It’s Starting to look a Lot Like… October

Snow Dawn (©2012 by Andy Vickers)

Snow Dawn (©2012 by Andy Vickers)

I’ve just finished work for the holidays, Nat King Cole is on the radio wishing me Merry Christmas yet I’ve just been stood outside on the balcony, drinking tea in the sunshine and I didn’t need a winter coat.

Now in reality it hasn’t regularly snowed at Christmas in this part of Britain for many, many decades – the idea of snow on Christmas day comes in part from Charles Dickens’ whose childhood, at the end of the Little Ice Age, was a time of much snow and where even the Thames would freeze solid – but even so this feels bizarre.

These days I look forward to snow on my birthday, that happens regularly as can be seen in my Christmassy picture above taken on that day in February 2012 .

Anyway, despite the lack of the white stuff here in mid-England I will wish all my readers a Happy Christmas and a wonderful new year.

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Resolution, There Can Be No Resolution

English: New Year's Day postcard mailed in 190...

English: New Year’s Day postcard mailed in 1909. It reads: “A New Year’s Resolution / Jan. 1st / Good Resolution / Each resolution that I make / My conscience surely troubles / Because I find they always break / As easy as Soap bubbles” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m told that the current fashion at this time of year is to, at a New Years party for example, respond to the question of “what’s your new year’s resolution?” by smiling smugly, nonchalantly waving your hand (the one without the glass of bubbly in it, preferably) and proclaiming so as many people can hear “my new year’s resolution is to not make any new year’s resolutions.”  Leaving the part-pissed audience trying to wrangle with the paradoxical implications of what you’ve just said.

To be honest I never bother anyway, the change of year and feeling that something will change is purely psychological and all that happens is you look at the calendar and start thinking how long it is until your next week off, summer and when to start buying christmas presents.

For those of you who do make resolutions there are now a whole raft of 21st Century options to choose from.  Buzzfeed has a selection of resolutions aimed at twenty-somethings which includes a large number involving social networks – oversharing on Facebook, stalking your ex on Facebook, too many Snapchats, too many mundane Tweets, posting incriminating pictures on Instagram, overuse of Emojis, overspending, eating junk food and of course procrastination.

[Buzzfeed]

 

Too Soon? (Er, No)

Mince Pies

Mince Pies Before Xmas

Well, it’s that time of year again, dark evenings, warm fires, mince pies.  Yes, it’s Christmas.

What?  Christmas is still in December?  Really, because I swear last week I bought some mince pies, all wrapped in Christmassy packaging and the best-before date was in November.

By now we all know that shops start selling Christmas paraphernalia around August and pubs have a little Christmas tree in the corner to advertise their Christmas lunches in September but why are they selling mince pies in November?  Yes, I suppose you could freeze them to get round the two-week best before limit but really, are we at risk of a shortage, are we facing a mincemeat deficit?

And yes I bought some, as you can see above, and have eaten them well before the big day.  Naturally, well it is (nearly) Christmas and I still have half a tub of ice cream to use up.

It’s The Thought That Counts

Easter eggs // Ostereier

Easter eggs // Ostereier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was younger Valentines Day involved giving an anonymous card to someone you kinda liked.  Easter involved a gift of chocolate eggs.  At the end of the school term your teachers said “right that’s it, piss off, see you all in September” and everyone gave a sigh of relief and went for a smoke – often both the teachers and pupils.

Now though before Christmas is fully over we get adverts flogging “that perfect Valentines gift for someone special” and it’s not just expensive jewelery but DVDs, Tablet computers and phones.  Now I’m not unromantic but I don’t confine my displays of affection to blingy jewelry in February.

Next there’s Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day which has also moved beyond flowers or chocolate, handmade gifts and cards to similar flogging of expensive electronics, and the card aisle also now includes cards for husbands to send to their wives and vice-versa on these days and even Mother’s Day cards for Aunties.  The inevitable next step is the largely informal Grandparents’ Day, not that I have a clue when that is as I haven’t seen the adverts for it yet.

Today I’ve seen an advert for a remote control BMW toy headed with “struggling to find that perfect Easter gift”.  What, we now have to buy actual toys and expensive electronics for Easter too?

Finally, just when you think the gifting season is over the kids are breaking up from school and are encouraged by marketers to take a parting gift for their teacher(s), to remind them of all the little darlings they’ll be missing dearly over the six weeks holiday.  This year has even seen an advert of choice items teachers can buy for the pupils.

Now I love giving gifts to people, I’m able to, but these additional gift-giving times apply increasing pressure on people to give increasingly expensive presents or risk appearing to not care, or being left out.  With all these days seen as just another marketing opportunity its easy to believe that today the thought no longer counts.  I like to think though that that’s not true.

By the way, remember there’s still five shopping days ’til Easter.

The Sweet Smell of USB

From the random multi-purpose accessories department.

