Note 15: Holiday Craic'ers

Importing Christmas traditions in a roundabout way from a Time Lord.

I hope everyone’s holiday season is going well. Mine has been pretty busy with all the self-imposed Christmas chores, but I’m on-track for a successful Yule season. Presents have all been purchased and wrapped - and they would be shipped and on their way to their recipients if the local post office were open on days other than Thursday and Friday. (I don’t know if they’ll actually be open those days, but they have been closed Monday through Wednesday this week.)

On the card front, I’ve sent out roughly three quarters of my intended cards, and the remainder are the folks whose addresses I am in the process of confirming or various folks who didn’t make the original list for some reason.

I’m a good bit ahead of where I was last year, which is good in the age of COVID-induced uncertainty. As my pal John J. would say, I’ve been having a good craic thus far. A good What? you might ask:

Craic (/kræk/ KRACK), or crack is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland. It is often used with the definite article – the craic. (Source)

Now, me sitting alone in my home office wax sealing Christmas cards or wrapping presents in the TV room while watching schlocky holiday programming may be lacking the social element for a proper craic, but I’ve found it to be the opposite. There’s no time like holidays for reaching out to old friends and family in the process of completing one’s Christmas chores to do a little bit of socializing. (Or what passes for socializing in a pandemic.)

Now that I’m winding down my Early Stage Christmas, I’m moving into Middle Stage Christmas. The key task of this period is the construction and distribution of Christmas crackers, small prize bombs (there is a small explosion!) accompanied with sweets and bad jokes from the British Isles.

A cracker is a simple pyrotechnic device. You take three rolls of cardboard, and glue a snap to the inside of all three. You fill the tube with treats, the obligatory joke, and a paper crown to wear during the Christmas meal. You then wrap the tube, tie off the ends with some ribbon and you get something that looks like an oversized Tootsie Roll. (Here’s a video if you’re so inclined…) You’d typically set these out on the plates before your holiday meal as a fun little appetizer and icebreaker.

If you receive a cracker, you don’t unwrap it like you would a normal gift. Instead you pull both ends apart until the tube breaks open with a cap gun POP! and the contents spill out. You can draft some assistance when necessary:

I started building these last year to see how involved the process would be and found it to be a fun diversion that had me searching for suitable fillings and prizes. We enjoyed them over our Christmas dinner in Iowa last year, and it seemed a tradition worth keeping. So it was added to my Middle Stage Christmas agenda.

As much as I would like to credit the motley crew of British folks I’m regularly associating with for introducing me to this, I actually lifted it from the various Doctor Who holiday specials.

Crackers showed up quite a bit in the show, but have been absent since Thirteen took over the TARDIS control panel. I don’t know to what extent that’s part of the show’s newer multicultural ethos or the current showrunner’s preference for New Year’s Day specials over Christmas Day specials.

In any case, I’ll keep making my crackers and seeing what kind of spin I can put on them. This year’s goal is to get really competent at building them, and I’m already cooking up plans for getting creative next year after I finish mastering the basics and have a bit more flexibility post-COVID.

(Given the limitations on in-person socializing, I’ll have some extra crackers this year. If you’d like me to send you a couple, get in touch and we’ll make that happen.)

Domestic updates

Outside of the holiday season, today marks the end of Party Nook and Guest Bathroom versions 1.0. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working with a contractor to put together plans to overhaul two of the bathrooms in our place and the second floor mini-bar. The bathroom next to my home office was first on the agenda, so I’ve relocated back to my downtown office to work there instead of balancing conference calls with bathroom and bar construction noises.

A post shared by Chris Karr (@audaciouscode)

Last night, after a late day in the office, I spent most of my time at home emptying both the bar and the bathroom to prepare for the work that began this morning. While the workers are doing their things, I’ll be working on slimming down the barware glass collection, where I may have gone a tad bit overboard over the past few years.

A post shared by Chris Karr (@audaciouscode)

Moving forward, the plan is to ditch the margarita and martini glasses and focus more on highball glasses, whiskey tumblers, and a couple smaller goblets suitable for wines. Fortunately, I received a hot tip that there are local Facebook groups that will take the rest off my hands and I’m looking forward to listing the excess glasses as soon as I’m granted access to that group. (I also have several functional electronic items that I’ll be looking to offload as I declutter.)

Interesting reads

“A damn stupid thing to do”—the origins of C (Ars Technica)

‘Christmas Star’ to light up night sky for first time in 800 years (FOX 8)

The Rancher Trying to Solve the West’s Water Crisis (Politico)

Being Boba Fett: Temuera Morrison Discusses ‘The Mandalorian’ (New York Times)

There Will Be No ‘Return to Normalcy’ (National Review)

New Mexico shut down nearly everything to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by covid. It wasn’t enough. (Washington Post)

Artemis Astronauts Will Be Doing Some Serious Science on the Moon (Gizmodo)

Facebook must be broken up, the US government says in a groundbreaking lawsuit (CNN)


Next week, I’ll be covering how much better British holiday ads are compared to the car commercials that are a staple of American holiday television. So, steer clear of any black holes, and don’t venture so far from the Bubble that you miss that, CMDRs.

o7!