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The Holiday Frenzy

The post office was scheduled to open at 8:30 and I showed up a few minutes early, taking my spot at the back of a line on the sidewalk. A cursory survey indicated that this was an orderly bunch of folks, mailing reasonable packages to plausible destinations. It can be traumatic when someone in front of you at the post office wants to mail a package the size of a refrigerator, or perhaps 300 individual envelopes to their relatives on Venus.

It is important, during this holiday season, to be tolerant of other people's mail, and to avoid making harsh judgments about those who do not understand the difference between Priority and Express. The corollary is that we must never idolize those who are gifted at estimating package weight and the corresponding postage. I have friends who are postage prodigies -- they can tell, from 100 yards away, that you need to add another stamp.

My post office visit took 32 minutes and proved satisfying. A lone postal worker kept everything moving smoothly. One does not demand speed if there is a sense of steady progress and the rule of law. If I had any criticism of the U.S. Postal Service it is that on such a busy day it might have been wise to open up a few minutes early. As it was, I believe the opening of the branch was so faithful to the official schedule that you could set an atomic clock by it. Not one pulse of a Cesium atom too early or too late.

If I can escape the office later, I'll plunge back into the gaping maw of the retail world. Might go to Tyson's, even though it's a frightening Edge City conglomeration of workers and shoppers. I'm not a shopper but a buyer. I obtain merchandise with the same elan as a Southerner who heads to the creek to gig some crawdads. You just sort of...stab at stuff. Gig it.

My experience over the years allows my to offer some shopping tips for amateurs:

Buy whatever's on display at the store entrance, thus avoiding the need to penetrate deep into the store interior, where nothing good can happen.

Resist the urge to buy black light posters, disco balls, lava lamps, or anything else that has a forced-festive quality and screams to the recipient You Will Have Fun.

Always get the gift receipt since everything you buy will be returned.

Remember that most stores nowadays are aimed at specific demographics, like Hideously Spoiled 9-Year-Old Girl, or Self-Consciously Outdoorsy He-Man Who Actually Is Trapped In Desk Job, or Super-Refined Lady With Naughty Edge. If you're confused about the target demographic of a store, just find an employee and ask a direct question, such as, "Is this a good store for buying a power drill for my buddy Ervin?," and you'll likely be told something like, "No, this is a good store for buying Ervin a pair of Uggs."

The Food Court is not your friend.

Keep in mind that what counts is not whether the recipient of the gift likes the object, but how you will be judged as a giver. Thus a really elaborate, complicated, customized present, such as a Dustbuster to which you have carefully glued rhinestones, will be very impressive.

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 19, 2006; 9:27 AM ET
 
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Next: Remembering Carl Sagan

Comments

Feel free to repost comments from previous boodle.

I'll repost Curmudgeon's missive from last night:


Hey, gang. Just got back to the hotel room a few minutes ago after another grueling day (details to follow, omni; thanks for your patience), and read the boodle only to discover you folks have whipped up a little Mudge historical to-do list.

First things first: had the best breakfast yet in the La Gondola restuarant here, then killed a few minutes basking in the sun before my 10 a.m. massage (with Marlene. Who has wonderful hands. Oh yeah. Er, I mean, 25 minutes of physical abuse. Yeah, that's the ticket. Physical abuse. O it was pure torture, especially the part where she annointed my whatchamacallit with oil.) But trooper than I am, I used my phenomenal powers of recovery and regeneration, and in no time at all I was able to crawl out of there on my hands and knees, pleading with her to do it some more. But she wouldn't, the hussy. So I killed some more time until my wife's manicure, pedicure, elbowicure, kneeicure, earlobeicure and a couple of other carnauba waxings were finished, and then we hoped a bus into town for some bionic shopping (bought two of those hammocky-looking string hammock chairs), concluding with dinner at Perico's, which was the best meal we've had down here to date. Coming back through the lobby to our rooms, we stopped at the bar where we picked up an amoretto/rocks for my wife and a Galiano/rocks/con limon twist for me--a little nightcap, as it were, after another punishing day. Tomorrow we depart at 8:15 a.m. for an all-day field trip to inspect the ruins at Ek Balam (q.v.). So, omni, thanks for your very kind offer to bring the boodle reinforcements down here to rescue me, but I believe I can tough it out for a few more days.

As an amateur military historian, my specialty is WWI. I think I can say pretty safely that it has virtually nothing in common with the Fr.&Ind. War in any way, shape, or form, other than some of the same nations involved. But virtually nothing significant. (However, I do get a mite testy whenever anybody suggests that the XYZ War (you name it--Pelopponesian, Fr.&Ind., Korean, whatever) is a "forgotten" war of some sort. The only reason any of them are "forgotten" is because history teachers and history books do such a godawful job of teaching history in general, and military history in particular, which has a singularly undeserved bad reputation under the horribly misguided "politically correct" notion that if we don't teach kids about it somehow the world will become a better and more peaqceful place. This is utter crap. The way to minimize/reduce war in general is to teach MORE about it to everyone, not less. Jam it down everyone's freaking throats until they've learned every nuance and detail. Because if they current maroons in the White House had any kind of inkling about it, they'd have never got us into this mess, which was predictable from the git-go.

OK, moving on: slyness, you were referring to King Charles II of Spain, aka Carlos Secundo, aka Chuckie Upchuck, who went by the nickname of "the Bewitched" ["el Hechizado" as we say here in Cancun] who suffered from just about every known malady and mental disorder except scurvy (which I had pretty much cured him of, thanks to some judicious oral administrations of Tom Collinses). Chuckie assumed he had so many illnesses because he was bewitched. The real cause, of course, was centuries of inbreeding in the Hapsburg dynasty. More than once I cautioned one Hapsburg or another, "Eewwwww, dude, she's your sister!" [Or cousin, in some cases.] But would they listen? Uncles doing it with nieces was especially popular, god knows why. I mean, these were rich and powerful men; couldn't they, like, get a date? Now Henry VIII of England--there was a guy who knew how to ...um...spread the wealth arounbd, as it were. But the Hapsburgs? Ewwwwwwwwww. Chuckie's aunt, Empress Marie Ana was both his aunt and his grandmother, and his mon was his dad's neice. His great=great grandmother was Joanna the Mad- What kind of clue does this bunch need? And she was mother of Charles I (aka Holy Roman Empire King Charles V) who was mad as a hatter himself. Didn't Chuckie get the freakin' memo? Helllllloooooo? It was like living in West Virginia. I offered a couple times to take him out to Hooters, show him a nice set of gazongas he wasn't already related to, but by then it was pretty much too late. He had an incredibly oversize tongue, which some guys might have turned into an asset and chick-magnet, but in Chuckie's case he just drooled, which didn't help him get to first base with anybody who wasn't also a bit deranged, i.e., cousin EllieMae. Chuckie actually had two failed marriages, and when he died he was the last of the Hapsburgs, and not a moment too soon, genetically speaking. But yep, this touched off that War of Spanish Sucession, an 11-year tete-a-tete that finally went to a Bourbon (if you're going to establish a new dynastic family, why not pick a good drinking whiskey, I always say), Philip V (a former Duke of Anjou, who, as they say, "had a real pear." OK, just a little fruit humor).

*puts check mark next to slyness's query, and moves on*

Next item: I know you guys have pooped out on the Fr.&Ind. war already, but I feel I must make two comments. First, about Wolfe (Wolfie, Jimmy the Wolf, the Wolfmeister, we called him) and Moncalm at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. This was actually a bit of legendary derring-so by the Wolfmeister, who was beseiging Monty in Quebec City. Seems ol' Monty had more than 13,000 troops defending the joint, but never expected Wolfie to launch a surprise amphibious assault across the St. Lawrence where he did: right in front of 150-foot tall cliffs. ("Jim," I said, "I know you're pretty young to be a brigadier general and all, but maybe you wanna rethink this one?" "Mudge," he sez, flashing me a wink, "it's the last place they'll think of us attackin', you mark my words." "Cool beans, yer lordship," I says. "I think I'll wait in the boat." Which explains why he's a dead hero and I'm a live curmudgeon.) Ennyways, Wolfie and the Brits cross the St. Lawrence, scale the unscalable cliffs, and lo and behold, there they are on top of the Plains of Abraham and knock, knock, knocking on Monty's door. Monty comes out with a couple thousand French troops, and they open fire at 400 yards, which ya might say was something of a premature ejaculation, since bullets only went about 350 yards in them days. Wolfie's lads, on the other hand, had loaded two musket balls in each musket (yes, there's a line there, but I'm just going to overlook it, unless you want a tune cootie: "Double Shot of my Baby's Love), and held their fire until only 40 yards. It only lasted 30 minutes, and when the smoke clears (and there was plenty of it), both Wolfie and Monty have been shot and mortally wounded. Wolfie dies almost right away, only seconds after hearing one of his men yell that the French have just broken and are running away. Wolfie looks up at me and says, "Blimey, we done it, Mudge, jus' like I said we would!" "Right you are, skipper," says I, but he was already gone.

Later on, when we were rounding up the wounded, we took Montcalm in to the MASH unit, but he died the next day. So that was the story: two brilliant, foolhardy young generals, both killed in the same battle. One consequence was the French lost Canada; another was that when the American Revolution rolled around a few years later, ol' Georgie Washington didn't have to go up against General Wolfe; had had a somewhat easier set of opponents. And on the other hand, George might have had a pretty good ally in Montcalm, who just might have joined Kid Layfayette in helping us out.

One final irony of the battle was that one of Moncalm's generals was a guy named Bougainville; ya mighta heard the name. They named a flower and an island next to Guadalcanal after him (he discvovered it). Seems Bougainville and his men had snuck around behind Wolfe and were about to attack him from the rear. But Montcalm wouldn't wait, and launched his attack before Bougainville got in position (speaking of premature evacuation). If Monty had just held his horses for a little while the whole thing might have gone the other way, and poutine might have become the national dish of North America.

Second point about the [censored]-Indian War: Without it we would never have had that great movie where Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis, not Alan Alda: wrong war, and not as funny as Korea was) and his faithful Indian compendium Chingatchgamuklukachatanoogachoochootuscarorakalamazoo (Russell Means, not Elliott Gould) have that great battle in the Borsht Belt in upstate New York near Grosingers Resort, where the bad guy, Wes Studi, gets killed and Danny gets to marry Madeleine Stowe. That was a terrific movie (and not a bad little novel, thanks to James Fenimore Cooper, who took my suggestion and included his middle name, because I said, "Look, Jim, nobody's gonna buy a novel about hosiery written by anybody named Jimmy Cooper." "Mudge," he says, "I keep telling you it ain't about hosiery, it's about leather stockings." "Jim," I says, "I like a little saucy erotica as much as the next red-blooded prevert, but I shoulda never loaned you that Fanny Hill book."

Long story short, I hadda read Jim's manuscript (in that cramped little handwriting scrawl he had) to see he was right. But you'll notice he took my suggestion about using his full name.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 19, 2006 10:32 AM | Report abuse

From Linda Loomis:

I see that we're still on the French and Indian wars. This conflict is also the first instance of deliberate biowarfare on the continent, when commander Geoffrey Amherst ordered the extirpation of the Indians, with no prisoners to be taken.

Amherst probably was closely attending to the methods of his former commander "Butcher" Cumberland. However, an account book at Fort Pitt shows that smallpox-infested blankets and handerchiefs from the fort's hospital were given to the Indians on June 24, 1763 after smallpox had broken out there earlier that month, while Amherst ordered Col. Bouquet to repeat the same germ warfare on July 7, his directive carried out on July 13.)

Delaware chiefs were summoned for parlay into Fort Pitt and the blankets were distributed. An epidemic subsequently raged among the Delawares, and thereafter, the names of Delaware chiefs, Great Chief Singas and his brother Pisquetomen, no longer appear on the historical record.

