In which I save Christmas

We didn’t have marshmallows.

No one was quite sure how it was that we didn’t have marshmallows, but we didn’t have marshmallows. And you cannot make Heavenly Salad without fuckin’ marshmallows. The ingredients: Grapes. Pineapple. Juice from same. Heavy cream. Milk. Lemon juice. Sugar. And marshmallows.  They’re kinda important. And we didn’t have any.

At 8:4fuckin7 PM on Christmas Eve.

Turns out Walgreens is open on Christmas Eve. The 24-hour stores are still 24-hour, believe it or not. And there’s one close. We go back and forth a couple of times about 1) whether we actually need Heavenly Salad for Christmas dinner (yeah, we kinda do) and 2) whether Walgreens is likely to have marshmallows.

Walgreens.com allows me to search the inventory of individual stores and I discover that my Walgreens claims to have 10 packages of small marshmallows, but none of the traditional size. I have a vague memory of having tried this trick with the smaller marshmallows in the past and not being super happy with the results, but fuck it; I’d rather have undersized marshmallows than no Heavenly Salad.

I have to wait for a parking spot at Walgreens. Which is packed. Which I suppose isn’t terribly surprising. The employees, who know full and goddamn well that everyone there needs one thing and one thing only, are bouncing back and forth from customer to customer, basically pointing, barking “What do you need?” and leading them to that one thing. I overhear a conversation where one family is carefully explaining that they need macaroni, because their “side dish” is macaroni and cheese, and I realize with some horror that they mean Kraft macaroni and cheese, and I have a sudden flashback to this lady:

I don’t object to macaroni and cheese for Christmas, mind you– I thought about making it myself– but macaroni and cheese from scratch isn’t hard. It’s not even much more expensive! No one should be bringing freaking Kraft Dinner to Christmas. They actually have all the ingredients to make it from scratch! I can see them from where I’m standing!

I find my marshmallows. It turns out they actually do have one bag of the proper size, and technically I only need the one bag, but the bag appears to have been exposed to extreme heat if not an actual flamethrower at some point and I reject it in favor of two bags of the smaller ones. But hey! I have marshmallows! Victory!

I get in line to buy my marshmallows. The cashiers appear to be in genuinely good moods, and they’re having the exact same conversation with everyone, and everyone in line appears to be grateful and happy and not at all the assortment of miserable bastards that I was expecting. There are lots of thank-yous being tossed around.

I glance at the guy in front of me. He is carrying the following items:

  1. A single DiGiorno personal microwave pizza
  2. One (1) liter bottle of Mountain Dew

and nothing else.

I briefly consider asking him if he needs help, or if he needs an adult. Like, dude, do you want to come home with me? Because you are buying a microwave pizza and a Mountain Dew at 9:00 on Christmas Eve and if that is not a cry for help I cannot imagine what could possibly make it any worse.

And then, as if he can hear me, he gets out of line and wanders off somewhere. I do not follow him, because Jesus awkward, so instead I just buy my marshmallows and head home. I am very grateful to the people behind the counter and they are very nice to me.

And I have saved Christmas.

In which I discover a new WordPress feature that I probably won’t use very often

Wait, I can put words here?

Several times in the last five or six years I’ve done the year-end blogwanking roundup on Christmas Eve, with the justification that no one is on the internets today so it’s a great day to write a completely irrelevant damn post. The problem is that right now I’m about 1750 pageviews away from passing last year’s traffic, which would be the first traffic gain in several years. I’m a few thousand back on individual visitors, but views have a chance of being up. And I kinda don’t want to write that post until I know?

What I need for Christmas is for one or two of you to take an hour and go through the archives.(*) 1750 pageviews in 7 days is an unlikely week under the best of circumstances, and the week of Christmas and New Year’s? I may as well go ahead and write the blogwanking post. But it’s possible. Highly unlikely. But possible.

In other news: I took the boy to get a much-needed haircut today, which marks the last time that I ought to need to leave the house between now and going to the comic shop on Wednesday, which suits me right down to the ground. We’ll have family in tomorrow, and I’m pretty sure we have every single thing we could possibly need here, and the shopping’s all done, so barring some sort of surprise I ought to have a couple of days where I don’t technically need to wear pants if I don’t want to. Which, hey, that’s what the Christmas season is all about, right? Jesus didn’t wear pants. That’s in the Bible somewhere. I have an MA in Biblical studies, I know these things.

Anyway. I hope you’re happy and with family for the next couple of days, unless your family makes you unhappy, in which case I hope you’re happy and literally anywhere else.

