Category Archives: Christmas

Eye’ll Be Home For Christmas

Ever ones for tradition around here, Jennifer and I put up our Christmas tree very recently. I know, older tradition recommends putting up the tree on Christmas Eve itself, but we’re not that traditional. Partly it was procrastination, party we just aren’t all that into the Christmas spirit this year (see an earlier post I wrote where I discussed my feelings about the season), and partly we just weren’t sure we wanted the hassle of continually picking up ornaments that the cats had liberated from the tree to the floor.

But then we saw a show on Discovery+ (which we got specifically for the holiday baking shows). I forget the name of the show, but they did mention that “theme trees” are all the rage right now, the latest craze, the “in” thing. One tree that a pair of decorators came up with was particularly of interest to us, so we decided to replicate it.

So here you go:

Eyeball Tree
Can you feel its eyes on you?

(click to embiggen)

Yes, we put eyeballs on the tree. It wasn’t entirely like the tree we saw on television — that one had larger eyeballs, hand painted, and some of them were on servos so they could spin about. If I were engineeringly inclined, I’d do the same, but I’m not.

Turns out you can buy lots of things on Amazon, and even though I don’t trust or like Amazon, I do a lot of shopping there. You can get a package of 150 table tennis balls and a package of 300 small googly eyes for less than $30 total, and a bunch of ornament hooks at your local CVS for less than $2. So we put up the tree one evening, then spent another evening gluing googly eyes to table tennis balls and installing hooks. The above is the result.

Need a closer look?

Eyes in the tree
Eye See You

Jennifer has dubbed this tree “Eye’ll Be Home for Christmas”, and I like it. I couldn’t think of anything cosmic horror-ish to name the tree, so I’m going with Jennifer’s suggestion. I do like the idea that it’s a tree Santa would approve of, since he could probably install a wireless hotspot in the tree and add receivers and transmitters to each eyeball, et viola, the ultimate Santa Spy Tree.

You’re welcome.

And Merry Christmas.

Deck Those Halls with Holidailies

Random Sampling

Christmas is coming! Huzzah! Hooray! Etc.! I don’t know. I don’t really get as excited about the holidays as I used to when I was a kid. The spiritual meaning of Christmas is not lost on me, of course, but the rampant consumerism and cultural baggage tend to leave me cold, and the right-wing talking points about a so-called “war on Christmas” make me cynical about the whole thing. The latest craze is to blame President Joe Biden for the supply chain problems the world has been having instead of the pandemic and the fiasco with the Ever Given in the Suez Canal earlier this year (yes, that was this year). Christmas is threatened because toys and other material goods might not make it into the stores? I suspect the true meaning of Christmas really is getting lost, but the right-wing folks are the ones who are losing it.

Of course, if you DO want to buy me a present, you can find my wishlist here on Giftster. It’s a wish list sharing site that my family uses instead of the ancient home-brewed one that I wrote in 2001 and never updated since.

Last night I wrote 500 words on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, and also jotted down some ideas for two short stories. This is the most productive I’ve been in weeks. Well, aside from stuff around the house and at work, of course. And even though I feel like the novel is basically stagnating right now, I’m excited to be moving forward on it again. And those two stories —  one is straight science fiction while the other is a mystery with a science fiction twist — are going to be BLAMMO when I finish them

BLAMMO. It’s a word now.

I don’t really have much to say that’s blog-worthy these days. In years past, I see, I used to complain a lot on this blog. Not so much these days, or at least I don’t think so. I mean, I have some complaints — like, new cat Guffaw gets excitable and jumps up on the kitchen counter too often —but it’s no longer a permanent state of mind. See, I’m growing as a person. Jennifer says I should post a picture a day as my blogging process, and maybe I’ll do that. Starting tomorrow, assuming I get my rear in gear and start taking pictures.

Looking over the first couple of paragraphs of this entry again, though, I do see some complaining going on. Ah, well. I’m not complaining constantly about my job these days, and that’s nice.

