Saturday, December 31, 2005

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

...the gift-giving still wasn't over at Chez Blocher (or, if you prefer, Casa Blocher).

The last of the gifts John ordered for me before Christmas arrived in the mail today: The Curious Case of Santa Claus on VHS. This was a 1982 BBC 4 production, starring Doctor Who's Jon Pertwee as a psychiatrist, and James Coco as his last patient on Christmas Eve: Santa Claus himself. I remember loving this when I saw it on A&E circa 1989, and have been wanting to see (and preferably get a copy of it) ever since. After 16 years, it turns out to be rather good and fun, but not quite as wonderful as my memory made it. But hooray! I finally get to see it whenever I want! I discussed the show with Pertwee back in 1990, so it has that sentimental connection for me as well. Thanks, John! (And Jon!)

That was only one of many gift-related events for the day. Yesterday I bought John a calendar, so he wouldn't have to write on the photo calendar (with my photos) that I gave him for Christmas. This second calendar turned out to be not-so-great, so we went back to the mall and exchanged it tonight - Hanna Barbera for ...PEZ? Okay, John, if that's what you want! (The Roy Rogers calendar was sold out.)

I also found the missing sugar free jelly beans that were supposed to go in John's stocking, and three packs of trading cards. Merry Christmas, John, again!

Plus there was a Simpsons book to exchange for another Simpsons book. The latter, later one turned up directly across from The Book of the Dumb and The Book of the Dumb 2 by John Scalzi. I'm not sure I have enough amusing Scalzigrams (tm) in my life, so I may have to spend a Borders gift card on them--later.

Two gift card-related stops tonight, at Homes Depot and Target, did not result in purchases, but we blew our two Best Buy gift cards without breaking a sweat.

Yeah, we had fun tonight.

What'll we do tomorrow, since I don't drink and neither of us is a party animal? Well, we have a few more gift cards, and a disposable camera to drop off from the period on Christmas Day when we couldn't recharge the Canon's battery, and each other's company. Plus I'm on page 299 of my final Heirs edit, so I'm really making progress. Oh, and in theory, I'll be dieting starting 1/1, so I've got a few last forbidden foods to get in.

Yeah, I think we'll have fun tomorrow as well.

Happy New Year, folks!


Thursday, December 29, 2005

On My Honor, I Will Try...

Weekend Assignment 92: Do you Have New Year's Resolutions for 2006? If so, share one (or more, if you like).

Extra Credit: How did you do on your resolutions for 2005?

For some reason, the beginning of the Girl Scout (Boy Scout?) oath comes to mind. I have a few resolutions this year. Actually, I have five of them:
  1. The perennial one, of course, is to lose weight. I really need to do that this year, and I need to get back on track with the exercise as well. But that's a boring and depressing subject, so let's move on.
  2. my Heirs printoutI will update my query and cover letters, and keep submitting Heirs of Mâvarin to publishers and agents until I sell it. If I run out of prospects, I'll prepare a Plan B.
  3. I will get Mages of Mâvarin revised, edited, and proofread, so I can sell that, too.
  4. Once 2 and 3 are done, I'll start studying for the CPA exam, unless there's a good reason not to do it.
  5. I will get more sleep.
Does any of this surprise you? I thought not.

Extra Credit:
As for last year, I had no formal resolutions, but I did have goals.
  • I wanted to lose weight. I gained it.
  • my transcriptI wanted to finish my degree at University of Phoenix with an A in the last course - I did. The transcript that arrived on 12/23/05 says that I graduated with honors in 2/05, which was the month my last class ended. I'm hoping that the arrival of this unordered transcript means that my long-delayed diploma will finally arrive soon. (First I failed to file a form, and then they lost a different form.)
  • I wanted to study for and pass the CPA exam. I think I studied for about one evening in March before getting sidetracked.
  • I wanted to get Heirs edited and sent out. I'm on page 261, and the year's not over yet.
  • I wanted to finish writing Mages. I sort of have, but it still needs a lot of work.
  • I wanted to get a job in my field, that paid more money than I was making. Bullseye.
  • I wanted to get more sleep. Ha, ha. It is to laugh.

P.S. I got a phone call just now on my Sprint phone, an automated survey on my most recent visit to the Sprint Store. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being "extremely dissatisfied," I gave out a couple of 1 scores, and 2 and 3 for most of the other questions. I got to leave a voice explanation as well, and gave permission to link my responses to my specific account. Maybe somebody somewhere will notice that all was not well in Sprintland yesterday. - KFB

More Phone-Related Strife

the preowened phone
Wow, it's dead around here this week. I've been sick at home myself - just a cold, probably. So this probably won't be my Best Entry Ever. You don't mind, do you?

