Tuesday, December 31, 2002

2002 was rough. There's no other way to put it. The days were filled with more struggle than usual, and disappointments seemed to pile one on top of another.

My own experience these past twelve months is hardly unique. Many of those close to me had a tough time of it, and I'm convinced this goes well beyond my own circle, too. I sense weariness in the country at large, and a general sentiment of "good-bye and good riddance" as the annual odometer sets to flip itself over.

I feel the need to sum up this 2002 experience, and I think I've found the way. There's a phrase that ran through my head each time some new setback was visited on me or mine. It came to me in the voice of a parent whose children have just broken another fragile knickknack while playing catch in the house. Those feelings of exasperation, frustration, and bemused resignation permeated the year.

With that in mind, let's give the passing year a tagline and thereby render it unto history, past and dead and actively powerless. I hereby dub 2002 The Year We Couldn't Have Nice Things.

And now, with the promise of a new and genuinely brighter year ahead, I offer a toast: Old Man '02 is done bumbling through our lives like an drunken elephant in a china shop. Here's to Baby '03: may he have more couth and consideration.
Posted @ 12:15 PM

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Time once again to direct your attention to my blogsire Tim's site, where he has just launched a new feature, the Lifetime Movie Title Generator.

I'm proud to have helped beta-test this baby, so I can say with authority that it's a hoot. Don't expect your average random X generator stuff, either. This one actually delivers what it promises, and the results aren't just funny, they're eerily accurate.
Posted @ 11:15 AM

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Many folks hate the holidays. For them, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's drag by at a glacial pace. Others, like myself, never feel so alive and full of wonder as during this time, and the joyous days fly by like hours for us. In short order, we find ourselves deposited in early January, with only resolutions and slowly lengthening days on which to focus our attention.

So it is that we find ourselves here at Christmas Eve, the shopping done, the carols sung, and the stockings hung. It feels like I just took out my holiday CDs yesterday, bought and wrapped my presents last night. I've barely had time to sample the eggnog, and now it's time to leave it out for Santa.

That's the nature of Christmas, as much as the joy and peace it embodies, and as such I embrace it. As ever, I'll savor this evening, the night of great anticipation and stillness. Tomorrow we'll have the celebration, throwing ourselves into it with gusto. Tonight, we enjoy the promising silence.

The House of Cheer will be taking a few days off for the holiday, with an anticipated return sometime this weekend. Not even as long as many of the unscheduled breaks around here this year, but long enough to make note of.

Merry Christmas, everybody.
Posted @ 9:04 AM

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Tradition and Christmas: two things that mean everything to me. The only thing that makes them better is to infuse them with just a bit of humor.

With all that in mind, I present the second annual posting of a true Yuletide gem, Twas the Night Before Christmas (For Students in Their Twenty-Third Year of Schooling):
'Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual Yuletide celebration, and throughout our place of residence, kinetic activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential, including that species of domestic rodent known as Mus musculus. Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood burning caloric apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among whose folkloric appellations is the honorific title of St. Nicholas.

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

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

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

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

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

Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the aforementioned appended hosiery with various of the aforementioned articles of merchandise extracted from his aforementioned previously dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he executed an abrupt about-face, placed a single manual digit in lateral juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith effected his egress by renegotiating (in reverse) the smoke passage. He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I overheard his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his vehiculation beyond the limits of visibility: "Ecstatic Yuletide to the planetary constituency, and to that self same assemblage, my sincerest wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn."
Posted @ 9:16 PM

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Congrats to my friends Jen and Dan on their nuptials yesterday. I attended the reception last night, an intimate yet sprawling, low-key yet raucous affair. I gave them a bride-and-groom ornament, they shared their newly-wed joy. I got the better end of the deal.

Best of luck, you crazy kids.
Posted @ 10:54 AM

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Is there anyone who reads this here blog that's unaware of my status as the unabashed King of Sappiness? If there is, this little item should get the point across: high school students in suburban Chicago give a beloved, struggling cafeteria worker a car and presents for her grandkids, saving Christmas.

Two slightly Grinchy notes on the above:
  1. Only straight, honest sap gets to me, not fake, overwrought glurge. And I only like it when I stumble on it myself, so please don't send me any.
  2. Normally I'd never link to a story in what my late grandfather Cas always referred to as the "Scum-Crimes," but the Trib version of the story requires registration, and what the hell, it's Christmas.
Posted @ 10:20 AM

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Looks like I've got the right kind of instincts to be a high-powered political operative. The moment I saw Al Gore in that hot tub with Joe Lieberman (played by HoC favorite Chris Parnell) on SNL this weekend, I turned to a friend who was watching with me and said "He's not running." Former Gore spokesman Chris Lehane had the same flash of insight.

Hmmm... I wonder if I can parlay this newfound political savvy into a position on a presidential campaign in '04...
Posted @ 10:05 AM

Monday, December 16, 2002

I've bought four Christmas CDs this season, breaking my self-imposed restriction of one annually, and I'm immensely glad I did. If I hadn't, I'd have missed out on one of the best in many years.

