So today I finally turned off the Christmas screen saver on my laptop. It isn’t an installed app, I used one of the macOS options that brings images up from a folder you designate, and I have this one folder that is full of Christmas themed wallpapers and some similar images. Most years I point the screensaver at that folder some time during the Thanksgiving weekend. When I point the saver back to the usual folder varies.
I used to leave it going about a week or two after I took down the Christmas decorations. Part of the reason was simply that changing it is something I have to go in and do, so I wouldn’t think of it until the first time I noticed the screen saver after the decorations were put away. But the other half was that as soon as I saw one of the images I would feel a little sad that Christmas was over.
Yeah, I’m one of those people.
I don’t want the decorations up year round, but I’m always a little sad when I take them down. One time when I mentioned this at work a co-worker said that her kids sometimes get upset at her because she wants to start taking them down on Christmas day. "I love putting them up," she said, "And during the Christmas season I think they’re wonderful and so on. But it’s like switch flips in my brain after we finish Christmas dinner. The decorations don’t look pretty and sweet and fun to me, they just look tacky!"
And there are folks who don’t like them at all, but we don’t need to dwell on such dark, twisted souls.
So I leave the screen saver on for some time after the holiday. And since it’s just my laptop it shouldn’t matter to anyone else, but I still sometimes feel a twinge of silliness that I still have them up many weeks past Christmas. But since my brain works like a noisy committee meeting, there is almost immediately a stubborn, "Well, why can’t I leave it that way as long as I like?"
I do like having routines and rituals. So I don’t listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving dinner or after Three Kings Day, for instance. I don’t allow myself to start grinding the holiday blend coffee beans to make my coffee before Thanksgiving (unless it’s one of the years that I picked up Starbucks’ Thanksgiving Blend as one of the holiday coffees, then it’s okay to start drinking that in the run up to Thanksgiving).
Which gets us to why today is the day I turned off the screen saver.
Since every year I buy as many of the Christmas/Holiday Blend Coffees I can find, I never managed to drink them all by Christmas. The last several years I’ve usually finished them all over by about mid-February. A couple of years ago I decided that if I was going to have a rule about when I turn off the Christmas screen saver that it would be this: I can leave the screen saver on until I grind the last of the Christmas coffee beans.
You may recall that when I wrote about acquiring this year’s Christmas coffees that it was a slightly larger haul than the year before. Well, that was on November 22. I found some more Holiday Blends during December. So this morning, St Patrick’s Day, March 17, I finally ground up the last of the Christmas coffee beans and have been drinking that coffee today.
Many, many years ago, my late husband Ray found this nifty storage container at a store. It was a Rubbermaid product intended to hold a bunch of rolls of wrapping paper keeping them safe from getting mangled in a closet (which is what tended to happen to leftover rolls when we tried to put them away). It had a special compartment in the lid to hold ribbon and scissors and tape. It seemed like a no-brainer purchase.
When we got it home (this was just after a Christmas and we needed to start putting away all the decorations) we discovered it’s first flaw: it was designed to hold rolls that were 28-inches wide or less. Back when I was a kid, the two standard sizes of wrapping paper sold in all the stores was 24-inch and 28-inch, but even in 1993 or 94 (when we bought this), the most common sizes offered for sale were 28-inch and 30-inch. So a few of the rolls we had wouldn’t fit in the thing.
Which was less than ideal.
Ray simply shrugged and said we’d need to keep an eye out for the shorter rolls. And later that year he found some mail-order sale on 28-inch rolls and bought a bunch and we were set for the next couple years.
The other problems took a bit longer to recognize. The way it was designed, it had almost no flat surfaces, so you couldn’t stack anything on it. The lid was fully one-third of its length and snapped into place, so if you tried to store it on its side the lid would pop off and all the paper would get exposed. It’s widest point was where the lid snapped on, which meant even when stored upright, that was wasted space on each side. And again, you couldn’t pack it in tight, or the lid would pop off.
