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Posts from — December 2011

Happy Christmas

Holly, Robin & Mistletoe

[As I listen to the annual A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, I thought I would re-run this post.]

The British have some wonderful Christmas customs that have survived the incursion of Christianity, especially the Puritan party poopers. Stealing customs from the Celts, Germans, and Scandinavians, they have created a wonderful holiday that I fondly remember from time spent there.

The bird is a European robin that is featured on British Christmas cards, as it is a Winter bird in England, unlike the fair-weather laggard of the same name in America. It is bracketed by holly and mistletoe. All go back to the druids and solstice celebrations.

If you read the Harry Potter books you will get a taste, but not the full effect of a British Christmas. A full-on Christmas dinner is wretched excess to the nth degree – Thanksgiving on steroids.

The BBC has the background on Father Christmas.

I would note that real mistletoe is in short supply this year because of the drought conditions in the US South. It requires humid conditions to grow as a parasite on oak trees.

December 24, 2011   2 Comments

Happy, Merry, Joyous Whatever!


Ho Ho Ho!

С Рождеством Христовым
Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Vrolijk Kerstfeest
Nadolig Llawen
Fröhliche Weihnachten
Joyeux Noël
Buon Natale
Feliz Navidad
God Jul
Rauhallista Joulua
Koli Sana Wa Anta Tayib
Happy Christmas

It is early Christmas morning in Asia, and the excitement is building among the “rug rats” that will burst forth at any moment to waken their poor parents who have probably had about two hours of sleep after dealing with “some assembly required” and/or “batteries not included”.

To avoid any bad feelings among family members: it is an official requirement contained in the “Manual for Uncles” that some form or type of device that makes loud and obnoxious noises must be included in all Christmas parcels.

December 24, 2011   6 Comments

…And Checking It Twice

So it’s time to get everything in line so that there will be smooth sailing tomorrow.

Obviously you need the text of A Visit from St. Nicholas [AKA Twas the night before Christmas] or one of the variations.

But now that you’ve finished putting up enough lights to match the total electrical consumption of a third world nation, you can sit back and watch the North American Air Defense Command’s annual attempt to take out that red-suited commie’s attack on the capitalist system by giving stuff away. [Don’t worry kids, they are using the anti-missile defense system, so there’s no danger to anyone but taxpayers.]

December 24, 2011   2 Comments


For Kryten:

funny pictures - Brown Ops

For Angela Merkel:


December 23, 2011   4 Comments


Coming soon, but probably not to a store near many of us, is the Raspberry Pi, a $25 computer motherboard for Linux. The base unit has 256MB of memory, an SD card slot, USB port, and other goodies on a circuit board the size of a credit card. The processor is an ARM that is normally used in mobile phones. It is designed to get people interested in messing around with computers again, like we did in the days of the Sinclair and BBC Micro.

Today xkcd featured an Advent calendar for philosophy majors.

I was remiss in not reporting this earlier, but the Gävlebocken celebrated its 45th anniversary on December 1st, but arsonists struck at 2:45AM [local] on the 2nd. They probably assumed that the goat’s protectors would let their guard down, or did too much celebrating.

December 23, 2011   Comments Off on Miscellany

Friday Cat Blogging

The New Guy … Again

Friday Cat Blogging

What are you up to?

[Editor: A much better view of the ‘New Guy’ from the beginning of the month. Very Festivus festive as Blaze is just out of the frame and may be preparing to “air some grievances”.

Friday Ark

December 23, 2011   5 Comments

Happy Festivus

Yes, today is the celebration of the very untraditional Festivus.

If you celebrate I hope all of your grievances were aired and the airing did not involve the Festivus pole being used in an inappropriate fashion.

December 23, 2011   2 Comments

A Good Explanation

The BBC has a decent piece to give people more understanding of What really caused the eurozone crisis?

It turns out that Spain was much better than Germany or France in following the rules of the Eurozones limits, but that had nothing to do with their ‘debt crisis’. It was the banks, first, last, and always, and the banks are not being made to pay for their disaster.

Greece is a basket case because the banks loaned them bales of money, when any competent banker should have known that they weren’t a good risk. The European Central Bank keeps claiming it can’t function as the lender of last resort for countries, but it can come up with billions for banks that are shaky.

France and Germany aren’t defending the Euro, they are defending French and German banks – the institutions most responsible for this mess.

