Sunday, December 30, 2007

2008: The Virgo Outlook

Depending on who you ask, 2008 is either going to suck or be fabulous for Virgos, of which I am one. Good thing horoscopes are all based on the notion that the heavenly bodies revolve around the Earth, right?

OK, I'm a little nervous.

The stars as they align for suggest I might have a stormy January with my boss. We've been on pretty easy seas of late. He didn't even flinch when I floated the idea of advertising a serious medical conference with a parody of the Operation Game. It got shot down by the internal client.

He's even over the Sinus Envy incident, so I hope there are not, uh, creative differences on the horizon.

Uranus is in the HOUSE!
eAstrolog suggests that what with Uranus in my house of marriage I need to tread lightly on that front, and Pluto could really exacerbate the situation. Does it matter that it's not a planet any more? forecasts a friendlier 2008 for we Virgos and notes, we are not very talkative and stand away from the crowd. That seems to fit me about like my INFJ profile from the nice folks at Myers-Briggs.

ILI's forecast continues: " Virgos live in the real world. They neither day­dream, nor wish on stars." Gotta love that irony! ;-)

Maybe given eAstrolog's prediction of marriage tumult I should go against ILI's suggestion of Virgo's: "You won't see them shouting 'I Love You' from the rooftop.'" Christine might appreciate that gesture. She's been asking for an inspection of the gutters anyway, so I'll have the ladder out soon.

Maybe's prediction is the one I should go with: "The focus for Virgo, this year, is on developing creative endeavors to better serve mankind as a whole. "

I can get behind that, and their suggestion that I'll flourish with beauty and creativity.

Maybe you chart your course not by the influence of the stars but by the application of your own imagination and determination.

I think that's how I'll focus on 2008 since I can't really control which house Jupiter is in or anything.

(Clipart from: Astrology Weekly)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Intruders

One of the good things about holiday down time is getting caught up on some reading. I sat up until I finished Michael Marshall's The Intruders last night. It was not an arduous task because it is an engrossing book, similar in flavor to the author's Straw Men trilogy yet filled with its own twists and thrills.

Like The Straw Men, The Upright Man and Blood of Angels, the tale revolves around a first-person narrator who is struggling to unravel a complex conspiracy linked to a loved one.

In this case it's Jack Whalen, a cop turned writer who's settled into a seemingly blissful existence in a small Pacific Northwestern town. It provides him a nice place to write while his wife, an ad agency trouble shooter, commutes to cities where her services are required.

Meanwhile, triggered by events that are a bit foggy, a young girl named Madison begins a strange odyssey through Portland's mean streets and beyond.

Whalen is approached by an old school friend to investigate a strange double murder in Seattle, but he turns down the opportunity only to be dragged in when Amy, his wife, loses her cell phone and he discovers she's not staying the hotel in Seattle where he though she was registered.

Strange events swirl together and Jack gradually begins to uncover a shadowy group linked to his wife. To say more would spoil the fun, but suffice it to say it's more than just a conventional suspense thriller.

The solution may not be totally new territory, but it's handled with the same deft touch that kept me reading through the entire Straw Men experience, and that provides the same rewarding experience again.

I'll be waiting for the next Michael Marshall book for sure.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

The last of the holiday errands are run.

I just poured some Peet's holiday blend from the French press. We picked it up up in Portland for the season.

I've got the fabulous British "Idol" discovery Paul Potts' "O Holy Night" at the top of my iPod playlist, along with a cool Jill Sobule song Cliff gifted me last year, and I'm kicking back for the holiday, so a happy one to all my friends.

The goofiest holiday movie I could find was "Snowglobe" from ABC family so that's what I'll be enjoying this afternoon while Christine and I make this gelatin salad that has to set before tomorrow and somewhere in there I'll be dozing off. Good times.

