January 1: Framed Nature Photo from Sarah

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - Posted by 366 White Elephants at 9:21 PM
Given to me from Sarah.

I love this photo, taken by photographer and camera store employee Sarah.  It was taken in Hocking Hills, Ohio and now sits proudly on my desk.  Thank you Sarah for a fab gift!

Part III: The Blog is Toast

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!  It was great seeing my friends this year and making new ones along the way.  A lot of people asked me if I ever got bored with it, tired of meeting someone each day, or wished I could have been doing something else.  I would always say no, because I enjoyed each time I sat down with someone to do an exchange, getting the opportunity to learn something about the other person, and having fun each day.  As an added bonus, the project also kept me out of saloons this year.

Here's wishing you a great 2013!

As asked by Sarah
Dan (me!)
-Profession: Writer/Actor

-Favorite obituary: Franco Corelli, the tempestuous tenor

-Growing up, you would either ask for or take beer pitchers from peoples' tables during the three-day summer Oktoberfest, earning around $400 for the weekend.  What investment do you wish you could have made with that money?:  A deluxe Kool-aid stand

-If you were given the opportunity to write a script, what would it be about?:  Actually, one of the film projects I want to finish up this year is called A Skymall Caper.  If you peruse a Skymall catalogue, you can buy video surveillance equipment, such as sunglasses or a pen.  For my film, I want to get that pen, which also captures audio, and have the lead character, an inspector, find the perpetrator of a recent rash of misdemeanor crimes by carefully documenting the goings-on with said writing instrument.  Didn't they say 'the pen is mightier than the sword'?  I say most definitely.

-What is the best thing you learned during your journey with writing the white elephant gift exchange and blog?:  Well, when I would ask people who were absolute and complete strangers to me, I would say something like, "Hey, umm, crazy question coming your way.  Are you ready?"  And that would sort of set the table for them to get prepared.

December 31: Graduation Photo Frame and 2 Disposable Kodak Cameras

Monday, December 31, 2012 - Posted by 366 White Elephants at 7:44 PM
Given to Sarah from Thomas.

Shakespeare himself could not have crafted the irony any better: the camera shop employee gets two disposable cameras and a graduation-themed frame!  Ha ha ha!  Sarah told me she's going to use them just 'cuz she has them now.  You go girl, but that's akin to telling a pastry chef rolling out cookie dough to use the bottom of a pail instead.

Here we are on the penultimate day of the Great White Elephant Gift Exchange.  Tomorrow is the final day when my gift from Sarah is unveiled.  There will be no spoiler alert, but I can confidently say that I really like what I got.  It's no sack of loot, though.

Part II: The Blog is Ending

Over the last month, I've had a number of people ask me what I'll do when the gift exchange is over.  I will now have around an hour and a half every day built back into my schedule, so I'm looking forward to filling that time with re-finding my life's purpose, making long-term plans now that we've breezed by the Rapture and Apocalypse, and trying different kinds of cheese on an assortment of crackers.

I've also been asked if there's a favorite gift that has passed through my hands.  Here are my favorite five:
1) Emergency Oxygen Drop-down Mask and Seatbelt Demo
2) Giant Chicken Wing Hat
3) Ceramic Cheetah Head
4) Indoor Kite
5) White Trash Rubber Chicken
Honorable Mention: Ugly Sweater T-shirt, Disco Queen Fish Ornament, Decorative Box Full of Pennies

A number of people asked me if I am going to continue it.  NO!  While a year of passing along white elephant (and other) gifts has been scintillating, there are new presents to wrap, new bows to tie.  Think about it for a minute:  If I did this for another, say, seven months, what would be the point of a 19-month project?  It doesn't have a certain finality or roundness to it.

If I did the project for 10 years, then it would just be my 'thing'.  Imagine that: I walk into a place and, under their breath, people mumble and grumble, "Oh, here comes that gift exchange guy.  Keep looking down until he passes."  And my obit would read something like this: "Devoted white elephant gift exchanger...died alone."

