Dec 31, 2009

New Year Poem

If New Year's Eve night-wind blows south,
    It betokeneth warmth and growth;
    If west, much milk, and fish in the sea;
    If north, cold and storms there will be;
    If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
    If north-east, flee it, man and brute!

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada, and many other Commonwealth nations. It is a time for family and friends to gather for food and fun. Outdoor sports, such as soccer, horse racing, and hunting are popular on this holiday. Retailers offer huge savings on many items on this day, making it the biggest shopping day of the year in Canada. It is celebrated on December 26th and is a statutory holiday in the federal jurisdiction and Ontario. If it falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, the working day immediately preceding or following Boxing Day is considered a legal holiday.

Boxing Day, also known as the Feast of St. Stephen, after the first Christian martyr, originated in England in the middle of the nineteenth century under Queen Victoria. It originated as a holiday for members of the merchant class to give boxes containing food and fruit, clothing, and/or money to trades people and servants. Many workers were required to work on Christmas Day and took the following day off to visit their families. As they prepared to leave, their employers would present them with Christmas boxes. The gifts were an expression of gratitude similar to the bonuses many employers offer their employees today. These gifts, usually given in wood or clay boxes, gave the holiday it's name, "Boxing Day".

Also related to the origin of Boxing Day is the tradition of opening the alms boxes placed in churches over the Christmas season. The contents of these boxes were distributed amongst the poor by the clergy on the day after Christmas.

When great sailing ships were setting off to discover new land, a Christmas Box was used as a good luck device. It was a small container placed on each ship while it was still in port. It was put there by a priest, and those crewmen who wanted to ensure a safe return would drop money into the box. It was then sealed up and kept on board for the entire voyage. If the ship came home safely, the box was handed over to the priest in the exchange for the saying of a Mass of thanks for the success of the voyage. The Priest would keep the box sealed until Christmas when he would open it to share the contents with the poor.

During the late 18th century, Lords and Ladies of the manor would "box up" their leftover food, and sometimes gifts and distribute them the day after Christmas to tenants who lived and worked on their lands.

Color of the Year 2010

Turquoise. Pantone has announced their selection for Color of the Year for 2010, and the winner is Turquoise. Turqouise, according to the color mavens, "evokes thoughts of soothing, tropical waters and a languorous, effective escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of well being.”

Real turquoise (the mineral) was treasured in antiquity for "natural protection against the powers of darkness" and derives its name from the custom of the Turks to wear one in their turbans to ward off the "evil eye".

The Color of the Year for 2009 was "Mimosa". 


There are an estimated 6,500 languages in the world and half or more of them could cease to exist by 2100.

Languages are dying out around the globe through globalization, social change, and a shift in populations from rural areas to cities. Of the 6,500 languages estimated to be still in use, only 11 are spoken by half the world's population, and 95 percent of the languages are spoken by less than five percent of the global population.

A new project, the World Oral Literature Project, by the University of Cambridge's Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, aims to preserve the linguistic diversity being lost. The project is recording and documenting languages that face the prospect of dying out, with the goal of preserving their poems, chants, stories, and anything else that can be recorded. This is somewhat like the Rosetta Stone Project, which began about ten years ago and that has documented 2,500 languages for the same purpose.

The language used by most people is Chinese Mandarin, followed by English and Spanish. The language spoken by most countries is English, followed by French, then Spanish.

1.5  billion people speak Chinese, 1 billion plus speak English, and about 500 million speak Spanish. English is spoken in more countries than any other language.

English is a West Germanic language that developed in England during the Anglo-Saxon era. It has become common as a result of the military, economic, scientific, political, and cultural influence of the British Empire during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, and of the United States since the mid 20th century. All y'all listen up?

US and GDP Equivalents

Here is a picture of the US States labeled by the name of the country whose GDP is most equivalent.


The first powered airplane flight by Orville Wright was on December 30, 1903.