But, the rolls inside were indeed protected, and it was awfully easy to carry a complete wrapping kit around during the season.
After Ray died, the container became one of the things that made me think of Ray whenever I saw it, so I became even more inclined to ignore any shortcomings.
As time went on, it became more difficult to find 28-inch rolls of wrapping paper. Also, I’ve always had the bad habit of buying wrapping paper during the holiday season just because it’s cute—regardless of how many rolls of paper we may already have. This is a habit that Michael has, too. So the stockpile of rolls of gift wrap that could fit in the container kept growing.
Each year I would pull the container out, but would usually use mostly the rolls that wouldn’t fit in. I rationalized this by telling myself it I didn’t use up the other rolls, more of the leftover would get damaged in storage. I didn’t consciously realize that I was also avoiding using the rolls that did fit in the container because if I used them up, the container wouldn’t be full, any more.
So, three Christmases ago we found out that we would have to move sometime in the following year. So when it was time to pack away Christmas stuff, I set myself a goal of trying to identify a bunch of the Christmas stuff we shouldn’t keep, so there would be fewer things to pack up. The container seemed a good candidate.
This was very early in the purge-and-pack process, so I couldn’t just put the container in the “get rid of” pile without discussing it with Michael. It was while we were discussing it that I realized I had been avoiding using the wrap that would fit in the container on the circle-reasoning basis that I need to keep that paper to justify having held onto the container so long.
Michael made the additional suggestion that all the unused Christmas wrap should be donated, rather than trying to pack and move it. “We always wind up buying new stuff each year, anyway.”
And he was right. Our first Christmas at the new place, we bought new wrapping paper (trying to keep it to a reasonable number of rolls). Shortly after Christmas I found a canvas bag-type container that was advertised for storing wrapping paper, and could take rolls up to I think it’s 40-inches (which I have never bought, but you…). It stores much more easily. It’s a cheery red-and-green, so it’s easy to find in a dark closet.
A few days ago my husband wanted to start wrapping presents. I was still at the office when he got home and started on it. He said after spending a long time looking, he nearly called me to ask where the wrapping paper was. But then he was putting stuff he’d pulled out of the closet and sorted through back in, when he happened to grab the red and green canvas bag by the sides instead of one of its handles—and he realized it was full of rolls of wrapping paper.
“It wasn’t until then that I remembered we’d gotten rid of the plastic container,” he told me later.
I chuckled, teased him, and then thanked him. Because usually I’m the person who is looking right at something (or already holding it in my hand) thinking that I can’t find it.
I’ve written before about how growing up I thought of cans of Folgers ground coffee as high quality, and then the little cans of instant with pre-mixed flavored creamer that was sold under the name General Foods International Coffee were gourmet coffee. A coffee grinder was an antique appliance with a big hand crank on top that you would see from time to time, and the adults would explain that in the Old Days™ you had to grind your coffee yourself—and no one described it as if it were a good thing.
So I was a little surprised in my late teens when a couple of friends took me with them up to Seattle one weekend to go to a comic book shop there, and one of the other shops we went by was a place where they sold whole coffee beans, or if you wanted to buy a cup there, they would grind some beans and use what to me was a very weird looking machine to make you a single cup.
It would be some years later, after I came to Seattle to attend university, that I would start seeing whole bean coffees on sale regularly in supermarkets, and it wasn’t until I got my second full time job after college, in an office building in downtown Seattle, that I would learn that the odd shop my friends had shown me was the oldest continuously running Starbucks in the world (not exactly the original, because that had been a few blocks away, but they had had to relocated when the building they were originally in was renovated).
The upshot is, that it wasn’t until my late twenties that I owned my own (electric) coffee grinder and started buying whole bean coffees of various varieties and blends. And soon I had opinions about which blends (and which companies that sold blends of roasted beans) were the best.
