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Party time…

January 24, 1997

The other day at an office party a fellow Freethinker happened to mention that we never have office parties of the kind you see in movies–the sort of parties where you REALLY get to know the people you work with. Well…maybe it’s better that things aren’t like the movies. After all, there are some pretty strange comments flying around even the current dull and boring office parties. Here are a few things I happened to overhear at the last one:

"How would you like to work on my large database?"
"Have you met —-‘s monkey?"
"I never get out of my office."
"Is this crap homemade?"
"No, this is storebought crap."

This kind of witty repartee is the exception to the rule, though. Mostly it’s a lot of shop talk, and if the punch were spiked, it would be teary, broken, confessional shop talk. People confessing a deep and profound love for their computer terminals, supply managers telling gruesome tales of paperclip and post-it-note misuse, administrators yelling out the REAL reason no one got raises last year…As funny as some of it would be, I can’t help thinking that maybe it’s better that no one spikes the punch. When you work side-by-side with someone for forty hours a week, there are some things you just shouldn’t know.

And now for the weather:

+50 / +10 (Fahrenheit / Celsius)
* New York tenants try to turn on the heat
* People from Ontario plant gardens

+40 / +4
* Californians shiver uncontrollably
* Albertans sunbathe

+35 / +2
* Italian cars don’t start

+32 / 0
* Distilled water freezes

+30 / -1
* You can see your breath
* You plan a vacation in Florida
* Politicians begin to worry about the homeless
* Manitobans eat ice cream

+25 / -4
* Lake Ontario water freezes
* Californians weep pitiably
* Cat insists on sleeping on your bed

+20 / -7
* New York water freezes
* San Franciscans start thinking favorably of L.A.
* Green Bay Packers fans put on T-shirts

+15 / -10
* You plan a vacation in Acapulco
* Cat insists on sleeping IN your bed with you
* B.C. residents go swimming

+10 / -12
* Politicians begin to talk about the homeless
* Too cold to snow
* You need jumper cables to get the car going

0 / -18
* New York landlords turn on the heat
* Newfoundlanders grill hot dogs on the patio, yum!

-5 / -21
* You can HEAR your breath
* You plan a vacation in Hawaii

-10 / -23
* American cars don’t start
* Too cold to skate

-15 / -26
* You can cut your breath and use it to build an igloo
* People from Miami cease to exist
* Canadians lick flagpoles

-20 / -29
* Politicians actually do something about the homeless
* People in NWT and Yukon think about taking down screens

-25 / -32
* Too cold to kiss
* You need jumper cables to get the driver going
* Japanese cars don’t start
* Ottawa Rough Riders head for spring training

-30 / -34
* You plan a two-week hot bath
* Pilsener freezes
* Bock beer production begins
* NWT residents shovel snow off roof

-38 / -39
* Mercury freezes
* Too cold to think
* Canadians do up their top button

-40 / -40
* Californians disappear
* Your CAR insists on sleeping in your bed with you
* Quebecers put on sweaters

-50 / -46
* Congressional hot air freezes
* Alaskans close the bathroom window
* Green Bay Packers practice indoors

-60 / -51
* Walruses abandon Aleutians
* Sign on Mount St. Helens: "Closed for the Season"
* Ontarians put gloves away, take out mittens
* Boy Scouts in Saskatchewan start Klondike Derby

-70 / -57
* Glaciers in Central Park
* Hudson residents replace diving boards with hockey nets
* Green Bay snowmobilers organize trans-lake race to Sault Ste. Marie

-80 / -62
* Polar bears abandon Baffin Island
* Girl Scouts in Saskatchewan start Klondike Derby

-90 / -68
* Edge of Antarctica reaches Rio de Janeiro
* Lawyers chase ambulances for no more than 10 miles
* Ontarians migrate to New York thinking it MUST be warmer south of
the border

-100 / -73
* Santa Claus abandons North Pole
* Canadians pull down earflaps

-173 / -114
* Ethyl alcohol freezes

-297 / -183
* Oxygen precipitates out of atmosphere
* Microbial life survives only on dairy products

