Monthly Archives: December 2016

An interesting dream/idea

I had an interesting dream last night. I was at a science museum with various family members. One of the items we saw was a windmill that didn’t really rely on wind. 

Its blades were made up of multiple weights on tracks that slipped around as it turned so that the balance was off just enough to make it keep turning. Kind of like the “Wonder Wheel” on Coney Island in terms of the weights tracks, though it keeps itself moving because of gravity.

I’m not much of an engineer, so if anyone wants to play with this idea, have fun, but let me know how it goes!


Why I Hate Christmas.

I don’t admit it often, but from mid-November to Dec. 25th, about once a day I mumble under my breath that I hate Christmas.

Why? The simplest answer is the commercialism.

I know, I know. EVERYONE says that they hate the commercialism of Christmas!

But how many people actually refuse to conform with the commercialism?? Not many! They grumble under their breath as they stand in line to get their kid the “Gotta Have” toy of the season. They lament about the hours they’ll spend in the kitchen baking cookies and cooking the feast.

Sure, they make excuses about keeping the traditions alive, but really the focus is on getting the right gifts and making sure everything is perfect. Think about your own holiday: what would happen if every time you caught yourself complaining about an aspect, you just said “screw it all” and went home to spend time actually playing with your kids and the toys they already have? Served the food already in your pantry?

Here’s the thing: my dad’s family has always had our own “holiday”: Tree Trimming. This was held during a weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, dictated by an aunt who was a nurse in Kentucky who found it easier to take off a random week to travel home to visit during the holiday season.When you think about it, this is true for MOST people–when a company has to be open on Thanksgiving (BLACK FRIDAY) and Christmas (BOXING DAY/MANY HAPPY RETURNS), it’s nearly impossible for the average Joe to actually get home for the holidays. But some random weekend between the two, not a problem! It’s a little awkward for kids in school, but it’s not impossible.

I love Tree Trimming! It’s Christmas, but without the the pressure of presents and perfection. Everyone (local) is expected to show up for at least a little while, because they don’t get the excuse of feeling like they have to celebrate with just their own/other family for the traditional holiday (it’s like “oh, you have to paint your kitchen this weekend? Come on! Grandma wants to see your smiling face!” The purpose of the “holiday” is to decorate Grandma’s house and tree, but most people just come for the company and food.

And the food? Easy stuff. Take out. Leftovers. Nothing fancy. Nothing that has to be timed perfectly. Heck, make the mac-n-cheese the night before, store in the fridge and 20 minutes before dinner time, toss it in the oven–when it’s done, dinner is served. Everything else is expected to be cold or is continuously warmed in a Crock Pot.

Sure. There are gifts. Those really  special ones that someone has been dying all year to see the person open it. The one that is so cool that they want everyone to see it. Not to brag, but because it’s super cute and fun and everyone wants to ooh and ahh (because everyone in the family has their own “thing” and who can be jealous when their thing is pigs and the gift in question is a hilarious goat ornament).

My dad’s family has always been thoughtful with gifts–my grandma and I assume most of the aunts (AKA the primary shoppers) are the type that shop literally all year long, browsing all kinds of random little stores looking for nifty little things perfect for someone. Some of my relatives get a huge haul (because there are lots of cute items of their “thing”) while others get just a couple items. But you can be sure that you’re not going to get a gift just because someone feels obligated to give you a gift…sort of.

I’m the one who feels obligated to give gifts. But I don’t have much disposable income because I’d love to buy a house. So my thing is to make my presents and I tend to give everyone the same type of gift, but try to make it personalized…depending on the gift and how possible that is. Some years the gift is more special than others. This year I made glass magnets and while they’re cute, they’re not particularly special in my opinion.

Anyway, I’m not complaining that I feel like I’m not giving enough to warrant presents. I’m complaining that I don’t really want to get ANY presents. Any my reasoning is pretty good, in my opinion.

Here’s the thing: my mom goes completely insanely overboard when it comes to gift giving and it really has come to the point that it just pisses me off. I don’t make it a secret with her that I don’t want any gifts, but she doesn’t listen at all. It’s like she thinks I’m being polite when I say “keep the crap”, even as I’m in tears screaming “I hate Christmas!” (true story of the last few Christmas’ when I lived at home). Sure, I dutifully opened the gifts, but after the 3rd INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED HAND TOWEL (out of a set), I was just ripping off paper while the tears flowed. And then my mom would have the nerve to be upset at me and my brother for not being exuberant over the crap.

