Tuesday, December 20, 2011


The Truth about Christmas

There's a theory that everything influences everything else.  You know: When a butterfly dies, a war breaks out somewhere.  Or for every bell-ring, an angel gets its wings. Something like that.  The Hawaiians only use 13 letters of the 26 letter alphabet, and they get a volcano.

We decided not to send out Christmas cards this year, and instead, I will give the $$$ to charity (water.org)   If everyone did this in the USA, we'd put, say, $10,000,000,000 into 'doing good.' (that's billion with a B, based on 100 cards at $.50ish, postage at $.45ish, and 100 million people not sending greeting cards.)  Think of the good we could do.  Great ideas start small.

But wait!  As politicos quickly respond to any idea at all, jobs will be lost.  And yes, jobs will be lost.  Big Joey, the guy who stands over the steaming fumes at the vat of to-be-cards’ recycled paper, stirring the slurry of bleach and acid, will be gone.  The doc who treats him for his lung condition will have one less patient.  Frank, who oils the rollers that squeeze the last drops of old ink from the paper paste, he'll be gone too.  Little Sally, his daughter, won't get the Little Buckaroo Pony Cardboard Corral she asked Santa to bring because dad will have fallen on hard times.  She’ll still have to walk to school in her bark flip-flops.  At the glitter factory, Bruce, the formerly-jovial manager, will call for a staff meeting.  He'll shut down the big machines which turn old car sheet metal into glitter to help angels find their way through the Christmas clouds on so many cards, then to serve as reminders of fond greetings in carpets for months after the holidays.  Hallmark will shut down its Christmas Card line; some workers will be moved to Sympathy, some to Graduation, some to Birthday, but, sadly, some artists, envelope glue inspectors, and folder-operators will be cast out into the harsh reality of Missouri.  They'll hold onto their old beater SUVs a little longer, guzzling more gas through low efficiency, increasing demand, and raising prices at the pump for the rest of us.

And the postal service is already so deep in debt!

There are so many implications.  The mind boggles. Plus, it's a dilemma – how to let those who don't get a Christmas card from us this year know that this Christmas "letter" – sort of a semi-popular tradition – is alive on the blog here?

We simply feel the almost-obligatory Christmas Card assembly line is too impersonal and only good for about 5 seconds of yearly contact, when we wish there could be a deeper connection.  Having worked all over North America, not to mention the good work of the witness relocation program, there are trails of friends who, sadly, we don't ever see.

Heck, you don't even get to lick a stamp anymore.

Before their passing, the Mayans’ calendar implies that next year will be the last one anyway, so maybe we will only miss one yearly card, i.e.: 2011.  The end of the world is scheduled for BEFORE Christmas 2012, and just before my birthday on the 23rd.  (Screwed again!)  They apparently misplaced the asterisk signifying the end of their civilization but thoughtfully included their End Of The World Calendar *for the rest of us.  *Like festivus.

Allow me to jump around in time as you read, since this piece is written in streams of consciousness over a span of months. At this point, I have just missed the nationwide emergency message test.  I wanted to spin the dial to hear what was happening but I forgot – by only 8 minutes.  Apparently some stations got Lady Gaga instead of the "tuck your butt" warning.  Having worked in the biz, as they say, I can understand this.  I also wanted to hear which stations had sold advertising into or out of the scary message.  Pest or plague control services would be a natural, for one.  Hearing Aids, for another.

This year, the administration has imposed a 15 cent or 15% (earliest reports vary) tax on Christmas trees.  An image-management stupidity!  And why is there an election next year if the world is ending?  Shouldn't we all be running up massive debt we won’t ever repay?  Oh, wait, that's happening.
Today is November 9th.  Last evening, the big aircraft-carrier-sized meteor missed us.  Today astronomers are going naa-naa-naa na naaaa naa!   If the threat was real, Bruce Willis would have saved us.  I just know it.  Ronald Reagan ripped the fabric which held Hollywood and Real Life apart. Forever.

I whole-heartedly recommend the Steve Jobs biography.  He was clearly a simultaneous asshole/jerk/genius.  Quite a spectrum on that man.  I read the book on the IPad2, which was really haunting.  If they had made Siri (the voice assist on IPhone 4s)  speak in his voice, it'd be REALLY spooky.  So far Siri has mostly told me it can't connect to the network.  Actually, Siri's gender wasn't assigned.  Sounds like a female to me, but then you can't be sure.  *Note: a guy on the interwebs says he was recorded for what became Siri, in 1996.  Could be. You can’t tell.

Another big endorsement: Stephen King's 11/22/63 – a long yet extremely worthwhile read!

We live pretty much at the edge of a preserve, which explains the fruity goodness.  No, that's not it.  There's a conservation area as our view.  We actually have heard coyotes and do have road runners.  We don't hear cartoon sound effects.  Out loud anyway.  Only sometimes in my head… We also can hear the big cats at the rescue zoo a few miles upwind.  We are weed farmers.  Clearly we don't fit in with those who have manicured their expansive lawns, making it more user-friendly for the weeds to surely come.  This development called Spanish Oaks was supposed to be 'natural', but then the rules changed and McHaciendas, McLexuses and McBMWs invaded.  I believe we were the 12th or 14th occupied home (of eventually 400… about 150 built so far.)  We were early settlers.  Wish we still had that buckboard.  I don't miss the gingham.

We had a cold snap the other day - the temperature actually went below freezing.  Cover the spigots!  Uh oh - our spigot covers are missing.  True Texan ingenuity:

 I believe there are two things you should never write about in a Christmas letter: religion and politics.  There's simply too much room to offend.

You HAVE been watching all the Republican Presidential Debates* haven't you?  (*Not to be confused with the Mecum Auto Auction!)  So here are some thoughts to hang on your newly taxed Christmas tree. BTW: The economy is so bad, Pine Tree Car Air Fresheners are being used as Christmas trees in homes around the U.S. of A.

I am amused by and interested in the debates.  After so many years in radio, trying to persuade hundreds of thousands of listeners to listen and like us, I see much of the world as a giant radio style "promotion" full of hype and bombasity.  (Not to be confused by radio promotions which are pure and as genuine as the 8th caller.)  Note that some of the contenders might have dropped out by the time I publish this, but that won't stop me, so sirree.

At this stage of the game – late November - there are still many players.  And why not start with our own Governor Perry?  He's a very personable guy with stigmata: bad college grades.  They say he got a D in “meat” at Texas A&M.  But I think he'd be a fun guy to hang out with.  He'd be the one to get the guys together to put a Volkswagon beetle at the top of the stairs of the admin building. He shot a coyote while out jogging.  Where do you put your pistol in a track suit?  Well, never mind that – he was attacked.  ANYBODY can make an oops, too.  Nice hair.  A few years back, the Governor’s Mansion was set ablaze by some ne’er-do-well.  The guards missed it.

Rick Santorum has that bad latin-verb last name.  Plus it sounds like a tuberculosis hospital-um.  He's from my home state, Pennsylvania, but I think he's soon to be in the parking lot with the crowd of Clear Channel employees recently let go.  To me he always looks slightly embarrassed.  If they put his podium any farther to the wing, he'd be behind the curtain.

Newt.  What a name.  Isn't he on the endangered species list?  I don't know much about newts, but looking at him, I wonder if he can puff up his wattle and do a good croak.  But make no mistake, he's smart.  He’ll say! Reminds me of our high school English teacher who introduced himself to our class by declaring we had a "plethora of dearth."  Newt has to be careful, though, or he might cut himself on his wife's hair. When he speaks he sounds like a trumpet with a mute in it.  He’s made about $100 million dollars since his bout of unpopularity back in the 90s.  While barking or croaking or whatever at Bill Clinton for immoral behavior, Newt was cheating on his second wife.

Michelle Bachman.  She's raised about a hundred kids in a wooden shoe, so apparently they had a refrigerator just for milk.  From Lake Woebegon, Minnesota.  Seemed batty at first, but that could have been the Palin effect, kind of an aurora. I think she should have changed her name to Marge before declaring, though. 

