Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Last Post of 2008

How'd that happen?

Where did it go?

Normally this is where I would say that 2008 was just horrendous and 2009 has to be better. What an idiot I am. It is what I make of it. No year goes by that doesn't have its horrors. No year goes by that doesn't have its shining moments. They are all like that - the good and the bad, the memorable and the unmentionable. And if I go around moping about the year I'm in and saying that it can't get worse and the next year has to be all smiles and no tears, well, I'll never find the happiness that I'm always telling others I feel.

In general I am happy (today was a huge exception to the rule - it was good from 0330, when I woke up to around 0830 but really turned to shit after that), and somehow I let the unhappy moments rule my life and then when December comes along, dragging all the "holidays" and ultimately the big change of the year (which is strictly a manmade thing and doesn't even tie in with astronomy), I get all maudlin and whinge endlessly that this year was a horror and the next has to be an improvement.

When did I become this person?

So let's review my year. I know this is what everyone wants to read about - my boring life! (Keep in mind that you are here of your own volition, so don't pin being bored on me, please.)

January - January had some good points, but mostly it was overshadowed by work and a few major issues there. It is no easy task to be a new person and to hear that the current one isn't all that and a bag of chips. Plus it seemed like everyone was mad at me for something (except for the [edited for content to make the eyes at work happy! 15 February 2009]. I would have said three years ago that this would be an unlikely pair to be my champions, but then again... sometimes that is life giving lessons wrapped in ridiculous packaging...). I needed to repair all sorts of things... and the [also edited] was mad at me all the time.

My 40th birthday was completely unacknowledged at work, which made me feel even worse. But then Luis came through and gave me the big party that I wanted: a DJ, a dance floor, dancing, gifts, the best food and my friends. It was great. Admittedly it was disappointing that out of 40 invited people, only 14 made it - but those are the 14 that count!

February - More disasters at work but otherwise it was a mostly unremarkable month... or I just blocked it out. Even better, maybe it is just my truly faulty and awful memory. Which it is.

March - OK, this stands out and again, unfortunately, not for the positives. Maybe it is the human condition to only recall the negative in hideous detail and not the good things. Not the cheeriest thought, I grant you. The month was another seeming disaster, but then I got my [edited]; and the disaster came home to roost. I needed to turn everything around and improve a hundred things (but I did get some faint praise... I'm really, really good at firing people. Uh, thank you...? Is that ever a compliment?) All I know is that too many things were wrong. But there is always some silver bit of lining. I was told that every confidence was there that I could do this. And so I embarked on making all the improvements that needed to be made.

I mended fences, did everything I needed to fix all the past mistakes, asked for do-overs with those not so happy with me and busted a gut or four to recreate the better person that was buried in there somewhere, shooting for a follow up meeting in June to see if I was heading in the right direction.

April - A few home improvements and the re-vamping of my office and organisation system did wonders for my completely battered ego and also helped me to do better. (I don't know if it really did, but I always feel better when I have reorganised.) And the days were getting longer, always a good thing. Ray was scheduling his first hip replacement and Luis told me that we were going to Houston, Texas. All good things.

May - Ray went in to his surgery on --

You know what? WAAAAAY too complicated. And boring.

This year will be good. Just as they all are, in their own special way.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(By the way... my follow up meeting in June went very well!)

Celestial Show Set for New Year's Eve

A delightful display of planets and the moon will occur on New Year's Eve for anyone wishing to step outside and look up just after sunset. Venus, brighter than all other planets and stars, will dangle just below the thin crescent moon in the southwestern sky. It'll be visible -- impossible to miss, in fact -- just as the sun goes down, assuming skies are cloud-free.

Soon thereafter, Mercury and Jupiter will show up hugging the south-southwestern horizon (just above where the sun went down) and extremely close to each other. Jupiter is very bright and easy to spot; Mercury is faint and harder to see, but it'll be apparent by its location just to the left of Jupiter. Jupiter and Mercury will set less than an hour after the sun, so timing your viewing just after sunset is crucial. You'll also need a location with a clear view of the western horizon, unobstructed by buildings, trees or mountains.

All the planets, along with the moon and sun, traverse an arc across our sky called the ecliptic, which corresponds to the plane in space that they all roughly share. For this reason, you could draw an imaginary line from the general location of Venus and the moon, down through the other two planets, and the line would point to where the sun went down. This line could also initially help you find Jupiter and Mercury. Weather permitting, you can get a preview of the sky show on Tuesday, Dec. 30. On this evening, the planets will be in nearly the same place they'll be on Dec. 31, but the moon will be midway between Venus and the Mercury-Jupiter pairing.

One last trick:
Venus is so bright you can see it during daylight if you know where to look. Given Venus' proximity to the moon on New Year's Eve, this would be an excellent moment -- just before sunset -- to use the moon to help you find Venus and gain bragging rights for being one of the few people to be able to claim seeing more than one planet during the daytime (Earth being the other one).

Banned Words List Offers No "Bailout" to Offenders

DETROIT – A movie about a "maverick," his journey "from Wall Street to Main Street," his "desperate search" for a "monkey" and a "game-changing" revelation about his "carbon footprint" probably would make the nation's word-watchers physically ill. Especially if it were the "winner of five nominations."

All those words and phrases are on Lake Superior State University's annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. The 34th version of the list was released Tuesday, which means, "It's that time of year again." The school in Michigan's Upper Peninsula selected 15 entries from about 5,000 nominations.

Despite the year's economic meltdown (which itself wasn't banished but don't rule it out for next year), the most entries came from the environmental category — for "green" or "going green."

"If I see one more corporation declare itself 'green,' I'm going to start burning tires in my backyard," wrote Ed Hardiman of Bristow, Va., in his submission. Nominators also had their fill of "carbon footprint" — the amount of greenhouse gases an individual's lifestyle produces. The list wasn't overrun with politics despite the national election — no "change," for instance — but one simply couldn't escape the critics' wrath.

"I'm a maverick, he's a maverick, wouldn't you like to be a maverick, too?" offered Michael Burke of Silver Spring, Md., in his entry for the label embraced by unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Also knocked was "first dude," a term adopted by Todd Palin, husband of McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Words related to the economy led to a few meltdowns.

"I am so tired of hearing about everything affecting 'Main Street.' I know that with the 'Wall Street' collapse, the comparison is convenient, but really, let's find another way to talk about everyman or the middle class, or even, heaven forbid, 'Joe the Plumber.'" wrote Stacey from Knoxville, Tenn. She provided only a first name in her bid to eradicate — or at least separate — Wall Street" and "Main Street." Although this year's sluggish economy and record rise in gas prices may have kept people closer to home, the word coined for it, "staycation," is "idiotic and rootless," says Michele Mooney of Los Angeles.

An emoticon made the list for the first time. The strings of characters used in e-mails and text-messaging commonly represent a face — like ;-) or :-0 — but the school singled out an emoticon heart, formed with a "less than" symbol and the number 3.

"Monkey" was on the list because of what some see as its rampant use as a suffix. "Especially on the Internet, many people seem to think they can make any boring name sound more attractive just by adding the word 'monkey' to it," wrote Rogier Landman of Sommerville, Mass.

The school's annual quest to throw lexicon logs on the fire always gets some end-of-the-year attention for the school in Sault Ste. Marie, the last stop before Michigan's northern border crossing with Canada. But the list is more about letting off steam and offering laughs than performing any verbal vanishing act.

"We get several nominations for the same word or phrase, and we still get nominations for words and phrases that have been on previous years' lists," said university spokesman Tom Pink. "'At this point in time' was on the first list in 1976 and it continues to be nominated every year. People still hate it."

Think these gendarmes of jargon should "get a life"? Watch it, kiddo. That phrase was banished in 1997.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The 6 Biggest Skin-Care Mistakes

The most amazing part to me is that anyone agonises over this. But maybe there is something valuable to this that I don't know. To be perfectly honest, I have good skin (other than it being oily) that doesn't wrinkle and doesn't get dry. I can live in the desert and not appear 90 years old. So guess what! I'm sticking to my skin regime - to leave it alone and not worry about the free radicals staging a coup!

"If there's one thing I stress to my patients, it's that great skin doesn't require spending a fortune on some "miracle cream" made from rare seaweed from the Arctic Circle! It's all about simple good habits. But let's approach those habits from the opposite direction: What are the most damaging bad habits that I see time and time again?

