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SATURDAY BIKING. We had "king tides" from Wednesday through Friday, when the ties are at the highest point for the year due to a particular confluence of conditions. Those were of course work days, but I managed to get down to the Bay to see them on Saturday, when the tides were still within half-a-foot of their height. Generally, the Bay looked very full, as did the Aquatic Park (which has connections to the Bay). Nothing spectacular other than that, but it was fun to see. I rode out to the Berkeley Pedestridan Bridge, then along the Bay Trail out to the Emeryville Marina. I turned around at a bit past 12.15 pm, which was the high tide. I was only out for a couple of hours, even including lunch, which was a nice way to get some exercise & relaxation without killing the whole day. (Though I then went home and napped for part of the remaining afternoon, so ...) I did a total of 15 miles riding on Saturday, but that included groceries later in the day.

SUNDAY BIKING. On Sunday, Kimberly was having lunch out, so I decided to pack myself a lunch and bring it up to Lake Temescal. I took the route straight up Tunnel Road, which I'd only tried once before in the rain, and was pleased to find that it was still a reasonable way to get up the hill. However, on my way to Temescal I came across the "Gateway Emergency Exhibit Center", which is just above the highway. It's a little bit of public land with a big deck on it which gives a beautiful view of the Bay. It was apparently erected in 2003 in memory of the 1991 Berkeley Hills fire. I couldn't resist, and so I had lunch there, overlooking the whole Bay. Beautiful!

While I was eating lunch, I saw a constant flow of bicyclists going up the smaller Tunnel Road where it diverges from what had been route 13. Though it looked like a bit of a hill, I decided to investigate before heading out to Temescal. I'm glad I did! Tunnel Road past 13 turns out to be a beautiful small & quiet road that constantly pushes uphill but at a very acceptable grade thanks to switchback after switchback. It was long, but totally rideable, and everytime I hit the eastern end of a switchback I got a beautiful view of the Bay — growing ever more distant (and more gray) as I climbed the hill. Eventually I slipped over the Caldecott Tunnel and Tunnel turned into Skyline Blvd. Woot!

From there, the ride was pretty level, and really beautiful. Though by now everything had gotten really gray and slightly misty. I thought I'd climbed into the clouds, but later learned that the clouds had instead climbed over the East Bay. Before long I came upon one of the entrances to the Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve — which is to say one of the parks that run along the ridges of the East Bay Hills. I eagerly biked in. I vaguely considered riding the Skyline Trail out toward Tilden, but discovered it was really muddy. So, best not. I'd already decided that I wanted to return on a nicer summer day to really enjoy the view on the way up, so it was no great loss not doing that trail then. I did ride one of the paved paths, out to the base of "Round Top", which looked back on very verdant valleys back in the foothills.  (Looking at maps now, it seems that the bike trail continued from where I was, but apparently on dirt roads, which would have been muddy too.)

I intended to ride from there out to the Shepherd Canyon Trail, but got turned around and instead took Snake Road down to Montclair. From there it was a pretty normative ride back home ... if continuing to be a little misty.

But, what a ride! One of my favorites. Ascended to somewhere around 1400 feet in Sibley. Rode 15 miles, bringing the weekend total to 30. And I was home by 2pm again. (And I napped again! Sigh.)

ANNOYING BUILDERS & STRANGE NEIGHBORS. So this summer we lost our nice old lady neighbor in the house behind us. The house was apparently purchased by some executive who likes to scream on his cell phone in the backyard and his wife, who also likes to scream on her cell phone in the back yard. (The whole neighborhood could transcribe their conversations if they wanted.) They apparently have a small child who sobs a lot and now have a baby who wails a lot. After they bought the house, builders started working on the house, reroofing at 8am every morning.

We were often awoken and thus annoyed, but reroofing is just a fact of life in buying a house, so we grinned and bore it. Then a week and a half later or so they started reshingling all the sides of the house ... and despite having 6-12 people there every day they were doing it at a glacial rate. I'd go by and they'd be a couple of feet further along the next day. And then, to make things even weirder, all the work stopped with maybe 50% of the shingling done. A couple of times a week we'd hear sobbing, wailing, or cell phone screaming, but the rest of the time the house seemed empty. And the shingling sat like that for months. Many months.

Kimberly and I are storytellers, so we came up with our theory: they were house flippers and had run out of money.

Then last Thursday or so, the damned construction started up again. Shingling or what, I'm not sure. They seem to like to start at ungodly o'clock, then often stop at 9 or 10. What the hell is up with that!? Storyteller me says that they're now giving cut rates to workers before their regular job, but in any case it's really annoying. Especially if they're doing that crap next week, the one week a year that I take off and stay home to relax. And, you know, sleep in. We shall see.

CHRISTMAS TIME. Sunday I finished my own Christmas shopping with a few final items, then tonight Kimberly and I went to the pet store to overindulge in presents for Lucy. According to my math, a cat has about a 1 in 9 chance of liking a present that you get, which worked out when we had 3 cats and 3 presents (total), but now ... I'm figuring the odds are not as good. Well, one of the presents we got Lucy was a new cat dancer that will stick to the wall (for, I suspect, a very brief time). She'll definitely like that.

And we got her a h-a-r-n-e-s-s, because Kimberly and I would love to take her for walks. Not sure that's actually going to happen though.

Now I'm happy as the Christmas present shopping is done!

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So, we seem to be heading toward the end of the holidays. It's been mostly low-key for me, since Sunday's family & Monday's shopping.

I actually came down with a cold on Tuesday, which was a bit of a bummer. Never too sick, but I have been low energy, which has kept me for going out on a bike adventure, as I'd hoped. Still thinking about a short-ish ride tomorrow, but I'll see how I'm feeling. (I was thinking about it today, too, but a headache ans some fatigue led me to believe that I'm still sick enough that I don't want to chance a relapse.)

Melody & Jared came by yesterday. We chatted for a few hours. They left Amazon gift cards and I picked up a few treats I'd been wanting such as the first volume of IDW's Dungeons & Dragons comic and The Way of Kings, the first volume in Brandon Sanderson's new 10,000-page epic.

It's pretty gray and gloomy outside today, despite the lack of much rain. Nonetheless, I'm going to head out to pick up some fun stuff from the library & UPS store soon. Then it'll be back home for a few hours of R&R. (If it actually were raining that might have increased my odds of going out, to give my new panniers and waterproof windbreaker a workout.)

With the weekend upon us, I'm going to reenter the real world soon. I need to finish writing my 2011 in Review article for RPGnet on Monday and should start reading the adventure for next Saturday's Kingmaker game.

