Nerd gifting

For Christmas I got Gene, among other things, this sticker for his laptop:









“Heh,” he said when he opened it. “That’s cute. Do you know what an attack of opportunity is?”

“I get it from context,” I said.

“Do you want to know what it is?”

“Okay,” I said, because sometimes I like to give him the gift of explaining stuff to me.

“In Dungeons and Dragons, an attack of opportunity is when someone runs away from melee combat and his opponent gets to attack him as he runs away.”

“Oh,” I said. “Oh. Hey! Then that doesn’t even make sense, because you couldn’t take an attack of opportunity on someone who’s approaching you.”

“Right,” said Gene. “But I like it anyway.”

Luckily I also embroidered him this “Christmas of Cthulhu” ornament, so it’s cool:



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A Very Harry Potter Christmas (Accio Holidays!)

This year we hosted my parents for Christmas dinner. My mom is a Harry Potter nut, I’m quite fond of the books, and my dad has read them all and knows them pretty well, so I decided to have a Harry Potter-themed Christmas this year. (Gene had never read any of them but I was quite happy to explain everything to him, and since everyone loves long explanations about books they haven’t read this promised to be a great Christmas for everyone.)

I started by sending everyone their invitations to attend the special one-day-long Christmas term at Hogwarts (all images can be clicked to enlarge):

Their invitations included an RSVP card in a separate stamped envelope:

Then it was time to make our house into Hogwarts.

I made a Platform 9 3/4 sign out of a small chalkboard I had lying around (I dunno, I have weird stuff lying around — guys, I live in a magical boarding school! Don’t judge me). I meant to put it outside but I forgot and had it just inside the door. Probably just as well since I wouldn’t want anyone trying to magically crash through my door.


We have a closet under our staircase which is just about the size of the one where Harry lived with the Dursleys, so the year we moved in my mom gave us this sign for it:

On Christmas day I had a pile of Harry’s luggage waiting just outside the closet: a bag, Harry’s stocking, and a book about owls that I decided Ron gave him for Christmas:

There was also a note:

In case you can’t read it (because I tried to write in four different handwritings and I can barely manage one), it says:

“Dobby — can you forward my luggage to the Burrow? Thanks! -Harry”

“Could you pick up the room while we’re gone as well? -Ron”

“Don’t do it, Dobby, you are not a slave! -Hermione, President, S.P.E.W.”

“Dobby will be very glad to help Harry Potter and his Weasley! Dobby will forward his things and clean his room straight away! -Dobby, Free Elf”

“Honestly, Dobby, I don’t know why I bother! -Hermione”

“Neither do we. -Ron”

I will admit there are some problems with this. I mean, the closet is at the Dursleys’ house but we’re supposed to be at Hogwarts, so what’s going on here? I puzzled over this for a while, then decided it was some magical nonsense and why are you questioning my Harry Potter Christmas anyway? Throw your own children’s book themed Christmas, why don’t you.

Okay, on with the decorations. By the fireplace I had some floo powder:

Then on to the Great Hall (really my dining room) where I had some stuff sitting on our built-ins. I had considered trying to hang a bunch of stars all over the ceiling but decided this would be too much work, so I got a little tree instead and decorated that with stars that I painted and glittered:

I promised my students that textbooks would be available for their use, so I put some brown paper covers on books and wrote out titles. All the books are textbooks that the Hogwarts students actually use, except Hogwarts: A History, which is Hermione’s favorite extra-curricular reading, and Care and Feeding of Magical Creatures by Rubeus Hagrid. I felt like Hagrid might have gotten to write a book after all the adventures were over, so I added it:

Then of course you have to have the Sorting Hat. People online seem to like using battered old hats for their Harry Potter parties but I thought the hat might have dressed up a bit for Christmas. I wanted to have some kind of recording I could play when people tried it on that would yell “GRIFFINDOR!” because I am insane, but I decided not to do that, because I am not that insane:

And here we have some owls, resting after a postal delivery, and some chocolate-covered pretzel “wands” by Ollivander:

