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Rated: 18+ · Book · Personal · #1196512
Not for the faint of art.
Complex Numbers

A complex number is expressed in the standard form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers and i is defined by i^2 = -1 (that is, i is the square root of -1). For example, 3 + 2i is a complex number.

The bi term is often referred to as an imaginary number (though this may be misleading, as it is no more "imaginary" than the symbolic abstractions we know as the "real" numbers). Thus, every complex number has a real part, a, and an imaginary part, bi.

Complex numbers are often represented on a graph known as the "complex plane," where the horizontal axis represents the infinity of real numbers, and the vertical axis represents the infinity of imaginary numbers. Thus, each complex number has a unique representation on the complex plane: some closer to real; others, more imaginary. If a = b, the number is equal parts real and imaginary.

Very simple transformations applied to numbers in the complex plane can lead to fractal structures of enormous intricacy and astonishing beauty.

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January 4, 2021 at 12:01am
January 4, 2021 at 12:01am
The Original Logo.

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PROMPT January 4th

Start your entry with this statement: “I am frustrated about ________ because ________.”

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I am frustrated about health insurance because I don't know if I have it or not.

I think I wrote about some of this last month, but the quick recap is this: I have been getting mixed messages from my health insurance company about whether the new policy, which should have started January 1, is in force or not. They sent me a card, and the website says I'm insured, but they also kept sending me notices that I had to choose a plan (after I chose a plan), and the automatic payment which always posts on the first day of every month has not shown up on my bank's online records yet.

Welcome to America.

And naturally, I haven't been able to contact them because Friday was a holiday and they don't take calls on weekends.

Later today, I have a routine doctor appointment -- one to which I do not wish to go if I don't have a plan in place, for reasons that Americans might understand but would be incomprehensible to folks from civilized countries.

And if it turns out that by not having paid them on the first, they've canceled any plan I might have in place, I'll probably end up without health insurance for the rest of the year.

During a global pandemic.

Now... probably... everything will be fine and they'll suck up my money later today and I'll be insured this year. I just wish they could have been more clear last month, when it was possible for me to do something else about it. I called them twice toward the end of the year, and both times they're like "everything's fine, you'll be insured, the premiums will get charged automatically on the first of the month."

Well, since that didn't happen, it's... like I said... frustrating. It also makes me wonder what else they're being unclear about. "Oh, we don't cover anything that actually happens to you. Money flows from you to us, you know, not from us to the doctors."

I'm not trying to get political here, and I don't mind paying a reasonable amount for medical services. It's just that my definition of "reasonable amount" isn't $12,000 for a band-aid and a dab of Neosporin. I live two miles away from one of the best hospitals in the country, but what good does that do when I can't afford their services?

It's difficult for me to believe that I'm the only person in such a situation, either.

While we're on the subject of frustrations, though, have you ever put on an article of clothing only for something on it to poke you? Like, just some kind of small, hard fiber that irritates your skin. And then when you go looking for whatever it is, you can't find it? So you rearrange your clothes, but pretty soon they fall back into place and the thing is scratching at your skin again?

Well, that's been happening to me all weekend and it's making me meshuggah.

Still, that's pretty minor compared to the health insurance thing. But it's not helping my mood, either.
January 3, 2021 at 12:05am
January 3, 2021 at 12:05am
The Original Logo.

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PROMPT January 3rd

If you had a portal that would instantly transport you to one specific place on Earth whenever you wanted, where would you want to go? You can use the portal as often as you want, but it will only transport you to the one location you choose and then back again to where you came from.

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Oh, this one's easy: Belize.

Look, it's really very simple: I despise cold weather, but I like Virginia. Unfortunately, Virginia is cold for 3-4 months out of the year, and kinda iffy for another 1-2 months.

On the other hand, Belize is in Central America and in the potential path of hurricanes... but generally, only in the months where it's not cold in Virginia.

I could also say "Hawai'i," but having been to Hawai'i, it's expensive as hell unless you can get kama'aina, but only residents get that and with the portal I still wouldn't be a resident.

But really, any place that is warm when it's cold here will do. Oz, maybe, though I'm not a huge fan of 40C weather either, or having 90% of the flora and fauna actively trying to kill me. Or New Zealand, which I've never been to either but has the benefit of it being summer there when it's winter here, and also doesn't have drop bears.

Obviously, just about anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere or tropics would meet my requirements, but Belize was the first thing to come into my head and now I'm not sure I can even justify it. I mean, it's got its problems, but I did enjoy my visit there lo these many years ago and would like to go back, portal or no.

In the hypothetical situation we're discussing, though, I'd want the portal to take me someplace I'm familiar with already, and when it comes to the tropics, for me that's limited to Hawai'i, Belize, Antigua, Montserrat, and St. Thomas. Of all of those, only Belize is not a tiny island.

And I've never been south of the Equator, a situation I would like to remedy before I kick it.

Now. I'm just drunk enough to point out a potential issue with such a portal. Okay, more than one issue.

Let's start with air pressure.

The average air pressure at the surface of the Earth is, by definition, one atmosphere. There are myriad and confusing ways to report said pressure, in both imperial and metric units, but let's go with the metric standard of 101,325 Pa.

That is, as I mentioned, an average. An arithmetic mean. It varies according to weather conditions and elevation and, notably, when it's warm the pressure tends to be significantly lower than when it's cold. As this portal specifically exists to take me from someplace cold (defined by me as anything less than about 12C) to someplace warm (defined by me as anything above around 20C), and I currently live at 500' above mean sea level, I don't know how such a hypothetical portal could handle pressure differentials.

Air pressure gradients in adjacent areas of Earth's surface can generate hurricane-force winds. Hell... that's usually what wind is: an attempt to balance out pressure differences. Change that to non-adjacent areas connected by a magical or scientific portal, and the problem gets even worse.

That's always bugged me in science fiction, by the way. Bad enough when it's a portal from one place on Earth to another, but when it's between worlds, like the Stargate or something, how do you justify being able to send people through the portal when there's almost certainly an air pressure differential on both sides? How does it send people but not air molecules?

I'm sure a clever writer can hand-wave the science, but most fiction never even tries.

And then there's angular momentum.

You may feel like you're standing still, but you are not. If you're on the equator, you're moving at 460 meters per second with the Earth's rotation, relative to the planet's axis. You're also being flung around the sun and the solar system itself is moving through the galaxy, but let's just think about rotational velocity right now.

I live at about 38 degrees north latitude, which (math) is moving at about 355 meters per second relative to the axis.

Those numbers are probably outside most peoples' experience, so for the benefit of other Americans: 1000 mph and 800 mph.

That might sound "close enough" but imagine jumping off a train moving at 1000-800=200 mph and that's the kind of velocity change that a portal from my house to somewhere on the Equator would have to deal with. It would be even worse, obviously, the further from the Equator you go.

And, finally, such a portal would need to take into account that the planet is round (yes, really, it is, and if you believe otherwise, boy are you in the wrong place right now), so how do you change a person's angle as you change their latitude? If that makes sense. I might still be drunk from Zoomies, so I'm probably not explaining everything as clearly as I could.

None of which, of course, even begins to answer the question of how such a portal could be built in the first place, but hey, let's not get too technical here.
January 2, 2021 at 12:01am
January 2, 2021 at 12:01am
The Original Logo.