-445 / -265
* Superconductivity

-452 / -269
* Helium becomes a liquid

-454 / -270
* Hell freezes over

-456 /-271
* Quebec drivers drop below 150 KPH on 400 series highways

-458 / -272
* Jean Cretien renounces a campaign contribution

-460 / -273 (Absolute Zero)
* All atomic motion ceases
* Canadians start saying how it’s a tad nippy outside


January 17, 1997

Winter has finally arrived in Nashville, so lately I’ve spent a lot of time watching the Weather Channel, and listening to weather reports on the news, just so I know what’s not going to happen during the course of the day. I think all this is starting to really affect me, though–I’m actually starting to find these weather reports interesting. I had to slap myself awake the other night because I was mesmerized by those little H’s and L’s buzzing across the screen. As my last defense against completely losing my mind in a cold front, I started thinking of ways to make the weather more interesting. With all those graphics they have, the weather isn’t far off from being more than a giant video game. People by the millions would tune in to hear updates about Ralph the intern and Lisa the anchor blasting each other with hurricanes, gale force winds, and tornadoes. It would be a lot more interesting than what’s really going on. The problem is it would upset too many people. There would be bets on where the next tornado would touch down, there would be under-the-table payments for rain to wash out baseball games, and schoolkids would flood the office with mail begging for snow. Maybe it’s better just to leave it alone. Besides, there’s something reassuring about the weather report. It does my ego a little bit of good to know that, even if I can’t predict the weather, neither can anyone else.

Enjoy this week’s offering.

From a newspaper contest where entrants were asked to imitate "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey."


My young son asked me what happens after we die. I told him we get buried under a bunch of dirt and worms eat our bodies. I guess I should have told him the truth–that most of us go to Hell and burn eternally–but I didn’t want to upset him.

It sure would be nice if we got a day off for the president’s birthday, like they do for the queen. Of course, then we would have a lot of people voting for a candidate born on July 3 or December 26, just for the long weekends.

Democracy is a beautiful thing, except for that part about letting just any old yokel vote.

Home is where the house is.

Often, when I am reading a good book, I stop and thank my teacher. That is, I used to, until she got an unlisted number.

As you make your way through this hectic world of ours, set aside a few minutes each day. At the end of the year, you’ll have a couple of days saved up.

It would be terrible if the Red Cross Bloodmobile got into an accident. No, wait. That would be good because if anyone needed it, the blood would be right there.

Give me the strength to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I cannot, and a great big bag of money.

The people who think Tiny Tim is strange are the same ones who think it odd that I drive without pants.

For centuries, people thought the moon was made of green cheese. Then the astronauts found that the moon is really a big hard rock. That’s what happens to cheese when you leave it out.

Think of the biggest number you can. Now add five. Then, imagine if you had that many Twinkies. Wow, that’s five more than the biggest number you could come up with!

I bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween.

The only stupid question is the one that is never asked, except maybe "Don’t you think it is about time you audited my return?" or "Isn’t is morally wrong to give me a warning when, in fact, I was speeding?"

Once, I wept for I had no shoes. Then I came upon a man who had no feet. So I took his shoes. I mean, it’s not like he really needed them, right?

When I go to heaven, I want to see my grandpa again. But he better have lost the nose hair and the old-man smell.

I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don’t have any clean laundry because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?

I often wonder how come John Tesh isn’t as popular a singer as some people think he should be. Then, I remember it’s because he sucks.

Whenever I start getting sad about where I am in my life, I think about the last words of my favorite uncle: "A truck!"

If you really want to impress people with your computer literacy, add the words "dot com" to the end of everything you say, dot com.

I like to go down to the dog pound and pretend that I’ve found my dog. Then I tell them to kill it anyway because I already gave away all of his stuff. Dog people sure don’t have a sense of humor.


I don’t know about you, but I enjoy watching paint dry. I imagine that the wet paint is a big freshwater lake that is the only source of water for some tiny cities by the lake. As the lake gets drier, the population gets more desperate, and sometimes there are water riots. Once there was a big fire and everyone died.


I once heard the voice of God. It said "Vrrrrmmmmm." Unless it was just a lawn mower.


