challenge.

Each Christmas Eve, The Wife and I make a point of taking a quiet night for ourselves. The month to that point has been filled with shopping, decorating and other mandatory fun; the rest of the month promises to be just as insane, driving to various Christmases with our families and friends.

We both love all that stuff, but — December 24 is ours. We make something nice for dinner, and crack open those bottles of wine or beer we’ve been sitting on for a while.

This year was no different; I like taking the opportunity to make crabcakes, one of a handful of dishes in which I’m completely confident.

In fact, I was feeling so good about how things were going during this year’s preparations that I Tweeted something about thinking that my crabcakes were probably better than yours.

ClumberKim couldn’t pass up a taunt like that. And LadyD — @onedamnthing on Twitter — saw an opportunity. Here’s the exchange, starting at the bottom with Kim’s reply:

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So. I’m ready for a crabcake throwdown. We have two contestants and a judge, and I’m sure we could find some other volunteers to help eat up the scraps.

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Ladies? Can we make this happen?

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action.

As promised: video proof that peer pressure can cause people to do really dumb things:

Did you see the perfect form on my cannonball? My toes were even pointed.

bearly.

A couple of days ago, I told you about my plans to kick off 2009.

I did it. WE did it. And, yeah, it was as excruciating as you would have expected.

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It was a beautiful morning, sunny and 16 degrees when I left my house. I found later that the water temperature was 38.5 degrees. That’s Annoyed Angel in the foreground; Mindbling and her crew is in the car driving around the corner.

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Mindbling had shirts made up for the group: “I got involved in social media and all I got was this lousy hypothermia.”

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Chachi and DJ Lunchbox were ready. So were all those ambulances.

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As we were drying off, someone noticed I had scraped my leg while in the water. I don’t remember this at all; I just remember being colder than I ever had been in my life.

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When we finished up at the Mon Wharf, we headed to Rugger’s Pub on the South Side. Annoyed Angel generously opened the bar early so we could get some coffee. DJ Lunchbox generously cooked cheeseburgers for everyone. Mike Munz generously bought the first round.

The consensus? Cold. Wow, cold. Really, really cold.

But I think we’re all going to do it again next year.

(There’s a video, compressing as we speak, that shows all the action. I’ll add it here, maybe even tonight if I’m still awake when it’s done. One hint: I would have gotten about a 5.8 on my dive, but the East German judge was an asshole.)

2008 > 2009

It’s about 11:10 p.m. on Dec. 31. This won’t be posted for another hour, but I have some things I wanted to share about the past year, and I thought this would a good time to get started.

At the moment, I’m sitting on a bright red-orange couch in the middle of my new living room. On the television is a DVD of a 1987 Grateful Dead show in Oakland. The New Year’s Eve show was a tradition for GD for many, many years; it’s now a tradition for me as well, going back as far as the year we were skiing at Breckenridge and I badgered the DJ at KSMT to play an hour of Dead starting at the stroke of midnight Mountain Time. Maybe it’s a little odd, but that brief shot of weirdness always does a nice job of making me feel centered for the year to come.

Come to think of it, I didn’t really have to push the guy all that hard…

—–

In the five years, I’ve kept Uncle Crappy (the blog) alive, I’ve stopped nearly every year, sometime in December or January, and made some kind of statement about what happened the year before and what I was looking for in the year to come. I’m generally an optimistic person, and I usually made grand, but sort of nonspecific predictions about what was to come.

And I was usually wrong.

Last year, though, I was a little more specific, and as it turned out, I did pretty well:

  • I said that I wanted to start a podcast or two; I didn’t do that, although I did tape and edit a show featuring The Wife and me. Let’s go ahead and make this a goal for 2009.
  • I said I would do a better job at posting regularly here. I think I’ve done that, and I think it shows. In the last three months of the year, my daily page views have doubled; I’m not sure who I have to thank for that, but whoever it is: Thanks. That’s pretty cool.
  • I predicted I’d weasel my way into some additional new media projects at work. This has been mildly successful, even with the roadblocks erected by layoffs and other limitations at the paper. We have a 2-month-old Twitter account which already has about 70 followers. We’ve continued to do video, slideshows and audio presentations, even after the newsroom’s biggest proponent of new media tools was switched to a different department.
  • I said we’d buy a house. We did that, and we couldn’t possibly be happier about it. The purchase will mean we have less time and less money than we had before, but to have a place we own … it’s hard to describe, but it feels very good.