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PROMPT January 2nd

2020 is finally in the rear view mirror... what’s ahead for you in 2021?

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Happy birthday, Emily *Bigsmile*

Being my usual sunny, optimistic self ("sunny" as in "can cause heatstroke, burns, and blindness" and "optimistic" as in "sarcastic"), I've been saying things like "2020 was only the preface" and "flipping a calendar changes nothing but the calendar."

One thing I hope I will not do: repeat my 2020 "blogging every day" achievement. Because if I do that, it would mean I will have been stuck at home all year again, rather than traveling like I want to. Not that I can't blog when I travel, usually; it's just that I'm not going to make myself take the time to do an entry every day.

I know some people are traveling anyway. With proper precautions and care, it's not in itself hazardous. It's just that, for me, the whole purpose of traveling is to visit breweries and restaurants, and it's a crapshoot as to whether those are open in a particular area or not. Not to mention the mask-averse plague rats that infest nearly every location. Also, the main trip I want to take is to Europe, and last I heard there were still travel restrictions there.

Other than that, obviously, I don't know. If 2020 taught me anything, it's that people will believe stupid shit... and that predicting what will happen is useless when external events can fuck everything up. On last year's New Year's Day entry, I wrote: "I have some plans, but life has a way of interfering with them." Prescience? Nah, pessimism. I also wrote in one of its comments: "Seeing the country before it plunges into apocalypse..." with regards to a reason why I traveled a lot in the teens. So really, 2020 didn't change my attitude much.

A few things, besides travel, that I would like to do this year: see movies in the theater, drink, do the biweekly Zoom meetings for WDC folks (see yesterday's entry), listen to music, play computer games, blog, learn more French and maybe Dutch, continue doing Comedy and Fantasy newsletters monthly, and attempt to be funny.

But like I said. No guarantees, except that there are no guarantees. Paradox!
January 1, 2021 at 11:59am
January 1, 2021 at 11:59am
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PROMPT January 1st

What’s something GOOD that happened in 2020?

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I have a confession to make:

2020 wasn't a terrible year for me.

Oh, sure, I was visited by the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. His name is Minor Inconvenience. Death, Pestilence, War, and Famine don't talk about him much.

I'm not trying to downplay how horrible the year was for a lot of people. I'm not as self-centered as I sometimes project myself to be. Hence why I call this a "confession." I know it was a really rough year for a lot of folks, and I still don't see it getting any better just because a clock struck midnight. Ideally, I should go on being empathetic toward the plight of others, but right now, with this prompt, I'm just going to take a moment to gloat about how I, personally, was largely untouched by the tides of 2020. I didn't get sick; no one I'm close to died; and life continued to be, as I noted in yesterday's entry, unfair in my favor.

Sure, there were things I wanted to do that I couldn't, such as travel, theater movies, and drinking at bars. As I said: minor inconvenience. And there were a few moments of deep despair, but they were mostly fixed with music and alcohol, the combination of which often cures what ails me.

There is, of course, no guarantee that this will continue. As I also noted in yesterday's entry, luck can be fickle, and fortunes can reverse at any time. But as far as the big bad wolf of 2020 goes, he didn't manage to huff and puff and blow my house down.

One good thing about 2020?

I survived it, and even prospered in spite of it.

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

I appreciated all of the comments from yesterday. Some of them made me feel really good indeed. I'm so glad that people get something from what I write in here, sometimes. Another confession: here it is, 12 hours into the new year, and I find myself still drunk from last night. So I don't trust myself to pick Merit Badge recipients at random right at the moment. Perhaps after some more Advil and a nice nap, I'll be able to roll the virtual dice. Bad enough I have to judge and prompt at "The Writer's Cramp [13+] as soon as I'm done posting this.

One thing I'll continue into 2021: mini-contests. So everyone will have another chance soon.

Another thing I'll continue: Zoomies. Our next meeting is tomorrow, and I'm pretty sure I'll be sober for the start of that. Probably not the end of it, though. If you haven't chimed in, maybe it's something you'd like to do this year, just to hang out and chat about writing and life in general. You can find more information here:

 WDC Zoomies  (GC)
A group of writers who meet via Zoom every other Saturday
#2220189 by Charity Marie
December 31, 2020 at 12:01am
December 31, 2020 at 12:01am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
31. Unlucky Day
Write about a time when you were particularly unlucky.

You know what?


I don't believe in supernatural forces, but luck is a thing independent of that. It's random chance applied to circumstance. You can't affect random chance, but you can affect circumstance. It's like... if you're terrified of being killed at sea, you can change the odds of you being killed at sea by not going to sea. And yet, if you do go to sea, you still have pretty good odds of, you know... living through it. But it's still subject to chance. And if you move to, say, the Midwest to maximize your chances of not accidentally going to sea, well, there's always tornadoes.

Like everyone, I've had good things happen to me and bad things. I've had bad things that have turned out to be good things, and good things that turned out to be bad things. On balance, though, life isn't fair... and so far, it's been unfair in my favor.

So I don't want to dwell on the unlucky parts. It puts me in the wrong mindset for going into a new year, which, though I've ranted about the arbitrariness of January 1 here before, the reality remains that the world I live in uses the Gregorian calendar and there's no disputing that the odometer of that calendar rolls over tonight. And that's meaningful for a lot of people.

I just think all the folks who are going to breathe a huge sigh of relief just because the clock strikes midnight are going to be in for a rude surprise.

As usual, I could be wrong. But there's no guarantee that 2021 will be any better than 2020. Luck, remember?

This entry marks a personal achievement for me and, true to form, it is not one that I actually set out to achieve. Those, I inevitably fail at (hence why I'm not making any New Year's resolutions). But as of this entry, I have written a blog entry -- and, I trust, one that was meaningful in some way -- every day in 2020. You can verify this for yourself - just click back through the calendar there on the left, and you'll see that every month of 2020 is completely filled.

And so, in celebration of this achievement, here comes 2020's final...

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

Merit Badge Mini-Contest!

In keeping with the theme of "luck," I'm going to run this a little bit differently from previous contests. All you gotta do is comment, and tomorrow I'm going to pick commenters from this entry at random. For every five commenters or fraction thereof, I'll award one Merit Badge. So if only one person comments, they'll get one. If eight comment, then two people will get one. If 25 people comment, there will be five MBs. You're welcome to comment more than once, but only one of them will count.

If you're at a loss for what to comment, how about... what are your hopes for the New Year? Or... what are your favorite kinds of entries in my blog? Or, just tell me how awesome I am. It won't affect your odds of getting a Merit Badge, but it'll make me feel good. Hell, tell me I suck and it still won't affect the outcome. (Though, please do stick to the Content Rating, as always.)

As per usual, deadline is midnight tonight WDC time (Eastern Standard Time). Since that is the end of December 31, and I too am on Eastern Time, and it is New Year's Eve, I do not expect to be in any condition to post a blog entry shortly after midnight like I usually do. Just to be clear, I'll be staying home, not going out, but there will be alcohol. I will award the MB(s) and post an entry later that day, assuming the overindulgence doesn't destroy me.

Which, let's face it, would be a fitting end to this year.