As historian Frank Jenings discusses in his footnotes in his 1988 book, "Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies and Tribes in the Seven Years War in America": "The situation raises more questions than if Amherst and Bouqet were to be singled out as exceptional criminals. To what extent was germ warfare against Indians accepted as legitimate, though covert, in 'frontier' war? Rumors of widespread acceptance were hinted in the nineteenth century, but I have not seen other evidence as explicit and irrefutable as that of Fort Pitt."

As far as finding the smallpox cemeteries of family members who died in Connecticut in the epidemic of 1759, I acknowledge they were wonderful accidents of research. I had been in the Suffield, Conn. library and the young, blonde librarian called the town historian for me, an older gentleman, a professional photographer, who had come in between photo appointments to talk with me. This family's name is well-known in history, particularly Texas, but is not Loomis, and is on a branch of our family tree.

In the case of the family-cluster cemetery in Lebanon, Conn., I had tracked a rumor to a distant descendant living in the Southwest, who had also heard the same rumor. When I dropped in, without appointment, at the town's visitor and historical center and described my quest (and gotten material on our family's signer of the Declaration of Independence), the staff likewise called in the town historian, an older women, to assist me. She knew precisely where to direct me.

This older pair of historians, with their strong love of community and deep knowledge of each town's past, were invaluable to me.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 19, 2006 10:34 AM | Report abuse

From Cassandra:

Good morning, friends. Shrieking, had to laugh at your comment about going postal. That was funny, and I needed to laugh.

We walked this morning, and I feel so much better for it, although the bad throat is still with me. The g-girl rode in her stroller, and when asked if she was tired, she said yes.

I read Eugene Robinson's op-ed piece and the thinking now of sending more troops to Iraq. My question is, what will they do? Do we plan on getting rid of all the people in Iraq, and starting over again or will we be adding to the mess already there? And I really would like to know.

I do hope your day is good. The weather here is so beautiful and warm. Of course, the warmth is getting ready to leave us, making room for the cold, but I can't complain, it has been just wonderful. I sat in the sun yesterday, and the warmth just wrapped me up.

Pat, this morning at the lake, the sky looked like a painting in mute colors of blue, pink, and just a touch of white, and all of it looked as if someone had taken their finger and just gently mixed it all together. There was a bit of mist on the lake, and two lone baby ducks paddling about as if looking for their mother. I hope they aren't lost. And the air was cold and biting, and I too deep breaths, and as always I prayed, and thanked God.

We have so much to be thankful for in this world even among the misery that enfolds us so much of the time. All we have to do is say thank you, God, and many of us won't even do that. In thanking God we give Him the praise, honor, and glory of His creations.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And may it be a New Year of realizing that God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 19, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Who is this Achenbach guy and why is he taking over the boodle?

Posted by: dr | December 19, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm picturing Mrs. A trying to return a rhinestone-studded Dustbuster.

Me, I'm going Gift Cards - Starbucks, Borders, Best Buy, Home Despot, etc.

I'm trying to show I had enough heart enough to venture to the store, but didn't have enough brains to think of something for them in particular, or enough courage to venture further into the store than the cash registers (conveniently by the doors).

On Christmas day, please ignore that man behind the camera.

Toto, thank God we're not in Tyson's anymore.

bc

Posted by: bc | December 19, 2006 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Is it just me or does the boss got pretty kitty lately? We barely break the 100 comments mark and then zap a new kit appears.
I am a buyer too though. I go in like a Special Ops veteran, make the surgical strike, pay for the goods at the least crowded cash and escape like the wind.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | December 19, 2006 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Shrieking is there a course you can take in tactical shopping, I need one, I am a browser - Christmas shopping can take me weeks. Although did see that the Drug store has quite a selection of gift cards from all kinds of stores, restaurants, itunes etc, may speed up those final few gift purchases.

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

It looks pretty skinny under the tree this year, what with all these grownup people in my house. Mitts, socks and underwear don't take up a whole lot of room. I keep going back to stores attempting to fill up that empty space and mrdr keeps looking at me sideways. I'll be fine so long as mrdr keeps looking at me and not at the bank account or the credit cards. I am at the funny stage where Christmas is too far away, and yet I am not ready enough for Christmas to be so close.

I think when I take my turkey out this evening, in a valiant effort to assuage mrdr's fiscal accountability policy, I will freeze my wallet.

Posted by: dr | December 19, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Joel I did use your strategy on one gift for the husband, a pair of hockey skates, I do not know anything about hockey skates or even which size so I just bought was seemed like a good pair at a great price - knowing that if it doesn't work out I look like I made an effort and it can be a fancy gift certificate. By the way all I remember growing up was CCM and Cooper skates, they now have a wall of them.

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

"Self-Consciously Outdoorsy He-Man Who Actually Is Trapped In Desk Job"

That hits close to home. Too bad it's a bit unwieldy as a handle.

Mudge, this link I found this morning is a great resource for unit histories and who's perpetuating whom. There were a bunch at Quebec, including Goreham's Rangers, an American militia unit.

http://www.regiments.org/wars/18thcent/56namer.htm

Posted by: SonofCarl | December 19, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I'm a big fan of online shopping, my husband - not so much. Most of my family (mother, grandmother, etc.) had their presents (bought online with free shipping) at their homes a week ago. Over the weekend, we made several treks to places such as Tyson's Corner Mall (at 9:00 am, thank heavens for holiday hours) and Target (where I seriously wanted to run over someone in the toy section).

We wrapped and wrapped and wrapped some more on Sunday. When all was said and done, we had used over 63 gift tags (I bought 3 packs with 21 in each, we ran out) and had completed shopping for all 37 people on our combined lists. My husband dragged half a dozen shopping bags full of presents to the UPS store yesterday morning and spent almost $300 to ship them to 6 different destinations from Maine to Florida. I thought all was done.

Except this morning I remembered my 2-year-old godson.

Posted by: PLS | December 19, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Good morning shoppers. I have a longstanding and inflexible rule that I will not enter a mall between Thanksgiving and New Years'. If I can't buy it at a bookstore, non-mall store, or online, I don't give it. I demonstrated the great love I bear for the Boy last Friday by going to the most crowded local mall, at NOON, to hear his honors choir sing. They were splendid. The mall was terrifying.

Big day today. Ivansdad is out of town with Ivansgrandma, who is having surgery, one dog is missing, one dog is crated after several escapes, one dog is good, and I'm about to sing Christmas carols. Mudge, I'll hoist an "O Holy Night" for you. I'm also almost finished with a large piece of actual work, after which I can relax and work from home (or not).

When in doubt, I like to buy and give useless art objects - by which I mean art that can't be used for any other purpose but admiration. Or, for the luckless previous recipients of useless art who have expressed their overwhelming gratitude forcefully, the "gift" of animals to others through Heifer International. This year I gave rabbits and chickens to deserving Third World families in my relieved friends' names.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 19, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Down here, the stores should be selling red Christmas bougainvilleas, with labels in French.

I need to create a campaign to convince the locals that poinsettias are rather tough yard plants, once you gently transition them from their traumatic holiday existence (plucked from a comfy greenhouse) to the outdoors. Remarkably, they aren't poisonous. I still have an old agricultural experiment station bulletin from Puerto Rico explaining that the leaves make a nice vegetable. I don't think I'd want to go that far. The US has native poinsettias, so the cultivated species (from Mexico) does get nibbled by native insects. Here's photos of one of the natives, from the online plant atlas at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The university's name is an anachronism--it was founded back when Miami was unworthy of having a state university.

http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/images.asp?plantID=616

Grapefruits are in good supply and very sweet, possibly thanks to an early cold spell. So please support the local economy by buying some.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | December 19, 2006 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I love Heifer! My mother got to the point she dared us to buy her anything, so that's what I did for her. Great organization.

I'm a get-it-done-early kinda shopper, so that I don't have to do malls during the season. Hubby and I were behind this year, though, because of the work involved with the mountain house. Thank heavens for online shopping, it really pulled me through. When it comes to actually purchasing stuff, I'm impulsive. I'll think and think and look and look and then I'll see something and buy it immediately. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. But tee shirts with silly sayings always go over well.

Posted by: slyness | December 19, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I like that one, Ivansmom. Although I think my brother still uses the bookstand I made for him. Fortunately, my artistic binges are sporadic. I mostly give books, because there's no better gift than knowledge. Besides, books are returnable, and if not, they can always be recycled as TP or cage liner.

SoC, there's a shorter way to say "Self-Consciously Outdoorsy He-Man Who Actually Is Trapped In Desk Job"

"Metrosexual... with chest hair."

Don't forget to put on your cards:

"Lawyer by Day.. Lumberjack by Night."

*humming the lumberjack song*

(Of course, many people might think you merely are a heavy snorer.)

Pat, that sounds like a nice fuzzy family dog to have as a guest. I hope she does well over Xmas break-- that is such a better option than kennelling a dog anyway.

My old (and extremely furry-fuzzy) dog used to lose 5 lbs whenever she was kenneled for a week's vacation.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Ach,

Posting from my blackberry (let's say, for fun). I tried to implement your strategy for amateurs but the first store I walked into had on display at the store entrance the following items:

Black light posters, disco balls, lava lamps, and other items of a forced-festive quality.

What do you think? Should I leave You Will Have Fun and go to another store?

Waiting patiently,
byoolin

Posted by: byoolin | December 19, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I always give my wife gift cards. They are just cleverly disguised as receipts.

Now I am off to indulge in seasonal frivolity.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 19, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, you're a genius. Next time the lovely Mrs. byoolin beats me into consciousness to complain about my snoring I will offer as my defence that I was humming The Lumberjack Song. ("Just like my dear papa.")

Posted by: byoolin | December 19, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

byoolin - IMO, run.
Wait...who are you buying for?

bc

Posted by: bc | December 19, 2006 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Have no time for booding or even to read the entire Kit. I just read the first sentence when I knew that someone has kidnapped JA.

JA doesn't do the Post Office. JA doesn't even do envelopes.

Who are you and what have you done with our Achenbach?

Posted by: TBG | December 19, 2006 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Joel, you silly boy you. There's are new-fangled enterprise that get your packages to their destination on time and traceably with a minimum of line-standing. Embrace FedEx or UPS. At the PO I always get behind the elderly woman with the shoebox wrapped in grocery bags and scotch tape and wants to pay for the thing from her coin purse. Last time there was actually a convention of them present...
I'm with Ivansmom on the mall thing
*shiver*
My shopping dilemma every year are the so-called stocking stuffers. Trying to find marginally useful stuff that's 1) small and 2) inexpensive is a chore. That's why my family introduced the 4-foot stockings. Now we just give each other paperbacks.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 19, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Frenzy? What frenzy? It's as quiet here as a nightgown dropped on a plush carpet, as they say in Texas. The nights are so silent I think I can hear hair grow. The only thing hole-y about our night was our mattress pad, but hubby shopped overstock.com and the new one arrived days ago. We put it on the bed immediately.

I think I'll pass on to my husband your idea, Joel, of a rhinestone-studded Dustbuster. It'll match my rhinestone-studded pirate eyepatch. I'll be stylin' in my matchy-matchy. Might as well be bling-bling when I'm suckin' up dust bunnies. Ooooooh-la-la!

Truly, my husband has given it and me his all, bending over the dirt, hole, and bricks in the backyard these past two weeks. Who needs a mall? I can feel the love without one bow or a scrap of wrapping paper.

Posted by: Loomis | December 19, 2006 11:49 AM | Report abuse

SCCs (in order): gets, who, is

Posted by: Raysmom | December 19, 2006 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, the baby ducks, the mist off the lake, I'll have that hallmark image pasted in my imagination all day long. Thanks!

I like to go Christmas shopping at the busiest moment of the season. This year, I predict it to be 7:30 Saturday evening.