No more story acceptances since the last time I wrote about my story submission process, but I got a fresh rejection. I still have eight stories on submission right now, some with markets that can take nearly a full year to respond, so we’ll see what happens in the coming weeks and months. I think that I will try again in 2022 for one hundred submissions, but I do need to get some new stories written first.

I haven’t been reading as much as I should be; you can see what I’m currently reading in the handy-dandy widget from Library Thing to the right of this entry. It shows that currently I’m reading a couple of novels that my friends Andrea Stewart and Megan O’Keefe have written, as well as a couple of books about the craft of writing and a book about pirates. But I’m also reading a couple of books for my novel-writing critique group, so I need to concentrate on those as well.

The Bone Shard Daughter was an excellent book by an excellent writer. I’m only one chapter in to the sequel, The Bone Shard Emperor, and it’s just as well-written. Andrea Stewart did not win the Hugo Award for these novels (wasn’t even nominated, from what I can tell). She was robbed. And Megan’s Protectorate Trilogy didn’t make it either. She was robbed too.

I leave you with my favorite Christmas song, which I post every year to my blog and to Facebook and Twitter, but what the heck, it’s a great song: “The Season’s Upon Us” by Dropkick Murphys, my favorite Boston-based Irish punk band.

Merry Christmas to you all, and in case I don’t blog again, Happy New Year as well! May 2022 be a better one for us all.

Happy Holidailies to us all!

Christmas Thoughts ‘n’ Things

NOTE: Even though most of this post was written on December 26, it’s now the 27th as I finish and post it. Happy third day of Christmas!

Ingrid in a Santa hat
Ingrid in a Santa hat

It’s December 26th in this particular time zone as of this writing, which means it’s Boxing Day, or the second day of Christmas. Tradition demands that I give Jennifer a pair of turtle doves, whatever those are, but I’m going to pass. I guess I’m just a lousy husband. Anyway, here’s a picture of one of our cats, Ingrid, wearing a Santa hat. It’s okay. She always looks this grumpy.

Aside from all the driving, the past two days have been pretty low-key. On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, Jennifer and I went down to my parents’ house to hang out with the family. We all sat around and chatted, had Chinese food for dinner and various cookies and things for dessert, then opened stocking stuffers and presents. I had drawn my sister Leona’s name in the gift draw (my parents draw names to see who we’ll be giving a gift to, instead of giving everyone a gift; I really like this tradition, because it means I can put a lot more thought into a single gift instead of trying to find something for a bunch of different people), and I gave her a nice black sweater which she’d been wanting. Her husband Mike (who wasn’t able to come to the festivities) had drawn my name, and I ended up with a copies of Wonderbook, an illustrated book on writing speculative fiction by Jeff Vandermeer that I’d really been wanting, and Existence by David Brin. My parents also gave me a three foot tall inflatable Dalek. They’re Doctor Who nerds just like me, so they know what I like. 

Yesterday, Christmas Day, we went to Jennifer’s sister’s house to spend time with her family. It, too, was a pretty low-key affair. After breakfast we opened presents, and again I ended up with some pretty cool stuff: a book on ghosts and hauntings, a DVD of The Universe from the History Channel, and a subscription to Scientific American, which makes me happy in light of my plan to writing The Neverending Symphony in 2020. It was fun hanging out with various in-laws, nephews, and nieces, and the caroling in the evening was fun as well, but by the time the day ended, Jennifer and I were both wiped, and quite ready to go home.

And now I’m back at work while Jennifer’s off shopping with her family (on the 26th, they hit the post-Christmas sales to stock up on cards, ornaments, and supplies for the next year). It’s been a slow day, customer support-wise, so I was able to spend the day focusing on some projects that I’ve been working on.  There’s hardly anyone else in the office, too, which has been nice. Not that I don’t like my co-workers, of course, it’s just that it’s nice to be able to focus on existing projects rather than on customer support emergencies.

So at this point there’s not much left to do except sit around and wait for my birthday. Once that’s over, then it’ll feel a little less like limbo around here, and a little more back to reality.