(* ETA: I just remembered I actually did this once. Randomly came across a WordPress blog at OtherJob back when I still worked at OtherJob, and the guy needed X number of hits to reach some amount of traffic for the year. I was alone and at work and bored and I literally went through every post on his blog twice just for the sheer hell of it to put him over the top. I’m mostly not serious when I suggest someone do this, for the record, but I HAVE actually done it once. 🙂 )

IT BEGINS

I got home from work at about 2:30 after a nearly three-hour “lunch meeting” on the last day before Winter Break officially kicked in, and I’ve spent most of the time since then in my recliner with a book in my hand. (Which has finally gotten interesting; I was on the verge of abandoning a Tana French novel, the very concept of which hurts my heart.)

I am trying to decide if I want this to be a Winter Break of Great Accomplishment or a Winter Break of I Sat Around And Read Books And Played Video Games. Right now it could go either way. And both would be a perfectly valid way to spend the next two weeks.

Also, I keep looking at that picture of myself I posted yesterday and reflecting on how much I’ve fallen apart physically since 2004. I need to get out of this mood or I’ll end up making New Year’s Resolutions, and those are always to be avoided by sensible people.

How to Christmas with a kitten

The tree has lights but no real ornaments (the boy hung some toys on it) and the vacuum is right next to it, plugged in. If the kitten touches the tree, we turn on the vacuum.

Works really well.

#Weekendcoffeeshare: Sweatpants Edition

If we were having coffee, you’d either be in my house or witness to just about the first time I’ve left my house since getting home from my dentist appointment on Wednesday.  This, if you’re me, constitutes a certain type of pure bliss, and it has been a lovely, wonderful long weekend, one where I have mostly not been wearing pants and yesterday I did not bother to shower until just before bed.  

Let’s talk geek shit, then, because at the moment it’s what I’ve got.  Again, I haven’t left the house in a few days.

ITEM THE FIRST!  I abandoned a book this morning, R.E. Stearns’ Barbary Station, when it became clear that despite starting off with an absolutely scandalous amount of potential the writing was never going to click for me. This book is about a duo of lesbian engineers who steal a colony ship and present it to a gang of space pirates, hoping that the gift will get them into the gang, because the galactic economy has gone to shit and “find a job with a pirate crew” is, under the circumstances, a sound plan.  They then discover that the pirates living on the station are sort of trapped there, because the AI running the place has gone rogue and has decided Kill All Humans is the right way to deal with things.  

I mean, come on.  I can’t resist a single thing about that premise.  This was bought the second I knew it existed.

One of them is a hacker, and hacking is presented as this drug-induced, hallucinatory metaphor-space, and the idea is fascinating.  In fact, damn near all of the ideas in the book are fascinating.  Everything about it is fascinating.  What it isn’t is good, unfortunately.   The writing is clumsy at best and the book is at least one solid editing pass and a new draft away from being a good read.  I don’t normally like to slag on books I didn’t like here, especially if they didn’t piss me off in an entertaining way, but part of me kind of hopes that someone will read the premise and decide I suck at deciding if things are good and buy the book anyway.  I need R. E. Stearns to sit down with a really good editor for her next book, and then to reissue this one.  Major disappointment.

(I’m not alone in this assessment.  The book currently has the worst overall star average of the nearly 600 books I’ve reviewed on Goodreads– only 3.19/5.  It’s tied with a Chuck Wendig book that was the victim of a prolonged and stupid review bombing.  That’s bad.)

Also, the font the book is written in is borderline unreadable.  I thought I’d get used to it but it was still pushing me out of getting lost in the book before I bailed.  With a better-written story, it might not have mattered, but with a poorly-written one, it was just One More Thing.  

That was unpleasant, so let’s talk about ITEM THE SECOND! which is Red Dead Redemption 2.  I actually took that picture by pointing my camera at my TV, because I got to the top of that mountain and looked off over the edge and thought Jesus, when I started playing video games, I was playing Asteroids, and now this.  Because you can go anywhere you can see in that picture.  

I will have a lot more to say about this game later, believe me, but for right now I just want to bask in how outstandingly beautiful the game is, and how it got me to spend a couple of hours this afternoon not bothering to advance the story at all but just exploring and hunting, which is kind of a ridiculous way to spend your Sunday before going back to work.  There are things I don’t like– the control scheme it starts you with is terrible, and once you fix the terrible control scheme you’re still left with something that will lead to you occasionally firing a gun in a crowded tavern by accident or punching your horse.  Both of those activities are kinda frowned upon.  

I’ve done more geekery this weekend, but the one other thing I wanna talk about is going to get its own post, I think.  So … wanna go hunt moose with me?  Because I kinda want to bag a moose today.  


My Patreon promotion is still running through bedtime tomorrow, or maybe even longer than that if I decide I feel like it.  Subscribe at the $2/month level or above and I’ll send you an autographed, print copy of my newest novel, Click.