Still plenty of time for relaxation before the weekend's over, tho'.
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After lunch today, Kimberly and I went out to the Northface Outlet in North Berkeley. My goal was to get a high-quality windbreaker to replace my worn one from three years ago. I wasn't totally successful, as I couldn't find a regular-weather breathable lightweight windbreaker. However I did get a breathable, waterproof, lightweight windbreaker.

It might not be as comfortable in summer, as they can't make waterproof fabric as breathable as non-waterproof fabric. However, I might be a LOT happier with it in rainy weather. (The whole purpose of this is for biking, of course, because the wind really cuts through you when you're biking at a good clip, but at the same time you don't want to get overheated under your outer layer.)

Speaking of waterproof, we also tried out my waterproof new panniers, as we wanted to go grocery shopping at Target after the Northface stop, and our regular backpacks and panniers wouldn't have offered up enough room for purchases from both locations. In short: they're awesome. Super high quality, easy to put on the bikes, and complete with spring latches to keep them from popping off when riding. I think they should keep stuff totally waterproof, as promised (as long as they're closed right & they close really sturdily), which combined with my new windbreaker might make me willing to ride to gaming in somewhat-wet weather. 

At Target I also got some new pants (which together with the windbreaker came out of my Christmas money from my dad & Mary), and then we did some grocery shopping. Which was nice, as we haven't gone shopping at Target in many months, since Kimberly injured her arms.

Mind you, every where was pretty crowded today. The Northface Outlet was so crazy that they were rationing entry to the store. I asked about the wait length as I got in line, and was pleased that the people at the front said, "10 minutes". The woman behind me in line started wondering how long she was going to have to wait, and I chirpily told her, "10 minutes" and she seemed totally aghast. Which I found pretty weird.

In any case, though good things were had at the shopping, it was pretty exhausting. We got home, went out got some Subway sandwiches, watched some TV over dinner (currently watching: Friday Night Lights season one and The Amazing Race 3), then Kimberly and I both collapsed for a while. I'm still pretty worn out, and slightly worried about getting sick as I was very sniffily in the morning (but am somewhat better now).

I think I will mostly kick back for the next couple of days, before meeting with the sister on Thursday (hopefully). I've already started that out with some reading and some playing of Dragon Age: Origins, which Donald lent me. (Thus far: seems OK. I've never been sold on the real-time RPG, but this one's ability to pause has left me willing to try it out while I see if the story draws me in.)

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And we're now largely done with the second day of Christmas, like the first but more tiring.

We started off the morning with Kimberly and me opening stockings (a bit too full of candy, which is my fault) and presents. Kimberly found me a red overshirt that is actually a good replacement for my old red overshirt, something I've been looking for for years. It's warm and soft and just about perfect. (And next time my old shirt loses a button, I will quietly retire it.) Also, a neat "Captain Obvious" t-shirt, a book on media, a book on reality TV, and some fridge magnets. We also got a neat-looking TV show from Chris A., on a BBC detective in a weird town. We're always on the look out for new good shows from the Beeb, and we'd never heard of this one, so I'm particularly excited to take a look.

Oh, and we got toys for the cats too, of course, and they generally went off well. A ball with ridges to make it roll erratically that you put catnip into was the big winner, but Cobweb was excited by everything! Which is pretty exciting in itself, as she's our old, sick cat. We also got a toy that you fill with cat treats where the cats try to extract the treats, but I don't know yet how well that'll work. The cats stared and licked at it for a while, but had no success in treat extraction.

Here was the best present, however:



(I lie, I think the ball or the feeder-toy will be a better present long term.)

After that we had lunch, and it was almost time for Bob's brother, Andy, to take us down to San Jose. 

We got there around 2.30 and hung out with Wiedlins and Martinezes: my mom, my brothers Jason and Rob, Jason's wife Lisa, Lisa's mom, dad, sister, sister's fiancé and brother, Bob's dad, Bob's dad's girlfriend, Bob's sisters Meg and Jane, and Bob's brother Andy and his family. Whew. I believe the total count was 21! And 3 dogs, who very excited about everyone being around and moved around enough for it to seem like there were twice as many.

Here's one of them destroying a present:


(We were quite impressed that she teethed on the bar until she found where the squeekie was, then eviscerated it to pull out the squeekie, after which she wandered away, job done.)

We had dinner scattered across three tables. One of the reasons I was willing to go down to dinner at my mom's house was that I knew they had enough space like this for everyone without it being crowded. There was ham, croissants, a really great jambalaya, some terrific potatoes, tamales, and a few other things.

There was also more gifting of presents while we were in San Jose. I got some really nice waterproof panniers from my mom & Bob which will be very useful for me for gaming during the rainy season and will also help a lot for grocery shopping during the rainy season, now that we no longer have a local grocery store. They're not as big as my normal panniers, but will be 100% more useful when it's wet out, and it's going into the season now where I often would have opted not to use my panniers because I was worried about the rain. I also got some fancy lights to go in my spokes and not only light me up more at night but also create great patterns. And some great t-shirts: a totally terrific black-and-red shirt with a sword and a d20 which must be worn to my next Pathfinder game and a neat shirt that quotes "The Raven" in the shape of a raven.

The siblings got me copies of The First Law trilogy, which I've been hearing good things about and have been wanting to read for a while.

We chatted with various Martinezes and Wiedlins over the course of the evening and taught Jason and Lisa and others how to play Ubongo, the game which we'd bought them (and which they seemed to like), and then caught a ride home at about 7pm with Jason and Lisa. It was a good choice, because we got to talking about various books on the ride home and I lent Lisa the first 14 volumes of The Walking Dead and Jason The Chronicles of the Black Company when we they dropped us off.

My dad called not long after we got home and we chatted for a while. Other than healing Cobweb and watching the start of The Amazing Race 3 (which was just released on DVD!) that was pretty much the day. Totally peopled out now. And we have too much junk food to eat over the coming week. But a good day.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to spend some more of the Christmas money from my dad on (hopefully) a new windbreaker for biking at Northface Outlet and since we'll be halfway there, we're then going to go to Target for our week's grocery shopping. My sister and her guy are coming to visit on Thursday (I think), but other than that I have a pretty empty week with R&R planned!
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The holidays fell in a very agreeable configuration this year, with Christmas Eve occurring on a Saturday, so Kimberly & I spent the day together & also did many of our standard Christmas activities, as we have other plans for tomorrow.