And so, Happy New Year to all, and most of all...

Good luck.
December 30, 2020 at 12:01am
December 30, 2020 at 12:01am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
30. Bacon Day
The perfect breakfast meat.
Write anything about bacon!

Ah, yes, bacon... the candy of the meat world.

On the rare occasion that someone works up the chutzpah to ask me why I'm no longer a practicing Jew, I like to reply, "Tried bacon once, never looked back."

Which reminds me of an old joke:

A rabbi and a priest end up next to each other on an airplane. It's a long trip, so they get to talking. Eventually, they get comfortable enough with one another to ask the important theological questions.

"I'm curious," says the priest. "And you don't have to answer if it makes you uncomfortable, but... have you ever tried bacon?"

The rabbi sighs. "Yes, yes, I confess... in my younger, rebellious days, I once tried a bit of the forbidden meat. But it was only the once, never again."

They're silent for a while, then the rabbi goes, "I'm curious too, and you don't have to answer either, but... have you ever had sex?"

The priest goes, "Yes... yes, I have to confess that in my earlier, rebellious days, I did the act with a nice older lady. I did penance for it for weeks, and it was just the once, never again."

The rabbi sits back and nods. They're silent for a while again, and then the rabbi side-eyes the priest and mutters:

"Beats the hell out of bacon, doesn't it?"

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all year.

But seriously, though, I, too, have a confession to make:

When it comes to breakfast meats, I prefer turkey "bacon."

Yes, yes, I know, I can hear your collective gasp of disbelief and astonishment all the way over here. But it's true. The thing about bacon -- about meat in general (and don't give me shit about not being vegetarian) -- is that I like the meat, but I do not like the taste of animal fat. And bacon is mostly fat. At least, American bacon is; what they call bacon in Britain is more like what we call Canadian bacon, which in Canada is called backbacon. It's leaner, anyway. And turkey "bacon," being made of bird, has far less fat to it.

Which doesn't mean I'll turn down actual bacon if it's around, of course. But it's gotta be completely cooked. If I hold it by one end, it should remain horizontal, with no measurable droop. And the despicable practice of cooking eggs in the bacon drippings? No.

Speaking of cooking bacon, there are only two acceptable methods: oven and microwave. In the oven, the strips need to be arranged on a rack with the drippings caught by a pan and then discarded. This is preferable to me, but can take up to 30 minutes, including preheating time, which is usually unacceptable in the morning. So for speed, I use the microwave method: three layers of paper towels, strips of bacon, then two more layers of paper towels. 2-3 minutes depending on the amount and thickness of the slices. The towels absorb the fat, leaving me with nice crispy bacon (one can cook it for less time for a chewier bacon, if you're one of those weirdos).

I've tried the vegetarian strips that are meant to pass for bacon. They do not, in fact, pass for bacon, even though the makers take great pains to make them look marbled. If you don't pretend they're bacon, though, they're not bad in themselves. I call it "fakon."

And great, now I'm hungry and oh look there is bacon in the fridge...
December 29, 2020 at 12:02am
December 29, 2020 at 12:02am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
29. December Full Moon (aka Cold Moon)
Write something about the full moon.


We really, really need to stop associating full moon names with Gregorian calendar months.

The concept of naming full moons evolved separately from the Gregorian calendar and its predecessor, the Julian. The folklore associated with moon phases was tied to seasons; that is, equinoxes and solstices.

The Cold Moon - or whatever it's called in whatever culture - was the first full moon after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (hence "Cold"). This has an approximately 1/3 chance of occurring in our December, and about a 2/3 chance of occurring in January.

I know I've ranted about this sort of thing before, in connection with the "Blue Moon." It's as if the internet just doesn't pay attention to a single word I say...

...which is fair, I suppose, since I'm basically nobody.

It's still the hill I choose to die on.

Once more, with feeling: there will usually be three full moons between equinox and solstice, or vice versa. On those rare occasions when there are four, the third of the four is the Blue Moon. "Rare" meaning about once every three years or so; hence the expression "once in a blue moon."

There was a time, some few years ago, when we had two full moons in January, none in February, and two again in March (January and March having 31 days each by fiat). This all by itself should have been sufficient to stop this "second full moon in a calendar month is a Blue Moon" nonsense, but apparently that was not the case, as the wrongness persists to this day.

And again, the method of naming moons relative to equinox/solstice is independent of whatever calendar is being used, so it is more universal.

An astronomer I'm acquainted with, Phil Plait, accepts that either method is "right," because like it or not, the Gregorian calendar is what we're stuck with, at least for now. I have a great deal of respect for Phil; I spent a week in a cabin in Colorado with him and his wife and a few other people. I think I understand his reasoning for that; as with a dictionary, it's a matter of descriptive versus prescriptive, and from his point of view anything that gets people interested in looking up at the sky is a Good Thing.

I agree with that bit: if you can be arsed to get out of your warm house in December or January (again, I'm being Northern-Hemisphere-centric here) to look up at the Moon in all her glory, that's great. Do it. Or if you spend a week in Colorado looking at the sky, preferably during a time when there is not a full moon because without the competition, and also preferably in the company of a professional astronomer who can show you shit through a telescope that's even more amazing, the rest of the sky can be even more glorious.

Where I disagree with Phil is that I believe we can't just abandon the folklore; trying to fit it into modern timekeeping is, to me, a bit like trying to hammer a round peg into a square hole. Or maybe it's the other way around; whatever. Doesn't matter; point is it's not going to fit right no matter what you do.

And honestly, I'm of two minds regarding calendar reforms. Personally, I think we should either go back to a purely astronomical one, where solstices and equinoxes mark the seasons but the moons are tracked as per one's chosen folklore; or abandon the concept entirely in favor of something like the Tranquility Calendar  .

Still. Go look at the full moon, if weather conditions allow. I know it happens every 29 days or so, but it's still worth noting.
December 28, 2020 at 12:53am
December 28, 2020 at 12:53am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
28. Card Playing Day!
Do you like playing cards? Which card games do you prefer?

Long ago, I used to host a Poker Night at my place. Unlike many such events, this wasn't a boys' club, nor was it merely an excuse for my group of friends to get together. I mean, that's what we were doing, of course, but poker was the purpose of the evening; it was a casual, low-stakes game, but we were still serious about it.

Nor was it a tense Hold 'Em tournament, but good old-fashioned dealer's choice: draw or stud or one of the many variations thereof.

Things drifted apart after a while, so this stopped even before the pandemic made hosting poker games a difficult proposition, but I do miss the games.

I've played a few of the purpose-built card games, you know, like Cards Against Humanity and others that use different decks, and those can be fun too.

When I go out gambling, though, my game of choice is blackjack, not poker. Or, at least, it was when I could still go out gambling.

I realize this isn't a particularly clever or funny entry; I'm just not in the mood to do clever and/or funny right now. But I feel like I should do more than a plain prompt answer, so I thought I'd point out some things about a standard deck of cards.

There are more ways to arrange a deck of cards than there are atoms on Earth  

Consider how many card games must have taken place across the world since the beginning of humankind.