I spent this morning in bed after calling in sick, and got up to go to my 12:15 appointment at the Sprint Store. Yesterday, a helpful person there told me that although I didn't qualify for a rebate (typically about 75% off) on the price of a replacement phone, I could get a "pre-owned, reconditioned" phone just like the one I lost for half price - $85. That's better than $170! I asked about the two alternate colors the model comes in, pink and blue. The Sprint person went back and checked. Yes, a pink one and a blue one were possiblilties, but not until Wednesday. That was the day the person who checks in the pre-owned phones would be in to certify the red and pink phones for resale. Would I like to come in tomorrow? Well, yes. For a pink or blue phone instead of boring silver, I'd gladly make the return trip. I'd have gotten one in the first place, but the store had been out of them back in May.

But today it was a different story. The person I spoke to before wasn't in (and she'd warned me that she wouldn't be), and the guy I got instead was almost belligerent. I explained the situation, and what I'd been told about getting a used phone for $85.

"That's impossible," he said. "We don't have used phones."

"Pre-owned, then." Good grief! Was this guy going to quibble over terms?

"Who told you this?"

"I don't know. One of your people here."

"Well, I'd like to know who said that, because that's not how it works. You don't qualify for anything like that because your contract is less than a year old." (He may have said six months old; I don't recall for sure. If so, he was wrong - it's been seven months.)

"But that was a renewal. I've been a Sprint customer for over three years. I've gone through several phones, some of which didn't work very well. Finally I've lost a phone, and I need to replace it. Now you say I don't qualify to buy an $85 phone?"

"I'm sorry. Look, I'm trying to help you here."

I started to cry. "You want me to spend $170 I don't have, when I was promised I could get one for $85. I'd like to speak to a manager, please."

The guy left his station. I tried to stop crying. He was back a couple minutes later - without his manager, but with the "pre-owned" phone - in silver.

"I'm going to do it for you this time, lady, but I want you to know that's not how this works." I couldn't believe it. He actually called me "lady." I was the difficult customer, in this guy's way. I was no longer entitled to politeness or kindness or sensitivity. And his repeated riff of "that's not how this works" reminded me strongly of a demon character in the "Anne" episode of Buffy. This did not improve my opinion of the Sprint guy.

"Thank you," I said.

He had me sign a contract for two years from today's date, the same as the person yesterday said would be required. I've been unhappy with Sprint's connectivity from day one, but ah, well. I did not mention the pink and blue phones. This guy's attitude was that I didn't even deserve what I was getting. I couldn't ask for more. And between my cold and being upset and this guy's failure to communicate exactly what he was doing, I started to leave with the empty box and no phone at one point. I must have looked like a total idiot.

But I wasn't. I was a longtime customer, merely trying to get back to where I was a week ago, based on what I was promised.

I understand that they have weird rules, designed to get new customers with loss leaders, and make it back in contracts and upgrades. But if Employee A offers Deal X, there must be a basis for it. It's not right for Employee B to try to renege on the deal.

Let's leave this distressing story now, so I can show you a couple of pictures from the drive home on Monday.

goodbye to Disneyland for now.

We started the day at Downtown Disney, having breakfast at Rainforest Cafe and buying a few last minute souvenirs. We finished up at the Entrance Plaza, where I checked with the Lost and Found one more time and John took a few final Disney pictures. Goodbye, Disneyland! See you next time!

On our Christmas Eve trip west, we used the hybrid route - I-10 to I-8, up through Gila Bend (home of the Space Age Lodge) and north back to I-10 west of Phoenix, and then onto a couple of routes whose numbers I forget to get down from San Bernardino to Anaheim. Coming back, we took the southern route - I-5 to I-8, all the way to I-10 near Casa Grande. That's the route that runs through Cleveland National Forest, with a rest area where I once saw a bobcat at dawn. It also goes through San Diego, and then up the coast. Coming back, we saw the morning clouds burn off, and caught glimpses of ocean. Then we headed east through the mountains, a highly variable terrain.

Some of the mountains look like mountains, some like buttes or mesas, some like sand quarries, and some - my favorite - look like piles of rocks. The more mountainy ones are green, but what looks like grass from a distance turns out to be trees up close.

