Letter from Santa

Here’s a sample of what’s coming out of the North Pole these days. A colleague of mine received this in her inbox after her son sent a letter to Santa. I’ve deleted the identifying information.

From Kris.Kringle.ska.Santa.Claus@gmail.com


Dear A.W.,


We are in receipt of your list of demands and are prepared to negotiate terms. At this juncture, there are some items which bear, mentioning, to wit your requirement for a new “I [heart] Boobies” bracelet to replace a misplaced original. Please be aware that North Pole policy (Statute IV, Paragraph 3.iii c.) regulates issuance or use of



…any token, insignia, logo or trademark used or intended for use by the general population in the furtherance of any cause, ideal or purpose without the express involvement of the recipient in the represented cause, ideal or purpose. Such issuance shall be contingent upon the recipient exhibiting the minimum niceness to naughtiness ratio as given in Appendix 4.1.


Given your claimed niceness of 75%, you may qualify for this gift. Please note that times you spend awake contribute to your niceness to naughtiness ratio more than times spent asleep. And we do know when you are sleeping. And we know when you’re awake. (Try not to think about that too much.) Having said that, in order to ratify your qualification for this item, policy requires that you exhibit “involvement,” which could take the form of consumption of sufficient foodstuffs containing free radical scavengers, such as a large bowl of broccoli soup. Please see your mother for further details.


Regarding the Gatorade water bottle, recent research into the the effects of bisphenol A has lead to a reduction of in our output of plastic water containers. We do have an appealing selection of stainless steel water bottles which may interest you. Please note that our research shows Gatorade to be just glorified Kool Aid or, to use a term coined by your brother, “crap.”


With regard to your request for less homework, we can try to effect our influence on your teacher, provided you review your use of apostrophes in the clause cited.


You note that “A. started it.” In considering this testimony, please refer to the previous notation with respect to knowing when you are sleeping and when you are awake. Such intelligence extends to whether you have been bad or good as well. And do remember, the motivation, as per Section XIV, Paragraph 12.xvi.e is to “be good for goodness’ sake.” The presents are just a bonus.


One final request is that when you arise on the morning of the 25th, that you refrain from jumping up and down on your parents’ bed, at least until your mother’s had her second cup of coffee. And please empty out your stockings before you put them on.


Until then, I remain faithfully yours,


K. Kringle (sometime known as S. Claus)(sometime carrying on business as Santa’s Gift Delivery)


P.S.: If I bring you that waffle maker, can you leave me waffles instead of cookies next year?

My first Amazon.com review: Rosetta Stone language learning program

I’ve published my first review on Amazon.com, and do I ever feel better. It’s posted here, but I’ve copied it below for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

My first experience with Rosetta Stone should have been a tip-off.
After numerous ads in Scientific American imprinted the Rosetta Stone name into my noggin over the years, I finally purchased Levels 1, 2 and 3 – the Homeschool Edition, for my kids to study Hebrew. The motivator was an ad I received by email offering free shipping.
So, I went online and attempted to purchase. I kept getting an error message which didn’t mean anything to me, so I called Rosetta Stone for help. In the course of the conversation, it became clear that the free shipping offer was for U.S. addresses only. I objected that they had sent me an email that offered free shipping with no such qualifier.
After going around the mulberry bush a few times on that subject, I realized that the operator was not going to break forth from her programmed algorithm. If I wanted the product, I’d have to pay the shipping.
When the product arrived, we installed it and began to run it.
The kids seem to enjoy the sessions and do well at them, although the voice recognition seemed to have trouble with the kids’ voices. My daughter has a better accent than I do, but the software seemed to understand me better than it did her.
My impression is that you can learn a language from the software, but it does have a cookie-cutter approach. As you may have heard, language is culture. People in France talke about different things in different ways than people in Saudi Arabia. You can’t have this diversity in a one-size-fits-all approach like Rosetta Stone.
Then, one day, for no apparent reason, the software stopped working. I called tech support and spoke with a friendly enough agent whom I’ll call “Suraj.”
Suraj didn’t really seem to understand what the problem was, but did help me to get going again.
Eventually the problem hit again, apparently after installing one of Rosetta Stones recommended updates. This time I got “Armaan” on the line. Armaan got me going again somewhat, and we had a nice chat about about the weather in India while the software loaded. I had an opportunity to help Armaan with his English as well.
Except the headphone wouldn’t work. I could see that this particular headphone, which had come with the software, was beginning to look a little more than gently used. Armaan suggested I get a new headphone and try again. I was a little suspicious, because now I could see that the software wasn’t working with the internal speaker and microphone system either.
I bought a new headphone/microphone and plugged it in. No dice.
At this point I had spent a lot of time on the phone with India and while I value the cultural experience, it’s not the one I paid $500 for.
Last week my computer died. It had been hiccupping for some time, and I was not too surprised to see it give up the ghost. I bought a new one for less money than the Rosetta Stone package cost, and decided to try loading it. I forwent the offer to download the upgrades.
I typed in the activation code and got a message telling me that the code was invalid. The message window kindly suggested that the software may have been installed on another computer.
I got on the blower to see what Armaan and Suraj could do for me. I listened to some very uplifting music for about twenty minutes and decided to hang up.
This software is recommended if you would like to learn one of the many languages that India has to offer, as you will spend a good amount of time speaking to Armaan and Suraj. You will also have the opportunity to develop your musical appreciation as you wait on hold. There are not even intermittant messages punctuation the music telling you to please continue to hold as your call is important to them. They know you know better.
Dealing with Rosetta Stone feels like making a pact with the devil. It’s tempting to do so because they offer some appealling bells and whistles. But it’s never good form to do business with someone you can’t trust, and I have found them untrustworthy. The devil may offer temporary benefits, but at what cost? I didn’t lose my soul, but I lost my time, and I lost my $500.


