Quotulatiousness

December 22, 2014

Gift-giving, explained

Filed under: Economics — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

Tim Harford recounts the surprising results of several studies on the very different views of gift-givers and gift-recipients:

Father Christmas might seek guidance from a set of studies conducted by Gabrielle Adams and Francis Flynn of Stanford, and Harvard’s Francesca Gino.

Gino and Flynn surveyed married people, asking some to reflect on wedding gifts they had received, and others to think about wedding gifts they had given. Gift givers assumed that gifts chosen spontaneously would be just as welcome as those chosen from a wedding registry. Recipients felt otherwise: they preferred the gifts that had been on the wedding list. Such lists seem charmless but they work.

Gino and Flynn found similar results from a survey about birthday presents: again, givers thought that gifts they’d chosen themselves were more appreciated but recipients preferred the gifts that they’d specifically asked for. The lesson: you might feel that it’s awkward and unnecessary to ask what gift would be welcome but the recipient of the gift sees things differently and would prefer that you asked rather than guessed.

Gino and Flynn conducted a third study in which people created wish lists. Other participants were asked to choose an item on the list to be sent as a gift; a third group were asked to peruse the wish list but then to choose some other present of equivalent value. It’s not surprising to discover that recipients preferred the items from their wish list — but what’s remarkable is that they felt the wishlist gifts were more “personal” and “thoughtful”. We think that picking an item from a wish list is lazy and impersonal but the person receiving that item doesn’t see it that way at all.

For good measure, a fourth study by Gino and Flynn found there was one thing people appreciated even more than an item from their own wish lists: money.

There’s more. Adams and Flynn surveyed newly engaged couples about engagement rings. The givers assumed that more expensive rings were more appreciated. The recipients felt differently. A similar result came from asking people to think about a particular birthday present they had received or given: recipients were just as happy with inexpensive gifts, to the surprise of givers.

In short, there is a vast discrepancy between how we see the world when giving gifts and when receiving them. The gift giver imagines that the ideal present is expensive and surprising; the recipient doesn’t care about the money and would rather have a present they’d already selected. We should spend less than we think, and we should ask more questions before we buy.

Repost – Happy Holiday Travels!

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

H/T to Economicrot. Many many more at the link.

December 21, 2014

Woodworking Christmas Gifts and Projects – with Paul Sellers

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:04

Published on 20 Dec 2013

In this holiday themed video Paul Sellers give some advice on buying a new woodworker some basic tools. He shows how to make a small tree decoration. He also shows how to make a wooden propeller toy, a mixing spatula and a cutting board.

Repost – “I want an Official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot Range Model air rifle”

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

ChristmasStory-blog

H/T to KA-CHING! for the image.

December 20, 2014

Build a Wooden Salt Cellar

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:38

Published on 14 Dec 2014

Plans and project resources: http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/videos/salt-cellar/

The Wood Whisperer is education and entertainment for the modern woodworker! Find more at http://thewoodwhisperer.com & don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Repost – Induced aversion to a particular Christmas song

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Media, Personal — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Earlier this year, I had occasion to run a Google search for “Mr Gameway’s Ark” (it’s still almost unknown: the Googles, they do nothing). However, I did find a very early post on the old site that I thought deserved to be pulled out of the dusty archives, because it explains why I can — to this day — barely stand to listen to “Little Drummer Boy”:

Seasonal Melodies

James Lileks has a concern about Christmas music:

This isn’t to say all the classics are great, no matter who sings them. I can do without “The Little Drummer Boy,” for example.

It’s the “Bolero” of Christmas songs. It just goes on, and on, and on. Bara-pa-pa-pum, already. Plus, I understand it’s a sweet little story — all the kid had was a drum to play for the newborn infant — but for anyone who remembers what it was like when they had a baby, some kid showing up unannounced to stand around and beat on the skins would not exactly complete your mood. Happily, the song has not spawned a sequel like “The Somewhat Larger Cymbal Adolescent.”

This reminds me about my aversion to this particular song. It was so bad that I could not hear even three notes before starting to wince and/or growl.