The relatively new holiday Kwanza was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He saw it as a way to bring African-Americans together as a community. He combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu. The name was derived from a phrase that means 'first fruits.' Later the second "A" was later added to make 7 letters to coincide with the seven candles he decided should be lit for the holidays.

Kwanzaa is a non-religious African-American holiday which celebrates family, community, and culture. Celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles. It is celebrated for seven days: December 26 - January 1.

New Year Bacon

Took this quote and picture from Life Magazine Jan 1, 1940.

"Frank Sinatra Ate Bacon When He Was Young. That Proves Bacon is Cool."  I didn't make this one up folks.

Dec 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all.

Christmas Wishes

Your friendship is a glowing ember through the year; and each December from its warm and living spark we kindle a flame against the dark, and with its shining radiance light our tree on Christmas eve.

Holiday Town Names

Place names associated with the holiday season include North Pole, Alaska (population 2,212 in 2008); Santa Claus, IN (2,314); Santa Claus, GA (250); Noel, MO (1,608); the village of Rudolph, WI (412) and Dasher, GA (849). There is Snowflake, AZ (5,673) and a dozen places named Holly, including Holly Springs, MS, Mount Holly, NC, and Holly, MI.

Christmas Thoughts

"On Christmas Eve all animals can speak." However, it is bad luck to test this superstition.

"The child born on Christmas Day will have a special fortune." My Aunt Marion was born on Christmas, 1908. She was special. Also, 25th December 1642, Sir Isaac Newton was born. He found white light could be split into the colors of the Rainbow.

Wearing new shoes on Christmas Day will bring bad luck.

Good luck will come to the home where a fire is kept burning throughout the Christmas season.

If a girl raps at the hen house door on Christmas Eve and a rooster crows, she will marry within the year.

A mild December precedes a cold snap later in the winter.

A green December fills the graveyard

A clear star-filled sky on Christmas Eve will bring good crops in the summer.

If sun shines through the apple trees upon a Christmas Day, when autumn comes they will a load of fruit display.

Snow on Christmas means Easter will be green.
A green Christmas; a white Easter.

If Christmas day be bright and clear  there will be two winters in the year.

The nearer the New Moon to Christmas Day, the harder the Winter. 

Best Christmas Gift

Do you know what the cheapest, yet best Christmas gift is?
A smile. It is free, yet timeless and priceless.

Dec 23, 2009

Christmas Facts

$410 million in sales by US Christmas tree farmers in 2007. Of those, $109.3 million were from Christmas tree farmers in Oregon in 2007.

$470.3 million in imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and August 2009. China was the leading country of origin for such items.


You can change the present (as in change the present you give), and you can also change the present of the world, by changing the kind of present you give.

Ode to Joy

This is played on a glass harp. Did you know the glass harp (or glass Armonica) was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761? Sit back, relax, and enjoy a minute of music HERE.
Some advice for today 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' played on another modern version HERE.

Here is a picture of an original glass armonica.

Santa and Saint Nicholas

What's the Difference Between Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas?

Santa Claus belongs to childhood;
St. Nicholas models for all of life.

Santa Claus was developed to boost Christmas sales, the commercial Christmas message;
St. Nicholas told the story of Christ and peace, goodwill toward all, the hope-filled Christmas message.

Santa Claus encourages consumption;
St. Nicholas encourages compassion.

Santa Claus appears each year to be seen and heard for a short time;
St. Nicholas surrounds us always.

Santa Claus flies through the air from the North Pole;
St. Nicholas walked the earth caring for those in need.

Santa Claus isn't bad;
St. Nicholas is just better.


A diamond is the only kind of ice that keeps a girl warm.

Christmas 1876

“Christmas and New Year are a very merry time for some people; but for cabmen and cabmen’s horses it is no holiday, though it may be a harvest. There are so many parties, balls, and places of amusement open, that the work is hard and often late.

