Dec 22, 2017

Happy Friday

It is not possible to have too much happiness.

Grab all you can, wherever you can, especially on a Happy Friday!

Christmas Carol Origins

Phillip Brooks was an Episcopalian preacher, he earned a Doctorate of Divinity from the University of Oxford, and taught at Yale University. During 1865, he rode on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where he participated in the Church of the Nativity's five-hour long Christmas Eve celebration. After returning home he wrote "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Its first public performance was held three years later, performed by the children's choir of his church.

Clement Clark Moore was a professor of Divinity and Literature at a New York Episcopal college when, in 1822, he sat down to write a Christmas poem for his family. Moore never intended for the poem to be published. It was only at his family’s begging that it was published a year later. "The Night Before Christmas", poem became an immediate success. Moore created much of our Christmas mythology. He named the reindeer, was the first to call St. Nicolas an “elf,” the idea of Santa going from rooftop to rooftop, and codified most every concept about Santa entering your home to leave gifts. Much about the current legend of Santa was influenced by his poem.

Christmas Banned

Christmas was banned in England between about 1644 and 1660 by Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England. Oliver Cromwell, along with Puritan members of parliament, believed the merrymaking and festivities observed during Christmastime were acts of sin and insults to God. Celebrating Christmas became a punishable offense, and consumption of Christmas foods was forbidden. The ban in England remained in place for almost 20 years, during which people secretly celebrated Christmas. When the British monarchy returned to power in 1660, it overruled all laws passed since 1642, and lifting the ban on Christmas.

Christmas was, until recent times a purely religious festival and New Year was and still is the main holiday for Scots. Christmas was not traditionally celebrated in Scotland, because it was banned for nearly 400 years until the 1950's. Christmas was not even a public holiday until 1958. Hogmanay was the real traditional celebration. LINK

Similar laws were passed in Puritan colonies in America. Christmas was banned in Boston and Plymouth Colony from 1659 to 1681. In 1659 the Puritan General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony made it a criminal offense to publicly celebrate Christmas and declared that “whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way” was subject to a 5-shilling fine. In New England, Christmas did not become a legal holiday until 1856.

Although outlawed in public, the celebration of Christmas endured in private homes, particularly away from the Puritans in Boston. December 25 was declared a US federal holiday in the United States in 1870.

Silver Bells

The song Silver Bells was originally titled Tinkle Bells, and first appeared in “The Lemon Drop Kid,” a 1951 film starring Bob Hope.

The co-composer Ray Evans said, “We never thought that tinkle had a double meaning until Jay, his partner went home and his wife said, ‘Are you out of your mind? Do you know what the word tinkle is?’” Referring to the fact that it is another word for urination often used with children. If that happened today, they would put him in jail, ban the song, delete any reference to it on Google, and Congress would vote to expunge the word from all dictionaries.

Alternate Reindeer Names

Dunder is variously spelled Donder and Donner. Blixem is variously spelled Blixen and Blitzen. The names Dunder and Blixem derive from Dutch words for thunder and lightning, respectively.

Finally More Sun

On a brighter note, yesterday we celebrated the Winter Solstice Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 10:27 am in Dallas. Beginning today, Dec 22 we begin to gain more sunlight, 1 extra second to be exact. Tomorrow we get 3 more seconds and each day after that more seconds of sunlight.

At risk of starting a Twitter frenzy, THE END IS NEAR. Winter officially began yesterday, so we are now counting down to the end of winter. It will get colder before it gets warmer, but we get to enjoy more sunlight each day and that is a good thing.

By the end of December, we will be enjoying 10 hours and 2 minutes of sunshine. Yea! I can feel the seasonal stress disorder slipping away already. Now I understand why Christmas and New Year's are such festive occasions, more sunshine.

Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft

He was an American voice actor and bass singer. He died May 22, 2005 at age 91. Although most do not recognize his name, almost everyone recognizes his voice - as Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flake commercials.
He was the narrator for "The Glory of Christmas" at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, from the early 1980s through the late 1990s.
He began his career as a singer, performing with The Johnny Mann Singers, and many major stars, including Elvis Presley. Ravenscroft sang bass on Rosemary Clooney's "This Ole House", which went to No. 1 in both the United States and Britain in 1954.
Other voice credits include, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in the classic cartoon adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Ravenscroft also lent his vocals to such films as Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Horton Hears a Who!, The Hobbit (cartoon), The Brave Little Toaster, and many more. He also can be heard on numerous rides in Disney Land and Disney World, such as the Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, Mark Twain Riverboat, Pirates of the Caribbean, Disneyland Railroad, and Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room.