I love the elevation signs. I-8 climbs to over 5000 feet, and then drops again, with lots of posted warnings about a 6% downgrade and runaway trucks. (This always reminds me of the Harry Chapin song, 30,000 Pounds of Bananas, about a truck crash in Scranton, Pennsylvania.) Eventually we reach irrigated farmland and dry lakebeds, at sea level and below.

The really tedious part of the drive, at least potentially, was after dark, from the Arizona border east and south to Tucson. This was mitigated quite a bit as John and I came across two or three amazing radio stations. The first of these we found around Yuma, but it was probably broadcasting from Mexicali, Baja Norte. It may or may not have been XHMIX. Anyway, it was English language rock and roll, announced en Espanol. But what a playlist! Before we lost the station, we hear The Association, Tom Jones, REO, Styx, an obscure Lennon song (Move Over Ms. L.), an equally obscure Cars song, 13th Floor Elevators, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and The Carpenters. It was astounding, the range of music. We found a similar station somewhere in Arizona, except in English. This kept John and me suitably entertained and chatting about music, all the way home.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Human Nature

the entrance to Tomorrowland.  Photo by John Blocher
"It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." - Anne Frank, July 15, 1944

Once in a while, something happens to prove to me, yet again, that people are not always kind or generous, and that they don't always do the right thing. Sometimes they act out of selfishness or even malice. The ethical, loving, compassionate choice is discarded, even scoffed at.

For example, a month or two ago, one of my co-workers had her truck stolen from the same employee parking lot I'm assigned to but seldom use. She has not gotten the truck back, and probably never will.

And, on Christmas Day, someone found my Sprint phone in Tomorrowland, kept it, and used it.

One of these incidents is a major crime, the "Grand Theft Auto" of gaming fame. (Whether it's a good idea to base games on such crimes is a subject I won't debate here.) The theft of cars, trucks and SUVs is a major problem in Tucson. Even my 1984 New Yorker, which belonged to my mom and is in lousy shape, was once a target of would-be thieves. I came out to the driveway one morning several years ago, got into the car, went to put my key in the ignition to drive to work - and discovered that the metal part the key goes into was missing. Someone had popped it off with a screwdriver, and probably attempted to use the screwdriver to start the car. I don't know whether the thieves failed and gave up, or were scared away by dogs or human neighbors.

The more recent incident is a petty thing. Around noon I checked my voicemail, and apparently did not return the phone as securely to my purse or pocket as I should have. Then I went off to use my Fastpass for Space Mountain. It was wonderful. The kid in the row ahead of me asked me whether the ride was fun, and I assured him that it was. Not only did I enjoy the heck out of the ride myself after that, but I really enjoyed watching and listening to the kid's delighted reaction during and after the ride.

But by the time I connected with John afterward, the phone was gone. I checked with Disneyland cast members at Space Mountain, and a rest room attendent, and the park's lost and found office, but the phone did not turn up.

Today I called Sprint, which was closed on Sunday for obvious reasons. Someone had used the phone after my call to voicemail. They called Anaheim, and Van Nuys, and even Arizona. I was well below my minutes allowance, and Sprint won't be charging me for the unauthorized calls, so the damage is minimal. But I'm out the $85 replacement cost for the phone. The service has been suspended, so the person who kept the phone won't be able to use it again.

When he found out I'd lost the phone, John was immediately worried that I'd be on the hook for phone calls made by whoever found it. I thought this was silly. I figured that a Disney cast member would find it, and I'd get it back. (They mail recovered items to guests for free, by the way.) And if another Disneyland guest found it, they'd turn it in. After all, Disneyland is a place for families, for values of kindness and bravery and imagination, all that good stuff. Nobody who loves Disneyland would act like a thief, pocket my cell phone and run up the bill. Would they?

Well, yeah. They would, at least potentially.

But I can't live as though I think people are basically selfish and rotten, cruel and callous, like in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. (Boy, I hate that book!) Most of the time, people are pretty nice, especially if they aren't caught up in their own problems, and if the kindness doesn't cost them significant time or money. Judi has told a few stories of Christmas kindnesses, and there are more whether those came from. I have to believe that people are mostly good, that only a few are truly cruel, and that the rest of the bad behavior is mostly due to inattentiveness, ignorance or selfishness.

If I expect people to be nice and behave accordingly, usually people will respond well. I'm seldom disappointed, and it makes things more pleasant for everyone.

But once in a while, someone somewere lets me down.


Christmas at Disneyland (More or Less)

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Let's see how the holidays happened with you and yours.