Then we have the Marauder’s Map, which is a terrible photo, sorry. We have the blueprints of our house framed on the wall of our dining room so it was very easy to add colored dots and names and pretend that the map was showing the location of various characters. I have Dumbledore and Snape wandering around and all three kids (Harry, Ron and Hermione) in the closet, where I claimed they were hiding under the invisibility cloak because they were up to something. The text on the map says “Marauder’s Map: I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

After I forced everyone to admire the decorations, we moved on to the gift exchange which was well-lubricated by butterbeer (which was just beer), and pumpkin juice (which was white wine, but which my mom also chose to call butterbeer because she preferred that name — and hey, who am I to mess with someone’s imaginary name for their real drink?). The gifts were just normal things except that I did give my mom a pair of socks with a note that said “MASTER HAS GIVEN DOBBY A SOCK!!!”

After this it was time for dinner. I was going to have all kinds of clever Harry Potter-themed dishes (like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Green Beans, stuff like that) but I kind of ran out of steam so we just had a normal dinner.

After dinner I presented everyone with chocolate frogs. I found a frog candy mold on Amazon (which was great, by the way — the chocolate actually popped right out when it was hardened, which every mold claims to do and few molds actually do) and I made chocolate frogs filled with peanut butter (caramel would also be good, I think). I added personalized Chocolate Frog Trading Cards that I made online which listed each of our wizarding names and accomplishments and famous quotes. For example, here’s Gene’s:



















The font is kind of terrible. In case you can’t read it, it says “Eugene ‘Machine’ Wood: The Mechanic. The Muggle-born ‘Machine’ Wood is known as The Mechanic for his ingenious combinations of magic and Muggle technology. This has made him an invaluable employee in the newly formed Use of Muggle Artifacts Department at the Ministry of Magic. Most Famous Quote: ‘I don’t believe in magic, I just believe in me.'”

I also used these kits to make my own Christmas crackers, which was pretty fun because I got to pick out my own toys and stuff. I included dumb Harry Potter jokes in each cracker, like “Where do you find Dumbledore’s Army? In his sleevey!”

Annnd that was pretty much it. I’m not a crazed Harry Potter fan so I’m not really sure why I decided I needed to go insane with it this year. Though actually I don’t think you’re officially insane until you buy a $250 “enchanted” moving chess set. Well, maybe next year.


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The hitchhiker’s guide to my outfit

Kris: “How do I look?”

Gene: “Great!”

Kris: “Okay, but do I look cool and hip? Like a hip, cool, hoopy frood?”

Gene: “Totally.”

Kris: “Do I in fact look like the kind of girl who does not say things like ‘hoopy frood’ and has no idea what that means?”

Gene: “Sure.”

Kris: “Zarking right I do.”

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A conversation on the freeway

Kris: “Yikes, what’s wrong with that truck?”

Gene: “Looks like water pouring out of the container part?”

Kris: “Oh, no, it’s a seafood truck! All the ice is melting out the back! Ew! God, I wish I knew where that was going. Well, I guess we just don’t eat any seafood at restaurants for the next month or so.”

Gene: “Yeah.”

Kris:”…Hm, or from grocery stores.”

Gene: “Yeah…”

Kris: “Man, I wish I knew where that truck was going.”

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The gorilla

We had people over for pumpkin carving this weekend and Rachel brought fake tattoos, so I put a gorilla tattoo on my fist and began trying to popularize my new slogan: “You mess with me? You get the gorilla.” I only had a few days before the tattoo wore off so I said it at every opportunity. Gene was really enthused about this, as he always is when I repeat the same joke twenty or thirty times in a day.

I’m surprisingly into Halloween this year, even though I have no plans or costume. Mind you, I am easily scared so I have to keep my Halloween themed activities at the level a small child would be comfortable with: watching The Addams Family or Brahm Stoker’s Dracula (although Winona Ryder’s English accent is pretty terrifying), reading Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party, and making this:

Now I need to figure out how to embroider a tiny gorilla on his hand, and then underneath him I can write “You mess with Death? YOU GET THE GORILLA.” And then this joke can live on in Gene’s life for years and years!