I leave you with good tidings and happy thoughts for 2012.  I'll see you for one more day tomorrow.

She'd really want to comb Burt's stache
-Profession: Artist

-Favorite failed New Year's resolution:  Being a more patient driver

-If you had a crush on a guy named Art, what might you do for him to let him know you were interested?:  I'd introduce him to the wonderful world of bourbon and take him to hear some good blues music.

-You have a distant relation to Burt Reynolds.  What burning, unanswered question would you ask upon meeting him?:  At what age did he discover the mustache.
-What activity would he be doing at your family reunion?:  We would be playing cornhole.

-Take a photographic term and turn it into a colloquial expression:  "Slow down your shutter speed" would be for people who are too impatient.

December 30: John Cena Wrestling Figure

Posted by 366 White Elephants at 12:09 AM
Given to Thomas from Dan.

Part I: The Blog is Winding Down

This year has been full of entertaining surprises and I've enjoyed the privilege of spending time with 365 great people this year; I've met over 200 new people in the process, including today's exchanger Thomas.  I met him as he and his fiance were preparing to meet with their wedding officiant at a local Starbucks; we got together after he returned from his honeymoon.

Below is a list of some memorable exchanges:

-Most unusual place: It definitely has to be getting a two-for-one exchange on my return flight home from San Jose, CA, meeting fellow passenger Jesse and flight attendant Breezy in the process

-Most serendipitous: "I, too, love U.S. Presidential history" sounded like sweet nothings when my long-lost friend Sharon gave me two DVDs--JFK and W--along with her gift and agreed to come with me to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Museum in Fremont, Ohio

-Quickest: 6 minutes with Jessica; when it was over, I felt like I could run down the leasing options for a new car in the four seconds left on a 30-second ad

-Most spontaneous: I was visiting my brother in Minneapolis and I walked down to visit his neighbor Carol in the basement of the apartment complex.  I asked her if she wanted to participate, she immediately said yes, then walked into her apartment and plucked her gift off the wall within 10 seconds.

-Longest distance I've traveled for one:  I'm based in Cleveland, but I've incorporated my exchanges during my travels to San Francisco (the longest), Minneapolis, Chicago, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.

-Most random non-exchange part of the exchange: When my friend Ray and I got together, the waitress asked us if we'd like to get dessert three times.  By the third time, we knew we weren't getting out of that place without our thighs begging for a break.

-Profession: Data Manager

-Favorite part of the wedding vow: The part in ours when we took the Green Lantern oath

-You are probably familiar with the expression 'doubting Thomas'.
What % of the time do you doubt?:  40
What % of the time do you believe?:  20
What % of the time don't you care?: 40

-If Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Kinkade were competing against each other in a swim race, who'd win?:  Kinkade would be first, then Edison, then Jefferson.  Edison probably took a lot of naps, so he'd be tired.  Jefferson probably had some ancient disease and wouldn't do well.

-You've been known to eat apples in the shower.  What fruit wouldn't be appropriate to eat in the shower?:  Oranges and other skinned citrus fruits
-What would be a good fruit for the bath?:  Grapes
-What would be a bad fruit for the bath?:  Pomegranates

December 29: 1984 Edition of Ripley's Believe It or Not Board Game

Sunday, December 30, 2012 - Posted by 366 White Elephants at 1:36 AM
Given to Dan from Christopher.

Dan and I were thumbing through the questions in the card deck and came across this most puzzling one:

Dan (me) _______ when he goes to TJ Maxx.
A) gets giddy at the sight of jellies and jams from France and Switzerland
B) spends a lot of time trying on women's shoes
C) takes naps in the display furniture
D) takes suitcases in the dressing room to 'try them on'

There's a half-ounce of truth in (C), but it's (A).  I didn't enter a single store during the month of December this year, save for a trip in early in the month to pick up some French sour cherry jam.  Oh man, was it delicious!  It's so good with some cream cheese on a bagel or toast!  The jam prior was a Swiss mixed berry, which was also superb.  I get super pumped at the jams and other foods in the Homegoods section of the store, along with coffee, chips, teas (I just had a cup of a lemongrass-nettle tea from England) and, occasionally, some chocolate.

He'd get laughed at if he just ate a
donut hole.
-Profession: Naturalist

-Favorite cereal combination: Crispix, Kix, Frosted Mini Wheats and Lucky Charms

-This year, you rode and finished in the middle of the pack at the Tour de Donut, a bicycle race that allows riders to decrease their overall ride time by five minutes per donut they consume.  If you could assign specific characteristics to the following donuts, what would they be?:
-maple glaze: 10 people behind me would slide like they were on banana peels
-Boston creme: it would be a shot of HGH (human growth hormone)--I'd have increased power
-chocolate glaze:  my eyes would become glazed over and my vision would be changed; instead of powering past cornfields, I'd be in paradise
-French cruller: it would be a missile attack for the rider in front of me
-jelly:  turns the entire road to jelly

-You write comic books and enjoy starting controlled forest fires.  Come up with a plot for a comic that involves you and sensible forestry:  The Dark Lord--Maple Leaf Muscle--and his minions have invaded a neighborhood forest and are bullying my friends Old Hickory and Mr. Chestnut.  I tried to fight Maple Leaf by punching and shooting him, but it doesn't work.  I finally realize that flames will do the trick.

Over the course of a four-issue arc, Old Hickory, Mr. Chestnut and I mount on our white tailed deer steeds and use our flame throwers to eliminate Maple Leaf and his gang in a methodical manner.  We finally restore the neighborhood to a proper balance.

-You're the 25th bearded gift exchanger.  Are you jolly?:  Yes!  Oh yeah, very jolly.  I'm as jolly as Mr. Claus.

December 28: "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind"

Saturday, December 29, 2012 - Posted by 366 White Elephants at 9:53 AM
Given to Christopher from Tessa.

As the season has progressed, a few Christmas letters have trickled in to my mailbox.  They're always fun to receive, oftentimes featuring the standard content of weddings, trips, offspring updates, and the latest scholarly papers published.  Yes, yes, yes, yes--I'm sure these were all highlights for the year, but do they really capture what's interesting about your friends and family?  Do they give you a sense of how their year went?  I am firmly in the camp that says no.  I'm not complaining, but I think we all probably all want to know a little more.  I recommend telling them what kind of information you are looking for now, so that you may receive a tailored letter next year.  What you want is probably different than what I want, but here are some examples of things that are important to me:

  • approximate weight of legumes consumed in the year
  • number of unsolicited and solicited neck rubs received
  • who they think the best game show host is on television, plus an accompanying half-page bio of that host
  • a detailed family history since the end of Prohibition
  • having each family member answer the question "if you were stranded on a deserted island, what three items would you take?", but change it to an archipelago to mix it up a little
  • bar graph showing the cost of their city's trash removal service over the past three years
  • first food each family goes for when they're hungry 

-Profession: Embedded Software Engineer

-Favorite part about renting a car:  Declining the insurance

-In casual conversation, you sometimes refer to yourself as a 'rocket scientist'.  What would it take for you to impress Shania Twain?:  Tune the satellite thruster control system to make music.

-You are the product of two German professors.  Based on this information alone, if you went back in time when you were an infant, what would you have imagined yourself to be?:  Professional skydiver for Oktoberfest

-You graduated from Oberlin College, which has a proud history of being one of the first colleges in the country to admit minorities and women.  What population of a dubious distinction do you think Oberlin will be next in line to admit?:  Rubik's Cube champions

December 27: Black & Decker Automatic Jar Opener

Friday, December 28, 2012 - Posted by 366 White Elephants at 1:10 AM
Given to Tessa from Ron.