Watch out for the blind guy. He wants to bump into you. Especially the females and that kid he's holding on to is in on it. Remember that game you played in high school when you were walking down the hall and gave your friend a little push when the cutie passed by and said, "He likes you!" It's like that. And if he detects any annoyance, he'll ask your help to find something.

Watch out! He's real friendly and will attempt to cheer you up. Before you know it, he'll be hanging on your arm, asking your expert advice as you drag him around the mall looking for the perfect gift for his wife.

Then he'll insist on buying you a cup of coffee.

Protect yourself! Hint: don't stand around the mall looking like an innocent victim.

People go off like bombs at the mall during Christmas. It's like the stress of the season just blows up all at once. Bang! About 1 every 5 minutes, there goes another's Christmas spirit up in smoke. I'm praying it doesn't happen to you.

Can't wait!

As of right now, I'm waiting to be called in the conference room where we will gather to eat off of styrafoam plates with plastic forks and most of my coworkers will claim that they are exceptionally buzzed from the half beer they drank. Yes, and they are counting your drinks too.

Don't drop your fork - you'll be cut off.

To me, it's a skills test. Wish me good luck!

Posted by: Pat | December 19, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Loomis,
Is your husband intact after all that dirt-and-bricks stuff? Earlier this year, I gave myself tendonitis of the fingers and a bit of "trigger finger syndrome" from lugging 20" square pavers. Be nice to him.

I'm still sort of surprised that the botanical garden in Austin has cycads.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | December 19, 2006 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I remember a Christmas about fifteen years ago when I was up PA and I had exactly four presents for family that needed to be wrapped. Well, me being the procrastinator that I am I put of wrapping those present until very late. After everyone had gone to bed. I had wrapping paper but the onle tape I could find in the entire house was a two inch strip of scotch tape. I can tell you I was very creative with the present wrapping that year. When I told my family the story in the AM, they all took a close look at my creativity and were most impressed. From that day forward I could claim the 'best present wrapper ever' title...

Posted by: omni | December 19, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I thought I had most of my Christmas shopping done but a new invitation has me thinking of appropriate gifts for twin six year old boys. When the father of these young men was about their age , wearing his Roman legionary outfit, he beat me awake from my post Christams crash, with a very hard plastic sword.
And now he has two of him living with him.
Drums?, crocodiles?,

Posted by: Boko999 | December 19, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Pat... I can't stand office parties. I particularly can't stand the ones who claim they're buzzed on half a beer -- especially when you know they keep a bottle of hootch in their desk.

The last company I worked for made the mistake of having our Christmas party at a place called "Jillian's" (a franchise like "Dave & Buster's") -- with an open bar, no less -- and letting me know about it. It was a good thing they had already passed out the bonuses and profit-sharing dough 'cause I single-handedly wiped out the company's profit for that quarter with my bar tab.

As for Christmas shopping... I'm a Last Minute Man. I'll be hitting the stores Saturday (or maybe Sunday). The only gifts already in hand have already been given -- Mrs. Martooni's cell phone (why keep it in its box when I've already paid for the month's service?) and Mrs. Martooni's new cigarette making machine (her old one died last week, so I had to give her the new one I bought before she went out and bought one herself).

One of the advantages of being a "Last Minute Man" is that your choices are limited and there's no time to agonize over "is this the perfect gift?". As far as I know, my gut instincts have been right on every year -- not a single gift returned (that I know of, anyway).

Posted by: martooni | December 19, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

It's been years since I did much, if any, Christmas shopping at a mall. At first I shunned them because I could get stuff cheaper elsewhere, this was an important consideration after my divorce. Now I find it more enjoyable to shop at the local Marshall's and TJ Maxx, order online and hunt for things in little stores. This year I think about one-third of the gifts were bought online. I try to be finished before Thanksgiving as I really dislike crowded stores.

In my previous life there was way too much emphasis on expensive, showy gifts. That bit about how you will be judged as a giver applied in spades to the ex. My opinion always was and still is that when someone goes overboard in this way, they are trying to compensate for something else. I know that the giftee ends up being embarrassed or guilt-ridden because they can't or don't wish to reciprocate in kind. When I was 14 or 15 my aunt gave me a set of pink floral sheets and a hot pink chiffon nightgown, it was the perfect gift for me at that stage of my life. Last year I made a dog coat for my Great Dane granddog, she is still enjoying it and wore it for her Christmas picture. What I'm trying to express is that sometimes, not often, someone hits the exactly perfect combination of gift and giftee, and when it happens, it's a thing to be treasured by the giver as well as the receiver.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | December 19, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

ivansmom: I did that "No mall between Thanksgiving and New Year's" about three years ago, and ended up staying away from the mall for almost a year. Turns out, I don't need to go there at all.

I also recommend Heifer as the perfect gift for the person who has everything. We did trees this year.

bc: you could probably buy the gift cards online...now that's modern shopping, frenzy-free.

Posted by: kbertocci | December 19, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers, love your comment about gifts, I have been very fortunate to receive many gifts in my life but a few stand out and they involved very little cost.

My first year at university early in December I received a package from my mom, a care package, inside was a collection of goodies, her homemade white christmas cake, teas, candies etc - brightened my spirits right through exams. The following year one of my brothers, short on cash made me a survival kit for my first apartment at school full of important essentials, toilet paper, paper towels, soaps etc - I was a huge hit with my roomates.

Other notables were painted imprints of the kids hands and feet on stones in the garden - cost next to nothing - impact HUGE.

Of course in all honesty I have appreciated the odd shiney bobble or clothes.

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, true love is when a gentleman moves dirt for you. I keep telling this to mrdr everytime I need dirt moved. or rocks, boulders, trees, framing timbers.

Truthfully the time he gives me has been the most valuable gift from my husband.

Posted by: dr | December 19, 2006 1:28 PM | Report abuse

this was crazzy and funny.

Posted by: boo boo | December 19, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

OK, boodlers, a challenge - best and worst Christmas presents you've ever received:

Best: when I was young (around 9 or 10), my father gave me a pair of antique glass lamps for my desk. A rather odd present for a youngster, but he had picked them out himself and glued pink ribbons around the lampshades. The lamps stayed on my desk all through high school, all through college (illuminating my dorm room through countless nights of studying), and are now on the dresser in my room. I like to think that even though my father's gone, he still lights up my life.

Worst Chritmas present: my grandmother is notorious for this. It's a toss-up between the large plastic bust of Beethoven or the pastel pink cardigan with rinestone buttons. Hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

Posted by: PLS | December 19, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I already mentioned my favorite presents, my worst - toss up between cookie sheets or the pizza cutter.

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Not sure how I forgot this one, I think I have blocked it from my memory, my MIL early in my marriage bought me for Christmas a banana yellow nightgown, of a style much more fitting for a women much much older than I was.

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Worse present? My godparents apparently collected godchildren. I think I met them twice in my life. When I was around 3, they sent me a cut-crystal perfume bottle, complete with atomizer and tassle.

I kept that for years, just to remember what a weird gift it was. I wonder what happened to it?

Best gift? For 26 years that was an easy one:

On Christmas 1962 (when I was five years old) my little sister was born, on a rare DC white Christmas.

Then two days after Christmas 1988 my son was born. A little belated Christmas gift, but nonetheless now at the top of my list.

Posted by: TBG | December 19, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

My worst present: Asked for a portable AM/FM stereo with balance and tone control. Most importantly I asked that it not include a tape player. What did I get: A portable AM/FM stereo without balance and without tone control. It also included and 8-track player. Everyone in the world knew that 8-tracks were obsolete. Except my Mom. But it is the thought that counts. I ripped out the 8-track, which made was more than half the weight of the thing, and carried that sucker with everywhere I went, except to school.

Best present ever: Just about everything else. Really.

Posted by: omni | December 19, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about best & worst presents; I think I must have suppressed all memory of the worst. Well, we did get an elaborate homemade ceramic creche with the characters as small children, something like those "precious moments" figurines inflicted on us by heartlessly sentimental marketers. It lives in a box in the dog room now. On the "good" side, my in-laws consistently spoil me with unusual jewelry, which is nice.

With very rare exceptions, we don't return presents at our house. We have tried to teach the Boy that the true value of a gift lies in the good intentions of the giver, not in its intrinsic attraction for the recipient. The mere fact that someone thinks enough of us to give us a present is an occasion for joy and thank-you notes. If it is a matter of incorrect size, we might return and exchange. We do, unobtrusively and without publicity, pass some gifts on to others who might better appreciate their unique character.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 19, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

SCC: take the word 'made' out of my last post will ya...

Posted by: omni | December 19, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Ha! The worst had to be the electric broom, it was in a box that I thought was the perfect size for a nice pair of high boots. Great expectations dashed!

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | December 19, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

>best and worst Christmas presents you've ever received:

No question, a Schwinn Lemon Peeler, 1969. It had to have cost the better part of a months' rent.

A few years ago I asked "Hey, whatever happened to that thing, I would've never let it go..." Then I remembered it had been stolen!

So I got another via eBay, and to this day it sits in the porch where I see it every time I go in or out of the house.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 19, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The worst gifts I ever saw were the ones Dad got for my mom. Each was awful (think Salad Shooter) in its own distinctive way. He meant well, he really did, but it never worked out. The worst, however, were the handmade cushions he had made to match our sofa. He took a swatch of the fabric to a woman who crocheted the most godawful avocado and orange cushions the size of a hat box. I'll have to check and see if Mom is able to laugh about them yet.
The best present ever was actually delivered in November--a pony!!! If you were, or have know, a horse-crazy girl, you know what it meant to me.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 19, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Known
crimony!

Posted by: Raysmom | December 19, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Best Present: A red J.C. Higgins 3-speed bicycle.
Worst: A brown, v-neck sweater with collar and wrist stripes (this was over five years AFTER the Smothers Brothers went off the air).

Posted by: CowTown | December 19, 2006 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm still waiting for the pony from my dad, Raysmom. Sigh.

Worst gift-- a tam o shanter-- a beret with a pom-pom. Now this was not intrinsically horrible. HOWEVER, my grandma choose to made it out of some horrible rainbow-colored nylon yarn. It was predominantly scarlet red, with bright mustard yellow, brilliant sky blue, and St Patrick's day green mixed in-- and mixed was the word. This was not worsted. This was far beyond worsted.

To look upon it was to suffer searing pain in your retinas. My only theory is that my grandma was drinking when she knitted it-- or didn't realize just how bad it would look when it came out. She agreed to let me put that hat up for a White Elephant Exchange (I asked her first).

It is the kind of gift I would be tempted to give to Pat, in other words. Who cares if everybody around him suffers ocular agonies? It's a good blackmail threat... "If you're not good, I'll wear this hat to your teacher's meeting!"

Teen: "NO NO NO NO!!"

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

To be absolutely honest, the best and the worst were the same present. When I was about 6 or 7 I received the first 3 Nancy Drew books, The Secret of the Old Clock, the Hidden Staircase, and the Bungalow Mystery. We unwrapped presents and I was beside myself with joy. Books of my very own. Real books, books that I did not have to give back to Mrs. Reding... And then before I could crack the books, we had to go to Grandmas house for dinner. The next day, we had to go to our other Grandmas house, so it was two days before I could read them. I read fast and furious, I was in heaven. When I finally poked my nose out of them, only 2 more days had passed and I was done all my books, and I had nothing else to do from Christmas. That was the most disheartening thing ever, the worst moment of my life, when I was done, and book junkie that I was and still am, I needed more.

That is when I personally invented reading books over and over again, which I still do to this day. That first year, the year I owned books, the year I discovered that the magic of a book was new every time I opened the cover, still ranks as the all time high and low, and then high again.

Posted by: dr | December 19, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

A Schwinn Lemon Peeler - cool, EF!