Christmas Child Car Seat Gifting

When giving or receiving a child car seat it is good to know that many fire departments will install it the correct way for free. Call first as some fire stations do not provide the service. Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's maintains a listing of child passenger safety seat inspection locations. There is no charge, but if you do go, cookies, doughnuts, or pizza are always welcome. Make sure the person is a certified child car seat technician. You are welcome.

Roller Coaster Facts

Since 2017 has been such a roller coaster year, thought I would look up some coaster facts.

Missouri is home to the steepest wooden roller coaster, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. 'Outlaw Run' has a drop at an 81-degree angle.

Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure near Jackson, New Jersey includes a drop of 418 ft (127 meters). It is also the world's tallest roller coaster at 456 ft (139 m).
The GateKeeper roller coaster at Cedar Point amusement park is the longest wing coaster at 4,164 feet (1269 m). It also has the tallest inversion of any roller coaster 170 feet (51.8 m), has the most inversions on a wing coaster (6) and is the fastest non-launched wing coaster.
Leap-the-Dips is the world's oldest operating roller coaster, built in 1902 and located in Lakemont Park, Altoona. It is also North America's last surviving side friction roller coaster.
Formula Rossa is the fastest roller coaster which races up to 149.1 mph (227kph) in just 4.9 seconds. It is Located in Abu Dhabi, UA.

The thrill of riding a coaster continues and more coasters are being built each year to challenge these records.

Dec 15, 2017

Happy Friday

Don't worry about the afterlife.

Live today and celebrate a Happy Friday!

Web Birthday

The internet as we know it has profoundly changed all of our lives, but many forget how young it is and how quickly it evolved. The web, or "world wide web" turns 27 years old on December 20. On that date in 1990, British engineer and scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who once made a computer out of an old television set, launched the world's first website, running on a NeXT computer at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.

On 30 April 1993 CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain. CERN made the next release available with an open license, as a way to
maximize its dissemination. Making the software required to run a web server freely available, along with a basic browser, and a library of code, the web quickly flourished to what it is today.

Incidentally, the web neutrality act that was overturned yesterday was just put in place during 2015. Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, etc., grew and flourished before the government took over the web and the vote to keep the government out of it will not be the end of the world as some pundits will have us believe. Evidence of government control can be found in many other areas, such as post office, student loans, higher education, taxes, healthcare, banking, and more. The internet will not end because the government decided to not be in charge of it.

Natural Foods Myth

Foods that are labeled “natural” are better for you" is a myth.
“Natural” is a word that evokes pleasant feelings, implying that a food is inherently good for you. However, “natural” and “all-natural” are not regulated in the same way that “organic” or “kosher” are. Natural foods can contain large amounts of high fructose corn syrup, foods treated with pesticides, or genetically engineered products.

In response to consumer concerns about this issue, during 2016 the US Food and Drug Administration asked for public comments on the use of the word “natural” in food labeling. It means the FDA may take action to regulate use of this term to prevent consumers from being misled.

Until the label “natural” is better regulated, reading nutritional labels carefully is the best way to ensure the foods you eat are healthy. Never assume that an “all-natural” food has any particular nutritional benefit or superior qualities.

Holiday Healthy Drinking

There is a myth that says wine has health benefits, while beer and liquor do not.
There are many studies outlining the health benefits of wine, but not as many for other alcohols. However, in addition to the antioxidants in wine, all alcohols, when consumed in moderate doses can raise the body's levels of HDL, the good cholesterol.

Boston-based nutritionist and wellness counselor Alannah DiBona explains, "Wine (as well as beer and all types of alcohol) in moderate doses raise the body's levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, which protects the heart against the plaque buildup that may cause strokes and heart attacks. As Europeans have proven for centuries, 1 to 2 alcoholic beverages per day helps to reduce the risks of heart disease."

Developing an alcohol problem in the name of good heart health and lower cholesterol is not a good idea, but a glass of wine, or a few shots, or a few beers can actually reduce your risk for heart disease when combined with a good diet and exercise. Also remember the calories you intake when drinking alcohol, wine, or six-pack of beer can cause weight gain.

Beer, Wine, and Spirits

The spirits industry, as of 2016 commands 35.9% of the total alcohol market vs. 47% for beer and 17.1% for wine. Beer made up close to 60% of the alcohol market during the 1990s.