Sometimes driver and horse have to wait hours in the rain or frost, shivering with cold, while the merry people within are dancing away to the music. I wonder if the beautiful ladies ever think of the weary cabman waiting on his box, and his patient beast standing till his legs get stiff with cold.”

From Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse by Anna Sewell, published in November, 1877. She never wrote another book. She died on April 25, 1878, five months after the publication of her classic horse story.

Christmas 1882

Edward Johnson, who worked at Edison Illumination Company, finds an application for electric lights and becomes the first person to use them as Christmas tree decorations.

He used 80 small red, white and blue electric bulbs, strung together along a single power cord, to light the Christmas tree in his New York home.

Musical Interlude

I couldn't share Christmas without my favorite Christmas music, Mario Lanza's 'O Holy Night' LINK.

If that is too much, here is a youtube of Celine Dione, not my favorite singer, but she absolutely rocks with 'O Holy Night.'

On December 24, 1818, "Silent Night, Holy Night" was first sung. The words were written by Joseph Franz Mohr, a young priest, and the music by Herr Gruber in Oberndorf, Austria.

Dec 18, 2009

Lord of Misrule

In ancient Roman times, December 17 was the beginning of the festival of Saturnalia, in honor of the god Saturn (of agriculture). It was originally just a day event, but eventually grew into a seven day orgy of revelry, feasting, and merrymaking. 

The Saturnalia was a holiday period for all, including the slaves, who changed places with their masters for the duration. Presents were exchanged, especially candles, informal clothes worn, and gambling games permitted. It was also customary to appoint a master of the revels (Saturnalicius princeps), a character that reappeared in England as the Lord of Misrule. The Lord of Misrule formally presided over the Christmas celebrations, or over the entire period from All-Hallows Eve (October 31) to Candlemas (February 2).

It is commonly believed that the church chose this time (Pope Julius I chose December 25) in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. It was first called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day, as it is believed then the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

Christmas Advice to Men

To make gifts go farther, wrap the batteries separately (Dave Barry)

Aunt Jemima

Chris L. Rutt of St. Joseph, Missouri and his friend Charles G. Underwood bought a flour mill in 1888. Rutt and Underwood's Pearl Milling Company faced a glutted flour market, so they sold their excess flour as a ready-made pancake mix in brown paper sacks without a trade name. In 1889, Rutt attended a vaudeville show where he heard a catchy tune called "Aunt Jemima" sung by a blackface performer who was wearing an apron and bandanna headband. He decided to call their pancake flour "Aunt Jemima."

In 1890,  R.T. Davis purchased the struggling company. He then brought the Aunt Jemima character to life when he hired Nancy Green as his spokeswoman. The image of Aunt Jemima was so popular that the company was renamed the Aunt Jemima Mills Company.

On November 17, 1834, Nancy Green was born. She was a Black storyteller and one of the first black corporate models in the United States. The world knew her as "Aunt Jemima." The Aunt Jemima character was prominent in minstrel shows in the late 19th century, and was later adopted by commercial interests to represent the Aunt Jemima brand.

In 1893, the Davis Milling Company aggressively began an all-out promotion of "Aunt Jemima" at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Green, as "Aunt Jemima," demonstrated the pancake mix and served thousands of pancakes. Green was a hit, friendly, a good storyteller, and a good cook. Her warm and appealing personality made her the ideal "Aunt Jemima," a living trademark. Her exhibition booth drew so many people that special policemen were assigned to keep the crowds moving. The company received over 50,000 orders, and Fair officials awarded Nancy Green a medal and certificate for her showmanship.

She was proclaimed "Pancake Queen." She was signed to a lifetime contract and traveled on promotional tours all over the country. Flour sales were up all year and pancakes were no longer considered exclusively for breakfast. Nancy Green maintained this job until a car crash in Chicago killed her on September 23, 1923.

In 1925, Quaker Oats purchased the Aunt Jemima Mills Company. Anna (Robinson) Harrington was discovered by the Quaker Oats Company and she played the part 14 years.