Who here hasn't received a fossilized fruitcake?

When I was obviously regifted one a few years ago, I contacted a friend at the US Geological Survey and asked if he could do an analysis. Unfortunately, I had to use a water-cooled diamond slab saw to slice it in order to produce a sample suitable for analysis.

Remarkably, while the "cake" itself dates from the Devonain era (note: no men during this era), the "fruit" dates back to the Hadean era, and may in fact be extraterrestrial - rather, extrasolar - in origin.

I now carry a piece of it around in my pocket in case I get picked up by a bunch of joy-riding Grays who want to beam me up to their ship for some, er, Uranian shennanigans. I bet those "fruits" are like Kryptonite to them.

Rather, I feverently hope.

bc

PS And *that*, ladies and gentlemen, is how I roll off-topic.

Posted by: bc | December 19, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Christmas Ledger

Debits

You spend too much and try too hard,
To fulfill everybody's dreams.
From presents just exactly right
To turkey, pie and chocolate creams.
Traditions spring from other years,
This year you must be better still,
A little more for every child,
A little more on every bill.
Buy pine and ribbon for the stairs,
Set six new candles in the hall.
Shop in the rush of Christmas week,
Remind yourself that it's a ball.

Credits

One service at your church with carols,
One three year old on Santa's knee
(If Santa's a bit shopworn, well,
Don't look too closely, please, at me.)
One tree brought in that's fresh and green,
One cardinal eating sunflower seeds.
One child (your own) whose smile describes
One present that fills all his needs.
Sit by the tree on Christmas night
With everybody else asleep,
And that one hour of love and joy,
Is the one present you can keep.

Posted by: nellie | December 19, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

What about the worst gift GIVING experience? I've had some of those...

When we were first married, starving artist and minimum-wage private school teacher, we got our clothes where we could, including the "Free Box" someone had the ingenuity to establish, at the corner of Margaret and Southard Streets. If we had more cash than usual, we might splurge on something from a thrift store.

I gave my husband a shirt for Christmas. He didn't really like it. He struggled to say something positive, and what he came up with was, "Well, at least it didn't come from Salvation Army." Silence. Then me: "Well, as a matter of fact..." (I'm honest, what can I say?)

Posted by: kbertocci | December 19, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

>A Schwinn Lemon Peeler - cool, EF!

bc, what was really cool was my UPS guy noticed it and was so jazzed I had to open it up to show him.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 19, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Nellie,

That's a really great poem.

Yours?

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 19, 2006 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Who reads this poopola....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
.

Posted by: avraam jack | December 19, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Kb, my sister routinely hated whatever I got for her growing up. Then she came up with the idea of telling me what she liked. So I finally caved and got her books on Elizabethian history and that mended things a bit.

I love buying at thrift shops when they're not totally skanky. I've picked up plenty of dog toys and enrichment items from those.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I didn't have to do envelopes. I didn't have to do addresses or wrap the boxes in the right kind of paper. I merely had to be a dumb brute, lugging boxes. That's all I'm good for.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 19, 2006 3:39 PM | Report abuse

In my younger days I used to say men were here to carry heavy things and figure restaurant tips. Then I found out about doubling the tax (or more). Since acquiring a child I've learned to carry heavy things regularly but still allow Ivansdad that privilege on occasion.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 19, 2006 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Visualizing "Cubicle Caveman" as yet another paraphrase for what Joel said above.

I have the sneaking suspicion that Joel either needs to make his kit quota for 2006, or he has... TIME. Hope none of his editors find out, or he'll be busy writing about football announcer fashions next.

"IN THIS SEASON: Balding heads with that soft focus wax buff...."


Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm a last minuet shopper, like many of my gender. I gotta score big-time this year, too, because I'm kinda in the dog-house. Here's the deal:

We store one artificial Christmas tree and it's ornaments under the basement stairs, then roll a moving storage shelf in front of that. Last year, when I put that stuff away, I put some plastic jugs of drinking water on top of a box of tree ornaments. There was just enough room, and the drinking water was for an emergency. You know, disaster preparedness, stuff. Civil defense. Leaning forward, to use Navyspeak.

What nobody ever told me is that those !@#$% jugs are not that durable., and I was actually creating a disaster. Over the course of the year, they slowly dripped into the boxes of ornaments. This year, when we broke out the decorations, we found nasty colonies of mold and mildew over everything. The items made from metal and plastic could be cleaned up, but the rest were unsalvageable. The dollar loss is negligible, but their sentimental value was huge. You know, ornaments made by the kids when they were little, and some cherished little trinket, hand-made by dear, departed Auntie what's-her-name.

My wife was all in tears as she sorted out the mess. Of course, I'm feeling none too heroic about the fact that I caused this calamity, unintended as it may have been. An act of God, she could deal with. An act of Don, well, that's another matter.

I already fell on my sword, to use the phrase. I gotta do something big, quick, like cure world hunger. Maybe I could ambush Santa as he leaves the North pole. Na, then I'd get blamed for making all the little kiddies in the world cry. A guy just can't win.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 19, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Mudge,
U864, sunk by HMS Venturer in 1944, is back in the news.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13509-2511387,00.html
Steel corrodes in saltwater so action is in order to stop the spread of mercury in the Norwegian waters.

The mercury is most likely contained in 2.5litres steel flask. The 76lbs flask is still the current standard and it has been used since time immemorial, as iron is one of the few metal that does not amalgamate with quicksilver. The quantity 76.5 lbs is an old Spanish quintal, not surprising since most mercury comes from Spain since Antiquity. Mercury is the ultimate practical joke prop. Slipping a 16oz bottle (approx 15lbs) in one's briefcase or coat pocket ensures that hilarity ensues. Asking the new kid in the shop to bring the one tonne container (approx. 20 gallons) from the warehouse can be fun too.

Worst Christmas gift : Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. One of the rare books I could not finish.
Best : My first 5 gallons fish tank maybe, when I was about 9 or 10. But the competition is stiff.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | December 19, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Thinking of best presents, I'm planning on yet again attempting to quit smoking on 12/26. SigO and children will be heading out of town for 4 days, so I'm going to go hide out in a cabin, where the nearest pack of smokes will be 8 miles away (or a mile, at my neighbors, who I don't think will give me one). Every time I've tried to quit, by 4 pm of day one I could zap all the spirit out of a child with one sentence, so I pick up a smoke instead.
Hopefully, this time will be different; I'll only be cruel to an owl and some deer, and the gift will be to myself AND my family.

Posted by: LostInThought | December 19, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

since i love xmas - i also love pretty much any gift i get - my younger cousin is a pretty awesome gift-giver, since we pretty much like the same sort of thing (i think her thinking is "if i like it, she'll like it...") it's awesome to have those kind of people to shop for - unfortunately, she's pretty much the only one in my fam. as for my mum, she's TERRIBLE at surprises or even picking up the right thing that i asked for, so i must always go with her to pick out the gift, so i'm never surprised (one year when i was 8 and she was working exceptionally long hours during the holidays, i ended up wrapping my own gifts)... on the other hand, two of my aunts are absolutely awesomely bad gift givers - it's like they have absolutely no idea who you are... i've been wearing nothing but black for close to 15 years and my aunt, to this day, still gives me pink, white, and baby blue (bleh!) shirts/sweaters and in weird sizes... my other aunt - well, it's as if she couldn't be bothered - it's always a bath gift basket from walmart... does anyone have any good ideas for what to do with body wash that you don't particularly want to use on your body?? wash the car maybe?
what i REALLY love is when someone "gets" you (cuz i guess i'm not the easiest person to get) and gets you something out of the blue that you woulda never expected. my mother's husband gave me a skull dagger last year (if you know me, you'd know that i absolutely LOVED it!)

and bc - believe it or not - i've NEVER been given a fruit cake (nor have i ever given one, even as a joke...)

Posted by: mo | December 19, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I loved Faucault's Pendulum! The book I didn't finish was Don Quixote. Read all but the last 20 pages or so. I figured out what was going to happen, and didn't want to bear witness to it. I had come to love his madness.

Posted by: LostInThought | December 19, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I forget which day of the week is reserved for Global Warming discussions, but in the past two days I have received the same message from both John McCain and Al Gore, as follows: "Your signature on the enclosed petition will help solve the climate change problem." (I assume it's two different petitions.) I threw away the McCain letter without even opening it--but Al sent me an email and all I had to do was click a link, so I did that. I hope this isn't a measure of my level of commitment to healing the world: somewhere between a mouse click and writing my name on a piece of paper.

Anyway, Congress is apparently up to something. Which scenario is more frightening: Congress doing nothing, or Congress doing something?

Posted by: kbertocci | December 19, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Good luck LIT I will be with you, just a day or two later after all the relatives are gone, don't want to risk injuring and in-law! :-).

Don I feel for you, I purposely put away the Christmas stuff myself so if something get ruined I have no one to blame but myself. Not sure how old your kids are but would they be willing to recreate some treasured art? Not that age would really matter I think the sentiment might work and it could be a lot of fun.

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Joel the reason women like us is because we're able to lift heavy objects and we're easily outsmarted.

Don, you may try to alleviate your Donnybrook by considering replacement ornaments comprised of precious metals and jewels for your wife's fingers, wrist and neck. Or consider spending the holidays in the donjon.

Seriously, I'm sure you feel bad about it. Make sure she knows. And don't forget the jewels.

bc

Posted by: bc | December 19, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

LIT - i'm with you on foucalt's pendulum! i love that book - don quixote was my xmas present last year - i haven't read it yet, i've cracked the cover, but that's it - i want to like it cuz i love the story of don q... maybe i'll get to it this xmas...

Posted by: mo | December 19, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I've never returned a present to a store, with the single exception that I've exchanged a shirt that didn't fit for a larger identical shirt. Even on the occasions that I've been given books that I already owned (it used to happen fairly regularly, when I had more disposable income for purchasing books), I kept them to give to others.

I also thoroughly enjoyed "Foucault", although I don't know all that many folks for whom I'd think it'd be exactly their cup of tea.

Posted by: Bob S. | December 19, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

You know what I want for Christmas this year?

I want Don from I-270 to tell us the story of how the boodle saved his life.

Please?

Posted by: TBG | December 19, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

>I already fell on my sword, to use the phrase.

Don from I-270, that's tough. No doubt she'd have been very happy if the water supply ran out though. Good luck!

mo, your aunt may be practicing what I sometimes do to my nieces - I give them something they may not immediately like in the hopes it will influence them in what I consider a positive way.

Go ahead, try on the white sweater and see how someone else thinks it looks. :-)

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 19, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Okay. When the IT staff starts singing "It's Raining Men" it's time to go home.

Best present: A label maker. Don't ask me why.

Worst present: Electric razor by my father after I started growing a beard.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 19, 2006 4:20 PM | Report abuse

dmd,
My kids are 29 and 26. The oldest teaches art in a special school for violent, criminal, juveniles. The youngest is an airplane mechanic, recently back from the war. Great idea, though, as they are kinda stuck for gift ideas, too. Thanks.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 19, 2006 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Worst Gift: My grandma bought me 4 t-shirts, (St Vincent DePaul), one was green with white letters "Kelly" on the back.

My name is Pat, and I didn't know the color kelly green when I was 8 years old.

Still on the topic:

My anniversary was last October, and we only had about $50 in the account. (Hey, we live paycheck to paycheck, what can I say?) My office mate helped me pick out a card & gift at the drug store while I was at work so I would have a least something, a packaged gift, for my wife whenI got home from work that day. The real gift was some romantic writings I put together in rememberance of our marriage. (Including some sky reports plagerized from the boodle)

I gave her the card and Chia Pet first...

Never made it to the romantic writings

It gets worse...

My wife wrapped the Chia Pet up for me last night so I could do the Secret Santa thing for our office party today.