SAM_0064med

In a shop that sells a variety of items I saw a USB hub for 99p, now as I wanted a powered hub anyway I thought I’d get one.  On the box I noticed it had a disc on top marked with Open and Close.  Was this cable storage, batteries?

The cover was difficult to open but when it eventually gave in beneath it was a cotton pad in a holder screwed into the centre of the hub with no apparent means of removing it.

Stranger and stranger.

SAM_0062medThe box text was all in German, as were the instructions in the box.  So to find out what this strange device’s special feature was I turned to other technology.  I scanned the instruction sheet, used OCR software that came with the scanner to turn it into text for me then copied that into Google Translate.  Less than a second later I had my answer.

“USER GUIDE – USB Hub with Scented Oil Distribution”

I’ve seen USB drinks warmers, fans, reading lights, dancing flowers and Christmas trees but now I’d inadvertently found a USB hub that was also an air freshener.  Sweet.

Christmas Shopping

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can buy your Christmas decorations in August, mince pies in October (with Best Before dates of November) and now what used to be January sales begin before Christmas day.

Research and data from online and bricks-and-mortar stores has revealed that the rush for online sales bargains began in the evening of Christmas day and peaked on Boxing Day – well, there’s not much on TV these days.  Luxury items seemed popular apparently.

Analysts say that there is beginning to be more confidence in spending, as this 71% increase in Christmas day spending shows, which is a good sign.

[BBC]

An Automated Happy New Year

Happy new year

Happy new year (Photo credit: Amodiovalerio Verde)

Two years ago I wanted to send a “Happy New Year” message to someone I’d started seeing at Christmas but couldn’t be with at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  This was important to me, I felt she was someone special.  I sat on a sofa in a local pub away from the other revellers counting down to zero.  I hit send on my phone with a few seconds to spare.

Nothing.  The message just sat there in my outbox.  It hadn’t gone by the time I got home.  By one o’clock in the morning it was still there.  “She’s going to think I don’t care” my mind kept saying over and over, pacing up and down the length of my apartment.  I wrote on Facebook that the network were crap, a friend agreed and that she was having the same problem texting her parents.  Since then me and my friend vowed to never be “lulled into a false sense of security” by said network *cough* Orange *cough* ever again.

Sorry, that should be EE.  Ahem.  Everything Everywhere – that night it was Nothing Anywhere.

Thing is that it wasn’t just Orange.  It was the first time I’d encountered the fact that everyone tries to text the same message at the same time and most networks just collapse.

I’ve been prepared since, if I send greetings the recipients get them at half-past ten and they can like it.  Just don’t open it til midnight.

Now though Facebook have the answer – though it wouldn’t have helped me, the object of my undying love wasn’t on Facebook – in their Facebook Stories app and it’s ability to automatically send a message to all your friends on the first dong of Big Ben, or when the ball drops depending on your continent.  This has since been found to be less than private so be careful what you say.

So there, problem solved and it shows you care, it’s not like you’re sending some kind of automated new year spam is it?

Christmas and Ebay

English: Where's the turkey.... Brussels sprou...

English: Where’s the turkey…. Brussels sprouts coming along nicely for Christmas, mmm! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the radio this morning, while I was half asleep still, I heard talk of a man who had sold two Brussels Sprouts on Ebay.  People were bemused as to why someone had paid £100 for them, I was too but considered the possibilities, was he in some way famous, infamous, did the sprouts have the face of Jesus, Santa or Wayne Rooney on them?

Once I dragged myself out of bed and to the computer a quick Google found the answer.  They were advertised with the information that the proceeds were going to the Make a Wish Foundation.  Someone bought them for the novelty, to give money to charity in a fun way.

That’s the thing about Ebay, people do sell and buy things for the amusement or notoriety.  The sprout was not the first – that ‘honour’ goes to a man from Darlington in 2005 and was followed by another in 2006 (both for charity) but presumably since then people have been holding on to their greens.

Wikipedia has a list of some of the more interesting sales including the wife of a radio dj who sold his Lotus car for 50 pence after hearing him flirting with Jodie Marsh on air.  Some unusual items increase in value because the sale itself becomes famous – like four golf balls removed from a python (A$1400).

Back to Christmas though, this year a woman is selling three unwanted and unopened gifts from her ex-boyfriend who was trying to win her back, they “must have been wrapped by someone else as he’s not clever enough to have done them” she added.  Just down the road from me a man from Worksop is selling a pack of unwanted doilies with a free Mother-in-Law who is “free to a good home” collection only.

According to Gumtree £2.1billion worth of unwanted gifts are given at Christmas.  I though was very happy with everything I got, including my Christmas dinner and I ate all my sprouts.

It’s Christmaaaas!

Obligatory Cute Christmas Cat Photo

Obligatory Cute Christmas Cat Photo (Photo credit: Rochelle, just rochelle)

If you’re in the UK it is obligatory to read the title in Noddy Holder’s voice.

Just to wish all my readers a happy and peaceful Christmas time and a prosperous new year.