I gaze at the brilliant full moon. The same one, I think to myself, at which Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato gazed. Suddenly, I imagine they appear beside me. I tell Socrates about the national debate over one’s right to die and wonder at the constancy of the human condition. I tell Plato that I live in the country that has come the closest to Utopia, and I show him a copy of the Constitution. I tell Aristotle that we have found many more than four basic elements and I show him a periodic table. I get a box of kitchen matches and strike one. They gasp with wonder. We spend the rest of the night lighting farts.


If we could just get everyone to close their eyes and visualize world peace for an hour, imagine how serene and quiet it would be until the looting started.

Shooting my mouth off…

January 10, 1997

I have big lips. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but it’s something that so troubled me during my childhood that I would sometimes press my mouth closed to make me look thin-lipped. My parents overlooked the incredible advantage they gained by this (it shut me up for a while) and instead reassured me, as parents will do, that I would eventually grow into my lips. When I was in college, actresses with oversized lips became very popular and friends informed me that women were spending huge amounts of money to have lips like mine. I had to remind them that, despite the insistence of store clerks, waiters, and my Aunt Molly, I’m not a woman. Besides, none of Hollywood’s leading men have ever felt the need to spend a few thousand dollars on shooting their faces full of collagen. Over the years, it’s simply something I’ve come to live with, and once I got used to buying Chapstick by the crate, I even discovered advantages to oversized lips. I can do great impersonations of famous rock stars. Lip-readers can understand me from a couple of miles away. And these facial protuberances have actually kept me out of quite a few fights. They scare bullies off because, let’s face it, one good punch and these things could explode.

Enjoy this week’s offering.

The British Military writes EPRs which are officer fitness reports. The form used for Royal Navy and Marines fitness reports is the S206. The following are actual excerpts taken from people’s "206s"….

His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity.

This Officer is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a definitely won’t-be.

When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there.

He has carried out each and every one of his duties to his entire satisfaction.

He would be out of his depth in a car park puddle.

This young lady has delusions of adequacy.

When he joined my ship, this Officer was something of a granny; since then he has aged considerably.

This Medical Officer has used my ship to carry his genitals from port to port, and my officers to carry him from bar to bar.

Since my last report he has reached rock bottom, and has started to dig.

She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.

He has the wisdom of youth, and the energy of old age.

This Officer should go far – and the sooner he starts, the better.

This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.

Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.


I’m baaaack….

January 3, 1997

Well, it’s good to be back, on the first Friday of the new year. During my vacation I had a dream that was so real, so vivid, that during it I thought I was awake, which is what happens when I gulp half a pepperoni pizza, two tacos, some garlic bread, and a couple of beers right before bedtime. That is, if I remember correctly, the same combination that inspired Coleridge to write "Kubla Khan." In the dream, I walked past two billboards. One was encouraging me to join one of those underground Nazi militia groups. The other was encouraging me to join the Jimi Hendrix fan club. About the only thing these two have in common is that I’ve never been a big fan of either one. Such is the nature of the subconscious, though, that I started considering how joining either of these organizations would affect my job. Private militias have been pretty badly put down, but as far as employers go, they’re really a big plus. You learn to think fast, you’ll always be the most alert employee in the office, and you’ll also be the most motivated person your boss knows. Other benefits include having a fully loaded file cabinet in case the building is suddenly surrounded by hostile forces from another company, and frequent opportunities to promote the company’s product to the FBI. On the other hand, if your boss asks what you’re doing and you answer, "Accountin’ in the purple haze with a flyin’ hippo"…well, it just doesn’t sound as good.

It’s been a hard week. Cheer up!

HEY !!! Cheer up…

  • The parachute company says you’ll get a full refund.

  • They say the house didn’t float very far at all.

  • We’re all amazed that you go on living each day.

  • Well, at least the operation was a partial success.

  • The "National Enquirer" just loved those nude shots of you.

  • The insects hardly touched your other eyebrow.

  • With the lights dimmed, it looks almost normal.

  • The District Attorney sez he only has a few more questions.

  • At least the passenger side air bag inflated.

  • Jenny Jones wants you for this "secret admirer show".

  • The reward for your capture has reached fifty thousand dollars.

  • At least we never thought you were guilty like that Jury did.

  • The insurance pays the full book value ($ 312) for your 1956 T Bird.

  • The thieves left the push lawn mower and hedge trimmers.