1. Using a cleanser with harsh detergents: Many people assume that the suds of their vigorously foaming cleanser are a good sign -- surely they'll leave skin extra clean. Unfortunately, copious suds are generally a sign that your cleanser contains a harsh detergent, like lauryl sulfate, that strips skin of vital lipids. (And don't get me started on bar soap -- that is always a no-no.) Instead, look for cleansers that contain fatty acids and will actually fortify your skin, like Dove's ProAge products, or even simple cold cream. If you have particularly dry skin, I recommend cleansing oils, which remove dirt and makeup without disturbing your skin's natural protective barrier.

2. Not using a retinoid: Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is the only topical ingredient proven not only to prevent lines and wrinkles but to minimize the ones you already have. Past the age of 30, I recommend seeing a dermatologist for a higher-concentration prescription retinoid (like Retin-A, Differin, or Tazorac, for example), but there are also many great over-the-counter creams that contain lower concentrations of retinol. I like Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, Neutrogena Healthy Skin Night Cream, and SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0.

3. Spending too much on skin care: Splurging on the beautiful packaging and luxurious scents of pricey boutique skin care lines can feel wonderfully pampering -- provided you know that it's absolutely not necessary for great skin. In fact, many of my favorite products are made by drugstore brands, because those companies have the large budgets for top-notch research and development. If you have to choose, put your money toward that prescription retinoid, and buy the rest of your regimen at the drugstore.

4. Getting facials: Yes, that's right -- you can strike facials from your skin-care budget and actually be doing your skin a favor! Studies show that as many as 80% of people break out after a facial. Aestheticians often don't know which products are right for the skin of each client, and may use ingredients that can worsen acne, or essential oils that tend to irritate sensitive skin. Even if you don't break out, there are really no long-term benefits to facials.

5. Washing your face at the wrong time: Always wash your face after you rinse out your hair products and conditioner in the shower, never before. Many conditioners contain pore-clogging isopropyl myristate and other hair products often contain coconut oil -- both are common acne-causing ingredients that you don't want to leave on your skin.

6. Not using sunscreen every day: Not just for your trip to the beach. Not just during the long summer days. Every day. Yes, it's important to be even more vigilant if you plan to spend lots of time in direct sunlight. But incidental sun exposure typically accounts for more of our lifetime exposure to ultraviolet rays than those days at the beach. Walking to and from your car, dashing out of the office for a sandwich, or sitting outside for a few minutes adds up -- make sure you're covered with at least SPF 15, every day.

Wishing you great skin!"

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Truth About Diet Soda

Posted Tue, Dec 23, 2008, 3:33 pm PST

We talk a lot about ''watching what we eat,'' but if you never gave a thought to what you ate and instead watched only what you drank, you could probably cut 450 calories a day out of your life. (Yes, nearly a pound of fat loss a week!) That's what a study from the University of North Carolina found. Americans today drink about 192 gallons of liquid a year—or about 2 liters a day. To put it into perspective, this is nearly twice as many calories as we did 30 years ago.

When confronted with the growing tide of calories from sweetened beverages, the first response is, “Why not just drink diet soda?” Well, for a few reasons:

Just because diet soda is low in calories doesn't mean it can't lead to weight gain. It may have only 5 or fewer calories per serving, but emerging research suggests that consuming sugary-tasting beverages--even if they're artificially sweetened--may lead to a high preference for sweetness overall. That means sweeter (and more caloric) cereal, bread, dessert--everything.

Guzzling these drinks all day long forces out the healthy beverages you need.

Diet soda is 100 percent nutrition-free, and again, it's just as important to actively drink the good stuff as it is to avoid that bad stuff. So one diet soda a day is fine, but if you're downing five or six cans, that means you're limiting your intake of healthful beverages, particularly water and tea.There remain some concerns over aspartame, the low-calorie chemical used to give diet sodas their flavor.

Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar, and some animal research has linked consumption of high amounts of the sweetener to brain tumors and lymphoma in rodents. The FDA maintains that the sweetener is safe, but reported side effects include dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, memory loss, and mood changes. Bottom line: Diet soda does you no good, and it might just be doing you wrong.The best way to hydrate is by drinking low-calorie, high-nutrient fluids—and avoiding belt-busting beverages like the 20 Unhealthiest Drinks in America. Now that you have a hold on your liquid assets, upgrade the rest of your grocery list by avoiding the 13 Worst "Healthy" Foods in the Supermarket. With so many items to choose from, it's easier to fall victim to packaged food lies than you think.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

FaceBook Groups

I belong to a bunch of them now, this one the newest:

Please Respect Separation of Church and State: "The name says it all. The idea that religion should not affect the running of our country was enshrined in the Constitution by our founding fathers for a very good reason.By turning their back on this precept, those religious activists who insist on imbuing America with religious symbols and ideology are turning their back on the men who created the very country they claim to love."

I also belong to 35 other groups:

The Official NASA Facebook Group
Toi Aussi Envoices tes Vieilles Chaussures a G. W. Bush!
Barak Obama (One Million Strong)
I Wouldn't Have Road Rage if Other People Weren't So Stupid
All I Need is Coldplay
1,000,000 Against Sara Palin
CSI: New York
No, I Don't Care if I Die at 12AM, I Refuse to Pass on Your Chain Letter
When I Was Your Age, Pluto Was a Planet
Emergency Response Personnel of Facebook
OFFICIAL Petition to Keep William Peterson on CSI
Parsippany Volunteer Squad 65
B.G.C. Turf Group
Madeliene L'Engle
U2
Astronomy Lovers
3D Animated Movies
I Actually Read Books Because I Want To
Vulcanology
Boston Legal Addicts
The Place to Be........ Parsippany
Dallas PA Better than Dallas TX
Dear Pennsylvania, Get the F**k Out of the Left Lane, Love, New Jersey
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
The Rogues
EMS: Busting Ours Saving Yours
PIXAR
The Tom Hanks Appreciation Society
Weird New Jersey
The Penn & Teller: BULLSHIT! Fan Club
When I Was Your Age, There Were Only Four Oceans
Addicted to Dead Like Me
I [heart[ My Acura
Saturn in My Favourite Planet Because of All the Cool Rings
O.R.G.A.S.M. - Organized Resistance Going Against Soccer Moms

I bet that last one fooled you! Not quite what you thought, eh?

And I just became a fan of The Fifth Element, a favourite movie. There is always a new group to join.

It is fun.

Christmas Eve

Some pictures from the Christmas Eve festivities:


My cousin Renee with her Lambie blanket. I got myself a couple of those, too. I love how soft it is and knew she would, too. True to form, she loved it.
This is my Uncle Raoul, Luis and Aunt Amy. Luis is trying to set up the iTouch that Amy got for Christmas. They'll have to hook it up to the laptop or primary computer to really do that, but she seems to like the toy.
Renee with her Lambie. Another successful gift!
Alex with one of many, many books that he got! He did really well with the books and DVDs and such. So did all of us - it is a great family that I am part of in that we all read a lot.

Renee with her father at the dinner table.

Cheeps, Cheeps, Everywhere!

I love the Bath& Body Works Sheep! Luis refers to them as "cheep", as though pronouncing it with a Spanish accent. I have lots of 'em already but now I am getting the mondo-sized sheep. Yahoo! I found it on e-bay and struck a deal.

And she's really nice:

"Hi Ash!

Wonderful; $170.00 for the mondo cream sheep and a small 6" x 9" pink body sheep it is! The shipping calculator should show the correct shipping price as $24.70 if it does not just let me know. I first saw the huge sheep in ONE store in my area... it is the only one that every has the unique items.

I loved them and really wanted one of each for myself... black and cream!!... HI, MY NAME IS PAM AND I'M A LAMBIE ADDICT... Well, I waited about three weeks and went back to the store to do some shopping and they were gone!!! I thought I would cry... until one of the managers said they expected some in later that day so I left her my number for her to call me. I live about 45 minutes away from the store. She called so I rushed to get there. In the hour it took to get there they sold all they received except mine... and a lady was asking if she could buy mine when I was standing in line behind her!! I brought my new babies home and stored them in my closet... a Christmas present to myself... right!!