One type of coffee I became fond of were various Kona mixes. The Hawaiian islands are the only place within the U.S. where coffee can be grown, and the Kona district of the Big Island contains a large number of small farms most of which are still owned by individual families. The climate in that district produces coffee beans with a distinctive flavor. Because the area where it grows is restricted, the annual production is low, in comparison to coffees from other parts of the world, so there are laws defining when one can put the work Kona on a coffee blend.
Starbucks isn’t the only company to sell blends that consist of a small percentage of Kona beans mixed with other beans (usually Brazilian) that have been determined to compliment the flavor well. Pure, 100% Kona coffee is always sold at a premium price.
For years I was perfectly happy to purchase these Kona blends. Until one day, while shopping at Ballard Market (a store only two blocks from my home at the time) I saw bags of coffee called Wings of the Morning, pure Kona Coffee. And the canvas bag further indicated that the beans were grown on the Wings of the Morning Farm which was still owned and run by a family that had been growing coffee there for many generations. It was about $22 bucks for a bag, which was a bit steep (other whole bean coffee was often on sale for $7.99 per pound, as I recall) but I’d never had pure Kona before. So I bought it.
And I became quickly addicted. Because it was more expensive than my usual coffees, I tended to ration it. The $22 bag at the time contained only 14 ounces of coffee, not a full pound, which meant that it was even more expensive than I had originally realized, but it was so, so good!
As I said, I rationed it. I would only make a pot at most once a week. The rest of the time I used other coffees. Sometimes, yes, much cheaper Kona blends, though I’ve always liked switching between light roast coffees (Kona beans are usually lightly roasted) and very dark roast coffees. Over the next couple years I watched the price creep up, eventually reaching $29 for the 14 oz bag. I kept buying it, but continued to ration it.
Then the coffee vanished from the store. For several months there was no Wings of the Morning on the shelf. When I asked about it, I was told that some years the supply of coffee from an individual Kona farm will run out before the next year’s crop comes in. Then, one day I’m in the store by the coffee and I looked up and there it was! And it was back down to $22 for a bag! Yay!
It wasn’t until I was unpacking groceries at home that I noticed that the bag now said it only contained 12 ozs of beans. But it was still really good. And I had been without it so long, that I let myself make the coffee a little more often, because, it’s all right to treat yourself kindly, right?
Over the next couple years, the price crept up a bit faster than before, and I was feeling a little bit guilty. I had about half a bag at the house, and I almost bought a new bag, but the ghosts of my penny-pinching ancestors all seemed to be scolding me for unnecessary expenses. So I bought a pound of cheaper Kona blend instead. And the cheaper Kona blend was a perfectly fine coffee. I liked the coffee it produced. It wasn’t bad, it was good. It just wasn’t as remarkable as the Wings of the Morning.
It was as I was heading home with my purchases that I got an idea. The Kona blends usually contain about 10% Kona beans, while the rest of the blend is some other kind of coffee. What would happen if I mixed in a little bit more of Kona beans in the blend? Would it taste better than merely perfectly fine?
When I got home, I carefully cleaned out the coffee grinder. I measured out equal parts of the cheap Kona blend and the more expensive Wings of the Morning—just enough for one pot as an experiment, right?
I made the coffee, then sat down to try it.
It was not merely a perfectly fine cup of coffee, it was superb. Not as stupendous as pure Wings of the Morning, but definitely much better than the cheap Kona blend alone.
I took some of the cheap Kona blend and carefully mixed it with the remainder of my Wings of the Morning. I put the new mix in a bag that I labeled so I would know it was my blend. When that bag was about half empty, I bought a new bag of Wings of the Morning, I made myself one pot of pure Wings of the Morning (which produces a damn fine cup of coffee, let me assure you!), and then I blended the rest of the Wings of the Morning with my blend. Then, when I used about half of that up, I bought some other Kona blend to mix in. And from there on I started alternating.
