Monday, December 31, 2007

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Friday, December 28, 2007

Amazon price guarantee

I did not know this until today so I'm sharing it with you.

Amazon has a 30-day post-order pricing guarantee:

"Post-Order Price Guarantee's prices for released items will change from time to time based on a variety of factors. If's price for an already-released item decreases within 30 days after we ship the item to you, we'll be glad to refund the difference in price if you contact us. Please click one of the buttons on the right, and be sure to have your order number handy so we can assist you.

This Post-Order Price Guarantee is subject to the following restrictions:
  • Applies only to products that have already been released. Products that have not yet been released but that are available for pre-order from are not covered by this guarantee, but do benefit from our Pre-Order Price Protection program (see section above).

  • Applies only to items sold by, and not to items (or prices) offered by other sellers on our site.

  • Item prices that are affected by a promotion such as "Buy one, get one free" are not eligible.

  • The price of an item after rebate is not considered to be the price. "

EDIT: Follow-up!

I checked my last order and found something that went down in price! I emailed customer service, and within a half hour I had received an email telling me my account was being credited:

"Hello from

The discounts we offer for items sold by can vary from time to time. I've checked your order and found that we now offer a greater discount on this item than at the time you placed your order.

Since your purchase shipped within the past 30 days, I've requested a refund of $3.64 to your credit card. This amount reflects the difference between the price you were charged for the item and the current price offered by This refund should be processed in the next few days and will appear as a credit on your next billing statement."


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

This is one of two non-religious holidays celebrated today.

Boxing Day is a public holiday celebrated in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia on December 26 (or the next week day after Christmas). Boxing Day is the practice of giving of gifts to employees, the poor, or to people in a lower social class and dates back to the Middle Ages.

The Oxford English Dictionary attributes the name of the holiday it to the Christmas box; the verb box meaning: "To give a Christmas-box (colloq.); hence boxing-day." However, there are a bunch of theories as to the name's origin, including:

  • It was the day when people would give a present or boxing box to those who had worked for them throughout the year.

  • In feudal times, serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord for the seasonal celebration. This made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends. The day after Christmas, the lord of the estate would give a box of practical goods (cloth, grains, tools, etc.) to each family who lived on his land. This was not voluntary gift, but an obligation of the lord to provide these supplies.

  • Many years ago in England it was common practice for servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for work the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts.

  • In churches, it was traditional to open the donation box on Christmas Day and distribute the money to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day.

  • Boxing Day was the day when the wren, the king of birds, was captured and put in a box and introduced to each household in the village, when he would be asked for a successful year and a good harvest.

  • Because staff had to work on Christmas to serve the master of the house and their family, they were given the following day off. Since they were not able to be with their own families and not able to celebrate Christmas Dinner, it was customary to "box" up the leftover food from Christmas Day and send it away with the servants and their families. And since the servants had the day off, the owners of the manor may have had to serve themselves pre-prepared, boxed food for that one day.

  • Similar to above, leftovers and food were boxed up and shipped overseas in times of war to the soldiers of the Commonwealth Nations.




This is one of the two non-religious holidays that are celebrated today.

Kwanzaa (or Kwaanza) is a week-long festival observed from 12/26 to 1/1 each year, primarily in the U.S. It honors African American heritage. It was created by Dr. Ron Karenga, a scholor and social activist, in 1966.

Dr. Karenga calls Kwanzaa the African American branch of "first fruits" celebrations of classical African cultures. The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza", meaning "first fruits". Kwanzaa was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of "African traditions" and "common humanist principles."

Kwanzaa celebrates Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) which comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles:

  1. Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

  5. Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

  6. Kuumba (Creativity) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

  7. Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their households with objects of art, colorful African cloth and fresh fruits that represent African idealism. It is customary to include children in ceremonies and give respect and gratitude to ancestors. A ceremony may include drumming, music, libations (generally shared with a common chalice), readings, candle lighting, performance, discussion of the principle of the day or a chapter in African history, and a feast (Karamu).



"In regard to all these problems, in regard to every problem that arises, there are counselors these days who say: 'Do nothing'; other counselors who say: 'Do everything.' Common sense dictates an avoidance of both extremes. I say to you: 'Do something'; and when you have done that something, if it works, do it some more; and if it does not work, then do something else."

- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to the Young Democratic Club, Baltimore, Md., April 13th, 1936

Monday, December 24, 2007

(since I won't have time to do this tomorrow)

Christmas is the annual Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. In most places, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25. This is not considered to be the actual date of Jesus' birth, since that is not known. The Armenian Apostolic Church observes Christmas on January 6, and Eastern Orthodox Churches that still use the Julian Calendar celebrate it on January 7.

