Sunday, 31 December 2006

Full Moon Names for 2007

"Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. Those tribes of a few hundred years ago kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.
Photo: Taken through my telescope during the last total eclipse of the moon, 27 October 2004. I took this while the moon was in totality, which is why it has that odd yellowish colour. Normally the fully eclipsed moon has a ruddy complexion, but that did not translate that way onto the image taken. Note the lighter portion up at the top lefthand area. That is the colour beginning to fade, as totality does not last long.

There were some variations in the Moon names, but in general the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England on west to Lake Superior. European settlers followed their own customs and created some of their own names. Since the lunar ("synodic") month is roughly 29.5 days in length on average, the dates of the full Moon shift from year to year.

Here is a listing of all the full Moon names, as well as the dates and times for 2007. Unless otherwise noted, all times are for the Eastern Time Zone.

Jan. 3, 8:57 a.m. EST - The Full Wolf Moon: Amid the zero cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. It was also known as the Old Moon or the "Moon After Yule." In some tribes this was the Full Snow Moon; most applied that name to the next Moon.

Feb. 2, 12:45 a.m. EST - The Full Snow Moon: Usually the heaviest snows fall in this month. Hunting becomes very difficult, and hence to some tribes this was the Full Hunger Moon.

March 3, 6:17 p.m. EST - The Full Worm Moon: In this month the ground softens and the earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signals the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. A total lunar eclipse will take place on this night; the Moon will appear to rise will totally immersed (or nearly so) in the Earth's shadow over the eastern United States. The rising Moon will be emerging from the shadow over the central United States, while over the Western U.S. the eclipse will be all but over by the time the Moon rises.

April 2, 1:15 p.m. EDT - The Full Pink Moon: The grass pink or wild ground phlox is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names were the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and -- among coastal tribes -- the Full Fish Moon, when the shad came upstream to spawn. This is also the Paschal Full Moon; the first full Moon of the spring season. The first Sunday following the Paschal Moon is Easter Sunday, which indeed will be observed six days later on Sunday, April 8.

May 2, 6:09 a.m. EDT - The Full Flower Moon: Flowers are abundant everywhere. It was also known as the Full Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.

May 31, 9:04 p.m. EDT - The Blue Moon: The second full Moon occurring within a calendar month is usually bestowed this title.

Although the name suggests that to have two Full Moons in a single month is a rather rare occurrence (happening "just once in a . . . "), it actually occurs once about every three years on average.

June 30, 9:49 a.m. EDT - The Full Strawberry Moon: Known to every Algonquin tribe. Europeans called it the Rose Moon.

July 29, 8:48 p.m. EDT - The Full Buck Moon: when the new antlers of buck deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, thunderstorms being now most frequent. Sometimes also called the Full Hay Moon.

Aug. 28, 6:35 a.m. EDT - The Full Sturgeon Moon: when this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water like Lake Champlain is most readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because the moon rises looking reddish through sultry haze, or the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon. A total lunar eclipse will coincide with moonset for the eastern United States. The Central and Mountain Time Zones will see the Moon's emergence coincide with moonset, while the western United States will see the entire eclipse.

Sept. 26, 3:45 p.m. EDT - The Full Harvest Moon: Always the full Moon occurring nearest to the Autumnal Equinox. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice-- the chief Indian staples--are now ready for gathering.

Oct. 26, 12:52 a.m. EDT - The Full Hunter's Moon: With the leaves falling and the deer fattened, it is time to hunt. Since the fields have been reaped, hunters can ride over the stubble, and can more easily see the fox, also other animals that have come out to glean and can be caught for a thanksgiving banquet after the harvest. The Moon will also be at perigee later this day, at 7:00 a.m., at a distance of 221,676 miles from Earth. Very high tides can be expected from the coincidence of perigee with full Moon.

Nov. 24, 9:30 a.m. EST - The Full Beaver Moon: Time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Full Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. Also called the Frosty Moon.

Dec. 23, 2:51 a.m. EST - The Full Cold Moon: among some tribes, the Full Long Nights Moon. In this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and the nights are at their longest and darkest. Also sometimes called the "Moon before Yule" (Yule is Christmas, and this time the Moon is only just before it). The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long and the Moon is above the horizon a long time. The midwinter full Moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low Sun.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.

Full Moon Fever
The Fallacy of the Full Moon
Skywatcher's Guide to the Moon
Top 10 Luna-Terms"

2006: The Year in Astronomy

"The year 2006 was one of things lost and found. The solar system lost its former ninth planet and NASA lost a long-serving Mars probe, but scientists found good evidence for dark matter, signs of liquid water flows on present-day Mars, and a planet just a few times more massive than Earth around another star.

The year opened with the spectacular return to Earth on 15 January of the Stardust mission, which had spent years travelling to and from Comet Wild 2 to collect samples to be examined in the laboratory.

Early analysis of the samples led to the surprising finding that although the comets were formed in the frigid outer solar system, some of the building blocks must have been transported there from very close to the Sun, because they appear to have been heated above 1000°C.

In other comet news this year, the close passage of a disintegrating comet by the Earth in April gave astronomers a rare view of what may be a common fate for comets.

Planet crisis
Some say Pluto is just an overgrown comet, and the International Astronomical Union controversially voted to redefine the term "planet" in a way that excludes Pluto, relegating the former ninth planet to a second class of "dwarf planets".

Pluto's demotion was partly prompted by the confirmation earlier in the year that at least one object in the distant reaches of the solar system is bigger than Pluto. Initially called Xena, or the "tenth planet", it was given the official name Eris, after the Greek goddess of discord.

Amidst all the controversy, the New Horizons spacecraft continued towards its planned 2015 encounter with Pluto, following its January launch.

Land of lakes
NASA's Cassini spacecraft went on dazzling scientists and the general public with its investigation of Saturn and its moons. About 100 lakes of liquid methane or ethane, or both, were revealed on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, making it only the second body – after the Earth – known to have surface liquids fed by rain and rivers. Vast fields of dunes were also revealed on the Titan's surface, probably made of frozen hydrocarbon particles.

Cassini also found a giant storm raging at Saturn's south pole, somewhat reminiscent of a hurricane, a faint new ring around the planet, and ripples in a previously known ring perhaps resulting from a comet or asteroid strike in the 1980s.

A new phase in the exploration of Venus began with the arrival in orbit of the European Space Agency's Venus Express spacecraft, which promptly returned images of a curious double vortex structure in the clouds above the planet's south pole. There were also hints that Venus's surface might be older than previously believed, preserving a much longer record of its history.