  • Those Grand Juries always over-react. Don’t worry about it.

  • Lots of guys face multiple paternity suits.

  • The boss said while you’re sick, he’d do all your work personally.

  • MicroSoft’s Tech Support said those errors just aren’t possible.

Ho ho ho!

December 19, 1996

You didn’t think you’d get away that easily, did you? Well, I thought you’d get away that easily, but then I remembered one last gift–I hope you don’t mind that it isn’t wrapped.

December 23rd, the day REAL MEN start shopping

Real Men don’t start shopping until December 23rd. Real Men do this because Real Men don’t trudge like wool-swaddled lemmings from store to store. Real Men see it and they buy, full price. None of that sissy sale stuff.

Real Men also enjoy the challenge of rack-to-rack combat. Real Men will compete for parking spaces with the feistiest of blue-haired women in the biggest of cars. Real Men will not hesitate to remind retail elves with the vacant eyes of stone-cold killers that the customer is always right.

How can you tell Real Men from all those testosterone-deficient John Wayne wannabes out to just pick up a few last things? Listen and listen tight pilgrim.

  1. Real Men never work from lists. They go on instinct.

  2. Real Men don’t get all anal about stuff like style, color and size.

  3. Real Men don’t hesitate to ask strange women what size they are.

  4. Real Men have great difficulty deciding between the appliance and the necklace.

  5. Real Men find nothing wrong with merchandise that has been handled more than Madonna.

  6. Real Men see no reason for removing price tags or saving receipts.

  7. Real Men can locate a neat gift while the attendant is filling the tank.

  8. Real Men sincerely believe the frilly number from Victoria’s Secret is a present for their wives, and not for them.

  9. Real Men wrap their gifts with duct tape.

  10. Real Men have no problem giving loved ones cash.

Happy holidays to you/Until we meet again…

December 19, 1996

Just a quick step up on the soapbox: there should be a rule against people going out and buying stuff for themselves after Thanksgiving. Especially stuff that other people know they would like. And this especially applies to people who are hard to buy for. I suppose they’re trying to force the rest of us to be more creative, which wouldn’t be a bad thing since some years I’ve felt that the most creative aspect of the presents I’ve given has been the wrapping. Honestly–I envy those of you with the manual dexterity to wrap a package perfectly without having to resort to taping large squares of completely different paper over the sides or other odd wrapping tricks which, so far, I haven’t had to resort to. Speaking of wrapping, I guess that about wraps things up, so have a wonderful holiday everybody, and to my operatives in Sri Lanka, take a well-earned break.

Here is a word problem: If Santa leaves the North Pole headed south at the speed of 8 tiny reindeer with a payload of one gift per child (see, here you get to use x’s and y’s), and delivers every gift during a relative 24 hour period (that’s the trick part of the question), why can’t I ever get my Christmas cards in the mail on time?



  1. No known species of reindeer can fly. But there ARE 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not completely rule out flying reindeer.

  2. There are 2 billion children (under 18) in the world. But since Santa doesn’t appear to handle Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total — 378 million or so. At an average rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good child in each.

  3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west. This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining gifts under the tree, eat the snacks, get back up the chimney, get back in the sleigh, and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million homes are distributed evenly (which we know to be false but for the sake of these calculations we will accept) we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75 1/2 million miles, not counting bathroom stops. This means that Santa’s sleigh is traveling at 650 miles per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For comparison, the fastest man made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe moves at a pokey 27.4 MPS; the average reindeer runs at 15 MPH.

  4. The sleighs payload adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point one) could pull TEN TIMES the usual amount, we can not do the job with 8 or even 9. We would need 214,000 reindeer. This increases the weight, not even counting the sleigh, to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison this is 4 times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth 2.