That's a stretch. Playing cards aren't much more than 1000 years old  , and the evolution to the modern, standard, French style deck of 52 cards arranged in four suits with aces, royalty, etc. took maybe 5-600 years, so we're not talking about "the beginning of humankind" but roughly "from about the time of Shakespeare."

It seems unbelievable, but there are somewhere in the range of 8x1067 ways to sort a deck of cards. That’s an 8 followed by 67 zeros.

What they are describing there is the number of possible permutations of a pack of 52 cards. The number is written as 52!, which is read "fifty-two factorial," and is the result you get when you multiply all of the integers from 1 through 52: 1x2x3x4x5x...x50x51x52.

It is, as the article notes, a really stupendously huge number. Considering that the universe is, by comparison, only about 4x1017 seconds old, you can maybe start to see how people can say there has probably never been the same particular combination of shuffled cards in all of the history of cards.

Or, as the article puts it with even less clarity, To put that in perspective, even if someone could rearrange a deck of cards every second of the universe’s total existence, the universe would end before they would get even one billionth of the way to finding a repeat.

It is, however, the nature of humans to only notice when such shuffling produces "interesting" combinations of cards -- such as straights, flushes, or four-of-a-kind. When playing poker, we'll notice those (because they tend to be winning hands) far more often that the just as likely 6-10-3-K-8 of mixed suits, for example.

Cards are a good way to teach statistics and probability - but they're also handy tools for explaining the concept of entropy.

But mostly, I just miss playing poker.
December 27, 2020 at 12:01am
December 27, 2020 at 12:01am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
27. National Fruitcake Day
Write about your opinion of Fruitcake.
If you don't like them, you haven't had mine. *Wink*

Counterargument: if I like it, it isn't actually fruitcake.

I don't know who first said it and I can't be arsed to look it up, but there's this idea that each family has only one fruitcake. Whoever gets it at Christmas shoves it in their freezer and regifts it to a different family member next Christmas, and they put it in their freezer, and the cycle continues until the heat death of the universe.

Now, I don't come from a fruitcake family, but I've had occasion to try other peoples' fruitcakes from time to time, and I just have one question:

Why? For the love of all that is right and pure in the world, WHY??!

Each of the various components of fruitcake is, usually anyway, just fine on its own. Put it together and you end up with the culinary equivalent of plaid and stripes, or socks with sandals.

I will grant that the person who wrote this prompt (it was Lilli ☕) probably makes some delicious cake. She might even call it "fruitcake." But this is like owning a Mercedes and calling it a Chevy.

I've heard the "If you think you don't like x, it's only because you haven't had mine" argument before and, all due respect, it is bullshit.

Take eggplant, for example. That's aubergine for my Brit friends. A typical conversation for me might go like this:

"I don't like eggplant."

"Oh, that's only because you haven't had mine."

*I try the eggplant dish*

"...I hate eggplant."

At some point, as I refuse to fake an allergy just to get me out of eating something, I started saying instead: "Eggplant is not actually food." This usually works. When it doesn't, I end up subjected to either a) a dish that is, objectively, made very well, but since it contains eggplant, I can't stand it; or b) a dish that so thoroughly covers up the disgusting taste and/or horrid texture of eggplant that one wonders why the dish isn't simply made without the offending material.

It is, on the other hand, absolutely true that there are some things that, if not cooked properly, just don't taste very good; but if made with skill and knowledge, can be delicious. Zucchini (that's courgette for my Brit friends) is one such foodstuff. I always thought I hated zucchini when I was a kid, but the truth was I hated the way my mother cooked the stuff.

Hell, the way my mom cooked, I was convinced that I didn't like chicken.

Still, there would be one way for me to change my mind about eggplant, or fruitcake for that matter: tell me I can't eat it. "I'm sorry, Mr. Waltz, but you have a rare illness. You'll be fine as long as you never eat fruitcake. But if you do, you'll end up in the emergency room or possibly die."

In such a scenario, all I'd be able to think of is how delicious fruitcake would be right about now.

That may sound farfetched, but that perfectly describes me with grapefruit when I started taking statins. Never cared for the stuff until the doctor told me I could never eat it again, at which point it was all I craved. This ebbed over time, but for a while there, grapefruit (I have no idea what Brits call it) might as well have been chocolate for all the cravings I got for it.

Still, there's little chance of that happening with fruitcake, so I think I'm safe on that front.
December 26, 2020 at 12:02am
December 26, 2020 at 12:02am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
26. National Whiner's Day
Whiner or winer... you pick.
Maybe you'd like to whine about wine...
Or perhaps you forgot to mention a grievance from Festivus...

See? Another pun opportunity today. Though I maintain that Boxing Day shouldn't share the stage. Not gonna whine about it, though. I'm tempted to ask who the one single whiner is, but I should know better than to expect people to use apostrophes correctly. (That is the actual official name of the day; I'm not ragging on the prompt, here.)

Of course, I don't whine. I rant. What's the difference? When I do it, it's ranting and should be encouraged. When other people do it, it's whining and needs to stop. This is similar to the distinction Mel Brooks makes between tragedy and comedy: “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”

I do like wine, even if I do spend more time writing about beer. As with beer, though, my tastes in wine are somewhat iconoclastic. You won't tempt me with a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon; those are too ordinary. Give me a Vouvray or a Mourvedre instead. But still, I'm not going to whine about wine, especially if it is free or cheap. (Usually, it isn't.)

Curious about National Whiner's Day,   I looked it up and Thor's balls is it awful.

Coming the day after Christmas, some may think that National Whiner's Day was created so that people can whine about the presents they didn't receive.

Never even crossed my mind.

But that is not the case at all! National Whiner's Day was created by Kevin Zaborney in 1986...


Oh, this guy apparently goes by Hugambassador on Twitter. As we said in 1986, "Gag me with a chainsaw."

"to encourage gratefulness for what we have rather than what we do not."

Make that two chainsaws.

It is not a day to whine, but a day to be thankful for all that is good in our lives.

Stress level approaching critical zone...

Zaborney also created National Hugging Day, because he believes there are far too many whiners these days, and not enough huggers.

Because of course he did and of course he does. Hey, how's that hugging working out for ya this year, dude? Hard to hug on a Zoom call, isn't it? WELCOME TO THE CLUB.

The day is best celebrated by expressing gratefulness for everything you have...

If you're the kind of person who is inclined to express gratitude, you don't need a day for it. If you're not, you're not going to start just because someone declares there's a day for it. Besides, don't we already have Thanksgiving?

Zaborney also suggests a few other ways to celebrate the day:

I can think of a few suggestions, but let's see what the founder says.

go to a store and observe whiner's returning their holiday gifts

That would involve me going to a store on the day after Christmas, which is third of my Top Five Days Not To Go To Stores, right after Black Friday and Christmas Eve, and right before Third of July and Every Other Day Of The Year. Also, that apostrophe is making my eyes twitch; it's even more egregious than the one in the name of the day.

invite people over for a "whine and geeze" party where non alcoholic wine and cheese are served; have them bring over a gift they want to whine about, that can be used in a white elephant gift exchange; or hold a whining contest

NON-ALCOHOLIC? *Shock2* *Angry* Truck away with that bullshit right now. We're supposed to express gratitude, and topping THAT list for me is anything with ethanol in it. Well, almost anything. Anything that doesn't suck but has alcohol. Also get the fuck out of here with the white elephant shitpile that I ranted about in here some time ago. How long ago? I don't know. Recently.

Wow, look at that. I started this entry in a pretty good mood *Meh*, and now I'm about to pop a blood vessel. *Rage* Better grab some wine. *Bottles*

But first...

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

Mini-Contest Results!

Seriously great, creative No-"L" entries by everyone yesterday! It was hard to pick a winner, and while the temptation is there to give everyone a Merit Badge because it is, after all, Chri- OH WAIT, it's not Christmas anymore, so there's only one Merit Badge. But I did appreciate everyone's really supremely clever L-less descriptions, and you will all get another chance at an MB before too long. Maybe even New Years Eve if I can remember to do one that day (for obvious reasons, though, the New Years Day entry, and thus any award, might be delayed).

But for today, Kåre Enga, P.O. 22, Blogville will get a Food Cooking MB because I, too, am a fan of stuffing. Of course other people mentioned stuffing, too; like I said, it was a close one all around. Thanks for the comments!
December 25, 2020 at 12:01am
December 25, 2020 at 12:01am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
25. Pumpkin Pie Day
Are you a fan? Why or why not.

Life isn't binary.

I'm okay with pumpkin pie. Well, most pumpkin pie. The canned stuff isn't so great. And -- shh, don't tell anyone -- I actually like pumpkin pie spice. Not enough to ever crave it, though there is one pumpkin beer that comes out every fall that I just need to acquire at least once a year.

I did a Comedy newsletter about pumpkin spice way back in September: "Pumpkin Spice. Go ahead, read that editorial if you haven't already. This isn't the only place where I do comedy.

So imagine my surprise when I find out that today, December 25, is officially (by whatever means people decide such things are "official") Pumpkin Pie Day. As far as I'm concerned, that season is over. Now is the season for other spices, and for stouts and port wine.

Still, pumpkin, and pumpkin spice, could disappear tomorrow and I wouldn't miss it too much. I don't love it. I don't hate it. So when I say "I'm not a fan," I don't mean I'm an anti-fan; I simply mean I like it well enough and will eat it if it's around. Saying "I'm not a fan" apparently means something other than its plain denotation, for some people, so I feel like I have to make it clear where I stand: on a scale of 1 to 10, it's a solid 6.

You know what else today is?

Today is No "L" Day.  

Personally, I think every day should be Punday. Find an excuse if there isn't an obvious one, like today. Tomorrow would be easy enough; plenty of pun material in Boxing Day. Next week could be New Beer's Eve, where the goal is to try a beer that's new to you (a thing that is getting harder for me all the time).

But that would also make this Pun-kin Pie Day, so maybe we need to celebrate Pun-kin Pie Day on some other occasion. Sometime in October, maybe, because come ON, all the pumpkins are gone by now but there are always puns to be made.

And hey, because it's No "L" Day, let's have a...

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

Merit Badge Mini-Contest!

Comment beow without using the etter between K and M in the aphabet, and say what your favorite hoiday food and/or beverage is. The one I ike best gets the person who posts it a Merit Badge tomorrow. The deadine is midnight today, December 25.

Unfortunatey, my favorite hoiday food is atkes...
December 24, 2020 at 12:01am
December 24, 2020 at 12:01am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
24. Last-Minute Shopper's Day also National Eggnog Day
I should think good strong eggnog would hit the spot after a day of shopping.
See what you can come up with for that one.

Now, look, we all know that I put the "pro" in "procrastination." Hell, the only way I can manage to usually post one of these entries shortly after midnight is to pretend that I'm doing yesterday's entry and submitting it late.

But when it comes to holiday shopping... well, I was done with that weeks ago.

Part of this is because I, by design, have only a few people to shop for. But another part is that even in the Before Time, I didn't go into stores unless I absolutely had to. And by "had to," I mean going into a liquor store because my state has backwards-ass rules about not being able to mail-order liquor.

Everything else, I can and do buy online, issues with Amazon be damned.

Yes, even groceries. I know I've mentioned this before, but I've been having them delivered for at least two years, now.

Of course, there are a few local businesses I feel I should support, and I'll venture into those shops on occasion, but for the most part, everything I need for myself or as gifts for others comes from the internet.

Besides, if I went into stores on December 24th, I'd be subjected to holiday music, and that's a thing I would rather avoid.

Consequently, I don't have eggnog. It's just not something I think about. If I'd gone into the supermarket, I'm sure I'd have seen a display of the mix for it and probably bought it (another reason I don't go shopping: I have poor impulse control and shopping online tends to keep that in check). Then I could have walked across the parking lot and picked up rum at the liquor store -- although at the moment I don't have to because I have plenty of rum.

Now with this prompt I find myself wanting some eggnog... but not enough to make a special trip to the store later today, and finding a delivery slot on Christmas Eve just isn't going to happen. I've got supplies to last me at least through Sunday.

And don't start with the "why don't you make your own eggnog from scratch" shaming. First of all, it's a lot like work; second, and perhaps more importantly, I'd still have to purchase some of the ingredients, at which point I might as well get the pre-made stuff. So no eggnog for me this year. Maybe next year, if I think about it. But probably not.
December 23, 2020 at 12:02am
December 23, 2020 at 12:02am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
23. Happy Festivus!
Let the 'Airing of Grievances' commence...

Um... what do you think I've been doing here?!

Okay, seriously, though. Of all the made-up holidays (and, come on, they're all made-up), why was this the one that had to catch on?

I'm not saying I didn't like Seinfeld. It was a great show for its time, and has certainly added to the cultural discourse in lots of ways. But seriously, Festivus? It's not even all that clever.

I guess I shouldn't complain (though this is the day for it). It's always bugged me that Hanukkah was always conflated with Christmas by well-meaning celebrators of Christmas. It's like "Hey, we're pretty happy around this time of year. But oh, those poor Jews. They don't have a Christmas to celebrate." "But they have Hanukkah." "Oh, yeah, Hanukkah! There are candles and presents and it usually happens in December, so it must be their equivalent!" Well, um... no.

No, I'm not going to get into why. Plenty of information out there if you care.

So a comedy show with a definite Jewish slant comes up with a more Christmas-y holiday, one that anyone of any religion or none can celebrate, which takes the pressure off Hanukkah, so why does it piss me off?

Maybe because I didn't think of it first, I guess. Not that it would have made any difference if I had; it's not like I have an audience of millions. Or any skill at making videos.

Or maybe it's because there's a perfectly good solstice a couple days before Festivus, and that's also something that anyone can celebrate because it actually corresponds to something real in nature.

Probably a little of both.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to train for the feats of strength.
December 22, 2020 at 12:11am
December 22, 2020 at 12:11am
History is cool and never really boring, unless you approach it like my teachers did in school, with endless memorization of dates that shit happened, without any context. I think it takes some experience and lifelong learning to be able to have a syncretic approach to historical events.

"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
22. Today in History
Look up some events that happened on December 22nd,
select one, and tell us about it.

That is, with the possible exception of December 22nd, which, while Wikipedia lists a whole slew of events that took place   on this day in history, it turns out that nearly every single one of them is yawn-inducing.

For example:

*Yawn* 1920 – The GOELRO economic development plan is adopted by the 8th Congress of Soviets of the Russian SFSR.

Who did what to which now?

*Yawn* 1965 – In the United Kingdom, a 70 mph speed limit is applied to all rural roads including motorways for the first time.

And so? A dozen years later, the US adopted a 55 mph speed limit, and our roads are straighter, wider, and feature driving on the correct side.

*Yawn* 1891 – Asteroid 323 Brucia becomes the first asteroid discovered using photography.

I mean, two of the few subjects that interest me more than history are photography and astronomy, and this is still meh.

*Yawn* 1807 – The Embargo Act, forbidding trade with all foreign countries, is passed by the U.S. Congress, at the urging of President Thomas Jefferson.

If there is anything more boring than international trade negotiations, I haven't discovered it.

It is true that, per the link above, some cool shit happened too, like the reopening of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, but there really isn't much there for me to want to write about. Even the births and deaths lists are largely boring. Also, can the dates really be trusted before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar?

But if I had to pick one -- and I don't, really, but it's only polite to address the prompt -- I'm going to go with one related to civil engineering.

1937 – The Lincoln Tunnel   opens to traffic in New York City.

...which led to a traffic jam that persists to this day.

The Lincoln Tunnel is an approximately 1.5-mile-long (2.4 km) tunnel under the Hudson River, connecting Weehawken, New Jersey, to the west with Midtown Manhattan in New York City to the east.

Can I just point out how much sheer fun it is to say "Weehawken?" I do that every time I go through the Lincoln Tunnel, which may help to explain why I'm single.

Turns out that the 1937 date is just for one of the current three tubes of the tunnel:

Construction of the central tube, which originally lacked sufficient funding due to the Great Depression, started in 1934 and it opened in 1937. The northern tube started construction in 1936, was delayed due to World War II-related material shortages, and opened in 1945. Although the original plans for the Lincoln Tunnel called for two tubes, a third tube to the south of the existing tunnels was planned in 1950 due to high traffic demand on the other two tubes. The third tube started construction in 1954, with the delay attributed to disputes over tunnel approaches, and opened in 1957.

I would have hated to be the guy supervising the construction of the other tubes while the first one was in operation. "Now, don't screw this up or you'll flood the tunnel."

The tolls on each crossing are only collected in the New York-bound direction.

That's because if you charged people to go into New Jersey, no one would go into New Jersey.

As of 2016, both directions of the tunnel carry a combined average of 112,995 vehicular crossings every day.

Mostly at the exact same time I'm trying to cross.

The article goes on to describe the tunnel's specifications and the negotiations leading up to its construction, which I find fascinating but everyone else would probably feel about it the way I feel about trade negotiations, so I'll skip most of the commentary on it.

Officials from the federal, state, and city levels were in attendance at the ceremony on the New York side, where New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia and New Jersey Governor A. Harry Moore wielded picks to dig up the ceremonial first mound of dirt.

Personally I think it would have been better if the governors had done most of the work themselves. You know, give them something to do besides trade negotiations.

The first tube was formally dedicated on December 21, 1937. The opening ceremony was accompanied by a military parade on the New Jersey side, as well as the detonation of a series of aerial bombs launched from military ships.

'Muricans gonna 'Murica.

The first vehicles began passing through the tube at 4:00 AM the next day.

Look, I know the construction crews most likely drove vehicles through the tunnel before that, but still, imagine being the first family through a new tunnel bore. "Hey, look, Mildred. Is that... a crack? Leaking water?"

Due to the limited capacity of the new tube, heavy trucks were temporarily banned, and a minimum speed limit of 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) was imposed until a second tube could be completed.

The current minimum speed is 0 mph and the max is about 3. Hell, Google usually routes me to the GWB instead. At least that way I get a view of something besides 80-year-old tunnel walls.
December 21, 2020 at 12:00am
December 21, 2020 at 12:00am
Today's entry title is shamelessly stolen from the Doctor Who special, "A Christmas Carol."

"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
21. Winter Solstice
Our shortest day and longest night...
We’re about to enter the season of winter: Quiet. Reflection. Incubation. Going Inward.
Write something inspired by that.

I had neighbors decorating for Christmas before Halloween this year. How do you feel about Christmas starting sooner each year?

Like I wasn't going to talk about the solstice today. The actual event takes place at 5:02 am   Eastern time (which is also WDC time) today, so I'm writing this pre-solstice.

But first: that prompt represents the last of the JAFBG December prompts for me. And I think I've made my feelings known full well about Christmas creep, that phenomenon where Santa Claus sticks his bulbous nose into earlier and earlier months every year.

Except... maybe it's just me, but in recent years, at least in the Before Time, it seems as if more people are getting on the anti-Christmas-creep bandwagon with me, as I have not seen many instances of holiday shit in October, September, August... but then, I didn't get out much even before it was inadvisable to do so, so perhaps I did miss something. My neighbors all waited until after Thanksgiving this year to decorate, and the decorations are pretty much tasteful -- except of course for the one lady who insists on dressing her car up like a goddamned reindeer every year.

But hey, like I said before, I don't begrudge anyone their celebration, especially this year when they need it more than ever. As long as I don't have to hear the endless loop of holiday music, I can deal with it.

One of these days, if I can get up the energy to do so, I want to decorate for Halloween on Christmas. See how they like it when the situation is reversed. But I doubt I could ever be arsed. It's all I can do to keep up with standard maintenance, let alone special decorations.

There's good reason for the lights, of course, even if I often find them to be annoying: the winter solstice represents the longest night. This is, as I'm sure you're aware, due to the real reason for the season: axial tilt.

The article in the link I provided above does a fair job explaining the technicalities of it all. But let me dispel a misconception: Yes, the Earth's orbit is elliptical, and our distance to the sun varies. No, this doesn't do anything noticeable to the seasons. In fact, perihelion -- that point in our orbit where we're closest to the sun -- occurs just a couple of weeks after the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice. No, it doesn't get cold because we're further from the sun; it gets cold because there's basically less sunlight above the equator due to axial tilt.

That's a very simplistic explanation, though; there's more involved, what with weather patterns and atmospheric and oceanic circulation. Seasons tend to lag the solstices and equinoxes; here, the shortest day (today) isn't the day with the lowest average temperatures; that generally occurs in late January. This is one reason why we say that winter begins on the solstice.

But it wasn't always measured in that way. Other cultures considered the solstices and equinoxes to be the middle of their respective seasons. By that reckoning, today is midwinter. I prefer to think of the seasons in that manner, because it means that winter ends earlier, and the sooner this crap season ends the happier I am.

However we define seasons, though, the astronomical milestones remain. We humans have been calculating those since at least the dawn of civilization, and perhaps earlier. Stonehenge is only the most famous of the ancient calendar calculators; there were many others, in disparate cultures.

Another common story we tell ourselves is that our ancestors were frightened that the sun, having descended into darkness, would never come back unless we appeased some gods or spirits or whatever. This story has never sat well with me. The rate of change of day/night hours is a thing they would have watched very carefully; it's fastest around the equinoxes and slowest near the solstices. As the sun's descent at meridian slowed, it would have been blindingly obvious (pun intended, as usual) that it wasn't just going to keep going and eventually disappear; hell, they knew the cycle repeated itself every year (it being the very definition of "year"). So, no, ancient cultures weren't trying to convince the sun to come back; they were celebrating its inevitable return.

They weren't any stupider than we are; they just had less knowledge as to why the seasons changed the way they do. Knowledge isn't the same thing as intelligence. Lack of knowledge isn't the same thing as stupidity.

Though, just like today, I'm sure they had their conspiracy theory advocates, and other people eager to take advantage of the ignorant masses. "If you don't do what I say, the sun will never return! Now give me half your grain and a few virgins so I can... um... appease the spirits, yeah, that's it."

Kind of the ancient version of anti-vaxxers or Qanon believers.

But I have to believe that truth -- that facts -- will eventually prevail. Else, what's the point of anything? Well, maybe there is no point, true, but we can make meaning. We're at a dark time now, what with... you know... everything. But there are glimmers of hope, the promise of a new day. Like the winter solstice, writ large upon the entire world. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

But as someone said on Star Trek: Discovery last week:

Even the darkest night will end. And the sun... will rise.

Look at me being all optimistic and shit. Don't worry, I'll soon be back to my usual grumpy self.
December 20, 2020 at 12:01am
December 20, 2020 at 12:01am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
20. Go Caroling Day
Have you ever gone caroling, or had a group of carolers show up at your door?
Write something about caroling.

This is the most wonderful time of the year! Now, tell us why that's total bullshit.

Now there's an appropriate combination of prompts if there ever was one.

Look: it's not my intention to shit on someone else's festivities. I get depressed around this time of year, same as lots of people, and I'm not going to begrudge anyone the ability to do anything to try to pull themselves out of a funk, or celebrate whatever.

But listen: holiday music makes me all stabby. I know I've talked about this in previous entries. It doesn't fix my depression; the best it does is turn it outward, to anger. While I've never lashed out at anyone physically, and expect I never will, I do get vocally angry, my temper on edge, and I don't want to be around people when that happens because, like I said, I don't want to shit on anyone's day.

The kind of music that does cure my depression is depressing music. That kind of music makes me happy. But you don't see me blasting it in elevators and stores and waiting rooms and entire radio stations, convinced that all anyone has to do is listen to Leonard Cohen to make themselves feel better, because I know that while it works for me, it's not going to work for everyone.

If I'm not in a bad mood, and carolers are about, I can mostly ignore them. If I am in a bad mood, they just contribute to worsening it.

And that's one reason why this is not the most wonderful time of the year: it assumes that all anyone needs to feel joy is some blinky lights, catchy music, and consumer spending. Such things seem to work for most people. But it's like if I assumed that, for instance, thick incense smoke is all that anyone needs to cure what ails them and so I'd go around in a haze of sandalwood and patchouli. I'm sure some people would appreciate that, but I'd wager that others would consider it annoying. Well, all the bright sparkly glittery cheery shit everywhere is like that for me.

Worse, people have been programmed by years of "holiday stories" all the way back to Dickens that anyone who's not on the ho-ho-ho bandwagon is automatically a Bad Person by definition and needs to be dragged by a blinking string of lights attached to a cadre of reindeer into a forest of decorated fir trees. And I don't know; maybe I am a terrible person, but mostly I just want to be left alone until the cheer firehose gets turned off and we're back to the normal cold dreariness of winter (although don't get me stared on valentine's day either). I don't need to see sparkly lights or hear jingly bells, I don't need to be caroled at, and I certainly don't need to be subjected to peoples' inevitable family drama.

But for the sake of the people who do enjoy such things, I'm usually less vocal about it in life than I am in here.
December 19, 2020 at 12:01am
December 19, 2020 at 12:01am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
19. Oatmeal Muffin Day
Oatmeal is on the healthy side and good for lowering cholesterol.
I feel like I'm being tricked by putting it in an 'unfrosted cupcake'.

List 21 things that would make 2021 better than 2020.

Okay, look, I got nothing against oatmeal, muffins, or oatmeal muffins. I don't love them. I don't hate them. Fact is, though, in order to make oatmeal palatable to me, I have to add a bunch of stuff that effectively negates a lot of the health benefits that oatmeal probably has.

A muffin is a bald cupcake.

You know what else lowers cholesterol? A big plate of bacon and a statin.

Anyway. No clever segué today. For anyone following along, I only have two more days of JAFBG prompts, after which I'll do something else. The end of that list coincides with the solstice, so it's a good time for a change.

Only 21 things? There's a large but finite number of "things" that could happen in a year, and it would be challenging to list the opposite: 21 things that would make 2021 worse than 2020. I'm tempted to do it, just because I'm a pessimist like that. Things like: meteor strike, another pandemic that this time turns people into zombies, nuclear holocaust, I personally catch the trump mumps... ummm... maybe that's about it.

A lot of this is, of course, predicated on the idea that things will gradually reopen. I expect they will, at some point. So, in no particular order, only 21 things that would make 2021 better than 2020... for me, which is after all the only thing that matters:

1. Booze.

2. I finally get to go to Europe.

3. Movies in theaters.

4. Restaurants.

5. Road trip!

6. An early spring

7. A new gaming laptop.

8. People stop being stupid (hey, I can dream).

9. No one I care about dies.

10. Visiting breweries and wineries.

11. Getting my deck replaced.

12. New season of Doctor Who.

13. If I manage to get on my arse and edit some stories.

14. Chocolate chip cookies.

15. My HVAC doesn't break down (it'll be paid off in February so I fully expect it to die the day after I make the last payment).

16. If telemarketers somehow lost my mobile number.

17. If I get to meet people in person again.

18. Being able to go to beer festivals.

19. Staying relatively healthy.

20. Not hearing about certain news items anymore.

21. If I don't spend most of the year dealing with a toothache.

All of this reflects more optimism than I'm usually comfortable with. Better to just assume things are going to be worse next year. What's a "year," anyway, but an arbitrarily-bounded orbit of the Earth around the sun? I prefer to begin my new year at a time that's more meaningful to me, like maybe my birthday, which is in February.

We'll see if I make it that long.
December 18, 2020 at 12:01am
December 18, 2020 at 12:01am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
18. Bake Cookies Day
As if we need a designated day for this, lol.
Write about your favorite cookie(s) or cookie baking experience.
Anything to do with cookies!

You wrote a Christmas list but accidentally addressed it to Satan instead of Santa. What gifts will you be getting this year?

Nothing either way because both characters are mythological.

But hey, I'm sometimes a fiction writer, so I can play along.

I would like the following things for Christmas:

A pony
Santa: I end up with a plastic Twilight Sparkle.
Satan: There's an ebony-maned steed with flaming red eyes snorting in my backyard.

A bike
Santa: A three-speed mountain bicycle.
Satan: 2020 Harley-Davidson Roadster waiting in front of my house.

A new gaming computer
Santa: Refurbished Dell
Satan: Acer Predator with liquid nitrogen cooled processor

A time machine
Santa: A digital watch
Satan: The TARDIS

A robot servant
Santa: Roomba
Satan: Data the android from Star Trek

On the downside, well, Santa would bring me all of those admittedly very nice things in exchange for some fresh-baked cookies (see, I worked the cookies into the entry too). I don't think Satan's interested in any cookies I could bake. Well... maybe if I made them double chocolate fudge chip with chocolate syrup drizzled on them... but no, I think I'd have to pony (pun intended) up something just a little more valuable.