Well, of course, I've been posting Christmas 2005 pictures for the past couple of days, but here are some more of them, illustated with words (as is my wont):

First of all, I should admit that most of the photos I'm posting of Disneyland were taken by John. Saturday's Gila Bend ones (the Space Age Lodge) are mine, though, as are these two from the hotel room Christmas morning. All the cards I hadn't already opened and put on the mantle at home, we opened and put on the dresser at the Howard Johnson's. If you are offered Howard Johnson's on Harbor Blvd as part of a Disneyland package, don't reject it out of hand. This is one of the nicest HoJos in the country. The rooms are decent, the grounds are pretty, and the walk to the park is only about a third as far as the trek from Annabella's Inn, via Downtown Disney. Best of all, the room came with a free (relatively) high-speed internet connection.

Here's a box with some presents and packaging, once we opened everything we found. One of the best gifts was the item seen on top here: an Anya figure from the "Once More With Feeling" episode of Buffy. Many thanks, SK! I owe several other people thanks too -I'll get to you soon!

Some presents did turn up missing, though. I thought I saw an envelope from Dad and Ruth, but nothing like that turned up on the day. (There was an envelope in the mailbox when we got home, though.) Two of my presents to John didn't quite make the trip, either. I've since found one of them, but the sugar free jelly beans are still MIA.

Oh, and I didn't take pictures of them, but I hung a few of my homemade Shrinky Dink ornaments over a gift bag, and filled one of my red and black striped socks with John's stocking stuffers, since we did not bring any stockings from home.

Once we did the cards and gifts thing, we headed over to Disneyland. I'm sorry to report that I didn't make it to church - the mass schedule at St. Michael's in Anaheim proved to be extremely inconvenient! Christmas is the third busiest day of the year at Disneyland, and sometimes they close the gates to new arrivals once the park reaches capacity. Had I gone to the 10 AM mass, I could not have gotten into Disneyland - they closed the gates at 11:30 AM for that very reason.

Nevertheless, things were relatively quiet in the early morning fog, before people started showing up in droves. We saw a pair of white herons in Frontierland, and went on Haunted Mansion Holiday twice. We got this image of Jack Skellington after several attempts. I had been concerned that, Haunted Mansion fan and purist that I am, I'd be annoyed with the adulterated Christmas version, but it was really a lot of fun!

Then we took time out to each breakfast. This house sparrow (and some of her friends and relations) shared our muffins at Tomorrowland Terrace.

Speaking of food, my goal for Christmas dinner was to eat at the Blue Bayou Restaurant, across the lagoon from the peaceful opening minutes of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (one of my other favorite attractions). But when I tried to make a reservation around 9 AM on Christmas morning, the Blue Bayou was already full up for the day! They said to check back throughout the day for cancellations and openings for walk-ins. So I dragged John back there shortly after noon. They said they did indeed have openings for walk-ins. Yay - except they meant, for right then! John wasn't hungry yet after our breakfast with the birds, but I couldn't walk away from the opportunity to eat at my fave Disney restaurant. So we had our Christmas dinner for lunch. Much later, about 10 or 11 PM, I had clam chowder in a bread bowl for dinner. Doesn't matter. We were at Disneyland! That's better than turkey any day.

I should do a whole photo essay about It's A Small World Holiday, the other Disneyland attaction (besides the Haunted Mansion, and Reindeer Roundup at Big Thunder Ranch) that changed for Christmas. Unfortunately, we had camera problems throughout our time at Disneyland. There's something about that place that drains our battery and coaxes the camera into weird inexplicable settings and odd exposures. Perhaps it was the fog, and the indoor shots, and the sheer volume of pictures in a short time, and the fact that John doesn't use the camera as often as I do, and experiments more when he does use it. Anyway, the camera was virtually out of juice before noon on Christmas Day. We couldn't recharge it, because the charger was back in the room - I'd thought of bringing it along, but figured we wouldn't be able to plug it in. The gates were already closed to incoming guests, so we couldn't leave and come back. It turned out that Disneyland does let you plug in a charger at the Kodak shop, but no, they didn't have a compatible charger or battery. John babied it along until about 6 PM, and then we risked going back to the room to recharge the battery - and ourselves.

When we came back, there was the tree lighting ceremony, and then the Christmas parade, and then the thing John most wanted to photograph: the light show on the facade of Small World. This took place right after the chiming of the quarter hour. It was very colorful, almost psychedelic, and set to music. They also projected onto the building as part of the fireworks show. It's a Small World was mostly designed by Disney artist Mary Blair, who was best known for her whimsical style and use of color. I think she would have approved of the colorful light show.