  5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This will heat the reindeer in the same manner as a spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the next pair of reindeer, and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousands of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times the force of gravity. A 300 pound Santa would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

  6. Conclusion: There was a Santa, but he’s dead now.

I’m dreaming of a heat wave…

December 18, 1996

It never ceases to amaze me that, for Nashville, snow is an excuse to panic. Let me rephrase that: in Nashville, the threat of snow, the very mention of the words "light flurries" are an excuse to panic and run to the grocery store to stock up on eggs, milk, bread, and toilet paper. A woman I work with was complaining this morning that she’d been up half the night studying with her daughter because the teacher, so convinced by the words "no accumulation" that we were going to get seventeen feet of snow, decided to reschedule all of next weeks’ tests for today. I guess I can understand her point. Our weather service has been known to report "clear skies" during blizzards, but everyone around here seems to forget when they hear the word "snow" that Nashville is not north of the arctic circle. While it’s chilly this week, temperatures around here fluctuate so wildly that we’ll probably be back to short sleeves by the time Christmas gets here.

Enjoy this verbose Christmas piece.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
(Written by the Government)

‘Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual Yuletide celebration, and throughout the place of residence, kinetic activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential, including that species of domestic rodent known as Mus musculus (mouse). Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood burning caloric apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among whose folkloric appellations is the honorific title of St. Nicholas.

The prepubescent siblings, comfortably ensconced in their respective accommodations of repose, were experiencing subconscious visual hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically through their cerebrums. My conjugal partner and I, attired in our nocturnal head coverings, were about to take slumberous advantage of the hibernal darkness when upon the avenaceous exterior portion of the grounds there ascended such a cacophony of dissonance that I felt compelled to arise with alacrity from my place of repose for the purpose of ascertaining the precise source thereof.

Hastening to the casement, I forthwith opened the barriers sealing this fenestration, noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without, reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline precipitation, might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself – thus permitting my incredulous optical sensory organs to behold a miniature airborne runnered conveyance drawn by eight diminutive specimens of the genus Rangifer, piloted by a minuscule, aged chauffeur so ebullient and nimble that it became instantly apparent to me that he was indeed our anticipated caller. With his ungulate motive power traveling at what may possibly have been more vertiginous velocity than patriotic alar predators, he vociferated loudly, expelled breath musically through contracted labia, and addressed each of the octet by his or her respective cognomen – "Now Dasher, now Dancer…" et al. – guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode, through which structure I could readily distinguish the concatenations of each of the 32 cloven pedal extremities.

As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location, and was performing a 180-degree pivot, our distinguished visitant achieved – with utmost celerity and via a downward leap – entry by way of the smoke passage. He was clad entirely in animal pelts soiled by the ebony residue from oxidations of carboniferous fuels which had accumulated on the walls thereof. His resemblance to a street vendor I attributed largely to the plethora of assorted playthings which he bore dorsally in a commodious cloth receptacle.

His orbs were scintillant with reflected luminosity, while his submaxillary dermal indentations gave every evidence of engaging amiability. The capillaries of his malar regions and nasal appurtenance were engorged with blood which suffused the subcutaneous layers, the former approximating the coloration of Albion’s floral emblem, the latter that of the Prunus avium, or sweet cherry. His amusing sub- and supralabials resembled nothing so much as a common loop knot, and their ambient hirsute facial adornment appeared like small, tabular and columnar crystals of frozen water.

Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smoking piece whose grey fumes, forming a tenuous ellipse about his occiput, were suggestive of a decorative seasonal circlet of holly. His visage was wider than it was high, and when he waxed audibly mirthful, his corpulent abdominal region undulated in the manner of impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical container. He was, in short, neither more nor less than an obese, jocund, multigenarian gnome, the optical perception of whom rendered me visibly frolicsome despite every effort to refrain from so being. By rapidly lowering and then elevating one eyelid and rotating his head slightly to one side, he indicated that trepidation on my part was groundless.

Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the aforementioned appended hosiery with various of the aforementioned articles of merchandise extracted from his aforementioned previously dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he executed an abrupt about-face, placed a single manual digit in lateral juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith effected his egress by renegotiating (in reverse) the smoke passage. He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I overheard his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his vehiculation beyond the limits of visibility: "Ecstatic Yuletide to the planetary constituency, and to that self same assemblage, my sincerest wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn."

Jingle bells…

December 17, 1996

Well, folks, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that yesterday’s supposed good deed has in fact turned out to be a hoax. The good news is that it means my record is still completely free of good deeds, nice things, and other assorted decent acts.