WRONG!! My husband opens our closet and yells from the bedroom "what the H-E-you-know-the-rest!!" LOL He said between the pigs (I collect pigs) and the sheep that enough was enough... you have to sell them or take them back. Sooooo, I'm selling them! He even went so far as to take the pictures for me to sell them and went to the box store and purchased boxes for me to ship them in!! I think he wants to reclaim his space in out closet LOL!!

Ohhh ... I have renamed the auction for you so someone else will not get it. It is now listed as ***** SPECIAL AUCTION FOR hr-emt-wench ONLY *****... still the same auction number 250335851881 . I'm thrilled to know that this baby is going to a good home!

Thanks again,
Pam"

She has a store on e-bay called "OK I Need That" out of Oklahoma (I've been to Oklahoma, it is a beautiful state (what little I've seen of it, but still). I'm thrilled I did this and went for it. I can't wait to get the cheep!

For now, I am content with my brood of small and medium size cheep!

A.W.A.D. - Words Referring to Fish

I remember the day I caught my first, and last, fish. I was in college. During the winter break, a friend invited me to visit him. With makeshift fishing rods in our hands we went to the dam near his house. I sat there uneasily, holding the rod with the line dipped in the still water of the reservoir. A while later there was a tug and I promptly handed over the rod to my friend. He pulled the line in. There was a small orange fish on the end. It was alive, wildly flailing at its sudden change of fortune. With a promise of food I had tricked it out of its life.

Much time has passed since then. Now whenever I'm near water and see someone sitting with a fishing rod extended over the lake, I softly say "Good luck!" in his general direction. He thanks me. I tell him I was saying that to the fish. He smiles at the apparent joke... But I wasn't joking.

All of this week's words refer to fish, but they are more than just fish words. They can also be used metaphorically in other senses.

minnow
PRONUNCIATION: (MIN-o)
MEANING: noun:
1. Any of the small freshwater fish of the Cyprinidae family
2. Someone or something considered insignificant

ETYMOLOGY: Ultimately from Old High German munewa, a kind of fish, via Old English and Middle English.

gudgeon
PRONUNCIATION: (GUJ-uhn)
MEANING: noun:
1. A small European fresh-water fish (Gobio gobio) or any of the related fishes, often used as bait
2. A gullible person
3. A bait
4. A pivot, usually made of metal, at the end of a beam, axle, etc., on which a wheel or a similar device turns.

ETYMOLOGY: (for 1-3) From Latin gobion, variant of gobius, via Old French and Middle English. (For 4) From Middle English gudyon, from Old French goujon

remora
PRONUNCIATION: (REM-uhr-ah)
MEANING: noun:
1. Any of several fishes of the family Echeneididae that have a dorsal fin modified in the shape of a suction disk that they use to attach to a larger fish, sea-turtles, or ships. Also called sharksucker or suckerfish
2. Hindrance, drag

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin, literally delay, from remorari (to linger, delay), from re- + morari (to delay), from mora (delay).

inconnu
PRONUNCIATION:(in-kuh-NOO)
MEANING: noun:
1. A whitefish (Stenodus leucichthys) found in the arctic and subarctic. Also known as sheefish.
2. A stranger

ETYMOLOGY: From French, literally unknown. In 1789, explorer Alexander Mackenzie and his crew traveled the waterways of the Northwest territories in search of a Northwest passage. They came across an unknown fish and the French-Canadian voyageurs who were part of his crew called it inconnu.

tope
PRONUNCIATION: (tope)
MEANING: verb tr., intr.:
1. To drink (liquor) habitually and copiously
noun:
2. A small shark with a long snout (Galeorhinus galeus)
noun:
3. A usually dome-shaped monument built by Buddhists. Also known as a stupa

ETYMOLOGY: (for 1) Of uncertain origin, perhaps from obsolete top (to drink) as in "top off".(for 2) Of unknown origin.(for 3) From Hindi top, from Prakrit or Pali thupo, from Sanskrit stupa (head).

Memes Again!

25 December 2008
3x Thursday: 12/25/y2k+8: Merry Platypus, One And All!
1. What are you doing for Xmas this year?

The usual: my mother's family on Long Island on Christmas Eve, my parents' house on Christmas Day, and then we exchanged gifts and had dinner with Tom, Alayna and Matthew last night. I have a couple of gifts to send out this week. Otherwise, I'm pretty much done.

2. What items are on your wishlist this year?

The shorter list is what isn't on my list... My Amazon Wish List is usually 4 pages long. I want candles all of the time but no one wants to fund that. I got a lot of nice things, and I am not unhappy. I did regift something from Luis' father and the recepient loves it. I don't use hand lotions; my skin is never dry.

3. What do you think about the idea of gift giving in general. Do you think it's necessary? Why/why not?

There are a great many things that humans do that has nothing or little to do with necessity; but it is fun and enjoyable and I loved it this year after thinking that I wasn't into the holidays this year. I was wrong!

December 18, 2008
3x Thursday: 12/18/y2k+8: Accomplishments
List and describe 3 things that you've accomplished this year that mean something to you. Why are they important?

I feel that I did a lot of important things that are accomplishments and so I can't list everything. I will say that I have accomplishments from home, work, and other arenas of my life and I am - overall - happy with how things turned out.

December 26, 2008
Four For Friday
Q1 - Notables: Many famous and noteworthy people died this year, including the ones listed here: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Crichton, Beverly Garland, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Yves Saint Laurent, Christopher Bowman, Eartha Kitt, Sir Edmund Hillary, Jeff Healey, Bobby Fischer, Bo Diddley, Jeremy Beadle, Isaac Hayes, Paul Scofield, Heath Ledger, Guillaume Depardieu, Michael Lee, Paul Newman, M.C. Breed, Sydney Pollack, Charlton Heston, Albert Hofmann, W. Mark Felt, Sunny von Bulow, Odetta, Kenny MacLean, Tony Hillerman, Dee Dee Warwick, Don Haskins, Kevin Duckworth, Gene Upshaw, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Sandy Allen, Bernie Mac, Skip Caray, Estelle Getty, Tony Snow, Bobby Ray Murcer, Michael DeBakey, Jesse Helms, Dody Goodman, George Carlin, Wilbur Hardee, Tim Russert, Charlie Jones, Jim McKay, Harvey Korman, Hamilton Jordan, and Brad Renfro. Which notable person's death affected you most in 2008?

Uh, wow. Look at all the dead celebs... approximately 30 of them I'd never heard, so I guess that narrows the list to: Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Crichton, Yves St. Laurent, Eartha Kitt, Bo Diddley, Heath Ledger, Paul Newman, Sydney Pollack, Charlton Heston, Sunny von Bulow, Sandy Allen, Bernie Mac, Estelle Getty, Jesse Helms, Dody Goodman, George Carlin, Jim McKay and Harvey Korman. Of them, George Carlin was the one I was most upset about. He was great - maybe a little too angry and way too much foul language, but still very funny and quite sharp. He is a loss.

Harvey Korman, Estelle Getty, Sydney Pollack, Dody Goodman and Paul Newman were definitely a loss and will be missed, too. I hadn't known Dody Goodman had died this year. That is sad.

Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton were good authors and so that is too bad. They and the works that they won't write will be missed.

The rest of the list is of little to no consequence and just names I'd heard or brief blips in People Magazine. So it is no difference to me.

Q2 - Credit: In the midst of the current global recession, credit card companies have cut back on credit lines even to good customers. In addition, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, some credit card issuers have gone beyond looking at how much their customers spend or how promptly they pay and are now evaluating where they live and where they shop. In other words, redlining is apparently alive and well, aided and abetted by the very companies which could not restrain themselves from blindly offering credit cards and balance transfers to anyone who opened the mailbox, even if they were underage and without visible means of support. Do you think credit card issuers should be able to adjust credit limits and rates based solely on your zip code or shopping habits?

Oh, no, I don't. I think that the zip code and habits should not come into play with this at all. I don't see the relevance. There is none. Bad shopping habits abound, so what will the credit card companies do? Start issuing cards to people like me who have terrible spending habits? And demographics based on something as broad as a zip code is really stupid. Living in Short Hills does not guarantee that the person has money.

On the other hand, what benchmarking system works on this? But no, it is wrong to take the above-mentioned things into account for this.