Ron Paul.  I LIKE him.  He's seems so wacky.  He's Fred McMurray in the movie Flubber.  I also suspect he's right about a lot, and his Mister Deeds-isms  makes me like the guy.  If only ANY of these candidates could even come close to accomplishing what they throw around the stump!  Has there ever been a president with two first names?  Sounds like a young Andy Rooney.

Huntsman.  A name right out of the Cabela's catalog!  Who needs a first name?  The guy has serious experience.  Speaks fluent Chinese.  And is a Mormon.  One wife though.  Second to Perry for hair.  His podium has been so far away from the action, you have to feel for the guy.  Well, he at least can leave early and beat the crowd to the parking lot.

Herman Cain.  Hey, we had a Dwight, a Chester, an Abraham, why not a Herman?  He reminds me of my uncle Bus*.  (*His nickname, was not a vehicle.)  I love the way he doesn't equivocate.  His Monty Python-animation-style mouth splits his lower face and that great voice makes his case. 9-9-9 has some odd math but he says that's because we haven't studied the menu options.  Various women claim things about him which he denies.  But, “Cain and Able.” “The Cain Mutiny.”  Plenty of name recognition there.  Bad thought: "Pure Cain Sugar." If he isn't delivered in 30 minutes or less, he's free.  Sorry.  New nickname, as he’s suspended his campaign due to unfounded allegations: The Zipper.  

Mitt* Romney.  (*Misspelled German for "with Romney.")  They accuse him of flip flopping, but to be the former governor of Mass as a Mormon – you'd expect a Catholic, so that confuses everything right there.  He's been married since he was 8.  He dresses well.  He made a ton of money.  That much money is heavy.  That's why they call it a ton.  Mitt reminds me of a guy I used to work for – good looking, "buttoned down" – and I loved it when Mitt scolded Rick Perry.  And he did it without appearing too condescending.  He's likely to be a front runner (no I am not rewriting much of this as history unwinds, and pages fall off the calendar like in an old movie) but politic running is hard to predict, like knowing WHICH Ethiopian will win a marathon.

November 21 – there's a warm wind blowing today – hard at times, from the south, a comforting hug as it blows through the oaks.  This is the kind of day that makes me real pleased we chose these here parts a.k.a. Austin.  We had a little rain the other day (still in extreme drought) but just like prayer feeds hope, our weeds have greened up, teased by the rain and by globally warmed late November sun, courtesy of Chinese construction, Indian Industry, cow flatulence, and factories in Akron, Ohio.  Rick Perry hasn't bought into Global Warming.  He thinks science should be another of a state's rights.

I recently had an amazement as Terri's new assistant's computer (which we supplied) stopped working within a month of purchase.  Loaded with upgrades and programs, Terri hoped the store would swap drives or download it onto another computer.  I scoffed:  "This big box retailer has a heart of concrete.  They'll want to exchange it, screw the programs, and us."  Terri's has been on me about being negative, so I held back.  And everything I thought would happen didn't.  They weren't busy.  They were helpful.  They had another same model.  Swapped our hard drive into it, three minutes, thank you sir.  Terri may be onto something.  50 dolla later, that Toshiba is just like new, only with a very slightly-used heart again pumping mortgage data into the bloodstream of lenders so that deserving citizens can get their slice of the American Dream pie.

Excited by the thought of adding some snap to this letter with video via IPhone, I have been trying to figure out how to add it.  I am behind the curve.  Trying to get it to work in HD.   if I can get it to show,  it'll be a short short clip - an iBlink - and I will find something appropriately Holiday themed.

AH - here it is.  Supposed to be in 720p.  I can't be sure something didn't downrez it as it took me about two hours to get it in here in this "quality."  

This year, again, our 'forever tree' will continue its timeless ways in the forever attic.  There is one string of built-in apparently non-forever lights on it which don't light.  Also, bringing it down the stairs is risky, as it wants to open and spear me.  It's quite heavy, as forever weighs more than you might think. 