Contest vs. Sweepstakes

Some people use the two terms interchangeably, but there is actually a large difference between the two.

In a contest, you might be evaluated based on an essay, a cheesecake recipe, or some kind of design. A panel of judges makes a subjective determination based on the judging criteria outlined in the fine print.

In a sweepstakes, luck takes the place of talent. All entries are given equal consideration and tossed into a random drawing.

According to the many state and federal laws, charging money for a sweepstakes entry would classify it as a lottery, and that is usually illegal, unless it is being sponsored by a state government. Contests, on the other hand, can charge an entry fee since there is a degree of skill involved.

In 2006, the CVS pharmacy chain was ordered to pay $152,000 in civil penalties in New York after they promoted a “sweepstakes” in which entries were automatically submitted for customers buying Nicorette gum; the chain did not make the offer available to people who did not buy the product making it no equal consideration.

4K vs. 8K TV

4K, or 3840×2160, is about 2 million pixels and it contains almost four times the number of pixels on a screen compared with 1080P (current) technology.
8K resolution is 7680×4320 pixels. It is 16 times more dense than 4K. The numbers show 4K at 2 million pixels is compared to 8K at 33 million pixels. Today’s TV technology is not yet capable of handling this kind of raw power.
Other comparisons show current HD is 24 frames per second, 4K ultra HD is 60 frames per second, and 8K super Hi Vision is 120 frames per second.
For human eyes to actually differentiate between 4K and 8K resolutions, 8K televisions need to be at least 70 and 80 inches in size and you need to sit very close. To truly enjoy 8K, the television sets need to be even larger than that. Panasonic has developed a plasma television that is 145 inches.
2020 Olympics will all be broadcast in 8K - Samsung, LG, Sony, and Panasonic have all announced plans to have 8K TVs ready for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Incidentally, as of September 2017 an 85 inch 8K TV costs $133,000 and is only available in Japan. Oh, and the old wives tale of sitting too close can hurt your eyes is a myth.

HDTV Antenna Myth

HDTV antenna hype created a huge misconception with regard to TV antennas used for HDTV reception. There is no such thing as an HDTV antenna. An antenna is like a pipe (as I recently described HDMI cables). An antenna just takes in the signal and passes it along to your TV. If the signal is HD, it passes HD. If the signal is SD, it passes SD.

Bottom line, do not be fooled by a marketing ploy to get you to pay more for an HD antenna, any modern antenna will pass along HD content to your TV. Also, all antennas provide a better picture than cable as the digital signals are compressed by cable companies.

Heisman Trophy

Last week they awarded the Heisman trophy, but many do not remember who John Heisman was and how he had the trophy named for him.

He was a player, coach, and hugely successful innovator in the early days of football. He played for Brown and then Penn as a collegian from 1887 to 1891, then went on to coach a number of college teams. He changed the sport from placing the ball on the ground and rolling it from center to lifting and handing or passing it back to the quarterback. He also added more innovations to the game.
During 1916, he coached Georgia Tech to the highest scoring game in college football. While playing a makeshift Cumberland team, his team outscored its opponent 222-0.
Heisman became the athletic director at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club, which awarded the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy to the most valuable college football player east of the Mississippi. He died after the first trophy was awarded and before the second trophy could be awarded, the club voted to rename the prize the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award and included college players west of the Mississippi.

Incidentally, The famous “Heisman pose” trophy is actually based on Ed Smith, a former NYU running back who modeled for the trophy’s sculptor in 1934.

Robot Handiwork

For those who do not think robots are ready for prime time, here is a gif showing a robot stitching the skin of a grape. LINK  

Dec 8, 2017

Happy Friday

Do not chase happiness, attract it.

I am always attracted to happiness, especially on a Happy Friday!

Camel Beauty Contest

An interesting beauty contest is held in Madinat Zayed in Al Gharbia from December 13 to 29, the Al Dhafra Festival, the world’s largest festival of Bedouin traditions, is organized by the Cultural Programs and Heritage Festivals Committee - Abu Dhabi. The two-week event also serves as an important channel to make future generations familiar with their traditions and cultural heritage.

The festival will host one of the world’s largest camel beauty contests and camel gatherings with organizers expecting around 2,000 camel owners and over 20,000 camels from the GCC taking part in the event.

