Happy Doctor Who Christmas Special Day

So it's Christmas.  Again.  Didn't we just do this last year? Not having a terrible day, but I couldn't sleep last night.  Not that I was excited about Christmas or anything.  (Well, I'm excited about the return of the Doctor.  But that's not till 9pm.)  So when my parents got up at 5am to go to my brother's house so they could be there for their grandkids' Christmas morning, their walking around and stuff made it even more difficult for my partner and me to get to sleep.

So we got up and did Christmas Morning with my parents before they left.  We exchanged gifts (they liked what we got them, and they got us some pretty awesome stuff) and talked for a while, then we went back to bed.

Then, virtually instantly, my parents woke me up six hours later and forced me to get out of bed and go to my aunt's house.

Like I said, it's not a terrible day.  My aunt and uncle have WiFi, don't mind me sitting on the computer, and I like these relatives, and I like my cousins, and they have an adorable new puppy.  (Looks kind of oldish.  I don't think that it's a Christmas-Gift-Puppy, which is good, because those are a terrible idea.)  But I woke up with a splitting headache, made myself nauseous brushing my teeth (nearly choked on my toothbrush) and got carsick on the ride over.  Then I did a bunch of Khan Academy on the couch at my aunt's house, which doesn't exactly put me in a fantastic mood.

And it's getting better.  My headache is fading, I'm not in a car anymore, and I'm done Khan Academy for the day.

(Also:  Tumblr is weird to browse at my aunt's house, because of the number of blogs I follow that occasionally post porn.  Good thing I'm sitting with my back to a wall.)

Christmas Puppies

My aunt and uncle and cousins have a new puppy.  It looks oldish, like they've had it for a while, which is good.  I'm glad.  Because it reminded me of Christmas Puppies, which are a terrible idea. It's a little late for this warning, but if you're going to get a kid a pet for Christmas, don't.  It's irresponsible and cruel to the pet.  Owning a living thing is something you need to prepare for as a family.  It's not like other Christmas gifts -- you can't put a puppy in the closet and leave it there if you decide you don't like it as much as you thought you would.

The same goes for cats, and mice, and chinchillas, and -- especially -- exotic pets.  The woman who sold my partner her hedgehog, for example, won't sell someone a hedgehog if they plan on surprising their kid with it.

If you really want to get someone a pet for Christmas, buy the dog bed or the water bowl and some food in advance, and wrap those.  Then, when you've had the surprise, go and pick out the pet together, in a responsible manner, from someone capable of educating you on the needs of your new pet.

We try really, absurdly hard as a culture to make Christmas he nicest, most pleasant part of our year.  There's no good reason to perpetuate the cycle of pets abandoned a month after Christmas every year.  (It's not worth making a holiday happier by creating a bunch of new, delayed release sad.)

Thanksgiving is weird

I mean, I get the sense of having a thankfulness holiday.  I don't think there's something wrong with that.  And I get why it's a feasting holiday, because winter and harvests and starvation and stuff.  Not totally sure why you do it with your family, but whatever. I'm not saying Thanksgiving is bad.  But it's really weird.

Mike at Idea Channel posted a quasi-video about the weird aspects of going home for Thanksgiving, and the weirdness of the idea of going home in general.  That's a big part of it -- it's always weird visiting family, because the social structure of the US has changed so much that keeping up with the rituals that made sense when you lived in the same town as your family for your whole life has become sort of alienating.

And even though we're at a point, with our available technology, that we could, each individual family, organize our own Thanksgiving style reunions around the calendar -- just like we could organize our own gift-giving holidays and collective celebrations of the passage of time -- we stick to the existing rituals, the existing food traditions and the existing dates.

As a result, we have massive clogs of airports and highways on particular days every year, and we have events like Black Friday, the formal beginning of a whole season in which everybody buys everything for serious though.

There's a weird sort of doublethink about keeping it to the same day.  On the one hand, if you said "Get rid of Thanksgiving," people would insist that it's important to have a day when you get together with your family, that letting yourself feast for real one day a year is important and life-affirming, and so on.

On the other hand, if you said people should organize their own family holidays, start their own traditions, most people would look at you a little funny.  There's something apparently implicitly wrong with trying to start a ritual, in the same way that there's something right about keeping up with old rituals.

I think it's similar to the way that dates go way better if you go out for coffee or dinner, because you can't just agree to go and hang out with someone in some chairs and talk.  There has to be some sort of concrete preoccupation.

Anyway, this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for the internet, for Google and YouTube and Boing Boing.  I'm thankful for the Vlogbrothers and the open source movement and for Wordpress.

I'm thankful for the good relationships in my life, and I'm thankful for the technologies that allow me to find and maintain them -- I'm thankful for OkCupid, for introducing me to my partner, and I'm thankful for the combustion engine, which allows me to see her regularly, and I'm thankful for language, which allows us to share a deeper relationship than just procreation and pair-bonding.

And I'm pre-thankful for the hypothetical future when social engineering allows us to organize important events on a rotating schedule so that the rest of the world can function more-or-less normally when any given group of people is having a party.