December 22, 2011   Comments Off on A Good Explanation

Snark FAIL

McClatchy has the details: Congress invokes ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ in debate, but misquotes it

“Since the dawn of the republic, these are how differences are settled between the House and Senate,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said on the House floor. “If you don’t remember your civics 101, maybe if you have small children like I do, you can go back and watch the ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ video. It’s very clear.”

The subject of the ‘conference committee’ is not discussed in the US Constitution, Civics 101, or ‘Schoolhouse Rock’. It was created after the fact, not at the ‘dawn of the republic’, in a procedural agreement between the two Houses. In the early days Congress was small enough that there was no need to have committees, or most of the current organizational structure of Congress.

December 21, 2011   3 Comments

In The Final Stretch

I found some ‘stuff’ today, which will have to do because they aren’t carrying the really great ‘stuff’ of past years. Things get more expensive but are ‘cheaper’.

Fortunately I wasn’t looking for the traditional three gifts because Frankincense trees are in decline. Gold is supposed to be rare, but I have never heard of a shortage, and myrrh is available, although, as the trees that produce myrrh are in the same band as those that produce frankincense, I wouldn’t be surprised if it started to become more rare. Myrrh is the main ingredient for the standard incense used in most Bible-based religions.

The House Republican caucus performed their traditional Grinch impression by screwing the extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment extension. They expect to get coal [and oil] money in their stockings, so they just don’t care.

December 21, 2011   4 Comments

Happy Solstice

snowflakeAt 11:30 PM CST the winter solstice occurs marking the longest night of the year. If everyone has been good, the days start getting longer tomorrow. Locally, the sun will rise at 6:38AM and set at 4:49PM for a total of 10 hours and 10 minutes of daylight, but tomorrow will be a whole 2 seconds longer.

This also marks HogWatch, so don’t forget to put out the turnips.

December 21, 2011   2 Comments

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah in Hebrew

MenorahHappy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends. I fondly remember the latkes and jelly doughnuts my roommates received for the holiday at college. [Their grandmothers were afraid they wouldn’t celebrate or couldn’t get “real” food at that terrible Baptist university.] It was a great break.

One of the nice things about Hanukkah is that there are established “gifts”, so you don’t have to rack your brains about what to get: a card and gelt covers just about everyone.

General background at Wikipedia’s entry for Hanukkah and even more at Chabad’s Chanukah page.

[Note: on the Jewish calendar the day changes at sunset, not midnight, so the celebration begins then.]

December 20, 2011   2 Comments

Slowing Down

The death toll from the flash flooding caused by a tropical storm in the Philippines appears to be over a thousand. The heavy rains hit in the early morning hours, and most of the victims were asleep when the waters hit.

Australia is looking at the possibility of seeing its first tropical storm later in the week. After last year they could use a really quiet season.

Looking at all of the pictures of grieving North Koreans, I have to wonder if they notice how rotund the Kim family is in a nation constantly on the verge of starvation.

Ron Paul is getting his 15 minutes as the leading candidate for the Republican Presidential race as Newt ‘Efting’ Grinch fades under a flood of negative ads. Paul has kept his team in place from his last run for President, and has a formidable organization in Iowa, larger than any other candidate’s. It wouldn’t be odd if he won it, as it is a caucus system which requires an organization on the ground.

I am spending a lot of time trying to learn how to use a new cell phone and new camera. If the phone doesn’t stop trying to helpful it will have a very short life span. The first annoyance was when I discovered that none of the included ‘ringtones’ sound like a phone ringing.

Only one more visit to a store to finish all of my Christmas related shopping. It is little junk for a stocking, and that is usually fun, but this year the usual suspects aren’t carrying much.

December 19, 2011   3 Comments

RIP Vaclav Havel

The BBC has reported the passing of Vaclav Havel and included a short obituary.

While he was primary a writer, playwright, and director, the world knows him best as the first democratically elected leader of Czechoslovakia since the 1930s, and then the Czech Republic, after the country split on ethnic lines.

While he was, perhaps, the leading Czech dissident, he was a very reluctant candidate, and actively disliked the pomp of being the leader of his country. He was the best kind of candidate, one who didn’t really want the job.

His works fall into the absurdist genre and don’t translate readily. The bulk of them are political satire aimed at the Communist rulers of Czechoslovakia, who were finally ousted by the non-violent Velvet Revolution.

He made a difference.

December 18, 2011   2 Comments