Mr. Gameways' ArkBack in the early 1980’s, I was working in Toronto’s largest toy and game store, Mr Gameways’ Ark. It was a very odd store, and the owners were (to be polite) highly idiosyncratic types. They had a razor-thin profit margin, so any expenses that could be avoided, reduced, or eliminated were so treated. One thing that they didn’t want to pay for was Muzak (or the local equivalent), so one of the owners brought in his home stereo and another one put together a tape of Christmas music.

Note that singular. “Tape”.

An ad from the year of Trivial Pursuit (via OSRcon)

An ad from the year of Trivial Pursuit (via OSRcon)

Christmas season started somewhat later in those distant days, so that it was really only in December that we had to decorate the store and cope with the sudden influx of Christmas merchandise. Well, also, they couldn’t pay for the Christmas merchandise until sales started to pick up, so that kinda accounted for the delay in stocking-up the shelves as well …

So, Christmas season was officially open, and we decorated the store with the left-over krep from the owners’ various homes. It was, at best, kinda sad. But — we had Christmas music! And the tape was pretty eclectic: some typical 50’s stuff (“White Christmas” and the like), some medieval stuff, some Victorian stuff and that damned “Drummer Boy” song.

We were working ten- to twelve-hour shifts over the holidays (extra staff? you want Extra Staff, Mr. Cratchitt???), and the music played on. And on. And freaking on. Eternally. There was no way to escape it.

To top it all off, we were the exclusive distributor for a brand new game that suddenly was in high demand: Trivial Pursuit. We could not even get the truck unloaded safely without a cordon of employees to keep the random passers-by from trying to grab boxes of the damned game. When we tried to unpack the boxes on the sales floor, we had customers snatching them out of our hands and running (running!) to the cashier. Stress? It was like combat, except we couldn’t shoot back at the buggers.

Oh, and those were also the days that Ontario had a Sunday closing law, so we were violating all sorts of labour laws on top of the Sunday closing laws, so the Police were regular visitors. Given that some of our staff spent their spare time hiding from the Police, it just added immeasurably to the tension levels on the shop floor.

And all of this to the background soundtrack of Christmas music. One tape of Christmas music. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

It’s been over 20 [now 30] years, and I still feel the hackles rise on the back of my neck with this song … but I’m over the worst of it now: I can actually listen to it without feeling that all-consuming desire to rip out the sound system and dance on the speakers. After two decades.

December 12, 2014

The British pantomime tradition

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

Tracy Morgan looks at a British holiday tradition that didn’t seem to travel to the rest of the empire:

An actor in drag endowed with enormous boobs stands alongside an actress in male britches. Every year they tell the same jokes, flirtatiously sing silly tunes, bring a good-over-evil narrative to life and comment on everything — except much about Christmas. Yet theatergoers consider it a great holiday tradition, because nothing says Christmas to Brits quite like cross-dressing slapstick, screaming children and sexual innuendo.

British pantomimes run from late November through mid-January, and the question is not are you going, but which panto are you seeing? “For many people, a trip to the theater to see the pantomime is as big a part of Christmas as roast turkey dinner,” says Simon Sladen, assistant curator of modern and contemporary performance at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. ’Tis the season for the goodies to take the stage to cheers while baddies slink into view amid boos. A man plays the leading dame, and a woman often plays the starring male role, retelling classic fairy tales like Cinderella or Jack and the Beanstalk with a comedic twist. Chants from ticket holders include “Oh, yes it is” to “Oh, no it isn’t,” or the classic “It’s behind you!” to warn those on stage of imminent danger.

I’d always wondered where those phrases came from…

Unlike its silent namesake, these colorful productions — aka pantos — are a mishmash of very verbal theatrical genres, from Italian commedia dell’arte’s slapstick to the medieval mystery plays and the Everyman play’s morality. Pantomime, which originally meant “imitator of all,” is “reflective of the world around it,” says Sladen, referring to how it incorporates contemporary political and cultural jokes, modern music and fashion. Members of the audience are meant to see aspects of themselves in the characters and identify with their struggles and successes.

December 7, 2014

Here’s a Christmas campaign I can get behind – Ban Rudolph!

