Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, November 25, 2021

I’m getting set to head to a friend’s house for the Thanksgiving festivities. They’re doing all the cooking; my big task is to bring a bottle of white wine (which I always have on hand). I’m embracing the laziness.

Actually, when I decided a few weeks back to stay in town for the holiday, instead of heading to family in New York, I tried to find a volunteer opportunity for Thanksgiving Day. I’d never done that, so I thought it would be a worthwhile thing to do. Surprisingly, it’s hard to find such an opportunity on Thanksgiving Day itself. Every shelter and charity I contacted told me they had more than enough volunteer food servers/preparers on hand. They welcomed contributions of food and other items, but they had all the help they needed.

I was surprised at first; I guess I assumed that so many people would opt to stay home with family for the holiday that there would be a shortage of volunteers. But the more I thought about it, it made a certain amount of sense: Thanksgiving would be a popular day for volunteers to come out. If anything, shelters and soup kitchens probably feel a more acute dearth of help on non-holiday days.

So, I guess if I really feel altruistic, I should give those places a call next week and see if they need help on other, nondescript days. Which I know they will.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/25/2004 12:24pm
Category: General
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‘Tis the season for SpongeBob SquarePants. His movie is at the top of the charts, and he makes his balloon debut at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Maybe he can upgrade from his pineapple dwelling to something roomier. A watermelon? A split-level canteloupe?

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/25/2004 12:15pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture
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Just as retailers are priming for tomorrow’s “Black Friday” shopping bonanza, anticonsumerists are countering with the 13th annual Buy Nothing Day.

It might seem daft to call for a boycott on recreational shopping just as the proverbial starting gun goes off for the holiday spree. But that’s exactly the point: A rejection of consumerist impulses on the premier shopping day of the year, when everything from discounts to store-provided wake-up calls are designed to draw in the maximum number of customers, strikes at the core of what’s wrong with the disposable society.

Unfortunately, as far as the U.S. (and most other industrialized societies) go, I don’t think it’s particularly appealing, at least not on an active level.

The result of living in an affluent society is the transformation of the shopping experience from a survival chore into a hobby. A hundred years ago, shopping was largely confined to a market day: The household shopping was done on a Saturday, when most of the food and sundries for the week were purchased in one shot. Going to the stores was one task among many; it was done, and you moved on to the next chore. The idea of casual purchases depending on mood was something entertained by rich people.

Elements of this approach remain today, particularly for weekly grocery shopping. But no one considers that the beginning or end of a daily consumer routine. Retail outlets, from malls to stand-alone superstores, are so widespread that going out for a quick shopping jaunt requires no commitment beyond hopping in the car and going; add in television shopping, mail order and ecommerce, and there practically no impediment for those determined to spend money. Perpetual discounting, ubiquitous advertising and disposable income make purchases effortless (at least at the time of purchase — the credit card bills are always lurking like a hangover).

In this sort of environment, consumerism is more a reflex than an premeditated action. We do it without thinking about it. So it truly would take an effort, and an unwelcome one at that, to actively not spend money.

That said, the sentiment behind Buy Nothing Day is worth thinking about. Doomsday won’t commence if everyone buys a couple fewer plastic holiday trinkets. But it’s got a long way to go in making any kind of dent in how central shopping behavior patterns are ingrained into the American way of life.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/25/2004 12:04pm
Category: Business, Society
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This Thanksgiving Day started off on a slightly sad note. I awoke to find one of my aquarium fish dead.

Normally this isn’t a big deal. With as many fish as I keep, the occasional demise is part of the ol’ circle of life; I even took last month’s tank plague in stride. And since I try to keep schools of distinct species, the loss of a single anonymous fish doesn’t register.

But this fish was different. It was a painted whiteskirt tetra, and was one of the very first fish I ever bought, some three years ago. The other couple of fish I bought along with him (I’ve always assumed it was a “he”, really no way to tell for sure) long since expired, and I found out later that these particular fish aren’t supposed to last more than a few months anyway. So when he kept going for so long, I found myself impressed with his perseverance. I even granted him a nickname: BlueFish.

I did notice that he’d been struggling more than usual lately. Part of his tail got bitten off, probably by the resident rainbow shark that liked to abuse him (another factor that made his longevity so impressive). The bitemark developed a pretty nasty infection, and his swimming suffered. He also started struggling with his breathing. He had plenty of plant canopy in which to hide, so he was relatively safe; and in fact, I found his corpse among the roots.

Well, he’s gone. I’ve joked with my friends that BlueFish represented the bellweather for the rest of the tank’s well-being. As long as he lived, the other fish were safe; once he died, the streets would flow with the blood of the non-believers! So, I guess the rest of the tank is living on borrowed time. I don’t know if I should actually do anything with them, or just let them die off naturally.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/25/2004 11:14am
Category: General
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pass the packets
Many search engine/portal sites have fun with their layouts and logos during the holidays. This past Halloween saw Yahoo! and Google go to town, for instance.

Google has made a tradition out of devising special logos for holidays big and small. But today is the first time I can remember that they’ve done something for their Gmail intro page. The logo is nice, but tying the Thanksgiving fable to email functionality is the main thrust of their holiday humor.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/25/2004 09:28am
Category: Comedy, Internet
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