Update: Rosetta Stone contacted me by email after I posted the above review. I emailed them my receipt and the activation codes. They authorized the activation and the product appears to be working now.

Terms and conditions page

Section 1

How to Use Section 2

a) Obtain an inkpad and rubber stamp with the following words written on it in 6-point or smaller type:

Your negotiation of this cheque constitutes your agreement to our terms and conditions.
Terms and conditions can be found at: http://wp.me/pvvc0-6Q in Section 2.

b) Use this stamp on the back of any cheque that you write in which you wish the terms and conditions in Section 2 below to apply. This system is best used when writing cheques to credit card companies that send you pages of itty bitty type with headings like “Your Agreement with us.”

c) There really isn’t a part c), but we’d thought we’d put one to leave open the possibility of adding more stuff later. Plus we wanted to make the instructions look a little more complex than they really are.


Section 2

Terms and Conditions of Cheque Negotiation


a) This agreement is between you (the casher) and us (the cashee).

b) Your negotiation of a cheque with the following words, or any variation thereof, stamped, printed or otherwise appearing on any part of that cheque constitutes your agreement with Section 2, Terms and Conditions of Cheque Negotiation located at http://wp.me/pvvc0-6Q or at https://fascinatingtales.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/terms-and-conditions-page/:

Your negotiation of this cheque constitutes your agreement to our terms and conditions.
Terms and conditions can be found at: http://wp.me/pvvc0-6Q in Section 2.

b) If you do not agree with the Terms and Conditions herein, your sole remedy is to return the cheque the cashee, un-negotiated. A refund of cash or credit received as a result of negotiation of an applicable cheque will not nullify this agreement, but will be greatly appreciated by the cashee.

c) The cashee is the person or persons in whose name  or names the applicable cheque has been written, and whose name or names appear in the signature panel of the cheque, whether the signature or signatures are legible or otherwise.

d) The cashee may assign the benefits of this agreement to any person or person without notification to the casher. Such assignment will not nullify any benefits to the cashee.

e) Reading these Terms and Conditions may bind the reader to them, whether or not a cheque has been negotiated.

f) This section was intentionally left blank, except for the bit about the section being left blank, and any exceptions following.

g) This section was not left blank, but doesn’t really add anything to the meat and potatoes of this Agreement.

h) The letter ‘h’ to the left of this section does not constitute part of the Agreement, but is there for information purposes only.

i) The casher agrees that cheque negotiation cancels all obligation on the part of the cashee to the casher. The cashee doesn’t agree to anything.

j) The casher agrees to continue to provide whatever goods and services to the cashee, at the cashee’s discretion, as may be set forth in any Terms and Conditions that the casher may make available from time to time in itty bitty type or any other such fashion, without binding the cashee to any obligations set forth in those Terms and Conditions.

k) The casher agrees to wash the cashee’s car, babysit the cashee’s kids, or provide any other such services as determined by the cashee from time to time. The casher agrees to incur any and all expenses associated with such services, including, but not limited to, plane fare, amusement park tickets, and food. The casher agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the cashee of any and all losses incurred as a direct or indirect result of such services. The cashee explicitly denies such indemnity to the casher.

l) The casher waives any right to notice to provide such services as described in part k), and agrees to charges of $100 per day to be paid to the cashee for any delay in the rendering of these services from the time they are requested to the time they are performed.

m) The casher agrees to pay to the cashee interest in the amount of 28.8% per annum, compounded every ten (10) minutes on overdue funds.

n) Funds are due immediately upon notification by the cashee, whether casher receives said notification or not.

o) The casher waives any right or opportunity to apply these Terms and Conditions to any cheque made payable to the cashee.

p) Anyone who has read up to part p) should go and read part e) again and really think about it.

q) This agreement shall remain in force until such time as the cashee deems necessary.

r) This agreement may be altered from time to time at the sole discretion of the person who controls this webpage. The casher agrees to check this page from time to time to see what he or she has gotten himself or herself into. It is recommended that the cashee and the casher both subscribe to this blog.

s) Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to bind the cashee in any way, shape or form.

t) Any comments which may appear in the Comments section below will not constitute part of this Agreement, but may or may not be nice to read.

u) This line shall constitute the final line of this Agreement, unless something is added later.