I have had an insanely frustrating day

And, in return, I would like to present you all with a very simple life hack. I tweeted about this earlier and I’d like more people to be aware of it.

You may have gotten a Visa or MasterCard gift card for Christmas, and you may have been frustrated upon trying to use it at an online retailer, because you either have to leave a small amount of money on the card or somehow manage to spend exactly the amount on the card, because most online places won’t let you split a purchase over more than one card.

If you’ve got a $50 Visa gift card, and you want to spend $60 at, say, Amazon, then what you do is you first use the Visa on Amazon to buy a $50 Amazon gift card. This will be emailed to you as a code and you can then immediately use that code plus your debit card or whatever, and boom– $50 off whatever you wanted to buy, with no money lost to transaction fees and no money left on the card.

You’re welcome.

As one does

The boy is on his way to bed, or at least what we’ve come to call bed one, and so I suppose I can begin safely downloading his Christmas presents. Yes, downloading, and I may very well not reveal the existence of Immortals: Fenyx Rising on the PS5 until he notices it on his own. He and his mom have been reading through the Percy Jackson series together for the last several … months? … sure, let’s go with months, and it’s triggered a moderate obsession with Greek mythology, so he was all over the game. Hopefully it’s actually fun.

Other than that, well, there’s a reason it took until 9:00 to get even a short post up. This has been the least Christmas Eve-ish Christmas ever, and I fully expect tomorrow to be the least Christmasy Christmas ever, and honestly right now I’m fine with both of those things.

On what I want

My wife and I, married thirteen years come next February, typically do not buy each other gifts. My wife is impossible to buy for, as she does not like things, and I am exceptionally easy to buy for but tend to spend money indiscriminately, so buying things from my Amazon wish list, for example, can be kind of a fraught proposition.

I fucked around and got myself into trouble last week, as I came up with a perfectly good Christmas present for my wife and managed to acquire it in a fraction of the time I would have expected it to take and at a fraction of the cost. In other words, not only was I breaking the rules by buying something in the first place, she was going to take one look at it and assume that I had spent way more than I actually spent on it– even though what I did spend for it would generally count as a relatively large amount for us to spend on each other, even in a world where we buy things for each other, which we really don’t.

I hope to hell that sentence makes sense because I’m not rewording it.

Anyway, I went through this brief crisis where I was trying to figure out what my duties were in terms of whether I was going to disclose the gift before Christmas or not, and if I was merely going to disclose its existence or also disclose how much I spent. I ended up, after discussing the matter with my brother and sister-in-law, deciding to tell her what had happened and that I’d spent what I spent on it, so that if she wants to get me something in return (which she isn’t required to do) she has a chance of achieving some sort of parity.

(She won’t. I win this Christmas. She can try again next year if she wants, but I win this one.)

Anyway, the trick to buying me (and a lot of people, really) is to come up with something that I want but would never buy myself, which is kind of a tricky needle to thread, and thinking about it tonight all I’ve been able to come up with are two items that I really don’t need and would just add to the clutter around the house. Guitar Center is going out of business, and part of me really wants to go buy a guitar once I can get them at discount prices. Can I play the guitar? No. I can’t play the ukulele either. I’m not gonna learn. I’m 44 and it is too late to learn a musical instrument. There is, therefore, no reason for me to want one.

It is kind of hilarious to me that the second thing that I came up with was a combat-grade lightsaber, which is also something that someone else should not buy me, because they come with literally a billion available options and are also expensive as hell and the whole idea is completely ridiculous. I do not need a lightsaber, much less a $250 one, and the idea that I’m fixated on a combat-grade one, which has a blade tough enough that they’re supposed to be good for full-contact sparring against someone else, is even more ridiculous.

I’m curious to see if anyone can guess what color blade I’d pick, by the way.

(Oh, and also I’m still fighting off the occasional urge to buy a lathe.)

It’s best to just let me waste my own money, I think.

WARNING: Scam Alert

If you happen to be doing some Christmas shopping, and you’re at a website you’re not familiar with, and their checkout screen looks like it uses this template:

Back out immediately and do not make the purchase, as the site is likely a scam. Note that in this particular case I’ve added this item at random to create a shopping cart, but I have reversed a charge against Helli Shop, as it’s become more and more clear that they never intend to ship me the dice I ordered and upon closer examination (which I finally did today, after disputing the charge with my credit card company) the vast majority of their wares appear to have images stolen from other sites, including occasionally actually leaving the watermarks from the other sites on the image.

Why am I warning you about the template and not about the specific site? I’ve made one other order from a (different) site with this exact same template, and the item I ordered did arrive, but it was junk, and it shipped direct from China. Helli sent me tracking information six weeks ago using the same Chinese shipper, and the tracking information hasn’t moved from “item ready for shipment” since then. Those dice are never coming.

(It’s only $30, so if my bank refuses it’s not the end of the world, but I’m also changing some passwords too.)

Today, I was looking into a Christmas present for my wife, and noted that the template for checkout was the same. I backed out and did some more research on the site, and sure enough, all sorts of reports of either never receiving the items they’d ordered or in one case receiving what was supposed to be a “king-size” blanket that ended up being the size of a napkin. I also chased down a couple of the reviews from major magazines that they’d claimed to have for their product, and sure enough none of them seemed to actually exist.

So, yeah. Buyer beware, or even better, don’t be a buyer in the first place. I’d guess if I looked into it more deeply that all three sites would turn out to be registered by the same people, and they’re using this template for all of their stores. Avoid.

(Note, for those of you coming in through a link, that there is an update to this post.)


I somehow just flat forgot to blog yesterday, interrupting a streak at least a couple of months long. That doesn’t happen often; there are times when it hangs over my head all day and I put a “taking the day off” post up later in the evening when I realize I don’t have anything to say, but I swear to you that the notion that I occasionally write things for the Internet to read never once crossed my mind yesterday.

I wasn’t even that busy. Hell, I even had a good excuse for a post, since we put our Christmas lights up:

This image entertains me, because it was pitch-black outside when I took the picture, and my iPhone clearly had no idea how to handle processing the image, so it ends up looking like dusk since so much of it is artificially lightened. I actually watched the camera struggle with it for a few seconds before finalizing the image. We’ve done the projectors for the last couple of years, but the lights on the porch and the bushes in front are new for this year, and I think we might add more net lights to the tree and the bushes to the right of this image, as well as something wrapping around the driveway light post in the foreground of the image. You may know that I’m not a huge Christmas guy, but this year? Fuck it, we’re going full festive.

Watch, two years from now I’ll have inverted my personality entirely and we’ll have those damned inflatable things in the front yard.

Other than that, though, not much going on– I have eight days of instruction left before winter break, if I don’t count the twenty minutes that are left of today, and I’m about to bail on those twenty minutes, since (not entirely surprisingly) none of my students have decided to grace my 8th hour Meet with their presence yet. Back to the PS5, I guess, and trying to finish as many books as I can before the end of the year.

#goals, right?