Recent water
ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft ended its lunar observing mission in a deliberate crash landing on the Moon, destroying itself in a flash of light and producing a small crater.

Two new Sun-observing missions were launched in 2006, NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission and JAXA's Hinode (formerly Solar-B), which has already returned some initial results, including video of evolving plasma loops in the Sun's atmosphere.

A fleet of robotic probes at Mars delivered many new discoveries this year. A new NASA spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived in orbit in March, and began returning stunning images of the Martian surface, including a portrait of the rover Opportunity next to Victoria crater and a view of sand dunes carved with gullies.

But NASA experienced disappointment at Mars as well this year, with the disappearance of its 10-year-old Mars Global Surveyor. Before it disappeared, however, it returned images showing changes suggestive of recent water flow in gullies that it had been monitoring.

Unstoppable rovers
Radar sounding suggested there is a lot of water locked up in the form of ice buried beneath the surface near the planet's south pole.

Other research suggested that weird sand geysers erupt on Mars, and that toxic dust rains onto its surface.

NASA's unstoppable Spirit and Opportunity rovers surpassed the 1000 Martian day mark in 2006, despite having been originally rated for only 90 days on the Red Planet.

One of Spirit's wheels seized up permanently, but even that led to a new discovery by gouging a track in the Martian soil and revealing a buried layer of sulphates, yet more evidence of past water on the Red Planet.

While parked for six months during Mars's southern hemisphere's winter, Spirit created the most detailed panoramic view of the planet ever made. Opportunity finally arrived at the 800-metre-wide Victoria crater, returning some beautiful pictures of its own, and was looking for a good way into the crater when the year ended.

Earth-like planets
There were also many new discoveries about planets beyond our solar system. Astronomers found the smallest planet yet around a normal star, with just 3 to 11 times the mass of Earth. There were also some oddities, including a puffed up planet with a density less than that of a wine cork, two objects with the mass of planets orbiting each other instead of a star, and dusty discs around two hypergiant stars, suggesting planets might form even in the turbulent environment near these enormous suns.

Beyond our own galaxy, more progress was made in understanding gamma-ray bursts - the most powerful explosions in the universe. Analysis of an unusual gamma-ray burst called GRB 060218 suggested it was not powered by a star collapsing to form a black hole – thought to be the case for most of the observed long gamma-ray bursts – but may have been a less massive star collapsing to form a highly magnetised neutron star instead.

And two more GRBs detected in May and June may result from an entirely unknown process.

Big bang leftovers
The larger-scale universe made headlines this year as well. Physicists John Mather and George Smoot were awarded a Nobel prize for their work with the COBE satellite, which detected the first variations in the cosmic microwave background leftover from the big bang.

Scientists saw the gravitational effects of dark matter in isolation for the first time by studying a region of space where a colossal collision between galaxy clusters separated it from ordinary matter, results that were hailed as proof of dark matter's existence.

Of course, other scientists put forward arguments against dark matter, saying that modified gravity theories could explain astronomical observations.

A survey of the most distant supernova ever seen revealed some precious new information about dark energy, the mysterious force that is speeding up the universe's expansion and whose properties make it very difficult to study.

The new observations showed that dark energy has been present for at least the past 9 billion years and that its strength cannot have varied much during that time.

Solar system in a can
Among the more bizarre things announced this year, scientists proposed building a spacecraft carrying a miniature solar system to test for subtle gravitational effects due to hidden extra dimensions, and a team of astronomers suggested observations of a quasar indicated it was powered by an exotic ball of plasma called a MECO rather than a black hole.

The future appeared to hold promise as well, as the European Southern Observatory approved plans to build a giant 42-metre infrared and visible-light telescope, four times bigger than any existing telescope that observes at these wavelengths.

NASA announced that it would send a space shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in 2008 to extend the venerable observatory's life and install more powerful instruments. Hubble recovered twice in 2006 from the temporary shutdown of its main camera."

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Travel Broadens the Mind

I hear that but never really get to see it. For the moment, though, I am seeing it. We are in Winter Haven, Florida, with cloudy weather and unbelievable humidity.

We left my parents' house (well, the neighbour's house) at 1330, headed to Newark Airpor and the gods of travel bestowed their blessings of good travel. We were going to use long-term parking, and we were looking for it when Luis realised that some smart-ass in marketing changed the name of long-term parking to "economy" parking. Well. At the distance this was from the airport, it should have been called "unbeievable" parking. It was quite literally miles from the terminals. As in about three miles from it. No walking, but no tram (or, as I call it, the moneyrail system), just a rickety bus. However, when we showed up at the unbelievable parking area, it was full, so we were shunted to the Daily parking (which used to be long-term parking) which cost the same as the "economy" or unbelievable parking. So we were much, much closer with this parking but paid $15 instead of $24 a day...

So we walked to the covered building that housed the moneyrail (yes, I realise it is called a "monorail" but when we were here in Disney when I was sixteen, my cousin Renee and I called it the moneyrail (even though it did not cost anything) and that has stuck). The tram came in right away and we boarded and went through Station C, B A, Terminals A and B before finally arriving in Terminal C. Wahoo! We rolled of of that, headed to the apprpriate gate areas, and waited patiently for the line to move.

The line was hardly the end of the world, although I could plainly smell cigar smoke. I pointed this out to Luis and I think I have some idea as to who the guilty party was - some woman kept turning around to stare at me when I said something. I would smell it intermittenly, say something and look around to find the perpetrator. I hate smoking and cigar smoking just that much more! It was absolutely disgusting. But she would look at me as though I was saying something bad. Well, then. Who is the bad one? Me for smelling it and saying something about it or her for spending time with someone who reeks of this?

Some guy who was directing the flow of first class ticket holders pulled us and a couple of groups ahead of us out of the line and sent us over to the International flight staff to take our bags. Things moved along quite a bit faster with that. And travelling first class allows you a higher weight maximum and an extra bag! OK. We had two for Luis and one for me, and handed them over to the guy who was helping us. We got stickers for each bag and went off to work our way through the Security weirdness.

The whole Security thing was not too crazy. I already was in the habit of going through with my shoes off and ready to go through the x-ray machine. I removed my belt at the Security person's urging and the jacket and bag were in bins. I did not need to remove my jewelry, not that I'd have minded. I walked though, got my stuff, popped my clogs back on (I wore those on purpose to make that whole process a lot easier). Luis came through and had to sit down to tied his shoes up. We got our things and headed to the gate. I stopped to get a bag of munchies and some candy for the trip. We found our gate and sat down after Luis canvassed the place for power for his laptop.