The word "Christmas" is as a contraction of "Christ's mass", derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038. In early Greek versions of the New Testament, the letter Χ (chi), is the first letter of Christ, and since the mid-16th century Χ was used as an abbreviation for Christ, so "Xmas" is often used as an abbreviation for Christmas.

The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day in 800. Around the 12th century, the remnants of the former Saturnalian traditions of the Romans were transferred to the Twelve Days of Christmas (26 December – 6 January). Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival, incorporating ivy, holly, and other evergreens, as well as gift-giving. Modern traditions have come to include the display of Nativity scenes, Holly and Christmas trees, the exchange of gifts and cards, and the arrival of Father Christmas or Santa Claus on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Popular Christmas themes include the promotion of goodwill and peace.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

The Nativity of Jesus refers to the Christian belief that the Messiah was born to the Virgin Mary. According to Biblical accounts, Jesus was born to Mary, assisted by her husband Joseph, in the city of Bethlehem. Although popular tradition states the birth took place in a stable surrounded by animals, these are not mentioned in the Bible. However, Luke mentions that he as placed in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. Shepherds in the fields were told of the birth by an angel, and were the first to see the child. Nativity scenes traditionally include the Three Wise Men, Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar, although their names and number are not referred to in the Biblical narrative, who are said to have followed a star, known as the Star of Bethlehem, found Jesus, and presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

In part, the Christmas celebration was created by the early Church in order to entice pagans to convert to Christianity without losing their own winter celebrations. Certain prominent gods and goddesses of other religions had their birthdays celebrated on December 25, including Ishtar, Sol Invictus and Mithras. Various traditions were adopted from other winter festivals including Saturnalia (a time of feasting and merrymaking which included the making and giving of small presents, as well as drinking, gambling, and public nudity); Natalis Solis Invicti (a Roman festival worshiping several solar dieties); the winter solstice; Yule; and Mid-Winter Night.

Christmas during the Middle Ages remained a public festival, incorporating ivy, holly, and other evergreens, as well as gift-giving. There were feasts, and caroling also became popular. In England, gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day, and there was special Christmas ale.

In 1647, following the English Civil War, England's Puritan rulers banned Christmas. The Restoration of 1660 ended the ban, but many clergy still disapproved of Christmas celebrations. In Colonial America, the Puritans of New England disapproved of Christmas. In Boston, the celebration was outlawed from 1659 to 1681, although it was still observed in Virginia and New York. Christmas fell out of favor in the U.S. after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom.

By the 1820s, Christmas was thought to be dying out and efforts were made to revive it. In 1820, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was published and played a major role in reinventing Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion over communal celebration and hedonistic excess. Interest in Christmas was revived in America by several short stories by Washington Irving and by Clement Clarke Moore's 1822 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas". This poem popularized the tradition of exchanging gifts. Christmas was declared a U.S. Federal holiday in 1870, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.

The popular image of Santa Claus was created by the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast, who drew a new image each year beginning in 1863. By the 1880s, Santa had evolved into the form we now recognize. The image was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s.

The origin of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (in present day Turkey). St. Nicholas was a generous man and particularly devoted to children. His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop's mitre. In Greece, he is the patron saint of sailors, in France he was the patron of lawyers, and in Belgium the patron of children and travelers. Around the 12th century, an official church holiday, The Feast of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6), was created in his honor. This day was marked by gift-giving and charity.

Father Christmas was first recorded in the 15th century, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness. In Victorian Britain, his image was remade to match that of Santa. The French have Père Noël. In Italy, Babbo Natale acts as Santa Claus, while La Befana arrives on the eve of the Epiphany bringing gifts (La Befana set out to bring the baby Jesus gifts, but got lost along the way and now, brings gifts to all children). In several Latin American countries, Santa makes the toys and gives them to Baby Jesus, who delivers them to the children's homes. In Southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Alto Adige/Südtirol (Italy) and Liechtenstein, the Christkind brings the presents. The German version of Santa Claus is Weihnachtsman. In Holland, Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace, and Sinterklaas would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes.

The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century, though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century. In 16th-century Germany fir trees were decorated, both indoors and out, with apples, roses, gilded candies, and colored paper. In the Middle Ages, a popular religious play depicted the story of Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden and used a fir tree hung with apples to symbolize the tree. It is held that Protestant reformer Martin Luther first adorned trees with light. The Christmas Tree was brought to England by Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert (a German). The trees then became popularize throughout Victorian England. German immigrants introduced the custom into the United States.

Mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter. The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace. Scandanavians associated the plant with their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.


Merry Christmas!


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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Around the Office

Cell phone pics

My new work space, right outside Boss's office. I need to hang something on that wall. Maybe I'll paint something, or get another Wyanne print. I have one small one I haven't framed yet.

Ready to get to work

Oops eyes closed

Christmas tree in the reception area

Winter Solstice; Yule


The winter solstice occurs when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane as the observer. It is the shortest day/longest night of the year. Interpretation of the event varies from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time The word solstice derives from Latin sol (Sun) and sistere (stand still), Winter Solstice meaning Sun stand still in winter.

The solstice was a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since neolithic times. This is attested by the layouts of sites like Stonehenge in Britain and Brú na Bóinne (New Grange) in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line framing the winter solstice sunrise (New Grange)and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not assured to live through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common in winter between January to April, also known as the famine months. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was nearly the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time.


Yule is an ancient winter festival associated with the winter solstice.

Christian missionaries sent to proselytize among the Germanic peoples of northern Europe were instructed to superimpose Christian themes upon existing pagan holidays to make conversion easier by allowing the people to retain their traditional celebrations. Christmas was created by associating tales of the birth of Jesus with existing pagan Yule celebrations. Yule traditions include decorating a fir tree, burning a Yule log, hanging mistletoe and holly, giving gifts, and general celebration and merriment.

Neopaganism has many forms and they don't all celebrate the same way. Some celebrate Yule as they believe the Ancient Germanic pagans observed the tradition. In Germanic Neopagan sects, Yule is celebrated with gatherings that often involve a meal and gift giving.

For Wiccan's, wreaths, Yule logs, decoration of trees, decorating with mistletoe, holly, and ivy, exchanges of presents, and even wassailing are incorporated and regarded as sacred. The return of the Sun as Frey is commemorated in some groups. In most Wiccan traditions, this holiday is also celebrated as the rebirth of the Great God, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Vaccum up those fleas

Got fleas? Get the vacuum
Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:39am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vacuum cleaners kill fleas just as well as any poison, surprised U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

They said a standard vacuum cleaner abuses the fleas so much it kills 96 percent of adult fleas and 100 percent of younger fleas.

So no need to worry that a vacuum cleaner bag may turn into a fleabag breeding ground for the pesky, biting creatures, said Glen Needham, associate professor of entomology at Ohio State University.

Needham studied the cat flea, or Ctenocephalides felis, the most common type of flea found in households.

"No matter what vacuum a flea gets sucked into, it's probably a one-way trip," Needham said in a statement.

Writing in the journal Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, Needham suggested that the vacuum brushes wear away a waxy outer layer on insects called the cuticle. Without it, the fleas, larvae and pupae probably dry up and die, he said.

The findings were so surprising that the researchers ran their experiment several times.

"We didn't do a post-mortem, so we don't know for sure. But it appears that the physical abuse they took caused them to perish," Needham said.

Fleas spread diseases such as plague and can transmit worms.

"There are all kinds of ways to manage the problem, but how people feel about insecticides and how much money they want to spend factors into what they're going to do for flea control. Vacuuming is a great strategy because it involves no chemicals and physically removes the problem," Needham said.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Hajj; Waqfatul-Arafat; and Eidul-Adha

We have two Islamic holidays on my calendar this week - the 19th is Waqfatul-Arafat and the 20th is Eidul-Adha. I'm going to combine them in this post.

Waqfatul-Arafat is the Day of Standing at Arafat, and Eidul-Adha is the Feast of Sacrifice. While researching these, I found that they are both part of the Hajj, which is the annual pilgrimage that Muslims make to Mecca.

The Hajj has already begun. Every year, about 2 million Muslims converge on Mecca ((Makkah) in Saudi Arabia. The Hajj is obligatory at least once in every able-bodied Muslim's lifetime, if they can afford to do so. It is one of the 5 "pillars" or essential acts of worship in Islam. The purpose is to worship God at the Sacred House in Mecca, the Kabah (Ka`aba). According to the Qur'an, the Kabah was built by the Prophet Abraham and his son, Ishmael, in ancient times. Abraham instituted the pilgrimage and its rites, and later these rites were re-established by Muhammad. The Hajj lasts about 4-5 days.