In the early afternoon we went to our yearly Christmas movie, and this year picked the American Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We both thought it was an excellent movie that was quite well directed, and that beyond that it was a very good adaptation of the book. We were both impressed in particular by how much the movie showed rather than told, depending on an intelligent audience. It reminded me of what The Killing tried to do, and increasingly failed at week-by-week. Dragon Tattoo was also an appropriate Christmas movie, as it ends right on Christmas, with a rather dramatic attempt to give a gift.

(I later looked at some reviews of this Dragon Tattoo, and was bemused by the snobby professional critics, most of whom said, "Why would you ever want to go to this American movie when there's an excellent subtitled release?" I often think more film critics should be out of jobs, as they show such poor understanding of their audience.)

I'm now even more excited about the upcoming paperback release of the (sadly) last book in the Millennium trilogy.

After the movie, we went out for a slightly early dinner. We had a somewhat larger set of options than usual, since we were doing this on Christmas eve rather than day, and ended up getting to some Middle Eastern fast food on Center, which was generally tasty (but we only went there after our traditional walk to a great Vietnamese restaurant, which sadly was closed even on Christmas Eve).

We rested for a while in the early evening, and I think we each dozed for a bit, but afterward we went out for our annual tour of Christmas lights. Since a few years ago, we've been doing this on bike, which allows us to see a lot more lights. This year, we rode up to Elmwood, then from there to Rockridge, turned around, and ducked back into some of the slightly less savory areas of North Oakland and South Berkeley on our return trip.

This house was my favorite, primarily for the awesome rotating dradle:


Sadly, all the snowmen, ducks, and other stuff didn't show up well ...

This one was nice primarily for its comprehensiveness:


And this was part of a bizarre set of three houses many of which had identical or similar inflatable figures:



We finished off the evening with a second Christmas movie, Die Hard, a classic from my youth that one of my friends, Scott H., loved. It stands up well, and continues to be a fun movie with definite Christmas themings. The only point when I was knocked out of the movie was when John McClane drops explosives down to the ground floor of the building, causing a huge explosion. It gave me 9/11 flashbacks, as did the end, when bearer bonds are raining down from the ruined building. Still, as I said, fun, and amusing to see David Addison in an action role (before Bruce Willis got all muscular and bald).

Oh, and I forgot about early presents!

My friend Evan very sweetly (ha!) dropped by some Christmas cookies and a card while we were out today. I tried out the cookies while watching Die Hard (very tasty!), so they definitely added to my Christmas enjoyment. Kimberly had some too!

And I received some hardcover comic collections that I treated myself to thanks to money that my Dad and Mary kindly sent. I've already started reading The Secret Society of Super Villains Volume One, which I've been waiting to read in its complete form for decades. (I once had a smattering of individual issues.) I've also got Legion of Super Heroes: The Curse and X-Men: Marvel Mutant Massacre waiting to be read.

More Christmasy stuff tomorrow.
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Woke up this morning and exchanged presents with Kimberly--plus opened presents from Chris A. & Kimberly's mom. Overall, much fun was had. I'm excited to have several new t-shirts to wear and Kimberly made me a bunch of bookmarks to use, and we also have a comic that both Kimberly & I are looking forward to reading.

Afterward we had lunch and watched an episode of Boomtown, which Kimberly & I currently have out from Netflix.

The Wiedlins descended a bit before 1pm and there was more exchange of presents. I got a very nice fleece-y coat which looks like just what i've been wanting for these cool, wet days where I didn't think my windbreaker would do the trick. We got to chat with the Wiedlins for a good hour and a half in the early afternoon. Bob might come up sometime soonish to help us put some shelves into our garage (when it's done) and we may get together with my mom, Bob, and who knows for hiking or biking later in the week (though I think the odds are just as good not).

They headed off for dinner at Bob's brother's house around 2.30 and then Kimberly and I checked the movie schedule and found that Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part I was starting in about half-an-hour in downtown Berkeley, so we headed straight out.

This was where the wet part of the Christmas began, because it'd been rainly steadily since late morning and was pretty much pouring by this time. We walked our bikes downtown (as we'd need them later) and though we had umbrellas we got somewhat damp.

Harry Potter was in one of the UA's tiniest theaters, but it was 100% packed by 10 minutes or so into the movie. The movie was good. It did a good job of cutting out the huge amounts of do-nothing crap in the first half of that book and just highlighting the interesting stuff. So, not just good, but better than the book that spawned it, I'd say, no surprise. Beyond that: lots of great visuals, lots of fun actions, and lots of kids starting to look like adults. Looking forward to seeing the rest of it next year.

After that we went to see if we could get Vietnamese food as we do every year and found it closed. We ended up at Japanese food instead, which was a first for Christmas. So I had tasty Christmas sushi.

Kimberly and I then rescued our very damp bikes, and were very happy that the rain had cut down to a very light drizzle, because we then biked down the hill to catsit Caruso. We did a bit of reading at his house from Raymond Carver, continuing our quick tour through American short stories, and then, as Kimberly was fading, we biked back home (with the rain gone by this point). Saw some very nicely lit houses on the way, particularly one down just past Channing & MLK. I have pictures. I'll have to post them sometime when I'm less burned.

I was happy to trade in for dry socks upon my return home.

After a bit of a break Kimberly & I sat down one more time this evening to see the Doctor Who Christmas Special. Woot!!! I'm so pleased to get to see Doctor Who on the day it actually first aired, which is practically a first (discounting, I suspect, the US-made movie). And it was a great Christmas episode, epitomizing Smith's very chaotic and active doctor while also playing playfully with time travel. Lots of fun, and the subject material made it well worth watching on today of days.

Tomorrow we shall continue the Christmas spirit with mass consumerism thanks to B&N gift cards, also received today (and a need for groceries, with B&N-Caruso's House-Target forming our travel path tomorrow, and hopefully a rain free one.)
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Yesterday evening I had folks over for my review-gaming night. (We played Sobek and Water Lily by newcomer Game Works and I was very pleasantly surprised by both.) Afterward, I looked around and realized that I could do whatever I wanted for the next ten days. Whew!

So I went back to working on a variety of writing projects and did some reading, pretty much like any other night.

But more relaxed, because anything I didn't finish I could work on the next day or the next or the next.



Those of you read this journal won't be too surprised by our Christmas Eve. We biked to the dog park, watched dogs, catsat Caruso a bit, went up to Nations for dinner (and pie, though the latter we saved for snack just now), then came home. There was some K. sleeping along the way and a bit of light watching. We haven't done our usual Christmas Eve light browsing due to pie logistics but will tomorrow or the day after.