The fireworks show, most of which was the 50th Anniversary show, ended with Christmas stuff, most notably a beautiful, peaceful and nicely lit "snowfall" near It's a Small World. I think the flakes were made of soap, or something of that nature.

That's it for now, folks. I have to work in the morning!


Monday, December 26, 2005


Guys, I'm tired, my feet hurt, and I have crumbs on my bed. John is already asleep. Oh, and I lost my cell phone, somewhere near this beloved landmark.

Nevertheless, I had a great time.

Catch ya in the morning, okay?


P.S. I hope you had a great Christmas, first day of Chanukkah, or whatever!


Good morning!

In case there's anyone who hasn't caught on yet, we spent Christmas Eve (basically from sunset on) and Christmas at Disneyland. We're packing up now, and will be home tonight. I therefore don't have much time to update, but I'll fob you off with a couple of pictures for now. That's okay, isn't it?


Sunday, December 25, 2005

What a Day!

It's been quite a day. We've witnessed the Space Age:

I'm sure I've seen this spaceship before!

visited a familiar future:

Welcome to the Space Age

and walked with dinosaurs:

the nonexistent brontosaurus!

I saw a knife Katie Specks would have loved:

And we did end up with a Christmas tree. A nice, big one, too!

Do you like our tree?

Yes, we're off celebrating Christmas with a few friends. May your holiday be equally bright.

And may the big guy with the beard be good to you!

Sandy Claws

Merry Christmas from Karen, John, Santa, and Sandy Claws!

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Disregarded Redemption of Scrooge

I was going to write a whole big thing about this, but then there were major tremors in the blogging community, and I got busy, and well, I'm now especially busy. So I just going to do a quick rant and then get offline for the night.

Have you ever noticed that when Ebeneezer Scroge is employed as a pitchman in tv advertising and the like, he's never the redeemed, generous soul from the end of the story, the one who was a second father to Tiny Tim, and who

"became as good a friend, as good a
master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world."

No, the advertiser's Scrooge is still a miser, rubbing his hands in delight when he hears that gold jewelry is 20% off until Christmas at such-and-such a store. Even the Forbes list of richest fictional characters (a very nasty, cynical set of portraits, except for the one of Montgomery Burns) gives us Scrooge the backslider, Scrooge the reprobate.

Why is this? Why are consumers encouraged to be like Scrooge and "save" money by spending it on certan products? Wouldn't it be better to encourage consumers to be generous, to "to keep Christmas well" by following the example of the post-redemption Scrooge? After all, that Scrooge spends money on gifts for others. Isn't that rampant consumerism as its finest? And on the altruistic side of the coin, isn't the post-Christmas Scrooge an example of someone who cares for the poor, as Jesus taught? If we all know the story, not just the way Ebeneezer starts out but also how he ends up, then why is his legacy so muddled and muddied?

Well, I for one believe in the Scrooge who kept Christmas in his heart, who gave Bob Cratchit a raise, who teaches us to love. May we make a similar alteration in our own lives, if it be needed. And God bless us every one!


(Actually, it appears that E. Scrooge is no longer on the Forbes list. Good! I'm certain I saw him there when I first read the article. Perhaps someone else objectd to the portayal, and he was replaced. Interestingly, the Forbes depiction of Scrooge McDuck is a relatively fair one.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This Year's Holiday Haiku

Weekend Assignment:
Write a holiday haiku
On any subject.

At first I planned to
cheat, and fill this entry with
Haiku of the past.

Tonight is the night
I must sleep - oh, yes, I must!
So I've little time.

And yet in the end,
I decided I would move
Reruns to archives.

our aluminum tree in 2004May your holiday -
Whatever you celebrate -
Fill your heart with joy.

If you're traveling,
Be safe on the road, or while
Flying through the air!

If you stay at home,
Fill it with love and mem'ries,
New as well as old.

Yes, I love you all!
Yes, I wish you peace, and hope...
And presents galore!


Christmas greetings to my friends
Happy Hannukah as well.
I hope the "holiday" hoo-hah ends
Soon - that ploy for Fox to sell
Ads as viewers get worked up
And think they're caught up in a war,
Get all defensive about words
And forget what this season's for.

Happy Holidays! was sung by Bing.
Remember, as I sing it now,
To fold in every blessed thing,
And please - don't have a cow!

