Best of Fish & Bicycles: Happy Old Decade

Originally Published: December 31, 2009


numbers
Listen, I’m not a Left Brain person. When I look at bank statements, Excel spreadsheets, those huge lighted signs at the airport showing flight numbers and departure and arrival times, my head goes all fuzzy, like it’s filled with cotton balls, my eyes cross, and the numbers seem float up from the surface and scramble. (I wouldn’t call it dyslexia, though, because I got an A in Statistics at Rutgers in 1988. Chuckle, chuckle.)

Anyway, if it weren’t frustrating enough to do things like payroll at work or balancing a checkbook, there’s the whole numbers and time and calendars thing, which Wikipedia attempts to make clear:

The Julian calendar was used in Europe at the beginning of the millennium, and all countries that once used the Julian calendar had adopted the Gregorian calendar by the end of it. So the end date is always calculated according to the Gregorian calendar, but the beginning date is usually according to the Julian calendar (or occasionally the Proleptic Gregorian calendar).

Crystal clear, huh?

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I’ve been reading all these Best Of lists, not just for 2009, but also lists of what folks consider the Best Of the first decade of the 21st Century.

And as I think about this, my Right Brain orientation doesn’t want to trust my subordinate Left Brain when it screams out that it’s a bit premature to declare an end to the first decade of the 21st Century.

I’m reminded of similar brain hemisphere confusion in the run-up to January 1, 2000. The Y2K Bug hype was in the air and much of the world seemed determined to celebrate the coming of 2000 as the beginning of the Second Millennium. After all, 2000 is such a nice round number, isn’t it? It’s just so Second Millennium-ish!

And yet, if you ask an astrophysicist at NASA, well, it’s not.

Question: I’m 17 years old. I’d like to know when the new millennium starts. Isn’t it Jan 1st, 2001? Why do people get excited about 2000 then? How can I explain this to my friends? Please help.

Answer: You are right that the millennium starts on Jan 1st 2001. There is no year zero, so the first millennium started on January 1, 1 C.E., the day after December 31, 1 B.C.E. The first millennium ended 1000 years later, on the night of Dec 31, 1000/morning of Jan 1, 1001, and the second millennium ends 1000 years after that, on Dec 31 2000/Jan 1 2001.

The main reason people will celebrate the millennium on the night of Dec. 31 1999 is to hold big parties, and to hold them a year sooner than they would otherwise. I expect that, around February, 2000, people will start coming around to the belief that the millennium does indeed start with 2001, and plan their next party accordingly.

By the same highly educated reasoning, this would mean that the first decade of the 21st Century doesn’t end until January 1, 2011.

And so, while I’m happy to have evidence that I can still manage to utilize both sides of my brain, I still intend to party tonight like it’s 2011.

Happy New Year!
Happy Old Decade!

Out of Office: 2012-2013 Happy Holidays Edition

happyholidaysSo, I was about to start off this post with, “Well, it’s that time of year again…,” but then I took a look at what I wrote on this occasion last year — namely the last post before I mostly disappear into family holiday celebrations for a bunch of days — only to find that a year ago I started my post with, “Well, it’s that time of year again…”

While today is not Christmas Eve, with a weekend gloriously placed between now and the holiday, a whole lot of fun is lined up, fun that will largely keep me away from the computer and therefore away from Fish & Bicycles, for as long as a week.

But dear readers, do not despair! I will be reviving an Out of Office idea from this past summer, the Best of Fish & Bicycles series, whereby, while I’m gone, a favorite post of mine from the archives will be reposted each day.

Oh, I might sneak in a new post here and there, but it’s fun digging through the archives, so I hope you don’t mind indulging me.

And so, I wish everyone who comes across this post very Happy Holidays, a retroactive shout out to my Jewish homies for Chanukah, Solstice today, Christmas on Tuesday, Kwanzaa all next week, the New Year, Mawlid an-Nabi later in January, and any other holidays I’ve left out!

Video Fridays: It’s A Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful LifeSo, the family and I watched It’s A Wonderful Life last weekend, and I continue to be amazed at how much this film has stuck with me over the years, how meaningful it is to me, and how it never fails, no matter how many times I watch it, to move me to tears.

And I really think you have to be horribly cynical to write the movie off as overly sentimental Norman Rockwell-ish kitsch Americana, as some unfortunately do.

Sure, there’s a thread of post-WWII triumphalism, but focusing on that is missing the forest for the trees.

I LOVE the unapologetic romanticism in It’s A Wonderful Life, from kiddie Mary Hatch’s secret declaration that she’ll love George Bailey until the day she dies and George’s offer to lasso the moon so that Mary can swallow it, and it would all dissolve, and the moonbeams would shoot out of her fingers and toes and the ends of her hair, to George’s plea on that snowy bridge, that he didn’t care what happened to him, if only he could get back to his wife and kids.

In a way, you could say that the country needed this giant expression of the power of love after having been through the nightmare of war.

On a more personal level, I actually didn’t see the movie until I was in college, and I related strongly to George’s central challenge: wanting since he was a kid to escape the confines of a small town, to see the world and do big, important things with his life, while one obstacle after another thwarted his dreams.

I remember being rather lost at the time, not enjoying school, not sure what I wanted to major in or do with my life, fairly common young adult angst, but it was somehow isolating. And so, George’s story broke through that isolation, helping me feel ok about wanting those things and justifying my struggle with not being able to manifest them.

Choosing just one scene for this Video Fridays installment, was difficult, but ultimately I chose the ending, because one of the only things that has ever gotten me through difficult times was experiencing the truth of the note to George that Clarence the angel wrote in the copy of The Adventures of Tom
Sawyer
that he left behind, and I paraphrase: no man is a failure who has family and friends.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Thanks

You know, I’m sorry to admit that when I see a cornucopia, AKA horn of plenty, I usually just think of cheesy Thanksgiving cards and decorations.