During the 14 years Mrs. Harrington worked as Aunt Jemima, she made enough money to provide for her children and to buy a 22-room house with a bungalow behind it. She rented rooms to boarders.

The Aunt Jemima image has been modified several times over the years. In her most recent 1989 make-over, as she reached her 100th anniversary, the 1968 image was updated, with her kerchief removed to reveal a natural hairdo and pearl earrings. This new look remains with the products to this day.

Dec 15, 2009


Smile - Pass it on.

Toy Imports

$4.3 billion was spent for toy imports including stuffed toys, puzzles and electric trains from China between January and August 2009. China was the leading country of origin for stuffed toys coming into this country, as well as for a number of other popular holiday gifts, including roller skates ($30 million), sports footwear ($120 million), golf balls ($31 million) and basketballs ($29 million).

China leads Canada as the leading supplier of ice skates ($12 million versus $5 million), with Thailand ranking third ($4 million), aye.  Canada is spelled  CA NA DA aye.


Kill the Grinch - Give him a smile!

Physician Pay Cuts

This is one more example of the type of change that has been happening for the past few months, and virtually hidden by the healthcare bill debate. As part of the healthcare bill in the Senate now, Medicare would give 10% bonus payments to primary care and family physicians as a workforce incentive, but half of that bonus would be financed by cuts in surgeons' pay. This would have an especially discouraging impact on the workforce of surgeons in underserved and rural areas.

Regardless of whether the bill passes, as of Jan. 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services plans to eliminate a series of five-digit CPT codes that specialist physicians, such as cardiologists, oncologists, and surgeons, use to bill for medical or surgical consults. These consults occur at the request of a practitioner who wants a specialist's opinion regarding his or her patient. For example, an internist may want his patient seen by a vascular surgeon, or a family practitioner may want her patient seen by an endocrinologist or pulmonologist.

Under current rules, the CPT code for consultation calls for reimbursement that is between $20 and $50 higher than for a comparable office visit. But by eliminating the CPT codes, those specialists will be forced to bill under a different payment code bracket, which covers for a simple office visit.

First, the patient's condition must have added complexity or it wouldn't have needed referral. Second, the specialist performs an independent physical and often gets a separate history of the patient, spending as much as an hour to set a correct diagnosis and course of care. And third, reimbursement policy requires the specialist physician to return to the referring physician a written report of the findings and course of care. It shows that we do not need a new bill to control healthcare. Some are so set to change the world, that they cannot wait.

Penny for Your Thoughts

Did you know it costs the government 1.4 cents to make a penny. It produces 5.4 billion of them a year. Do you know why the government has to keep producing pennies? It is because of sales tax, which makes purchases cost an uneven amount, because tax is a percent of the price. The coin's name derives from the Old English pennige, pronounced, roughly, penny-yuh.

Can you see those initials under Lincoln's right shoulder? They are the initials of the designer. So, our infinitely wise government makes pennies, which it has to make because of taxes, and it loses money on each one, which cost us more income tax to pay for their production costs. My thoughts are to eliminate sales tax so our income tax will go down and we could get rid of pennies.

Shiver Me Timbers

A shiver is a wood splinter from a broken mast on a ship, sometimes caused by cannon fire from another ship. As the mast shattered, splinters broke off and sometimes flew into an unfortunate sailor caught too close to the action.

Knives with no handles are shaped like those broken shards and are hence called shivs. Arrgh, that's the truth, matey.

Keeping Notes

If you are like me and need to write notes to yourself about some web site or other tidbit of info you don't want to lose. Try this. I write an email to myself and save it as draft. I usually have only a few emails in my draft folder, so it is easy to find. The worst thing that can happen is that you hit 'send' by mistake and it is mailed to yourself.

Winter Solstice

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice marks the first day of the season of winter. It falls on or near December 21.

The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. It is a celebration of the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, when the North Pole is at its furthest point away from the sun.

The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.