Q3 - Hot: From California to Florida, an increasing number state departments of transportation are allowing single occupancy vehicles (SOVs) to pay a premium toll to use HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes. High-occupancy tolls (HOT) are criticized by some as being nothing more than "Lexus lanes" that allow drivers with deeper pockets to buy special treatment on highways built using fuel taxes collected from everyone. What do you think? Are HOT lanes a good idea?

No, it is a revenue idea. I cannot believe the low levels to which companies and people stoop to manage to make a buck or two. That is just dispicable.

Q4 - Theatre: When you watch a movie in a movie theatre, do you like the theatre filled to capacity, halfway full, or nearly empty? Does your answer change depending on the type of movie you're seeing or do you feel the same way regardless of the movie or genre?

I prefer nearly empty but can live with full - with one carollary - NO CHILDREN. Those little monsters can ruin any film. And worse, they can be any age and do so. Anything from shreiking and talking loudly to kicking the back of the chair in front or (my personal favourite) climbing the seats and running around just underscores how useless parents are and how little they care about the rest of our movie-watching enjoyment. The condition of the theatre is not an issue that changes due to the kind of movie we see. I can't even begin to guess how this is relevant...

19 December 2008
Four For Friday
Q1 - Names: Here in the U.S., the parents of a three-year-old boy have branded a supermarket "intolerant" after it refused to decorate their son's birthday cake with his name: Adolf Hitler Campbell. The couple, from New Jersey, asked ShopRite staff to decorate little Adolf's cake with his name, which he shares with the deceased Nazi dictator, and were outraged after staff refused to on the grounds that it was inappropriate. Do you think the supermarket's bakery staff made the right decision or does every little boy deserve to have his name on their birthday cake regardless of what their name is?

Well... wow. No, Shoprite should not get to tell people what they can and cannot put on a cake. No arguement there. I would question the parents about what the hell possessed them to do this to a child. And worse - they are from my home state! How hideous to think I am living in the same state as this couple who purposely named their child after one of the most detestable dictators in history.

But look at all the other insane names out there. I'm sure Shoprite would not have denied putting Penn Gillette's daughter's name or Jermaine Jackson's son's name on the cake. So why do it now?

Q2 - Grumble: What are your top five beefs?

In general? A little vague...
1. The fact that not one candidate felt compelled to chance their popularity to bring up his or her thoughts on the immigration problems
2. The three big auto companies getting the money from Bush (what a horse's ass!)
3. Blaming the economy on any one thing

I've run out of gripes.

Q3 - Layaway: As everyone knows, it's shopping season once again, but we all know times are a little tough this year. A new ABC News poll this week found that many Americans are feeling the financial strain, resulting in a lot of us spending a lot less on holiday gifts. So perhaps it's not a big surprise that we would see the resurgence of a more conservative way to shop... the layaway. If you could put one item on layaway for up to five years that you absolutely intended to incrementally pay for in full, what would you choose to put on layaway?

Well, I wouldn't. Not like that. Certainly not for five years! I did order boots for myself in October 2007 and that took time. Not layaway, rather, but just paying half of them off to get them into production and now they are nearly complete. I don't think I would do that with anything other than handmade products. And those only very rarely.

Q4 - Memories: How will you remember 2008?

As I remember all years: a mix of big and little things; positive and negative things; the good, the bad and the ugly. 2008 had many, many events, which I will post about as the last post of 2008. Then we shall see what the first post of 2009 will be.

The next adventure!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Worst of What Were They Thinking?! 2008 - omg! photos on Yahoo!

Worst of What Were They Thinking?! 2008 - omg! photos on Yahoo!

"Oh-My-God", said as Bill Engvall would say it, does not cover all that I am thinking... I personally will never be a slave to fashion - heck, I'm not even terribly interested in looking okay - but the world of the fashionista is one I don't even make an attempt to understand. In fact, the word "fashionista" translates to, "I have heaps of money but no mirror and no plans to own one", as evidenced by the lovely frocks and other fabric-related no-nos this site abounds with!

I am not going to look like Linda Evangelista or Iman but I'm okay with that. I'm okay with my face and while my body isn't as I'd like it yet, it is getting better. But I will keep my mediocre face and my overweight body and my total lack of interest and my what-not-to-wear wardrobe over the super unbelievable fashion faux paux made by wealthy and/or famous people. And I will be fat and happy if that what it means to never put on some of the gods-awful outfits as clearly eidenced here.

My personal favourite is #20 and tied with that is #23 - good lord, when did those "pants" become acceptable to wear any other place than a circus? And don't tell me that I am unforgiving towards others' tastes - no one should forgive this! How could anyone put this on, look in a mirror, and say, "I'm SSSSMMMMOOOOOOOKIN'!"

Unless it is to say, "I'm smokin' something, and maybe I should be sober when I pick out my garb for the day."

One of the Olson twins was in there; not surprising. They're more than a little "off" and seeing their taste in clothing underscores that. Same thing with Sarah Jessica Parker. It's hard to know if her taste in clothing was poor to begin with or she became her character, Carrie, just a little too much. Either way, her taste is pretty awful. Kelly Ripa and Madonna both should donate to the Audubon Society instead of dressing like birds. Chaka Khan and Tina Turner shouldn't assume that being a stage act allows one to dress poorly, either.

I did notice that Halle wasn't in there. But she always seems to look very classy. Brittany Spears wasn't in there or a woman named Amy Winehouse, one of the most unfortunate-looking women I have ever seen. I have no idea who she is or what she does aside from illegal substances, but she's all over and so ugly. They just missed the boat as the 31st and 32nd what-not-to-wears!

Happy Boxing Day!

26 December 2008
09:31

I am enjoying my quiet day off from work and holiday recovery. It was not terrible, but it was quite hectic and a little detox, a little downtime will really do wonders for me.

I have a small to do list:

-- Put away gifts
-- Finish laundry
-- Reorganise the pantry by the fridge
-- Return/exchange duplicate gifts from Amazon
-- Look up a couple of candle fragrances and a large sheep on e-bay
-- Call Sears about the garage door
-- Possibly (if it is not too crazy) go to Macy's and Best Buy to do some other duplicate returns/exchanges
-- Get to Fortunoff's for one last gift

I don't have to do it all today, either. Some of it can be done over the phone; some by Internet, some I have to suck it up and go out. We shall see.

1733

Well, Tom and I were successful in some endeavours. We picked up fire wood, went to a KayBee toy store closing soon, had lunch at Panera's, and then stopped at Fortunoff's, where'd I'd hoped to pick up a turntable converter for Tom for Christmas. Unfortunately, they were out when I went there. So it has to wait until new ones come in.

I did return one book and one DVD to Amazon, and Luis will get a credit, but maybe he will let me buy something else. I need to wrap the hand lotion to give to Alayna (it was a gift from Luis Sr. whi still hasn't figured out that I don't use hand lotion. But Alayna LOVES it and the presentation is nice.

I found the large sheep on ebay, and sent a message to the seller to see if I can bring down the price a bit. And hey! She did, I'm getting my mondo-cheep! Luis will be delighted, ha, ha! But I really, really wanted one... I struck out with the candle fragrances, though. I guess I will hold off on burning these a little while longer. I have two very, very old fragrances from Illuminations: Grapefruit Rosemary and Mint Currant Ginger. I guess normal people who'd had them - as a gift or as a weird impulse buy - threw them away thinking that no one'd want them. Now we have e-bay, but it appears that no one there has them.

Well, that is enough for this post...

Friday, 19 December 2008

Surviving Kittenhood

I love this kitten but I am forced to wonder if I can survive her childhood.



Eighteen years ago I had kittens. I see easily why people have multiple children! They clearly have forgotten what a hassle it was the first round. If your memory can fade that much in a year and a half, imagine what mine is like after almost two decades!



I have clearly forgotten it all. When Siobhan was on her way, I figured I'd block the ways behind the couch... by putting an 18" roadblock. What was I thinking? Boing, boing, boing - right over the couch and down the back. She jumps onto the counter all the time as a matter of course. She even paces along the top of the shower doors (yikes!). I can't keep her out of the garage. I have to find unique and circuitous ways in and out of the house so that she doesn't escape.



I had until mid-September two geriatric cats who couldn't hop onto the couch and this is a whole new world. But she's cute, so it is all survivable... except...



