my knowledge of where the hell places are on the planet. I’d say that’s a victorious celebration.

Today we hope to acquire a snowblower, which should lead to less griping about the weather over the next 41 days. Maybe. I make no promises. Here’s our celebrations for the day:

  • National Gingerbread Cookie Day. We have ginger cookies and they are packed with a delightful secret ingredient!
  • National Stuffing Day. Do we make Stove-top tonight? Probably not.
  • National Red Mitten Day. There is a charitable component to this as well, but we could just wear our red mittens.
  • World Television Day. A day to appreciate my third parent, the one who taught me so much about the world.
  • International Survivors of Suicide Day. How dark do we want to get with this one? We could get pretty damn dark.
  • Alascattalo Day. A day for… something. It’s Alaskan and some sort of fictional creature.
  • False Confession Day. Ah, a day to lie. I like those.
  • World Hello Day. Anyong.
  • Pumpkin Pie Day: I doubt we’ll eat one of these – shouldn’t this be a Thanksgiving Day celebration?