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Category: Humans

Day
Wednesday
No wait
I mean Thursday
Monday? Sunday?
Maybe Saturday?
Doesn’t really
Matter day

Mater dei!
Mayday!
Cinco de
Holiday
Doris Day
Any day
All day!

Now every day
Is everyday
No other day
But today
Even payday
Went away
Day!
The Jury Is Still Out
There is no doubt that humans have an appetite for cruelty and willful ignorance. It’s never surprising to see, but it’s always disappointing.

For the past three years, that dark aspect of our humanity has been in ascendance. That is something new to my experience. I’m afraid that it is threatening the very existence of our free society. That fear is new for me too. I’m beginning to worry whether humanity might just be a failed experiment in evolution. When I see so many of my fellow humans casting their lot with someone so obviously devoid of simple humanity, it forces me to question the most basic assumptions of my worldview.

And then came last week and the murder of George Floyd. We have often witnessed the lethal, systemic racism that pervades our white-dominant society. That awful inhumanity has persisted for 400 years and for eons before that in our treatment of the other, whoever that might be. It is a reflection of the same darkness we now find at the center of our governance. This time, however, the act was so clear, so unambiguous, that it seems we all had to take notice. The footage does not lie: it was a cold, remorseless murder — by our official representative — of a helpless black man begging for mercy.

Had the story followed the usual track — as it recently has for Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown — then it would have been just one more bit of evidence of the dominance of our darkest impulses. But that has not happened — at least not so far. Instead, good people from small towns and large, red states and blue, in America and around the world, have stepped up to condemn the crime and the underlying sickness in our society that allowed it to happen.

We have heard the claim that “this time it’s different” before, so I am wary. There are still plenty on the right who cannot, will not admit to the racism in our culture. “All lives matter,” they like to say, as if that is a real answer to the charge. Still, we can’t deny that there has been actual change. Minneapolis itself seems set on disbanding its police force. Other jurisdictions have banned the chokehold restraint and opened complaint files of officers to public inspection. Republicans have come out for police reform.

What heartens me most, though, is the demonstrators themselves. They have flooded the streets, risking interaction not only with the police, but with the pandemic. The protests continue even now, two weeks after the killing. There is genuine, across-the-board outrage among my fellow humans against racism and a fierce insistence that black lives do matter. I did not expect this.

That outrage may weaken over time, but for now it is enough to rescue my faith in humanity. Somehow, our better nature has managed to assert itself. That is always surprising to see, and never disappointing.
Crackers
If you are curious about where we are at this stage of our sheltering, I will tell you this: we made crackers here last weekend. For most folks, that would be a marker that we’re pretty deep into this thing. They would, I’d guess, work through a pretty long list of possible baking projects before arriving at crackermaking.

My list is different, though. Crackers, to me, are in the top row of necessary food items. Even crackers that don’t crack, like the Ritz or the Keebler Club, make the grade. I would be lying, however, if I said I fully respect a “cracker” that does not crack. Ritzes don’t even “crunch” when you bite; it’s more like a “crunge.” There is such a thing as too much crack, of course. Ry-Krisps, though they have a lot to recommend them, require a bit more force than I am comfortable with. You could pop a crown off on a stale one.

That said, I don’t really want to single out any cracker for criticism. I admire them too much as a food genus to do that. I will admit here and now that I am a cracker addict. I could eat them three meals a day…or five. They are the staff of life in a lightweight, bite-size form. Sure, you can put salami on them or the schmear of your choice, from hummus to triple cream brie, but for me the cracker is the thing.

Crackermaking, then, was actually pretty high on my pandemic baking agenda. Taste is important, of course, but mostly I am looking for the perfect “crack.” Not just a crunch (though crunchiness is a worthy texture), but crackfulness, in both the sound and the tooth. Think Wheat Thins or ak-maks. The sequence of ingestion should go like this: crack, crackle, crunch, crunch, chew.

That ideal is, as I have discovered, a deceptively simple goal. My first batch (using almond flour and a topping of Parmesan cheese) was, best case, a valuable learning experience. I baked them — according to the recipe — for 9 minutes or until they were light brown at the edges. That amount of time proved to be insufficient. (Thanks in part to my addiction, however, it took me eight crackers to be sure.)

For starters, they had nothing like the crack I was looking for. Instead, I got more of a “croonge” — not even as good as the Ritzy “crunge.” Also, they were a bit mealy for my taste. In fact, the “croonge” actually made me cringe. So I put the remaining crackers back in the oven for another 6 minutes at a higher temperature. I might burn them to a crisp, I thought, but at least they’d be crispy.

I can report that the tactic at least partially succeeded. As we all know, most foods taste better when some part of the dish is a little burned. The edges on the new versions were no longer light brown, but rather a rich (and tasty) burnt sienna. The bite improved as well. I don’t think I have ever eaten a cracker that went “craunch,” but I found it to be a pleasent texture.

But not fully satisfying. Simply put, there was no crack. A crunk or two, maybe, but I was still well short of my ideal cracker. I will say, however, that the rest of the crackers did disappear pretty quickly. Not Wheat Thin quick, but none of them got anywhere near staleness.

As I say, this was a learning experience. I have now resolved that, going forward, I will set aside the almond flour and even the Parmesan and try for a more direct route to my ideal. My new plan: it’s got to be whole wheat flour, simple no-nonsense ingredients, err on the side of over-baking, and eat all of your mistakes.

But never forget the mission: crack, crackle, crunch, crunch, chew.
Yes, It Isn't
I look up from my reading and address my mate here in self-isolation: “Are you done with that section of the newspaper?”

She does not look up, but answers, “No, I’m not.”

That effectively ends our discussion, and I’m pretty sure I know what she meant by her response. But it leaves me dissatisfied. “No, I’m not”? I don’t say so, but I can’t help thinking that this is wrong. Shouldn’t her answer in this instance be “Yes, I’m not”? Her answer featured a double negative, as I see it, and such usages bring with them a cloud of imprecision.

I must tread carefully these days, however. We all must. We are cooped up (or, if you prefer, locked down) with one or two or three people during this time of social distancing. Those same one or two or three people are with us constantly. For this reason, it seems wise to maintain strict standards of civility and personal space. After all, we are going to be here for awhile.

Keeping the peace, it seems to me, is vital to the continued keeping of the peace. And yet, there it was again today. I ask my cellmate, “Have you decided if we should we go pick up some groceries today?” She answers, “No, we should.”

I don’t want to be picky, and I wisely decide not to be. If I had decided otherwise, my suggestion to her might have been that a better answer would be, “yes, we should.” My rationale for this hypothetical edit, as it was in the first instance, would be the pursuance of absolute clarity. Surely, no one could quarrel with that.

Just in case she might, however, I refrain from commenting. As I say, peace itself is at stake. When this crisis is finally past, though, will I resume my quest for linguistic precision?

Yes, I will.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon