Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Stuff

Friday 12 December 2008

The past couple of weeks I’ve spent much of my free time with Christmas activities. On Thanksgiving day I unpacked my tree and decorations and put them up in my room, so it now looks suitably festive. During this season I like to turn off all the other lights and rely solely on the holiday lights except when I need more light for some specific purpose. I suppose it might be too dark for some people’s taste, but I like it:

My room in lights

These are the same tree and decorations I’ve used over here for the past two years. I just packed them up and mailed them home, then had them sent back when the time came to use them again. With one exception, they are things I just got for over here – most of my traditional ornaments are packed away waiting for the next time I have Christmas at home. I do have one favorite ornament that I brought over because it came from my kids and has their names on it. That one is on my bulletin board with some of their pictures.

My Desk (I finally got one!)

I found it kind of interesting that when I opened up the boxes, I felt a little twinge of the kind of holiday nostalgia I usually feel when opening my “real” decorations at home. These were just supposed to be temporary substitutes for while I was deployed, but since this my third Christmas in a row over here, these are acquiring a set of memories all their own. When I get back and dig out my others for a Christmas at home, I’m sure some of these will find their way onto my big tree.

There was one thing different this year about decorating my tree that was kind of fun. Over here they never switched over the pop-tops on soda cans to the newer kind that push the tab into the can and leave it attached. Instead they have the older kind that you pull off completely, leaving you with the tab to dispose of. My kids aren’t old enough to remember those kinds of cans, so I wanted to send them some as a curiosity, but I wasn’t allowed to send them through the mail. (I’m actually old enough to remember when cans didn’t have any kind of pop-top and you needed a can opener, but that’s another story…) Anyway when I was in high school we used to save the pop-top tabs sometimes and do different things with them. Among other things, you could string them together into chains. I remember one of my best friends had a hat band made of them.

Since I got here I have been sort of absent-mindedly saving them and stringing them into chains, not for any particular purpose, but just as something to do for no particular reason. Then it occurred to me that the chains would make a good tree decoration. Since I have a small tree, I didn’t need too many – I think I have around 150 or so, and that was enough to decorate my tree from top to bottom:

My Christmas Tree
I’ve even added a few tabs since this was taken and had to adjust the spacing of the rings. Simple pleasures….

After the decorations were up I took a break, but last weekend and this past week it was time to take care of Christmas cards and presents. I had bought a few things in the PX here for my kids and nephews, so there was a stack of boxes to take to the post office. The day after that I addressed and sent my Christmas cards. I always buy my cards from the NRA. They have a variety of cards every year, and I usually choose some kind of outdoor winter scene. Here is this year’s card:

I have no idea why this insists on uploading sideways. I even tried rotating it 90 degrees left, but then it comes out 180 degrees left! So I guess you just have to turn your head to the right....
I’ve also been listening to Christmas music and have watched a couple of my Christmas shows. So far I’ve watched “Red Sleigh Down” (the first South Park episode I ever saw) and another South Park episode called “Christmas with Charles Manson”. Yet to go: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire’s “Holiday Inn”, National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation”, Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”, Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in “Meet John Doe”, and of course Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Over the past couple of days I did some final Christmas shopping online. Thank goodness for! They are very convenient, and one small benefit is Christmas wrapping! (Due to the requirement for customs inspections, the only presents I can send wrapped are the ones I buy online).

(As an aside, I wonder what old what’s-his-name thinks of now? In 1995 I was an IT recruiter with Source Edp. One of my customers was Borders Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I read an article about Jeff Bezos and in the Wall Street Journal, and was pretty impressed with the idea. I took a copy of the article to the Chief Information Officer of Borders with the message that this was something he ought to be concerned about, but he just blew me off. Of course, that was very early in the life of the web, and lots of bricks-and-mortar executives couldn’t imagine what was going to happen. Borders paid the price for his short-sightedness later as they struggled unsuccessfully to establish a presence on the web, and it was painful to watch.)

Anyway, now all my Christmas shopping and mailing is done, and everything is on the way. I’m looking forward to a slightly relaxed frame of mind over the next couple of weeks. Although the schedule doesn’t let up and there’s just as much work to do, everybody makes an effort to put out some decorations and create a bit of a festive atmosphere. There will be a variety of Christmas activities going on to keep people active and engaged. This is a hard time to be away from home, so people do what they can.

The newly-upgraded internet will help a lot, since we’ll be much better able to get online interactively with our families using webcams and internet chat. I’ve been amazed but not surprised at the number of people at the USO over the past week. They have absolutely come out of the woodwork to use the Internet. There was a tremendous amount of latent demand – many people had just given up on it because it was so slow and unreliable before. Now what we need is someplace quiet where you can sit and be online without music or TV sports blasting in your ears all the time. We don’t have a library here, so perhaps I can get one started.

That also reminds me – I wonder when the Winterveil festival starts on World of Warcraft? I got some fun stuff last year that I was able to save and use for awhile. Maybe I ought to go look and see what I can find. :-)

Mood: Relaxed
Music: Louis Prima and His New Orleans Gang – What Will Santa Claus Say? (When He Finds Everybody Swinging)


At 00:51, Blogger Ky Woman said...

Have a very best Christmas as you can...

Keeping y'all in our prayers!


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