Friday, December 31, 2004

During the pregame warmup before last Wednesday night's Phantoms game, my fellow goalie-junkie Phantoms fan, whom I dubbed "K" in my post about Maxime Ouellet and Neil Little, came over when she saw Mark and me arrive.

"Nick is down there", she said, and pointed into the bench area. Now, I'd met Neil's son about five years ago, back when he was still small. He comes in to visit Neil during the Christmas holidays -- I've seen him, without having the opportunity to speak to him, the past few years, too.

Well, my having seen him in prior years was doing me no earthly good in IDing him now. All I saw were the backs of a bunch of guys' heads, and the only people among them that I recognized were our regular equipment guys.

I finally asked K (while keeping my eyes trained on the people on the bench), "What color is he wearing?"

"Keep looking. You'll see him as soon as he turns around".

On cue, Nick did turn and face someone behind him. That's when I realized that he's as tall as some of the grown men who work behind our bench -- culture shock! Man, what a growth spurt he's had in a year! I also was reminded that this kid is the absolute IMAGE of his father. I blurted out, "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" on seeing the resemblance between Nick and his dad, much to K's amusement.

I should email K the image I scanned of Neil, from a midget AA tournament he took part in when he was 17. I got the program on eBay a few weeks ago, and there's a shot of Neil with his team, the Medicine Hat Cablevision Tigers. (Their other goaltender is Chris Osgood, BTW -- they're still good friends to this day.) Because the resemblance between the then-17-year-old Neil and his now-14-year-old son is even more striking.

It was nice to see that Neil actually got the start on Wednesday, too. He's had nearly all road games so far this year, and I'm guessing that he got the nod at least in part because of Nick's presence. To make a long story very short, Neil was the only Phantom who came to play. The rest of the team was absolutely flat, and the only reason we lost 2-1 in overtime is because Neil stood on his ear to keep us in the game. Frankly, other than Neil, the team didn't even deserve the point we got for an overtime loss. As Al phrased it at the end of the game, "Little stole them a point". He was named the second star of the game, but it seemed to me he was WAY reluctant to even skate out for the acknowledgement. The guys who are stars of the game get a T-shirt to throw into the crowd, but he tossed it to the kids who sit next to the tunnel before he even went out on the ice to get acknowledged. Fans were calling compliments into the tunnel from the time he got stopped on his way back to the locker room, but I wonder if he heard any of them. But IMO, the star was well-deserved. Anyone who stops 46 out of 48 shots on goal, with NO help in front of him for the first 40 minutes of the game, deserves one of the stars of the game in my book.

And if that's how he's going to play when Nick is in the house, I think we should ask that lad to move to Philly and attend ALL our games, home and away. ;o)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The first headline I saw this morning announced that the death toll
from the tsunami had surpassed 114,000. But that was on Yahoo... CNN
tends to have even higher numbers, and THEIR headline states that the
total so far is 116,000.

:o(

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The death toll from the tsunami has risen to 76,700 and counting.
They're thinking that the casualties might surpass the 100,000 mark by
the time they're finished tallying. :o(

I almost hate to hit "refresh" on my homepage (yahoo.com), because
every time it updates the numbers, the total has climbed by a few
thousand. And even when the homepage hasn't updated its total,
sometimes clicking on the "News" link will present a list of headlines
including a casualty total that's higher than whatever the Yahoo
homepage is listing at the moment.

One distraught resort owner viewed the ruins of his year-old hotel, and
thought of the casualties among his staff and the guests, and said,
"This is worse than 9/11". I can't argue with the man on that point.
Certainly the devastation is more widespread and the number of victims
far surpasses the horror of what 9/11 brought.

The one aspect of 9/11 that's worse than this calamity is this: 9/11
was caused by people's hatred and malice; it was an act of mass murder.
This tsunami had no evil attached to it. It just WAS, and it bore no
ill-will toward any living creatures that happened to be in its path at
the time. Just as other natural events like hurricanes, tornadoes,
earthquakes, etc have no evil intent... they just ARE. They happen
because they're part of what planets DO. The earth's crust, its
atmosphere, its oceans, all act and react as they've done since the
planet was formed in the first place. And they do so without taking
into account whether living creatures are present at a particular time
and place.

I hope that this is the impetus to set up a tsunami warning system. I
don't think EVERYone could have been saved from this disaster, but
definitely there are people who could have been evacuated if there had
been advance notice that this series of waves was on the way. At the
very least, beaches could have been closed to tourists, and buildings
closest to the water could have been cleared of occupants.

Then we wouldn't have had things happen like I saw in the video online
that I really regret watching. There was a tourist using his video
camera from his hotel room. He filmed a beach full of people, which was
visible from his vantage point. Then a few seconds later, the wave,
looking like a huge wall of water, swept through everything. It came
crashing in and its progress took it WELL beyond the beach area... it
HAD to have hit all those people full-force. There's no way anyone
shown on that tape could have gotten out of the tsunami's path in such
a short time. I can't help but wonder if any of them survived. :o( I
hope at least some of them did.



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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The casualties from the tsunami continue to be tallied. I just saw that
the death toll has reached 44,000, and it's sure to continue climbing.
:o(

And I thought that the total I listed YESTERDAY was appallingly high.
Sigh. Unfortunately, I think that by the time the true scope of this
disaster is known, we'll be looking back and wishing that there were
"only" 44,000 victims. How horrifying of a concept is that?

I can only stand to read an article or two at a time. The stories of
what some people have experienced are just too heart-rending. Photos
and video have been posted online, too, and some of them have to be
seen to be believed. I'll see if I can compile some links and post them later.



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I've come to the conclusion that we humans need to have a human version
of a screen-saver.

You know how it is when a computer has sat idle for a while and the
screen saver kicks in? How it takes a moment between the time the user
moves the mouse/hits a key/etc until the computer "wakes up" and is
ready to go?

Well, it would be nice if humans had our own "screen savers". That way,
when we're engrossed in what we're doing, or are otherwise Deep In
Thought for whatever reason, when another person speaks to us
unexpectedly, they'd be able to SEE that we need a moment to detach our
attention from what we were doing/thinking and focus on them.

We can add that to my list of suggested new features for Humans 2.0.
Among my other ideas for the upgrade is a zipper for the mouth, to make
it harder for us to blurt out words that we'll later regret. Another
pair of hands would be convenient, as any of the interpreter/guides at
the deaf-blind conventions will attest, and several of the side effects
from a certain ladies-only biological process really need to go out of
existence. Oh, and allergies are welcome to stop existing, too.

And these are just MY ideas of what would make life easier, after
having spent four decades living in a human body. If anyone else has
any suggestions, fire away. ;o)



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Monday, December 27, 2004

Just as I predicted... I was in the kitchen with my mother-in-law and
sister-in-law, helping to deal with the dishes that'd been cleared from
the dinner table, when my keychain started sounding. The "this pet is
about to expire" tones are long, high-pitched, and occur in pairs. It
sounds like a pager, except for the fact that the tones descend the
musical scale. (Well, it isn't exactly Do Ti La So Fa Mi Re Do, but it
does descend in pitch for at least half a dozen tones.) As the tones
sound, the graphic of the pet flattens lower and lower. When the final,
low-pitched pair of tones ends, the angel icon appears.

Since there's no interrupting this process once it's begun, and since
the keychain was beeping away long enough that it was impossible not to
notice it, I didn't have much choice but to explain what the sound
effects were about. One of my nephews, in particular, got a kick out of
it. He's got two Tamagotchi devices, himself -- one of which is in mint
condition and unused, and which he hopes will increase in value, the
other of which has been used. I told him about the discussion groups
online that are available for people who collect these things, and
suggested he check eBay if he wants to have an idea of how much the
unopened device he has might be worth. I didn't mention that there are
some fans that not only collect the devices, but keep several of them
operating at any given time. (Having several digipets running
simultaneously is more than I'd be willing to take on; I'm challenged
enough keeping track of ONE digipet's care, not to mention trying to
avoid having it create a beepfest at an inconvenient time/place.)

I haven't hit "reset" yet. Since the devices seem to last about 6 days,
and expire about 8-9 hours after they hit the "6 day" age mark, I'm
trying to figure out when would be a relatively convenient time to
schedule the pet to start. They tend to wake up at 8 AM and go to sleep
at 10 PM, also. Knowing that this coming weekend includes New Year's
Eve and New Year's day, I decided NOT to start the new pet at a time
that would cause it to expire on either of those days. I should be
pretty safe to start it sometime today or tomorrow. Then it won't flip
out in beep mode when I'm in the middle of plans on Friday, Saturday,
or Sunday.

Meanwhile, today is a day that I'm almost afraid to look at news
headlines. There was an undersea earthquake that resulted in enormous
tsunamis hitting several countries including India, Sri Lanka,
Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and others. Horrendous destruction and
casualties were left in the wake of the huge waves. Every time I see an
updated online news brief, the death toll has climbed to an even more
appalling figure. It's up to 23,000 deaths now, and they're nowhere
near done tallying the loss of life. It's an ominous sign, IMO, that
there are several hard-hit populous regions from which NO report at all
has come yet. Unfortunately, the total is sure to be a lot higher by
the time they finish counting. :o( I just pray that there are a lot of
people who survived unscathed, too. What a tragedy.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Musings on the last workday morning before Christmas...

WSNI has been playing Christmas music since the middle of November. On
my way in to work this morning, I caught "Mr. Grinch". I noticed, once
again, that there's something odd about the song... there's no "bridge"
or "middle eight", which is unusual for a song with that many verses.

Hymns don't usually have a middle eight -- they usually have a pattern
of verse/refrain/verse/refrain, or verse/verse/verse. But popular songs
are another matter. If they're long enough, they usually have a bridge,
the eight measures' worth of music in the middle that are different
from the rest of the song. For example, in the Christmas Song, think of
the lines that begin with, "They know that Santa's on his way...". Or
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: "Then one foggy Christmas Eve...". It's
unusual for a song with as many verses as "Mr. Grinch" to not have
anything to break up the pattern -- no bridge and if my memory serves,
no key change either. (I arrived at work and had to turn off the radio
before the end of the song, or I'd be more certain of whether the key
remains the same or not.)

Phuzz, the current digicat, moved up to "senior" stage in the wee hours
of the morning. Unlike the previous virtual cat, her strength SEEMS to
be holding steady. So far, anyway. The graphic image of the cat changes
from one life stage to the next, and this one LOOKS more mopey in the
senior stage than the previous one (Berny) did. I wonder if she'll
survive any longer in this stage than her predecessor did. I'm doing
the mental math to try and gauge the amount of time between the
previous cat's transition to "senior" and her passing on to the Pet's
Paradise in the sky. And wouldn't you know it... if Phuzz follows the
same pattern as Berny, she'll probably start beeping her "This is the
big one, Elizabeth!" serenade while I'm at my in-laws' house on
Christmas Eve. Just what I need -- the entire family to be within
earshot when my keychain-kitty uses up the last of her nine virtual
lives. Like they really need any more reminders that I'm insane. ;o)



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Monday, December 20, 2004

Fascinating. The creators of this virtual pet device did an even better
job than I expected.

The new cat looks different, in multiple aspects, from the previous
pet. Her face, ears, and whiskers are different. She has a bow on her
head, unlike the previous pet which was bareheaded. The little
"prancing" pattern, when she's dancing around the screen during the
times when she's awake, is different. Her sleep posture is different.
Even the little ZZZs that appear above her head when she's asleep are
different -- they're backward. Which leads me to believe that this
kitty's graphic is a mirror-image of another graphic that might appear
for some future pet, one in which the ZZZs are facing in the correct
direction.

And what makes the device even more realistic, as well as more
challenging to work with, is that it seems that the way she responds to
treatment is slightly different, as well. I could select the Exercise
option to keep the previous pet, Berny, at the maximum on the Strength
index. The current pet, Phuzz, doesn't seem to reach the top of that
index unless there's a combo of vitamins and exercise doled out.

Now I understand what the instructions meant when they referred to the
device as selecting DNA for the pet. (It was referring to the instance
where the pets from two different devices married and produced
offspring.) It seems like there are multiple traits that the device has
to choose from, when it creates a pet at the start of the game. Based
on that, if there are enough options for each trait, it could easily
result in a unique combination of tendencies every time a new digital
pet is "born". Which, of course, corresponds pretty well to how it is
with Real Life pets. There are some needs which they all have in
common, but there are other aspects of each individual pet which make
it unique.

I tip my cap to whoever designed this device. Every time I discover a
new aspect of working with the digicat, my opinion of the job they did
goes up.



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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. My money was on "sooner" once it became impossible to raise Berny the digicat's Strength index past zero. Sure enough, at 3 AM (would've been 3 PM if the clock had been set properly), the keychain started to emit a series of long, high-pitched beeps. I woke up in time to see the icon displayed on the keychain transform into an angel. In other words, game over. Berny's lifespan, from baby through senior kitty, lasted about six days.

This morning, I decided to start over with a correctly-set clock, to see how the cat fares when it and I are awake at the same hours. Hence, I now have a new digicat, a female named Phuzz. The "baby" stage lasted for about three hours; now she has matured into a youngster and she's taking a nap.

Today is an official Good Day in Phantoms-land. It's the birthday of two of my favorite people. I can't say enough good things about, or wish enough good things for, Neil Little and Ben Stafford on their respective birthdays today. :o)

And speaking of birthdays, tonight we're going to surprise my mom. Her 65th birthday was last Wednesday, and she THINKS that tonight, we're going to have a nice little dinner with her and my dad and Mark and me. She was insistent that we NOT do anything big to celebrate her birthday. So of course, my dad has planned a surprise and invited my aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of the family. :o) Now I know where I get my listening skills from. ;o) But my dad's right, IMO -- people only get one 65th birthday, and it's something that should be celebrated, not ignored. Dad said that she can't kill him once she gets there and everyone's already AT the restaurant. :o) Yep, this is definitely where I get my "listen carefully to instructions and then do things my way" streak, hee hee.

Friday, December 17, 2004

I've come to the conclusion that whoever designed these digital pets
really did their homework.

When the digikitty moved up to the "senior" life stage, the changes
that took place mirror some of the experiences I've had with a REAL
older kitty. For example, the cat loses weight. They eat less. Their
strength goes down -- I can't get that darn Strength index to go past
the halfway mark, which is 3 out of 6, no matter what I do. In fact,
I'm lucky to even get the darn index to go THAT high. It's been
hovering at 2 or even 1 since the cat awoke from her nightly snooze
yesterday.

Whereas before, the normal cat image on the screen showed her sitting
or standing (prancing around, actually), now she alternates between
sitting and lying down. Sometimes her facial expression is alert,
sometimes her eyes are half-closed. Her tail, which used to wave high,
droops down.

And sometimes, even when the hunger index is not at the top (meaning
that the cat's hunger is sated), she won't eat. Boy, does THAT ever
remind me of what I went through with Harmony a few weeks ago!

Her personality has changed a bit, also. Now the cat sometimes
complains (via beeping noises) when she feels sick. She did that during
the baby/youngster stage, but not as an adult.

Each time the digi-critter moved from one life stage to the next (baby
to youngster, youngster to adult, adult to senior), the keychain played
some music. The next time I hear that music, it's gonna mean "This is
the big one, Elizabeth!", because the stage after this is the "moved on
to Pet's Paradise in the sky" stage. None of the other stages continued
for more than a day or two, so I'm kind of expecting that serenade to
happen sometime today or tomorrow. We'll see what happens.

Interestingly, I find myself feeling sorry for the digipet when she
starts to look mopey. Especially since the things that USED to perk her
back up in previous life stages don't seem to have as much effect
anymore. It's frustrating, especially coming on the heels of my
real-life experience to that effect. However, if these toys were
originally designed to give kids an inkling of what it's like to have a
pet, KUDOS. Whoever did the design work really hit the mark.



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Thursday, December 16, 2004

A moment ago, I was suddenly in possession of a pocketful of music, as
my keychain started warbling away. I withdrew it from my pocket in time
to see the screen cycling through a plain black pattern.

Then it went back to the sleeping-cat graphic.

But I was suspicious that something had occurred. I took a look through
the index menu, and sure enough -- Ms. Digicat is now in the "senior"
stage.

