Seasons greetings with the 2009 Christmas card

The 2009 Christmas card.

The 2009 Christmas card.

Another Christmas is upon us. To celebrate 2009, I created a new card for friends and family.

I sent most of the cards on Monday, and I hope they were received by today. If not, I’m sharing the card with everyone here.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish everyone the merriest of Christmases.

Sharing was this year’s theme. Last year, I tried to combine something uniquely Chico with the holidays and came up with the yo-yo card.

I thought about revisiting the Chico themes for 2009, but I didn’t feel I could pull anything off in time.

I still liked the Sierra Nevada Santa idea, but I grew a little reticent. After all, it seemed a little less than wholesome, but it could be pulled off if it was done tastefully. I worried about my ability to do so.

It’s still an idea I may do in future years.

I settled on “spreading a little holiday cheer” because I wanted to do something active beyond the traditional holiday photo. I settled on the tree because I thought it was an unlikely object one would give, but it’s also an icon that embodies the spirit of the season.

So with many, many test shots in my apartment’s small hallway and some Photoshop magic, here is this year’s card. Merry Christmas.

The four stages of listening to Christmas music

It can be fun to deck the halls, roast chestnuts or go on sleigh rides, but when it comes to a-wassailing, I find that there are four stages to enjoying or singing Christmas music.
These stages could be circled on the calendar, just like the big day itself:

  1. Pre-Thanksgiving: Like holiday displays, it’s far too early to hear Christmas music in early November. A telling example — hearing tunes as early as the first week of November … at a Panda Express Chinese restaurant.
  2. Post-Thanksgiving: It’s all right to slowly ramp up the music. I hosted “Evening Jazz” during the first really cold night of the year (Dec. 7). It was appropriate to play winter-y tunes, but I stayed away from the more Christmas-themed songs until …
  3. Dec. 11: Two weeks before Christmas, it’s appropriate to crank up those favorite tunes. I played a few during my Friday radio show. It is strangely all right to have two radio stations in a small media market dedicated exclusively to holiday music.
  4. Post-Dec. 25: Enough’s enough. Christmas has come and gone. It’s time to put those albums back on the shelve until next year when we repeat the cycle again.

As Christmas shopping days tick away, check this tip list twice

With Christmas just days away, I’m offering some holiday shopping advice. Thinking of gifts can be pretty stressful, so my list is a slightly humorous take on the tradition. Here’s a sample:

shopping tip #001–while there is _huge_ difference between “The
Clapper” and the clap, neither is a welcome holiday gift.

It started with that one and I was inspired to keep going. I’m dishing these tips every day on my Twitter account, but you can also view all of them on this page.

I hope to have a tip every day up until Christmas, but coming up with them can be tough (especially if I was trying to be funny). If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments.

Cold snap may turn City Plaza fountain into skating rink


With overnight temperatures in Chico dropping into the low-20s, the fountain in City Plaza may be turning into an accidental skating rink after the sun sets. During the summer, the fountain is a ground-level delight for children and adults to splash in, but it may be a potential safety hazard when the thermometer drops below 32º.

By its very nature, the fountain creates a wet surface that doesn’t drain completely when it is shut off at night. The remaining water freezes in the evening’s chill.

It’s hard to say how big of deal it is. When I walked across City Plaza to head home after an early Tuesday meal, there were only a few patches of ice over the fountain. I stepped on a few patches to glide along on the friction-reduced ice, but they ended quickly.

One element that may reduce the patches is the roughened surface caused by what appears to be pebbles and textured concrete.

It’s fun to shuffle along and pretend I’m ice skating, but I am concerned some reckless person may slip and injure themselves. It’s possible people may not notice that the fountain has frozen — at night, the plaza is often illuminated solely by street lights (and during December by the Community Tree).

I noticed this issue a couple of years ago. I called the police to let them know about the safety concern. They indifferently brushed the matter off, suggesting that I call the city’s blandly-named General Services Department the following morning. I never did pursue the matter.

This seems to be an issue that comes up just once or twice a year, but the early cold snap has piqued my curiosity.

Speaking of skating rinks, seeing the ice in the center of City Plaza reminded me of all the cities that have outdoor rinks in the winter. I’ve seen setups in colder cities, like Salt Lake City, Chicago and New York City, but they’ve also cropped up in warmer places like Sacramento and San Diego.

It might be cool to put a small rink in the center of Chico City Plaza for a few weeks every year. By my eye, an oval stretching about a half-block might be possible in the shadow of the Community Tree.

It’s unlikely for a number of reasons — including cost and the generally warm temperatures — but it would definitely add a strong touch of winter fun to our city (especially because we don’t currently have any ice rinks at all).

Photo: Chico City Plaza’s fountain is depicted in part of a photomontage I created over the summer. I find it funny how subjects show up multiple times.

A graphic example of recycling plastic bags

20091204_recycling.jpgThe time arrived last week to recycle all the plastic bags in my apartment. It’s funny how this time just happens to coincide with a family visit.

I hate to throw things away that I know can be easily recycled. It’s led to some messy stashes around my apartment because my landlord doesn’t offer multifamily recycling (in flagrant violation of Chico city code).

As I waited to take plastic bags to the recycling center (or supermarket), I’ve tossed them in a old mattress bag in my bedroom. Over the past 18 months, this bag has gotten stuffed from the numerous places I get bags — grocery stores, convenience stores, newspapers, etc.

By the time, I threw the bundle in the car, it was about four feet tall. The bag was almost like its own entity — it certainly had more presence in my apartment than almost anything else.

Half of the bag filled one of the store’s recycle bins. I planned to return later to drop off the remaining bags.

I had mixed feelings having so many plastic bags. Part of me is glad that I’m keeping these out of the landfills or in that giant plastic mass in the Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, I know I should reduce the number of plastic bags I take while shopping.

Already, I refuse bags when I buy just a handful of items. I can easily carry those to and fro.

I also have a ChicoBag and other reusable bags for larger purchases, but I don’t always have them handy. For the ChicoBag, I recently found mine in my car trunk, being used to wrap up a pub glass.

Hopefully, I’ll keep reducing the plastic I use and it will take a lot longer than 18 months to fill the bag again.

Photo: A mattress bag stuffed with plastic bags on display outside a downtown Chico business on West First Street on Sun., Nov. 29, 2009.