Could be worth it, though, just for the Acer.
December 17, 2020 at 12:02am
December 17, 2020 at 12:02am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
17. Maple Syrup Day
Did you know that this sweet and unique flavor originated in America?
Native American Indians were the first to harvest and boil the sap of the maple tree into a thick syrup.
Talk about, well, maple syrup, of course.

You have a new power this holiday season! You get to put one idea in everyone's head simultaneously and all of them will agree with it as fact. What idea are you pushing?

The one idea I'd put in everyone's head simultaneously is that I'm infallible and everyone should always agree with everything I say as fact.

Cheating? Sure. It's like wishing for infinity more wishes. Makes a shitty story, but a good life.

Of course, then I'd have to be really, really careful not to abuse said power, say by banning all holiday music from public places, or telling everyone that Bud Light isn't actually beer (which, to be fair, it isn't), or banning vertical video under penalty of death, or by convincing everyone that fake maple syrup just isn't worth it.

Because while fake maple syrup objectively isn't worth it, it's a hell of a lot cheaper, and some people just can't afford the real thing, and I'd hate for me to be the cause of anyone going broke because they bought liquid gold.

I was at some friends' house one time. They had a pre-teen kid, and we were all sitting around the table eating pancakes that his mom made. The pancakes were delicious, but the "syrup" was the fake stuff. Naturally, I didn't say anything, because I'm the guest, and I really try not to be rude.

So the kid took the "syrup" bottle and squirted half of it onto his pancakes, like pouring milk over cereal. Had it been the real stuff, the parents would have had to take out a second mortgage to afford it. Then I took the bottle and just put a little circle of "syrup" on mine.

The mom turned to the kid and said, "See how Waltz uses just a little bit of syrup?"

The dad turned to me and said, "I'll bet that's the first time you were ever used as a model for self-restraint."

I laughed, because it's true.
December 16, 2020 at 12:15am
December 16, 2020 at 12:15am
"30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]:
16. National Chocolate Covered Anything Day
Sounds like a great to 'pig-out' and enjoy!
Have you ever eaten anything 'unique' covered in chocolate?

Congratulations! You get to kill one holiday song and never have to hear it again. Which will you choose?

One? Just ONE? Hardly worth it when there are so many that send me into paroxysms of grumpiness.

You know what my favorite thing to have covered with chocolate is?


And I don't mean milk chocolate, or the abomination that is deceitfully called "white chocolate." There is absolutely no reason to sully the purity of chocolate with any other ingredients, except for a small bit of sweetener.

Which is not to say I don't sometimes enjoy chocolate-covered something. I'm fine with truffles, and it's okay to coat almonds with chocolate. Drizzle some on a dessert, fine. But to me, nothing beats the sublime goodness of pure, unadulterated dark chocolate.

Every year or so, someone will come up with a list of peoples' favorite commercial candy bars, and every damn time, Reese's makes it to the top of the list. As I noted in a previous entry, I utterly despise peanuts, although I'm okay with peanut butter. But to me, that crumbly, sugary, dried-out crap in the middle of a Reese's cup bears little resemblance to actual peanut butter. Okay, I can accept - have accepted - that my tastes are weird, as I've noted in a recent entry. But I simply cannot comprehend how popular Reese's cups are, with their fake, sugary "peanut butter" and waxy milk "chocolate."

I do have weaknesses, of course. Many of them. One of them is, or rather was, Oreos. I think I've mentioned this before, but it's been a while, so I'm going to relate this again:

Used to be I'd go to the grocery store and, in the course of perusing the aisles, the Oreos display would draw me like a moth to a flame. I'd get the standard Oreos, and go about my business, and then at home occasionally eat some of the Oreos.

Then Nabisco started doing different flavors of Oreos. The chocolate-filled ones were good, I thought. And then they came up with fudge brownie cream filled Oreos and OMG those were delicious.

Then they stopped making them. I suppose Nabisco thinks that if they keep coming up with new flavors, people will buy more Oreos. Not me. Once I tried the fudge brownie kind and then couldn't have them anymore, instead of occasionally buying Oreos, now I *never* buy the little fuckers.

Good for me. Bad for Nabisco. Doesn't seem to bother them much, though, as they continue to produce ever-weirder concoctions, the most egregious of which were -- not joking here -- Swedish Fish Oreos. Look, I have nothing against Swedish Fish, and I'm fine with original Oreos, but that combination just strikes me as being particularly heretical, like mixing Skittles with M&Ms.

Anyway, the point is, when it comes to chocolate, I'm happy to try different things; we have a chocolatier here in town that I can say with some certainty is one of the best in the world, and I've enjoyed nearly everything I've had from them. They are expensive, though, and my go-to gift for people who don't drink booze is a box of those chocolates. But of all of them, my favorite is still the pure chocolate ones, sans nuts, sans cream, sans goddamn cherries.

All of this is to point out that yeah, my tastes are obviously different from most peoples'. Another thing I shun with every fiber of my being is commercials, as I have also noted here before. I despise them with an all-consuming fiery passion. And yet... and yet... on Monday, I went to my optometrist. I had to Uber over there because they were going to dilate my pupils and I wouldn't be able to drive back, so in an abundance of caution, I ended up getting there half an hour early. Sitting in the empty waiting room (they've got anti-contagion protocols in place), I was subjected to a holiday music radio station.

I could feel my blood boiling, my lymph roiling, my brain recoiling. As with chocolate, I get that other people have different likes/dislikes than I do. That's fine, I get that, you do you, whatever. But that day, listening to one sappy, gooey holiday song after another, all I could get through my mind was: "Please go to commercial. Please go to commercial. Please go to-" And then finally they did. So yeah, it's official: as much as I hate commercials, I hate standard holiday music even more. Though I could argue that holiday music *is* a commercial.

And yet, in defiance of my wishes, it's still produced and broadcast. Like Swedish Fish Oreos. The only difference is, if SFOs are sitting out on a table somewhere, I can -- and will -- choose not to eat one. Or if there are M&Ms in a bowl and I can tell that they're the bloated, hated peanut kind rather than the inoffensive milk chocolate or delicious dark chocolate kind, again, I can simply pass them up. More for the people who like them, right? Not so with holiday music. It's out there and if I go out in December, November, and sometimes even cocksucking October, I'm subjected to it.

Obviously, a lot of people like it. Fine. And I'll admit that there are some holiday songs that I like. The Grinch theme comes to mind, as you might imagine. And I do appreciate good music, so if it's good music, I don't care if it's holiday or even religious themed; I will appreciate it. The problem is that most of the crap that gets drilled into our collective brains every season is the musical equivalent, to me, of white "chocolate" covered cherries and peanuts.

And I can't think of a bigger abomination than that, except -- maybe -- for Swedish Fish Oreos.

Clearly, I'm going to have to rearrange my schedule so that I get my medical crap taken care of in January, so that I can hermit every December. That way we all win: I don't have to be subjected to smarmy "White Christmas" bullshit, and you don't have to hear me bitch about it.

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