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Moltar! Twenty!

This weekend seven of us went to Angel Island to celebrate the lump of birthdays that occur in October and early November (Erica, Jacob, me, Jason).

As if I had not grown up in the Bay Area or had not lived in San Francisco for nearly a decade, I chose to wear only a tank top and sweatshirt, instead of bringing the proper gear (a tank top under a long-sleeved tee under a sweater under a sweatshirt under a parka, plus a hat). Happily, I realized my mistake before we got on the ferry to Angel Island, so I dashed to the nearest of millions of gift shops that exclusively sell cold-weather gear to idiot tourists who under-prepare. Like me.

Grabbing the first sweatshirt and hat I saw, I paid the clerk in cash and was frantically scrambling into my life-saving clothes when she stopped me. “This twenty is counterfeit,” she said.

“It is?” I said, staring. I’d never seen counterfeit money before. It looked totally normal to me. “How can you tell?”

“It’s different,” she said, crumpling it in her fist as if to show me. Real money would never crumple this way, she seemed to say. Try doing this to a gold doubloon — you’ll see!

“Where did you get it?” she said. I looked at her blankly

“It’s a twenty,” I said. “I expect I got it out of an ATM. Or…I mean, Jesus, who knows where money comes from? Can I have it back?” She handed it over, trading me for another, apparently non-counterfeit twenty.

“You can try it at other stores,” she said, “but if no one takes it, you should take it to the bank.”

“Um…if it’s counterfeit, I’m not going to try and pass it off to other people,” I said.

I took it back to Gene, who had given it to me (yes, of course I knew where I had gotten it — I get all my cash from Gene, because I’m too lazy to ever go to an ATM), and told him what the lady had said.

“It’s just an older twenty,” he said, laughing. “It’s the old style.”

“That explains why she told me her manager had gotten three of these already,” I said.

Anyway, if you want to make some quick cash, I suggest you go to this gift shop and tell the lady you’re the representative of the U.S. Treasury, here to collect any counterfeit bills she may have stored. Something tells me she’ll believe you.

Meanwhile, here are some photos of law-abiding people enjoying lawful entertainment at the Ellis Island of the West. Enjoy!

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Alienating another member of the service industry

While I was buying stuff at my local Beverly’s Crafts today, I noticed a little book on the checkout counter.  Password Storage! said the cover. Store all your user names and passwords in one handy book!

“This is a terrible, terrible idea,” I said to the checkout clerk, indicating the notebooks. “These notebooks may as well be called Take My Identity — Please!

“Ha,” said the clerk. “Yeah.”

“You should be actively discouraging people from buying these,” I said.

“Totally,” said the clerk, smiling.

“I’m serious,” I said, not smiling.

“Um…here’s your receipt,” said the clerk and turned to the next customer.

On further reflection, I guess I am in favor of these notebooks. If a certain percentage of the population writes down all their passwords in one convenient, easy-to-steal notebook then maybe identity thieves will be less likely to try to access MY stuff. Also, I was going to post a link to them but it turns out that there are millions of kinds. Enjoy.

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Someone from the giant apartment building next door threw a fully functional carbon monoxide detector into our yard. They even thoughtfully included a full set of working batteries.

On the one hand I am displeased that people feel our yard is a good place to fling their unwanted goods. On the other hand, free stuff. Plus, whoever did it will probably get carbon monoxide poisoning and die now, so I guess that’s punishment enough.

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The view from Thursday

“I don’t always stare at my phone, Kristen.” -Michele, staring at her phone

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Knuckle sandwich

Joe has the word “hate” tattooed on the knuckles of each hand.

“Shouldn’t one of those say ‘love’?” Michele asked, last time we were all hanging out.

“I thought about that,” said Joe, “but if a guy sees this fist coming towards his face and it says ‘love,’ I just feel like it sends a mixed message.”

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