Scientists have uncovered civilization near where Austin is, that dates back to 13,500 B.C.  Back then most of the roads were dirt, and there wasn't even one traffic light!  BTW, Austin is this city's professional name.  Its first name was Waterloo.  You can look it up.  Now it's WaterLESS as our drought has sucked everything bone dry. Many of the docks on the lake now look like kids toys the day after Christmas: scattered all over the dry lakebed.

This may be the year to celebrate my new notoriety:  says Amazon about me:
Reviews written: 4
Reviewer rank: 975,507
Helpful votes: 7 of 9
I have broken the million-reviewer-rank barrier.  Happy dance!  I am in the top 400,000 players of Angry Birds, too.
Meanwhile, over at HBO.com, today as I write this part, is CYBERmonday, and their "virtual agent" has gone goofy.  She don’ understan’! On a related note,  my car's voice activated-navigation control has also seemingly lost the ability to understand me.  Not unlike Terri, or many others.  “Cancel navigation” is in Wilton, Connecticut, says Audi’s Uhura*.  (*Early Star Trek reference.)

This year on my birthday I will celebrate another milestone by having – and I'm not making this up – a back-to-back endoscopy and colonoscopy  (actually, that'd be up-to-down.)  I wanted to get it done on this year's medical insurance and that was the last date they had open.  This is sort of like that golden spike moment of the joining of the halves of the intercontinental railroad. They knock you out so you don't feel or even remember the procedure, but do wake you up for the copay.  And the knockout is via Propofol, recently in the news, as Michael Jackson's c-o-d.  The Discovery Channel has expressed an interest.  Seriously, there's apparently another way, but it costs a fortune and isn't covered by insurance.  You actually swallow a camera (MUCH harder the other way.)  The thing then travels along and sends back pictures.  Everybody: "Eeeeuuuwww!"

Thanks for your understanding about our cardless Christmas –  but at least you won't have that glitter stuck in your rug this year.  It's a bummer that so many of our friends are scattered all across the country – we miss you and wish you Happy Trails Until We Meet Again.

Christmas 2011 -  Bob and Terri Wood

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Yesterday we went to Home Depot and Terri chose the perfect Christmas tree. A noble fir. Now it is in its new temporary home, our house, and bedecked with lights. We will wait until dark to see if the lights are sufficient and spread according to best known geometric practices. We have one more string which we can use if necessary.

The ting ting a ling of the title is the sound of the needles falling off.

Monday, December 05, 2011


When people learn I do voicework, that's the next sentence most say. And truthfully, I rarely can answer. It's an odd business. You do this and that, sometimes (like today) only part of something in which the other pieces don't yet exist, and when the piece shows, it may be for 'internal use' or at a convention of sales people or whatever. I rarely hear the finished version. Also, it's a global business. I've done stuff for as far away as South Africa. I would think there's be more commercial work, but commercials are just a small part of it. Some is acting, some is narrating.

I know a guy who was the voice of Benjamin Franklin at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia - my understanding is there's this sort-of-statue which comes alive and greets visitors. That's Dave.

Today the business runs on auditions. Getting the work is really the job - doing the voicework is the easy (and often fun) part.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


I am so happy with my IPhone 4s (versus the scummy Blackberry - watch RIM go out of business in a year or so!) and my IPad2 that my toy lust is well satisfied. It's amazing. I do fear that future - sans-Steve Jobs Apple products will not be as easy or elegant, but there's hope someone will keep the quality high.

I WILL go for the IPad 3, assuming there will be a market for used IPad 2s. Many think the next one will have a much better camera and display, and that's all it needs. I can live happily after ever then.

If I had a spare throwaway $35,000 (not in the (crystal ball) I would upgrade my stereo. I can't see that windfall happening.

Meanwhile, the thought occurs to me what if Steve Jobs controlled BluRay (in my opinion a stupidly flawed interface, slow loading, stupid features) it would be a whole other experience. For that matter, his insane push for perfection applied to CARS would have been something to see.

Ironically, Steve had a 'thing' for the Beatles, and he's one of the very few I would say ranked right up there alongside them in his own way.