Yule logs are traditionally lit on the first day of the Solstice and are burned throughout the Solstice night for 12 hours as a symbol of hope and belief that the sun will return. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time, a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits,  and bring luck for the coming year.

Land Ownership

The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land, or nearly 30% of its total territory. These federal lands are used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks, and reserves and Indian reservations, or are leased to the private sector for commercial exploitation (e.g. forestry, mining, agriculture).  (Red is Fed owned)

They are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority.


How do sheep in Mexico say Merry Christmas?
Fleece Navidad!

Dec 11, 2009

Christmas Shopping

The value of retail sales by electronic shopping and mail-order houses in December 2008 was $24 Billion.

New Way to Fight Cancer

Cell>Point is a company that plans to deliver a cheaper and more effective way to detect tumors in 2010.

Doctors currently rely on positron-emission tomography (PET) scans to see tumors. But PET machines cost more than $2.5 million apiece and are usually found only in major medical centers. MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, had developed a chemical that could light up a tumor on a common SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) camera. They wanted Cell>Point's owner to help turn it into a product.

More affordable at about $800,000, SPECT cameras are found in six times as many US hospitals as PET scanners and Cell>Point's isotope uses 70% less radiation than PET isotopes and should cost about half as much, about $800 per scan.

Doctors can determine within about two weeks whether a cancer treatment was working, instead of waiting for months with PET scans. Now it is time to begin the costly FDA approval process, but don't expect that to be accomplished next year.

Christmas Post Office Offer

The following is taken directly from the Post Office web site and  thought I would share.
"Camcorder. Check. Toy train. Check. Cuckoo clock. Check. No matter what’s on your holiday wish list, if it fits, it ships, with Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes, only from the U.S. Postal Service. Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes let you ship nearly any gift for a low flat rate,” said Robert F. Bernstock, president, Mailing and Shipping Services.

Four box sizes are available to fit holiday gifts:

    * Small Flat Rate box, 8 5/8" x 5 3/8" x 1 5/8", shipping starts at $4.95
    * Medium Flat Rate box, 11" x 8 1/2" x 5 1/2", shipping starts at $10.35
    * Large Flat Rate box, 12" x 12" x 5 1/2", shipping starts at $13.95 ($10.95 when shipping to military personnel at APO/FPO addresses overseas)
    * Medium Flat Rate box, 13 5/8" x 11 7/8" x 3 3/8", shipping starts at $10.35.

Prices are even lower when you pay online at “Order Flat Rate boxes now, and we’ll deliver them to you at no charge in time to ship for the holidays,” said Bernstock. “We’ll even pick up your packages for free, saving you a trip to the Post Office.” I think they are really interested in some business this year.

Mircrosoft Maps

Microsoft is trying to get in on the Google action of taking pictures of streets, so you can actually see store fronts on the map as you move down the street. Just tried it at LINK and it has a ways to go before catching up with Google.

If you have not tried the Streetview when using the Google map, just click on the outline of a man on the view bar on the left side of the map and drag him the the street you are looking at. You will see a photograph of the buildings. Google has also done many neighborhoods and I tried my own house and the pictures are reasonable.

To try it, look up your own address on Google maps LINK
Type in your address and zoom in to your house. Then hold down the left mouse button and drag the little man to your street. It will turn the map into a photo. Click on the left or right arrows to move up and down your street.


I haven't written much about this lately, but recently IBM scientists built the biggest artificial brain of all time, (now as smart as a house cat), using a supercomputer powered by 147,456 processors and 150,000 gigabytes of memory.

It appears we are on the way to realizing Ray Kurzweil’s prediction made in 1999 that by the year 2020, the power of a $1,000 PC will match the computing speed and capacity of the human brain. He had a follow-up 2005 work, 'The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology', in which he talked more about how the exponential growth of computing will enhance human intelligence far beyond anything imaginable today.