When I get a new bag of the Wings of the Morning, I make myself one pot’s worth of coffee with it, then blend it. The last couple of years instead of really cheap Kona blend, I’ve been mixing it with Lowry’s Dark Roast Hawaiian, which isn’t really a very dark roast at all, but I find superior to the really cheap Kona blends.
The other thing this adventure has taught me is that many coffees can be improved with a bit of blending. A few years ago I picked up a new Starbucks blend and roast that was… um… well, it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t very good. It was definitely worse than mediocre, to my taste buds. But it hadn’t been cheap, and those penny-pinching ancestors turn into a cacophony in my head if I even think of throwing out something like that just because it doesn’t taste great. And it occurred to me that it might be improved by blending with some cheap Kona. So I tried a single pot and darn, if the less than mediocre coffee didn’t turn into perfectly fine coffee once blended.
Earlier this year my husband (who doesn’t drink coffee at all, and usually only buys me coffee if he sees that one of the Christmas blends he knows I like has popped up in the store before I’ve bought any) picked up a two-pound bag of some coffee I had never heard of before at Costco. It wasn’t their Kirkland brand. I tried it, and well…
Okay, if you are a coffee drinker, I am sure you have experienced the phenomenon where a good cup of coffee turns into something icky tasting when it cools to room temperature? Remember that taste. That’s what this stuff tastes like when it is piping hot. And it just gets worse as it cools off. I even tried turning it into an iced coffee, but no, that was really really bad. If I added some creamer it was tolerable, but only just. And it it occurred to me that I hadn’t tried mixing it with a cheap Kona blend yet. Once again, something that wasn’t good was transformed into a perfectly fine cup of coffee, simply by blending in some Kona blend beans.
So I was able to use up the rest of that really big bag of coffee and actually enjoy drinking it. But, now that I’ve used it that up, well, I’ve indulged myself with Wings of the Morning two days in a row. I’ll blend it with some Dark Hawaiian for the rest of the bag, but every now and then, you need to reward yourself, you know?
I found a meme some time ago of the text from the tweet pictured here, but just white text on black and no attribution. It been sitting in my “For Blog Posts” folder for a while. Because this weekend I kept getting more twinges in various joints than usual, I kept thinking about it and that maybe I should do a post about that sort of thing. Anyway, I’m happy that I seem to have found the source of the text, as some others who have shared it have attributed it to Aaron Ansuini on twitter, so I replaced the black graphic with a screenshot, because if Aaron is the one who came up with this, they deserve the credit!
When I first saw it, I immediately wanted to do my own version, which would go something like this:
*demon tries to inhabit my body*
Demon: WHAT THE HELL?
Me: Welcome to my world, buddy!
Demon: EVERYTHING HURTS, WHY?? AND WHATS WRONG WITH YOUR SHOULDER???
Me: Which one?
Demon: WHAT? *moves one arm, then the other* WHAT THE HELL? BOTH?
Me: Left shoulder is because of broken collar bone from a beating from my Dad when I was ten.
Demon: BEATING? TEN?
Me: Right shoulder was shattered in a bicycle crash when I was forty-one and should have known better. So that one is on me.
Demon: *grabs a pencil* I NEED TO WRITE THIS DOWN… WHAT THE HELL? HOW DID YOUR WRIST DO THAT? AND WHY ARE SOME OF THE FINGERS NUMB?
Me: That’s kind of a funny one. Horse stepped on my right hand when I was 14 helping repair a stable floor with my grandpa. My younger cousin was supposed to be keeping the horse outside, see…
Demon: *moves fingers again* BONES SHOULDN’T DO THAT!
Me: I learned years later that the doctors should have put a pin in my elbow after stitching the hand back up and putting the braces and cast on, so I couldn’t move the wrist bones while they were trying to heal. They didn’t even tell me not to try to do things with the hand…
Demon: WHY WOULDN’T DOCTORS TELL YOU THAT?
