Thursday, December 27, 2007

Xmas In the 'Old Country'

Okay, it’s over. Christmas that is. The shopping, gift wrapping, tree trimming, waist fattening, all done. It seems like the whole calendar year here revolves around the holiday. Certainly businesses depend heavily upon this season.

So here’s something I found interesting in one of the blogs where I occasionally lurk. In my desire to broaden my mind to other people and cultures, I sometimes read this rather clever blog put together by an Israeli woman. Here’s a story she related this past week:

I guess everything is shut down in the Old Country, what with the Xmas lethargy. I recall sitting in a meeting at a client site (in Israel) a few years ago. The engineers were trying to call the site in Silicon Valley, and there was no answer.

“It’s not Sunday, right?” asked one guy. We all shake our heads.

“And I didn’t get the time difference wrong, right?” We all quickly do the calculation and assure him that it should be early in their work day.

Finally, one guy says, “Maybe it is an American holiday or something: is December 25 anything?”

Guess somebody should have said to him “Gute Vaynakhtn un a Gut Nay Yor.”

That’s Merry Christmas in Yiddish.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

An Ode To Glogg*

I bought some glogg
for Xmas, I said.
The family was agog.
Why not egg nog?

I should have known better
than start this dialog.
But egg nog’s so cliché
like summer's hot dog.

A toast of glogg over the burning yule log
would be tasty and fun, like slop to a hog.
And glogg was non-alcoholic,
unlike its cousin, the grog.

But the family was angry;
they were fit to flog,
if I should disavow
their traditional egg nog

Yet glogg is from Sweden, of the ice and the fog,
where Santa sleeps, and reindeer clog.
I said we could eat, drink and be merry like Santa himself,
till we were ripe with glee, and fat as a frog.

They said that’s fine for Big Dave;
he can drink his old glogg.
But for the rest of the fam,
we will stick with egg nog.

So there’s nothing to do
'cept an epilog—
a poem, a lament,
or maybe a . . .

Merry Christmas!

* Oops. Blame it on the holiday rush. It's spelled glogg, not glog. Not only that, glogg rhymes with oog as in our dog Doog. Oh, well. I did say this was an "ode." So it doesn't have to rhyme.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Secret Santas

I participate in one of those "secret Santa" gift exchanges at my work. On our team of about a dozen folk, we each buy a small gift for everyone else. It helps to make the holidays a bit more fun and I enjoy the excitement of coming to work to find a couple wrapped presents on my desk.

So far this year, this is what I've got:

--A box of chocolate caramels. This one was re-gifted, but unfortunately not before I ate the top layer.

--A cannister of Macadanium caramel clusters. Re-gifted also after I calculated that there were 2,900 calories in that 20-ounce container. (The label boasted that these were made with "real butter.") But again too late, since I had already the top layer and then some.

--A tiny Norfolk Island Pine tree with tiny Christmas ornaments. The label says "enjoys being placed near a window." Does that mean it's going to sing or something?

--A Paula Deen cookbook. Paula Deen is from Savannah, Georgia, and two members of our team, including myself, journeyed to Savannah this past year. So it would seem to be a good clue that the book came from one of us. But it didn't. Somebody is just being a clever Secret Santa.

--A holiday gift towel and oven mitt. Big clue. No guy would give this.

--A contractor energizer area light. Another big clue. No woman would give this.

--A cellophane-wrapped package of some home baked cookies. There weren't that many. I didn't have to re-gift those.

--A travel manicure set. At first I thought that I'd have to pass that along to the missus, but then I noticed on the package it said "for him." The women's manicure sets said "for her." A manicure for men? I dunno about that. Doesn't sound macho.

--A cozy-up plug-in warmer--"the electric alternative to lighting a candle." So you can place a scented candle on his warmer and enjoy the aroma without the fire hazard and waxy mess. Except the only time we light candles in our house is when the power goes out. Can't wait to try it, though.

