The twelve days of Christmas – over $100,000…

Seeing as how this time of year, after Black Friday and “Cyber Monday” are fading into oblivion, the news must be a bit slow. Someone took the time to calculate that if you bought all the stuff in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, it would cost over $100,000.

But to me they are making a lot of assumptions. First they assume you will be buying stuff twice. In other words, since “a partridge in a pear tree” is repeated 12 times, they are assuming you will get 12 birds and trees. Likewise since “10 Lords a Leaping” is repeated three times, you would be paying for 30 of them. Someone else wisely figured out “No wait – those are song repetitions – you don’t actually expect to get all that stuff each day?” and re-calculated it to come to around $24000.

Seeing as how expensive Christmas is over twelve days I thought I would revisit my new Cashmas song:

12 Pandora Beads for Beading
These vary a lot in their price – from a set of twelve knockoffs for $15, to $10 or more EACH if you are looking at little Eiffel Towers or Pugs. But since I can only find real “Pandora” beads for about $10 each… we’re looking at a total of $120.

11 DS Games for playing
Again – something else with a price variance. They range anywhere from $10 old games to $40 new ones. If they are new for Cashmas they will probably average high, so lets say $30 each to make the math easy. Total $330

10 MRE’s for eating
I’m going with Sure-Pak meals. You can get cheaper ones, but I’ve eaten Sure-Pak before. They come in a twelve pack, so let’s assume two were damaged or missing or were crappy ones that you wouldn’t want to eat anyway, like that “meat” patty thing. Total $110

9 Towels for bathing
Wow – I never knew. Bath towels come in all kinds. They come in lone towels, sets and cases. And again, they range from $3.99 each to $40 each (for one towel!). Since the new towels I have been buying cost about $10 each, I’ll go with the “beach safe” Nautica towels at 12.99 each. After all – it’s Cashmas! Total $117

8 Wines for drinking
This is another odd one. It turns out it’s hard to find wine on Amazon. People sell it through the Marketplace, and it may be any price. Maybe I should have said 8 wine glasses instead. So let’s just throw out a number, say $13/a bottle. Total $104

7 Kindle books for reading
Newly released novels are around $12 each, plus or minus a little. Total – $84

6 Seasons of Dexter
Easy one. Wow. Maybe people should just get Netflix for 2 months and copy the discs. Total – $126

5 Pounds of Cheese
When I’m thinking Cheese from Amazon, I’m thinking something you can’t just walk into Wal-Mart or Piggly Wiggly and pick off the shelf. So, what is delicious and hard to find and worth buying from Amazon? Sage Derby. But it comes from a reseller, so they kill you with shipping refrigerated Cheese. $70 for the 5 pound wheel. $36 for the shipping – total for this one, $106. For cheese. Southern Home shredded Mozzarella will have to do for me.

4 Stuffed Angry Birds
At an average of $8 each, this one is pretty cheap (hah!). Its also scary when typing in “an” on the search bar, that Angry Birds pops up first. Total $32

3 New Coats
If it’s Cashmas – you might as well splurge. North Face. Three coats at about $200 each totals $600. But the shipping is free, unlike that damn cheese.

2 Purple gloves
Its winter, you need to use your iPhone, but you have gloves on. Should you take off your gloves? No. Buy the tech-touch gloves with the conductive fingertip. Total $35.

1 Black Ka-Bar Machete’
You’ve already bought MRE’s, Dexter, Towels and Gloves. Might as well round off the psycho killer survivalist look and go with a big evil-looking knife. Perfect for hiking, camping, and gutting “large game”. This one is $43 (but buy fast – it goes up to $50 sometimes).

So there we have it. A traditional Christmas, $24000.

As celebrated in America – Cashmas as Provided by Amazon.Com comes to $1807. And people say you should avoid online shopping.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Actually, it was the oddest of times. I have looked into the heart of Chaos. I have seen the depths of depravity, selfishness, and cruelty. Beelzebub himself could not have crafted a more devious and despicable occasion.

Yes, I attended the Black Friday sale at Wal-Mart.

First, I learned something. The traditional reasoning given to the name “Black Friday” is that is when accounting ledgers for businesses go from “in the red” to “in the black”, in other words, if they haven’t turned much of a profit all year, that after the Christmas season starts, it’s all good. All, “in the black”. That’s because the real reason is a bit more depressing. Philadelphia policemen, sick of dealing with crowds and traffic, started calling it “Black Friday”, because they thought the day sucked, much like other infamous “black” days, like the Stock Market Crash, or the later named “Black Tuesday” – the day AOL let loose all it’s noobs on the World Wide Web.

 

I was not in attendance as a shopper, merely as an observer of sorts. There were a lot of observers. People ready with cellular phone cameras to record the goings-on. Maybe Wal-Mart should charge a cover. Ten bucks to get in, and a ten dollar Wal-Mart card on your way out, with a receipt. It’s better than a Katherine Heigl movie.

 

I’m not sure about Wal-Mart policy in other places, but here’s how it goes down where I live: At 10 pm there is the first sale. Kitchen Items, small appliances, toys, etc. Anything but electronics, TVs, cameras. They pull out pallets around noon, wrapped in plastic, with “Not for Sale until 10” signs everywhere. Some consumers play stupid and pull stuff through the plastic, intending on hanging out until ten, then checking out, earning looks of disgust from others. Some people camp out, even going so far as to hold on to the item they desire, through the plastic.

 

As ten approached, the place filled rapidly. Every buggy in the area was inside the store. An eerie hush descended over the crowd as the appointed time approached. Employees worried about getting in the middle of everything to remove the plastic. I was thinking, “why?” You tell 2000 Wal-Mart customers “go” and that saran wrap is coming off.

 

If you’ve ever seen a National Geographic nature show, or even an early James Bond film or two, you know what happens when meat (cow, pig, person) falls into water occupied by a school of piranha. This is the explosion of frantic activity that occurred when the ten o’clock hour arrived. I never heard buzzer, bell, or announcement. All was quiet, then, BAM! Plastic was shredding, people were screaming, crock pots went flying across the aisle like footballs to waiting hands. Just like the infamous hungry fish, it was all over in minutes. Some items were gone within twenty seconds.

 

Ever the efficient ones, the staff swooped in, removing trash and empty pallets while customers milled about. It took them all hours to get in, they had their stuff, and wanted to leave within ten minutes. Every register was lit, the first time in my life I’ve seen that.

 Within the hour most of the rush had gone, new lines having formed up around the electronics aisles and pallets. Games, TVs, Cell phones and Cameras.

 The biggest stuff, of course, was already claimed. Laptops, Xbox sets, Large TVs and Wii systems had queue lines set up all around the store. God help you if you just came for shampoo. If you got there early enough, you could get in line. Once there were enough people in line for the items available, they closed the line. Now you had to sit in the Wal-Mart until midnight. At the stroke of twelve, those in line got their vouchers or their items and could go pay. It cuts down on fights over the large stuff, and it means if you want two big things – you better bring a partner to sit in another line.

 

One of the biggest crowds formed around the camera display. Again, people had staked out their claim, holding on to $50 kodak cameras, or $150 fujis, along with Cases, Memory cards, etc. The crowd was ten deep in places. Those not caring to buy stopped to watch as midnight approached. Flanked by the Police, the Manager approached, and gave the crowd a stern talking-to. The mad grab and rush was avoided thanks to the staff handing out the Cameras instead of allowing a free-for-all. Disappointed onlookers put away their cell phones, unable to record the fist fighting and hair pulling they so desperately wanted to see.

 Within an hour, everything was over. It was like any other night at the store. A few people were milling about, the staff sweeping and moving items, and restocking vacant shelves. It is an amazing thing to watch. If you like Hockey, you’ll probably like this. Looking over the crowd, it would be easy to say the economy is recovering, but maybe it is a bad economy that forces people into crowds to desperately try and grab hold of the promise of any savings, to satisfy their cravings that advertisers have drilled into their heads: “You need it, you want it you have to have it; if you don’t participate you are evil and un-American. There’s nothing else more important than finding the perfect gift and giving ‘the kids a good Christmas’”

 I’ve said it before – maybe it’s time to step back and think about the lessons of the past five years. Is all this needing and wanting really helping? Or are we setting ourselves up for failure again? Screw it, Amazon has a lightning deal I just missed, I’ve got to quit typing before I miss…wow look at tha

The George Forman Grill… Isn’t.

My grill is dying. Well – the burner is. The frame has another year on it. Maybe.

I went to grill some hamburgers today, and after twenty minutes, discovered they were slightly brown on the bottom and still raw on the top. The burner was observed to have large holes in it, preventing effective burning of the dinosaur farts that power the thing.

So, in order to save supper, I took the lukewarm meat inside and dug out the George Forman grill. After scraping out the remains of last week’s steak, heating it up and plopping the cow round into it, I closed the lid to the satisfying hiss.

But, for all its usefulness, it is not a grill. Oh, they call it that, so it sounds manly and bar-b-quey but it’s not a grill. Its a fancy griddle built on an incline so the grease drips off the front, but no matter the design, it is still not a grill.

It’s a griddle. But the George Foreman Griddle wouldn’t sell as well.

What is a real grill and why the distinction?

First of all, grill means fire.

If you have to plug in your grill, it’s not. Sure, anyone can cook over electricity, even through microwaves, but that’s not GRILLING. Grills involve open flame. Even if you cheat and use one of those “infrared” grills with the glass thing in it, there’s a flame down there somewhere, connected to the fat rusty used-to-be-white propane cylinder that’s six months away from rusting through to catastrophic failure.

Second, Grills don’t require complex and between-every-use cleaning. Even Ovens don’t have to be cleaned between EVERY use, unless you mess up or just suck at cooking.

The George Forman grill comes with a little plastic cleaning accessory that you might as well throw out. It will disappear soon anyway. the preferred cleaning method is to open it up, hold it over the sink, and scrub like crazy with the blue scrubby pad. The raised things that make the grill marks and let the fat drain provide plenty of obstacles to getting a good cleaning. Prepare to get brown charcoal-y water all over everything.

By contrast, the average grill can be cleaned this way: Light, turn on high for ten minutes. If the flames are brushing the steel food grill thing, all the better. When last month’s salmon surprise is reduced to ash, add steak, pork  or chicken. In extreme cases, grab the chock of wood (I use a small piece of 2×4) and give the grill bars a good scrape a few times. Keep the chock of wood. The heat burns little curves into it. Eventually you can get in between the bars.

Third, grills kill you. The George Foreman Grill might, if you plug it in and drop it in the sink, but otherwise you can use it in your bathroom with the door shut and it won’t hurt you. The most dangerous thing about it is when you are done with it, and pick it up to move it. The damn thing gets hot.

Try using your Char-Broil special inside. The dinosaur fart fuel emits toxic vapors, and will eventually smother you. Hopefully after you finish the tenderloin. You wouldn’t want to waste a perfectly good steak.

I like the George Forman cooking device. It does in a pinch, doesn’t require going outside in the rain to make a pork chop, and is relatively low risk.

Just don’t call it a grill.

The Happiest Place on Earth

I got a surprise today.
I caught my wife doing it. She was in the middle of it when I caught her, a smile on her face. Her fingers tapped and glided as she moved her way down. When she got to the bottom,there was a brief shock and a gasp.

Yes, she was researching Disney world trips and prices on the iPad. They can be shockingly pricey depending on where you stay.

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It’s our child’s last year at the discount rate, in 2013 she will hit the magical age of ten, when evidently she takes up more space on the rides or something, so they feel the need to charge extra. Maybe they should charge by weight instead. I could go on the Mary-Kate Olsen diet before I go…
Any way, my wife was looking at hotels and ticket prices. We love Disney World. It’s a seven hour drive for us, straight down I95 and I4. And after going almost yearly for over a decade, we know the place like the back of our hand. We have planning and execution of the Great Disney World adventure down to a science.
I even have a spreadsheet I designed, the Disney World Canonical Tour, that contains all our plans, reservation numbers, restaurant choices, times, and pertinent events in an easy to carry, color coded format. That’s important, because to do what you want, you have to plan six months in advance. If you intend to stay on the property and make any dinner reservations in June, by New Years Eve, you better have your vacation planned.

As our child has gotten older and fearless, she wants to do more adult things. She’s ridden everything Disney has to throw at her, except the Mission Space “red team” version, which I don’t think I want to ride either (being stuck in a centrifuge and possibly barfing on myself is not my idea of fun).

I drafted this a few days ago, and since then there have been other potentials for our travel dollars, including the Days Inn equivalent of a Hawaii hotel (don’t think so), and St. Thomas (more likely). St Thomas is technically America (did we conquer them or something?) so no passport required. I like the St. Thomas idea better. After all, I’ve been there, and the flight time is a Lot less. The Snorkeling is fun, the beaches are nice, and the view from the top of one of the mountains is awesome.

And watching my wife on a plane is as much fun as the “Rockin’ Roller Coaster”…

The view from Paradise Point: (not mine but very similar)

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The twelve days of CashMas!

When we wrote “Twas the night before CashMas” last year, I was told that I could come up with a 12 Days of CashMas pretty quickly. One through six were easy. Seven through Twelve were harder… They all end in “ing”. So, with apologies to the original artist, I herewith present, the Twelve Days of CashMas.

Sung to the tune of “The 12 days of Christmas” of course:

On the Twelfth day of CashMas, Amazon sent to me:

12 Pandora Beads for beading
11 DS games for playing
10 MREs for eating
9 Towels for bathing
8 Wines for drinking
7 Kindle books for reading
6 Seasons of Dexter
5 Pounds of Cheese
4 Stuffed Angry Birds
3 New Coats
2 Purple gloves
And a Black Ka-Bar Machete