Many scholars believe that because of this rapidly accelerating convergence, a technological event called the SINGULARITY will occur. The amount and rate of change resulting from it, will cause such vast difference in how we work, live, and play that we can't possibly conceive of the changes that will come about after that time. Think of it as the  new industrial revolution on steroids, Viagra, and hallucinogens all at the same time. These scholars are talking about positive, not negative affects of technology.

Kurzweil says that computers are rapidly gaining intelligence, are acquiring humanlike intelligence, and will eventually, collectively exceed human intelligence. Computers will be able to gather knowledge on their own. On the human side, new technologies will be increasing our health and mental capabilities, thanks to nanotechnologies and knowledge systems. By the 2020s, “it will become increasingly difficult to draw any clear distinction between the capabilities of human and machine intelligence,” he wrote.

Kurzweil also went on to predict that by 2029, the power of a $1,000 PC will grow to approximately 1,000 human brains. By that time, “automated agents are now learning on their own, and significant knowledge is now being created by machines on their own.” Several decades later, by the end of the 21st century, there will be more software-based “humans” than carbon-based humans.

The world is already different than what it was just five years ago. Think iPod and the touch screens they use on news programs. I love technology and I know I can always pull out the plug or hit the off switch. Wish I could do that with some. . . Oh, that's a different story.

Alcohol Protects Men's Hearts

Just in time for the holidays. Drinking alcohol every day cuts the risk of heart disease in men by more than a third, a major study suggests and the type of drink did not appear to change the results

The Spanish research involving more than 15,500 men and 26,000 women found large quantities of alcohol could be even more beneficial for men. Female drinkers did not benefit to the same extent.

The study was conducted in Spain, a country with relatively high rates of alcohol consumption and low rates of coronary heart disease. The research involved men and women aged between 29 and 69, who were asked to document their lifetime drinking habits and followed for 10 years.

The researchers, led by the Basque Public Health Department, placed the participants into six categories - from never having drunk to drinking more than 90g (3 oz.) of alcohol each day. This would be equivalent to consuming eight bottles of wine a week, or 28 pints of beer.

For those drinking less than a shot of vodka a day, the risk was reduced by 35%, and for those who drank anything from three shots to more than 11 shots each day, the risk worked out an average of 50% less risk of heart disease.

The exact mechanisms are as yet unclear, but it is known that alcohol helps to raise high-density lipoproteins (HDL), sometimes known as good cholesterol, which helps stop so-called bad cholesterol from building up in the arteries.

The Stroke Association meanwhile noted that overall, evidence indicated that people who regularly consumed a large amount of alcohol had a three-fold increased risk of stroke.

In the UK, the recommendation is no more than two to three units of alcohol a day for women - the equivalent of one standard glass of wine - and three to four units for men. So, drink lots and save your heart, but ruin your brain and liver. Drink less and save your liver and brain, but risk a heart attack.  Hmmm. Decisions, decisions. . .

Speaking of Drinking

A friend of mine, Joe Dougherty sent me this one and I couldn't resist sharing. LINK It is about how to make bacon infused vodka. The Allston Yacht Club bar serves a bacon and egg martini. It shows how to infuse vodka with bacon, then serve with a quail egg. Oh, yes, the site also shows 1,001 things to do with bacon. Yumm!

Founding Fathers Papers

LINK  thousands of unpublished documents from our nation’s founders in a free online resource. Collected over many years by the Founders Documentary Editions, these letters and other papers penned by important figures such as James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson offer Americans of all ages and interests, a unique view of the early Republic.

College Football

Unlike the original Founding Fathers, our current batch of politicians have more important stuff to discuss. The link below shows what they have been up to while debating the wars, National Health Care, the waning economy, etc. Cars and banks are not enough, now they get into football.

A House subcommittee has approved legislation aimed at forcing college football to switch to a playoff system to determine a national champion.

The bill would ban the promotion of a post season NCAA Division 1 football game as a national championship unless that title contest is the result of a playoff.  The measure passed by a voice vote Wednesday by a House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee. That should solve the current economic crisis.