It was maybe twenty minutes before the flight attendant or door person or whomever the individual was to get us boarding is called for First Class people to pre-board. Nice! We went right through, found our seats and settled in. Immediately a flight attendant showed up to get our order and give us drinks! The seats... oh, the seats! Heavy thick leather recliner chairs with the nice tables folded into the seat arm, with folding head rests and leg room that is unimaginable! It was heavenly. I don't know if I could suffer through coach anymore! This is how everyone should travel!

We were there for a little while and it began to rain. It did not delay us, particularly. In fact, there is no such thing as a flight that takes off on time. Our flight was for 1625 and it left closer to 1700. OK... The flight back was off by 20 minutes but was considered on time. Hhhhmmmm...

We finally took off as daylight was nearly gone, but we ended up mired in clouds about thirty-five minutes after we took off. It was pea soup. On the ground the clarity was fine, it was just wet. The plane began to move slowly about to get in line. I was watching the flights come in, one every sixty seconds. It was amazing. In fact, I could see about three flights lined up one after the other to come in. The visibility was good enough to make out the three closest flights coming in. And interspresed with that were those of us waiting to take off.

The plane began to taxi and the engine was suddenly quite loud. I could hear it very clearly revving for the strain of lifting up the weight of the 757. It was an amazing feeling! I love flying - the whole process of take-off, flying up, banking, going through the clouds (when there are any) and leveling off, the sights to be seen, the flight, the drifting down, the landing, just everything! It is wonderful. So I was very excited when I felt that strange, heavy but light at the same time feeling that you only get from lifting off.

Flying with me has to be an annoying experience for anyone. I am all worked up and excited, taking a million photos out the window and bouncing up and down in the seat! I'm like the bluebird of happiness on cocaine... all happy and hyper and smiling and exploding with energy and thrilled at flying. For seasoned, I-hate-to-travel people like Luis, this is a highly annoying thing to go through...

So we were a little while getting through the very thick heavy cloud cover that was laying heavily over New Jersey. In fact, it being a two hour flight, I am sure we were not over New Jersey by the time we were over the clouds. I was reading "The Planets" by Dava Sobel (see the posting about this wonderful book posted shortly before Christmas), but kept stopping to look out the window to see if I could see the stars. By the time we did poke through the heavy cloud layer, the sun was no longer fully gone but it was light by the southern sky - not enough to photograph, unfortunately, but enough that not a single star was visible. It was a really amazing sight, though, with the thick, milky white clouds below and little strands and wisps sticking up and the richest blue - that lovely crepescular blue that you have about twenty minutes before sunrise and after sunset. It was gorgeous. Staggeringly beautiful!

By the time the darkness covered the entire sky and the stars began to appear one by one, I was done reading and then writing a letter. I had to stop to stare, though, when Orion leapt out at me from just outside and slightly behind my window! Not only could I so clearly see all of Orion, which is also delightfully visible just standing ouside of my house (yes, even with all of the light pollution from New York City), but the nebula was even visible. It was not super-close up, obviously, but I could see what was clearly too big to be anything but that! It was incredible. There were so many visible stars twinkling and shining brightly in the clear, uncluttered, unfettered, unpolluted night sky!

And then, as if the astronomical sights weren't enough, there was suddenly a very far off but localised burst of white-blue light - cloud-to-cloud lightning! Oh, oh, oh...! I tried, I really did, to capture this increbdible sight on film (well, on the memory in my camera!) but I was wholly unsuccessful. I must have used up over 100 images on empty blackness trying to capture this gorgeous mystical sight, but to no avail. I was blown away by it, though. It was entirely worth it. I certainly won't forget that sight anytime soon!

It was a lovely trip, really. I was dog-tired and fairly burned out from the holiday festivities, highly intense emotional state of the last couple of days and lack of sleep (I'm in the process of weaning myself off of the Ambien, which is the absolute best thing I have done this year (what is left of it) - I feel much, much better). But I was deliriously happy being on a plane, going to some place I have not been to, spending the time at Luis' side. He never shed a tear that I saw but I think he felt good having me there.
20 February 2007
Well. This is really old, from December. Again, I won't be able to fill it all in at this point. So here is what I have so far.

Sunday, 24 December 2006


Once upon a time I had plenty of nothing,
Which was fine with me.
Because I had rhythm, music, love,
The sun, the stars and the moon above,
Had the clear blue sky and the deep blue sea.
That was when the best things in life were free.

Then time went by and now I got plenty of plenty,
Which is fine with me.
'Cause I still got love, I still got rhythm,
But look at what I got to go with 'em.

"Who could ask for anything more?",

I hear you query.
Who would ask for anything more?

Well, let me tell you, dearie.

Got my diamonds, got my yacht, got a guy I adore.
I'm so happy with what I got, I want more!

Count your blessings, one, two, three

I just hate keeping score.
Any number is fine with me

As long as it's more

As long as it's more!
I'm no mathematician, all I know is addition

I find counting a bore.
Keep the number mounting,

Your accountant does the counting.
[More! More!]

I got rhythm, music too, just as much as before
Got my guy and my sky of blue,
Now, however, I own the view.
More is better than nothing, true
But nothing's better than more, more, more
Nothing's better than more.

One is fun, why not two?
And if you like two, you might as well have four,
And if you like four, why not a few
Why not a slew
[More! More!]

If you've got a little, why not a lot?
Add and bit and it'll get to be an oodle.
Every jot and tittle adds to the pot
Soon you've got the kit as well as the caboodle.
[More! More!]

Never say when, never stop at plenty,
If it's gonna rain, let it pour.
Happy with ten, happier with twenty
If you like a penny,

wouldn't you like many much more?

Or does that sound too greedy?
That's not greed, no, indeedy
That's just stocking the store
Gotta fill your cupboard,

remember Mother Hubbard.
[More! More!]

Each possession you possess
Helps your spirits to soar.
That's what's soothing about excess
Never settle for something less.
Something's better than nothing, yes!
But nothing's better than more, more more

[Except all, all, all]
Except all, all, all
Except once you have it all [have it all]
You may find all else above [find all else above]
That though things are bliss,
There's one thing you miss, and that's
More! More!More! More! More! More!More! More! More!

