Xmas Presents

This year, Christmas for me was not a cornucopia of presents.  For one, my sister Kathy didn’t come home so there was nothing underneath from her or my parents.  For another, I neither asked for much nor made much of a deal about Mike getting me anything.  Therefore, I feel free to write about the great presents I did get, without having to feel the shame of participating in unabashed consumerism – or at least, of owning up to it.

So this is what I got.

IMG_1906Mika got me these gorgeous owl earrings and at the San Francisco Zoo no less! She got Camila some gorgeous elephant earrings as well.

She also got me a homemade card with the words of the Backstreet Boy’s song The Perfect Fan

The San Leandro main library has a tiny gift shop run by volunteers.  They always manage to have cute, unique and reasonable price items.  I don’t go there too often anymore (e-books be damned!), but during a recent visit I spotted a few items items I did like. I pointed them out to Mike and he got me a couple:

IMG_1908 IMG_1913IMG_1907A very cute gold & black necklace.  I think it was supposed to come with earrings, but it didn’t 🙁

A messy chain necklace with matching earrings. Yeah, I’m probably too old for it, but who cares?  🙂




Mike also got me a new pair of leather gloves, as I lost my last one.

I like listening to history lectures on YouTube before I go to sleep, and somehow I came upon some lectures by Timothy Snyder, a historian of 20th century Eastern Europe.  Snyder is incredible – both as a scholar and as a lecturer -, and I quickly listened to anything by him I could find on YouTube.  From there I graduated to his magnum opus Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin  I had it out of the library for over a month, but it’s a long and emotionally challenging book (I’m haunted by the images of roving bands of cannibals hunting little children during the holodomor, and then things get worse) so I couldn’t finish it. I asked Mike to get it for me so I could read it at my own pace.

Camila, meanwhile, made me a beautiful collage.

I didn’t think that I hadn’t really given myself a present until too late (though I did get some clothing, cooking equipment and tea on sale), so I’ve decided to splurge by getting a couple of subscription boxes.  I already ordered a Petit Vour box, just for the thrill of getting a surprise at a low price ($15 a month), but after doing more research on subscription boxes, what I really want is a GlobeIn Artisan Box.  GlobeIn is a marketplace for artisans worldwide, you can go on their website and buy a clay onion container, from an artisan in Russia, a hand-knitted horse poncho from Mexico or a handmade small yurt from a yurt-maker in Kyrgyztan trying to jump star his business.   But you can also get a mystery box for $35 a month including shipping, and that’s what I really want.  I may very well order it for myself, but I’ll wait to see if the come up with any more “first month free” offers.

Save Money with Paypal Shipping

I’ve been auctioning off some stuff I’ve found around the house while cleaning, which means I’ve had to research what’s the cheapest way of shipping things.  It turns out to be through Pay Pal.

If you go to their not-so-secret URL, you can enter your shipping information, pay for shipping and print labels to attach to your packages – which you can then hand off to the Postman as if you were using stamps.

What’s surprising is that it’s /cheaper/ than using stamps PLUS you get tracking for free!  Mailing an 8oz package with stamps costs $2.80 plus 75c for delivery confirmation.  Sending it through Pay Pal is only $2.48!  If you send one package, you may only save yourself a dollar – but it could add up if you send many.

Their special prices seem to apply to services other than first-class mail, I noted that their media rates are cheaper as well.

You do have to have a Pay Pal account (I’d cancelled mine after the Wiki Leaks incident, but I had to re-open it).


Facebooks How To’s

There are often things I want to do on Facebook that FB tries to stop users from doing.  Fortunately there are people out there trying to best them, and I’ll be posting here some of the things I’ve tried to do, and what worked.  Note that FB changes its site frequently, so tricks stop working from time to time.


Regularly, Facebook forces you to click next to the name of the friend you want to invite to an event.  You can force your browser to click on all the names by using the javascript below.  Note that it didn’t work for me using Firefox (it said something about FB disabling it to keep social engineering away), but it did work perfectly in Opera.

This is what you do:

– Go the page of the event you want to invite people to

– Click on “Invite Friends” on the top right-side of the window

– A pop up window opens up with the pictures/names of your friends. This window only displays a few friends at a time.  Scroll down to add more.  Continue scrolling until all your friends are shown.

– Copy this script:

javascript:elms=document.getElementsByName(“checkableitems[]”);for (i=0;i<elms.length;i++){if (elms[i].type=”checkbox” )elms[i].click()};

– Paste it in the url bar (replacing the url of the page you are in).

– Click “enter”

– Wait until the squares by the pictures of all your friends are clicked (it can take a few minutes, depending on how many friends you have) and then press “submit”.


You are done!

Clash of the Gods

clash-of-the-gods-hercules.jpgIn my quest for putting Christian beliefs in perspective, I have been teaching Mika about Ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology – I figure, the most she knows about gods, the more she’ll realize that it’d be too arbitrary for any one of them to be real. We’ve been reading ancient myths, which is always fun, and now we’ve discovered a new, great resource for solidifying and expanding whatever knowledge we’ve acquired: the History’s Channel’s Clash of the Gods series (now available on DVD). The series has hour-long episodes on Hercules, Hades, Medusa, Zeus, the Minotaur, Odysseus, Tolkien’s Monsters, Beowulf and Thor. So far we’ve watched the first three I’ve listed.
The shows are great. Like typical History Channel productions they are shamelessly dramatic and sensationalistic, with vivid, dramatic and cartoonish recreations and a thundering voice leading the story. A little bit annoyingly – to me – there is a bit of repetition, things being told twice or thrice, but I think that’s probably good for children. Most importantly, the content is excellent. The stories are told mostly lineally, with cuts to actual historians and university professors, who (also very animatedly) provide clarification not just on the story but on the symbolism and meaning of the story. These are not very deep analysis, but enough to give you an idea of /why/ the ancient Greeks might have believed on what they believed. And indeed, why /we/ believe what /we/ believe. For example, Mika and I just watched the episode on Hades last night. I was clearly totally ignorant about Hades myself, as I didn’t realize that the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell (at least the post-Dante conception, I don’t know if the one before Dante was different, yet another hole in my knowledge base) is right out of Greek mythology. It’s no wonder, as Christianity is a product of Hellenistic culture – but I’d never made the connection before, even though I’d often wondered where the Christian concepts of heaven and hell came from (as these were not existent in the Old Testament, if I well remember).
While watching this show, I have come to realize that I have not been good about telling Mika about Hebrew and Christian mythology and beliefs – which is a problem, as she then ends up believing the idiocies her school mates tell her. I guess they get in many “theological” discussions, and as the other kids’ knowledge of religion(s) is null, they end up confusing themselves and Mika at the same time. For example, Mika seems to have talked to them about Zeus being the king of the gods, and the kids have thus appropriated him saying that he is Jesus’ father. I love playing Eris – but then again, you knew that 🙂
Anyway, going back to the show. I fully recommend it as great watching for parents and school-age kids together (I think it’d be a bit beyond Camila’s understanding, though she did like hearing about Medusas’ story when I told it to her, sans the pornographic parts). I’m certainly looking forward to watching the other episodes – and so is Mika.