Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christmas Answer #1

Yesterday we put up our Christmas decorations. I knew my husband, a well-known Grinch, was gone for the afternoon, providing us the opportunity to get out the tree (fake, pre-lit) and all the other festive items. My son, who is 7 years-old asked me a lot of questions about the Christmas traditions that I could not answer. Why do people put an angel or a star on top of their tree? What is "Noel"? Why Santa Clause? Why put out colored lights and decorations at all?

I don't like answering his questions with "because we have always done that." We are not particularly religious, so I want to give him satisfying answers that are based on fact, tradition, and not stories that were hijacked by a particular belief and changed to satisfy those beliefs. So I'm doing a little bit of research and would like to share some of my findings.

By the way, we were completely done and had everything cleaned up by the time my husband came home. He said, "A Christmas Bomb went off while I was gone." But I know that deep down he really likes the colored lights. In fact, he slept in the living room last night with the tree on the entire time.

Christmas Answer #1: Why December 25th?
Before I try to answer that question, we have to learn a little about Winter Solstice. A solstice occurs twice a year, whenever Earth's axis tilts the most toward or away from the Sun, causing the Sun to be farthest north or south at noon. The winter solstice, which happens around December 22nd or 23rd, is when the days are the shortest of the entire year, and the nights are really long. At least that's true for the Northern hemisphere. We have to remember that in the Southern hemisphere, it's the opposite, and that Christmas time happens during their Summer!

A very long time ago, people became afraid that the nights would become longer and longer, and the sun would disappear altogether! They would especially be afraid at the time of the Winter Solstice. However, the wise people would notice that by December 25th, the days were getting longer again! Then it was time to celebrate the return of the sun.

Many cultures and religions have celebrations around the time of the Winter Solstice. For example, the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, or the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

But for the answer of Why December 25th for Christmas? Here's the short answer: No one really knows the day that Jesus was born, but they suspect that it was probably in the Fall. Early Christian church leaders selected December 25th because this was already the date recognized throughout the Roman Empire as the birthday of various Pagan gods. So, basically, it was already being celebrated for the birth of some gods, why not their god, Jesus? Eventually, when Christianity became more popular, they dropped the other gods and focused on Christianity's one god.

Religious from Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #71

Today is Thanksgiving and I should be cooking my Mother's special creamy mashed potatoes, but I still have time. I already made the cranberry relish and cranberry chutney, so I'm just about set to go to my Sister-in-Law's home for a nice dinner. But first things first, I need to get my Thursday Thirteen for the week up!

13 Things I'm Thankful For

1. My daughter is fully potty trained. No more diapers for me! Except those that she wears at night--but that's just fine with me. The only problem is that she's so tiny, I can't get pants to fit her around the waist! Most pants in her size are made for toddlers who still wear diapers.

2. My son understands and appreciates the humor of Monty Python. Not bad for a 7-year-old! The other day we were talking and I said, "Well, I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition!" and he responded correctly, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" and he grabbed a pillow and started torchering me.

3. My daughter has stopped sucking her thumb. She did this all by herself. She got a sore on her thumb (probably from too much sucking!) and requested a bandage. We kept the bandage on for a few days, and after a few grumpy days and nights, she was done with the thumb!

4. My son lost his first tooth this week. Probably one of the teeth that bit me while I was nursing! I'm thankful that he's growing and becoming a young man.

5. I'm extremely thankful for my neighbor, Brad. He's single-handadly responsible for bringing us to Creekistan and helping fix the house. All of the beautiful work done on the house is his.

6. My piano. We finally got a piano about a year ago, and I've been playing it just about every day. I've started teaching my children how to read music and play. I'm even giving lessons to a friend's little girl. My Grandmother would have been proud.

7. Satellite radio. I enjoy having good reception and a choice of stations. The only regular radio stations I can get around here are religious or country. Now I can listen to whatever I want.

8. Satellite internet. Since I can't get cable or DSL service here, it was our only choice for high-speed Internet.

9. Netflix. We don't get any TV stations and don't want satellite TV, so Netflix is our lifesaver! The turnaround is pretty fast (send movie back, day 1; Netflix receives movie and sends another one, day 2; and receive new movie at home, day 3.) Except for those days we suspect that our mail carrier is watching our movies before delivering them to us!

