At this time of year everyone wakes up to the fact that need exists in the United States. Everywhere you look are food drives, gift drives, coat drives.

Here’s a news flash: Need exists all year long, not just in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong: I love it when people do nice things. I just wish it weren’t so holiday-specific. Pardon my grinchiness, but I think some of these once-a-year volunteers aren’t doing it for the homeless, the seniors or the kids. They’re doing it to make themselves feel good.

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Still got a few people left to buy for, or looking for some stocking stuffers? Have I got a gift box for you.

This week’s giveaway is sponsored by RetailMeNot.com, probably the best-known of the online discount code providers. And what an esoteric box o’ oddities it is:

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Earlier this week I was out walking when the temperature was about 5 degrees. My body felt warm enough but boy, did my face sting. Apparently my blood has gotten thin after six years of living in Seattle, aka “the tropics.”

While I was living in Anchorage, the features reporters had to collaborate on an annual “Christmas lights” story. Acting on tips from readers, we fanned out across the city in search of the best-decorated homes in the city.

“Best” sometimes meant elegant and tasteful. Most of the time it meant “so bright you could get a tan while standing nearby.”

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An old friend of mine – call him “Frugalbert Humperdinck” – once riffed on the song “Lonely is a man without love.” Unfamiliar with that late 1960s hit? Sit patiently through this video of Engelbert Humperdinck singing the first verse, in order to get to the chorus that’s about to be parodied:

Christmas bills are scare-ful,


But one can be careful.


Lovely is a man without loans.


Celebrate the season,


Keeping things in reason.


Lovely is a man without loans.


Go in debt, you peasants,


Buying toddlers presents.


Lovely is a man without loans.


Why impugn your credit


When they’ll soon forget it?


Lovely is a man without loans.


(Half-step up for the big finale)


Ere to shops I dart off,


First I pay the card off.


Lovely is a man without loans.


I’ll assuage my cravings


With January savings.


Lovely is a maaaan without loans.


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Scenes from our trip to the Talkeetna Bachelors Auction and Wilderness Woman Competition:

We arrived late Friday afternoon, driving directly into a blizzard. But after watching the Parade of Lights we knew we’d be able to get back out of town on Sunday: Among the vehicles in the parade were eight snowplows.

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