Feliz Navidad Joyeux Noel Gezur Krislinjden Vesele Vanoce Shub Naya Baras Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou! Sung Tan Chuk Ha Maligayamg Pasko. Masaganang Bagong Taon Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Please Know I'm Not Greener than Thou

I mean to talk in this corner of cyberspace about what I'm trying to do on many fronts, but I know I'm a long way from even developing a green cast to my skin in that area of thought and endeavor.

They make environmentally friendly bulbs, so our Christmas bulbs ain't helping my carbon footprint be smaller than Sasquatch's and my product choices are frequently inconsiderate of fair trade or environmental impact.

My requested gifts aren't even that green.

Green is just one of the things I'm contemplating and working toward in as informed and positive way as I can.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Season of the Green

I got a Christmas card from an old friend who told me she's been keeping up with me by the blog. Again, you just can't measure the benefits.

"I read your post on shopping bags," she added. "It made you sound greener than Kermit."

Made me smile.

Not so green
I'm not of course. Christine--who's giving away two boxes of foam peanuts this morning in some recycling cult she's become involved in--noted that we have two cars, partly out of convenience, which means we lose any green bragging rights, right there. (Sentence amended for clarification 12/23 .)

But it was also Christine who observed a bit of a remedy to the sadness about commercialism lamented endlessly as this holiday season seeps slowly away.

Bill's journal again
We were watching Bill Moyers Journal again, y'see, the same guy who prompted me to post observations about

He had on Dr. Benjamin Barber, author of Consumed, who had a lot to say about the dangers of a debtor culture driven to 4 a.m. pre-Christmas sales at Wal-Mart.

Maybe it was the Third World
Among other interesting things about the free market and the Third World, he said capitalists must get back to being capitalists of old - taking risks and meeting human needs to earn their profits.

He cited Life Straw®, as a company that's done just that, earning a fortune selling $2 drinking filters that save Third World people from river blindness.

And consumers must be smart consumers, Dr. Barber added, spending dollars wisely:

"We are the gatekeepers for our kids and our families. We have to be tougher."

Oh no, it's the soap box
Spend a dollar on a practical product--Christine noted as we watched--with, say, a company that sells something made by a Guatemalan family business that practices fair trade.

And think twice about dropping a dime at a megastore that lures you out at 2 a.m., pays low wages, provides no health insurance for employees and drives quaint local shops out of business as it fuels a culture of greed and desires that leads to a goodwill gesture making an old lady fear for her life.

I'm not as perfect as I wannabe nor as green. I don't claim to be.

That's just the kind of green I want to be.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas to the Family

At holiday time it's nice to get the whole family together. Herding cats can be a challenge, however.
I snapped this just before Oliver, the cat on the far right, hopped off the sofa. I thought I had a little time because I woke him up to put him there but he had other plans.
Anyway - Merry Christmas from the whole gang, Daisy, Monty, Ash and, of course, Oliver.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Season of Joy

I've tried to imagine it from her side of the story. The cell conversation must have been something like this:

"I'm telling you, Edith, in broad daylight. I was at this intersection, I'd been over to Macy's to pick up some stocking stuffers, and I was trying to turn left and it was impossible. I kept waiting and waiting for traffic to clear but it was noon and there was a lot of traffic.

"Then I look out my window and this CARJACKER is walking up from behind me. From out of nowhere. He was the best dressed carjacker I've ever seen, too. He had on a suit and a tie and cufflinks. Can you believe it? CUFFLINKS! I don't know what he wanted with my car, but before he could get close, I gave up and made a right turn and got out of there."

Here's what really happened as I heard it.

My boss was driving our seventy-something secretary to a battery warehouse to pick up some batteries for I don't know, an erector set for her grandson or something.

They came upon this intersection where an older driver was trying to turn left. Oncoming traffic was horrendous. It is the week before Christmas, and it was the noon hour.

After a few light changes with no progress, he realized she didn't understand that she needed to inch into the intersection and take advantage of a yellow, you know get out there and make 'em wait on you.

After the number of light changes they waited through crept into double digits, and the traffic behind him started to stretch back across the horizon, my boss realized he probably needed to do something.