Me: I mean, I was 14 years old, probably in shock, and they gave me stuff for the pain. So maybe I missed some things. Fortunately I’m ambidextrous, though since most of the school desks weren’t built for lefties, I didn’t have much practice writing with my left hand before that, so my writing was even sloppier on that side. And then, of course, there was Mr. Stahlecker, the geography teacher.
Demon: WHAT DID HE DO?
Me: Yelled at me for doing my work with my left hand. Said my right hand wouldn’t heal if I didn’t use it. Maybe if the doctors had told me not to use it I could have told him. But he probably would have scoffed and given me more detention. I mean like he did when I told him it hurt to try to write with the right hand.
Demon: DETENTION FOR BEING IN PAIN?
Me: Well, he said it was for talking back. But, yeah, basically. He was a real piece of work. Kept a swear jar on his desk and made us put money in it if he thought he heard us mutter a dirty word? But he was also the assistant basketball coach, and he called us faggots any time any of us failed to do something during practice.
Demon: WHAT THE FUCK?
Me: I’m kind of disappointed you don’t know all this. I mean, I always figured that the redneck American public school social environment had to be designed in Hell.
Demon: DON’T TRY TO BLAME ME FOR THAT!
Me: I suppose next you’re going to tell me that arthritis and gout aren’t plagues from Hell, either?
Demon: OH, THAT’S JUST BIOLOGY! TECHNICALLY HEAVEN’S FAULT, SINCE THEY SET UP THE PARAMETERS OF CREATION AND… WAIT, SO THE ARTHRITIS IS WHY MOST OF THESE THINGS HURT?
Me: Actually, going by the tests, I barely have any arthritis, yet. But, they say the damaged joints show it first, and it just gets worse everywhere over time.
Demon: AND YOU HAVE GOUT, TOO?
Me: Don’t worry, if you just remember to drink at least one glass of water every hour you’re awake, and take the little white pill each night, it’s almost never a problem.
Demon: *reaches for the pill minder* WHICH PILL… WAIT, WHAT ARE ALL OF THESE FOR?
Me: Oh, this and that… I can go over all of it if you want.
Demon: AND DID YOU SAY A GLASS OF WATER EVERY HOUR? EVERY HOUR?? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WREAK EVIL ON THE WORLD IF I HAVE TO TRACK DOWN A GLASS OF WATER EVERY HOUR?
Me: Don’t forget, you’re going to be needing to find a bathroom just about every hour, too.
Demon: THAT’S INSANE! AND EVERYTIME I TRY TO DO ANYTHING *waves one arm wildly* OUCH! I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THIS!?
Me: You get used to it.
Me: I have some dark chocolate squirreled away if that would make you feel better.
Demon: I REFUSE!
Me: I was just offering.
Demon: NO, I MEAN, I REFUSE THIS ASSIGNMENT! THIS ISN’T A POSSESSION, THIS IS UNSAFE WORKING CONDITIONS! THIS BODY IS A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT! I’M GOING TO GO FIND MY SHOP STEWARD AND LODGE A COMPLAINT WITH LOWER MANAGEMENT!
Me: If that’s what you think is best!
Demon: DAMN RIGHT I DO! *starts to withdraw from the body*
Me: Sorry it didn’t work out.
Demon: *pauses* WAIT, YOU SAID DARK CHOCOLATE?
Me: Would you like some for the road?
Demon: IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE I HAD ANY WHILE I WAS WEARING HUMAN TASTE BUDS, SO, YEAH… JUST ONE BITE.
Demon: *eats chocolate, sighs appreciatively* I BETTER GO.
Me: Good luck with the complaint!
Demon: UM, YEAH, THANKS. *withdraws and vanishes in a puff of sulphuric smoke*
Me: *coughs* Gee, we never even got to the hay fever…
Of course, it’s not as if I have much room to make fun of anyone for their superstitions about things like football. Last year on the eve of the big game, I was posting pictures of myself in my old Seahawks sweatshirt that I have been wearing sometimes while watching games for years, and had worn for every game that season, along with pictures of me in my three newer shirts/jerseys, and asking which I should wear for the game. Several friends pointed out that if I’d been wearing “Old Faithful” all season long, that I needed to wear it to the Superbowl, or I’d jinx the team. So I wore Old Faithful, and we won.