And my office mate is now the proud owner of a Chia Pet.

In conclusion, the very gift that my office mate help pick out for an anniversary present is now going home with her.

I really hate Chia Pets!

Posted by: Pat | December 19, 2006 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Don, you need to make one ornament yourself (doesn't matter if you're crafty or not, you must do pennance). Give it to your wife with the old song "I'm Sorry...So Sorry" playing in the background. And bc's right--if she like jewelry, some well-timed bling is in order.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 19, 2006 4:36 PM | Report abuse

TBG, that story's my new holiday favorite.
Even better than the Elvis/Hamburger James story.

EF, I am reminded of a Lemon Peeler story from my youth. As cool as the Lemon Peeler was, it was of limited use, IMO. One of my neighbors across the street got one for his birthday (in May, IIRC) and proudly brought it out to ride in the street with the rest of us on our old Sears- and Wards- based equipment. We'd made a wooden ramp about 18-20 inches high (this was way before BMX and X games/Extreme sports) and were jumping our hoopties (we didn't use that term then, obviously) off of it, trying to see how high and how far we could go. So, the neighbor takes his new Lemon Peeler off of the ramp, and one of his feet slips off of the pedals in mid-air.

Those of you familiar with this particular Schwinn model may remember that one of it's cool and distinguishing characteristics back in the day was a hot rod gear shift (it was a 5 speed, IIRC) on that classic Sting Ray frame top tube between the head and the bananna seat.

Some of you can probably guess what happened next.
Bike landed.
Rider landed.
Rider slipped off seat and impacted A Very Sensitive Area upon aforementioned gear shift.
Rider dumped brand new bike into street and assumed fetal position.
We ask rider if he is all right.
He nods affirmative through tears. Fortunately - and amazingly- no permanent damage was done.
After about a half hour, rider is able to resume riding.
No one mentions fresh scratches on frame.
Also, no one asks to ride it.

I have been a "function over form" kinda guy ever since.

And I don't think that Schwinn's reproductions of the Lemon Peeler and Grape Krate have that gearshift. Now that I think about it, I wonder if that neighbor became a product liability lawyer.

bc

Posted by: bc | December 19, 2006 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom, that's a good idea.

And Don, despite your kids' ages, you might ask them to make new decorations this year as well. And if you have grandkids...

bc

Posted by: bc | December 19, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

You all have me laughing out loud at the worst gifts. And do you know, I don't think I've ever had a worst. Maybe the year #2 was born on December 4, and it was a very long and difficult birth that took a little recovering from. So Christmas that year was a bit sketchy all round. On Christmas morning, Himself handed me a single CD, unwrapped. However, the great thing was that he had been off work looking after me and #1 and #2 and had still thought to pick something up. And what was even greater was that it was a copy of Paul Simon's Graceland, which was my birth-giving music; I'd worn the initial tape to something indescribable. So the CD was a reminder of the happiness of having our new daughter with us.

The best, probably, was the royal-blue with silver trim two-wheeler, just sitting there gleaming in the living room, the year I was in kindergarten. CCM, and brand-new, not even second hand!

Mo, you know what I do with those bath-product gifts? I collect six or seven or ten of them, and head down to the homeless shelter and donate them. No matter that those poor ladies are on their uppers, they *love* the luxury of a good bath product.

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I don't know which category it falls in, best or worst, but last year Hubby gave me a cowpie for Christmas. It's actually fudge in the form of and we laughed and laughed about it. Cetainly one of the funniest gifts...

bc, you had me giggling helplessly there...

Posted by: Slyness | December 19, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

TBG,
I hope that I haven't overstated that comment. It has to do with my dealing with prostate cancer this year. I did all the research, made the rounds of doctors, and tests, literally out the you-know-where. Given my age, and the fact that they caught it extremely early, surgery was the best option for me.

However, as the time drew closer for the surgery, I was getting increasingly more antsy about what my future would be like after the surgery. I was so fearful about it all that I was ready to just chuck the whole deal, and cancel the surgery. I have since learned that this is not that uncommon a reaction. A picnic, it aint.

On my last day of work before the surgery, I boodled about how I felt, and how fearful I was. I felt like a little kid who had climbed up on the high dive for the very first time, and now wanted to chicken out and climb back down without jumping off the board. You guys responded with an outpouring of love, encouragement, emotional support that buoyed me up in an indescribable way. To complete the metaphor, you were the ones on the ground hollering up, "Come on, you can do it!!"

And I did.

When I woke up in the recovery room, with tubes and wires and whatnot connected to me everywhichway. Instruments were beeping, doctors half my age were scurrying around, trying to look like Marcus Welby, and nurses were lifting my sheets every five seconds. I settled into a detached, reflective mood, and said a silent prayer of thanks for all the people, imaginary and otherwise, who had encouraged me, prayed for me, and helped me get through the whole ordeal. Without you, I wouldn't have had the surgery, and my life would be a whole lot shorter.

And that, dear friends, is how you saved my life. What better Christmas present could I get?

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 19, 2006 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'm kind of waiting for that story myself TBG.

Don how about it when the lights go out?

Posted by: dr | December 19, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

A story about toys to the nephews: They had so many toys. All kinds of toys. One day after Christmas, I spotted them playing a neat game with their toys: standing on the back deck, they were competing to see how far they could HURL THEIR TOYS INTO THE WOODS. There's a message there somewhere and it's not too far away.

Nowadays, every child is bequeathed about 1,500 lbs. of plastic. Slides, houses, trucks, trykes, shovels, buckets, rakes, snakes, horsies, dolls, etc. Those who have had children save the stuff up, and at the right moment they strike: the plastic toys are gathered up and delivered to the friend or relative's child. They are often even thanked for doing this.

I went inside and told my brother about the new game his boys had developed. It was fun to watch him blow his stack.

Well, the boys are grown up now, with respectable careers. The Navy. The certified marine mechanic. The snowboard bum. They are all quite pleased with cash, and I have no qualms giving it to them for Christmas. They are of a different generation, and we all know I cannot understand them.

As for the others, my new thing is to buy them foodstuffs they find just too extravagant to purchase on their own. An $8 per lb. leg of lamb to Mother. A single malt of outrageous cost to my brother. Huge prawns of a ridiculous price to my sister. This is my thing to do this year.

Posted by: Jumper | December 19, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

And Don, we're really glad you did.

What better present indeed, for all of us.

Merry Christmas - every one!

bc

Posted by: bc | December 19, 2006 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Awww, Don, what a great story! Nice to leave the office with the warm fuzzies. Merry Christmas, y'all! :-)

Posted by: PLS | December 19, 2006 5:14 PM | Report abuse

error - unfortunately, my aunt's style is woefully different than mine... nuttin against her, but it's just not me - ya know?

yoki - great idea! (i've got tons of that stuff saved up!)

Posted by: mo | December 19, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

You know, Don, there really is something to be said for meat brains. I'm glad we were able to give you the support you needed to do what you had to do! Merry Christmas, indeed!

Posted by: Slyness | December 19, 2006 5:16 PM | Report abuse

P.S. I know you just had one, but is anyone up for a post-New Year's BPH on January 3? I actually don't have class that week (classes start back on January 8) so I could make it.

Posted by: PLS | December 19, 2006 5:16 PM | Report abuse

awwwwwww Don!!! *sniff, sniff*
see you guys! i told you xmas ROX!!

Posted by: mo | December 19, 2006 5:24 PM | Report abuse

>EF, I am reminded of a Lemon Peeler story from my youth.

bc, that hurts just thinking about it. No, they were not made for jumping, that's fer sure. More of a boulevard cruiser. Good for wheelies though.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 19, 2006 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for sharing that, Don

Incidentally, "Act of Don" - LOL

Posted by: SonofCarl | December 19, 2006 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Don, I'm glad.

Posted by: dr | December 19, 2006 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Devonian fruitcake is not bad, but it is prone to attract imsects. Precambrian fruitcakes are really hard to chew and always taste stale.

Posted by: Shiloh | December 19, 2006 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Don, you got me all teary now - glad everything worked out well.

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Shiloh!!! What's up dawg?!!!!

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 19, 2006 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Error, I've seen Mo in person, up close plenty of times.

She's not going to look very good in pink, blue or white. It's not just that it's not her personality, it's also not that flattering to her complexion. I think she's pretty much a winter.

If her aunt was giving her dark plum, cranberry, royal blue, forest green stuff-- stuff that would actually flatter her, maybe she'd be happier.

And "weird sizes"-- unfortunately many women are hard to size. Mo shouldn't be wearing too big a shirt nor too tight a one, most definitely.

If her aunt really wanted to get her out of the goth look, she'd buy Mo a great, lovely colored blazer at an suitable length (probably a bit over her hips), that would look good with black underneath, because that is what she has, maybe a matching skirt.

And I'm no fashion queen, but I'm going to venture that the color scheme seems to suggest her aunts are kind of stuck on the "sweet little girl they could dress up" of years yore, rather than attempting to give to the Mo of today. Or that they're shopping at K-mart.

If I was Mo, I'd suggest jewelry or how she loves bracelets, necklaces, that kind of stuff-- much easier to fit and more Goth ;).

(One day we have to go on a shopping trip to India-- free tailoring, Mo. You can get a ton of stuff at a relatively low cost. ;).)

Yoki's idea of a homeless shelter is also good. Nursing home residents also love that stuff.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Just passing through, Error, but couldn't resist a plug for the Devonians.

Posted by: Shiloh | December 19, 2006 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I think mo's aunts are remembering the mo who used to be on "Who's the Boss?"

Posted by: TBG | December 19, 2006 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Mo, another suggestion: college kids. When my elder child was an RA, I loaded her up with all the scented lotions I had collected over a couple of years for the girls on her hall. I heard it was popular.

Posted by: Slyness | December 19, 2006 5:53 PM | Report abuse

By the way, Mo, ASL interpreters wear black or dark colors, always solids, a LOT when they're working, especially if they're fairskinned-- better contrast for the hands and the more plain and solid the clothes are, the less distracting it is.

I think a lot of interpreters I know barely wear anything OTHER than black.. LOL. The author of that book I gave you-- Diane Chambers, she's a real night owl, wears black most of the time. Great lady, you'd like her; she does a lot of theatre signing and translation in this area. She used to be a ballerina, but I can't imagine her in pink or white anymore.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 5:54 PM | Report abuse

> couldn't resist a plug for the Devonians.

Well sure, guess we shoulda figured that. Seen Bayou Self?

That night with Nacho Mama and BB King had me rollin'.

I'm on the way out to my mom's birthday party, catch y'all later...

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 19, 2006 5:57 PM | Report abuse

wilbrod - i never noticed that but now that you mention it, i'm thinking "how could i never have noticed?" (about asl interpreters in black)
and yes, my mother used to dress me in frilly stuff, pink and petticoats and stuff - that didn't last long! i think my aunt is longing for those days! HAH!

tbg - hardy har har! (tbg is referring to a photo i showed her when i was 14 years old - apparently she thinks i looked like allisa milano - um, not exactly an insult *grin*)

slyness - another great idea!

(btw - i don't mean to seem ungrateful about my aunt's gifts! any gift is appreciated! i just find it puzzling is all)

Posted by: mo | December 19, 2006 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Couple of additional thoughts about Tyson's Corner Mall.

Be sure to check out that British shop by Bloomies. Sure, it looks like the prop shop form a Merchant Ivory movie, but it sells these nifty gilt-edged notebooks that make you feel as if whatever mush you write in them will magically become transmuted into Great Literature

Do not get pretzels from the little carts. They aren't nearly as fresh as they should be.

The jewelry shop on the upper level often has snacks.

Do not look directly into the Victoria's Secret display cases. Although the temptation is great, I've heard that they will cause instant madness.