Yes. I do mean crap. We had 5 people living in a 900 sq ft, 2 bedroom, 1 bath house and even though we could barely move from one room to another without a pile of something falling over, she insisted on buying new towels for everyone every year. And they were always the cheap towels that don’t actually dry anything, to be added to the pile and constantly picked up. Her shopping obsession is such that she doesn’t like to spend a lot of money at any one store, but she’ll go to the same Walmart 3 times in one day spending $30 each time. So instead of buying nice stuff, she buys lots and lots of cheap stuff that doesn’t last and sometimes doesn’t even work as advertised.

Some years I have tried reasoning with her, buy asking for ONE specific item I wanted and insisting that I didn’t need anything else. It didn’t work. One year it was having my college diploma framed and she spent a god awful amount of money on it, it’s got a 4 inch mat when the diploma started out at 12×18 (so it’s flippin’ HUGE), and I had asked her to discreetly put it into my car (it didn’t need to be wrapped) since I wasn’t living at home and we’d be meeting up at Grandma’s to exchange presents. I didn’t think she needed to see me open it since I certainly knew what my diploma looked like before it was framed and figured she wouldn’t screw it up too badly. Instead, for whatever reason, she needed my Grandma’s help wrapping it and suddenly it was a “thing”. Like, there were pictures taken and I was embarrassed because the thing is HUGE (like Trump getting his portrait done HUGE). So we started off on a sour note and then she started handing me and my husband more gifts (even though I’d asked for nothing else) and I was like “nope!” and stuck them in my car unopened.

Our new normal (at least for last year and this year) is me giving her instructions to give me any gift she wants to see my face when I open it at Grandmas to me and to discreetly put all the rest of the crap in my car and I’ll open it at home. Last year after the third item that was obviously not special (one of those wonderful items that make the recipients eyes light up and they grin from ear to ear–the presents people WANT to receive), I told her I was done and dumped them into another gift bag unopened and refused to open anything else she gave me). I expect I’ll run into the same issue this year.

I’ve voiced my rants over my mom’s ability to ruin Christmas and often I’m told “well, you should just smile and say thank you.” Yeah…I’m a person. An individual. I do NOT exist to stroke the egos of others at the expense of my own happiness. I know that receiving a literal pile of crap that I don’t want does NOT make me happy, especially when I know that my parents’ house should be condemned and that the reason for that is because  my dad can’t afford repairs because he’s paying off my mom’s credit card debt. The woman needs a therapist, not a coddler. Why can’t she be the bigger person (instead of me) and respect the words that come out of my mouth? Why should I be the one to sacrifice MY happiness for her. I’d rather we both be miserable instead of just me if I continue to cow tow to her mental illness.

Maybe next year I’ll get all my presents together from my mom and have her sit in front of all my dad’s family and have EVERYONE watch while I open up all the crap. But that’d embarrass me, too, which I hate to do.

I know, I know. All ya’ll are going to be like “Hey, I realize you’ve got some serious Mommy Issues, but it’s obvious that your dad’s family is doing it right, so why don’t you just ignore your mom and embrace Christmas for the good parts. Life will be different when you have your own kids…”

Alright folks who feel that way: here’s something I heard a loving mom say during a Christmas Party earlier today: “If I haven’t gotten it yet, it’ll have to wait until next year.”

Seriously? Like, here’s the thing about presents–when I want to buy something for someone, I don’t want to feel obligated to literally sit on it for months in order to make Christmas special. On the flip side, when I really want something, I will buy it for myself rather than try in vane to explain to someone EXACTLY what I want them to buy me and then have to wait impatiently to get the item I’ve already asked because I can’t buy it myself tomorrow or else I’ll have two.

One of my coworkers showed me the Christmas lists written by two of her grandchildren. Her grandson had included item codes and prices! He even had a grand total. I don’t know about you, but I want to have a relationship with my children to where they feel comfortable enough to tell me in July that they want a particular item and that we’ll figure out the best way for them to get that item. I HATE surprises, but when someone is giving me a gift, I don’t want to tell them what to buy me (right down the the MSRP)!

And waiting for Christmas to give that big surprise usually backfires in one of 2 ways.

In the first case, your kid feels unloved for as much as a year because they get told all year long that they’re not good enough to get the bike/roller skates/doll NOW. I assure you that at some point this lie is given whenever the kid starts begging for that bike: “Maybe you’ll get it for Christmas” when you know damn well that you’re going to give the kid the bike for Christmas. When the reason for the delay in giving your child a gift that you know that you’ll give them anyway is MONEY, why not take this as an opportunity to explain finances to your child instead of dropping the C-bomb?

