Dec 24 2010

twas the night before Christmas… the culturally correct version [day 211]

Let me me be perfectly honest here.  I really hate holidays.  And, I’m an equal opportunity holiday hater, I don’t like any of them.  I love Christmas, that is the true meaning of Christmas, but I hate the cultural crap that comes along with it.  I just want to skip all this and move on to the new year.  I don’t want to spend a bunch of money I don’t have, I don’t want to eat a bunch of sweets, I don’t want to do the holiday dog and pony show, I don’t want to go to holiday parties alone, I don’t want to go to them with a spouse I don’t have, I do not like it in a box, I do not like it with a fox. I do not like green trees, this sham or culture’s Christmas, mad I am.

Some people think the Grinch stole Christmas, nobody cared, so he gave it back and everyone lived happily ever after.  That’s the fictional version of the story, because you and I know darn well, that if someone stole all of the things in our house and all the gifts from under the tree, we would not all be in the street holding hands and singing.   The story would be a little different…  Here it is, in the form of “Twas the night before Christmas.” Enjoy…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town

Many creatures were stirring, using credit around;

The plasma tv was unloaded with care,

In hopes that the credit bill was lost in the mail;

My kids wanting toys, finances in red,

While visions of electronics danced in their heads;

Me on my laptop, looking for deals,

Wondering where I will get the next meal;  Continue reading


Dec 21 2010

used book and trinket gifts [day 208]

A couple of years ago, they started the “360 feedback” process at work.  I’m a fan of it if people use it correctly, but I don’t want to wait until the end of the year to get zapped for something I might have done so long ago, and can’t remember anything about it.  Good or bad, tell me now, let’s not wait and word-craft.

This year, they decided to scrap that plan and do “necessary notes”.  Write a note, good or constructively opportunistic, to the people you work with.  I like that plan.  It still takes a lot of time, but it accomplishes the same things, without the anonymous jabs.

I decided to do this, but do it differently by using repurposed books and objects.  The books contained the notes and each had a bookmark made from string, my recycled info cards and random objects found in my garage.

I thought about making a trashogram from the bookmarks, as most of these items are things I’ve found, gotten for free or found at the thrift store.  Continue reading


Dec 16 2010

santa claus [flashback]

December 11, 2009… I was listening to talk radio on my way to work yesterday.  It was so incredibly cold I didn’t want to let go of my warm coffee mug to steer the car, much less turn on the radio.  The news guy was reporting on the experiences of the fake mall Santas this year, disclosing the newest Christmas lists they’re receiving.  Many of the kids sitting on Santa’s lap are not asking for the typical toys and electronics, they’re asking for basic necessities.  “Mommy really needs a job” or “Could we just have our house back?”  Some others are asking for food and clothing.  You know the economy is bad when kids are happy to get socks and underwear for Christmas.

Santa Claus.  The historical Saint and the modern day icon of commercialized Christmas.  Who is Santa?  Santa has many roots in history spanning the globe, roots also ranging from Christianity to paganism.  The early Christian Santa was Saint Nicholas.  He was a Saint that gave generous gifts to the poor, especially to daughters of poor parents so they did not have to become prostitutes.  I could go on for days here about the history of Santa, but he did have his start as a good guy that helped people.

Honestly, I’ve always struggled with the whole Santa thing.  I did not want my kids believing that some overweight guy in a furry red suit is going to give them anything they want for Christmas.  Their dad said that was wrong and I was awful for even thinking it.  Choose your battles, right?  I chose not to fight this one.

My earliest recollection of Santa is asking my parents if Santa was real.  I was in kindergarten, five or six years old, and already wondering how one guy could go around the planet in one night, bringing lots of stuff to kids.  And don’t get me started on the flying reindeer and sleigh.  I suppose my over-analyzing of everything started at an early age.  My parents told me the truth and quickly proceeded to tell me that my knowledge was a secret.  I wasn’t very good at keeping secrets back then.  Even with my secret knowledge, Santa continued to bring me lots of toys and stuff, and much more than he brought anyone else.  Continue reading


Dec 15 2010

can't live with it, can't live without it… reversed [day 203]

I ran across two interesting things this week, one posted on my Facebook page and the other in a Yahoo! Groups post on Compact.

These sites, xmaswithoutchina.com and the Marie Claire Yahoo! Shopping post, when combined together, portray a picture of our consumeristic “can’t live with it, can’t live without it”, but not necessarily in that order.  First, we must have it.  How many times have you looked at the “made in” tag on something you purchased?  I don’t do it very often, if at all.  Well, not now anyway, because of the challenge.  But before, when I was shopping, I rarely looked at these tags.  It’s a law that the place of origin, or manufacturing place be listed on the item, or on the packaging.

I decided to pick up 50 random items in my house to see where they were made.  My findings were not surprising.  60% were made in China, 38% in other countries besides the USA and 2% in the USA.  The 2%, accounting for one item, is an art bowl, purchased at a local art show.  Just in case you’re wondering, the items were such things as clothing, electronic games, toys, computer equipment, home decor items, alarm system, cookware, bedding, light fixtures and small appliances.

The Christmas without China is a challenge to take everything made in China out of your house and to shop for Christmas gifts, making sure none are made there.  This is the start of a documentary on this subject, by a man from China.

The 19 unusual gifts nobody wants is crazy stuff, available for purchase just in time for Christmas.  Let’s look at a couple of these items.   Continue reading


Nov 27 2010

BLACK FRIDAY: the video [day 185]

Any other day of the year, no retailer would allow you to walk around their store with a camera around your neck, they would stop you and make you put it away.  On black friday, that’s not the case.  With the busyness and chaos of the thousands of shoppers, extremely long lines and merchandise everywhere, nobody stopped me.  Here’s the black friday 2010 video to the tune of AC/DC’s Back in Black.

A few black friday observations:

  • It’s controlled chaos. The retailers are creating it and they’re prepared for it.
  • There’s a size relationship. The bigger the person, the bigger the packages.  Oh, how some psycho therapist needs to analyze this.
  • People like to get a deal. I’m not sure if they really want or need this stuff, but there seems to be an accomplishment once they’ve gotten a deal.  If they researched a possible purchase during the year, they could probably find a similar savings.  Is it really a deal if it’s cheap and not needed?
  • Loss leaders. There are some deals that can’t be found throughout the year, but these loss leaders are only available to the first 3-5 people according to the ads.  Not a bad deal, but I would do the cost analysis, time and effort versus cost savings.
  • Warranties. Many of the big ticket loss leaders have very limited warranties.  Before buying, you better make sure it works before you put it under the tree.  Many items have 15 days warranties.  They might as well just skip that altogether.
  • 2 types of men. The ones that like electronics with a willingness to get up early and fight for it and the “my wife made me do this and I better get sex tonight” male drag-a-longs.  I might start a line of t-shirts before next year.
  • Sporting event. I’m pretty sure most women see this as some sort of sporting event.  It’s a race for the best deals and to get all the shopping done at one time.  Most of them are getting lots of practice time during the year, so it should be a good game.

There’s much more, but that’s the big stuff.  Now, what to get my kids for Christmas without going shopping?


Nov 22 2010

the person with the most toys, wins [day 179]

With my halfway point coming soon, and in efforts to do something fun and creative, I wanted to test out a couple of ideas I had.  As I was playing around, my dining room table completely covered with junk, a friend called me to see if I had a specific camera lens.  He was on vacation and just wanted to play around with a macro lens.  Turns out, I have a Sigma 70-300 lens with 200-300 macro capabilities.  I also have a set of three close up filters, a x1, x2 and x4.  These have been sitting in my camera bag doing absolutely nothing for about 10 years.    Continue reading