‘Tis the season for (rambling) Holidailies

Advent Thoughts ‘n’ Things

First of all, here, have some music:

This is “This Endris Night”, as performed by Vox Musica, the women’s voice choir to which Jennifer belongs. They always sound great.

One of the atheist billboards in Sacramento
One of the atheist billboards in Sacramento

Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has put up some billboards around the Sacramento area. I approve. Not because I am personally an atheist or agnostic, but because there are a lot of people out there who are, and they each deserve to know that they’re not the only ones out there, and that they have a right to dignity and respect as well. I have read that some people believe that these billboards are somehow discriminatory against Christians, but I find that idea ludicrous; Christians are NOT a persecuted minority in the United States of America, and anyone who tries to tell you that they are has bought into the Fox News victim mentality.

The shield of the Episcopal Church
The shield of the Episcopal Church

Me, I’m happy to call myself an Episcopalian — though, I suppose, to some people, the Episcopal Church barely counts as a Christian denomination. I believe in God, in the Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, and in the Resurrection. I was baptized in the Episcopal Church, and confirmed there as well. All the basic stuff. I believe that God’s commandments to human beings boil down to what Jesus called the two great commandments: Love God, and love each other. The rest, I think, is more or less fluff, and the more you get bogged down in the theology and strict Bible-ism, the more likely you are to let your own prejudices and hatreds interfere with the two great commandments.

Most importantly, I feel these two great commandments are essentially identical, if at least not very much alike. As Christ himself put it:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ((Matthew 22:37-40, NIV))

There you have it. In my mind, if you serve others you’re essentially serving God, no matter what your religious inclinations are. In further verses (particularly in the Sermon on the Mount), Christ teaches that our neighbors are not just the people who live next to us, but all humankind, as well, even our enemies.

So. Christmas. It’s upon us this very Wednesday. Right now we’re still in the season of Advent, the time of expectation and waiting for Christmas itself. I wish I had some Deep Meaningful Insights to share with you about the season, but I don’t. Just… as we finish running out the season, allow yourself to relax, be meditative, and so on. It’s hard to break out of the rushing and materialism that marks Christmas in our culture these days, but it’s important to do so.

Other than that, I got nothing.

In other news, I’ve revamped my blog. I’m not yet happy with the layout, navigation, appearance, or so on, but after using the same home-grown theme for years and years, I thought it was time for a change. Plus, the new layout is responsive, and looks good even on my cell phone. The wonders of living in the future!

‘Tis the season for (random) Holidailies

Another Holiday Miscellany

First off, have an earworm. This is “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues. It’s been in my head all morning, no matter how many other Christmas songs I listen to.

This is still one of my favorite Christmas songs, though it’s been eclipsed a bit by “The Season’s Upon Us” by Dropkick Murphys (which I linked to just the other day).


Yesterday I got a nice card from my boss, which had been signed by him and the chairs of our department. It was very nice, and I really appreciated it. (He also was passing out candy but I skipped it because I’m still avoiding refined sugar. Yay me!)

Our office doesn’t really do much for the holidays. We have a half-day winter retreat, where we conduct work stuff and have a book exchange. In years past this has been a “white elephant” book exchange, but this year we were all asked to bring in copies of our favorite books. I brought in a copy of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, of course, since that’s my favorite book of all time. And I ended up with a copy of Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami. I’ve never read anything by this author, but we were discussing him in our writers’ group recently, and I’m really looking forward to reading this book.

What does your office do for the holidays, if anything?

Family Traditions

When I was growing up, my family celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure why, but I remember being a kid and being baffled by the kids who were excited about opening their presents on Christmas Day. “Didn’t you open them the night before?” I wanted to know. And they thought I was the weird one.

So, the entire family would gather: sometimes, both sets of grandparents, my Mom, my aunt and uncle, friends of the family, and so on. Over the years, of course, the family grew smaller and smaller. Grandparents pass away. Aunts and uncles and cousins all move to different states, and so on. Now, it’s my parents, my sisters, my sisters’ significant others, Jennifer, and my niece Erika. It’s still fun, but it doesn’t feel the same way as when I was a kid. I still miss my grandparents (though I had a nice visit with my grandpa in a dream the other night) and the overall boisterousness. Of course, I may be remembering it all wrong: it may be that those Christmases were awkward and painful, but I sincerely doubt it.

And, of course, after the family gathering we’d go to church. St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Cupertino (and it’s good to know that they’re still there). Over time, we started going to a Presbyterian church, which was pretty different. I don’t remember any incense being swung around at the Presbyterian church, for example. I remember one Christmas, my cousin Rohan got a copy of a Klingon dictionary, and we spent the time before Christmas service trying to figure out how to say Merry Christmas in Klingon. I think the best we came up with was “Honorable Birth of the Great Captain”, but I can’t begin to pronounce that.

And that, I think, is pretty much it. I don’t remember any other big traditions from when I was a kid, aside from the pageants and plays that every Christmas-celebrating kid takes part in.

Of course, I could be remembering wrong. I guess I should talk to my parents and my sisters about this.


Meanwhile, I did decide that I’m going to write The Neverending Symphony in 2020, the book that I whined about just a couple of days ago. This gives me six years to prepare for it, and who knows how long it will take to actually write the thing. But I’m really looking forward to it. I’m starting by doing some reading online: various articles, blogs, podcasts, and so on that I can find online. I’ve set up a blog to track my progress, and while I’ve made no pains to hide it from Google and whatnot, I’m not linking to it yet, simply because there isn’t a whole lot of content there. I will eventually, though, just as a way to keep myself accountable. I expect plenty of support and encouragement from you people. Just letting you know.

‘Tis the season for (eh, whatever) Holidailies

The Season’s Upon Us

Feeling much better today. No asthma (yay Prednisone!). Weight loss proceeding normally (in spite of the Prednisone). Very few regrets at the moment (possibly because I’ve decided to write that silly book, The Neverending Symphony, in 2020 — more on that later). No major depression (also in spite of the Prednisone, which messes hard core with my emotional state).

So here are a few seasonal things.

Because people have asked for it, here is a picture of me with long hair and beard. It’s not a very good picture, but it’s the only one I have. It was taken — well, back in the 90s. Probably ’92 or ’93. After I graduated from college, at least. It’s seasonal, because it was shortly after Thanksgiving. My parents, little sister, and I went to a dude ranch (called, appropriately enough, “Greenhorn”), and I went riding on a horse on this day. It started out raining that morning, but by the time we came back, it had started to snow. It was pretty chilly. And this jacket that I was wearing on that day? NO FREAKING POCKETS! I have pockets in my jacket now, though. I’d learned my lesson.

When I had long hair and a full beard, my dad used to tell me that I looked like a bomb-throwing terrorist. That was mostly because I wore black, too, and had a black trench coat.

Richard with Long Hair

Here’s a Christmas song you should listen to, with accompanying video. It’s called “The Season’s Upon Us” and it’s by Dropkick Murphys, my favorite American Irish punk band (for proper Irish punk bands, I think the Pogues are my favorite).

Lovely song, isn’t it? Now there’s a family that loves each other.

I have no thoughts on the Elf on the Shelf (today’s Holidailies prompt). It’s supposed to be an old tradition, but I’d never heard of it until this century, and I suspect it was invented by Borders (or some similarly commercial entity) to sell those little dolls. I do think it’s kind of a creepy thing to do, though, especially if your child believes that the elf really is a spy for Santa. But I suppose I’m over-cynical about it, just like I am over-cynical about most of the materialism that surrounds the holiday (heads up: I’m working on a blog post about what Christmas means to me on a spiritual level; expect some Episcotalk soon).

Anyway. So there’s that.

Beer’s still not fermenting, which saddens me. I don’t know whether I ought to junk the wort at this point, or add more yeast. I don’t want it to taste too yeasty. I have experts I could ask. I should ask them. I’m pretty sure I pitched the yeast too early, though.

Last night Jennifer made gingerbread men. I helped by attaching eyes and noses and occasionally taking trays of cookies out of the oven for her. I’m very useful.

That’s all I got for today.

‘Tis the season for (meandering) Holidailies

A Christmas Wishlist

It was easy when I was a kid. I’d go through the toy sections of my mom’s Sears or J. C. Penney catalogs and circle the items I wanted. New Micronauts! New firetrucks! New Legos! And so on. I’d get all excited and eagerly await Christmas Eve when I could open my presents and see the wonders. I’d get some of the toys I’d circled, which was cool, and some books, which was also cool, and some socks and underwear (long story), and some sweaters. Once, my grandpa gave me a gift certificate to Books, Inc. (I don’t know if that chain still exists or not, and I’m too lazy right now to Google it). That was back before gift certificates were really a Thing, and I loved it.

Now that I’m a grown up, though, it’s a lot harder. I have pretty much all the toys I want: my smartphone, my Android tablet, my Kindle. My car, which is twelve years old but still runs and which I know very well (I tend to run my cars into the ground). My computer. I could use a new laptop, but that’s not urgent. Oh, and my jellyfish desktop mood lamp thing has died, and I don’t think ThinkGeek sells them anymore. Oh, and I saw a couple of Pacific Rim toys that I think would look neat on my desk at work, but that’s about it.

Mostly I want books. And mostly reference books, too, though there are a few novels I’ve resisted buying myself because Christmas and my birthday are coming up. And my Amazon wishlist is public, in case you feel like looking it up.

So I’m going to go with some classics that I’d really like to see this year. I may come across as clichéd and a bit sappy, but here goes.

  • An end to slavery. Otherwise known as human trafficking. Although I can’t think of a single country on Earth where slavery is legal, there are still plenty of people in captivity; according to World Vision, there are something like 115 million children in the world who are kept in slave conditions. This is unacceptable. There are plenty of charities that work to help victims of human trafficking throughout the world. Find one and donate to it.
  • Respect for the planet. I’m pretty sure that Donald Trump was trolling when he said on Twitter that the concept of global warming was invented by the Chinese to cripple American manufacturing; I mean, no one could be that deluded, right? But global warming is happening. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of studies which confirm that not only is it real, it’s largely human-driven, compared to the tens of studies which say it is not. Yes, there was a major cold spell throughout the country this December, but that was driven by changes in the jet stream, which are driven by global warming. All I’m asking for is a little respect for this planet. We don’t have any others to go to. Again, there are plenty of legitimate environmental charities out there that need help.
  • An end to homelessness and hunger. I work in downtown Sacramento, and I see plenty of homeless people, some of them veterans, every day. I mean, come on, we’re the richest country on Earth, and we have this problem? Unacceptable. Find a local food bank or homeless shelter and donate or volunteer. These people need all kinds of assistance, from food and shelter to basic human companionship. I’m appalled that there are political forces in our country that are determined to cut back on government aid to these people. It seems counter-productive.
  • And, of course, the granddaddy Christmas wish that everyone asks for, world peace. I can’t think of any charities that are working specifically on this problem, but it seems to me that the root causes of conflict in the world are lack of resources, and people finding more and more ways to be generally crappy at each other. Find and contribute to charities and groups that are actively working to end human suffering throughout the world, such as Doctors without Borders, or the Red Cross. They do good work.

But really, these wishes aren’t really Christmas-specific. They’re things I’d like to see year-round. Christmas can bring out the best in people, but I’d like to see that happen every day.

So, then… I don’t know. What do you want for Christmas?

‘Tis the season for (political) Holidailies

O Tannenbaum (mit Katzen)

Last night we put up our Christmas tree. As you can see, we had supervision (click on the pictures to embiggen).

Sherman&Rupert Investigating

Sherman and Rupert had to investigate the tree before it was out of the box. For quality control, of course.


Sherman made it to the top before we even finished assembling the tree.


Nutmeg checks to make sure the branches are all in order. She’s a useful cat.


And Ingrid, of course, is unimpressed.

It’s a fake tree, of course. Years ago, when we lived in Dixon, we would go to the Silveyville Christmas Tree Farm every year, hunt down an unsuspecting tree, cut it down, net it, and bring it back to our house, like mighty hunters. The last year we went to the tree farm, though, we just kind of sat in the parking lot and looked at a tree that was already cut down and netted and leaning against the fence. We asked the elf about it and were told that it had been cut down, purchased, and taken home, only to cause sneezing and hives to the family. So it was brought back.

“We’ll take it,” we said. For some reason, we just didn’t feel the urge or even the desire to cut down our own tree that year. The next year, we just decided to go with an artificial tree and be done with it. So we went to Target and bought the nicest one we could find. Nowadays, we just take the tree down from the attic and assemble it (with supervision, of course).

What about you? Fake or real?

‘Tis the season for Holidailies

Christmas with Cthulhu

Warning: This post sort of… meanders. Someday I will go back to writing coherently, but not immediately.

Traditionally, at this time I year, I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is pretty much the gold standard of Christmas stories, after all: the Christmas story against which all other Christmas stories are measured. There have been dozens of adaptations of it, from stage to screen to an episode of Roseanne. Plus, it has ghosts, and I like ghost stories.

I also listen to a pair of albums that my little sister gave to me for Christmas a few years ago: A Very Scary Solstice and An Even Scarier Solstice, both by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. These albums are basically parodies of traditional Christmas carols, taking as their subject matter the horror fiction of H. P. Lovecraft instead of more traditional holiday fare. Here’s one of their songs, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fishmen” (to the tune of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”), which some clever person has done a video of:

(This is probably my favorite song of theirs.)

I’ve written some Christmas horror of my own: a short story called “The Littlest Christmas Tree“, and another one called “Night of the Frozen Elf”, which has been published here and in the collection The Undead that Saved Christmas.

So why the creepy stuff for Christmas? To be honest, I don’t know for sure. I’ve written before, somewhere around here, about my fondness of horror fiction and of humorous fiction. The fiction I write is generally comic horror, which usually combines horrific elements with the banal. Think Wolfman stuck in a dead-end telemarketing job.

Not all of my fiction is comical, of course. I don’t think “The Littlest Christmas Tree” is funny (though you might have a different opinion), while “Night of the Frozen Elf” certainly is. Love in the Time of Cthulhu has its moments, but isn’t as funny as I’d intended it to be (and there isn’t nearly as much love as I’d intended there to be either, but that’s a different issue). But the fiction that is comical tends to be as I’ve described it above. In my Lovecraftian pastiches, I include the Old One (or Outer God, or Elder God, or whatever the cosmology is) Hastur, who, in the fiction of Chambers, Lovecraft, et. al., is an unspeakable deity who wreaks havoc and what-not. His full designation is “Hastur the Unspeakable”, and his name cannot be spoken lest you summon him or worse. In my stories, though, he’s kind of a loner who just wants things to stay the way they are and who watches football games on his television while drinking beer in his interdimensional apartment on Aldebaran.

See? The horrific meets the banal.

But what about Christmas? Is Christmas that banal? Yes? No? Sure, there are parts that I do find banal. Imagine a vampire getting worked up about the crowds on Black Friday, for example. Or how Cthulhu would deal with the office holiday party. That sort of thing.

So I guess there are elements of the holidays which certainly are banal, especially as the whole thing has become a consuming frenzy. And while I’m not a “put the Christ back in Christmas” kind of guy, I do think there is a spiritual component to Christmas that we miss when we become wrapped up in the consumption and the stress.

But I don’t know if this addresses the question of why I like my Christmases a little on the creepy side, why I prefer ghost stories to other holiday fare, or why I think “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fishmen” is a better song than, say, “The Christmas Shoes”. Maybe it’s just a matter of taste. Or maybe it has something to do with a gut rejection of the consumerist aspects of a deeply spiritual holiday. Or maybe I’m just weird.

So I leave you with this image of Cthulhu dressed up as Santa Claus. Here’s hoping you get at least some level of enjoyment out of it. Happy holidays!



Santa Cthulhu image ©2010 by Deviant Art user Mambolica.