10. My laptop. I would go insane if I didn't have a decent computer with good software to work from.

11. Being able to stay at home full time. Yes it's hard living on only one income when you're used to two, but it's not that bad. My kids appreciate it, my home is running better, and I'm less stressed.

12. The beauty of the forest that I live in. Each season shows something new and interesting. I was sad to see all the leaves fall from the trees, but now I can see more sky between the branches. And now I can walk deeper into the forest without getting lost in the underbrush.

13. My husband is officially done with his Doctorate. We completed his dissertation earlier this week, it got approved, and now we're waiting on confirmation that early next month, he will officially be Dr. Evil Composer.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #70

If it says "Forward this to (insert number here) friends and (insert positive action here) will happen," I almost immediately delete it, no matter what hex may befall me. I've been e-mailing for over 10 years and I've seen lots of hoaxes and bogus stories, and all kinds of e-mails. And I'm not afraid to tell the sender the truth.

Now I'm starting to see the old messages come around again. I guess, as far as e-mail is concerned, there's a sucker born every minute. Now that people who were initially reluctant to get e-mail or just didn't know how, are finally using e-mail. Those new users are gullible to the old hoaxes, just as I was over 10 years ago. I'm just amazed that these hoaxes cannot be killed off.

13 of My (not-so) Favorite E-Mail Hoaxes

1. Those that say "forward to 5 friends and see what happens!". Basically this doesn't work except to put yet another FW: e-mail address on a list and more of those annoying >>>>> all over the message so that it's hard to read the original text.

2. The Koran ( 9:11 ) says " . . . the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah." No such passage exists. It's purely a hoax to play on American patriotism.

3. Applebees will not give out $50 gift certificates to anyone who forwards a certain e-mail message to 5 friends.

4. Putting Vicks VapoRub on the bottom of your feet will cure night-time coughs. I just have to laugh!

5. Glade Plug-Ins will cause fires. I have received this warning message several times. After investigation, I found out that this is simply not true. It it was, they would have taken it off the market by now!

6. Kidnappers who snatch children in stores (or other public place), take them to a bathroom, cut their hair, and change their clothes. Frightening, and even plausible, but not true.

7. An Essay titled "The Paradox of our Time" was written by George Carlin. Simply not true! This is just another one of those laundry lists that cites everything that is wrong with today. Carlin didn't write such sentimental bull sh*t.

8. An atheist group is trying to get the FCC to ban religious radio stations. Simply untrue. The FCC has no authority to ban religious programming.

9. A form of the drug, Meth, called Strawberry Quik, is being handed out to children and it looks like candy. Okay, I'm sure it does look like candy. But drug dealers can't afford to give out bags of meth for Halloween.

10. Paul Harvey did not do a show on how Hillary Clinton helped two Black Panthers get away with murder, also untrue.

11. Any e-mail petition. They simply do not work and have no legality.

12. You do not have to register your cell phone on the Do Not Call registry.

13. Just in time for the holidays, the "Merry Christmas Virus" e-mail claims that a message with an attachment named "Merry Christmas" contains a virus that will "burn" the hard drive on the infected computer. No such virus exists, and if you have up-to-date virus protection software, (or a Mac, like me) you'll be okay. Just so you know, a virus cannot be passed around in a simple e-mail message. It can, however, be embedded in an attachment.

Just a quick word: Don't forward anything to all your friends and family if you are not sure of the validity of the message. Confirm it on or just do a simple Internet search!


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #69

13 Things that Happened This Week

1. The shingles are almost all on the house, with a few hard-to-reach spots still left bear. Hopefully that will be done soon!

2. I joined The FlyLady's mailing list - She help with reminders and suggestions for housecleaning and organizing, something I need. So far, I've cleaned my ceiling fans and kept my refrigerator clean, all in about 15 minutes a day.

3. My husband and a friend started their fall deer hunting. Right now they can hunt with a bow. So far, Humans 0, Bambi 1.

4. We cleaned out the storage bin that we've had since we moved to Creekistan. It contained all the stuff we didn't really need and furniture we didn't want in the way while we work. It's all sitting in the Bee House now. I may never need that stuff again.

5. I'm just about done transferring landscaping to my yard from a friend's yard. They recently purchased the house and don't want the bushes and plants that the previous owners planted for better curb appeal. I think they are crazy, but I'll take the free stuff!