Last year camels owned by Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed, the President’s Representative, won top prizes in the camel ‘mazayna’ beauty contest at this year’s Al Dhafra Festival. Sheikh Sultan’s camels won the Aayel category for the golden-red camel breed, originally from Oman. Camels belonging to Khamis Al Mazrouie won the Majahim category, the black camels of Saudi Arabia.

Overweight Statistics

Many things have changed since 1960. Back then the price of gas was 25 cents, house price $12,700, loaf of bread 25 cents, and a pound of hamburger 45 cents. Not so with the CDC definitions of weight. The tables used to determine the current obesity levels are still the same ones used during 1960.

Unrelated, but interesting to note that since 1960, the average weight of a turkey has more than doubled from 15.1 pounds during 1960 to 31.1 pounds during 2017.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and the US National Center for Health Statistics, as of 2014, close to 71% of US adults age 20 or older are overweight or obese, based on those old tables.

While the world has changed dramatically, the weight definitions for overweight and obese have not changed during the past almost sixty years. The fact that Americans have also increased height and age during that time is not taken into consideration of the weight calculations.

Bottom line, we are comparing current weights to ancient 1960 tables. Also, BMI, as a measure has been debunked by the same CDC which states, "BMI ranges are not exact ranges of healthy and unhealthy weight." According to the BMI table, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Vin Diesel are both overweight.

Maybe the 1960 definitions and the BMI definitions need to be updated according to modern reality. Since we have achieved two standard deviations above the almost 60 year old tables, it might be time to redefine normal or we will soon be 100% overweight. Then the government agencies will forced to redefine the definition of windmills, as they are wont to do.

Text 911

For texting to 911 to work, emergency numbers need to be set up to receive texts, and then people trained and paid to receive and respond to those messages. Most departments have not had the time or money to implement.

There are some localities within the United States who do have the required infrastructure to take 911 messages through text. This does not mean you should take it for granted, as far fewer places can take text messages than cannot. If you are interested in being able to text 911 in an emergency, call up your local police non-emergency hotline and find out first if they have the service. If you are not 100% sure the service is provided in your area, call 9-1-1.

Creating New Tabs

Many times, clicking on a link in your browser opens it on top of what you are reading. This makes you go back after you are finished reading the page that interrupted you. Fortunately there are a few ways around this. Look for options and you can tell your preferred browser to open everything in a new ltab, or you can try a few of these tricks below.

Clicking on a link with the middle mouse button opens that link in a new browser tab. Go ahead and give it a try. It will change your life - or at least your browsing.

The oldest method is to right-click a link and select 'Open in new tab'.

For laptop users, sometimes pressing both trackpad buttons at once works as a middle click.

Finally, you can left-click a link while holding the CTRL key.

Fresh vs. Frozen Food

It is a natural tendency to believe fresh fruits and veggies are better for us, and taste better. However, unless you live in an area with local farms, your produce probably came from a place that is far away. From the moment that spinach was picked, it has been slowly decaying and losing its nutrients during the long journey to the grocery shelf. In addition, it was tossed into a refrigerated storage room for a while, then spread out in the produce section for a while hoping to get selected, then left in your fridge at home after you bought it.

What that all leads to is when it comes to nutrition, frozen produce will probably always be better than fresh. It is flash frozen immediately after it is picked, so it loses fewer nutrients between being harvested and landing on your plate. The same is true for some canned foods. For instance, canned tomatoes are higher in the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene than their non frozen counterpart, due to how they are preserved.

There is a caveat, the convenience and cost of frozen or canned foods makes them attractive options, particularly when fresh foods are out of season in your area. However, make sure you carefully read nutrition labels before purchasing frozen or canned foods. Some of these foods have high levels of added sodium or preservatives, which can make them less healthy options.

Frozen or canned food often allows you to buy higher-quality produce that was picked in-season and kept at that level of freshness. Even Popeye preferred canned spinach.

Three Quick Facts

Oscar Hammerstein II is the only Oscar to win an Oscar.

Tipping the hat comes from the military salute, which in turn comes from men in armor lifting the visor to show their faces.

Wine drinkers pour 12% more wine into a glass they are holding than one that is sitting on the table.


Velveeta does not fit into the fresh or frozen category of food, because it is neither picked nor frozen. It was invented by Emil Frey back during 1918. It is smooth and creamy, melts like a dream, and is one of the truly all-American foods. It was a pantry staple during the 1950s and lives on today. We grew up on many grilled cheese sandwiches made with Velveeta.