—–

There’s one other thing I accomplished this year, something that wasn’t on my list from a year ago. I’ve met a ton of people who have become very good friends in the past 12 months. I’ve always been grateful for the friendships I’ve kept over time, some going back to grade school. But I’m equally grateful for my new friendships, and I think they’re going to go a long way in keeping me young — OK, a little younger, maybe — in the years to come.

How cool are these folks? There may be as many as a dozen of them joining me in a few hours to jump in the Mon, as a commemoration of the start of 2009. No one is doing this because of me, but I asked the question a couple of days ago, and a surprisingly large number of friends — by which I mean idiots, just like me — responded. I may be a bit drunk at the moment, but I mean this with all the sincerity I can muster — I love you guys.

—–

I ended 2007 — and started 2008 — with a bottle of the 2006 version of Gratitude, the barleywine produced every year by East End Brewing. Other than a very small taste of the previous year’s vintage, I hadn’t had Gratitude before; I was not only blown away, but it seemed to set a nice, positive tone for the year that was just getting underway. I’m not particularly superstitious, but listen — Gratitude was my first beer of 2008, and that year turned out to be pretty good. So I’m doing the same thing this time around; it’s about 11:45 p.m. now, and I just cracked open the 2007 Gratitude I picked up a day ago at the brewery. Here’s hoping it brings similar results.

And here’s hoping 2009 is everything you want it to be.

mobile.

I’m writing this from the comfort of my living room, unencumbered by wires or The Wife, who swears she can hear me typing from three rooms away.

I’m able to accomplish this thanks to the new white box sitting on the desk upstairs — yep, I finally got an Apple base station and set me up some wireless in the house.

This is one of those things I’ve always thought about doing, but never got around to it. Now is the time, because as of Sunday, both our guest room and our third bedroom — otherwise known as my room — will be occupied, and I won’t have the kind of access to the computer I normally have.

Not that I couldn’t give it up any time I wanted to. I just don’t want to.

So. I got it set up last night and have been enjoying the speedyfast iPhone – and the plodding old iBook that can at least get me going on the internet. At speeds rivaling dial-up!

Ah. No matter. The point is: I’m sitting in my living room posting to uncle Crappy. And I’m happy about that.

* * *

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In other news, the tree has lights on it. The ornaments will come tomorrow, followed by presents and probably a cat, although perhaps not in that order. See you then.

30. -30-.

nablo1108accomplishment120x240It’s a journalism tradition: typing “-30-” to signify the end of a piece of copy.

I’m using it here to signify the completion of this edition of National Blog Posting Month.

The tradition, as far as journalism is concerned, is well past its shelf life, although you still see it once in a while at the end of a news release. Once computers took over the newsroom, the practice of marking the end of whatever you were filing was largely unnecessary; in fact, I’ve never used it, with the exception of my first reporting class at OU 23 years ago — long enough ago that we were still using typewriters in class.

The cool thing about the practice is that no one is entirely sure where it came from. It could be that -30- was the way telegraphs were ended in the Civil War era, when stories would have been sent back to newsrooms and bureaus over the wire. I’ve also read speculation that -30- was a bastardized version of XXX — the Roman numeral version of the number — when XXX was used to mark the end of copy written longhand.

A fun piece about the tradition appeared in the American Journalism Review a year ago; it’s worth a read, just to see some of the speculation about the birth of -30-.

But for my purposes, I’m just happy to say I’ve wrapped up another shot at NaBloPoMo. It was a bit easier than it was a year ago — but it still ain’t easy.

-30-