(Yes, I know it's lame. I was going to write up a proper version of all the comments I've been leaving about this stupid, fake "War on Christmas" controversy, but I really don't have time - especially not in rhyme!)


P.S. See the December 2004 archives for more Christmas poetry.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

In Tucson, Winter Tastes Like Chicken

"Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get."
- Robert A. Heinlein (quoted by the NWS)

Okay, this tickles me. From the National Weather Service Area Forecast Discussion page for Tucson:


And on another page:

Christmas Day:
Mostly sunny. High 74.

Much as I've been hoping to see a few snowflakes in Tucson this winter, I've known for days that it wasn't going to happen this weekend. Winter started today:

Winter began Wednesday Dec. 21 at 11:35 am

(local time, according to the NWS). A little over three hours after that, the official temperature hit today's high of 78 degrees. When I came back from lunch, I left my sweater in the car.

So there will be no evocative pictures here tonight of trees in snow. I won't even pull out my snow pictures from January 1988. Some other time, but not on this warm winter night.

I do have other pictures, though.

First off, an update on the decorating. John and I have officially decided not to put up even the aluminum tree this year. The house is too much of a mess, and we'll be out of town too much of the time to make it worth the bother. If I can get at some wrapping paper, and if John can dig out the stockings, I'll be satisfied. This is our big rut-breaker Christmas, in which nearly all my cherished traditions will go by the wayside. Having one very different Christmas from all the rest - and a trip to Disneyland! - is well worth giving up my Hallmark ornaments and my turkey-cooking, our vintage foil tree (toil free!) and my Pillsbury orange rolls for once. So, bottom line: no Christmas decorations at home.

cards. I got cards.

I did decorate a little more at work. Basically all I did was stand up the Christmas cards I got at the office, but it does look somewhat festive.

blurry ex-flurry
Oh, and that snowman thing is a candle holder. You can almost see the eyes and mouth here. They're not especially visible even when you look at the thing in person. I like that Lilo can hula near a snowman and not get cold. Zorro's horse Tornado seems to be about to knock the snowman's hat off, but I don't think that will happen.

that house again

I took a few more neighborhood Christmas lights photos, just at dusk tonight. The first one is that same house again, but a closer look at just one part of it.

across the street, another house

The other shot is a piece of a different house that John likes. There's much more to it than this, but I like the way the tree looks in this particular shot, and I like the wreath of lights.

Lemmon sunset, to the north

And here's Mount Lemmon, as seen from St. Michael's during the earliest sunset of the year.

just the sky at sunset, 12/21/05

Speaking of sunsets, this is what was going on in the western sky, shortly after the Mount Lemmon shot.

Welcome to winter in Tucson. It looks a lot like spring and fall here, or summer elsewhere. Mind you, I'm not complaining, but after 19 years I've almost come to take Tucson winter for granted. It's pleasant, but mostly unexciting.

Like chicken.


P.S. In honor of Carly's entry on Christmas trivia, I've just reposted 12 of my Holiday Trivia questions from a year ago in my archives here. They mostly cover Christmas and Solstice. I won't have time to repost more than this before Christmas, so if you want to see the rest of the questions, you'll need to go to Musings for now. Look in the archives for December 2004 and January 2005. - KFB

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dadaist Comment Spam

Okay, I told you before about this comment, posted to my all-fiction blog, Messages from Mâvarin:

are you serious?

Posted by Neil Coan to Messages from Mâvarin at 11/28/2005 08:53:47 AM

Note that this comment was left in late November on a fiction entry (Meet Joshua Wander, Part Nine) that was posted in early January. I spent hours trying to analyze what the comment meant, and why it was posted. The best answer I could come up with was "nothing much," and "no good reason." Nor could I contact "Neil Coan," because when I tried to pull up the profile, Blogger said:

This Account is Closed.

We are sorry but this account is no longer active.

This cryptic comment was soon followed by an almost identical one:

are you serious?

Posted by Rod Heilmann to Messages from Mâvarin at 12/06/2005 11:47:31 AM

I didn't know how to take this second comment, but I didn't worry about it as much as I had the first time around. This one was posted to Mall of Mâvarin, Part Four, from April 2005. It was hard to imagine any way the question could legitimately be applied to a fantasy serial installment about high school students having memories of another life in another world. And like "Neil Coan," the name "Rod Heilmann" was attached to a "no longer active" Blogger account.

About a week after that, I got a third cryptic comment:

Not bad.