I am the human pincushion. She has clawed and bitten all of my extremeties just being playful. Scratches, pinholes from those little needle sharp teeth. When I went to Lucy's last night to have my legs waxed, she remarked on my ankles - whoa, what happened? Oh, yes... they look like raw meat. And when I take a hot shower (as is my wont), I yell when I first get in - it hurts like hell!

A.W.A.D. - Places From India

Namaste from India! I've just landed in Mumbai, where I'm planning to spend the rest of this year.

Mumbai was formerly known by its anglicized spelling, Bombay. The name of the city is derived from Mumba (name of a goddess) + ai (mother in the Marathi language). Each place has a story, and this week we'll visit five places from India that have become words in the English language.

golconda
PRONUNCIATION: (gol-KON-duh)
MEANING: noun: A source of great wealth

ETYMOLOGY: After Golconda, a ruined city in southern India, once known for its diamond mines in the nearby hills.

doolally
PRONUNCIATION: (DU-lah-lee)
MEANING: adjective: Irrational, deranged, or insane

ETYMOLOGY: After Deolali, a small town in western India. It's about 100 miles from Mumbai with an unusual claim to fame. It's where British soldiers who had completed their tour of duty were sent to await transportation home. It was a long wait -- often many months -- before they were to be picked up by ships to take them to England. Consequent boredom, and heat, turned many a soldier insane, and the word doolally was coined. At least that's the story.

More likely, soldiers who were going soft in the head were sent to the sanatorium there. At first the term was used in the form "He's got the Doo-lally tap", from Sanskrit tapa (heat) meaning one has caught doolally fever but now it's mostly heard as in "to go doolally". In Australia, they say "Calm down, don't do your lolly".

jodhpurs
PRONUNCIATION: (JOD-puhrz)
MEANING: noun: Riding breeches loose above the knees but close-fitting from the knees to the ankles

ETYMOLOGY: After Jodhpur, a city in northwestern India, earlier a princely state.

calico
PRONUNCIATION: (KAL-i-co)
MEANING: noun:
1. A brightly printed coarse cotton cloth
2. (Mainly British) A plain white cotton cloth
3. An animal having a spotted coat, especially with red and black patches
adjective:
1. Made from such a cloth
2. Having a spotted pattern

ETYMOLOGY: From Calicut, former name of Kozhikode, a city in southern India from where this cloth was exported. Other words for clothes with Indian origins are bandana, cashmere, chintz, dungarees, jodhpurs, khakis, madras, pajamas, and seersucker (not all are toponyms).

tamarind
PRONUNCIATION: (TAM-uh-rind)
MEANING: noun: The pod of the tree Tamarindus indica, the pulp of which is sour in taste and used in preparing food and drink

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin tamarindus, from Arabic tamr (date) + hindi (Indian), owing to the date-like consistency of its pulp.

Arkansas Family Welcomes 18th Child

It's my worst nightmare!

'ROGERS, Ark. – An Arkansas woman has given birth to her 18th child. Michelle Duggar delivered the baby girl by Caesarean section Thursday at Mercy Medical Center in Rogers. The baby, named Jordyn-Grace Makiya Duggar, weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 20 inches long. "The ultimate Christmas gift from God," said Jim Bob Duggar, the father of the 18 children. "She's just absolutely beautiful, like her mom and her sisters." The Duggars now have 10 sons and eight daughters.

Jim Bob Duggar said Michelle started having contractions Wednesday night. She needed the C-section, her third, because the baby was lying sideways. Jim Bob said both baby and mother were doing well Thursday night. "We both would love to have more," he said.

The cable network TLC broadcasts a weekly show about the Duggars, called "17 Kids and Counting." Chris Finnegan of TLC — which handles public relations for the Duggar family — said the show's name would be updated to account for the latest addition to the family. He said TLC also will air a show Monday on the baby's delivery.

Jim Bob Duggar is 43, a year older than his wife. Their oldest child, Joshua, is 20. The other Duggar children, in between Joshua and Jordyn-Grace, are Jana, 18; John-David, 18; Jill, 17; Jessa, 16; Jinger, 14; Joseph, 13; Josiah, 12; Joy-Anna, 11; Jeremiah, 9; Jedidiah, 9; Jason, 8; James, 7; Justin, 6; Jackson, 4; Johannah, 3; and Jennifer, 1. "Our whole family is excited about Jordyn's addition to our family," Jim Bob Duggar said. "She's just perfect in every way."'
I am curious if this guy is a CEO or something, or if they are some new family with way too many kids and not enough money. This has the same smell as John and Kate Plus Eight, another great way to afford that which most cannot. John and Kate had two daughters and just had to have another child (I'm amazed at this [having nothing to do with my total lack of desire to have them] because they have children; but no, while some more unfortunate couple has no kids this couple got to do invitro to add to the brood). She was implanted with six embryos (at least) and had sextuplets. They became famous, fortunately for them, as this was unaffordable - and people donated to them! Good gods. In a society where poor people live on the street, we give money and goods to some stupid couple gods-know-where couldn't bare to terminate the other five embryos and ended up with six squalling kids on top of the two they'd had.
Paying for other's choice to be irresponsible and have too many kids when they patently cannot afford it makes me crazy. I made the decision not to have them and while I don't have the other horrors, I'm still paying for other's kids! And the government is more than happy to develop programs which I am paying for (helllloooo!), rather than curbing this overdone need to fill up a world already overcrowded.
And now there is this couple in Arkansas (where better to not know about or understand birth control?) with 18 kids! Good gods. And you expect me to believe that this couple can easily afford this? That the whole of the state isn't paying for this neanderthal couple is not paying for this? What kind of life do these kids have? No privacy, you know that. I suppose there is some tiny chance that they are rich beyond avarice and have a 40-room mansion, but what are the odds? Wealthy couples are smart enough to say this many and no more - you don't hold onto your money having a boatload of kids.
So let's see what else there is... Oh, look - they DO live in a mansion. But see how...
Wikipedia - "Family life - Michelle was named Young Mother of the Year in Arkansas in 2004. The Duggars are conservative Baptists[14] who endorse the Quiverfull movement and the teachings of Bill Gothard.

The Duggars state that their children are blessings from God. When they initially married Michelle miscarried while on birth control. After no longer using it she was able to conceive many more times.

Mr. Duggar is a former state legislator who served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002. The Duggars now say their income is derived from the commercial properties they own. The Duggars claim they live debt-free which Jim Bob has said is 'the fruit of Jim Sammons' Financial Freedom Seminar' he attended years ago. The mansion they live in was completed on January 20 2006 with aid from Discovery Networks and corporate sponsors.

The Duggars raise their children using the buddy system, in which an older sibling assists the younger sibling in daily tasks. The older buddy 'will get the younger ones' meals'. According to Michelle, 'They help them with their little phonics lessons and games during the day and help them practice their music lessons. They will play with them or help them pick out the color of their outfit that they want to wear that day, and just all of those types of things.'"
Uh-huh. They managed that with the help of Discovery Networks and corporate sponsors. Well. Guess that answers that! How awful. This could not have happened without that aid. And I cannot believe that they live debt-free.
Once again religion, which should be a good thing, has proven that it has its flaws. Go forth and multiply is so antiquated. And this woman has no doubt ruined her body and health. Yikes. What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

More Memes - Think They are About the Holidays?

Thursday, 11 December
3x Thursday: 12/11/y2k+8:
Has It Ever Occured To You That...
1. Do you think that if more people in this world got laid on a regular basis (what a regular basis is, is up to you!), there might be less generally unhappy people? Why/why not?

Absolutely! I am on board with that one hundred percent! And not just because having the Big-O is great, but because the genders to some degree and people specifically are so out of whack with each other. Men in general want a more frequent and steady sexlife but women aren't as into it - expecially those with children. This creates a lot of problems... how many couples are not faithful? How many people (not just men by any stretch) stray? If we are all getting a little somethin'-somethin', maybe this kind of problem would not be so prevalent. And who wouldn't be smiling (and just a little weak-kneed) with a steady diet of sex and orgasms?

2. Do you think there are just some people on this planet that will never *ever* be happy? If so, why? If not, why not?

Sadly, yes. They do it to themselves. And they sometimes have it inflicted on themselves. I have heard people say that this life is misery to get to the afterlife. What a horrendous thing to teach anyone! What is life without joy? I knew and know a lot of people like that. How dull to go through life that way.