Do not be intimidated by the picture of the guy with the pecs that stares out at you from that one restaurant. He clearly has mother issues.

The Borders is dangerous. It will suck you in and refuse to release you until you purchase at least one coffee table book featuring Victorian lawn ornaments.

Under no circumstances should you wander into that trendy place across from Borders unless you are willing to feel old and chubby. And never, ever, flip through the sex manual they sell for it too will drive one mad.

That outdoorsy place sells the most expensive instant hot chocolate on the planet.

Finally, and most importantly, for goodness sake do not believe that anybody actually takes those cross walks seriously. Crazy people drive there.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 19, 2006 6:41 PM | Report abuse

No, not an insult. My best friend in HS had the serious hots for Alyssa Milano.

Her latest show was playing one of 3 sisters on "Charmed"-- cancelled last season, I think. I don't know if she played Paige, Phoebe, or Piper. I barely kept them straight myself the few times I saw the show.


Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 6:50 PM | Report abuse

For a number of reasons, no presents this year will change hands. I hope that this will work, and so far so good.

My best childhood memories include:

A new Blue Schwinn Stingray with banana seat. NEW. NEW. NEW. NEW. I still cannot believe this, and the present came in 1970.

Worst: an aqua peignor set from my mother-in-law, about two sizes too small. What WAS she thinking, besides, I was not wand-thin enough for her son.

-----
Note on the no presents. Well, college without loans is pretty darn good, so I rest my case, for two of three children.

We have friends in serious, unfathomable difficulty and will help them instead.

Love for each other. Gratitude for health. No Whirled Pease but we can all boodle in earnest for that one.

Pray. Too.

Posted by: College Parkian | December 19, 2006 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod,
And Dianne Chambers is also the Cheers dizzy brainiac blonde, right?

As for your tam o shanter I endured one of those crocheted sets of skirt plus long vest in ombre yarn: blue, orange, yellow, purple, blue, orange, yellow, repeat....

repeat..

repeat....
Oh the horror. But the excuse for therapy is grand.

Posted by: College Parkian | December 19, 2006 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Cp, you can always give out the little books kids used to make, with coupons for back rubs, drawing baths, going for walks.

but then you have to make sure you use them.

Posted by: dr | December 19, 2006 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Great kit & boodle today!

Pat, one warning. You may pick out/ purchase, walk, feed, brush, pour your heart out to the dog when you get one. However, the dog decides whose dog she is. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Worst present: (1) A little pan with a rack in the bottom, just the size to steam a solid box of frozen vegetables. (2) a paper mache, macaroni and sequined pin shaped like a lamp, maybe 2" by 2". I was able to return it, it wasn't cheap, and the next time I went shopping with the giver made a big deal about a certain Christmas collectible I'd just decided to start collecting. She wanted to be the one to gift me with one each year. Perfect! (And she told me yesterday she gives it annually to about 10 people, all of whom love it).

Best gift: A chenille scarf my cousin made.

Don, I think everyone in the boodle should send you a homemade ornament.

I've given a lot of Heifer International gifts in the past, but this year I did some research and decided to hold back a little. Their overhead is high, but truthfully, the real reason has to do with some other sites I found while researching. As a former rescue volunteer, I'm concerned with the ability of the recipients to care for some of the animals. One site pointed out that while the people will love and appreciate the animal, the animal may be living in misery (I know, the same condition the people are probably living in). So I've been thinking about it and decided I could give small animals which are fairly self sustaining (chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits?) and trees.

Off to make some presents that should have been in the mail today. Good luck getting ready, everyone!

Posted by: dbG | December 19, 2006 7:32 PM | Report abuse

*doing a happy dance*

I am on vacation until Jan. 8, 2007!

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Again, I am chuckling in recognition of College Parkian's "besides, I was not wand-thin enough for her son"

The day Himself and I married, I thought I looked beautiful. 5'9" 120 lbs. willowy in a custom-made (not expensively) dress (not the big bride-dress, but a knee-length dress that expressed me).

Himself's great-aunt Edna came through the receiving line, looked up at me from under her eyebrows, and said, "I never realized you are so large."

I knew then I would never be good enough for her! Fortunately, it turned out I was good enough for him, his parents and our children.

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Yoki how could 5'9" 120 be too big!!!!

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Wise to recognize that and just move on, Yoki!

Posted by: dbG | December 19, 2006 8:40 PM | Report abuse

You thought you looked beautiful, Yoki?

You surely LOOKED beautiful!

Posted by: TBG | December 19, 2006 8:49 PM | Report abuse

She was a small and bitter woman, dmd. I wasn't too large, she just chose the most pejorative terms possible to try to make me feel unhappy (and failed).

I just wish she was still alive to see me today: 5'9" 220 lbs and mean.

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Yoki having a hard time picturing you as mean.

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 8:57 PM | Report abuse

been a long time gone from the boodle. Just read the past two or three kits and boodles. great stuff on simulated lives and F&I war.

I don't, don't, don't do malls. They bring out the worst in me. I get caught in a thought loop about crazy, over-the-top consumerism, who-needs-all-this-stuff mantras. I turn into an internal shrew. I don't like myself when I do this.

They do depress me. I shop online. In this respect, my life has been revolutionized by the Internet -- so I guess I'm one of Time's "People of the Year" also.

I haven't been home a lot in the last 2 months -- I dogsit. Stay in the doggies' homes with them when their owners travel. You'd be amazed how many people don't have computers in their houses! So I can't really keep up with all the doings on the boodle.

Mudge: glad to see you're getting some over-the-top R&R -- that old body still has to hang around for the next few centuries -- I'm guessing you may be a sim from the future who skips through time a lot. :-)

Don from I-270 -- thanks for sharing your story. How timely for my own situation.

I'm having pretty major surgery on 3rd of January. It will correct a problem I've had for 30 years -- one that is getting worse with age (doesn't every part of the body?).

I'm not even thinking of christmas this year. One more gift to buy -- drive up to DC on Saturday -- come home Tuesday.

I've also been pretty sick lately -- I'm on my third very bad sinus infection since just before Labor Day. They put me in bed. I just crawled out a few hours ago.

I really think there is a drug resistant strain of some upper-respiratory bacterium down here. I've take top-shelf antibiotics in September, and again in November and December. A lot of other folks have similar, non-resolving symptoms. I'm on antibiotics even one day and the difference is huge. I get better, go about my business and then BAM! a week later I can't get out of bed again.

I go to the hospital tomorrow to do all the pre-op testing (I'm back to discussing my surgery -- yes I know this post is not well constructed!) Then I meet with the "patient navigator" to discuss post-op recovery and management.

To be freed of this problem will be great: but everything has risks.

I have been visualizing going into the hospital OK -- and then waking up with pumps and catheters and such. Oh yeah -- pain too!! Am beginning to worry that the unending sinus infection may be problematic.

4-5 days in the hospital. Yikes!

My mother is flying in to care for me for the first week I'm home. This should be a charming situation. Two headstrong women who have butted heads for nearly a half century spending a week together in a 750SF apartment . . . I'm hoping it will turn out to be more sitcom than darkling drama! We could hire a camera crew and turn it into a reality series!

I'm going to buy her a week-long pass to Colonial Williamsburg -- she'll need to escape every day.

The nature of the surgery is also psychologically, um, er, . . . scary.

And because of my CFS/fibromyalgia, it's gonna take a long time for me to recover. 3 months maybe, before I'm really out and about again.

Have bought guided visualization CDs on relaxing, healing and such. Also CDs to help induce meditative state. Wonder if they'll cut the mustard the day after surgery!!! :-)

I really miss the boodle when I can't participate or even skim. At least I'll be home for several months starting in January! I can come to the party again!

dmd, I hope you're dad is doing all right.

I'm also interested in Heifer. What a wonderful organization!

Hope to be able to spend some time boodling tomorrow.

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 9:00 PM | Report abuse

yoki -- you are no doubt just as beautiful today as the day you wed.

And a lot wiser -- worth it's weight in platinum of you ask me.

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Well, I certainly feel beautiful now!

Don, I guess this is what you meant, eh?
I loved your story. It was the best present ever.

Nelson! Hello! I loathe every aspect of shopping. I posted something apropos today on my blog

http://yokiskitchen.blogspot.com

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 9:10 PM | Report abuse

doesn't take long to get back in the boodling habit! Here I am posting yet again, three of me in a row.

My wedding gown is a good metaphor for the relationship between me and my mother.

I looked like a Southern antebellum princess -- hoop and all! I didn't choose the dress -- Jane (mother) did. It was a beautiful outfit, but I look at pictures now and laugh! But hey, she paid for it.

I am 5'8" and was about 115 when I married. My in-laws had no problem with my looks. It was my religion they couldn't stand. I was still a practicing Catholic. Got married in the same church I'd been going to for 20 years.

But I have to give my long-deceased mother-in-law credit for seeing me as I was. She told my ex that I was very pretty and a nice girl -- but seemed to immature to understand marriage. She was right.

It lasted 5 years to the day. We were in divorce court in DC on our 5th wedding anniversary -- 5/25/90.

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 9:10 PM | Report abuse

5 feet 9 and 220 sounds statesque-- like a slim Valkyrie.

I'll just visualize you ready to swoop off the fallen on the oil fields, Yoki, in white fur-lined red outfits, while yodeling with your Berners as backup.

Nope, who needs to be mean when you can stand (or ride/fly) tall, yodel and compel the obedience of countless huge dogs?


Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Yoki -- your blog is spot-on about malls!

Malls, of course, are much more than a collection of stores and the invidious food courts. They are also great meeting halls where teenagers court and perhaps spark -- young mothers come to meet other young mothers, or to gaze at all the clothes they can't wear anymore.

No doubt spies also meander in malls. Passing polonium 210 packets back and forth . . .

I'm thinking that the old, old great outdoor markets of Europe were similar -- but with a big difference -- all the goods for sale at market were necessary. We don't shop for live beef on the hoof anymore -- or chickens.

But surely there was a lot of socializing and such going on? Going to market just to see what everyone else is doing?

I've never had the opportunity to travel to countries where large, outdoor markets, bazaars and souks still operate. I imagine experiencing one would be both thrilling and claustrophobic.

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Superlative spies and sleuths meander many malefarious malls posing for pick-up of polonium 210 packets.

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Wolves Wilbrod. I think wolves are a more majestic, wild, presence for a Valkyrie.


Wilbrodog -- what are your thoughts on this?

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 9:26 PM | Report abuse

come back boodlers! Did I chase the late evening boodlers away?

sigh . . .

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh, there would be fabrics and such and kitchen stuff for sale, too, Nelson.

I have been. The most terrifying part was being mobbed by hungry vendors at Agra, India-- it was a very lean tourist season due to fee increases and some political stuff. We formed a chain of 5 people (3 women, 2 men) to fight our way through the crowd.

One aggressive vendor refused to take no for an answer and followed us to the car and leaned in.

When a boy ran off I suspected no good to come of it, that he was gonna claim we stole or refused to pay for the items we had (which we did not buy from him), or some such stuff. He was leaning in to the driver's side, and I told him to fuh ow in in loud tones (my hearing friend said I didn't pronounce the end consonants too clearly, but the tone was very unmistakable), and he backed off long enough for us to drive off. Bejesus. That said, I loved Agra fort much better than the Taj. Just don't go there alone.

Jaipur has more open air markets; the Hawa Mahal is famous as a landmark, and also because it's on a street full of jewelry stores and bazaars.

I'd say just enjoy a flea market or two-- similar experience to a bazaar or a souk. Heck, the flea markets in dc carry so many Indian fabrics anyway.

I enjoyed Jaipur very much although I also have a hair-raising story there that concerns cycle-rickshaws and misdirected drivers.

It probably didn't help me I had already been in a bicycle accident and every time my tush lifted in the air I had flashbacks to sailing off my bike... each to their own.

