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It's a marvelously bleak November afternoon as I write this, with a no-nonsense overcast and some thin rain, the kind of day that takes forever to pass and on which any attempted task seems doomed by indifference.

Every day for a week or so now the groaning mail carrier has deposited several pounds of catalogs in our box. I don't really understand this form of marketing; it's such a mind-boggling waste. I do buy things from catalogs, and in fact usually do so for Christmas because I hate shopping in a crowd and am usually short on time.

However. I don't see how the fact that I bought, say, an L.L. Bean sweater for my grandmother last year means that I will this year spend half my annual income on a chair from Pottery Barn (much less a chair that has been "distressed" to look like it was bought at a yard sale), or "the world's smallest night vision scope" from Gadget Universe. Do they really think that people who buy something from a catalog will buy anything from a catalog?

So far the strangest to land in our home is one from (they obviously haven't read this site). I started to throw it away and then found myself doing a double-take at the notion of a .com—a .com that makes so much of its "personalized" Web site—sending out a paper catalog for the holidays. Seems to make a mockery of the whole concept, really.

This year, of course, I have ample time for shopping in non-crowd hours, so perhaps I'll eschew the catalog experience in favor of getting out of the house. I hate to admit this, but if it hasn't snowed in a couple more weeks I'm going to start getting edgy. I like the version of autumn we've been having this year, but it's supposed to snow at Christmas in New England; it's the only thing that makes the oppressive lack of daylight bearable.

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Except where otherwise noted, all material on this site is © 2003 Rebecca J. Stevenson