Enjoy this special time-line which traces the development of Christmas from its earliest, most shadowy origins all the way up to the present. Well, almost…perhaps it’s just as well that it leaves off after 1970 because, let’s face it, the present is best enjoyed thirty years after it’s gone.


1200: Druids / Vikings celebrate Winter solstice around December 22 as tradition had it, evergreen trees were brought indoors as a symbol of good luck (only tree that kept it’s "leaves" in the cold, winter months); the tree was decorated with dried fruit and candles; holly decorated the house as well, for luck, since it retained it’s leaves and bore it’s fruit in the winter;

274: Romans celebrate feast of Invincible Sun on December 25

4: Christ is born a little early.


29: Christ dies

66: Druids and Celts defeated by Romans

336: Pope Julius starts to celebrate Christmas on Dec 25 to counter the pagan celebration of winter solstice

350: the Christmas stocking tradition starts rumor has it, St. Nicholas (Russian bishop) tossed money into window of widower (with 3 daughters) and it fell into a stocking hung by the fire (to dry after washing)

500: Pope Gregory officially declares Dec 25 as Christ’s birth

550: Pope Gregory asks archbishop Augustine to convert pagan customs (of winter solstice celebration) to Christmas yet another way to counter pagan celebrations and win them over to Christianity;

1224: St. Francis of Assisi introduces the CRECHE he placed it in his church so that the Christmas story would be better understood by his people (who were predominantly unable to read); it aroused a new spirit / interest in Christmas

1300: Christmas carols come to England from France

1350: Boxing Day starts (Dec 26) a tradition (still custom in England and Canada) of employers giving money to employees; money, food, clothing to churches for poor; originated in middle ages when an earthenware "alms" box was placed in a church for donations to poor; on Dec 26 the box was shattered – this gave way to the, now, tradition of the (you guessed it) Piggy Bank

1648: Cromwell comes to power and Puritans rule and rule lasts until 1659; however, because Puritans controlled ALL religious matters Christmas was all but outlawed; businesses were required to be open and churches closed; it wasn’t until the 1800’s that Christmas became popular again

1700: Plum pudding becomes popular

18–: the rhyme "The Twelve Days of Christmas" becomes popular in U.S. it got it’s origins from Medieval times and is actually a numerological wit; by the end of the rhyme the person received from his/her true love 364 gifts (one for each day of the year but one – Christmas); the actual 12 days of Christmas was started by the Saxon King (Alfred) who decreed that Christmas should last from Dec 25 to the day of Epiphany (Jan 6, the day the three wise men first saw Christ); during this time, no business was opened and many festivities occurred (gambling – otherwise illegal – was allowed as well)

1824: Clement Moore writes "A Visit from St. Nick" which starts with: "Twas the night before Christmas. . ." Moore is credited with the myth that Santa rides in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer (and also for naming them)

1843: Charles Dickens writes "A Christmas Carol"

1843: John Horsley prints the first Christmas card the first year, he only sold 1000

1850: Christmas gifts become tradition

1852: Dr. Joel Poinsette, brings the poinsettia to the U.S. the poinsettia was native to Mexico and became popular because of it’s red/green colors; Dr. Joel Poinsette was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico and a botanist; he is credited for cultivating the plant here in the U.S.

1880: the Santa Clause myth (but is it?) is firmly established Santa Claus is the American adaptation of St. Nicholas; Santa’s name is derived by the Dutch: Sinter Class; his attributes are also from the Dutch (his red suit’s modeled after their Bishop’s white-fur-trimmed cape and miter)

1892: Tchaikovsky writes the "Nutcracker" ballet

1897: Francis Church writes "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause" as the story goes, Virginia O’Hanlon could not understand why none of her friends believed in Santa Claus (she was 8 years old); her father, an avid reader of the New York Sun, was fond of saying "if it’s in the Sun, it had to be true"; so she wrote the Sun asking if there was a Santa; on September 21, 1897, Francis Churches article appeared; so it has to be true

1898: electric Christmas lights are invented replacing candles;

1906: T. Roosevelt helps make Christmas trees a U.S. crop

1919: Madison Square Garden has a public Christmas tree

1920: red Christmas wreaths become popular

1942: Bing Crosby makes "White Christmas" popular

1949: Gene Autry sings "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer"

1952: outside Christmas lights become popular

1955: aluminum Christmas trees become popular

1970: artificial Christmas trees become popular

Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!