Garlic and the Flu

If you want to get stinking rich in China today forget real estate, gold, or silver, because garlic has outperformed all of them. As fears of swine flu grow, traders are hoarding garlic and watching the price of the pungent vegetable go through the roof. Prices have risen sharply since unscrupulous investors began buying up all the garlic available.

According to China's Ministry of Commerce the average price for a kilogram of garlic has risen from 14p in March to 54p and in some markets the price has reportedly risen 40-fold.

Jerry Lou, an analyst for Morgan Stanley, said dealers can make millions. "You need a warehouse, a lot of cash and a few trucks," he told the Washington Post. Basically, you buy as much supply as possible, then bid up the price.

The reason for this is many people believe garlic can protect against the H1N1 virus.

In one high school in Hangzhou, staff bought 200kg of garlic and fed it to their luckless pupils every lunchtime for the good of their health.

China produces three times more garlic then the rest of the world combined, but anticipating falling prices during the world recession, its farmers planted less garlic last year. Speculators made fortunes by moving in and buying up the harvest before it was ripe.

Dec 4, 2009


To many, the holidays are a time of loneliness instead of joy and celebration. If this helps one person feel better, it is worth it. When you are feeling down, don't give away your frowns. They will only beget more frowns.

Give away a smile and see what you get back. It is impossible to give away a smile without getting one back.

Saint Nicholas Day

St Nicholas died on December 6, 343 and is remembered every year on the 6th of December. It continues in many places, and some cultures still use this occasion to give gifts to children. There are still celebrations in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Milwaukee also has a strong tradition of celebrating "St Nick’s Day," due to its large immigrant German community.

The Dutch celebrate the 'Feast of Sinterklaas', (Santa Claus is a variation of the name), as we celebrate Christmas. Some celebrate on December 5 (like Christmas eve). The myth  involving Sinterklaas is that he rides on his white horse across the roofs of houses, and that his small helpers, who are entirely black and called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), climb down the chimneys and put presents in people's shoes. Children leave a carrot in the shoes for his horse.

St Nicholas (or St Nickolas) was Bishop of Myra (Turkey) and remains the Patron Saint of sailors, fishermen, the falsely accused, pawnbrokers, thieves and a number of cities.

You can see from the picture why old pictures of Santa Claus show the bishop's miter (hat) and staff.

Many miracles and good deeds are attributed to St Nicholas. One relates how a father, who could not afford a dowry for his three daughters (which would mean they were unable to marry, and might have been sold), would find little bags of gold coins thrown through his window, under cover of night. The bags landed on stockings left to dry before the fire. This is why people hang stockings on the fireplace at Christmas, hoping for them to be filled with goodies.

Growing up, we celebrated St. Nicholas day by throwing small bags of candy on neighbor's porches at dusk, then running away. We were always home in time to enjoy the candy treats thrown on our porch.


The name frog comes from the Old-English 'frogga', which means, to jump. There are over 5,000 varieties of frogs.

* From a taxonomic perspective, all members of Anura are frogs, but only members of the family Bufonidae are considered toads. Frog usually refers to species that are aquatic or semi-aquatic with smooth and/or moist skins, and the term 'toad' generally refers to species that tend to be terrestrial with dry, warty skin. 

*  A group of adult frogs is referred to as an Army of frogs and also a colony or a knot.

* Frogs legs are considered a delicacy in China, Greece, New Orleans, and France. 

* Frogs will only eat something that moves; in nature that would be insects or spiders. Tadpoles are vegetarian.

* Amphibians, such as frogs, always return to water to breed.     However, there is a midwife frog where the male carries the frogspawn around on his body.  When he senses the time is ripe, he swims out into the water and the tiny tadpoles emerge from their egg-jelly and swim away.

* Frogs, can change their color to suit their background; not as spectacularly as chameleons, but enough to save them from a casual predator.

* Ranidaphobia means fear of frogs. Touching frogs will not give you warts, that's just a myth.