What is more appropriate than this song on Christmas Eve after an orgy of opening gifts? I love opening gifts for me and I love getting things that I really want! And my family knows what I want. I got all sorts of things, books, CDs, a NetFlix gift cert, a new camera (with all the necessary parts - memory card, batteries, battery charger, etc.), an iPod Nano (in red, the one that donates part of the price to an AIDS charity), jewelry, etc. I love getting things that I want. Luis did an excellent job, as did Renée and Alex and Justine. The meal was good, too. The company was even better!
Photo: (from left to right) John, Toby Platt, Roberta, Amy Camus, Justine Platt, Renée Bradley, Alex Bradley, me, Luis Gomez. (not picutred: Raoul Camus)

Theory: Jupiter is the Star of Bethlehem

Look to the east on Christmas morning, just as darkness gives way to light. A celestial body cresting over Mount Sentinel's southern ridge will shine above Missoula until the awakening day absorbs its brilliance. What you will see is very likely the same “star” wise men saw some 2,000 years ago - the star foretold in prophecy, announcing the birth of a great king.

That guiding light is Jupiter, the fifth planet, which has rotated the sun and brightened our nighttime sky since time immemorial. Twice as massive as all the other planets combined, and 318 times larger than our small world, Jupiter is the fourth brightest object in the heavens, shadowed only by the sun, moon and Venus.
Jupiter, a growing number of professional stargazers believe, is the Star of Bethlehem. If we look skyward around 7 a.m. on Christmas morning, those of us in western Montana will see what some scientists believe is the Christmas star hanging in the eastern horizon at approximately the same hour that the Magi witnessed the bright light so long ago.
The steady movement of the planets, advance mathematics and computer technology make such calculations possible, said David Friend, chairman of the University of Montana's Physics and Astronomy Department. For centuries, the Star of Bethlehem was explained as a supernova, or a conjunction of planets, he said. Some theories dismissed the beacon altogether, labeling it a myth, a tantalizing detail written into a remarkable story to make it even more remarkable.
But the discovery of an ancient Syrian coin by a coin-collecting astronomer in the 1990s led to yet another theory - a scientific theory produced by Michael Molnar and which many astronomers, including Friend, regard as the best explanation for what the Magi saw.
“I'm an astronomer and of course I heard the stories about the Star of Bethlehem,” said Molnar, a scientist and author who lives in New Jersey. “I always thought it was one of those Biblical things you can't explain - and I didn't want to get involved with the discussions because I always felt it was getting too close to a religious issue, and, from my standpoint, I felt my colleagues had explained it. “But one day at a coin show in New York City, a seller who knows I collect coins with stars and moons and anything depicting astronomy called me over to his table. He handed me this coin, about the size of quarter. On one side it had Jupiter, and I thought, no big deal. But when I flipped it over, I was stunned. There on the other side was Aries the Ram in all his glory, leaping across the sky looking backwards at a star.
“I had never seen such a thing before, and I bought the coin for a whopping $50. All I could think about was, ‘Why is Aries on this coin?'” So Molnar researched ancient texts, going back to the writings of Claudius Ptolemy, a Roman largely considered the father of astronomy and who wrote the “bible” of astronomy during his lifetime, A.D. 100-178. This is what Molnar learned: Ptolemy listed the countries and the peoples who lived around the Mediterranean. As Americans read newspapers and watch television today, the people of that time and region watched the sky for signs to guide their life, and astronomers of the day tracked the makeup and change of constellations. Those astrologers assigned the signs of the zodiac to the people and countries. Anitoch, Syria, where Molnar's provocative coin originated, was under Aries the Ram, which astrologers said controlled Judea, Samaria, Palestine and Syria.
"I remember my colleagues saying Pisces, the fish, was the sign of Judea, but what I found was not the case,” Molnar said. “And that's when I really got interested in the Star of Bethlehem; I realized these ancient stargazers who dedicated themselves to looking for signs from the heavens would have been looking for Aries, not Pisces, to define a regal event - for omens and signs for the birth of a great king. “I was amazed. Here was this well-known book, and my colleagues had ignored this detail.”
Molnar consulted more astronomy texts and plugged his information into a computer program scientists and academics use to historically chart the movement of planets and stars. It's the same program used by UM students under the guidance of Friend. While not perfect, the program reliably charts the heavens for the past 2,000 years. Sifting through the ages, Molnar discovered that indeed a profound celestial event with Jupiter in Aries happened in 6 B.C. on December 19, and again on April 17, two years before King Herod died in 4 B.C.Jupiter, which astrologers called the “regal star” and signified kingship, underwent two occultations - eclipses - by the moon in Aries that year. References in the Gospel of Matthew state the guiding star was found in the eastern sky. Molnar believes the star was Jupiter, which emerged in the east as a morning star on April 17, 6 B.C. Having an eclipse, and having Jupiter rise in the east in the morning, was considered the most powerful time to confer kingships, he explained.
Furthermore, with Jupiter, the sun and Saturn in the Aries constellation, astrologers of the day would have found this particular confluence truly awesome. “Keep in mind, astrologers of Roman times were making crude calculations of planetary positions to create horoscopes, but they could not predict eclipses or occultations as we now can,” Molnar said. “However, they could estimate when these were likely. The occultation was the key to finding this incredible day which has many important conditions pointing to the birth of not just a king, but a great king in Judea.”
If, in fact, the coin led Molnar to the star's likely explanation, how is it that Christ was born in 6 B.C. and not A.D. 1, the start of the Christian system of counting years? And if this astrological event took place, why didn't King Herod know about it?
“It's a simple explanation,” Molnar said. “There was no eyewitness account of this event, and everything we know about it was recorded by people who lived hundreds of years later. The counting of years is inaccurate - it was miscalculated by Dionysus Exiguus, a Christian Monk in A.D. 533. Even his colleagues said he dropped a few years in counting the lengths of the reigns of the Roman emperors. Because of that, well-meaning historians have tried to move various dates around to make things add up. But mainstream historians largely agree Herod died in 4 B.C., and if Jesus was born during the reign of Herod, he had to have been born before 4 B.C.”
On April 17, 6 B.C., Jupiter wasn't necessarily brighter than it usually is, it was bright in a philosophical sense, Molnar said. It was the specific and unique alignment of stars that caught the wise men's attention. “Its position in Aries the Ram said it was a sign from God and that the king of kings was born,” he said. And such an alignment was a rare event - something that only occurred every 60 years - which, for the ancients, was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Jews of King Herod's time did not practice the astrology of their neighbors because it was tied to pagan Greek philosophy, Molnar explained.
Although they knew the time of the Messiah was at hand, he said, “they weren't watching the sky for signs.” When Molnar put his theories to print in his 1999 book “The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi,” he became a star in his own right, appearing on PBS, BBC and the History Channel. And over the years he's put forth a challenge to the astronomy world to prove his theory wrong, and to prove that Aries the Ram was not the sign of the Jews. While there have been some grumblings, no one has stepped forward with a solid counter argument. Edwin Krupp, executive director of the famed Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, said Molnar's theory is as good as the next, but no better. “To understand any of this, you have to put the information in historical context and pin the history down, and that's a tough nut to crack,” he said. “When it comes down to knowing the date of the birth of Christ, well, that's been argued for centuries. I personally think a 3 to 2 B.C. date is a pretty good one, even though a popular date has been 6 to 7 B.C. - a time when a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn made an impressive showing. My position is, if you give me the date of Christ's birth, I will you give the Christmas star. There is always something happening in the sky that is a remarkable occurrence.”
Krupp does agree, however, that Christ was likely born in the spring and the Christians used the December date to appropriate the pagan Winter Solstice celebration. Owen Gingerich, a scientific star among astronomers and a professor at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, gives his nod of approval to Molnar's discovery. In a review of the book, Gingerich said Molnar's theory is the most “original and important contribution of the entire 20th century on the thorny question” of how events reported in Matthew's gospel should be interpreted. The debate will no doubt continue through the ages, Krupp said. But some things are for sure. “The sky still seems to speak to us, and we continue to look to it in wonder and a chance for renewal,” he said. “The winter sky is just gorgeous and populated with wonderfully bright, familiar stars, and it is wonderful to be out under those magic lights knowing the sun is moving toward its southern limit and will return again. It's the season of renewal, and it's the only story we really know.”
On Monday, look for Jupiter, shining in Missoula's southeast sky. If you live in town, turn toward Pattee Canyon. Wherever you are, Friend said, the Christmas “star” will be easy to spot. “It's the brightest thing in the sky,” he said. “You can't miss it.”

