You won’t catch me dead outside today, because it is the artificial (think “Secretary’s Day”) event known ominously as “Black Friday,” which – for the benefit of any international readers – is when Americans swarm shopping malls and department stores country-wide, sometimes trampling each other to death in the pursuit of $100 USD savings on HD TVs, Nintendo Wiis, talking Sesame Street characters, and pallets of lard.

I’ve never been much of a shopper to begin with, so it’s difficult for me to imagine what exactly it is that possesses people to participate in this new holiday kick-off tradition – the same way it’s difficult for me, as someone who has never been a soccer fan, to understand why riots seem to break out any time a major match is played around the world.

This year is a little different, however, given the context of America’s high unemployment (perhaps 17 percent, by some estimates) and year-long economic slump. However, it’s difficult to really predict what effect this will have on actual Black Friday shopping practices. Will the weak dollar and high level of unemployment depress sales this year, or will people who have held out on major purchases this year boost sales on this “door-buster sale” day, when there are major discounts to be had?

That’s an impossible question to answer at the moment, but I have no doubt that there will be newsmakers ready to voice opinions on the matter, and, based on these, predictions about how the rest of the holiday retail season is going to run. My advice is to ignore all of this, good and bad, since by definition it’s grounded on unsteady assumptions.

On that note, I must leave and retreat into my “study zone,” as I have exams Monday. I will not be heard from at least until they’re over, and if they go badly, perhaps never again.