December 16, 1996

Well, folks, it’s going to be a short week for me, but it’s a special week, so I’ll try to get something out to you each of the next four days. Just a quick mention from last week’s edition: yes, it was Friday the 13th, but I’m not superstitious. Besides, it’s really really unlucky to talk about Friday the 13th, especially since I’d spilled some salt and nearly walked under a ladder earlier in the day. I didn’t want to make things worse than they already were. Here’s something I also don’t normally do: advertising. Well, it’s not real advertising, it’s more of a request. Houghton Mifflin publishers will donate one book to a children’s hospital for every 25 e-mails it receives. I know, I know, you’re all gasping at the thought that I might do a good deed. I promise not to make it a habit. The e-mail address is:

Despite your best efforts, you might find yourself at an office party with Induhviduals. Here are some tips you will want to share with them in order to avoid any embarrassing or dangerous situations. If your boss gets drunk and offers to photocopy her posterior, do not helpfully suggest pressing "reduce 75%." If you hear someone yell "Empower THIS!!", try to put some distance between you and whatever happens next. Never ask, "Is *that* your wife or did you cash in some stock options?" If the party is held on site, don’t ask for directions. When you meet your boss’s spouse, never say "Wow, I didn’t know you two were married. What’s it like to have an open relationship?" Don’t put the eggnog in your own flask. Don’t ask the band to play "Take This Job and Shove It." It’s never a good idea to use the mistletoe as a fig leaf.

Deck the U-Hauls…

December 13, 1996

Well folks, it’s that time of year again, and you know what that means: decorations. I love to go out and look up and down the street at the different varieties. There are the really eager people who put theirs up the day after Halloween, when most of us are throwing out the catalogs that we’ll wish we’d saved when we see the crowds at the mall, but most of these people stick to the very subtle decorations. Usually nothing more than their tree and a few lights. Some go for the too subtle–that single string of red lights that makes their house look more like a brothel than a place of Christmas cheer. Next come the less than subtle decorators, the ones who actually fall at the other end of the decorating spectrum. These are the ones who pride themselves on adding at least one Santa and one nativity scene to their yards every year. Santa on the roof, Santa on the porch, Santa in a sleigh, Santa standing up, Santa taking a nip from his very own bottle of Christmas cheer, and in every space not occupied by a Santa, there’s a nativity scene. A stable with animals, a stable with three wise men, a stable with a star on the roof, a stable with Santa and his reindeer on the roof. And even the minute spaces aren’t left empty. No, they’re taken up with elves, reindeer, igloos, six-foot plastic candles, and blinking light displays that, by themselves, take enough electricity to power a small town. My favorite of them all, though, has been the smallest. Last year, an out-of-the-way house I see every morning on my way in to work had a nativity scene perched on the seat and handlebars of a Harley Davidson. This year, the original Christmas family occupies the back of a U-Haul trailer. Looking at the general trend of decorations, I can’t blame them for wanting to travel. Who could sleep with the cross between Christmas and Las Vegas lighting up the night next door?

Have a nice holiday everybody, and before you go, here’s a little something else. And let me remind you that Freethinker Editions may be non-returnable and non-refundable, but they’re also non-fattening and, like mail-order fruitcake, you can keep passing them around for years to come.


Dear Santa:

We’re worried about you. From your rosy red cheeks to your legendary girth to your all-night sleigh ride around the world, you may be at risk for diseases, maladies, mishaps and lawsuits that send chills through our Santa-loving hearts.

The latest warning comes from the National Rosacea Society in Barrington, Illinois. Dermatologist Dr. Jerome Litt says you have "a clear-cut case of rosacea," a skin condition that also affects millions of Americans, particularly at middle age. Unable to examine you personally, the good doctor based his finding on a well-circulated report that your "cheeks were like roses, (your) nose like a cherry."

Sadly, many observers conclude that red-skin condition comes from hitting the Christmas-punch bowl a little too hard. Sadder still, rosacea can be aggravated by holiday stress, hot chocolate and overexertion…all things you may encounter this time of year. The one bright note in Dr. Litt’s message is that certain antibiotics can help, and he advises you to see a North Pole dermatologist. But the news about your facial tint is only our latest source of concern.