It's the new compilation Maybe This Christmas. Much like the now-venerable Very Special Christmas series, it brings together acts of varying styles and fame for a tasty holiday buffet, with several items worth going back for multiple servings of, and one or two dishes that are best avoided after sampling.

Of the former group, two in particular stand out. The first is the title track, in which Ron Sexsmith seeks the sweetest, simplest joys of the season, namely reunions and reconciliation.

The other, "What A Year For A New Year," resonates with me on a very personal level. After my difficulties these past twelve months, the enormity of which I'm only now, with a little distance, beginning to appreciate, this song's lyrics are particularly poignant:

What a year for a new year
We need it like we needed life I guess
Last one left us lying in a mess
What a year for a new year

What a night for a sunrise
And we thought the dark would never end
Reaching out to try to find a friend
What a night for a sunrise

What a day for new day
And our star shines like a miracle
And our world is almost beautiful again
What a day for a new day
New day


Soon we'll be lying in our beds
And new dreams will fill our heads
And the old ones will be ended
My pal Jody is the one who tipped me off to this disc (thanks, Jody!), and I, in turn, recommend it to anyone who likes a blend of tradition and innovation in their Christmas music.
Posted @ 3:32 PM

Friday, December 13, 2002

I'm heading out to see Star Trek Nemesis tonight. I've got moderately high hopes for this flick. The reviews I've scanned have been mixed, but many of the pans find fault not with the movie itself, but Trek in general. It's the old "Trek is played out, they should let it go" argument.

As an avid fan of the franchise, I'm probably not in the best position to judge such complaints. I do know that, if the only problem with this film is that it's a Star Trek film, I'm set for an enjoyable evening.
Posted @ 2:02 PM

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Today (last Friday, actually, but I'm just getting around to this now) Matt Baldwin shows us, through wit and good use of PhotoShop, why his blog cruised onto my must-read list a few weeks back.
Posted @ 5:46 PM

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Just in case anyone in my readership was thinking of getting me a Christmas present, is stumped as to what I'd like, and has a few grand lying around, might I suggest the Patrick Stewart uniform top going up for bids on eBay this weekend? It would guarantee you undying worship from me, as well as back and foot rubs on demand for the rest of your life.

Thanks (I think) to my good friend Gina for bringing this item to my attention.
Posted @ 1:52 PM

After a decent 7-3 start, my fantasy football team went on to drop its last four games, finishing out the regular season in fifth place. That puts me out of the championship running. Considering that I came into the weekend in second place, this is a bit of a disappointment.

I must remind myself, though, that this was my first attempt at a fantasy sport, and that I didn't expect to do as well as I did. I always meant it to be a warm-up for next year, when I hope to rope in a bunch of my friends for the Bot Bash Forum to form the Bot Bash Forum Football League, or BBFFL for short.

In the meantime, I content myself with the Greywings being the top seed in the consolation bracket, and getting to fight on for at least one more week.

The ice storm has hit DC as predicted, but I still made it into the office unscathed. In fact, both today's icy conditions and last Thursday's snowy roads afforded me some of the least stressful driving I've had in the six weeks I've been back punching a clock. The bad weather keeps the bad drivers off the roads in this town, and I consider that a blessing.
Posted @ 9:00 AM

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Last week, it was snow. Now, we could get an ice storm. Maybe I'm not as paranoid as I think I am about the potential punch the DC region will take this winter.

The thing of it is, as a native Chicagoan, this amount of precip shouldn't phase me. For the most part, it doesn't. What does get me is a feeling of dislocation. I look around and see the snow and the Christmas lights, and it all looks just as it should. Then I remember that I'm in Washington, not Illinois, and I'm struck by how odd it is to see snow on the ground in December.

It is darn pretty, though, so I'm enjoying it much more than I'm being disconcerted by it.
Posted @ 5:06 PM

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

It looks like the Washington area might get an unusually early taste of winter weather this evening, starting around midnight. Itís rare for DC to even see snow before mid-January, so getting it in the first week of December tends to make me think weíre in for a heavy snow season, comparatively speaking.

Of course, I think weíre gonna get nailed with snow every year, so donít put too much stock in what Iíve got to say on the subject.

After a few months of disappointments, Iíve decided that I donít like flavored creamers for my coffee, either of the liquid or powder varieties. They always sound like a good idea when I buy them, but they invariably make what would otherwise be great cups of coffee into cloyingly sweet, artificial tasting ordeals, and thatís coming from someone who likes his coffee sweet.

Having already dismissed flavored coffee beans from my life, I guess my final alternative is the expensive, frou-frou syrups. Maybe, if Iím a good boy, Santa will stuff some small sample-sized bottles into my stocking this year so I can try them out.
Posted @ 9:08 AM

Monday, December 02, 2002

The Christmas season is here, and so is the annual, semi-official name change for this site (see above). Let the revelry and non-stop caroling begin!
Posted @ 4:34 PM

One of the great things about my new job is my nameplate. Every time I see it, it makes me smile and puts a certain notion in my head. In neat white letters on a black background, it simply says:

Jack Scheer

I really, really like the looks of that.
Posted @ 9:44 AM


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