At Christmas mass, my family had two encounters with people masquerading as FBI and CIA operatives, inspired by my mom's recent health issue.

FBI: My sister is a reader at church.  A woman who lives in the same down as my family approached my sister and asked her how my mom was feeling.  "Good," she replied.
"No really, how is your mom doing?"
-"She's good," my sister said again.
"No, that's not quite right.  What's going on with your mom?"
-"She's feeling fine."
"No, I saw you driving her in town the other day.  How is your mom doing?"

And there were about five other questions trying to get my sister to break.  What did she want her to say?  "Yes, after your ninth question asking the same damn thing, I realize I was mistaken and that my mom's getting a sex change operation.  It's been pretty hard on my dad.  Send flowers, please"

CIA: Another woman and her son were on covert ninja stalking mode once church ended.  My mom was talking with an old friend, while my brother and I stood like bodyguards on her right side.  First the woman lingered a little too long after getting up, adjusting her coat and scarf and trying to find that imaginary pack of Lifesavers that dropped in her purse from heaven.  Then, she wasn't fully ready to leave, taking off her coat and scarf, putting it in the pew, fixing her necklace, then re-dressing.

She proceeded to walk to the back section of the church, circling back on the other side of the row of seats, and pausing on a parallel plane with our position.  She moved to the front of the church, doing some extra genuflecting (getting bonus points with God), looked back to see if my mom was free, and the re-adjusted her coat and scarf again and tried to find that Applebee's red buzzer that appeared to be going off in her purse.  Finally, after casing the whole place, she left.

Time of journey if she left on a normal route: 30 seconds.
Time of journey with the route she took: 4 minutes, 15 seconds.

-Profession: Explorer

-Favorite part of a volcano:  Ashes in the sky

-You host a radio show.  If Delilah, John Tesh, TK Tom Kent, and Ryan Seacrest were all playing poker, who'd have the best poker face?:  Delilah.  I remember listening to her before going to bed.  She'd tell some super sad story or have some dramatic element in her story.  She'd have pretend emotions on the radio, so I'm sure she'd be good.

-For fun, you like Indian fusion--a kind of dance; it also sounds like a kind of food.  What kind of dance move would 'curry' be?:  Using your arms in a circular motion in a smooth, but fast manner at a dramatic moment in the song.

-What's the last thing you approved with a thumbs up?:  Today at work, I approved a black t-shirt contest.

December 26: Harley Davidson Sunglass Case, Non-Harley Davidson Pair of Sunglasses, 5 Packs of Glove Hand Warmers, and Cleveland Browns Magnet

Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - Posted by 366 White Elephants at 5:10 PM
Given to Ron from Dino.

As 2012 draws to a close, I've been asked by a number of people what my "next" blog project will be.  It was around this time last year when I got the idea for this project, but truth be told, I don't know what it'll be either or if I'll do one.  But I've come up with a short list of possible projects for 2013.  Here they are, ranked in order of feasibility:

-Bosley hair treatment for my calves and forearms
-Changing a lightbulb in someone's home or office every day (that's a 'bright' idea--har har)
-An anti-abstience campaign: A 5-year voyage
-Making every day Valentine's Day with every person I meet
-Writing a weekly horoscope for salt-smelling zombie humans

The other tagline could be
"Bus Drivers Also Bed A Lot of Women"
-Profession: Retired Bus Driver

-Favorite month: July

-Have you ever driven a party bus?:  I've driven one. yeah.  Oh yeah, yes.  I drove Lolly the Trolly.  They sang and drank.

-Ronald is your full name.  Ronnie is the pet form and Ron is the short form.  Would you rather be a pet or short?:  Short.  I like Ron.

-If a bus driver had a tagline, what would it be?:  Bus Drivers Have More Fun.  I know a lot of bus drivers who got married.  They found their spouses on the bus.