Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas. Here's Some Thoughts.


That's for all of us oldsters who remember Walt Kelly's "Pogo", a truly wonderful comic strip. My Father loved to sing "Deck Us All" on Christmas, and it's still a bit of a family tradition for my sisters and I. My nieces think we're rather weird.
Growing up in San Francisco, we never got a "white" Christmas. But my father was very much a traditionalist with all the wintery decorations. Snow seemed so beautiful back then. Now that I live in a place where it actually snows during winter, snow is not so romantic. This year we have a little snow on the ground from a midweek storm, but it's melting into slush. And I'm perfectly content with that.

One thing I truly do not 'get' is the whole idea of a "war on Christmas". Apparently diversity is some how a "threat" to Christianity. When I was growing up in San Francisco, I knew that many groups around me didn't celebrate Christmas. Heck, my Grandmother was Jewish (although not strictly devout) so we also had Chanakkuh. That our neighborhood was diverse was why we often said "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" because virtually every culture has some sort of winter/solstice celebration (and it was a lot of fun to go to different types of parties). Now that I'm a grown up secular atheist, I still enjoy Christmas/solstice/winter celebrations. Doesn't seem like a cause for conflict.


Another thing I really don't get are Christmas car commercials. I do understand that there are some people who are rich enough to buy someone a new car as a Christmas gift, although it's sickeningly decadent. What I don't get is the commercials where the car is in the living room by the Christmas tree. Who has a drive-in living room?



I'll be spending the day hanging out with a few friends, sharing a bit of "cheer". My family is small, and spread around the country, so getting family together isn't practical. But I'm very happy that I have good friends to share the day with.
Hope you have a wonderful day sharing warmth with family, friends, loved ones, or even a kind stranger.
Here's an absolutely worthless gift (which you're free to exchange at any major retail outlet) for you: Sarah Palin!



















(special thanks to Lockwood of Outside the Interzone for "Deck Us All")





Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Quiet Diplomacy



While the media hasn't paid much attention to it, one of the more important pieces of news of the past few weeks might be Bill Richardson's "unofficial" trip to North Korea. Remember the heightened tensions between the two Koreas around military exercises? Then North Korea did a sudden about face, backing down from the militaristic posturing, with Richardson's visit.

Funny, but it's the BBC reporting it, not the American media:

Bill Richardson has emphasised that his visit to North Korea - at a time of very high tension on the Korean peninsula - was in an unofficial capacity.

A former US ambassador to the United Nations, he has visited North Korea on several occasions in the past.

"My sense is the North Koreans realise that they have moved too negatively against negotiations, that they have taken some very bad steps and they wanted to move in the right direction," Mr Richardson said.

"They agreed to the proposals that I made.... Now there has to be deeds, not words."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12047097

I've always considered Bill Richardson to be a very savvy, shrewd diplomat. While it's not clear what he did (or could) offer North Korea, it is clear that they backed down from a very dangerous position. North Korea does have a long history of not negotiating in good faith, so this may end up going nowhere. But at least the tensions are being ratcheted down a bit. And that is "news".

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lame Duck Cramming



(OK, that title sounds wrong. I may change it.)

So the senate acted like a recalcitrant college student (albeit no where near 'good looking'), slacking through the semester before cramming like mad for the final. We've all known or been that student. Hoping to do well enough on the final to get a passing grade overall.

Well, they did put up a pretty strong finish:

Senate Passes 9/11 First Responders Health Care Bill

Senate approves nuclear arms pact

Along with this past weekends DADT repeal, it was a very busy week.

So what sort of overall grade should we give the senate? Their semester was a completely unproductive miasma of parties and vacations, and the midterm exam (election) clearly got a "fail" grade. I really expected their "final" to result in an "incomplete", but this final has actually impressed me. I'm actually ready to give the senate a "passing" grade. Which is a bit of a shock.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Solstice Eclipse



Late tonight/early tomorrow morning (depending on your time zone) there will be a total lunar eclipse, roughly coinciding with the winter solstice. But it doesn't look like I'll get to see it. Local weather: rain storm, completely overcast for today through the next few days. Bummer.

Guess I'll just have to hope for better weather for the next one.

Lunar Eclipse

NASA eclipse page:

Added: Went outside around 1:00 am. Completely overcast. No visible evidence that the moon even existed.