There were a few other items too--some Christmas decorations, Christmas crafts, and an instant lottery ticket. I didn't win. But I was pleased with all my gifts. They all reflected thought and sincerity on behalf of the Secret Santa. The only thing I missed were those little peppermint candy candy canes that we often got as an "extra." A nice little treat to cool your palate over the course of a long work day.

I won't tell you which gift was mine because I'm not 100 percent sure that none of my work colleagues read my blog. (I've never told any of them I have one, but you never know).

One year, I thought I would be possibly one of the most generous Secret Santas there ever was. I bought a lottery ticket to one of those mega-million jackpots. But somebody asked before I gave it, "What if they win?" Hmmmmm.

So I bought 'lottery insurance.' I wrote the same set of numbers twice, so that if my giftee won, me the gifter would win too. Except that I wrote the same number twice on the lottery ticket order form at the lotto counter. So when they ran it through the machine, I received ONE ticket with the same set of numbers twice, one right under the other. So I had to purchase one more. [Wendy's comment here: "Another Dave number"]

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My Blog In Digital HD

I remember being a teenaged lad and heading to a drugstore on Center Avenue with a bag of television tubes. Remember how you could test your TV tubes on the “Tube Tester” to see which tube was bad? Then buy the replacement right there?

Nowadays, things are easier. Right? If the TV doesn’t work, either shell out big bucks to have a technician look at it or—more likely—just buy new. Our old Sony is sick. It occasionally hacks a load of static, almost like somebody with a bad case of croup. Well then maybe it would be a good time to consider buying one of those high definition big screen models since the digital age is nearly upon us.

You all knew that, didn’t you? By February 17th, 2009, if you don’t have a digital television, or a digital converter, you’ll be seeing a lot of dead air on your set. It’s part of a campaign to get everyone to update their entertainment technology and keep Best Buy and Comcast in the pink.

So I’m going to be ahead of the curve so to speak. But I’m doing my homework. If I’m going to spend upwards of a thousand dollars on a new TV, and some big screen models run several thousand dollars, I’m going to educate myself and be a smart consumer.

That was my plan.

Now high definition, or HD as we educated folks call it, comes in several types. There’s 1080p, 1808i and 720p. Researching further on just what would be best, I came across this in Wikipedia:

The ITU-R Recommendation BT.709 includes 16:9, colorimetry and the 1080i (1,080 actively-interlaced lines of resolution) and the 1080p (1,080 progressively-scanned lines). It also included the 1440 x 1152 HDMAC scanning format. 720p formats were strongly resisted by some ITU-R members and were not standardized there. Both 1920 x 1080 and 1280 x 720p (720 progressively-scanned lines), systems for a range of frame and field rates are also defined by several SMPTE standards.

Lost me there. But then I found out that there’s actually a book titled HD-TV for Dummies. Now we’re talking. Here’s part of what’s there:

Broadcast HDTV uses a system called 8-VSB (vestigial sideband), while cable usually uses a system called QAM (quadrature amplitute modulation). What’s the difference? What’s important to HDTV viewers is that you need a different kind of HDTV tuner to receive QAM signals than you do to receive 8-VSB (though many TVs include a tuner that can tune into both types of signals)."

Oh-KAY, lost me there too. Uh, maybe there’s an HD-TV book for the super dummy. Or maybe I can just pick out a TV that broadcasts a pretty picture right on the store shelf. So I tried that. One HD-TV I walked by looked the right size, the right price, and had a pretty picture. Just take it home and plug it in, right?

Well, the TV label said, “Inputs: HDMI w. HDCP Inputs – VGA PC Inputs – Multi analog inputs CVBS x 2/S-Video x 2/Component x 2.

Lost me again. But I see that nearly all HD-TVs seem to have these HDMI inputs. Must be the industry standard. So I talked to my local cable operator to make sure my cable system could hook up via these HDMI inputs. They can’t. Not directly, not now. Maybe in 1908. Right now I’d have to rent something extra called a DVR which a technician could hook up for me for a fee. Then there’d be extra charges for the digital channel line-up. Even more if I wanted it in high definition.

Oh, and I would have to purchase the necessary HDMI cable myself. The cable company doesn't supply that.

I predict another golden age of radio.