The second way waiting for Christmas backfires is when someone else buys the big surprise gift and suddenly you’re stuck with the duplicate. This happened to that coworker with the grandkids. She bought them cell phones (their first) ready to be given for Christmas, BUT their dad to give them cellphones first (she’d told her daughter of the gift, but I assume that their dad isn’t in the picture very often, so he either didn’t get the message, or didn’t care). So, months of planning ruined because of the expectation that gifts must be saved for Dec. 25th. Is a gift really that much more special when it’s given on Dec. 25th instead of Sept. 19th?

So, is there anything about Christmas worth saving? Sure. I’ve already described Tree Trimming. Honestly, when I have children, the holidays will be all about family. We’ll decorate the house and tree together, make cookies, watch the classic Christmas movies and listen to the best Christmas songs. But tons of presents? Probably not. A single present? Maybe? It’d probably be something the kid didn’t even know they wanted; something to get them interested in something new. A gift that it’s perfectly acceptable for them to use once (or never) and pass it along to someone else.

Have I mentioned that I’m a shameless re-gifter? Like, I love giving away stuff I get that I think someone else will enjoy more than I will! But I’m totally honest that the item was something originally given to me by someone else.

Anyway, I guess the point of this rant is that I don’t want people to feel that they HAVE to conform. Christmas, like everything else, is what you make of it. And if what you’re doing doesn’t make you feel happy, you’re probably doing it wrong. So feel free to do whatever you want.

But if your kid says she doesn’t want anything for Christmas, respect that.

The Economy of a Timecard. Or: How to create 100,000+ jobs literally overnight.

So, I work at a small print shop. Print shops are a dying breed and as much as I love my job, I am not stupid enough to believe that I my job will exist when I reach retirement age in 40 years or so.

As I work, I like to think about the future of every job we do. Why is the Certain Bank ordering more and more paper bank statement blanks when people are constantly turning to electronic banking (I think they’re nuts, myself, but that’s another discussion that can’t be had publicly)? Is another company using more or less of their invoice blanks? Are the shipyards using more or less timecards?

It’s the timecards that I find the most fascinating because it seems like they’d save so much money if they switched to electronic payroll options. There are a lot of jobs associated with timecards:

There are the people who make the paper. The folks like me who print them (well, I do the bindery). And then there are the people in payroll who handle the information on those timecards. At least one of our customers uses DAILY timecards that gather information on the tasks performed as well as the times punched. That means that they probably need a half dozen people just to deal with the information on those cards everyday. That’s a lot of people who will be out of a job if the company decides to switch to electronic timecards.

So. If Donald Trump wants to miraculously create 100,000 jobs the day after his inauguration, all he has to do is mandate that all companies switch to paper timecards.

But, this isn’t a very PRODUCTIVE way to create jobs. And I don’t suggest that he do this! I think it’s a very stupid idea. But, as we think about the US economy, I think it’s important to consider the basic realities of the economy. Like, why are certain jobs disappearing? And is that okay?

Early American Policing:

The Thieves of Threadneedle Street: The Incredible True Story of the American Forgers Who Nearly Broke the Bank of England” by Nicholas Booth –

“across the United States was a patchwork quilt of localised detectives who were either overwhelmed or incompetent. Their sights were never set much higher than the next county line. There was neither a national police force nor any central, federal repository of information. A simple check with records in other cities would have flagged the Bidwells up so much sooner. ‘The police authority throughout the country at this time was purely a local matter’, is how one academic review succinctly summarises the situation. Unless a crime was committed against the public mails or committed on the high seas, the federal government could not do a thing.”

Start reading this book for free:

Crime is worse today than ever before?

The Thieves of Threadneedle Street: The Incredible True Story of the American Forgers Who Nearly Broke the Bank of England” by Nicholas Booth –

“The Windy City in the 1860s was the sort of town where you could not help becoming involved in crime. ‘If the Angel Gabriel came to Chicago,’ an appalled evangelist remarked at the time, ‘he would lose his character.’ Though lawlessness characterised much of the contemporary American experience, nowhere was it quite as acute as on the shores of Lake Michigan and the self-styled ‘gem of the prairie’. ‘Chicago’s ecological position as the gateway to the unsettled lands of the west also contributed to its involvement in crime,’ notes one professor of modern jurisprudence in the city. It was the start – both figuratively and literally – of the ‘Wild West’.”

Start reading this book for free: