Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Research shows that 87% of quoted statistics are made up on the spot.  (Yes, I just made that up.)

I’m also guessing that a good 92% of readers believe the title of this post was borrowed from Mark Twain, but according to Wikipedia nobody really knows where it originated.  (Which is good; because thanks to that Wikipedia article, I now estimate that my chances of being accused of improper citation are approximately 0.003%.)

So… it’s that time of the year again.  Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you probably suffer the fallout of the season anyway.  So just for fun, I’m going to make up some Christmas statistics.

Of the people who deal with Christmas in some way, I guesstimate that:

  • 23% actually like fruitcake;
  • 15% will pretend to enjoy it if sweet little 90-year-old Aunt Martha offers it to them; and
  • 52% consider it appropriate only for use as a doorstop.


  • 56% love Christmas songs;
  • 35% can take them or leave them; and
  • 9% are quivering on the edge of violently gutting the next radio that plays ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ just one… more… time…


  • 12% are finished their Christmas shopping;
  • 59% have ‘just a few things left to pick up’;
  • 21% are freaking out;
  • 16% will ignore the whole thing until December 24th; and
  • 2% celebrate Christmas without gifts.


  • 11% mail out actual paper cards or letters;
  • 24% email greetings;
  • 38% intend to send greetings but will run out of time and resolve to do it next year instead; and
  • 27% don’t bother.


  • 69% currently own a Christmas-themed article of clothing;
  • 23% had a Christmas-themed garment at one time but got rid of it; and
  • 8% have never owned any Christmas-themed garment, no matter how briefly (or boxer-ly, if that’s your preference).


  • 19% actually enjoy travelling during the Christmas season;
  • 66% dislike the hassle but do it anyway; and
  • 15% flat-out refuse to travel anytime between mid-December and the first week of January.


  • 31% will hand-make at least one gift; and
  • 69% will buy all the gifts.


  • 99% will eat too much this holiday season; and
  • 1% won’t.  (The rest of us envy your self-control.)

So how did I do?  Take the poll below to prove how full of shit I am (or not)!

Here are my votes:

  • I love fruitcake!
  • I can take or leave Christmas songs.
  • I just have a few things left to buy…
  • I mail out paper cards and letters.
  • I used to have a turtleneck with holly printed on the collar, but I can’t find it, so I must have gotten rid of it.
  • I hate travelling over Christmas but I’ll do it anyway to see family.
  • I usually hand-make at least one gift.
  • I’ll pig out and feel guilty, but not guilty enough to stop.

Click on the survey to vote, and I’ll post the results next week!

This survey doesn’t collect or store personally identifiable information. It’s just for fun.

Book 14 update:  I’m starting Chapter 38, and I’ve finally figured out how the book will end, hooray!  (Yes, I have a very strange writing process.)  😉

Is There A 12-Step Program For That?

My name is Diane, and I’m here to confess my addiction.  No, not my addiction to tools.  This is a different addiction altogether.

I can withstand it for long stretches of time, but it always drags me under in the end.  The high is ecstatic.  Then comes the slow sobering, followed by guilt and shame.  After that comes the steely resolve to do better, and sometimes I vanquish the demons for a while.

But sooner or later, I succumb again.  The longest I’ve ever stayed clean was several years.  I really thought I’d beaten it that time.

I was wrong.

I’m talking, of course, about Costco.  I gave up my membership years ago, but in a weak moment I asked one of my friends to take me this past weekend.  It wasn’t the ugliest relapse I’ve ever had, but it proved that I am and always will be an addict.

For those unfamiliar with Costco, it’s a wholesale-style outlet that sells everything from food to electronics to furniture to clothing.  In gigantic bulk quantities.  Usually at lower-than-retail prices, and occasionally at screaming discounts.

I have a five-pound tin of baking powder I bought at Costco over fifteen years ago.  It’s still good… but it’s also still half-full.  In another fifteen years, I might actually finish it.  I have half-gallon jugs of onion powder and cinnamon that date back to that period, too.  There’s something about large quantities of food that I just can’t resist.

Maybe it’s because my dad was a child of the 1930s Depression years.  Nothing was ever wasted in our household.  The tiniest scraps of food were saved and incorporated into the next meal, and staple foods were purchased in bulk to get the best discounts.

So I harbour two horribly conflicting attitudes toward groceries:  Large quantities are magnificent; and: Waste nothing.

You can see my problem with Costco.  They have large quantities!  Of everything!  What could be better than five pounds of chocolate chips for the price of two?  Three water bottles for the price of one?  More toilet paper than you can fit in your car?

It’s magnificent, I tell you!

When I walk into their cavernous building, my pulse races and the demons begin their seductive chorus:  “Look how much there is.  And for such a cheap price!  It’s an excellent buy!  Large quantities are magnificent!

Euphoria seizes me and I buy.  And buy.

Then I get home and realize what I’ve done.  Yes, I scored a case of my favourite Ataulfo mangoes for a fabulous discount.  But Hubby doesn’t like mangoes, and I can only eat so many of them before they rot.

Guilt and anxiety kick in.  I must waste nothing!  I must eat mangoes morning, noon, and night!

I managed to avoid gross excesses this time.  I bought what I needed and could use within the foreseeable future.  (Except for the water bottles – I needed one, not three.  But hey, it’s not like they’re going to go bad, right?)

And I split that giant package of cheese curds with my friend, so it was a good buy.