This evening we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, which we see every couple of years on either Halloween or Christmas, and wrapped some presents.



Tomorrow there will be a bit of family and unwrapping of presents.

(Our family visits are spread out nowadays: the Wiedlins usually visit on Christmas; my sister and her bf usually visit a few weeks later on their way to Hawaii; and then we see the rest of the Appels when we visit Hawaii a few weeks later.)
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Went out to Comic Relief, and besides having a gift certificate, also found that they were running a sale, so I ended up buying: The Authority: Revolution Book One (currently out-of-print and thus going for ludicrous prices online, as things stupidly do now, but still available at a local store) by Ed Brubaker(!), The Question: Five Books of Blood by Greg Rucka (!), Secret Warriors Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis (!),and Mighty Avengers: Earth's Mightiest by Dan Slott(.). (Thanks Chris!) I have high expectations for the first three, and thus started with the fourth, and it's been fairly fun, though not in the same league as the BMB Mighty Avengers which were a magnificent satire of a certain type of comic-book writing.

After that and lunch, I came home and K. and I biked up to the Emery Bay area. At Old Navy they were having a great sale on jeans, and thus I got two new pairs. (Thanks Dad!) Then we went over to Barnes & Noble and spent gift certificates. I picked up Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson, A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card, and Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card (though response on it seems decidely mixed). (Thanks Mom!) I would have preferred to get a Poul Anderson collection I've been eyeing to one of those OSC books, but they had it not. I' going to probably make an Amazon purchase of the two things I'd been considering getting today but didn't (Sleeper Season Two by Ed Brubaker and The Van Rijn Method by Poul Anderson). Also, a couple of comics that I need to read my new Ed Brubaker Authority: Revolution books in the proper context.

Then it was back to I's house to check in our Caruso. A slow-moving train trapped us in west Berkeley, so we just kept biking north along Shellmound(?), and I was delighted to discover that the entrance to the Berkeley Aquatic Park was just a block or two past where we would have crossed eastward over the train tracks. Thus we got a very nice ride through the park instead of cutting back up into the city. I's house is just up from the northern edge of the park, so it was probably actually the best way to go.

There was much wackiness at I's house. Ants had invaded two sealed containers of food, and thus we ended up having to search out some new food for Caruso. Meanwhile a brewing storm had finally hit and we hunted around for umbrellas, as K. and I only had one between us. Sadly, there appear to be no umbrellas in all of west Berkeley. And when we stopped in at Jack in the Box to get dinner, the plate-glass window in front of the cashiers made me decide I'd prefer to eat it back at I's house. But, once we finally settled back in with our dinner, Caruso's dinner, and Summer Knight, all was well. After an hour or so eating and reading we looked out and the rain had temporarily abated, and so we made it back home dry, where we can wile away the evening.

More storms coming today and tomorrow. I plan to stay home, stay warm, rest, relax, and read (and do spring cleaning I'm planning to over the holiday). Groceries too.

Come Monday I'm going to look into a bike adventure ...
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Busy day.

Got up this morning, and exchanged presents with Kimberly. Besides my traditional t-shirt (Endgame!), I also got a new hat. Also opened up presents from Kimberly's mom (including a nice journal that I'll use for some future roleplaying campaign) and a comic gift cert from Chris.

Afterward headed out to do our day's catsitting of Caruso. We hoped to bring Subway sandwiches with us, and were pleased to find the Subway near us open. "Poor girl," said Kimberly of the sandwich maker, but I suspect she or her family runs the franchise.

Caruso was happy to see us, as he ever is when I've been there. He lounged about on my backpack while we ate and I read another chapter of Summer Knight. With him being so purry and attentive, I always hate to leave him.

About half-an-hour after we got home, the Wiedlins showed up: my mom, Bob, two brothers, and Lisa, my new sister-in-law. There was some good talking and some more gift-exchanging, and then they headed out to a big family gathering at Bob's brother's house, which Kimberly and I had opted out of, not because we don't love the rest of the Wiedlins, but because we don't love big crowds, and instead try for quiet Christmases.

Afterward we went out to see our traditional Christmas movie, which this year was Invictus, about Nelson Mandela's early years in office in South Africa. Not deep, but a beautiful movie and Morgan Freeman is just electric in it.

(Though I miss my epic fantasies like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and even the Golden Compass, which we got to enjoy through several Christmases. Sadly, Twilight is the new LotR :-P.)

Following the movie we had our traditional walk to the great Vietnamese restaurant nearby, to find it closed, then the equally traditional trek back to the OK Chinese restaurant, which always has your food ready in about 5 minutes. Quick as ever tonight.

Tomorrow we'll engage in some traditional post-Christmas shopping, as I have gift certificates to Comic Relief and Barnes & Noble burning metaphorical holes in my pockets.
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A nice Christmas Eve tonight.



After work, K. and I headed down to Nation's so that we could enjoy dinner & pie. Yes, wonderful chocolate creme pie.



After that we biked down to I's house, who we're catsitting for (K., more than I, honestly). Caruso was waiting in the house for us, and he sat with us for quite a while while I read Summer Knight (Dresden #4) to K. He lounged on my backpack most of the time, purring away, though at one point he even wedged himself between K. and me (before K. petted him too much).

I. says that Caruso usually only likes to be in the same room as people, but I've found him to be a very friendly cat. Not sitting in our laps, but getting as close to us as possible, beyond that.

I later told K. that I was quite happy that we're currently reading together, because it makes spending time with Caruso feel like it's not actually taking up any of our time. We're just reading in a weird place, but we've read at BART stations and in parks throughout the East Bay, so no weirder than many.



On the way home we detoured here and there to look at Christmas lights, until K. finally said she was tired. We probably could have ridden around more if we hadn't had to bike uphill from the Bay. Ah well. We saw much.

Christmas decorations seem to have yearly trends, like that year 7 or 8 years ago when everyone suddenly had those white icecicle lights hanging from their house. This year the theme seems to be a new color of lighting which is brighter and more saturated than a lot of old lights. It's particularly noticeable in the blues which look more purple. K. was entirely charmed the first time she saw them, but tonight we saw them on another half-dozen or a dozen houses and so they lost that charm.

There also seem to be a preponderence of candy cane lights out, lighting walkways and such. Not a huge number like the saturated lights, but enough to be noticeable. Maybe it was a trend a year or two ago, or maybe it just didn't catch entirely on.

My favorite house was again the one with animatronic reindoor. There's also a very nice house several blocks from us which does a huge colorful tree on the side of their house every year--and which was even cooler this year because they'd made it 3-D by making a sort of pavilion adjoining the house-tree by pulling lights out from it to their low fence along the sideway.

K. liked a house that was playing Christmas music outside. I better she wouldn't like it if it were her next door neighbor. It was cool though.



Back at home, Munchkin and Lucy both find my backpack (which Caruso laid on) very interesting.

I had some photos of the cat, the backpack, and the animatronic reindeer, but I rebooted my Mac into Windows so I don't have access to my photoediting software right now.

Booting my Mac into Windows is a boon, because it'll keep me from addressing those tiny niggling issues that remain on Money, the iPhone game I'm sending to Apple after vacation.

Must. Relax. And. Vacation.

And I just installed my present to myself, Heroes of Might and Magic V (all of $7.50, from Amazon). Thrilled to see it works. Not convinced that the 3-D view is any better than the top-down one from III. I may have to get a new copy of the older game sometime, but I'll see what I think of V over the vacation.
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Christmas is one of the only days in the year where I generally refuse to do work and just relax to my utmost ability. This year that was spread out over two days, as I took Christmas Eve off too (though I did a teeny bit of writing on an article for Signs & Portents yesterday and will do a teeny bit more tonight, just because I don't want to lose track of it in the looming couple of days off).

I lost much of both days to reading and relaxing. Yesterday I finished Halting State by Charles Strauss, a very real-feeling near-future look at cybercrime. I've also been working on the second Soldier Son book by Robin Hobb, which has mired down a bit toward the end, but was quite good for the most part. There have also been a slew of comics, of which Ed Brubaker's The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire was the best (and overall, quite good).

Kimberly & I also spent quite a bit of time together.

Yesterday Kimberly and I walked up to Boston Market for a Christmas Eve dinner. They have a ham dinner that comes with cinnamon apples that I've grown very fond of. We also made sure to hit streets that let us look at Christmas lights both there and back (though I'd already seen the best street of lights that we gazed upon, which is on my regular bike route to Endgame).

Today started off with prezzies. Kimberly got me a couple of attractive t-shirts, which are always appreciated, as I've been fighting a battle against wearing out my old ones, most of which came from when I worked at Chaosium. (Well, at least most of the shirts that are mostly dead did; I just with great sadness threw out a kickin' Einstein t-shirt that Rob H. gave me years ago. It was literally falling apart.)

Afterward Kimberly and I went out to see Milk (a most excellent movie) and we had my favorite Vietnamese food afterward (including a shrimp roll that I always adore, and a green beans and chicken plate which was excellent).

There was also playing of Dominion throughout both days. Kimberly and I have now played it five or six times since I bought it last Wednesday. (It's in fact become one of my only two dimes of the year, the other being Race for the Galaxy.) Dominion is a most excellent game, though I see it getting played out. I'm already looking forward to a supplement that introduces 15 or 25 new "kingdoms" of cards.

We also started Nightside the Long Sun as our new read-aloud project. K. hasn't been drawn into it thus far, but I have hope. I've never adored Long Sun as much as I do New Sun and Short Sun on either side of it, but I think it might strike me more this time. Especially since we're reading it aloud, which made me appreciate New Sun even more when we read it earlier this year. This is, I think, my third reading: once before as it came out and once either when it finished up or sometime not too long thereafter.

Tomorrow, K. and I have a biking adventure planned, if the weather allows.

(From Thanksgiving to Christmas we've had pretty crappy, cold and wet weather here in the Bay Area--which is all the more depressing because we're apparently still under average rain fall.)
shannon_a: (Default)
We seem to have moved beyond exchanged presents this year. Other than a concert that Katherine & Michael took us to a couple of weeks ago and a Race for the Galaxy game from Christopher, the only physical presents this year will be exchanged between Kimberly and myself in the morning.

From others, we received checks, I think in large part due to Kimberly's mom moving to Florida and my dad & Mary moving to Hawaii.

Of course, checks are a fine thing, as they allow me to get stuff that I've been really wanting and haven't been able to afford. My dad and Mary were extremely generous this year, because they knew we were spending money to come out to visit them, so I've been able to pick up quite a bit of stuff:

Games

I'm way back from my game purchasing of a couple of years ago, mainly because a game really has to enthuse me to pick it up, but there were two games I got right away:

Dominion. This has been enough of a hit that I wanted to get a copy for myself. Much to my surprise, Kimberly likes it too, so we've been playing some 2-player games.

Strozzi. I'm a sucker for Knizia's more serious games and I'll also a sucker for matching boxes (and matching games in general), so there was no way I wasn't picking this up. After one play, I'm pretty pleased. It's not Medici, but it's similar enough to be interesting.

Comics

I splurged on comics. I've got an Amazon order that arrived today, but sadly my mailbox store shut down early before I could pick it up. In any case, on Saturday I'll have a box of four TPBs waiting for me.

Endangered Species, Messiah Complex. I've been drawn back to the X-Men by a combination of a crossover with X-Factor (which I've been reading all along) and the presence of Mike Carey and Ed Brubaker as the two main X-writers. I read Carey's first volume a bit ago, and thought it was only OK, but Brubaker has never disappointed (and I'm willing to give Carey another chance, thanks to his excellence elsewhere). I think I've decided to pick up both of their runs in TPB in any case, to sit happily next to my Morrison run. (I'm also thinking about trying to put together an original-run Claremont collection, but sadly very little of that is available in color TPBs.)

Countdown to Final Crisis Vol. 4. Everyone certainly said terrible things about this DC event, but it's been fine. No 52 surely, but fun to read nonetheless. I'm looking forward to the conclusion.

The Family Man. I've read 50-75% of Jamie Delano's Hellblazer, and this was the one story that I unreservedly liked. I'm sure I didn't read all the issues, so I'm looking forward to reading this in totality, now that it's finally out in TPB.

I also chanced upon a New Mutants Classic Vol. 2 at Pegasus Books, which I was very happy to buy, as it's some of Chris Claremont's best work.

Computer Games

I like to have a "new" computer game to play over the winter holiday. This time I picked up Port Royale, a real-time strategy c. 2003. I played through the tutorial last night, and it has yet to grab me, but if I end up not loving it, I won't begrudge the $5 I spent, and I'll just dig into my archives of games from past years, as they rarely get played for more than a couple of weeks.

Clothes

An abundance of money has allowed me to pick up some new clothes too.

At Ross the other day I got two attractive Hawaiian shirts. They're mainly intended for my vacation next month, but I like Hawaiian shirts in general, because they're colorful and light. I also picked up a belt (required because my pants have been getting loose) and some shoes (as I'd worn through the soles of yet another pair).

I also placed an order online for some shorts (because my ones I bought when we went to Hawaii in 2001 have gotten too tight).

(And I should go get some bike gloves before I spend all of my money, both to spare my hands blisters on the long rides and to spare them the cold in this wretched weather we've had the last few weeks.)

Household

We also ordered some lamp shades for our house. We've had bare ceiling bulbs all over since we bought the house, but because we're now placing brighter fluorescent bulbs in all of our interior lights, shades have become more important.

So, some fun stuff for Christmas, though thus far just the things I bought myself with kind gifts of money.

Christmas

Dec. 26th, 2007 11:30 am
shannon_a: (Default)
Ah, another Christmas come and gone.

I fondly remember days when Christmas was endless bounties of presents and delicious breakfast cooked up, and a day full of childhood naivetee. Now it's just life, instead, but yesterday was a nice day.

We opened stockings & presents in the morning. Kimberly got me a fun black death t-shirt and a book from David Mitchell, who I quite admired when I read his Ghostwritten several years ago. I also have a small cache of candy from stockings, though it was my year to fill them, so no surprises there.

We went to the theatre to see The Golden Compass, which we both quite enjoyed despite the negative reviews it's generally been getting. We also by chance met Dana and Anne there, which was a nice surprise. (They were seeing The Golden Compass too, as part of a day full of movies which had started with I Am Legend).)

There was much napping in the evening, and I also finally tried out a full game of Disciples Gold II, a HoM&M-like game that I picked up a year ago at Christmas, but was too busy working on my history book to ever really get to.

Anyway, nice day.
shannon_a: (Default)
Last night was Christmas Eve, and Mary had made us reservations at the fancy steak and seafood restaurant in the Sheridan. After some familial picture taking we headed in and were surprised to discover that it was a buffet.

But oh what a buffet it was. It was heaven. I had spicy tuna sushi rolls. California rolls. Calimari salad. Green salad. Three varieties of sashimi (though I don't know what they were, as they were just labeled 'Tricolor Sashimi' and were red, pink and white, though my dad insisted that was three shades of one color). Chilled shrimp. There were some main courses too, but I didn't bother with that with all the delicious other things sitting around. There was some desert too, which included an utterly delicious chocolate yule log. I've been avoiding chocolate on the trip, but had to try this and it was very tasty.

This morning I went with the folks to Church. Not a usual habit for me in the least, but I wanted to spend time with them. I last went for my Grandmother's service back in 2003. This was in a small little missionary church out by Koloa. The minister was a very nice Japanese gentleman and everyone was very friendly. There was lots of singing of hymns, and the minister always led them while playing his guitar while a a few other stringed instruments were played as well by handsome gentlemen and beautiful Pacific women. It was exactly what you'd expect to see at a Hawaiian church (but I wouldn't have actually expected outside of a movie). I listened to my dad singing some during the service, and he really seemed to be enjoying himself, which was cool.

Afterward we came back to the condo and opened presents. I have the Battlestar Galactica miniseries from Kimberly, a very interesting looking book called Escape from China, which is about post-Tiamen China from Mary and my Dad, and a box of delicious loooking See's Candies from Melody. I also apparently have a game on the way from Timewellspent. It'll presumably be at the PO box by the time I get home.

We're going out to Poipu Beach in a bit more than a half an hour, and Kim is going to try snorkeling again. Hopefully this will be more successful than yesterday.
shannon_a: (Default)
And at last, the holidays were over.

Got up this morning and went over to Donald's house around noon. He'd been wanting to do a gettogether for the RPGers for the holidays, and today we did. Unfortunately he didn't touch bases with everyone, and as it turned out neither Eric F. nor Dave P. was available; they were working instead.

In any case, we sat around and played Nobody but Us Chickens, King's Breakfast, and Geschenkt as people showed up, then we dove in to a full game of Cosmic Encounter which took the rest of the early afternoon (and was a bit tedious, as larger CE games can sometimes be).

Donald's real purpose of trying to get everyone together was to celebrate the 15th anniversary of our RPG club--before Eric R. leaves for New Zealand next Spring. He had presents for everyone: extremely nice dice for Eric, our GM of 15 years; very nice dice for Kevin & I, who have each GMed some fair bit; and nice dice for everyone else. My dice are metal (maybe silver plated?) and will definitely be my dice of choice in the future. Very, very sweet of Donald, and we're definitely all going to miss Eric R. when he's gone.

I then had to head home because my dad & step-mom were coming to visit. They showed up at 5 and were able to stay for almost 4 hours before they decided to head home, which was great. We talked a lot, then went to a nice Italian restaurant for dinner, then talked some more. There were also gifts, of course; at my request they'd gotten me a stone-washed shirt from Hawaii to replace my old-one, which has just about disintegrated, and which I'd loved dearly. The new shirt is just about identical: a little darker blue, and a little less stonewashed (which hopefully means it won't distintegrate).

They headed off just a short time ago, and thus the Christmas holidays are officially over. I'm taking tomorrow off (to rest) and then it's back to work.
shannon_a: (games)
The plan today was to follow up Christmas festitivities by going to EndGame for all-day gaming. EndGame does all-day game days on about one Saturday every two months, but today was a special bonus post-Christmas game day, so I of course planned to be there. (The Saturday game days are a bit troublesome since that's my typical RPG day, but this was great.)

Unfortunately I woke up today feeling a bit ill. Some combination of MSG and chocolate from yesterday. I did make it out of the house, but at a bit past 11am, about an hour later than I'd planned.

I packed a huge bag of games to carry with me, because (as with other holiday festivities) I really didn't know how many people would be around. Indeed, things were a bit light, but I still think the gathering maxed out at about 20 or 25 people, though some were just there to play with miniatures.

On the way in I stopped at Comic Relief to buy Powers, vol. 7, and then when I made it in to EndGame I picked up High Bohn Plus, one of the two Bohnanza supplements, thus effectively splitting my money between my favorite two retailers. Comic Relief was having a 2-for-1.5 sale, and there are plenty of other books on my current list, but I decided I'd stick with my plan, and that Rory would get my money eventually anyway. I may well return on Tuesday if I get money from the folks for Christmas (though I bet their sale is over by then; maybe I should wait till New Year's).

I arrived just a tad too late, as seems to be the case when I go in for Game Days, and everyone was already tied up in a game of Aladdin's Dragons which had just gotten started. It's a game that I've been wanting to play, but in retrospective I'm glad I missed it, because it took a bit over 3 hours, which means it must have run pretty slowly.

My first game of the day was Blue Moon, which I got started on when Mike A. arrived. He'd seen Kimberly and me play it, and was enthused. Hopefully he was still enthused after I schooled him at the game. Blue Moon is a game that I increasingly think has a very large amount of skill in it, pretty surprising for a pseudo-CCG where you'd think the random draw would have a big effect. But, the game is balanced just right for you to play through your whole deck, and thus you have to balance your best resources very carefully. I'll have to make sure to play it again with Mike now that he has a better handle on it.

Game two of the day was Ra, which belonged to David G., who had showed up while we blue mooned. This was upon Mike's request. He's played Razzia! at my house, but was eager to play the real thing from my descriptions of it. Either I still don't know how to play Ra right or else David is very good at it. I think he had more points than Mike & I combined (though I did make second for what that's worth.) I feel like there's huge amounts of skill in Ra too, though it all surrounds when to call auctions. I also feel like I understand it, but somehow I always manage to estimate just wrong how to use my suns, what to take, etc. This time around I ended up with the "11" sun in hand at the end of both the 1st and 2nd rounds, which has to be classified as a mistake in most cases. I wouldn't have even made second except Mike had the "13" sun in his hand during each of those rounds.

David G. meanwhile was interested in Carcassonne: The City from my recent review of it, and Mike had brought his new Christmas copy, so we played that next. There was much squabbling over residential areas early between David & Mike, and I managed to grab the placement of the city gate and thus kept the focus all away from my own residential areas. I won, but largely because my two opponents had tired themselves over fighting that initial residential area, and thus never thought to try and invade mine (at least not until the very end).

This first batch of three games of the day showed something rare at Game Days: decisive people saying what they wanted to play. Most cool. In any case, after C:tC, Mike A. had to go home to play Magic: The Gathering with Mike C., and David decided to head off to join in a game of his Betrayal at the House on the Hill. Meanwhile the Alladin's Dragons game had finally come to an end. Chris A. had showed up too, so there was plenty of room for back and forth at selecting a game.

It was Chris A. who suggested Saga. I believe it's one of his favorites. I've grown a bit more frustrated with the game because the back-and-forth caused by people taking over each other's castles (and thus putting cards back into hands) makes it really hard to judge where you are in the game. In any case, Chris & I played along with two people from the AD game who I didn't know, Candy and Helmut. I played strong as I often do, collecting the big-ticket Goldland early on and making sure I had strong defenses everywhere. Toward the late game I grabbed Forestland with the goal of building a big attacking force for bonus points. At the start of the game, when I'd helped explain it, I told everyone that the mistake I *always* make is losing track of when someone is getting low on cards and about to go out. This game I lost track of when Candy was getting low on cards and about to go out. Fortunately I was about 10 or 15 fame ahead or her when she did, and I did have Forestland plus a decent attacking force as planned. I won by a couple of points.

There was more ebb and flow and this point, which always makes me happy because I get to play with different people, and I ended up at the back table with Krishna, his sister Ramia, Eric (who I'd played with last on Wednesday in that abortive Senator game), and a fellow I didn't know named Chris. Since we had 5 I suggested El Grande, which I'd brought. It's one of my favorite games that I don't get to play enough. Chris was warned against taking an early lead, then took an early lead. He got pounded on a bit, though not a lot. I grabbed a couple of majorities, but also built up secondaries and tertiaries where I could. (This is how I typically play the game). I did a really good job of conserving my high power cards during the game, which almost became a problem at end-game because I didn't have enough cards to get people into my court. Nonetheless I managed to push to a big lead after the second scoring round, kept it during the third phase of the game, and won by 10 or 15 points. I believe the final ranking was Me, Krishna, Chris, Eric, and Ramia. I suppose it's worth nothing that only I and Eric had played before. In any case, another good game and I was happy to get to play so many solid strategy games during the day.

By this time it was about 6.15, and EndGame closes at 7pm. I offered up Relationship Tightrope as a short game. There was the usual wrangling because of the awful theme. Eventually everyone agreed to play except Chris, who was heading out anyway. I'm used to offering up RT, convincing people that it's OK to play, and then having them enjoy it. This time, some of the players (particulaly Eric, but also Ramia) were so offended by the RT reward cards that I think it sucked a lot of the enjoyment out of the game for them. We managed to play 3 of the regular 4 rounds before closing time. Eric managed winning with a balanced score on the final round, though he would have won the game anyway. I came in second, mostly due to a terrible second round which I misplayed (besides having bad cards). Yeah, this game does have a lot of randomness in it, but at the same time it's one where it feels like every decision is important and you have good control over it; that's what I like in a game. It's worth noting that there was also scoffing at the inability of a single couple to play a game of Relationship Tightrope and the fact that there are no team rules. Feh. Good game, bad theme I'll continue to say, though I'm amazed how much that theme spoils things for players.

By now it was time to go home. I found it drizzling when I got out and genuinely raining by the time I'd gotten to Berkeley and eaten dinner (at McDonalds; I was hungry because I hadn't yet eaten due to the ill feelings in the morning). I wasn't quite drenched, but at least bedraggled by the time I got home. Tired too; the bag of games had gotten very heavy.

The cats were very happy to see me.

Tomorrow: yet more Christmas festivities, this time with gaming friends at Donald's house, to be followed by a rush home to meet the parents.

Aren't the holidays nice and restful?
shannon_a: (Default)
Today, we got the fire going. Which, really, is to say that Kimberly did. She stacked the logs up in a different manner, which gave them more space, and we stuffed paper thereunder, and everything worked great. It's still going now, about three and a half hours later, though the logs are mostly burned through.

Our TV show of the day was Dead Like Me, two more episodes, one over lunch, one after we got the fire going this evening. These were episodes 2+3. It continues to be a clever show with good characterization, though it doesn't thrill me like a lot of the other cable shows have. Still, funny and worth watching.

Our game of the day was Carcassonne, which we played in the early day, before movies. Kimberly won. She thought she was losing most of the game.

Our movie of the day was The Incredibles. A bit slow at the start, but gaining steam as soon as the Fantastic FourIncredibles all come together at the end. Fortunately by that point the couple sitting behind us who had been stupid enough to bring their 9-month old baby had been forced out of the theatre.

The Chinese food of the day was pot stickers, spring rolls, veggie mu shu, and shrimp. The pot stickers & spring rolls were utterly conquered, while the rest now resides in our refrigerator.

Tomorrow: more holiday experiences, this time involving gaming!

Thanks

Dec. 25th, 2004 08:36 pm
shannon_a: (Default)
To the anonymous donor who gave me 6 months of paid time.

Merry Christmas!
shannon_a: (Default)
Kimberly is always antsy to open Christmas presents early, and thus we've arrived at the compromise of opening them on Christmas Eve. Which is fine for me, as I've never been too big on the whole anticipation-ridden night before Christmas thing, which gave me many an insomniac night growing up. Thus, tonight was Christmas present opening night.

Before opening the presents, however, we decided to try and start a fire. We've had the fireplace working for several months now, but have never actually had a fire due to a lack of fireplace implements. But, it's been cold lately, and I knew we were going to be around the house for the evening, so we gave it a shot. We've had some logs hidden away in our fireplace cubby pretty much since we bought the house, so we laid a couple of them back in our (very shallow) fireplace, and put down some paper to get things started, and lit it all.

The paper burned quite well. The cats were interested & it was warm. The logs never really got burning, however. Really, this wasn't all a surprise. We need to get some fireplace implements (which I suspect we will next week) so that we can easily rearrange things, and some kindling would have helped too. Beyond that, the logs were too big for our shallow fireplace (probably originally intended for coal burning). But, we got to see that the chimney actually draws right now, and we got to enjoy open heat from burning papers for a bit, so it was good. And, we now have the start of the bed of ashes that our fireplace-guy said the fireplace should have. And we have a better idea for how to get a fire going next time.

After about half-an-hour of fireplace hijinx we then moved on to present openings. We pretty much had stockings, a box from Michael A. & Katherine, and a pile of stuff from Kimberly's mother. Pretty standard for Christmas, though usually Kimberly & I would have exchanged some presents too, except for budgetary concerns this year. (My dad's family will be up in a couple of days, and I haven't spoken much with my mom in two years, since a typical and overly controlling attempt to make us drop all of our Christmas plans that year.)

Stocking was good. Kimberly kept apologizing for how little there was there, and I don't know what she thought I was expecting. Gold bullion maybe? There was candy, including some very nice dark chocolate and lots of gummy, and socks and a cute little information book on comic books, mostly superheroes.

The present from Katherine & Michael was a CD burner, which will help for backups.

And then it was an hour worth of present opening from Kimberly's ma. I got a couple of DVDs, including Magnolia (which I've been wanting to see again for years), Memento, and High Fidelity. All good stuff, though I'm struck by the fact that they're all from 1999-2001 or so; nothing much as made me go "ohhh" in the same way in the last couple of years.

Kimberly got piles of DVDs, including a Pride & Prejudice that made her very happy and nearly a half-dozen books about Jane Austen.

The hit of the present opening (for me at least) was the presents that Kimberly's ma got for the cats. There were a variety of rolling and catnip toys as well as a brush and some cat treats. They were all big hits. Cobweb in particular was totally spazzing out over the toys, biting them, batting them, chasing them about, flinging them about, and generally having a grand 'ole time.

Christmas. We do it for the cats.

Cat Porn Cut )

Afterward, more traditional Christmas Eve activities: we watched the last two eps of season one of The Wire; Kimberly did dishes; I did laundry; and we played a game of Blue Moon.

Tomorrow it's the traditional secular Christmas celebration: movies and Chinese food. Stay tuned.
shannon_a: (Default)
My parents were divorced when I was very young. I'm no longer sure of the exact date, but sometime in my grade school years.

As a result, I was brought up with the tradition of the eternally bifurcated Christmas. Inevitably I spent Christmas Eve as my mother's house--because she insisted that I be there for Christmas morning--and then rushed off to my father's house midday, where I spent Christmas evening and the next day.

It was all centered around an economy of guilt. Who I spent time with, and how much, was always a big deal, though I think that pressure mainly came from the maternal side of the family.

And, to be honest, that's a pretty good description of Christmas in general in this country. It's all about visiting relatives, because that's what's expected, and buying gifts for people, because you might receive gifts from them--and in any case society is telling you that you must. How many doilies and fruitcakes were bought for Christmas, only to be thrown out? The economy of waste goes hand-in-hand with the economy of guilt in this country.

And, sure, there's some genuine holiday cheer this time of year. Some genuine love and affection. But I think that's in spite of the messages that our society sends, not because of them.

This morning I finally got in touch with my mother with regard to our holiday plans. We'd been playing phone tag for a couple of days, but I wasn't too concerned. They're only about 60 miles south of us, and we had a couple of weeks of pseudo-holiday and vacation to get together.

My mother, on the other hand, had already made plans and was just waiting for Kimberly and myself to rubberstamp them. We would be down there for Christmas. And dinner. And to stay the night. They'd already made all the preparations.

And when I told her that Kimberly and I already had plans for a nice, calm, romantic Christmas together, she derided those plans, which included going for a long walk to see The Two Towers, and told me that I better think seriously about how important family is.

Of course I have to wonder how important family is for her, given that she wasn't willing to acccept any of the alternatives I suggested. For the rest of the week, they were working or going to dog shows, or god knows what else. There was only one day that we could possibly go down there, and that was Christmas. And she made it pretty clear that we should feel quite obligated to do so given that we hadn't seen them at Thanksgiving, or really at all during the last (hard) year.

If my mom was trying to make me feel guilty, and it sure sounded like it, she failed. She just made me feel very angry. Angry that she had no respect for my life, friends, and family up here in Berkeley. Angry that she still isn't willing to treat me as an adult, something that I thought we'd worked out 14 years ago when I moved up to Berkeley. Angry that our holiday plans had to revolve around her, and that none of the alternatives I suggested were acceptable to her. Angry that I'm not considered to have a family of my own because I don't have children.

I don't need to think seriously about how important family is. It is important, and it's right here in my house, in Berkeley. My wife and my two cats. We're going to celebrate the holidays our way, and if my mother tries to compete with that, she's going to lose. In fact, she just did.

I hung up on my mother after getting increasingly angry about her lack of respect for me as a person. If she's able to understand, someday, that my life doesn't revolve around her anymore, that my holidays plans don't revolve around her, and I'm not willing to succumb to her guilt trips, I'll be willing to talk. But for the next couple of days at least, my phone is off the hook.

I'm just sorry I'm not going to get to see my brothers or step-father, who all do still center their lives around that household.

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