3. Do you think that to force people to change their ideas about a system of how something works (say, the energy industry), it has to totally collapse before that change can happen? Why/why not?

Well, human beings are one of the hardest to teach things to, so I would have to agree that catastrophy comes before knowledge. Greed always wins over knowledge. Frighteningly it is proven time and again. I hope not to live through anything like that, but it is evident that crazy things happen are allowed, sometimes encouraged, to go on. We can be terribly disappointing that way. But there are always those few that see past the greed and the idiocy.

Friday, 12 December 2008
Q1 - Smokin': What do you think of President-elect Barak Obama's decision to smoke cigarettes... Who cares, it doesn't affect his ability to lead; I care because kids will smoke as a result of his example; it bothers me, but as long as he does it in private, I'm okay with it; something else?

What, he just started NOW? Well... that would be dopey. If he has smoked all along, then so what? That may not be the wisest thing in the world, but if he's been doing it along and he's addicted, well, that is hardly newsworthy. Plenty of Presidents do/did bad things. Ulessys Grant drank like a fish. Taft was enormously overweight. They all seem to be misplacing their genitals - oops, how did that get there? Now we are going to hang the man for smoking? That seems a little odd.

Q2 - Books: Did you read any memorable books this year/books you'd recommend reading?

Wow. You don't ask small things, do you? I did read memorable books this year, as I do every year. I am reading Watership Down for the first time. I have seen the movie a gazillion times, but not read the book. I also read The 19th Wife, which was an excellent read. I thoroughly enjoyed The Lives of the Planets and A Distant Mirror: The Calamatous 14th Century (I'm still working on it, but it is not disappointing in the least). The list of books I've read this year is long - maybe not as long as past years, but still long. I read a lot!

Q3 - Take Notice: What do you think people tend to notice about you? Related... Is there something else you wish they'd notice instead?

They notice my smile - and oddly enough, not because it is awful (it is, no argument there!) but because it is big, bright, warm, friendly and genuine. I have had countless people tell me that. I find it staggering but I keep reading that the best way to take a compliment is to say, "Thank you" and not argue. So I try to keep that in mind. I find it amazing.

What would I rather they'd notice? Well... what is better than hearing that I have a beautiful smile? Why ask for something else? Why ask for more?

Q4 - Winter 2008/2009 Movies: Australia, Four Christmases, The Transporter 3, Nobel Son, Frost/Nixon, Punisher: War Zone, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Milk, Defiance, The Tale of Despereaux, Yes Man, Bedtime Stories, The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Hurricane Season, Marley & Me, Will Eisner's The Spirit, Revolutionary Road, Nothing Like the Holidays, Seven Pounds, Valkyrie, Bride Wars, Possession, The Unborn, The Brothers Bloom, Notorious, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, He's Just Not That Into You, Pink Panther 2, Push, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience... which movies are you most looking forward to watching this winter?

Uh, good gods above. What is with all these movies? Out of them I susect three will be worth anything. I would like to see The Tale of Despereaux, but unless I find a theater without a single kid in it, I will await its release on DVD. I prefer my house to the theater anyway! Looking at the rest... I'm wondering about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but I would like to know about the story line before I commit to it. The rest I may never ever see. I won't lose any sleep over it.
I guess I was wrong - none of them focussed on the holidays. Give it time. There is still this week. OK... time to wrap gifts!

Christmas Already?!

I wonder where time goes, but why wonder? It goes in the ebb and flow of life. And it comes full circle... daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually. And like every year, it is the "holidays" again. I'm not sure how this time got the rather generic moniker of "the holidays"... There are enough different cultures and religions that there are holidays occurring all the time. Why just this time?

Partially there is the whole thing with Christianity, who realised that good PR begins with a peaceful approach to conversion, not the bludgeoning process that the Crusades were. And clearly neither approach was wholly successful - the Saracens clearly held their own, and good for them! It is appalling how many religions and cultures no longer exist. So there is some of it. And empiracally, there is nothing to suggest that Jesus was born in December - since the calendar as it is did not exist, it assuming a lot to say we do.

And then there are a lot of big holidays, the ones that most people know. Christmas, Channukah, Kwanzaa (that is a more recent addition), and (for a time) Ramadan. That particular holiday moves, though, and fast.

And then there is the retail industry. I suppose we should thank them for all they have done to improve the holidays... but then, this has sucked any of the real meaning out of it. I guess it doesn't matter what the beliefs are behind what and when you celebrate something, as long as it means something to you, and elevates your usual behaviour or way of living to something better. On the other hand, why should you be an unmitigated ass most of the year and then live like a saint now? It's a conundrum!

No matter what... happy holidays!

Monday, 15 December 2008

The Scofflaw King

MAN OWES CITY $81G FOR 415 PARKING TICKETS
By KYLE MURPHY and CHUCK BENNETT

The city's No. 1 parking-ticket scofflaw is a 30-year-old insurance broker from Long Island, records show.

Alexander Khamish earned the dubious distinction of wracking up an $81,039 debt, according to the city's Department of Finance. But despite amassing 415 tickets since 2004, the Merrick man claims they've got the wrong guy.

"Basically, someone registered [the offending] vehicles under my name," Khamish said. "I knew about this a couple years ago, but I didn't know it [involved an] $80,000 [debt]. Someone did register vehicles under my name before I found out, but I was going back and forth with the DMV, and from the last I heard, I thought everything was OK."

Khamish said he had no idea of the debt until contacted by The Post. Ken Brown, a spokesman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said it received no paperwork regarding Khamish's claim.

But Khamish denied ever owning or leasing five cars registered to him at his old Brooklyn address. While it's unclear which of the cars may have racked up the violations, Khamish's driver's license is currently suspended because whoever registered three of those cars in his name at his old address sent bad checks to the DMV, records show.

The Finance Department said it has been sending its letters to Khamish's old Brooklyn address. "If it winds up his identity was stolen, he won't be responsible for the tickets," said Finance Department spokesman Owen Stone.

Meanwhile, the other individuals on the city's top-10 scofflaw list haven't changed over the past year. The No. 2 scofflaw, Christopher Wood of Floral Park, Queens, came in at $66,233 owed on 404 tickets since 2002.

Others include Sammy Gawad, 54, a former cop from The Bronx who was fired from the NYPD after numerous allegations of abuse. He has a $37,121 debt for 231 tickets dating back to 2000. Other perennials include Chaim Kauftial, an Israeli with 229 outstanding tickets totaling $42,228 over the past eight years, and Israel Colon of Newark, NJ, with $49,167 in penalties and fines for 278 tickets since 2003.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Moon Travels 31,000 Miles Closer on Friday

I hope this means Friday, 19 December!

"Earth's moon will be closer to our planet on Friday night. The moon will definitely put on a bright show as it will situate more than 31,000 miles closer to earth.

Astronomers say the moon will be approximately 31,000 miles closer to Earth on Friday night. The moon will be full and 30 percent brighter.

It will mark the first time in 15 years where the moon has this proximity to the Earth.

Astronomers say the moon will be 30 percent brighter on Friday evening as it begins to rise. "For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset may seem so nearby, you can almost reach out and touch it," Tony Phillips, Science@NASA's production editor, said in a statement.

Tides are estimated to be six inches higher due to the moon's closeness to the Earth. The moon completes a circle around the Earth every 29.5 days. However, the orbit is not a perfect circle. The moon is actually moving farther away from the Earth by about 1.6 inches each year. The moon's average distance from the Earth is about 238,855 miles. It will be orbiting just 221,560 miles away on Friday night."

Saturday, 13 December 2008

A.W.A.D. - What We Do To Trees

A few months back I featured this quotation from the journalist Hal Borland (1900-1978): "You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet."

Astute linguaphile Mark Germer wrote in response: "Recent work on information processing (even kin recognition) in plants suggests that there may be more going on there than we now understand; as for birds and mammals, it has long been appreciated that they are perfectly capable of deception and subversion. For my part, I don't find these things odd or disturbing, as it's the continuity of all life that intrigues me most. Humans are not alone in their baseness -- though a few may be alone in their desire to rise above it."

Mark said it well. There's more to trees and plants than we think (see nature.com). So next time you pluck an apple from a tree or trim that hedge, be aware that it may not be as oblivious as you think.