A careful examination of what we know about you and your lifestyle raises a host of other trouble signs:

OBESITY: Frankly, Santa, this may be your biggest area of concern. Studies show overweight men have more than double the normal risk of heart attacks and increased chances of many other diseases. We’ve seen the pictures; we’ve noticed you in the malls. And we’ve heard that your tummy shakes "like a bowlful of jelly" when you chuckle. On this, we’ll take part of the blame. All these years, we’ve set out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. With 102 million homes in the US alone, even if 1 in 100 homes put out two cookies and a cup of milk, that would make and overnight snack of 2 million cookies and 63,750 gallons of milk. Maybe it’s time for Mrs. Claus to get you a NordicTrack or a Thighmaster. But be sure to have the old ticker checked out before you start an exercise regimen.

PIPE SMOKING: You’ve been pictured with a pipe, and even though an apologist in The New York Times once claimed it’s only a prop, a witness who encountered you in his home said "the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath." According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, pipe and cigar smokers have twice a nonsmoker’s risk for lung cancer, four times the risk for larynx cancer and two to three times the risk for cancers of the mouth and esophagus. Even if the pipe’s just a prop, it might be a good idea to lose it. Remember, you’re not just a saint, you’re a role model.

STRESS: Dealing with Christmas wishes from millions of kiddies could certainly put one on the emotions hot seat. And anxiety can surpass even smoking as a risk for certain heart problems. On this point, though, we have some good news: A medical news service says laughter… evidenced by your trademark "Ho, ho, ho"… one of the best stress-busters going.

SOOT: We admire your ability to slip up and down the average chimney, an opening about 12 inches by 16 inches. But creosote flakes on the chimney walls are toxic and can lead to respiratory problems. Brent Rigby of Emerald City Chimney Sweeps in Kirkland said his people never actually go into a chimney, and wear protective masks when they reach up through the fireplace to vacuum the soot.

RSI (REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY): Cards and letters by the bagful arrive on your doorstep through regular mail, but this year we’ve noticed you’re also receiving, and answering, e-mail on at least four Internet addresses, including one based in Seattle: We applaud your move onto the information superhighway, with this caution: too much keyboard work can result in painful injuries to the hands, wrists and arms.

DEER MITES: Close, continuous contact with your trusty reindeer means if they get mites, so might you, says Dr. David DuClos, a veterinary dermatologist in Lynnwood. Watch out for itchy rashes, and keep the deer out of your bed.

FROSTBITE, HYPOTHERMIA: You usually bundle up, and that’s good. A Weather Service satellite recently showed the temperature at the North Pole was 13 below zero, and high winds are common. Exposure to such conditions can cause frostbite in minutes.

MALL THUGS: You spend a lot of time in shopping malls, so you already know things are getting a little tough out there. Try not to walk back to your sleigh at night alone.

MEMORY TROUBLE: It’s been said that you make a list, then check it twice. Just being careful, or developing a little memory problem?

SAD (SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER): This time of year, there is virtually no daylight at the North Pole, and a lack of sunlight can trigger depression in some people. Maybe a full-spectrum light would help keep you jolly.

VIRAL INFECTIONS: A young witness saw you kissing Mommy underneath the mistletoe last night. You know this is colds and flu season, don’t you?

SLEIGH ACCIDENTS: We’ve seen plenty of pictures of you in that sleigh, but never with a seat belt, and we’d sure hate to see you get hurt. By the way, when you cruise through Seattle this year, be sure to cover the load.

JET LAG: Fatigue, dizziness and insomnia are all dangers that travelers face when they cross through several times zones. And few travelers cross all 24 of them in a night, like you do.

SKYJACKERS: OK, you’ve been lucky so far, but they’re out there.

Knowing all the dangers you face makes us feel that much more fortunate that you’re still faithfully delivering the goodies to good boys and girls every Christmas. But you might want to try to reduce some of those risks before your insurance company decides to boost your rates. Which reminds us: You DO have insurance, don’t you?

Jack Brown
Seattle Times staff reporter

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