with huge ties to local things like the four big F’s—football, food, friends and family. Even the football is local, because many who do not watch the game on a regular basis find themselves sitting on cold bleacher seats watching two local high schools play while arguing about who beat whom 40 years ago.
The food is always good, but an important part is family, with just about everything else revolving around that important element of our lives.
But now, just a very short month later, we are all enveloped in what has come to be called “The Holidays.”
Sure—this, too, is about family and all the rest of it, but in a different way. This is about more global issues.
A big part of it is gifts, so we are into big-time marketing blitzes from the big-box stores. There are ads hinting that Santa Claus has lost a step and that now he must watch his weight by not eating so many cookies, a warning he receives in a text message from Mrs. Claus. A wise shopper takes on Mr. Claus and taunts him by kicking a lighted plastic image of him off a roof.
There will be a well-publicized argument or two about just which holiday we are celebrating and, of course, there will be some discussion of separation of church and state.
Even the sports are heavily national and professional. Sure, there will be some college games played, like the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, something you probably only care about if you went to either Temple or Wyoming and the fact that it is being played in Albuquerque, NM, the self-proclaimed Hot-Air Balloon Capital of the World, probably makes it even less local. Of course there is always the Idaho Potato Bowl …
It's also opening day for the no-longer-locked-out NBA and several teams will be playing on Christmas Day this year. The NFL schedule is down to a single game, but most otherwise Sunday games will be played on Saturday.
As I predicted, I started getting holiday cards right after Thanksgiving, with . U.S. Sen. John Kerry did not push the issue I am glad to say, with his card arriving only this week. Still no cards from Newt and Mitt, though …
The national political scene has become something of a distraction, although it has an engaging silly factor as in one presidential candidate attributing his less than monogamous lifestyle to a excess of passion for his country. At that point all I could hear was Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers from Saturday Night Live launching into one of their “Really?” routines.
There are two major problems with the December holidays in New England. First, it is usually cold and bleak. Second, they come at the end of the year, which is sure to invoke the "Oh-good-grief-I-haven’t-finished-half-of-what-I-should-have-done-the-year," which nearly always leads to something of a re-examination of how much of anything we have gotten done recently.
It was with that feeling, plus that my sister is arriving in less than a week and I still don’t know what to buy for Aunt Harriet, that I decided to do something I have been avoiding doing for (gulp) more than 10 years—clean out the pile of around 40 boxes in the basement that I put there when the startup I was working for back then folded.
What was in those boxes was obviously important, else why would I have brought it all home to my basement? The stack was very neat, but my feeling was that at least a small part of what was in those boxes was probably not as useful as it once was.
I wish I had taken a picture of the boxes before I started digging through them. They really were neatly stacked and, in fact, neatly packed.
After a couple of hours spent at the top of the pile, I found that I was reminiscing more than discarding and unstacked everything so I could get at the bottom boxes. Here I was into very fertile ground, trashwise.
I suspect I will not be needing any copies of DOS 6.22, although it was a stable version in the days before we needed antivirus software. Nor will I need Windows 95 or 98. I can probably get rid of all of my books about WordPerfect even though, for many of us, Microsoft Word is still a pale imitation of the earlier product. No, I won’t get into that whole Reveal Codes question, nor will I touch on how badly Word does hanging indents.
Oh, wow! Books on DEC VMS administration. Exchange Server 5.5. NT Server. TCP/IP network management. Secrets of DOS 3.11. A copy of DOS 4.01.
But then I came across my HP-35 calculator. My wife bought me that HP-35 for a present in 1972, the year I realized that teaching budding engineers how to use a slide rule was probably not a growth occupation.
I will throw away or give away almost everything in those boxes. What little is still useful, I no longer need. More than 40 ZIP disks, for instance.
I will keep the HP-35 though. I don’t use it anymore, but it symbolizes something that I do not want to lose. Sometimes the thought really is the most important part of a gift and just looking at that calculator brings back many memories, all of them happy ones.
The trash guys are going to have some extra work this week, but so am I because I still have to figure out what to get for Aunt Harriet. And I have to find a battery pack for that HP-35.