Waqfatul-Arafat (which is today) is the most important day of the pilgrimage. On this day, the huge throng of pilgrims spends the afternoon at the Plain of Arafat, believed to be a prototype of the gathering place of the Last Judgment, praying for God's forgiveness and mercy. They then move on to the next station of the pilgrimage.

In regard to the rituals of the Hajj, each person walks counter-clockwise 7 times about the Kaaba (which is the building towards which all Muslims pray), kiss the sacred Black Stone on its corner, run back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drink from the Zamzam Well, go to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil [which is today], then proceed to Muzdalifah to gather pebbles, which they would throw at a rock in Mina to perform the ritual of the Stoning of the Devil. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform an animal sacrifice and celebrate the four day global festival of Eid ul-Adha. (Many of these rituals have changed because of the number of people - for example, it is not necessary to kiss the black stone but you can just point at it each time around. And you can buy a "sacrifice voucher" in advance to have an animal slaughtered in your name on the correct day, which is then given to charity.)

During the Hajj, male pilgrims are required to dress only in a simple white garment secured by a white sash (Ihram) and sandals. This clothing is intended to show the equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of Allah, symbolizing the idea that there is no difference when everyone is dressed equally. It also symbolizes purity and absolution of sins. Women are required only to wear their normal dress. While the pilgrim is wearing the Ihram, they cannot shave, cut their nails, wear deodorant or perfume. They may not swear or quarrel, kill any living thing (even an insect) or engage in sexual intercourse.

The Hajj is a profound spiritual experience for Muslims and a time of experiencing the brotherhood and equality of humanity. Malcolm X spent years preaching hatred against the white man, but after experiencing the Hajj, he cast his racist views aside and embraced the oneness of Man.

Pilgrims can also go to Mecca to perform the rituals at other times of the year. This is sometimes called the "lesser pilgrimage", or Umrah. However, even if they perform the Umrah, they are still obligated to perform the Hajj at some other point in their lifetime.

Eid ul-Adha (the feast of sacrifice) is a 4-day global festival.

At Eid al adha, Muslims remember the story of the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) that is told In the Qur'an. Abraham dreamed that Allah wanted him to kill his beloved son, Ishmael (Ismail). To show his willingness to obey Allah, Ibrahim got ready to kill his son, but then heard Allah tell him to stop. Allah told him that he had proved his love by willing to give up his son. He gave Ibrahim a lamb from the heavens to sacrifice instead. This was the beginning of Eid al adha.

Everyone is expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer (Salatu'l-`id) in any mosque. Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice their best domestic animals (usually sheep, but also camels, cows, and goats) as a symbol of Abraham's sacrifice. At the time of sacrifice, Allah's name is recited along with the offering statement and a supplication as Muhammad said. According to the Quran a large portion of the meat has to be given towards the poor and hungry people so they can all join in the feast which is held on Eid-ul-Adha. The remainder is cooked for the family celebration meal in which relatives and friends are invited to share.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely." ~ Charles Dickens

Friday, December 14, 2007

Stubby helps Daddy with the Christmas Cards


Then turns his laser eyes on Mommy


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O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum


This is the first time in several years we have an actual decorated tree. Okay it's fake. And there's no tinsel or garland due to the cats. But it has ornaments that are meaningful to us, and pretty multicolored lights, and it makes it feel more like Christmas around here.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Love Everybody, including yourself

"We have the need to be accepted and to be loved by others, but we cannot accept and love ourselves. The more self-love we have, the less we will experience self-abuse. Self-abuse comes from self-rejection, and self-rejection comes from having an image of what it means to be perfect and never measuring up to that ideal. Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves the way we are, and why we don't accept others the way they are."

-- Don Miguel Ruiz

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today's holiday is a Catholic one observed in Mexico. December 12 is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe (a/k/a/ the Virgin of Guadalupe) is a 16th century Roman Catholic Mexican icon depicting an apparition of the Virgin Mary. It is Mexico's most beloved religious and cultural image. December 12 commemorates the traditional account of her appearances to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin from December 9, 1531 through December 12, 1531.

Juan Diego was a poor Native American named Cuauhtlatohuac who had been baptized and given the name Juan Diego. He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City. On December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass.

As he was walking by a hill called Tepeyac, he heard beautiful music, and a radiant cloud appeared. Within the cloud was a young maiden dressed like an Aztec princess. She spoke to him in his own language and told him to go to the bishop and tell him to build a chapel in the place where she appeared.