Jaipur is indisputably the native home of kite-eating trees. The one in our hotel courtyard had at least 15 that it was snacking on. There were plenty of uneaten kites in the sky, and quite a few children ganged up to sell us paper kites.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, I used Belleruth Napperstack's (sp?) pre-surgery tapes prior to sinus surgery, thinking "Yeah, right" the whole time. Especially during the part where you visualize the surgical team exclaiming they can't believe how well everything is going.

Anyway, woke up with the first thought she programmed me to have. Cool. Then my surgeon told me everything was perfect, that rarely did everything go so well. I'm a believer. I don't know if that's the surgery you're having, but it really helped me.

Do you ever dogsit in Philadelphia? (Seriously)

Posted by: dbG | December 19, 2006 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Hey nelson! We all will be with you vicariously as you go through surgery. Can you get the motherly unit to boodle and let us know how you are? That's something I'd do for a child of mine, but I will understand if it's too much to explain to her.

I certainly hope this will take care of the problem for you.

Posted by: Slyness | December 19, 2006 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, your blog on meandering mall goers is perfect. At least you are tall enough to make an impression in a crowd. Try being 7 inches shorter and attempting to stride with purpose through the lollygaging masses. I do admire your planning in having the items chosen and ready at the register, I've never thought to do that.

And Nelson, I know what you mean about the consumerism. I never understood why people would voluntarily go to a mall on a weekend to 'shop' when they don't need anything. And yet the parking lots are pretty full most of the year. I just don't think of shopping as recreation.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | December 19, 2006 9:43 PM | Report abuse

i have some frivolous american idol contestant info on www.mortiifera.com

Posted by: mo | December 19, 2006 9:44 PM | Report abuse

dbg - I'M willing to dogsit in philly! :)

Posted by: mo | December 19, 2006 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see folks that haven't been around for awhile. Don, thanks for your story about the surgery - glad it turned out well. As for the ornaments - it is sad to lose things with sentimental value - hope your wife isn't feeling too bad about it. My husband often takes the ornaments off the tree, and he's not careful about how he puts them away. So some of my favorites have been damaged or gone missing over the years - but none that are worth getting upset about. Although I did have some little embroidered animals that I really liked, and I think they've all disappeared now. Sigh.

nelson, hope all goes well for you. Hang in there. I had a friend who suffered from terrible sinus infections - hope you can find something that will take of that too.

Best Christmas present - books or albums. Worst - candy from my brother when we were adults. That's when my sister and I (who have always worried about weight) decided we should stop exchanging gifts with him!

Raysmom, congratulations on the pony! I kept hoping for one on Christmas till I was well into my teens.

Merry Christmas to all the boodlers!

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 19, 2006 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Oh.. shopping is definitely recreation. Just not mall shopping and most definitely not at Christmastime. I like to shop the one-of-a-kind stores, or discount places like Ross and Marshalls and, of course, thrift shops and antique malls.

When my kids were babies you could find me at the mall a few times a week, though, in the winter. Where else can you meander (yes! with a stroller no less!) and stop and let your little boy run to the fountain or look in the window displays.

I used to go with my mom and dad, too, and we would really enjoy the little ones. The closest mall to my home has a little playground area for small ones, but it used to be just a large, carpeted amphitheatre-type area that my son called "the run-around."

I think the kids had more fun just running around the big carpeted area and jumping up and down the "steps" than they do now climbing on the designated climbing items.

Posted by: TBG | December 19, 2006 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Beats me, the wolves I've seen in zoo are mexican types. They look smaller than I am, and I think I'm prettier than they are. I did see a stuffed timberwolf once-- WHOO HUGE.

So I'd say depends on the wolf. It sounds like Gus was bigger than most wolves, so why not? Besides, can you visualize wolves being majestic in Christmas hats?

http://www.mymountaindog.com/coverpic.htm

Besides, we're talking jolly, uh, non-mean Valkyries and her noble steeds.

http://www.mymountaindog.com/carts.htm

I am afraid to include this site for fear bc will want to design a particularly powerful, dangerous dog cart that wagons the dog. That said, this looks like a good use of auto shop skills.

Check out the volfswagen.


Posted by: Wilbrodog | December 19, 2006 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Well TBG, I suppose I do have fun at Marshall's, but I consider going there more of a treasure hunt. I never know what I might find, if anything, but sometimes I find some seriously good deals. I enjoy the thrill of coming across a name brand in my size on the clearance rack for short money. Most of my clothes come from there (or TJ Maxx, same difference) and people always tell me how well I dress. And you did make me remember taking the girls to the mall when they were small. It was more of an escape from the house at that time than anything else. But at any time of year, when I have to go to a mall, my route looks like Yoki's, straight lines to where I need to go and then a straight line out of there. When we moved here I checked the layout of the nearest mall online so I could find the nearest entrance to wherever I needed to go.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | December 19, 2006 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Don from I-270 -- yes, the poem is mine. For some reason Christmas turns me into a poet, or wanna-be poet, year after year.

Just had some surgery of my own --- very glad you went thru with yours!

Posted by: nellie | December 19, 2006 10:11 PM | Report abuse

nelson -- I was glad to see your name back in the lineup a couple of days ago, I'd noticed you were missing for a long time. Best of luck with your surgery, remember that dumb as it sounds, you WILL feel better day by day.

Posted by: nellie | December 19, 2006 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, so good to hear from you, my thoughts will definitely be with you, I have undergone three surgeries none that serious and all the same type drove myself crazy before hand worrying. It wasn't fun but in the end it was better than I had feared.

Chuckling at the image of you in a Scarlett O'Hara wedding gown.

Talked to my dad tonight, his angiogram had to be postponed due to a complication from a stroke medication he was on but hoping they can do it Thursday, they are also looking at other issues he has - serious back/leg pain which might be caused by thickening arteries and perhaps can be corrected as well as looking into a family history of bowel cancer (just a precaution I am hoping). I think he is worried about whether he can join us for Christmas, and also he found out today one of his brothers in law passed away on the weekend. My Uncle died in the most peaceful way imaginable a fitting end to a wonderful man and a fantastic storyteller, spending time with him was full of stories about the area outside Ottawa where he was born and spent his entire life.

Also found out today my sister in laws mother fell and broke her hip.

Then there was the boodle who's stories today filled me with a wonderful sense of Christmas both its wonderful moments and the ones we can laugh at only when a little time has passed.

One last confession I actually enjoy wandering the mall, or stores, I am a people watcher and am greatly amused by others and am a very laid back person so the craziness of the season only slightly bothers me. I hadn't heard about the Heifer charity several people mentioned, but the other day while I had time to kill when into the Thousand Villages store, a store of goods from Third World/Developing World artisans, they are staffed by volunteers and the money goes as much as possible to the women who create the goods. The store also has a gift program where you can buy and animal for a family goat, cow etc.

Happiness and good health to all during the holiday season.

Posted by: dmd | December 19, 2006 10:17 PM | Report abuse

*feeling kind of sentimental now*

You Boodlers are the best.

Quite so. Wilbrod, Wilbrodog, and Bad Sneakers, all of you, have touched my heart remembering that Berners are people too.

I am a Valkyrie. I have never needed to haul off and decked anyone. I merely *loom.*

Wilbrod is the sister of my heart, I think, because we have both spent time in India, with different perceptions of it. I *love* the markets in Chennai and Mumbai. I have also spent many happy hours in open-air markets in Switzerland, Romania and Lithuania (some of them before the Iron Curtain fell). My experience (as a fairly agorophobic individual) is that they are the opposite of frightening; they are places where I can be sociable and talk about thing that interest both the stall-keeper and me, without it meaning any long term commitment. I love that sort of shopping, unlike the covered malls that give me that hab-dabs.

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 10:18 PM | Report abuse

>So I'd say depends on the wolf.

When I awoke the Dire Wolf
Six hundred pounds of sin
Was grinning at my window
All I said was come on in

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 19, 2006 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Chennai is great, we didn't find any OPEN air markets there at that time, but I got some really dandy bargins at a clothing shop-- one still is a favorite outfit of mine, and it cost 5 bucks.

We had 12 hours to kill before we headed out to Ooty so we saw the beach, we saw Cathedral de San Thome (basically a dream of mine), we ate an early dinner and then took the train to where we were supposed to take the toy train up the hill to Ooty, only to find a landslide had closed the train.

That's my grand Chennai experience.

We rented a car/taxi up to Ooty-- took quite a few hours but very, very scenic, little waterfalls everywhere, lots of greenery, and gorgeous mountainscapes. i was amused that we went from bananas and 85 degree weather (January!) on the bottom and when we arrived in Ooty it looked like Little Switzerland, temps in upper 60's.

They even had holstein cattle instead of Indian cows, so the one cow i got to sketch up close in India was sigh, a yearling black and white calf just like you see in PA, instead of those lovely Brahmin cattle with coffin-shaped skulls. Sigh.


Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 10:33 PM | Report abuse

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Joni Mitchell

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 19, 2006 10:39 PM | Report abuse

dbG -- philly's a wee bit out of my range!!

But I'm willing to bet there's tons of dogsitters there already. Ask your vet or check for business cards at dog-oriented shops.

I'm going to google the name you gave for the tapes. Something to help me visualize the surgery would be very helpful. I'm mostly concentrating on keeping calm and peaceful -- not to let the pain spiral -- etc.

TBG -- my mother knows her way around a computer better than I do. She doesn't "get" the boodling though, although I'm sure she'd drop y'all a line. My family thinks I'm pretty strange (they like to say I'm different).

Family members simply stare at me when I tell them I'm a regular (not lately, admittedly) on the boodle. Then someone changes the conversation. I'm used to this. :-)

Actually, I should be able to put up a short post once I'm home again. She's not coming in until I'm ready to leave the hospital.

Wilbrodog: I read a book a few months back titled "Wolves Eat Dogs." (Martin Cruz Smith) It's about solving the murder-by-radiation of a prominent Moscow business man (I read this a month before Litvinenko died. Creepy parallels)

There is a saying in the book that wolves eat dogs. They consider dogs to be race-traitors. To have submitted to the will of humans for some scraps from the fire is, to the wolves, a treasonous act worthy of death.

If you ever go to Russia with Wilbrod, I'd stick real close to her!!!

Bad Sneakers -- consumers is who we are as a nation. Our economy literally depends on constant consumption of goods. I tend to see Christmas as the national holiday for consumption. Pagans had (have) winter solstice celebrations, Christians have the birth of Christ -- Americans have added a new layer to "the holiday season." It's the all out over-the-top literally go-for-broke celebration to Consumption and capitalism.

If Americans stopped buying things we don't need the economy would crash. That's the scary part.

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 10:41 PM | Report abuse

sorry -- that last post was composed over the course of an emergency trip to the grocery store. I hadn't read posts from dmd and nellie.

thanks both for welcoming me back into the boodle-fold.

dmd -- am so sorry about the continuing health problems and deaths in your family. It does seem to come in large doses sometimes.

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 10:49 PM | Report abuse

I heard this story-- somebody's relative so not first-hand. They were up in Alaska with their adult male black lab off lead, and they saw a wolf! The lab and the wolf sniffed noses and the lab walked off. Somebody with a beagle at a distance saw this and called her beagle off to go meet the nice wolf. Yipyipyip YAP. The wolf snarled and killed the beagle in one move.

Even if this is not true, everybody who owns a big dog who has ever been tormented by yappy little dogs knows, deep in their bones, this just HAS to be true. ;).


Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 10:51 PM | Report abuse

It's probably best to be quiet and polite when meeting a wolf -- especially if you're viewed as a traitor to the race!