Posted by Ward Gaylord to Messages from Mâvarin at 12/12/2005 11:41:44 AM

This one was posted to one of my one-off Mâvarin fiction entries, "Another Letter from Uncle Jamek." I'd like to think that Jamek's cryptic letter to Crel is pretty good; but I was beginning to suspect that whoever posted the comment hadn't even read the entry.

Now, rounding out the set (at least for the moment), we have

There are different opinions on this subject.

Posted by Raphael Muszynski to Messages from Mâvarin at 12/19/2005 10:27:04 AM

This one is posted to Mall of Mâvarin, Part Thirteen. Unless the commenter is a) one of my fictional characters or b) having a disagreement with a friend about whether my fiction is any good, there is no possible way for there to be "different opinions on the subject" of Cathy, Carl and Randy having an interdimensional adventure.

As far as I can tell, these are all the same kind of thing: random, anonymous comments that might superficially seem to apply to almost any blog entry, but which in truth have no more relevance than "Your polka dots are green," or "Resplendent chicks eat vegetables." If they had been posted to a political blog, they might have been mistaken for meaningful, but the fact that they appeared on a fiction blog exposes their utter lack of content.

Now, I see three possible explanations of these Dadaist comments:

1. Someone is deliberately yanking my chain.
2. Someone is generating particularly pointless comment spam.
3. Some computer virus, trojan horse or what-have-you is generating comment spam.

It seems unlikely that anyone would bother to post these comments just to confuse or annoy me, so let's move on to comment spam. Why in the world would anyone spam old blog entries with pointless remarks? None of these advertised anything, or had a viable link to anywhere. So what did they accomplish? Is it just relatively harmless geek fun, spamming for the intellectual challenge of writing the program, and the adolescent thrill of getting away with something? Or is it a dry run for some major comment spam, the sort that offers discounts on prescriptions, promotes sexy locals, or promises to improve the size and functioning of a body part I don't have in the first place?

Do I really want to know?


Monday, December 19, 2005

Frenetic, Frazzled, and Undecorated

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Show me the decorations! Yes, time to pimp your seasonal decorating bug, folks. Show us what you got. Take the picture, post it on your Journal/Blog, and then come back to leave a link. Easy!

Okay, I'm going to show you ALL of the Christmas decorations I've put on display so far this year. Ready?

Yes, I know this is a bad picture. The flash whited out the little snowman card holder or napkin holder or whatever it is, but I didn't check the picture before leaving work. The snowman does have eyes, I'm pretty sure. He was a gift from someone in the office.

This mini-stocking was also handed 'round by someone at work. Once the candy was gone, I wrote my name on it and tacked it up.

What about Christmas decorations at home? The sad truth is that we haven't put any up yet. None. John has expressed interest in doing it, but we haven't actually gotten out any of the boxes. I think this is due to three factors:

  1. My being really busy
  2. John being in the middle of a project of reorganizing all the stuff that was in storage
  3. Our impending trip to Disneyland, sometime in the next week or two.
See, I haven't have time to deal with it, and the house is full of boxes right now, and it hardly seems worth it if we're going to be gone part of the holiday season.

But just so there's something pretty to look at here, I've got the pictures I promised of my favorite neighborhood light display:

(Most of) the big picture. Right click to see it a bit larger.

Part of the same house, a little more close-up.


I have now sent out everything but three cards I missed, plus the stuff I'm doing online. Everyone: if you get a largish envelope from me, be advised that I didn't wrap anything. That's because I really didn't have time, and I knew you would forgive me. If you want to open the envelope early, be my guest, but if you do, you won't have anything from me to open at Christmas.

Then again, maybe they'll all arrive after Christmas anyway.

When I have to do the snail mail thing, I try to always go to the main post office on Cherrybell Strav (Strav apparently means "Street-Avenue" - in other words, a thoroughfare that's diagonal to the city grid.) It's at least 15 minutes out of my way, but it's open until 7 PM, the people there are friendly and competent, and (unlike other branches) they've never lost my outgoing mail.

Here's how Cherrybell Station looked at 7:30 PM tonight:

Pretty impressive, I think, for that late in the evening. There was even a line to use the automated system. That's a neat thing, though. It weighs packages and envelopes, and dispenses postage, stamps, zip code info, and takes a credit or debit card in payment. Beats the heck out of waiting for #53 to be called, when they're currently up to number 26! My only quibble is that I had to swipe my card again and again for each individual package.