37.5% of the US population was involved in agriculture in 1900 and today less than half of one percent are in that business. We still have all the food we need, as well as supply other parts of the world.

There are 2.2 million farms and 50.4% of farms are less than 99 acres in size, with the average age of a farmer at 57.1 years old.

We export $115.5 billion of farm products a year. The top five farming counties in the US are in California. All data taken from the census.

Escape for iPhone

With this handy program you can have an excuse to get off the phone every time and no one needs to know about it. Just set it to anyone in your contacts list, select a delay time (up to two hours) and press the sleep button on the top of your phone. Escape Call Free for iPhone will sit silently until the timer has run out, at which point you will get an urgent call and you can decide if it is time to leave.


A chipotle (chi-POET-lee) is a smoked, dried jalapeƱo chili used primarily in Mexican, Mexican-American, Tex-Mex, and Mexican-inspired cuisine. The deep red jalapenos are smoked for days until completely dry. It takes about 10 pounds of jalapenos to make a pound of chipotle.

Until recently, chipotles were almost exclusively found in the markets of central and southern Mexico. As Mexican food became more popular, it expanded into Northern Mexico and eventually the United States and other places, such as China.

Most chipotle chiles are produced in the Northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. This variety of chipotle is known as a morita (Spanish for blackberry or black raspberry; literally "little purple one"). This is a description of how the chipotle looks.


On the keyboard of life, always keep one finger on the escape key.

Post Office

The US Postal Service delivered 19 billion cards, letters, and packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year. I wonder how many trees that is?

Post Office Two

Couldn't resist this one. The Post Office has another official web site  Seems like an oxymoron to have a 'green' website for a business that deals in delivering paper. Here is a clip from the site -

"did you know…We're building new postal facilities with the environment in mind. We use recycled fiberglass, natural lighting, thermal windows and solar electric and thermal systems. And water tanks to harvest rainwater."

Sheep Burps

I first thought this was a hoax, but it is from a reputable scientific organization, and I verified it with other publications. Australian scientists are looking for ways to reduce harmful methane emissions from the country's woolly flocks, a researcher said Nov 29, 2009.

Twelve percent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions originate with agriculture, and some 70 percent of that amount is blamed on livestock, with most of it coming from burps, study leader John Goopy said. (Yes, that is his real name)

With sheep, almost all of the methane produced comes out of their mouths. "There's not very much passed out the animal's anus at all," said Goopy, from the New South Wales Department of Industry and Investment.

Scientists measure the sheep's methane emissions by herding them into a specially designed booth shortly after they eat and then calculating the amount of gas belched. They hope to find whether there is a genetic link between the sheep that produce the least methane, which could then be exploited to breed low-emissions sheep.

Sheep produce about seven kilograms (15 lb) of methane a year while other cattle produce ten times that amount. Cows, sheep, goats, camels, buffaloes, and termites release methane.

"Of the 200 sheep so far tested, about half produced much more than average while the other half belched considerably less methane." (Hmmm, real science here)

Methane has about 17 to 21 times the environmental warming capacity of carbon dioxide. However, methane lasts only 12 years in the atmosphere vs. CO2, which lasts 100 years in the atmosphere. Wikipedia says the main greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

Let's sum this up - most of 70% of 12% comes from all livestock, of which sheep are some part of, and half of them produce more burps than the other half, so let's change nature and breed out the burping half. - We will deal with farting cows later.

 And these people actually get paid by the government for these kinds of goopy studies. Of course, half get paid more and half get paid less than average.

Mark Twain

Happy belated Birthday to Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who was born on November 30, 1835.

School Facts

In 1990, 24.8% of people 25 and older did not complete high school. In 2000, 19.6% did not complete high school. This is down from 33.1% in 1980

In 1990, 20.3% of people over 25 completed college. In 2000, 24.4% completed college. This is up from 16.2% in 1980. Finally some numbers are going in the right direction.