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

My old internet friend Roger Henry sent this to a mailing list we both subscribe to … and I think it’s a good cause indeed:

If you wish to start a bun fight then you should support me in my efforts to have Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer banned.

It promotes bullying, humiliation of disabled or disfigured people. Rudolph’s fellow reindeer are bullies and sycophantic suck-holes. Santa needs serious re-education for allowing this behavior to flourish in the reindeer stables, and it sets a very bad example to the kiddies — and adults.

December 25, 2013

Duffelblog – NSA intercepted letters to Santa

Filed under: Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Just when you thought the NSA scandal couldn’t get any worse, it now appears that the secretive intelligence gathering agency has a special program in place to intercept letters to Santa:

The National Security Agency routinely intercepts children’s letters to Santa, internal agency documents have revealed.

The documents describe an operation known as MILK COOKIES, based out of Fort Meade and run in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service. COOKIES is the interception of the letters while MILK feeds them through a complex series of algorithms to spot any hidden messages.

Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander had previously testified to Congress in 2011 that the NSA would occasionally collect letters addressed to Santa, but insisted that it was totally accidental and that no one was actually reading or storing them.

The NSA is prohibited from directly monitoring American citizens under both Executive Order 12333 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, because the letters are addressed to the North Pole, which falls outside of U.S. territory, they are considered potential foreign intelligence signals which the NSA is authorized to intercept.

[…]

Four years later the NSA began MILK COOKIES in response to the Secret Santa program, which the agency initially thought was a Soviet operation after a flier for the program mistakenly replaced the picture of Santa with Karl Marx.

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the NSA began an almost-relentless campaign to insert itself both legally and covertly into the Christmas spirit.

First the NSA managed to get language inserted into the PATRIOT Act which required Santa to file a flight plan with NORAD and submit to random TSA inspections at select chimneys. Then came the 2002 judgment in United States v. Kringle, when the NSA and the Justice Department ordered him to deliver multiple GPS devices to the location of Usama bin Laden and other high-ranking Al Qaeda leaders.

When Santa refused and was put on a no-fly list he briefly had to outsource all his American operations to Canada, which handles diplomatic issues for the North Pole.

December 24, 2013

“I want an Official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot Range Model air rifle”

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

ChristmasStory-blog

H/T to KA-CHING! for the image.

December 23, 2013

Induced aversion to a particular Christmas song

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Media, Personal — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Earlier this year, I had occasion to run a Google search for “Mr Gameway’s Ark” (it’s still almost unknown: the Googles, they do nothing). However, I did find a very early post on the old site that I thought deserved to be pulled out of the dusty archives, because it explains why I can — to this day — barely stand to listen to “Little Drummer Boy”:

Seasonal Melodies

James Lileks has a concern about Christmas music:

This isn’t to say all the classics are great, no matter who sings them. I can do without “The Little Drummer Boy,” for example.

It’s the “Bolero” of Christmas songs. It just goes on, and on, and on. Bara-pa-pa-pum, already. Plus, I understand it’s a sweet little story — all the kid had was a drum to play for the newborn infant — but for anyone who remembers what it was like when they had a baby, some kid showing up unannounced to stand around and beat on the skins would not exactly complete your mood. Happily, the song has not spawned a sequel like “The Somewhat Larger Cymbal Adolescent.”

This reminds me about my aversion to this particular song. It was so bad that I could not hear even three notes before starting to wince and/or growl.

Back in the early 1980’s, I was working in Toronto’s largest toy and game store, Mr Gameway’s Ark. It was a very odd store, and the owners were (to be polite) highly idiosyncratic types. They had a razor-thin profit margin, so any expenses that could be avoided, reduced, or eliminated were so treated. One thing that they didn’t want to pay for was Muzak (or the local equivalent), so one of the owners brought in his home stereo and another one put together a tape of Christmas music.

Note that singular. “Tape”.

Christmas season started somewhat later in those distant days, so that it was really only in December that we had to decorate the store and cope with the sudden influx of Christmas merchandise. Well, also, they couldn’t pay for the Christmas merchandise until sales started to pick up, so that kinda accounted for the delay in stocking-up the shelves as well …

So, Christmas season was officially open, and we decorated the store with the left-over krep from the owners’ various homes. It was, at best, kinda sad. But — we had Christmas music! And the tape was pretty eclectic: some typical 50’s stuff (White Christmas and the like), some medieval stuff, some Victorian stuff and that damned Drummer Boy song.