Dead Star Offers Clues to the End of Our Solar System

CHICAGO (AFP) - "British astrophysicists said they have found evidence of planetary material in the orbit of a white dwarf for the first time, a discovery that may provide clues to the end of our own solar system billions of years from now.

The team at Britain's Warwick University identified an unusual ring of metal-rich gas orbiting very close around a white dwarf, a former star, about 463 light years from our solar system in the constellation Virgo.

Their analysis of the traces of magnesium, iron and calcium seen in the ring suggests the materials are the evaporated remains of an asteroid about 50 kilometers (31 miles) in size, which got sucked into the orbit of the white dwarf and then gradually pulverized and irradiated.
"This is very direct evidence that white dwarfs have planetary systems around them," said Tom Marsh, professor of experimental physics at Warwick University.

A white dwarf begins as a star similar to our sun. Late in life, the star swells into a red giant probably destroying any inner planets at orbits such as those of Mercury and Venus, and pushing out other planets and asteroids to a more distant orbit than before.

The star that mutated into this particular white dwarf, which has been dubbed SDSS 1228+1040, would have destroyed all planetary material out to a distance of 500 million miles.
But asteroids still exist today at larger distances from this white dwarf.

If as the astrophysicists suspect, this star was part of a planetary system with an asteroid belt, then it could serve as a model for what will happen to our own solar system in five to eight billion years when the sun becomes a white dwarf.

The suggestion is that our planets could collapse in this way in the distant future. "It's like a glimpse into the future of our solar system," said Marsh.

The presence of the ring helps solve a problem for astronomers who, up till now, have been puzzled by the apparent absence of planets around white dwarfs. But it also points up just how unusual our solar system is. The Warwick University team studied data on 500 additional white dwarves without finding conclusive evidence for another system harbouring such a ring around it.

The rarity of such a ring made from a disrupted asteroid tells us that the majority of planetary systems may look quite different from our own solar system," the researchers wrote. "They may not have asteroid belts at all, or not as far out as it is the case in the solar system, or they may not have planets at such great distances as Mars or Jupiter."

The study is published in the journal Science."

Well... this is definitely food for thought...

Saturday, 23 December 2006

A New Book: The Planets

"In all the history of mankind, there will be only one generation that will be the first to explore the Solar System, one generation for which, in childhood, the planets are distant and indistinct discs moving through the night sky, and for which, in old age, the planets are places, diverse new worlds in the course of exploration." -Carl Sagan, from The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective

I love books. I have so many books it is mind-boggling. Staggering. A thing to overthrow all other things! I have piles of them and all over the house. We have a bedroom downstairs that is "the library". It has bookshelves lining the walls and every shelf is groaning under the weight of many, many books. Between Luis and I we have thousands of books. I have a bookcase in my office; Luis has one in his; the eating room off the kitchen/sun room has three or four bookcases and one DVD case. The dining room has three big CD cases. I take my music, my shows and most especially my books seriously - very seriously!

I have a bookcase that is almost entirely devoted to the ...For Dummies and The Complete Idiot's Guide to... books. I have many favourite authors who never, ever go downstairs: Anne McCaffrey, Madeleine L'Engle, Tom Clancy, John Grisham and many others. I have my atlas, historical atlas, EMS books and English reference books here in my office. I have collections of Calvin & Hobbes, Dilbert, For Better or For Worse, Peanuts, Fox Trot and Mother Goose & Grimm. I have boatloads of reference books on a multitude of topics, favourites including (but definitely not limited to: astronomy, paganism/religion, superstitions, Old English, history (American, English, Italian, European, Middle Eastern, world, take your pick), handwriting analysis, crime scene investigation, the list goes on and on.

Right now I am reading a book called "The Planets" by Dava Sobel. It is wonderful. It has one chapter each on the Sun (Genesis), Mercury (Mythology), Venus (Beauty), Earth (Geography), the Moon (Lunacy), Mars (Sci-Fi), Jupiter (Astrology), Saturn (Music of the Spheres), Uranus and Neptune (Night Air), and Pluto (UFO).

It opened up with:

At night I lie awake
in the ruthless Unspoken,
knowing that planets
come to life, bloom,
and die away,
like day-lilies opening
one after another
in every nook and cranny
of the Universe...
- Diane Ackerman, from The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral

I have always been in love with and fascinated with the planets since before I can recall. I have always wondered what was out there, can we get to it, what would it look like on [pick a planet, any planet]. Sure, Earth is my home, but we are obviously not spinning along alone and lonely in the solar system, but with our brethren and all of their violently formed or caught moons.