Real cheese was originally a part of the recipe, but today it is primarily milk protein concentrate and whey protein concentrate mixed with fat, milk, preservatives, and stabilizers, which the US FDA does not officially recognize as cheese. In 2002, the company was forced to change its official designation from Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread to Pasteurized Recipe Cheese Product.

During the 1920s Velveeta was advertised as a health food, and several years later it became the first cheese product to gain the American Medical Association’s seal of approval.

Like cream cheese, Velveeta contains both whey and curd, resulting in a creamier product. The whey is drained off of most cheeses, which are made from the resulting curd. Despite the fact that Velveeta is not a true cheese, it is a good source of CLA, containing more than most whole milk cheddar cheeses. It is also a good source of calcium

Today, Velveeta has more than thirty varieties. Its Kraft website calls it 'liquid gold'. It also comes in slices for easy grilled cheese sandwiches. There are the popular shells and cheese as well as variations including broccoli rotini and cheese, Nacho Supreme Cheese Skillets, Cheese Bacon Scalloped Potatoes, and Cheesy Chili Cornbread Casserole. among others. Its website even has a recipe for creamy Velveeta fudge. The many varieties of Velveeta cheese dips have long been a favorite for game day snacking.

Why Are Planets Round

Have you ever wondered why all the planets are mostly round? The spherical shape of all the planets is caused by gravity. When the planets in our solar system began to form, space was filled with billions and billions of pieces of dust and gas.

As these pieces bumped into each other, they began to form clumps that slowly grew larger and larger. Eventually these clumps of material grew large enough to develop their own gravitational fields. As the forming planets continued to grow, the force of the collisions with additional matter caused them to become hot and molten. Each planet's gravitational force is centered at its core. It pulls equally in every direction from the core, thus pulling all the molten material into a spherical shape. Scientists call this process "isostatic adjustment."

Think of a bicycle wheel. The center of the wheel is like the core of a planet, where the planet's center of gravity is. The gravity pulls equally in every direction, like the spokes of the wheel. The natural shape of the wheel formed as a result is a circle. In the case of a three-dimensional object, it becomes a sphere.

Planets are not actually perfectly round, because they also spin. When planets spin, the forces created by spinning work against gravity, causing planets to bulge out around their equators. Scientists call this extra width the "equatorial bulge." None of this has anything to do with getting older and developing our own human 'equatorial bulge' around the middle.

First Moon Meal

Speaking of the solar system, the first full meal eaten on the Moon consisted of bacon, cookies, and coffee, along with some peaches, and a glass of grapefruit juice. However, this is not the first food consumed on the moon.

When Buzz Aldrin set off on the Apollo 11 mission, he took with him a small communion kit given to him by Rev Dean Woodruff, so that he could symbolically take part in the ceremony with the other members of his Presbyterian church. This kit contained a small piece of communion bread and a small vial of wine, both of which Aldrin consumed after saying a prayer during the Apollo 11 radio blackout. This was also, unsurprisingly, the first religious service held on the Moon. Of course moon meal, another first for beloved bacon. It proves bacon is out of this world goodness.

Dec 1, 2017

My Latest Book

Tis the season for presents and stocking stuffers. My latest book, fourth in a series, Amazing Facts IV LINK should fit well into both categories. In fact all of my books are great presents to give to yourself or a loved one this holiday season. Where else can you get this much wisdom between two covers? Great way to shop without leaving the comfort of your home. Type my surname name on Amazon for a view of all my books, including free sneak previews inside. Happy Holidays! Also, if you do buy any, please leave a review.

Since I have no ads and never charge for producing these weekly Friday Thoughts, picking up my books is a great way to show your support. Thanks!

Happy Friday

Everything happens for a reason.

Today is the reason I am happy to celebrate a Happy Friday!

FedEx Facts

FedEx is very busy, especially during the Holidays. Normally, an average of 13 million packages are delivered daily.

FedEx Express and FedEx Ground are actually two separate entities. Most of the routes for Ground are contracted out to save money. People can purchase the routes from FedEx and then hire their own drivers. While that should not affect the consumer, sometimes people are upset that Express employees cannot pick up Ground packages. Ground drivers tend to handle the larger, heavier items that are not being sent overnight.

FedEx's general tracking services rely mostly on barcodes, barcode scanners and a Web interface that customers can access. With such access, a customer can follow a package from scan point to scan point, either via a tracking, invoice or purchase order, or customer account number.
Many Express Ground trucks are not loaded with GPS or other high-tech distractions. The company provides turn by turn maps for each package. Some Ground drivers provide their own GPS equipment. FedEx drivers get automated delivery information and can have it sent to their own GPS device.