:-)

I know more than a few yappy little dogs from taking care of them. I'm quite surprised that I've grown fond of some of them. But I still get embarassed in public when the really yappy one won't shut up. I make sure everyone knows he's not really *my* dog -- and so I end up being a type of traitor also -- because he's a very loving little thing. A cross between a poodle and a lhasa apso (really)

I would love to go to India -- many other places too! I think the place that is most calling my name right now though, is my bed.

Sweet dreams everyone.

Posted by: nelson | December 19, 2006 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Two tales to tell.

First, where I live and used to live, there really is wildlife. In Revelstoke, we had bears and cougers and wolves and coyotes in our backyard from time to time.

In Calgary, we have coyotes and wolves in the short-grass prairie where we walk the dogs off-leash. Regularly, small dogs and cats are taken by the predators and their owners grieve; we grieve with them.

The big dogs will go nose-to-nose with the predators; they stare each other down and then Yoki runs in shouting and waving her arms about like Grover and one of the parties backs off.

I like this very much.

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 10:59 PM | Report abuse

It's not just in Russia...
http://www.startribune.com/531/story/657851.html

Wolves now have reached populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan that qualifies them for delisting from the Endangered species list. People want federal control lifted in those states so they can manage any people-wolf issues on a local/state basis.

Wolves also kill coyotes and trespassing wolves that might be a threat, so dogs aren't singled out because they're slaves of man.


Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 11:04 PM | Report abuse

nelson, I'll be thinking of you in and out of surgery. I wish you the best possible outcome.

Do you know the protocol of the "relaxation response?" This helped Himself no end post-surgery.

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Waving her arms about like Grover!

That's what I have to do now in my new office: we have automatic shut-off lights and when you're working hard at your desk (read: boodling), you are not moving enough for the sensor to know you're there.

About a minute before the light will turn off, the switch emits a little tweet.

Wave arms.

Thirty seconds later another, more-urgent tweet.

Wave arms about like Grover.

Posted by: TBG | December 19, 2006 11:15 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I want to give you the Montrealais "mwahh" double kiss.

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Mo, you're on. Now I can start dreaming about where to go.

Nelson,
http://www.healthjourneys.com/Product_Detail.aspx?id=29&mcid=10&catid=33

Posted by: dbG | December 19, 2006 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Yoki.. You are the Canadian version of me. I gladly accept your mwahh double kiss and will add a handshake, a bow and, of course, a hug. (Or is that being too narcissistic?)

G'night all!

Posted by: TBG | December 19, 2006 11:31 PM | Report abuse

G'night TBG, and all.

And to all, a g'night.

Posted by: Yoki | December 19, 2006 11:34 PM | Report abuse

The Post reports that North Carolina's climate has marched north and engulfed Washington, according to the Arbor Day Foundation's new national hardiness map.

So you Washingtonians have no excuse to not plant needle palms (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) near your houses, unless there's a chance of a child getting impaled on those impressive needles.

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=RHHY

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | December 20, 2006 12:39 AM | Report abuse

How about us state of Washingtonians?

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 20, 2006 12:50 AM | Report abuse

I went to the National Arbor Day Foundation website and looked at the map, and I am indeed in the tropics now! Guess that explains the hurricane force winds. Sigh.
http://www.arborday.org/media/zones.cfm

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 20, 2006 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Aaahhh, the extraordinary gift of assumptions about good intentions! As a nutty youth, I was known to intentionally bait school principals (not necessarily my own), store/mall managers, & law enforcement officers,just because I could get away with it. I regret it now, but that's the way it was. I never thought much about it until it was pointed out to me (by folks who didn't share my 'assumption of assumption of innocence' advantage) just how lucky I was.

I was amused by the 'assumption of assumption of innocense' here:
-----
"Error, I've seen Mo in person, up close plenty of times. She's not going to look very good in pink, blue or white. It's not just that it's not her personality, it's also not that flattering to her complexion. I think she's pretty much a winter."

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 19, 2006 05:48 PM
-----

I have also seen Mo in person, and even feel comfortable enough with her sense of humor to give a light dig occasionally. But never, EVER, would that remark have occurred to me.

Sheesh, the stuff that some (chacteristic-sharing people) get away with!!!


: )

Posted by: Bob S. | December 20, 2006 2:02 AM | Report abuse

Ummm--- "characteristic-sharing"...

you got it, right?

Posted by: Bob S. | December 20, 2006 2:05 AM | Report abuse

I'm frustrated by the fact that I feel like I should do this, but...

"Wilbrod-Mo-color" remarks had nothing whatsoever (except by trivial example) to do with my more general point, which was intended to be: context, and the underlying assumptions (often arbitrary and/or baseless) which create it.

Posted by: Bob S. | December 20, 2006 2:28 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Don, that is so great that the boodle helped you when you needed it. I enjoyed reading your story. Nelson, I hope everything works out good for you. You are in my thoughts and prayers. And mostly, forgot to tell you I'm glad you're okay in that nasty weather.

As to the best and worst Christmas gifts, that does not exist for me. I consider all gifts great, no matter what. I just think it is so wonderful when people remember me. It doesn't matter what the gift is. It really doesn't. I'm like a kid in a candy store. I just brighten up. Perhaps that is silly of me, but it's just me.

Joel, I sometimes give men a hard time, but I think guys are just great. And I realize that it is not easy for guys most of the time. Women depend on men more than they let on. I think we just sometimes give guys grief because we can. And sometimes they deserve it.

I'm not crazy about malls anytime of the year, but don't really have a problem with them because I am not able to shop at them. My sister loves to shop, and the other one that is no longer with us, couldn't live without shopping. She knew every mall no matter what city she was living in at the time. If I had money, I don't believe I would love shopping that much. And at Xmas time, it's a nightmare trying to shop.

Have a good day, everyone. I certainly hope shopping is something you don't have to do now. I can imagine it will not be a pleasant experience.
Dmd, I hope your dad is doing okay. I did not see a post from you, but it is possible I missed it. Prayers have been said and blessings sought for all. May you all come to know that God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | December 20, 2006 5:51 AM | Report abuse

Morning, Cassandra! To quote Homer, we're having a rosy-fingered dawn. It was all pink and mauve and periwinkle when I opened the blinds in the office window a few minutes ago. Now the pinks are turning into yellows and golds. When the sun comes up all the way, I'll have to close the blinds back, so that the sunshine won't hurt my eyes. Oh well, that's the way it is in December.

DC now has NC weather? I guess that means that we in NC now have Florida weather. That explains a lot.

Posted by: slyness | December 20, 2006 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Bing meets Bowie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKTHvW2JcAA

Posted by: omni | December 20, 2006 8:20 AM | Report abuse

News this morning (can't find it yet in the WaPo, though on news footage I did see WaPo Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks taking down comments from new SecDef Gates on military plane in Baghdad):

CENTCOM commander John Abizaid submitting resignation earlier than expected. Anticipated he'll exit in March.

Remember our discussion of Colville, Calif., on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, and Lebanese-Americans?

Posted by: Loomis | December 20, 2006 8:42 AM | Report abuse

omni, I remember seeing that as a kid.
Even then it had an impact on me, juxtaposed as it was with the stories of the Vietnam war in the newspapers and on the nightly news with Unka Walter.

It's an oldie but a goodie.

bc

Posted by: bc | December 20, 2006 8:44 AM | Report abuse

The transcript of an interview of President Bush and three WaPo reporters:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/19/AR2006121900886.html

Not only is GWB the Decider, he's also an "adherer".

bc

Posted by: bc | December 20, 2006 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure, but I think that the transcript of the GWB interview should indicate somewhere, "translated from the Piglatin."

bc

Posted by: bc | December 20, 2006 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Nelson,

My prayers and best wishes are with you in anticipation of your surgery. God bless you. Afterward, let us know how you're doing, when you can. IIRC, you live in the DC area. Where/when are you having your surgery done?

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 20, 2006 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Omni, thanks for the link, one of my favorite versions of that song, and I too remember watching that Christmas special as a kid, in fact I downloaded the song on the weekend when I was downloading music for our Christmas parties.

Posted by: dmd | December 20, 2006 9:06 AM | Report abuse

It would be nice if the transcript also provided a reality check for the President.

His comments about troop size and the effectiveness of fighting the idealogy struck me as strange I don't understand how an army can change your mindset.

Posted by: bc | December 20, 2006 9:22 AM | Report abuse

New kit

Posted by: Attentive999 | December 20, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Yoki, I loved your description of the Meanderers--just glad I had already finished my coffee when I read it; otherwise I'd be mopping my monitor now.

TBG, my spousal unit is the ultimate Marshall's shopper (think $300 sport coat for $25). I'm more of a Tuesday Morning gal myself (NOT the Rolling Road one, though *shudder*)

Don, thanks for telling your story--I'm only beginning to understand the power of the boodle. But it doesn't absolve you from ornament-crafting.

Wilbrod, does Wilbrodog get into the whole tree/ornaments/packages thing? Ray goes nuts for it all. I think he's the ghost of Christmas Past or something...

Posted by: Raysmom | December 20, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

A little geopolitical quiz this morning compliments of Maureen Dowd at the NYT:

How many sides are there in the Sunni Triangle?

Which religious figure, Muhammad or Jesus, has not been the subject of a Mel Gibson film?

The name shared by two kings in Jordan and Saudi Arabia?

Which of the following quotes can be attributed to Dick Cheney?

a) "So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people: greedy, barbarous and cruel."

b) "Don Rumsfeld is the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had."

c) "Certain things are not known to those who eat with forks."

Is the Shiite crescent a) a puffy dinner roll, b) a new Ramadan moon, or c) an arc of crisis?

Truly most difficult:
Three and a half years after the invasion of Iraq, with nearly 3,000 American troops dead and the Iraqis not remotely interested in order or democracy, what on earth do we do now?

The context of her op-ed quiz deals with El Paso Democrat and Mexican-American Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who was tapped by Pelosi over knowledgeable Rep. Jane Harman of California, to head the House Intelligence Committee. Jeff Stein, interviewing the incoming Reyes for the Congressional Quarterly, asked Reyes key questions about what Middle East nations and militant groups were either Shiite or Sunni.

Reyes flunked the questions--miserably. (Do you remember me mentioning Dowd's call-out of Stein's quiz during her appearance at the Texas Book Festival?) I see that Dowd has finally gotten ahold of the Reyes test results, the original reporting done by the Associated Press and appearing about a week to 10 days ago in the San Antonio Express-News. For all the hay our local paper made of the story at the time, giving it prominent placement, I wonder how President George W. Bush would have fared on the same set of questions at the start of the Iraq war, given that Condi had to coach him on who the leader of Pakistan was back in 2000.

For those who realize the origins of Christmas are Middle East in origin, I offer these gems: the arresting rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by singer Loreena McKennitt on the Windham Hill sampler album "Carols of Christmas II." The arrangement is stunning, the instrumentation and beat very much Middle Eastern. It would be a short step from this song to the Putamayo Presents album "From Cairo to Casablanca."

Cardamom cookies. I baked them several years ago, including the time-consuming task of getting the seed out of the hull. I had acquired the cardamom pods at the Iraqi market in Louisville that I frequented. I took the cardamom cookies to a neighborhood cookie exchange, where the hostess, from hailed from Ohio originally, without even inquiring, threw up a placecard next to them that labeled them as gingerbread. Not even close, folks. One woman brought to the cookie exchange lumps of refrigerated cookie dough baked with a giant Hershey's chocolate chip on top. Needless to say, that was my last neighborhood cookie exchange.


Posted by: Loomis | December 20, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

So this guy Joel, he writes for the Washington Post, about his trips to the Post Office, and then he lets us post comments? Tie this guy to a post? I think I'm going postal? Do a post-mortem? Make him a poster boy for internet freedom? Don't send the posse after me just 'cause I posed a few questions. You don't even know who I am. I'm just an imposter.

Posted by: Geeb | December 20, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

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