And yet, when I really think about the ancient symbol, I realize that there’s a lot of useful meaning to be derived from it.

  • It is a reminder of the bounty in our lives, for which we give thanks on Thanksgiving.
  • As nice as the image is, sadly the magic cornucopia of Greco-Roman mythology, that provides an endless supply of food, doesn’t really exist. And so, it is a reminder, conversely, of the millions of people who have little to no bounty in their lives, that we might do something, no matter how small, for them.
  • It’s notable that the horn of plenty is overflowing with fruits and vegetables, rather than iPhones, sports cars, and bling. Thinking again of those who lack bounty, it’s humbling to consider how many of them would be utterly satisfied with abundant fruits and vegetables.

I, indeed, have much to be thankful for. Family, friends, food, clothing, shelter, etc.

But here, at Fish & Bicycles, I like to give thanks for…

…you!

It’s been a while since I’ve written in appreciation of all the people who take a moment to visit, to read, to click on the Like button, to leave a comment, or to choose to Follow the blog.

As I’ve written in the past, I don’t make any money from Fish & Bicycles, I work a 40+ hour per week job, and I have time-consuming responsibilities to my family and my home. Therefore, I don’t have the time to respond to everyone who Likes one of my posts or chooses to subscribe, even though I am incredibly grateful for every.single.instance.

So, thank you, dear readers! Sincerely!

I’ll leave you with some links to my previous Thanksgiving posts, ghosts of Thanksgivings past, so to speak.

2009
2010
2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

More Thanksgiving Eve Fun

Following up on my Tweet of the Day post from this morning, I thought I’d share something else I’ve come across today, a funny, entertaining piece at The Atlantic, from a seemingly unlikely source…their Health Editor.

I don’t know about you, but when I think “Health Editor” I think of dry information about diets and exercise regimens. The Atlantic‘s James Hamblin, MD, however, has a very accessible, natural writing style, peppered with just enough humor to keep the health-writing-averse engaged.

Well, in today’s piece, titled Answers to Every Possible Thanksgiving Health Question, Hamblin pulls out the comedy stops, resulting in a VERY fun read on a topic that could be a total wet blanket on the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Written like a traditional FAQ, here are some of my favorites (Be sure to read the whole thing, though!):

How bad is it that I stuff our turkey a few days in advance?

Bad — disgusting actually, don’t do that.

Is quinoa stuffing healthier than regular stuffing?

Yes. If regular white bread stuffing is what’s on the table, though, don’t let the words quinoa stuffing leave your mouth.

Tryptophan is what makes us sleepy?

Turkey has tryptophan, but not significantly more than chicken or beef. We fall asleep because we’re hypoglycemic and bored. If napping is a concern, go for a walk or ask an old person about their old love stories.

Alternatively (and hopefully not the case), sleep could be how you respond to stress.

How can I avoid talking to my family and just focus on what I really want: the f-o-o-d!

Please try to be more sincere. Some day you will spend the holidays alone, and it will suck.

How much gravy is “too much”?

Unless you have heart failure, don’t overthink it on the holiday. But then the fact that you’re asking makes me wonder if you’ve had issues with gravy in the past?

It’s my first vegetarian Thanksgiving. Should I make tofurkey?

Tofurkey is offensive, linguistically and culturally. If you want to eat turkey, eat turkey. Tofu doesn’t look or taste or smell like turkey at all. If you make tofu, own it and treat it like tofu and call it tofu.

Is pumpkin the new bacon?

Yes, but we’ll be mostly rid of pumpkin by March, and bacon is eternal. These are getting less like health questions. Well, I suppose that is a health question insofar as all of the pumpkin everywhere might be stressing us out. Like if you feel you can’t escape it. Seasonal pumpkin-related anxiety.

Do you need love to enjoy the holidays?

No, but if you have the opportunity and are on the fence about loving someone, do it.

I don’t normally smoke, but hey, it’s Thanksgiving, right?

Why are you putting me in this position?

Tweet of the Day: @JohnFugelsang

This kinda sums up my Thanksgiving every year.

LOL!

Halloween Flashback

If you search Fish & Bicycles for the word “Halloween” and read the posts you find, you’ll discover that Halloween is a very special day for me and my family. Well, I’m battling a nasty cold today, so I thought I’d just re-post my very first Halloween entry, from 2009, on this, my son Julian’s 15th birthday.


12 years ago today, the Great Pumpkin, not the stork, delivered a tiny, orange-headed baby boy to our doorstep.

(Ok, so it was actually my wife who delivered the baby, after 31 hours of labor. She does, indeed, deserve all the credit, but I’m pretty sure she would have preferred it if the Great Pumpkin had helped out, at least a little.)

Having a child born on Halloween, especially one with wild, curly orange hair, is an adventure to say the least.

Whatever your relationship was with the holiday before the baby was born, that relationship will be forever changed.

Here’s our pumpkin with his fellow pumpkins back in 2006.

Don’t like dressing up in costumes? Not crazy about candy? Don’t fancy going door-to-door with a group of kids who ARE crazy about candy? Literally? Crazy?

Well, too bad, cupcake! Are you really going to break your child’s heart?

Fortunately, I had no aversion to Halloween, and it’s been 12 years of fun. But, even though the birth of our son was the catalyst, besides delivering the baby in heroic fashion, it’s been my wife who has delivered wondrous gifts of creativity, decorating the house, carving pumpkins, coming up with unique costumes, and throwing fabulous parties.

Wait a second! Maybe my wife IS the Great Pumpkin!