I have read the opening chapter and Genesis (the Sun) and I love it so far. I have no reason to believe that I will be anything less than entranced and besotted by the rest of it. I have a very detailed knowledge of the Solar System's inhabitants (see postings "Club Planet: It's Not Hard to Join" and "Now It's Much More Exclusive to Join Club Planet" dated 08.16.06 and 08.27.06); maybe not an astrophysicists, but still a better one than most people. There is not a lot in the above mentioned postings that I had to look up. This book takes all those facts and puts them into a fascinating and almost poetic look at them. It is not just a listing of the different details and aspects of each planet, but one that captures the reader with imagery, not just numbers.

Here is an excerpt from Genesis (The Sun):

"At totality, when the Moon is a pool of soot hiding the bright solar sphere, and the sky deepens to a crepuscular blue, the Sun's magnificent corona, normally invisible, flashes into view. Pearl and platinum-colored streamers of coronal gas surround the vanished Sun like a jagged halo. Long red ribbons of electrified hydrogen leap from behind the black Moon and dance in the shimmering corona. All these rare, incredible sights offer themselves to the naked eye, as totality provides the only safe time to gaze at the omnipotent Sun without fear of requital in blindness."

When I was ten years old, in 1978, there was a very unusual thing: a total eclipse of the sun that was completely visible from the northeastern United States. I was witness to it and it was the most incredible thing I have ever seen. I can recall it with perfect detail. Never again has such an amazing sight been given to New Jersey - it seems that Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean are consistently graced with full solar eclipses, while the rest of us go without. One of these days, though, I will be one of those crazy people who will save up her money to go to one of these distant, remote islands to see just this sight.

Total eclipses are fast and fleeting things. Seven minutes at most, the earth and moon are quickly on the move and zipping along their cosmic paths and determined to not stop to prolong that magic moment that people hold their breath for. Partial eclipses (I have seen two) are longer, slower creatures but most people are not even aware of them. I made it a point to take my lunch, with a coworker, during the partial solar eclipse of 1991, on 11 July, at 1400 - the start of the partial eclipse (totality was only seen over - big surprise - the island of Hawaii, the southern coast of Maui and the Baja Peninsula), I put together a crude viewing tool of a pinhole through a piece of cardboard and held it over a piece of white paper. The partial eclipse was delightfully visible that way. But more than that...

I don't know if I will ever, as witty and wordy and verbose as I am, find the right words to describe the way things looked during that partial eclipse. The sun was not visibly blocked except by the view through the cardboard projected onto paper; and yet, there was some strange "dimming" of the light around us. The quality, the look, the feel, the temperature of the stupefyingly hot air was... different. It got a tiny bit cooler. A breeze cropped up from the thin unmoving air. The light was... somehow less... not as strong. Things looked odd, had a strange shadow. Most people were wholly unaware of any change in things around them, but I could see it, could feel it. Magic. Amazing. Mystical. Incredible.

I found a Web site that has a description of an eclipse and at one point the author wrote: "The light had taken on that flat steely grey character that is so difficult to describe unless you have actually seen it for yourself. The shadows were getting sharper as the illuminated fraction of the Sun got smaller and smaller." That is exactly right!

As with every astronomical wonder I have ever had the pleasure to see, I felt awed and amazed and euphorically happy. As if I have been invited to the best ever, one-time only performance of an actor or an opera or whatever you wish to equate it with. An invitation just for me, delivered personally by Bono to my hand, to see U2 perform right in front of me - just me. Just like that.


The other partial eclipse was in 1994, 10 May - ironically, that is Bono's birthday. It was visible to all of North America - east coast, west coast, the north, the south, the middle - everyone had a shot at seeing this amazing thing. I did, too, although the weather was not clear for all of it. It began around 1100 EST, and a narrow band of it was the annular phase, but I was not in the narrow band that could see it. In fact, I was about a hundred miles from it. Still. I did see some of the partial phase, and I was not unhappy with that.

Maybe I will take out my beloved telescope tonight...

What Can Happen in 24 Hours

You might think to yourself, "How much can really happen in one 24-hour period?"

A whole bloody lot...

On 12.21.06 I wrote to my friend Daniela in the Czech Republic:

"Well, there is just no happiness tonight. Apparently, Luis' grandfather is dying and I am going to Florida - I don't want to go but Luis is insisting we go. As in us, not him. I'm amazed and not a little disappointed. I don't mean to sound like such a self-cnetered wretch, but he is not close to his grandfather and I am a hell of a lot less close. This means missing Christmas with my family to go sit in a hospital - a trip surrounded by sitting in an airport to go there and back. How is this supposed to sound appealing? I know, I know, I should do this for Luis and with good grace. But flying down to Florida to see somoeone die and then having to fly back either Christmas Eve or Christmas day is insane. And we are both expecting to be at work on Tuesday. That is going to be ugly...

So there it is. I'm hoping for a miracle, like Anna calling at midnight and saying it is a false alarm and we don't need to go anywhere. And my mother's reaction? Oh, if you fly in Christmas Day you can come straight here from the airport. What are the odds? We can't get a flight down until Saturday night and there is no way we will come back before Sunday night, better yet Monday. After spending all that time flying and at a hospital, what are the odds we will have any energy to go anywhere.

I'm so not happy about this. Timing is everything and this is certainly terrible timing."

On 12.22.06 I wrote:

"Good morning, Daniela!

It is 0830.

The gods have smiled upon us and we are not going to Florida until (I think) January! It is both good and bad news, although it sounds to me as though Luis' grandfather was definitely suffering and not in good shape, so the bad news is better than one might think. He died last night, from internal bleeding, I'm told. Not a nice thing, but better than being in pain for a long period of time. I doubt there will be any funeral until after the holidays are over, both Christmas and New Years. I can't help but feel sad for Luis (although he doesn't seem too upset, as usual, but who can tell what is really going on in his mind?) but I am very happy not to be travelling and to be having Christmas with my family.

Luis actually managed to get ALL of his money - airfare, hotel and rental vehicle - returned to him, which really is nothing short of a miracle! The airfare won't be refunded as much as moved as we will go down for the funeral at some point within the next two weeks, but the hotel and car we would normally end up not being able to get refunded. I guess no one wanted to be a totally heartless person to a man who has just lost his grandfather a couple of days before Christmas and not refund the money! I have heard that most of the time airlines will take pity on someone who has just had a sudden death in the family but usually hotels and especially rentals won't.

