Holiday reviews

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks here at SHQ. I’ve been catching up on things that might have been neglected for a while earlier in the month, such as shaving and reading for fun. So here are a few reviews of holiday pastimes.

  • 13-hour drives to see family for Christmas: Mixed. That’s a long time to spend in the car, especially on the way home when that unsettling noise from the engine keeps getting louder.
  • Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman: Favorable. The audiobook version of this, which until a day or so ago was entirely free at iTMS, carried me through a good 6-hour chunk of drive time. It’s read by Hodgman, and is lots of fun, even though it tends to get a little overly cute now and then. It’s sufficiently nerdy for anyone likely to be reading this review, containing both extended histories of the Hobo Wars as well as a section on Noteworthy Rivalries in Dungeons and Dragons.
  • Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe: Mixed. I’ve read somewhere, perhaps on the back of the book, that this was one of the best fantasy novels Of Our Time. The story strikes me as pretty interesting, and Wolfe has invented a fairly fully-realized world, but every one in a while I find myself rolling my eyes at the language (“He sighed, the kind of wheezing a leather pillow sometimes makes when one sits on it.” Or, “She picked up a leek, and then as if she did not know what else to do with it she dropped it down her throat like a mountebank swallowing a viper.”); I’m also not at all sure that I buy the motivation of the boy-torturer’s imminent treachery (again, it’s on the back cover, and the set-up is made in the first ten pages of the book).
  • Spritz cookies: Favorable. Mmm, cookies.
  • Those damnable meringue cookies: Unfavorable. Who likes these terrible things?
  • Snow: Favorable. Except when it forces me to drive unexpectedly for 13 hours.
  • Deadwood, season 2: Favorable. Good stuff. Season 2 really takes off.
  • Blood Diamond: Favorable. I have a hard time taking Leonardo DiCaprio seriously, but this is a pretty well-made fim, though one that is occasionally needlessly preachy.
  • Jennifer Connelly in Blood Diamond: Favorable, even though the movie doesn’t give her a whole lot to do. If you like John Hodgman’s reference to Noteworthy Rivalries in Dungeons and Dragons, you’ve probably had a crush on her ever since Labyrinth.
  • $50 auto parts machined into $800 auto parts: Unfavorable. Damn you, Subaru.
  • Kale: Favorable. Adds flavor and texture to any winter-time soup.

Around the place

My sister thinks this must be a rabbit with little ears.

Fatty McFat Fat Squirrel


And the holiday agave stalk is all decorated:



From a survey of holiday spending in the state:

Pollster Bruce Merrill reports that 18 percent of Arizona Republicans he questioned earlier this month say they intend to spend more on holiday gifts this year than they did a year ago.

By contrast, Merrill said Tuesday that only 10 percent of Democrats — and 11 percent of independents — are planning to increase holiday spending.

Okay, that’s interesting. I wonder what explains the difference?

One possibility, said Merrill, is related to the fact that the Democrats are taking control of Congress.

“There’s a lot of discussion coming out of Washington that a lot of the tax cuts are not going to hold on higher socio-economic people,” he said.


“So maybe Republicans are figuring we’d better spend our money while we’ve got it,” he said.

That just doesn’t strike me as a plausible explanation. If foreward-thinking wealthy Rs are anticipating losing their tax cuts, surely they’re forward-thinking enough to understand that the IRS doesn’t care that they spent the money on Christmas gifts?

I would think that one of these are more reasonable mechanisms:

  • If you really want to go the tax-cut route, did Rs receive greater proportions of the cuts this year, and as a result are more inclined to increase their spending?
  • Rs feel better about the economy?
  • Rs are disproportionately into the super-duper expensive model of the PS3?

To really tell the story, we ought to know if the spending difference is really uncharacteristic. This story from ABC news discusses 2005 holiday spending, but has no breakdown by political party.

Christmas vacation 2005 ski index

Trips to the cross-country ski park: 3
Miles of groomed trail: 15
Dogs that love snow: 2

Trips to the Basin: 1
Price in dollars of an adult day pass: 58
Sticker shock: +1

Inches of fresh powder last Tuesday: 12
Sidecut, in mm, of the K2 Super Stinx: 16
Sweet tele turns made: Lots
Days of aching, crippled quadriceps: 4

Inches of snow in Flagstaff: 0

Big Kris in a small pond

(Or, Alpine Style, Revisited) Via E. Wesp at Printculture comes a lovely holiday anecdote about the competition for Santa of the Year. It turns out that you can in fact get points for falling out of one’s sleigh:

“You go up two at a time, head-to-head,” [British Father Christmas Ron Horniblew] told The Mail on Sunday. “I was up against the Estonian and I won the race. He actually fell off his sleigh. But he got awarded extra points for falling in a particularly Santa-like style.

I do wonder what that looks like, and if there is a standard scoring system for Santa tumbles. Shaking like a bowl full of jelly? Check. A wink and a nod? Check.

Wesp includes a couple of valuable holiday tips: “Be happy that consumerism has a different name than the birth of your redeemer,” and “Stop shoveling snow if you start vomiting”—good to know.

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