Geesh, it only took four days ("pet years") to reach "senior". I wonder
how long this stage will last?

All her indices are still at full capacity, EXCEPT the Strength one.
That index is still stuck at two notches below capacity. We'll have to
see what can be done about that once she wakes up.

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Hmm. How odd.

No matter what I do, I can't seem to get the digicat's "strength" index
to go all the way to the top. She is refusing vitamins, and exercise
has only brought her to within two notches of the top of the index.

I wonder if it's because she got over-vitamined earlier in the day?
(Too much food or vitamins results in the sick-kitty icon and a need
for digital meds.) Maybe she needs some recovery time from that. Or
maybe I hit the 'exercise' option a few too many times in the past day
or so. In real life, overtraining doesn't provide extra benefit -- you
max out after a certain point. It'd be easy to build that sort of
feature into a program for a device like this. Or could it be that
she's heading into a "senior kitty" stage of life soon? She's 4 pet
years old, but this is my first go-round with a digicat, so I'm not
sure how old a pet needs to be to qualify as a senior instead of an
adult.

She just went to sleep. We'll see what her strength index looks like
after she wakes up this evening. The rest of her indices (food,
happiness, discipline, and energy) are all fine. This strength one has
got me puzzled.




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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ms. Digicat appears to age one pet year every 24 hours. It seems to be
reasonably easy to keep her in good health, so I'm curious how long
it'll take before she reaches the "senior" stage. And how long a
digicat remains a senior kitty before it "passes on to pet's paradise
in the sky".

The device played a little tune when the digicat moved from the "baby"
to "youngster" stage, and again when it moved to the "adult" stage. I
presume there'll be musical accompaniment announcing her advancement to
the next two stages, as well.

One benefit of the digicat's being an adult is that she doesn't seem to
beep for attention at unexpected times. During the kitten stage (baby
and younster), if there was a digital dropping that needed to be
cleaned up, or if the pet got sick, the keychain would start beeping.
She'd also complain if it was her bedtime and the "light" was still on
in her digital environment. I haven't had that problem occur since I
figured out her bedtime (10 PM -- translating to 10 AM for me since I
have the clock set wrong) and started turning the light off a few
minutes prior to that. (This action produces a little icon of a
darkened light bulb in the upper right hand corner of the screen.)

She's making little digital ZZZs now. Barring any sickness episodes or
"need some droppings cleaned" moments, she'll stay that way until
sometime this evening. Good kitty. :o)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Last night, I was making sure the digicat had her daily exercise, and I
discovered something to AVOID doing.

Girl digipets' exercise consists of skipping rope. (Boy pets go
swimming . Gender is chosen randomly by the device when the pet is
created.) You choose the option cycle through the menu until you get to
the exercise, then hitting the 'enter' button. The digital kitty then
proceeds to exercise for a few seconds.

Take my word: DON'T accidentally hit the 'enter' button again *while*
the digikitty is skipping rope. She'll fall down and cry, and the
device will emit LOUD distressed beeps. Yikes! THAT little feature
isn't mentioned anywhere in the instructions. I guess this is the sort
of stuff that you're supposed to learn for yourself as you go along.

Note to self: never distract a cat who is busy exercising. It causes
accidents, and startles you (and everyone else within earshot) half to death.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Good heavens. They grow up SO fast!

Sometime last night, Berny changed from the "youngster" cat drawing to
the adult cat drawing. Her age is now listed as "1" in pet years -- so
I guess that makes sense. Cats DO grow to adulthood in their first
year, after all.

Gee. It seems like only yesterday that she was a newborn kitten... um,
wait a minute. It WAS only yesterday. :o)

At 10 AM promptly (would've been 10 PM if I'd set the clock properly),
off she went to sleep. And beeped for me to turn out the "light" in her
keychain universe, thank you very much.

I suspect I'm going to be in custody of a snoozing digicat all day.
This is not a bad thing. Kitties who sleep during the workday are
well-behaved in my book. ;o)



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Sunday, December 12, 2004

They're so cute when they're sleeping, aren't they?



Meet my digital pet, a Power Palz cat.