But Old Faithful was old, and getting frayed, and was a bit stained, so this year I’ve been wearing the newer 12th Man Jersey I got last year on game days. I rotated through my other shirts (one with the shiny silver ‘Hawks logo, the NFC Championship shirt, Old Faithful, an older grey t-shirt with the older logo) on Fridays before the game, but I wore the white jersey for each regular season game.
Then my husband gave me the #24 Marshawn Lynch t-shirt for Christmas. The next Sunday, I started the game wearing the new shirt. We had one of our worst first halves of a game the whole season. I realized my mistake, and retrieve the white jersey at halftime. We kicked butt and won in the second half.
So, even though my white 12th Man Jersey has two stains that have refused all efforts to remove, today I will be wearing it while watching the game.
One of my grandfathers had a coffee mug that was “his” mug. No one else used Grandpa’s mug. It was a yellow mug, but not a really bright yellow. Very similar to the one pictured here.
It was nearly identical in shape to a set of sage green and brown mugs that matched grandma’s everyday plates. That particular shape of stackable coffee mug was very popular when I was a kid. My other grandparents had a set that was very similar in a dark blue—though the bottom, narrow section of the mug was a little taller. And my parents had a set that was a darker, brownish-yellow than grandpa’s, was a gradient of the dark yellow at the top of the mug, becoming dark chocolate brown by the bottom. I remember seeing similar mugs at the homes of many friends.
But, as I said, Grandpa’s mug was different. It was only for Grandpa to use. No one got yelled at if you used Grandpa’s mug by mistake, it was just someone would say, “You can’t use Grandpa’s cup!” or something. Grandpa would laugh if someone else used it. He’d say something like, “Just tell me you didn’t put it in the dishwasher! Never wash my coffee cup, only rinse it!”
I’ve written before about an acquaintance in college who was shocked that I’d never heard the pun about this day: March Forth! It’s a date and a command! Turns out some party poopers people have adopted March Fourth as a day to set goals to help you realize your dreams, and promise a bunch of people to get back together next March Fourth to check in. Hello? Have these people never heard about New Year’s Resolutions? We don’t need to do it twice a year. Really.
Much more amusing, there’s a musical group out there called the MarchFourth Marching Band (slogan: “A date. A command. A band!”) that appears to be a lot of fun.
However, last year, because of an article I read just before March 4 about homeless veterans, I decided to start my own March Forth tradition. So, I urge you all on this March Forth, to go please donate to The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
It is very nearly that time of year. It is nearly the time when I can start listening to Christmas music. I have been enforcing my rule for many years: I can’t start listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.
Because of a comment by a friend on Twitter, I wound up in a discussion about my Christmas music, and because the person I was talking with is also a friend of my husband, he had to chime in with some comments about the size of my Christmas music collection. Which got more friends involved as we debated the timeless question: is there such a thing as too much Christmas music?
Opening the Skies to Everyone “…I have long advocated that the best way to hook someone on astronomy is to get them outside, and get them to look up. People see the stars all the time, but they don’t see them…”
Time at your own pace You may be familiar with the web comic, xkcd. Months back they posted a single panel black and with image of two stick figures on a slope. Not caption, no word balloons. If you hovered your mouse over the image you saw the alt-text said “Wait for it.” It took a while for people to figure out, but it slowly changed. It is an animated story posting one frame an hour. The first link will take you to a page the has all 3000+ frames gathered together. You can press play and watch it go. It will pause automatically at the frames that have word balloons. Or you can use the controls on the right and go through at your own pace. It’s very cool, with an interesting story. And it hasn’t come to an end, yet!