This week's words relate to what we do to the trees: chopping, trimming, twisting, bending, and stunting as we shape them.
espalier
PRONUNCIATION: (i-SPAL-yuhr, -yay)
MEANING: noun: A tree trained to grow flat against a wall.verb tr.: To train a tree in such a way

ETYMOLOGY: From French espalier, from Italian spalliera (shoulder support), from spalla (shoulder), from Latin spatula (shoulder blade).

topiary
PRONUNCIATION: (TOE-pee-er-ee)
MEANING:
noun: The art of creating sculptures by clipping, trimming, and training plants. Also, such a sculpture or garden
adjective: Of or related to a tree or garden shaped in such a way

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin topiarius (ornamental gardener), from topia (ornamental gardening), from Greek topos (place).

pleach
PRONUNCIATION: (pleech, playch)
MEANING: To interlace branches or vines to make a hedge, decorative shape, arbor, etc.

ETYMOLOGY: From Old French plechier, from Latin plectere (to plait). Ultimately from the Indo-European root plek- (to plait) that is also the source of plait, pleat, pliant, ply, apply, deploy, display, exploit, replicate, and perplex.

bonsai
PRONUNCIATION: (bon-SYE, BON-sye, -zye)
MEANING: The art of growing miniature trees in shallow pots; a tree grown in this way

ETYMOLOGY: From Japanese bonsai (tray planting), from bon (basin) + sai (to plant), from Chinese pen (tray) and zai (plant).

pollard
PRONUNCIATION: (POL-uhrd)
MEANING:
noun:
1. A tree cut back to the trunk to encourage a dense growth of new branches
2. An animal that has its horns or antlers removed or has shed them
verb tr.:
To cut off the top of a tree

ETYMOLOGY: From Middle English polle (head).

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Life Through Another's Eyes

An e-mail from an extremely close and wonderful friend:

"Hi Aislínge,

I wanted to tell you I will close my profile at facebook. It´s not for me, I am sorry. I would never get used to this, I want to keep personal correspondence with my penfriends (including you, of course!!!), not this public affair. I will read your website instead. I hope you don´t mind. E-mails are okay. Luis´ family is really something, but my father was a mental case, so I guess I have no business to talk, he he he. I would probably also smile and nod... actually I never know what to say to these people. I usually try to get away. I know it´s pointless to argue with them. It´s just a waste of time and effort. You can´t convince anybody they aren´t mental, if they don´t see it themselves. he he. Luis Sr is probably not as bad as some of his siblings... and you are right, one has to appreciate it. Maybe he is just happy he can live in his son´s house and learned to appreciate it in time? Maybe he doesn´t want to cause trouble. Maybe he learned, after his escape (he he he about that) that he can´t live on his own... or not this well, at least? It might be one of reasons why he makes an effort to be as pleasant as possible. (Even though he won´t be a complete charmer, ever, he may try to control himself in a way.) Well, it was sure interesting to read everything! I don´t know how it is with those stars and what they mean by that. Like astrology? Some people in western countries (and maybe in your country too) go to "astrologers" and pay quite a good money to get their very own personal horoscope. Not just that fun horoscope one can read in every magazine (he he) and so, but their own expensive horoscope, that also includes "happy days" for one´s wedding, or a business contract, and "unhappy days" to do this or that... something like this? Abortions are just fine in my book... as long as it is a part of that woman´s body, it´s up to her to make decisions. Nothing else could be accepted. And I don´t know why you should go to Hell for it... don´t worry, it´s already chock full with religious fanatics. (:-)) No more free room. he he he

As for accomplishments, I have never heard any compliments on my own contributions... it was "just luck". So, I am "lucky". Each time I manage to do something, I am "lucky". It´s all "good luck" with me. No personal effort, at all

That´s just the story of my life, he he he. (Of course with my brother it´s different. With him it´s all his hard work. Or at least this is what my mother thinks. :-)) But here it´s a normal thing. It isn´t a part of our culture here to compliment people on what they do well, it´s usual to criticize them for what they did wrong. If I compliment people on what they did well nowadays, it´s something I learned from my American penfriends. (Well, some of them, anyway.) Really sad, right? I didn´t know something like this before. If you do something well here, people will wait until you do something wrong and then they will tell you: "I told you you can´t do it." or "I knew it would end LIKE THIS." etc. They love it. So people who are really active and enterprising, will often move abroad (including your country) to get a "better life". But this is my home, I want to live here. That doesn´t mean that I agree with everything here, or that I like Czechs. But I accept the fact that this is my country. Some of my penfriends (Americans) have a really serious problem with it... ?... and often end dropping correspondence to me, because it´s not my life´s desire to move to the USA. Americans constantly present that idea like the best thing in the world. Which is just something I don´t understand. I actually have (or had? better to say!) some American penfriends (okay, I will admit that woman was Japanese by origin, and not a real American.. although she considered herself a true American) who said she didn´t expect "anything else of me" as I grew up during "Russian power".... Do you understand it??? What it has to do with one liking his or her country, which I think is all right? It´s not my fault that she hates Japan and all Asian culture... I don´t feel the same way about it. She lives in NYC (and I will honestly I admit I would dearly want to have a penfriend in NYC... I´d love to learn more about that city), she went to Budapest (Hungary) for a couple of days ... she came back a couple of days ago... and she sent me such an awful "travel report". She was bitching about such silly things... so why she goes there if all she wants is some wild night life? And fashion stores. I guess I am minus one penfriend now (he he he) but in her case it isn´t such a tragic loss. (:-)) I try to write better and better ads, but I tend to think that people don´t even bother to read them... I mean they do write to me all right, like crazy, only I think they don´t really bother to read the actual words. I am not surprised you only have 2 penfriends now. It´s pretty frustrating, most of the time. (:-)) Now, all my old penfriends are really great, but I wanted to get some new ones. Somehow I tend to think it´s much worse nowadays than in the early 90´s.... nowadays it seems to be much harder, for some reason. People are used to such a fast life... I am not sure if they ever notice what they are doing. Well, what do you think?

So, it was "written in stars" that you would become a HR Manager and an EMT? And how it was spelled out? (:-)) And in which language ... English? (:-)) Even before English was ever invented??? And Jesus... he was using English, too? Or he knows all the languages? I guess they would say he knows all the languages. Well, I don´t think that anybody can reason with those people, but if they are happy in their own way... I guess it´s harmless. As long as they don´t bother anybody else. George Washington would have to turn in his grave, if the USA became governed by religion. That´s why they went over there, to escape religious abuse in their original country, and nobody of them said they would create another country with only one true and allowed religion for everybody. It´d be pretty nonsensical.

Oh, I have to go. I am sorry your mother won´t be at home at Christmas. So Ray will be alone there? Or he will spend Christmas with her in that home? What became of the dog business? Does Ray keep it on his own now, or it´s already finished? I was thinking about her dogs constantly. What a sad way to go, like this. Really, really sad. People must take care of their health while it´s still possible, or they will become such a sorry picture in their old age. She used to laugh I would be a tiny, old lady with a cup of tea... only I don´t think it´s such a bad thing at all. (:-))"

In some ways, this is much like looking through my eyes; we agree on a great many things. Not everything (that would be weird) but a lot. And when she sees something differently than I do, then she tells me - and I love that. Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy (except at family functions that are comprised of the other side... i.e. Luis' family. Then silence (as pained as it may be) is really the best. Good advice...

I can't wait to answer this e-mail and get the conversational balling rolling on this one...!

A Letter to the Pets

The following was found posted very low on a refrigerator door.

Dear Dogs and Cats:

The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Placing a pawprint in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest. The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Racing me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort, however. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other, stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out on the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom! If, by some miracle, I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge in an attempt to open the door. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years - canine/feline attendance is not required.

The proper order for kissing is: Kiss me first, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough.

Finally, in fairness, dear pets, I have posted the following message on the front door:

TO ALL NON-PET OWNERS WHO VISIT AND LIKE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT OUR PETS:
(1) They live here. You don't.
(2) If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it 'fur'-niture.
(3) I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
(4) To you, they are animals. To me, they are adopted sons/daughters who are short, hairy, walk on all fours and don't speak clearly.