After the post office, I bought dinner, a party tray for the office pot luck, three kinds of candy to reciprocate the little gifts people are distributing at work, and, in a separate trip, a B&N gift card for the office gift exchange. Plus I helped a Safeway customer who wanted to know if I worked there. She saw my security pass still hanging around my neck at 8 PM tonight, and somehow thought that might mean I was still on the clock.

Sometime tonight, a store clerk asked how I was doing. I said, "Frenetic, frazzled, and other F-words." She laughed. Well, I'm still frenetic and frazzled, and frustrated that I still haven't gotten to my church obligations. But I'm not "effed." Not yet. Not entirely. I'm doing okay, I think.

Even if I don't have any decorations up.


Sunday, December 18, 2005


Rani Fost- in color!My really expensive craft projects have been dropped off, and should be ready tomorrow afternoon. I have one more that I produced myself. It took forty minutes to bring it into physical existence, and even at that it needs finishing touches I can't do at home. Hence the money I'm spending to have the others completed. Sheesh. Commercially produced ones would have cost less money, but I think the few people who will get these will like them better than the ones at the mall. These have something the store-bought versions will probably never have - until and unless there are licensed Karen Blocher products for sale. And that's all I'm saying about those for now.

I've also just finished making my considerably less expensive craft items. A couple of them are a little curly, and Rani looks a little weird; but otherwise I succeeded beyond my wildest hopes. Do you know what this stuff is yet?It turned out that Michael's did have what I needed after all, and I was able to print stuff instead of tracing it.

Oh, and I colorized Rani, because I've always wanted to do it. Actually, I've attempted it several times, but I think this is the best yet.

Now I just have to do four loads of laundry, wrap and address a bunch of cards and presents, update the church pages, and get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Piece of cake.


'Twas A Week Before Christmas

First off, in case anyone was worried about my sleep deprivation experiment, I should report that it was a total bust. I went to bed around 1 AM, and slept for nearly 11 hours. I won't get nearly that much tonight, but that's okay.

Since waking up this afternoon, I've been in a frustrated Christmas frenzy. My original plan of writing out Christmas cards and taking them to the post office mutated into looking for the three small objects that were going to be the prizes for last year's Holiday Trivia, which have been floating around my desk ever since. I only found one of them, and I'm not sure it really was one of them.

I spent about two hours looking for the prizes, and for a little something I picked up for someone back in April. The latter item eventually turned up on my dresser, undernearth a bunch of other stuff. Yes, I'm disorganized and messy. Is this a surprise? I didn't think so.

The cards are ones I first saw at B&N three or four years ago. I didn't buy them at the time, and when I went back they were gone. Two years ago they were for sale again, and I snapped them up. Then I lost the box. Last year I found the cards again, but didn't actually get around to sending them. This year I hope to do better! And oh, yes, for the record, they are Happy Holidays cards. Since the people I care about are Christian, Jewish, Atheist and Wiccan, nothing else will serve.

So far I've written out cards for almost everyone I've received cards from, and collected addresses for a few more people. I've also decided that my extra Gandalf figure was meant to go to my godson last Christmas, to I put that with the stuff to be wrapped and sent. When will I wrap these things, and how will I send them? I don't know yet.

But having failed to find my trivia prizes, and having more stuff to get for people, I decided to go to the mall, and try to pick up small, flat, easily-mailed items for friends and prize-winners. I was there for two hours, trapped in crowds, staring at calendars and ornaments, Kokopelli magnets and little figurines. Nothing really cut it for me. Having listened to a rant on NPR about how terrible homemade gifts are (unless you're really talented or under age 10), I decided to make the gifts.

Next I set out to find the very specific craft material I would need to pull this off. Kaybee had a $12.99 kit that contained 6 sheets of it, along with a special purple machine and other stuff I didn't really need. Toys R Us didn't have the stuff at all. Michael's may possibly have some, but I doubt it. I'll check tomorrow. Desperate, I bought the $12.99 set and brought it home. It was my only Christmas gift-related purchase of the day.

Turns out the sheets are half the size I need. Oh, foo.

By the time I discovered this, I have already created several large designs for my trivia prizes on the laptop, plus a little poster for someone. Then I went back to the idea of a completely different project. I downloaded two MS Office templates, and have been playing with them for hours, off and on.

So, what am I giving to friends and family for Christmas? I'm not sure yet. If everyone ends up with Amazon gift certificates (or nothing at all), just know that I tried to do something creative. Really I did.


P.S. Part Six of my
Heirs of Mâvarin excerpt has been posted.