Toothpaste Hack

If you get an ink stain on your clothes, one way to get it out is to rub the stain with non-gel toothpaste, let it dry, then wash as usual.

Top Online TV

Vizio took home the gold in Brand View’s latest analysis of 4K TV online selling. Brand View analyzed online performances of the top five most-listed 4K TV brands in the following sites:,,,, and
In calculating the scores, Brand View used the following criteria:

*Can shoppers find the products on the digital shelf?
*Do the products return on the first page of results when searched for by category, or by keywords, such as “4K television” or “4K TV.”

*Is the brand name present and correct in product descriptions?
*Is key product information, including descriptions, images and videos, accurately listed on retailer websites?

*Are shoppers engaging with the brand online?
*How do the product reviews and ratings represent the brand?

Although Vizio took top billing with an overall score of 3.6 stars, it was a tight race, with LG coming in a close second at 3.3. Brand View determines its overall rankings using a proprietary weighted method, not an average

Vizio 3.6
LG 3.3
Samsung 3.0
Sony 2.8
Hisense 2.3
Incidentally Toshiba recently sold its TV and visual solutions business to Hisense.

Wordology, Mamamouchi

Mamamouchi rolls easily off the tongue and has an equally delectable meaning: A pompous title, someone who believes themselves more important than they really are. In other words, an ostentatious, self-important, and ridiculous pretender.

Related Panjandrum -  A mocking name for a pompous, pretentious, self-important official.

Organic Food Myth

There is a myth that organic foods contain more nutrients than conventional counterparts. In fact, there are many misconceptions surrounding the organic label you see on foods at the store or farmer's market. The term “organic” is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. Legally, foods labeled “organic” must be grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, or growth hormones. Organic farmers also often follow production practices that are less harmful to the environment and to animal welfare.

However, many people still believe that organic products are inherently more nutritious or healthier than their conventional alternatives. Large scale studies of this topic has shown that it is not true. There is no difference in the amount or quality of the nutrients found in conventional foods versus their organic counterparts.

Size Matters

Did you know Russia's eastern border is with the US and its western border is with China.
In the middle of the Bering Strait are two small, sparsely populated islands: Big Diomede, which sits in Russian territory, and Little Diomede, which is part of the United States. At their closest, these two islands are a little less than two and a half miles apart, which means that, on a clear day, you can definitely see one from the other.  Big Diomede, Russia is 21 hours ahead of Little Diomede, US, because of this the islands are sometimes called Tomorrow Island (Big Diomede) and Yesterday Isle (Little Diomede). Yes, it is true that you can see Russia from Alaska.

Incidentally, China is bordered by the most countries. In total, China borders 14 other countries: On the northern border, China borders (west to east) Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia. To the west, China shares boundaries with (north to south) Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Recycling Airline Style

Southwest Airlines is making a new fashion statement. The carrier has inked a multi-year partnership with Mexican fashion designer Carla Fernandez to use recycled leather from discarded Southwest airplane seats to create a new line of accessories and clothing ranging from shoes and bags to ponchos and key chains. The new items will be marketed and sold under the "LUV Seat: Mexico" banner.


In Austria, 'Krampus night' is December 5, or St. Nicholas eve. One of the ways to witness the spectacle is to attend a  Krampuslauf or 'Krampus run'. You remember Krampus, according to folklore he is the devilish sidekick of St. Nicholas, and his duties include throwing naughty children into a sack or basket, beating them with a whip, and carrying them off into the night.

One of the largest events on Krampus night is held in Klagenfurt am Worthersee, near the Austrian-Slovenian border and takes place along almost a mile through the city center. It begins with a troupe of young men who strap 45-pound bells around their waists. They are called called Krampusglocken or Balkenglocke, the instruments make a thunderous boom as the men march together, smacking the bells with their thighs. Most of the hundreds of performers wear elaborate wooden masks and fur costumes, some use painted masks with LED lights and other modern accessories.
A great way to have a fun parade and usher in the holiday season.

Incidentally, the day after is St. Nicholas day, when he comes to leave coins or candies in good children's shoes. Growing up, someone would toss little bags of candy on our porch. The American Santa Claus, as well as the British Father Christmas, derive in part from Saint Nicholas and in part from the Dutch Sinterklaas, the saint's name in that language.