I called Ray last night at around 0030 (I knew - and I couldn't tell you how I knew but I did) that he was still up; he is no more one to be up at midnight than I am, but he wasn't sleeping for some reason. He was surprised to hear from me. I told him that Christmas was back on, now that nearly everyone has rearranged their plans... It is kind of funny, even though it isn't. I have to e-mail my family that we are actually going to be here after all. I could also tell Joe that he is positively off the hook for doing payroll on Tuesday. He may get stuck with it in early January... we shall see. In Jnauary, I imagine there will suddenly be a big rush to bury the body as it will have been sitting in the coroner's office since 22 December... so we will likely have to fly down on Tuesday or maybe even Monday to do this. As long as we fly back within the week, I suppose that is fine. Joe hates having to run payroll but quite frankly, he should not have so much as a single complaint as running it in January is really, really easy!

Now it is 1302, and things have changed again... There is a memorial on Tuesday night and the funeral is Wednesday, so I will be missing work on Tuesday and Wednesday (I already planned Thursday and Friday as personal days). We can't seem to find a flight back, amusingly enough... I am so not staying over in Florida through the rest of December! (At first he could only flights returning 1 January and then 31 December - I don't feel good about driving home on 31 December at night. Too many drinking and driving people that night.

It is now 1721 and I think we are mostly set up for flying down Monday at 1625 (we will have to leave my parents' house at 1400 to get to the airport in a timely fashion) and then returning Thursday, 28 December at 1140 - well, our departure time is 1140, getting in around 1500, I guess. I will have Friday and the weekend and Monday off, and then it is a new year and no issues or dying people (I HOPE) for a long, long time."

This is where things stand right now. It is not a good situation anyway you slice it but it is a much better one than it began... I guess we will just make the most of it and get through the holidays and the funeral and then be home for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and then - life returns to normal insanity. I can live with that.

Not that what has gone on has been the end of the world - I realise this is hardly that. But I am not interested in spending Christmas away from my family - they may be nuts and I only really see them once a year, but they are my nutty family and that is OK. Going down to Florida to perform a death-watch is not my idea of a great holiday.

I don't doubt that the trip will be interesting and I will enjoy what is meant to be enjoyed, such as flying first class (never done that before! It sounds wonderful!), staying in a suite with a jacuzzi and being somewhere that is 23 degrees Celsius in late December... that all sounds really good, doesn't it? But now I can be happy that I get to have Christmas Eve with my insane family... I get to have Christmas Day (until around 1400) with my parents, and then we will have the first class flight, the drive (it is about two hours from Orlando or Tampa, whichever airport we end up landing), the funeral, the family, and then the trip back. I plan to get postcards. I was hoping to see the Gulf of Mexico but now it seems our chances of getting the flight out is for 28 December only and out of Orlando, which is not near any ocean. Good thing is, I should see an ocean or a gulf flying in and flying out... I'm hoping for one each way. I love to fly, and both flights are for the day time, so I should be able to take pictures from the window (I always take a window seat). I'll have music, books and a very comfortable seat traveling this time...

So. The next time you find yourself wondering how much can happen in 24 hours... stop yourself and reassure yourself that a lot more than you want can happen and move on.

Friday, 22 December 2006

The Etiquette of Regifting

An interesting article:

Everyone loves opening a perfectly wrapped package with a shiny bow. But sometimes once you open that gift, it's not exactly what you expected-or even something you want. And after you feign excitement for the obligatory amount of time, what do you do with it? Well, if you're like most Americans, you regift or pass the less-than-stellar present on to someone else who might enjoy it more. A recent Tassimo survey found that a whopping 78 percent of Americans feel that it is acceptable to regift some or most of the time.
So, if you are going to regift this year, here is how to do it right.

Make sure the recipient will like it. Most people who regift do so because the gift is perfect for someone else (77 percent), which is what gift giving is all about. "You don't want the recipient to have any feeling at all that you are giving them the castoff," says Peggy Post, etiquette expert and author of Excuse Me, But I Was Next. "At the bottom of all this, it's all about being respectful and considerate." Post is an admitted regifter. In one instance she received two copies of the same book and gave one unwrapped copy to her mother-in-law after explaining the entire situation. It's also acceptable to regift when you are absolutely certain the recipient would like to have that gift, Post says.

Regift to different social circles. If you're going to regift, you need to do it outside of the social circle where you originally received the gift. Some 29 percent of regift recipients recognized the regift because they were present when the gift was first given. "If you were given something by someone in your church group, give it to someone in your school group," says Marsha Collier, a Los Angles-based eBay expert and admitted regifter. "Always send out a thank you note right away and put a Post-it on it so you don't regive it to the same circle of friends."

Make sure it's new. Leon Foerster, an insurance agent in Ripon, Wis., recalls receiving an 8-track player full of cobwebs as a wedding gift-a sure tip-off something is not new. Post recommends you don't regift anything that does not come with its original packaging and instructions. The least you can do is rewrap the gift and put a fresh card on it. A full 16 percent of regifters were spotted because the gift tag had the wrong name on it, Tassimo found. You never want to give away a gift the original giver took great care to select, Post says, such as a homemade sweater or scarf. You should also hold on to handmade and one-of-a kind items. The most common regifted items, Tassimo found, are decorative household knickknacks like vases, paintings, and picture frames.

You can also resell. "One year my daughter was given a Mickey Mouse lamp by a relative who didn't realize she was too old for a Mickey Mouse lamp," says Collier. Her solution: Sell it on eBay. "When we're opening gifts for the holiday there is the eBay pile," says Collier, who usually lists six to eight unwanted Christmas gifts for sale on Christmas Day. "The whole point of someone giving you a gift is to make you happy," she says. "If the gift doesn't make you happy why not sell it on eBay so you can get something that will really make you happy." Only your user ID is visible when you sell something online and eBay also allows you to donate any percentage of the sale to a charity of your choice.

Gift cards are regifted too. Thirty percent of people have regifted gift cards or gift certificates, Tassimo found. Alternatively, you could sell, albeit at a discount, or swap your gift card for a different store on for a $3.99 listing fee, regardless of the amount on the card. "Sellers can turn their gift cards into cash," says Michael Kelly, the president and chief operating officer of the Langhorne, Pa.-based company. "Swappers can trade them for cards they really want."