I think I’m improving.

Maybe I should go back again this week just to be sure…


Christmas is over, and I’ve completed my annual pilgrimage to the mall.

No, not for Boxing Day shopping.  I don’t care if it’s “80% off, everything must go”.  I’ll cheerfully pay twice as much in January if it means I get to avoid anything resembling a retail outlet for the next week.

On the contrary, I engaged in a personal and private ritual I’ve upheld for the last fourteen years, ever since we moved into our house a few blocks away from the mall.

Each year, on Christmas Day, I stroll over to the mall to stand in awe and wonder, contemplating the grand sweep of empty parking lot.

Quite apart from the fact that wide-open spaces make me happy, I also enjoy the knowledge that it’s one day out of the year when most people get the day off.

I know there are lots of people still toiling behind the scenes.  Our wonderful police and emergency services are working harder than ever while the rest of us, freed from our common-sense work routines, rush around making sure we do as many life-threatening things as possible.  Meanwhile, our transit keeps moving and our communications systems keep talking and our passenger planes keep flying.

I’m thankful for all the people in essential services who keep our world running regardless of religious or secular holidays.

But the convenience stores were hard at it on Christmas Day, too.  Since when did it become “essential” for us to have immediate access to a bottle of pop or a pack of smokes?

Cue grumpy old woman:  ‘Way back when, there were no convenience stores (at least not in our neck of the woods).  All the stores were closed two days a week – always Sunday, and either Saturday or Monday.  Nobody died from potato-chip deprivation.

Granted, it was a little inconvenient if we were baking and we ran out of eggs or milk or something, but we planned ahead.  We kept enough on hand, and in the worst-case scenario, we did without.  After all, it was only a couple of days.


I know; it was primitive.

It was also… relaxing.

Don’t get me wrong, I take advantage of seven-day-a-week shopping like everybody else.  We all lead busy lives, and it’s great to be able to just pop in and grab what I need whenever I think of it.

It’s just that I like the idea of taking a break sometimes.  Forget “holy” days – nobody can agree on those anyway.  But wouldn’t it be nice to set aside a handful of days a year when everybody calls a halt?

I expect there would be an uproar from retailers and consumers and probably even workers at the mere suggestion that malls could close occasionally.  I won’t be surprised if very soon the Christmas Day closure becomes a thing of the past, too.

So, while it lasts, I go and enjoy the empty parking lot.

Slow down.  Take a breath.



P.S. I’m giving away two signed copies of Never Say Spy over on Goodreads – the contest closes Jan. 1/13.  Pop on over if you’re interested!

It’s Like Fishing, But Without The Beer

The Christmas shopping frenzy is upon us, and I’m observing the usual gender division.  The women are out in the malls snagging the perfect gift for everyone.  The men are at home watching TV and telling themselves they have lots of time.

On Christmas Eve the tables will turn, and throngs of empty-eyed men will wander the mall ten minutes before closing, reeking of desperation and despair.

And at midnight outside a convenience store, two men will wrestle over the last pine-scented air freshener because it’s Christmas-tree-shaped and therefore vaguely appropriate as a Christmas gift, and they will ask themselves, “Why do women do this?”

Well, it’s like fishing.

If you’re starving and you have to catch a fish in order to survive, it’s not fun; it’s work.

But if you’re fishing for the fun of it, there’s no greater joy than being out on the lake just tossing in your line.  You might not catch anything; you might catch and release; you might catch a tasty fish you’ll enjoy for supper that evening; or you might catch the biggest Holy-Shit-Look-At-The-Size-Of-That-Mother trophy fish of all time.

It doesn’t really matter.  It’s all about the process.  And the bragging rights.  And your buddies.  And the beer.

Some guys would happily go fishing every day, even though their freezer is full and they’ll probably end up throwing away some of the fish.  Some women would happily go shopping every day, even though their closet is full and the clothes will probably be out of style before they get around to wearing them.

Recreational shopping is extremely similar to the actual process of fishing.  We cruise the mall, dipping into the places where our quarry is most likely to lurk.  But sometimes the shopping gods turn their backs, and there’s nothing worth buying despite our skill and patience (no catch).

Other times, we reel in lovely things that are perfect in every way, but we don’t buy (catch and release).

Sometimes, we choose to take that tasty item home.

And every now and then, we score the most amazing deeply-discounted, absolutely perfect article that will be discussed with awe among our peers forever more.  The great grandmammy of bargains.  The holy grail.

Like fishing, there’s much discussion of the one that got away.  Right size, right price, wrong colour.  Screaming deal, sublime colour, wrong size.  The almost-perfection of the item increases with each telling, inspiring heartfelt commiseration from our buddies.

Here’s where the comparison begins to break down for me, though.  Most women are just as happy in a crowded mall as most guys are out on the lake.  I’m not.  The act of shopping simply isn’t rewarding enough for me to put up with a crowd.  I’ll pay for an item or I’ll engage in a fistfight for the item, but I refuse to do both.  I suspect most guys feel the same.

But that problem could be easily solved.

What malls really need is beer.  A mall-wide liquor permit, so you could wander around with a cold one in your hand.  They could set up beer-and-snack kiosks here and there, and put nice little stands next to the changing rooms so you could put your beer down without fear of spillage when you went in to try on clothes.

With a reward like that, I bet even the guys would shop early and often.

Am I right?