late last night, at around 5am or so, i finished youth in revolt, an excellent piece of literature, i highly recommend it to everyone. i feel pretty good about tearing through that book, but it helps that the the work was so compelling i had a hard time putting it down anyway. at around 4am i did have to stop to take a break, cooking up another maruchan instant ramen cup, eating it in bed while watching nothing good on television.

i unwillingly got out of bed at noon, informing julie via e-mail that i was done with her book and she could have it back whenever she wanted. we made plans for a book return later in the afternoon, and she mentioned she was bringing something else as well. oh dear. on december 23rd that can only mean one thing: unexpected christmas present! which meant that i'd be spending some time today finding an appropriate reciprocating gift for ms.lepage.

i fixed lunch, some scallion pancakes. the heat was too high on the burner and i ended up stinking up the kitchen and then later the rest of the house with the smell of burnt cooking oil. i even managed to char one of the pancakes, but after scraping off the burnt crust, it didn't taste so bad. no fruit elixir today though, thought i'd go with something more old fashion like mango juice fresh from the carton.

after eating half of my scallion pancakes, i got dressed and went christmas shopping. first stop was joie de vivre (please, someone, tell me how to pronounce this french name!), where i'd find julie's present, already having something in mind. i got her a milometer, which is a pen with a small wheel at the tip and a long plastic window on the side showing you an adjustable scale. you use it with a map to trace the distance of a particular route, and a little thermometer bar in the pen will rise, showing you how many miles it is. it's kind of a more sophisticated way of using a string to figure out distances on a map. she had told me about it before, and though there are digital versions of the device, julie was adamant about owning an old school manual milometer, and one day while browsing joie de vivrei saw it and told her about it. her screams of "that's what i've been looking for!" made it an easy present to get.

after that i deposited a check at the nearest fleet atm (where i cut a guy in line in order to use the atm first, and i almost jammed the machine because i had impatiently pushed the deposit envelope a little bit too forcefully into the atm), and then went to the harvard museum of natural history. it's been almost 2 years since i last visited, and i saw they've done some renovations, moving the gift shop to the third floor. i ask the startled young man working the front desk (he was reading, i surprised him with my ninja-like stealth) if i could just get into the gift shop without paying for a ticket. he said sure. while upstairs, i was tempted to quickly browse the exhibits, but my unwavering honesty and the fact that i still had shopping to do made me focus on the task at hand. i ended up buying something for laurie, which came as a bit of a surprise, because she's one of the few people i know besides myself who don't really celebrate christmas, not even much of any gift giving (this is what she tells me, i still don't entirely believe her though). it's one of those magic trees that crystallizes in different colors when you soak it in water. i figured it'd be a nice present for her because she's been trying to get one of my sequoia trees, but due to the fact that they're all sort of entangled, to separate them would risk killing them all, so i can't give her one (not until they mature a little bit more, thicker roots). but hopefully this crystalline substitute will do for the time being. (laurie, if you read this before i can give you your present, please disregard!)

in harvard square, i hit the second harvard museum store (harvard square branch), the discovery store (mobbed with people, a lot of mothers with small children, the aisles were cluttered with strollers, oh how i despise the fertile!), the harvard square florist (i almost bought an orchid plant), and even the dickinson hardware store (i was hoping they'd have chia pets). i left harvard square empty-handed, relieved to be leaving the madness of final day shoppers. while cutting across harvard yard (i never walk on the path, by the way, it's just a straight beeline maneuver, hopping knee-high chain-linked fence posts, dodging trees), i almost walked into a squirrel furiously digging on dirt ground. i was close enough to touch the squirrel with my foot as i stood motionless, slowly reaching for my camera. what at first i thought to be digging was actually burying on the squirrel's part, as it nervously hid an acorn underground, covering it back up with dirt, and even grabbing a dead leaf with its paws to cover up the hole. why it wasn't afraid of me, i'm not sure (maybe it was the red pants, my second day wearing them), perhaps it was too engrossed with storing food for the oncoming christmas day snowstorm heading our way.

around 4pm my father showed up at my place with an green painted wooden hourglass-shaped small coffee table he's found on the streets of belmont. a few minutes later julie showed up as well. now julie's met my father once before, early summer when i was just getting started with the home renovating, but i introduced them to each other again anyway. my father left, leaving julie and i to exchange presents. i had the foresight to wrap her present, something i usually don't bother doing. the present she gave me was wrapped in blue tissue paper, tied with ribbons, with an orange bow. my wrapping, by comparison, was pure amateur hour. at least this year i had some color, using the leftover pink rosen paper i used to cover the floors (past years, i used brown shipping paper). instead of fancy ribbons, i used these thick 2 inch strips of trasparent industrial masking tape. julie got her milometer (i was relieved she didn't already have one, especially after i told her where to get it), while i got a hello kitty 2003 calendar. julie came upon the idea for this gift because 1) i have a hello kitty screensaver installed on my mac (okay, it was a moment of sanrio weakness, i've been meaning to take it off), and 2) each month on the calendar was a different color which very closely matched the different colors of my rooms. she suggested i could rotate the calendar to a different room depending on which color of the month it was. we tested out the milometer with a map of somerville, i forgot the distance measured between my house and julie's house. when i informed her that she can get a much more accurate measurement using a gps, she said, "well!" and scrunched up her face. when she got a call from her brother, i was delighted to hear (eavesdropped) that she wouldn't be going to church for christmas (heathens, unite!). declining an invitation to stay for leftover turkey dinner (she had a craving for mexican), julie soon departed, milometer and youth in revolt book in hand.

dinner comprised of not only the leftover turkey (where i'd be turning them into rolls, a la peking duck style), but also my leftover pasta from a few nights ago. as much as i dislike leftovers, if i was going be eating it, i might as well bring out the other leftovers. i ate in the living room (i never eat in the kitchen alone, the tv keeps me company), using the new green table as a freestanding food tray. despite the stigma of "used" food, dinner didn't turn out too bad, and i ate way more than i should, which i guess is okay since i only eat twice a day. all you three times a day feeder, oink oink!

favorite song of the moment: joni mitchell's "big yellow taxi." it's not a christmas song but i think it's holiday appropriate because it makes you appreciate the things in life before they're gone. i've never been much of a joni mitchell fan, and probably couldn't name one song of hers, but i think after today i'm going to be a little bit more aware of her work.

special note: pc readers, you'll notice that i finally fixed the misaligned dates in the upper right corners! thanks to grep replacement commands (<td) (colspan=2 bgcolor=.*><) and \1 width=500 \2 ! something that i picked up during my first year of work after college.