Since everything was at a standstill, he got of his car to walk up to the woman's driver's side window and politely tell her the tactics she needed to employ.

Taking one look at this guy who was obviously up for membership in a gang of accountants and needing to complete an initiation ritual, she decided obliviously waiting to turn left wasn't so important after all.

I guess it's really kind of sad that in the season of good will, everyone's fear is heightened. That's more dismaying than the ongoing whines about commercialism, though it's the desire for stuff created by the commercialism that drives the negative acts that fuels the mistrust.

Joy to the world.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Some Other Auld Lang Syne - Dan Fogelberg's Gone

I was sad to read of Dan Fogelberg's death when I logged on to this morning. It's selfish of me, of course, but it seems particularly doleful coming at the holiday season.

His "Some Other Auld Lang Syne" has always been a bit of an anthem for absent friends, old romances and otherwise, even though its narrative focuses on bumping into and catching up with an old lover on Christmas Eve.

I was a little late to the table in listening to Fogelberg. He was singer my girlfriends listened to at first, those sweet, sentimental lyrics tugging at their heartstrings.

I bought a best of album in the '80s as friends and I drifted apart and listened a lot to "Some Other Auld Lang Syne" as well as "Leader of the Band" and "Run For the Roses."

His tunes were a big part of the soundtrack of my life.

And now "the snow turns into rain."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ahead of the Christmas Game

We've had years where we didn't get the decorations up until a few days before Christmas. This year I'm a few sleigh-lengths ahead of St. Nick.

I'm not sure why things are going better. Must just be my 'tude and the fact that The Goo Goo Dolls' "Better Days" is coming up on my play list with more frequency than Emmerson, Lake and Palmer's "I Believe in Father Christmas."

Whatever the cause, I had the tree built the weekend after Thanksgiving and we decorated it over a few early December weeknights. A few ornaments here, a few ornaments there until we were finished.

For the first time this year we've also included strings of traditional, opaque C-9s--acquired in an after Christmas clearance to replace last year's transparent C-9s. They didn't feel like the old fashioned Christmas lights that Christine remembered. From the , uh, '70s.

Shine On
We didn't have Christmas lights so much at my house. In 1959, my mom purchased one of those aluminum Christmas trees with a half-life of about 500,000 years that they're talking about in "A Charlie Brown Christmas". It was still in great shape when I came along, and she didn't give it up until about 1975. I think it still looked fine when it was snapped up in the estate sale.

You couldn't put C-9s on an aluminum tree without turning it into an electrical turbine.

But I digress. It's kind of nice to have a tree that looks like the one I used to see on The Waltons Christmas special.

I think, for this year at least, I've finally put into practice a piece of advice that I picked up a few years ago while moderating a Christmas-themed web chat with one of the psychiatrists from my company's mental health hospital. (And by moderating I mean, typing his answers.)

Make your own kind of Christmas
Create your own Christmas traditions, he said. Remember those from your life who have passed on, honor them and enjoy Christmas in your own way.

To that, I added, slow down everything else. Get the tree up early. Watch Charlie Brown the first time it airs and kick back for the ride.

Oh, and shop online to avoid the crowds. I got Christine's presents ordered early enough to sweat out backorder status, and they've almost all arrived.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What's On the iPod? - Slayride

You were expecting something traditional?

It's not brand new, but Chris Grabenstein's Slayride is a great holiday thriller that focuses on a young ad man's clash with a crazed limo driver at holiday time.

Scott Wilkinson, the ad man, is a bit anal about things such as pick up time, and when his complaint leads to the firing of Nicolai Kyznetsoff there's an angry Russian chauffeur to pay.

The novel also introduces Grabenstein's FBI agent hero Christopher Miller who's good at catching criminals but bad at company politics. I can identify with the latter.

Miller's pulled off desk jockey duty and winds up on Kyzentsoff's trail due to another crime, and it's a fast and entertaining ride.