Remember, dogs and cats are better than kids because they
(1) eat less
(2) don't ask for money all the time
(3) are easier to train
(4) normally come when called
(5) never ask to drive the car
(6) don't hang out with drug-using people
(7) don't smoke or drink
(8) don't want to wear your clothes
(9) don't have to buy the latest fashions
(10) don't need a gazillion dollars for college and
(11) if they get pregnant, you can sell their children

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

"Jesus was Born In June" Say Astronomers

Astronomers have calculated that Christmas should be in June, by charting the appearance of the 'Christmas star' which the Bible says led the three Wise Men to Jesus.


They found that a bright star which appeared over Bethlehem 2,000 years ago pinpointed the date of Christ's birth as June 17 rather than December 25. The researchers claim the 'Christmas star' was most likely a magnificent conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, which were so close together they would have shone unusually brightly as a single "beacon of light" which appeared suddenly. If the team is correct, it would mean Jesus was a Gemini, not a Capricorn as previously believed.

Australian astronomer Dave Reneke used complex computer software to chart the exact positions of all celestial bodies and map the night sky as it would have appeared over the Holy Land more than 2,000 years ago. It revealed a spectacular astronomical event around the time of Jesus's birth.

Mr Reneke says the wise men probably interpreted it as the sign they had been waiting for, and they followed the 'star' to Christ's birthplace in a stable in Bethlehem, as described in the Bible. Generally accepted research has placed the nativity to somewhere between 3BC and 1AD. Using the St Matthew's Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.

The astronomy lecturer, who is also news editor of Sky and Space magazine, said: "We have software that can recreate exactly the night sky as it was at any point in the last several thousand years. We used it to go back to the time when Jesus was born, according to the Bible. Venus and Jupiter became very close in the the year 2BC and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light. We are not saying this was definitely the Christmas star - but it is the strongest explanation for it of any I have seen so far. There's no other explanation that so closely matches the facts we have from the time. This could well have been what the three wise men interpreted as a sign. They could easily have mistaken it for one bright star. Astronomy is such a precise science, we can plot exactly where the planets were, and it certainly seems this is the fabled Christmas star."

Mr Reneke, formerly the chief lecturer at the Port Macquarie Observatory in New South Wales, added: "December is an arbitrary date we have accepted but it doesn't really mean that is when it happened. This is not an attempt to decry religion. It's really backing it up as it shows there really was a bright object appearing in the East at the right time. Often when we mix science with religion in this kind of forum, it can upset people. In this case, I think this could serve to reinforce people's faith."

Previous theories have speculated the star was a supernova - an exploding star - or even a comet. But Mr Reneke says by narrowing the date down, the technology has provided the most compelling explanation yet.

Cancer to be World's Top Killer

ATLANTA – Cancer will overtake heart disease as the world's top killer by 2010, part of a trend that should more than double global cancer cases and deaths by 2030, international health experts said in a report released Tuesday. Rising tobacco use in developing countries is believed to be a huge reason for the shift, particularly in China and India, where 40 percent of the world's smokers now live.

So is better diagnosing of cancer, along with the downward trend in infectious diseases that used to be the world's leading killers. Cancer diagnoses around the world have steadily been rising and are expected to hit 12 million this year. Global cancer deaths are expected to reach 7 million, according to the new report by the World Health Organization.

An annual rise of 1 percent in cases and deaths is expected — with even larger increases in China, Russia and India. That means new cancer cases will likely mushroom to 27 million annually by 2030, with deaths hitting 17 million. Underlying all this is an expected expansion of the world's population — there will be more people around to get cancer.

By 2030, there could be 75 million people living with cancer around the world, a number that many health care systems are not equipped to handle. "This is going to present an amazing problem at every level in every society worldwide," said Peter Boyle, director of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Boyle spoke at a news conference with officials from the American Cancer Society, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the National Cancer Institute of Mexico. The "unprecedented" gathering of organizations is an attempt to draw attention to the global threat of cancer, which isn't recognized as a major, growing health problem in some developing countries. "Where you live shouldn't determine whether you live," said Hala Moddelmog, Komen's chief executive.

The organizations are calling on governments to act, asking the U.S. to help fund cervical cancer vaccinations and to ratify an international tobacco control treaty. Concerned about smoking's impact on cancer rates in developing countries in the decades to come, the American Cancer Society also announced it will provide a smoking cessation counseling service in India. "If we take action, we can keep the numbers from going where they would otherwise go," said John Seffrin, the cancer society's chief executive officer.

Other groups are also voicing support for more action.

"Cancer is one of the greatest untold health crises of the developing world," said Dr. Douglas Blayney, president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. "Few are aware that cancer already kills more people in poor countries than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. And if current smoking trends continue, the problem will get significantly worse," he said in a written statement.

Monday, 8 December 2008

A Warm and Fuzzy Christmas Story!

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her. On the way, my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted .... "Ridiculous! Don't believe it! That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down."Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas. That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy.

Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers. Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going." I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team. I still have the coat tag tucked away: $19.95. May you always have LOVE to share, HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care... And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Past Week's Memes

Thursday, 4 December 2008
3x Thursday: 12/04/y2k+8: Post-Election Reflections
So, now that' you've had a month to digest things...

1. How do you feel about the results of the U.S. presidential elections? Did the guy you wanted win? What is your reasoning behind supporting the guy?

I feel better than I would have had McCain won. As it is, we will see what happens soon enough. I can tell you, however, that the current, soon-to-depart administration is making the transition of the leadership an easy, painless process. My sister-in-law, whom I love dearly, is on the transition team for the incoming President-Elect.

2. Were there any propositions or specific persons you were rooting for/against in this year's election? If so, what were they, and why did you care?

Mmmmm. No, not really. The biggest thing I am interested in outside of our sinking economy is the immigration program problems. And no one, not one single person, had anything to say about it. Not even a peep. It is the hot potato that no one wants to get caught in their hands.

3. In general, what did you think of the 2008 campaigns?

Well, no more or less than any others in years past. There were bashing adverts, cajoling adverts, and a great many hoaxes that came out about both candidates and their running mates. Sometimes this is just the way it goes. Most of the time, this is a big thing. Everyone who voted for McCain made Obama out to be a terrible person; everyone who voted for Obama, the opposite. Predictable.

Friday, 5 December 2008
Four For Friday
Q1 - 180 Degrees: If you could suddenly proclaim that any one work of fiction (be it a movie, novel/book, short story, fable, fairy tale, play, etc.) was actually true, what would you choose?
I would pick the book Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist. It was just that good.

Q2 - Airline Safety: According to a recent report, approximately 96% of people involved in airplane accidents survive the accident itself and, aside from a fear of flying, experience no long-term health problems. When flying, do you take certain precautions or care to increase your chance of survival in event of a crash (i.e., choosing a certain seat in a specific part of the airplane or counting the number of seats between yourself and exit) or do you not like to think about such things?

I do think about such things but don't go so far as to select a seat where I feel my survival odds would be increased. It is not likely to really work. Air travel is still the least accident-prone mode of travel. And I can't live my life worrying about every little thing. It is unreasonable and a little crazy to do so.

Q3 - Citizenship: Have you heard about this one? The latest effort to rewrite the election of 2008... an accusation that that President-elect Barack Obama is not a legitimate natural-born American, and therefore cannot be sworn into office. The argument, which is being taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, goes something like this: When Barack Obama was born in 1961, Kenya was still a British colony. Obama's father was from Kenya, and therefore a British citizen. That British citizenship automatically passed onto his son (President-elect Obama), and that means that President-elect Obama--who was born in the U.S.--was born with dual citizenship and should not be allowed to hold the Office of the Presidency. What do you think this? Should the President of the United States be allowed to hold dual citizenship? (By the way, for the record, President-elect Obama's dual citizenship expired when he turned 21.)

Oh, of course. There is always someone trying to change things for what they think is the better for them. Obama is the President-Elect, learn to live with it. To answer this, I have no issue with the President of the United States holding dual citizenship and being in office. He is an American; nothing will change that. Also, as stated above, the secondary citizenship expired a long, long time ago. Third, the United States does not recognise dual citizenship. It is a non-issue anyway.

Q4 - Overrated: Who do you think is the most overrated (you choose... actor, politician, professional athlete, or musician)?

Well, well. Brittney Spears. She is a stupid, uncaring woman. She has gotten herself bak into entertainment and is doing better, but I have an extraordinarily low opinion of her. I'm sure I could have selected another, more peritinent choice, but this was the first thing that came to mind.