Merry Christmas! Before we begin, some seasonal news: as we did last year, I'm donating a certain portion of your kind contributions to charity. I figure that once the server costs are met, everything else is gravy, and this year we got a lot of gravy. I am still grateful for the help everyone provided after my wife got shivved in the back at work. The household finances took it in the knickers, frankly, but we're doing fine and I've no doubt we'll do even better in 04. So: one water buffalo goes to some family in the water-buffalo-needing region of the world, thanks to the folks at the Heifer Project. Instead of buying two, as we did last year, I'm taking the money for the second beast and giving it to the Smile Train, a charity I just learned about a few months ago. They provide corrective surgery to third-world kids with cleft palates. Two hundred and fifty bucks fixes a kid, and saves them from a lifetime of shunning and ridicule.

The picture above is Southdale, the mother of all malls, seen here in the early 60s. It looks quite different today. (If you go to that page now, come back! We have more three more Bleat pages to go here.) You don't see the words MERRY CHRISTMAS that large anymore. In fact you don't see it at all. At the Mall on Tuesday it was almost the Holiday That Dare Not Speak Its Name; there were references to the season, and things festive. The very word "t'is" has become a code word for Christmas, a wink and a nod. "T'is the season." Which one? "You know, the season. The festive season." Oh. Riiiight. THAT one. The gift-giving season, you mean. "Exaaaactly." Wink. Nevertheless the season thrives and prospers; we had a wonderful Christmas, and I'll bore you with details tomorrow. For now, it's outtakes from the annual Christmas Card photo shoot. Let's Begin.