Happily there's now a new Christopher Miller thriller set at Thanksgiving time. It's called Hell for the Holidays.

Grabenstein--a former ad man--is also the author of some restort town mysteries featuring an ex-military cop and his young sidekick - Tilt a Whirl, Mad Mouse and Whack A Mole.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Christmas Tom Cat

I'm not sure if Oliver is trying to suggest to us that he's a gift, or if he just finds the tree skirt to be warm and soft, but this seems to be his favorite spot of late.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Living in Interesting Times

It's supposed to be a curse: "May you live in interesting times."

Apparently the true origins are a bit nebulous, if you believe Wikipedia, though it's reportedly an old Chinese curse.

I thought of it when reading Charles' note that he's happy.

If you look at "interesting" from a negative standpoint, these are certainly interesting times:

  • Sub prime mortgage meltdowns
  • War in Iraq
  • Random shootings in shopping malls.

I suppose "interesting" can be viewed in better ways as well. As year's end approaches, perhaps that's a good thing to contemplate.

I'll take interesting in my personal life.

I don't know that I'm ecstatic, but I get by. Wayne turned me on to the song "Moments" by Emmerson Drive the other day. The chorus suggests: "I've had my moments, days in the sun/Moments I was second to none..."

Can you really hope for more than that?

As long as enough things happen to thwart boredom, I think I'm OK.

I've had a few moments this year, done some cool things from travel to artistic effort. That's the good kind of interesting. Maybe like good cholesterol that offsets the bad.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Izzat You Santy Claus?

This musta been when I was in college or right after, when it sounded like a good idea.

I dated a girl who was a student teacher around then, and she might even have been to blame, though I'm not certain of her guilt in getting me roped into the gig.

Anyway, somehow or other I got tapped to play Santa Claus for an elementary class. Pay was about 20 bucks in 1983 dollars.

Sure, I'd play Santa. Ho, ho, ho and what would you like for Christmas? Spread joy and merriment to the hearts of children. "Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus."

First graders are a bunch cynical little cusses.

I go in dressed in the Santa suit provided and about after oh, 15 seconds, there was a kid saying: "Those aren't real boots."

Then: "That's not a real beard."

I've only encountered one crowd more vicious. That was a local civic club when I was a reporter. I was invited to speak about news writing. I know people hate the news media, but every member had a complaint about either a.) the newspaper's advertising department b.) the circulation department or c.) the editorial page. None of which I had anything to do with.

"Doesn't anyone want to hear about how I interviewed Sesame Street's Grover?"


Being Santa Claus was not unlike being in that lion's den. "You're a fake aren't you?"

"Ho, ho, ho. Santa is real, little boy."

On the flip side of the kids who weren't spotting vulnerabilities in my Santa disguise were the ones with total buy-in. "Do you know Janie Anderson who lives in Denver?"

"The elves help me keep track of those things."

"Do you know Robbie Jones?"

"Sure, why not?"

I heard all the Christmas wish lists and went for the door, made it all the way to the front exit before one of the teachers tracked me down.

Inches away from a clean getaway.

"The kids are enjoying the party so much we'd like you to stay a while longer."

I should have signed up for a gig as Scrooge. It probably would have gone equally as well.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Aliens in the Ad World

My boss has been leading an e-mail discussion at work about the use of Ripley-menacing style aliens in New Mexico tourism ads. It's sort of like the Geiko cavemen in that they're placed in domestic situations, discussing New Mexico as a great getaway.

It kind of makes sense. Roswell, NM, -- aliens.

The ads have generated some controversy, however. Some have claimed, according to what my boss read, that the aliens don't reach the desired older and wealthy demographic.

Older, wealthy people are noted for not having a sense of humor and for not detecting humorous subtleties, after all.

Sarcasm doesn't really come off as well without inflection, does it? Kidding!

The proof, I suppose, will be in the tourism measurements.

I certainly get the message from the commercials and I think I will go to New Mexico and wait for Predators to show up, too. That's going to be a good fight.
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