Laughter is the greatest gift of all. A new website,, created by the Houston-based nonprofit organization Money Management International, provides a forum for sharing regifting experiences, which range from horrifying to hilarious. One poster, Jennifer Aither, an insurance agent in Ripon, Wis., has a family tradition of regifting. For nearly 20 years a peanut butter maker has been passed off as a gift at weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays. Aither has it now, but she plans to pass it along to a cousin at an upcoming baby shower. "It's become a huge joke," Aither says. "It was so obvious to me that it was a regift that I had to laugh. It's so tacky, it's funny."
I admit, I regift. For most of my life, I would be the first to say that this is wrong. But after seeing some of the unbelievable things that people purchase for me and hating them, I have been converted. My father-in-law seems to have no idea what I want. Not a clue. Left to his own devices, the gifts are a crap-shoot and not usually right. He loves to get me one ornament for our perenially naked Christmas tree which is sappy sweet and much like a Hummel painted on a very breakable ball. I am not a Hummel person at all. He also shops painfully early, which means that I always miss getting a list to him in time to ensure I am getting something I want. And he doesn't learn. He bought my mother tea - again! How many times can one person mention that my mother doesn't drink anything hot?
But Luis is the same kind of shopper. It isn't about what the person wants to him, it is about what he feels that person should have. That is not the way I operate. My feeling is that people should get what they want. If you send me a list, I will work off of it - and feel really good about it because I know that this is something that will really make that person happy.
Isn't that the point?

Thursday, 21 December 2006

The Shower is the Time When I Do My Best Thinking

Why is that?

Don't worry, I've the answer to that question! All that thinking, remember?

I get in the shower and I am immediately on auto-pilot. The brain is going! Off and running out the gate like a racehorse, with all those thoughts in my head. I think constantly in the shower. They are all pouring out like the water from the showerhead. And with me, that is a lot.

Unfortunately, my brain is not terribly orderly. I'm sure that people who know me well understand this but it takes getting used to. I appear very organised. I need that in my life and really work hard to have it. I need to push my brain into some neat, orderly place where the passion for everything isn't ruling me and there is some good, controlled, orderly thinking.

Some days are really good, I'm really focussed, sharp, right on my game and getting things done. The brain can actually pick up on what people are telling me and I remember things and I can actually accomplish things in a straight, orderly fashion, without allowing everything under the sun to distract me from the task at hand.
Some days I'm not at all good - thoughts just crash into each other, bumping around without any linear progression in my cranium. I can't focus on anything, people tell me things and I miss half of what they are saying if not all of it because my brain is stuck on thinking other things while I am looking at the person, nodding, smiling, saying, "uh-huh" in the appropriate intervals but I am stuck on something he or she said ten minutes ago, and have missed everything since.
Most days, I'm somewhere in the middle of "good" and "bad". I can focus to some degree, get some things done, manage to keep some linear progression to how things are getting done and the time frame in which they are getting done. A bad Monday for me is when I get payroll started after ten because I kept forgetting things in Genesis Pro, the timekeeping program. It happens... last Monday payroll was completed at noon, no hassles and that was great. The week before - well, there is no looking at that with all the weirdness that occurs in that week - there is the regular payroll, the vacation payroll and the bonus run - it is an all-day orgy of nothing BUT payroll. I can live with that one week out of 52 weeks of relative normalness!
But thinking in the shower always is my strongest time. Weird, huh?

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Holiday Party!

We had our holiday party at work and it was a lot of fun. Everyone had a wonderful time, so it was a huge success!

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Happy Christmas?

I dunno. Christmas seems so often like a period of higher stress, more agony, more insanity, less tolerance and patience. Where is the love? Where is the "breathe-deep-and-wow-doesn't-that-tree-smell-amazing! feeling? We have our tree up and the room is hip deep in lights and oh, that magical amazing aroma. It is truly a wonder!

But we are all rushing around, wholly unprepared and unready and not feeling anything resembling love. But I am happy and I am loved and I am super-super happy that my father after all this unbelievable bullshit with his knee, is feeling so much better - finally! They finally let him out of the hospital on Monday, 4 December and sent him home, loaded with meds and his pick line and tons of things to not do. It's not the high life. But it is life - living free of the hospital and eating real food, not that unforgivable stodge that they laughingly pass off as food. his picture was taken by me on Wendesday, 29 November. Things were looking up then! Now, it is amazing!

It has also had the delightful side-effect of making my mother get off of her dead butt and do things! Sure, it may not be easy for her. Sure, she may find it a struggle sometimes. But she is doing things, leaving the house, going to the store, running around to do things for Ray! I am very happy about that.

I am taking Thurdsday and Friday off to prep for Christmas and also to try to catch up on sleep and see that the house is as ready as it will ever be for the madness that only the Christmas holidays can bring. We will be heading out to Pennsylvania to see my father, Harry, and his interesting Christmas cactus. Sunday will likely be another orgy of buying (isn't that all December is?) but I will at least have my own money to spend - yay!

In other great news, I passed my Core 13 with flying colours! Aced all my practicals AND scored a 90% on my written test! YOWZA! How cool am I?? And how cool is this picture? I brought home the autumn decorations from work and put them on the dining room table and the evil kitty (Ariel) just had to get on the table and immerse herself in my leaves! At least she didn't chew on them!
Happy Christmas after all!

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Christmas is Coming Doldrums...

I don't understand the big fuss about the holidays. People get so worked up over them, but these are days like any other save one thing: the fuss. The drama. Boiled down, the stress. Don't get me wrong. I'm not against having fun, seeing people socially, giving and receiving gifts. But it has become a major thing in life, so much so that despite it being one period in a year, it is one that some people start preparing for in July. This doesn't seem a little... well... overkill?

Obviously everyone suffers from this overkill thing. Jewish people do this for eight days. Granted, when you think about it, they are probably saving money; Christmas gift exchanging is completely out of hand, and far more pricey overall. Ramadan is an entire month. I don't believe that gift exchanging is built into it; but fasting during the daylight hours and making up for it during the night hours is not healthy - what if you have a medical condition? Look how long it took for the Catholic church to grudgingly allow noshing prior to churchgoing if you have blood sugar issues. I personally fail to see how a little breakfast could hurt. In fact, it would help. Who can concentrate with a growling belly? Clearly you need not gorge, but a little something?

Well, I do like the holidays, I enjoy decorating and I love ham. I find the gatherings fun, although too many and I get out-of-sorts, as I don't wish to be that social. I work in a social sort of job, so my desire to communicate in person or on the phone suffers enormously during my off-time. I don't even ride with a social crew. But the holidays are stressful and they blow any fecundiary progress right back to zero. I always end up broke just prior to, during, and after the holidays! It's frustrating.

At least I don't cheap out on gifts when I do give them!