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December 11, 2009
By: John Phipps, Farm Journal Columnist


Subject: Yule be surprised

SC: Look, I know I wrote to you last year for the first time in—well, a long time, but I think I wasn't sincere enough or something because much of my list was obviously lost or ignored. So let me say up front, my skepticism about your existence is way down—and for good reason.

A funny not-so-funny thing has happened. Many of the things that I believe in, such as my 401K, General Motors and the 10-day forecast, have let me down. So I'm not just suspending my disbelief, I'm cutting the rope.

As I remember, the initial part of these letters consists of an Annual Report, so here goes.


  • I have been a relatively inoffensive boy this year. I am unindicted, for one thing. This may seem like a low standard but not in Illinois (The Home of Great Football and Clean Government). I am not under surveillance or being stalked by former spouses, adversaries or creditors.
  • I have kept my living space clean. To be precise, I have avoided making it messier, which strikes me as the same thing. When home alone, I eat sandwiches over the sink. I achieve 85% to 90% accuracy with the laundry hamper.
  • I haven't fought with my brother in years. I do owe him for several restaurant dinners, but he's a doctor, so my understanding is it doesn't count.

With those preliminaries out of the way, here is what I would like for Christmas. Please.

1. A clue. It appears that this is something I no longer have. I can only assume that at one time I was "clueful” but no longer. Let me illustrate.

My son and I watch The Big Bang Theory. We're engineers and love to rag on physicists, the only species less adapted to the human society than we are. Plus, we almost get the quantum mechanics jokes.

Anyhoo, a recent episode featured pounding music and quick-cut camera shots that apparently have some precedent in modern film/TV culture. Aaron had alerted me to this episode, so I was paying close attention for the incredible hilarity he had described.

I didn't get it. Nope, nothing. I was virtually context-free, drifting into the dreaded Void of Irrelevancy. I saw my own Dad go gently into that black hole, and I think I could avoid it if I just had a clue.

At the same time, I can no longer casually toss aside instruction manuals and rely on native technological instinct. Not that there are many useful or even readable manuals. An upgrade to my fading "figgering out” skills would be a welcome addition to my clue inventory.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - December 2009

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