We were working ten- to twelve-hour shifts over the holidays (extra staff? you want Extra Staff, Mr. Cratchitt???), and the music played on. And on. And freaking on. Eternally. There was no way to escape it.

To top it all off, we were the exclusive distributor for a brand new game that suddenly was in high demand: Trivial Pursuit. We could not even get the truck unloaded safely without a cordon of employees to keep the random passers-by from snatching boxes of the damned game. When we tried to unpack the boxes on the sales floor, we had customers snatching them out of our hands and running (running!) to the cashier. Stress? It was like combat, except we couldn’t shoot back at the buggers.

Oh, and those were also the days that Ontario had a Sunday closing law, so we were violating all sorts of labour laws on top of the Sunday closing laws, so the Police were regular visitors. Given that some of our staff spent their spare time hiding from the Police, it just added immeasurably to the tension levels on the shop floor.

And all of this to the background soundtrack of Christmas music. One tape of Christmas music. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

It’s been over 20 years, and I still feel the hackles rise on the back of my neck with this song … but I’m over the worst of it now: I can actually listen to it without feeling that all-consuming desire to rip out the sound system and dance on the speakers. After two decades.

December 22, 2013

Fairytale of New York

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Time:

“Fairytale of New York,” The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

This song came into being after Elvis Costello bet The Pogues’ lead singer Shane MacGowan that he couldn’t write a decent Christmas duet. The outcome: a call-and-response between a bickering couple that’s just as sweet as it is salty.

December 21, 2013

QotD: Baldrick and the workhouse Nativity play

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Baldrick: I’ve been helping out with the workhouse Nativity play.

Ebenezer Blackadder: Oh, of course. How did it go?

Baldrick: Well, not very well. At the last moment, the baby playing Jesus died!

Ebenezer Blackadder: Oh, dear! This high infant mortality rate’s a real devil when it comes to staging quality children’s theatre. What did you do?

Baldrick: Got another Jesus.

Ebenezer Blackadder: Oh, thank goodness. And his name?

Baldrick: “Spot.” There weren’t any more children so we had to settle for a dog instead.

Ebenezer Blackadder: Oh, dear. I’m not convinced that Christianity would have established its firm grip over the hearts and minds of mankind, if all Jesus had ever said was “woof!”

Baldrick: Well, it went all right until the shepherds came on. See, we haven’t been able to get any real sheep, so we had to stick some wool…

Ebenezer Blackadder: On some other dogs!

Baldrick: Yeah. And the moment Jesus got a whiff of them, he’s away! While the angel’s singing “peace on earth, good will to mankind,” Jesus scampers across and tries to get one of the sheep to give him a piggy-back ride!

Ebenezer Blackadder: Scarcely appropriate behavior for the Son of God, Mister Baldrick! Weren’t the children upset?

Baldrick: No, they loved it! They want us to do another one at Easter. They want to see us nail up the dog!

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, 1988.

December 19, 2013

QotD: Blackadder greets Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Ebenezer Blackadder: Cork it, fatso! Don’t you realise that this is the Victorian Age, where apart from Queen Piglet-Features herself, women and children are to be seen and not heard!

Prince Albert: Queen Piglet-Features!

Ebenezer Blackadder: Yes! “Empress Oink,” us lads call her. The only person in the kingdom who looks dafter than her is that stupid Frankfurter of a husband. “The Pig and the Prig,” we call them. How they ever managed to produce their one hundred and twelve children is quite beyond me. The bed-chambers of Buckingham Palace must be copiously supplied with blindfolds!

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, 1988.

December 18, 2013

QotD: Blackadder and Melchet exchange Christmas greetings

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:51

Lord Edmund Blackadder: I trust Christmas brings to you its traditional mix of good food and violent stomach cramp.

Lord Melchet: Greetings of the season to you, Blackadder! May the Yule log slip from your fire and burn your house down!

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, 1988.

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