The digital cat keychains must be pretty popular, judging by the fact that this was the last feline one the store had. (They also have dog and dinosaur digital pets to choose from.)

When Melody died, I bought a Furby that was on sale. Which drove Mark bananas, lol. This time, it was the digital pets on sale, and I sprang for one.

And proceeded to goof up setting the time... I thought it was going to give me the option of AM or PM. So the upshot is that when I thought I was setting the device for 6:30 PM, it was getting set for 6:30 AM instead. And once the pet is "born", you can't reset the clock on the device.

So I figured, what the heck. I'll just let this digipet live out its life span as it is. Maybe it'll sleep all day while I'm at work. Considering that when it's awake, every now and then it beeps for attention, that might not be a bad thing.

Once you set the clock, and the pet is born, you choose a name. There are 5 characters to choose from, so in honor of Bernie Parent, I named the digital cat "Berny". Interestingly enough, the program randomly chooses the pet's gender AFTER you pick the name. So now I have a girl digital cat named Berny whose birthday is December 11.

The pet actually changes appearance as it moves through different stages of life. It goes from baby (yesterday) to youngster (a few hours after birth), which is the stage it's in now. It will also have an adult stage, a senior stage, and eventually, as per the instructions, it will "leave you and go on to pet's paradise in the sky" (at which point the icon looks like a little winged angel).

In the meantime, when the pet is awake you have to check its status and, as needed, issue commands to give it food, water, or vitamins, play with it, exercise it, train it, or clean up after it. (And yes, there is a little droppings-shaped icon that appears when the pet has messed and must be picked up after.) There are also options for medicating the pet if it gets sick.

Which, unfortunately, is what I woke up to this morning. Due to my setting the clock wrong, the pet is nocturnal and it made a digital mess overnight. If digital messes aren't cleaned up promptly, the pet gets sick. So first thing this morning, I wound up cleaning up after and then pilling my little digital cat. Good thing that digital pets don't object to being medicated, lol.

And now Berny is sleeping. They're so cute when they sleep. :o)





Thursday, December 09, 2004

Let's just say that if ONE more body part of mine goes into a state
of rebellion, I'm going to have a breakdown. Seriously.

I'd rather not go into the specifics of this latest situation, for
which I'm sure the squeamish among us will thank me. Except to say that
for the past week, I've been in enough pain that I can't get the song
title Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag out of my head.

Let's just say that the appelation "Pain in the nether end" has the
potential to be a much nastier insult than I ever imagined. ;o)

Thank GOD, within the past day or so, I've started to feel more like a
normal human being again. I now have one more item to add to my "I
wouldn't wish *this* on anybody!" list.

In other news... it's been exactly a month since I've heard a purr. I
clearly remember the last time I heard Harmony purring, and it was the
day after my birthday. A few hours after we got home from the vet's,
Harmony forgave me for taking her to that nasty place and then pilling
her into the bargain, and she went into Velcro-Kitty mode. She parked
next to me on the sofa and purred her little fuzzy head off, complete
with that chirpy sound she made when she was totally blissing out. :o)

It was a good, long purr and dote session, which we both thoroughly
enjoyed, and which I'll always remember.

Unfortunately, her gradual downward progression continued, and over the
course of the next ten days, she just wasn't inclined to purr. AT ALL.
So as of now, that mega-purr event on November 9 was the last time that
I heard a purr.

Sigh. I miss the sound of kitty motors.



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Saturday, December 04, 2004

OK, let's discuss sleigh rides.

You can't turn on the TV or the radio, and you DEFINITELY can't walk through any store that has piped-in music, without hearing about them.

"Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh", right?

Or how about, "Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you".

It is? How do they know? Where in heck can a person get a sleigh ride these days?

Maybe those farms that offer Hay Rides in the fall can open up during the winter with Sleigh Rides. Of course, this could involve their needing to borrow some of the snow-making machines that the ski resorts use to enhance Mother Nature's output, but hey. It's a small price to pay to show people what a ride in a one-horse open sleigh really is like. Or the ability to hear actual sleigh bells ringing from something other than a soundtrack or a Christmas decoration.

Anybody got an idea as to where a curious person can get a real, live sleigh ride? Preferably in a one-horse open sleigh? Let me know.