6. It's getting cold, so now I have to get out the winter stuff and put away the summer stuff. Seems that my kids have outgrown the winter stuff from last year and now I need to find them warmer clothes.

7. I decided to start an eBay consignment business, tentatively named "Git-R-Gone". A lot of the folks around here have junk they want to sell but don't know how to use eBay. That's where I come in! My first client has some "collec table" burlap bags. We'll have to see how that goes!

8. While cleaning out the storage bin, I found out that I have too many kids books--if that is possible! I love having lots of books around, but I don't have enough shelves. I may have to purge some and donate them to the library.

9. I did manage to find my favorite children's chapter book, "Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles," and have been reading it to my kids. I recommend this book to everyone, adult or kid. It was given to me on my 9th birthday and has seen better days, but it can still be read and loved.

10. I'm putting the final touches on my husband's dissertation for his doctorate. Since he's a composer, it's a musical score, but not an ordinary score. It's very graphical and contains sections that call for particular beans to be placed in wood or metal bowls or balloons with rice inside to be swirled around. It's not easy trying to put that into picture/musical score form.

11. I also finished my Mother's Christmas letter. Since I do graphic design, I created the border and placed the text inside. I'm arguing with her about not using red text--I've always recommended staying away from red as it is hard on the eyes. She wants it to have a festive look. What do you think?

12. I, on the other hand, still have Halloween decorations to put away, let alone think about Christmas. But trips to the stores are a tempting reminder since they already have the trees up and decorated.

13. I managed to shoot an arrow into and help kill a large, grumpy possum that was irritating us. Something must have been wrong with it since it wouldn't move from it's spot in our yard. I didn't feel bad about killing it--I was probably doing it a favor as well as protecting my children. My family was impressed, especially my son, since I had to use his bow and arrow.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #68

13 Things That Really Scare Me

1. Bigfoot - My one true irrational fear. When driving at night in the woods, I'm always afraid of surprising one trying to cross the road.

2. The JFK Conspiracy -
When I was little, I saw a TV show about the assassination that featured the Zapruder film. For some reason, it scared me. To this day the idea that someone was killed, on camera, and that there seems to be a reality different than the "official story" makes me shiver. We may never know the satisfying truth.

3. Aliens from Outer Space
- I once saw a planetarium show about close encounters of the third kind, not the movie, but the phenomenon. From that day I'm always wondering, late at night, if a grey alien is looking through the window at me.

4. Ouija boards
- I'm amazed that these things are being sold as a "game". I think that nothing good can come from playing with the thing. I haven't had anything creepy happen to me the very few times I've trying playing with it, but I don't want to take any chances.

5. Photos of Ghosts - Especially those that show figures in mirrors. Although I think I could reproduce the effect with a properly place photo, this phenomenon happens too often to be ignored.

6. Art Bell's "Ghost-To-Ghost" - This is the version of Coast to Coast AM radio show when callers get to call in and tell their personal ghost stories. I happen to be listening to it right now, creeping myself out by sitting in the dark kitchen with my laptop. I hope that was the cat I just heard.

7. The movie
Loose Change - This movie claims that the September 11 attacks were planned and conducted by elements within the United States government, and bases these claims on perceived anomalies in the historical record of the attacks. I'm not sure about these claims, but the way the evidence is presented is creepy. It makes you wonder! When I saw it, I couldn't sleep that night.

8. Unsolved Mysteries - A TV show hosted by Robert Stack. Just the music raises the hair on the back of my neck.

9. The music, Tubular Bells, from the movie The Exorcist. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check this out and then you'll know what I think just the music is scary!

10. Manfred Mann's Earth Band's song "Blinded by the Light" - When I was about 7, this song creeps me out, especially the eerie guitar part. It reminded me of some of the music used in a TV show about Bigfoot.

11. The Captain - The spirit that we believe that haunts our Creekistan home. I had a dream that at one time a riverboat captain had lived and died lived here. He even buried a treasure around here somewhere! He's not scary, but you can tell that he's around sometimes. A friend of mine asked me "Who's standing behind me?" and I had to answer "The Captain," since no one was behind her.

12. Serial Killers - Hopefully I don't need to explain this. I'm scared yet fascinated by these killers.

13. New Movie: House of a 1000 Muppets