Posts Tagged ‘social’

annals of consumerism 2012

25 December 2012

My closest friend from college hosts an annual Christmas party that culminates in a present exchange game known as the Yankee Swap [1]. Players get cards and in order of the cards, choose a gift, unwrap it, and then possibly trade it. The game engineers among us, who run the exchange, look forward to the Yankee Swap so they can design ever more intricate trading rules. Kids of all ages look forward to the Yankee Swap because you get a present that is a surprise but also partially controllable, and you can see who likes and wants the present you’re giving. Anyway, you get a present! I look forward to the Yankee Swap as a consumer barometer. What does my geek peer group and its children aged 7 to 25 consider to be a good generic present with a $20 budget?

This year’s choices:

Food related
– Libbey Nova black wine glasses
– Metal spaghetti serving ladle set
– Cheese board shaped like a wine bottle
– Small slate cheese presentation board with three parers
– Popsicle making set
– Pizza cone set (really forms for cone-shaped calzones)
– Cookie and cupcake decorating set; T-shirt shaped cookie cutter
– Star Trek Next Generation Pez [2]

Geek gear
– HP wireless multimedia keyboard
– Dry erase board with markers
– Weather station
– Bright blue earphones, charging adapter that plugs into a car cigarette lighter [3], mini/micro USB cord, stylus
– 8-gigabyte USB stick shaped like a dragon
– Lantern using 30 LEDs
– 15-in-one combined tool bag and utility sack
– Ultimate Hammer Utility Tool
– L.L.Bean travel alarm clock with LED backlight

Media and playthings
– Two books on preserves, Pickling and Put ‘Em Up
– Vegan recipe book, something about greens,
packaged with The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
– Book: Cooks Magazine Science of Good Cooking
– Books: Chronicles of the Crusades, People of the Second Crusade, Holy Warriors of the Crusades
– Book: How to Be Canadian
– Book: The Private Eye Annual 2012
– Puzzles: Hexus the color connecting puzzler, Tangrams for one or two players or teams
– Logic puzzle: Find Your Way Gnome
– Jigsaw puzzle: abstract Alaskan art via the Peabody Essex Museum
– Game: Mancala
– Robin Hood tarot deck signed by the artist

– Panda hat
– T-shirt: We Built This City On Rocks And Wheat (ref Settlers of Catan)

The T-shirt was easily the most admired gift, with people going to the Lonely Dinosaur website afterward to check out their other slogans. I brought the Private Eye annual, which isn’t available in the U.S. and I thought would appeal to Onion fans. Nobody had time to read it in the trading and it went home with one of the youngest kids, which may not have been the best match. I took home How to Be Canadian, enlarging my collection of books about nationalism and citizenship while successfully avoiding the cheese platters, as I already have a slate cheese platter from the swap before last.

Now begins the quest to find the perfect present for next year’s swap. As the wrapping on one of the gifts said: Have a satisfactory non-denominational capitalist winter gift-giving season.

[1] Traditionally a Yankee Swap is an exchange of junk you’re trying to get rid of. Once someone thought that was what we meant and brought some old baskets; they found an appreciative home but she was slightly embarrassed.

[2] Star Trek Next Generation Pez may or may not have violated of the no-food rule, introduced after the year when half the gifts were chocolate. Relatedly, I once participated in a swap in Finland where the half-dozen gifts included three six-packs (actually twelve-packs) and a set of coasters. There’s usually no alcohol in the big Massachusetts swap, because of the kids and the fact we’re drinking less as we get older.

[3] Why aren’t they calling them something else yet? I’ve never seen them used to light cigarettes, not even when I was a child of smokers.

the third act begins

14 December 2006

Leslie Harpold, one of the early Internet colonists I encountered on alt.society.generation-x and its spinoffs, died this past weekend of natural but sudden causes. Most of you kids probably don’t remember what life was like back in the early Clinton Administration, when Al Gore and that guy at CERN were personally dragging the Web out of the Pleistocene of the Arpanet and Gopher. The standard webpage was stone grey with faux-incised division lines and a yellow “Under Construction” sign. Netscape was the browser of choice and Alta Vista was the search engine of choice. People were still arguing about whether it would be right to use the Internet for commerce, and if so how. Spam was a highly uncool food product, often mentioned in the same breath with marshmallow Jell-O molds.

At some point in those years John Scalzi said he was going to start an online diary, and people scoffed. How could anyone come up with stuff of general interest to write about every day? Around the same time Leslie started her first webzine, Smug, and some of us were skeptical about that too. I think it’s fair to say that Leslie (and John) had the last laugh, and kept on innovating.

I never met her, and I wasn’t in the center of the target market (a favorite eyeroll phrase at asg-x) for Smug, but I dearly loved Leslie’s posts and her Compulsion column. Almost ten years later, I am still looking for Ren Dan just because of the way she wrote about it. Many people have posted tributes to her and I hope a lot of that love reached her while she was alive.

30 August 2000

Let’s welcome some new members of the virtual ivory tower burb that exists only in my head: Catriona (see second half of entry) and kismet.

18 July 2000

“The last time I saw them they were sitting on a terrace having a drink. I should have said something to them and I didn’t.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, more or less

29 June 2000

“A farewell is oriented not to the termination of the social occasion or sociable moment wherein it takes place but to the sharp decrease that is about to occur in the possibility of such comings-together occurring – at least for a time. And the more lengthy and absolute the separation, the more expansive the ritual. Yet no matter how long and complex the anticipated separation, the fact that the participants are at the moment in easy access situates them favorably for the separation not to occur as planned.

“Farewells, in short, inevitably expose the participants to unexpected recontacting. And should this occur, the performers will find that the ritual already performed is improperly profuse for what has turned out to be a short absence; yet there is no way to take it back.”
– Erving Goffman, Relations in Public


It’s farewell-party season in the foreign student community again.

19 June 2000

Just because you say you agree with me does not mean you’re on my side.  Learned this the hard way.  Again.

PS 2015: Some years later I learned that just because I agree with you does not mean you’re on my side. Not through Mafia.

22 May 2000

National holidays of the week: Victoria Day (Canada) as described by Kristin and Nicole, and Cyril and Methodius Day, the main Bulgarian national day, especially if Johku can get us into the reception.


[Later:] She did, and it was a rather strange: readings
from a book of humorous stories of overseas Bulgarians, and satirical songs about Bulgaria: “They’re saying the country is poor, the women are trampy, and everyone wants to go to Canada,” I was told. The guests said later that the programme was vulgar and unsuitable, but there was quite a bit of laughter at first. I wonder if this is the beginning of a trend and the American Embassy will decide to celebrate the Fourth of July with a revue of the works of Tom Lehrer  (academic view here and here) and Allan Sherman (author of the letter from camp song – there is no academic view of Allan Sherman).

PS 2015: I miss crashing Bulgaria-related events with these other fans of the country. Johanna is a postdoctoral researcher now. Tomi flies for Finnair. Sirpa and Ene I have not heard from in years.

12 May 2000

Getting linked by famous bloggers is always a good start. I still maintain that Gavin Friday is made up, along with Emerald Germs, Disco Pig, and the Virgin Prunes. Here’s a slash story based on Brideshead Revisited – pretty good stuff.

PS 2015: Were these two sentences related? Can’t recall. Caroline is still blogging.