the official start of the winter season means the shortest day of the year but it's not really the length of daylight but how you use it that matters. i scheduled myself for some christmas shopping today, and even woke up later than usual just because i could. my day of zero work was short-lived however: client X finally came back to me with their own client list of bug fixes - all due tomorrow. i wrote them back that i'd take care of it for wednesday but not before going through the list and figuring out what was code and what was production work. with that out of the way, my father came by and we went to microcenter to look for a digital audio recorder, which we couldn't find. next we went to chinatown, to check out some region-free dvd players. they were able to play my homemade dvd just fine, but the price was too expensive and all i really wanted was a cheap player. we bought some groceries at the c-mart before i got a ride back to cambridge. checking my e-mail, SRM wanted me to get some bugs fixed as well. why it is on my one personal day do clients come to me with work? i postponed them until tomorrow as well (a busy day tomorrow, two concurrent deadlines), then headed back out the door in the direction of harvard square.

first i went to the bank to deposit some checks and get some cash, then i visited a few stores looking for christmas presents. the important one was the one for julie, who would be coming over later in the evening for dinner. black ink had nothing, and neither did tealuxe. i got some magnets from curious george and bumped into that japanese guy who i knew from tufts who used to work at wordsworth but now works here. i asked him if he knew what was going into the old wordsworth, he said he didn't. the coop was next, one of the only few bookstores left in harvard square. here i found julie's present: doring kindersley first aid manual. i figured she's an active gal and might find something like this useful, but the thing that sold me was the page on "what to do if you find someone hanging from a tightrope." full of color photos depicting every single kind of injuries, the book is useful, morbid, and funny all at the same time. the last place i went to was the globe corner bookstore on church street. here i got a copy of healthy travel in asia and india (an extensive section on ailments of the digestive system) and 1,000 places to see before you die (it was on sale). with my bag heavy with presents (most of them for myself), i came back home.

although it was julie's turn to cook, she had cut herself with a knife last night and wouldn't be able to do it, so i volunteered to cook again. the recipe was a thai lemon grass pork dish along with some basmati rice cooked in coconut milk.

seemingly appetizing on paper (and in the photos of the recipe book), what i actually made was far from delicious and could never be confused with the intended recipe. the pork took a long time to "wok" cook in my pan, and all bits and pieces of lemon grass that i chopped with a food processor nearly made the fish inedible. the rice seemed undercooked, and absorbed the coconut milk irregularly, with sections either too saturated or too scorched (rice isn't supposed to be crunchy). the tumeric was a nice touch, infusing some yellow color to the rice. another night, another failed recipe.

julie showed me her cut, which looked like somebody stabbed her hand. she told me how in trying to squeeze the blood out, she caught a glimpse of the layer of hand fat poking through. i started to feel queasy. the first aid manual then became the perfect present (although a little after the fact), julie had told me about her accident but i didn't remember it when i bought the book.

we watched back to back episodes of SUV, the one about the serial rapist who gets gunned down at the end of the show, followed by the one about the little girl who looks like the daughter of a woman pining away for her lost child. julie provided dessert in the form of chocolate pies. after julie left, i finished off the night by throwing out the trash and ordering some books on amazon.com.