By December 13, 2006

Ars Technica Secret Santa 2006

For the last three years, the Lounge (casual) portion of the Ars Technica Open Forum has conducted a Secret Santa event. Arsians put their name in a pool, and are randomly assigned someone to give a gift to (the Santee) and are designated as someone else’s Santee. There is a suggested limit of ~$25 or so, but sometimes shipping or really great ideas push the total cost over. No biggie, participation is optional, and part of the fun is stalking your Santee to find out more about their interests.

I drew AlmightyChix0r this year, whom I recognized from her posts in the Lounge. I did some digging via the board’s search tool and discovered she really liked Augusten Burroughs, author of Running With Scissors and Possible Side Effects. I thought it would be neat to get Augusten to sign a book for Almighty. I shot off an email to his publicist around Thanksgiving, and got the predictable “out of office” reply. I never heard back from her.

A few days after Thanksgiving I decided to write Augusten himself. Believe it or not, his actual email address was on his Web site. Even more unbelievable, he actually checks it! 😉 I’ve changed some of the details of our correspondence for privacy. Mr. Burroughs was very kind and generous with his time and contact information, and I don’t want his contact info out on the Web getting spidered.

Here’s the transcript:

DrFaulken wrote:
Hello there!

A friend of mine is a huge fan of yours! I would really like to get
her an autographed copy of “Possible Side Effects” for the holidays.
If I send out a copy, would it be possible for you to sign it? I sent
an email to Tanya Farrell [publicist] but I believe she is still on vacation.

Regards and thanks,


Augusten Burroughs wrote:

if you send it to me with return postage (and say, a few hundred dollars:)
i would be happy to have it signed for you.
$firstname $lastname (augusten’s helper)

DrFaulken wrote:
Hello Mr Burroughs, thank you for your reply!

Pardon me for being obtuse, but is there a signing fee or were you
teasing? I have tried to get a book signed by another author this way
and they wanted compensation for their autograph.



Note: For the curious, Meghann Marco was unwilling/unable to sign the copy of her book I purchased, citing contractual obligations to not sign books outside of a paid book signing. Lame.

Augusten Burroughs wrote:
I was teasing 🙂

DrFaulken wrote:
I just outed myself as a humorless piece of meat in front of a famous
author. Well, that’s one more item scratched off my “things to do
before I die” list.

I appreciate your generosity, she’s going to love it.



Pre-paid postage and one hardback copy of Possible Side Effects later, AlmightyChix0r’s book was off to Mr Burroughs and his assistant. They were extremely responsive (his assistant was right in the middle of launching his first book and still took care o’ bidness!!). I felt guilty that they didn’t use my return postage directly to AlmightyChix0r and paid to send it back to me out of their own pocket.

Here’s what my Santee had to say on Ars when she received her gift:

DrFaulken is a GOD.

I took pictures, but I can’t find my freaking camera cord.

OMG, YOU ARE A GENIUS! How in the hell did you pull this off?

Words can’t even expres how freaking awesome this was. See, it was so cool, I’m not even swearing. That, in itself, is a miracle.

THANK YOU! Pics as soon as I find the cord.

That right there made my day. I am glad she enjoyed the book as much as I did making it happen.

But what about my Secret Santa, you ask? Fast forward to today.

FedEx guy did his usual drive-by routine, I watched him from the “bird’s nest,” er, I mean, my office window. I found this on the porch:

I opened the box up and smelled one of my favorite things ever: FRESH COFFEE.

I pulled out a small burlap bag that reminded me of the big bags of green coffee I roasted in college. PRODUCT OF HONDURAS, the bag said on one side, with the plantation logo on the other. Porter and Rosie started to go nuts, I wonder if they were drug dogs in a previous life.


Next out of the box was a box of tea from India, shaped like a packing crate. Dharjeeling, bitches!! I am going to have some tonight after I go through the coffee. 😉

Last up was a little quizzical fellow, a yard gnome with hiking shorts and a backpack. He was a Gnomad — maybe he represented the travelling spirit of my two other gifts from around the globe. Maybe he was meant to be a companion on my next interstate motorcycle trip. Whatever his purpose, he’s hitching a ride inside my hard luggage and will make an appearance in every future

Big thanks to my Secret Santa Jehos, who as it turns out is a fellow motorcyclist — he said that it was hard to shop for me, but he did an awesome job. Now that I know the identity of my Secret Santa, it occurs to me that he sent me some private messages via ArsT about my FZ6 and motorcycle riding. Was that to cleverly disguise a gift fishing attempt? Who knows, but it was funny to go back and read those messages again, with me blabbering on for pages about motorcycles. Poor guy probably just wanted to know if I still had my bike or not. 😉

Thanks to Clintology and eJacqui for putting this all together again. I can’t wait to participate again next year.

aw yeah, coffee in the RTFM mug
Polishing off the first of many cups of Honduran Supremo from Cafe San Marcos.

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