The bishop wanted a sign. The lady told Juan Diego to gather flowers from a hill (at a time of the year when no flowers usually grow), and he went there and found Spanish roses. He gathered them in his tilma [cape] and took them to the bishop. When he his tilma, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees. On the tilma there was an image of Mary as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac. It was December 12, 1531.

This image was on cloth that should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 476 years later. There has been much controversy about its origins, but many believe it still defies all scientific explanations. It is compared to the Shroud of Turin.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is a cultural symbol of significant importance to the Mexican identity. In Mexico she is known as "La Virgen Morena", which means "The brown-skinned Virgin". In 1910 she was declared Patroness of Latin America, and in 1945 Pope Pius XII declared Her to be the Empress of all the Americas.

Some historians speculate the icon was meant to represent both the Virgin Mary and the indigenous Mexican goddess Tonantzin, giving the Spanish a way to gain converts among the indigenous people, or it may have provided a method for those Mexicans to covertly practice their native religion. Whatever it was, it led to the biggest conversion in church history, with over 9 million natives converting to Christianity from 1531 to 1541.

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most important dates in the Mexican calendar. On this day, thousands from around the country make the pilgrimage to the Basílica of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, where the miraculous image of the Virgin is kept. Although the most important rituals and celebrations take place at the Basílica de Guadalupe, there are fiestas all over the country in Honor of Mexico's Patron Saint.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tibetan dream flag

Saw this flag mentioned and wanted to know more...

In Tibet, as people in the Gelugpa tradition of Buddhism are devoted to the Dalai Lama. Tibetans in the Kagyu tradition are devoted to the Karmapa as their spiritual leader. The 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924 - 1981), saw this flag in a dream. He called it Namkhyen Gyaldar -- "Victorious Flag of the Buddha's Wisdom" -- and announced "Wherever this banner is flown, the Dharma will flourish."

The blue represents is the sky (heaven), symbolizing spiritual insight and vision. The yellow represents the earth, the actual world of our everyday experience. The symmetry of the wave pattern shows how we come to understand their interdependence when we practice the dharma.

As a reminder of absolute truth, the blue symbolizes the wisdom, or emptiness aspect of awakened being, while the yellow stands for the compassion aspect. The wavy intermingling of the two colors represents their inseparability.

iLive iPod speaker dock

I asked my Husband to give me iLive iPod speakers for my birthday in August. I loved it at first. Then the remote stopped working (only the volume controls work, so you can't pause it or skip songs with the remote). I complained and they sent me a new one but it did the same thing! Only sooner than the other. And yesterday my iPod died near the end of the day. I couldn't imagine why but when I got home I realized the battery had run down. So apparently it has also stopped charging the battery, because it was in the dock all day. It appears to be charging now (the charging thingie is blinking) but I wonder if it really is. Very annoying.

A coworker had one before I did, which is why I got mine, and she threw hers away the other day because it stopped working and it was only about a year old.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

But it sure doesn't feel like it - it's around 50 degrees out there now and will get up to 70! It looks like it's going to cool off in the next few days though.

We got our Christmas tree put up last night! And partially decorated. We haven't had a decorated tree in several years, maybe since the year we got the boys. Snoop and Roscoe are 5 this year so it's been that long. We put a few non-breakable ornaments on it last night to test and it appears the cats left it alone. Or at least they didn't tear it down and I didn't see any ornaments on the floor.

I'm excited to get our old ornaments out. It's been so long since we've seen them LOL. We used to buy a special ornament every year that was meaningful for that year. For example, the year we got engaged, we bought a small golden filigree box that represented the box my ring was in. And at some point I decided I wanted the theme of the tree to be birds so we have a lot of bird ornaments.

"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas." -Calvin Coolidge

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tales of a Female Nomad

This week I finished the book Tales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Golden Gelman.

It's a wonderful book, about a women in her late 40's who gets divorced and starts traveling. But she doesn't go to swanky resorts or touristy bed and breakfasts and shop and lay on the beach. She prefers to live with the natives of the country she is in and become part of their communities. She doesn't even speak the languages usually. She learns and participates in their customs and traditions and religious rituals. She gets to know the people.

She lives simply and has wonderful experiences. She lives in a Zapotec village in Mexico, studies orangutans in Borneo, lives in a royal compound in Bali. She goes to New Zealand, Israel, Thailand, Guatemala. It sounds like such a wonderful and freeing way to live.

An enjoyable and inspirational book that I definitely recommend.

Work and stuff

My week went by very quickly as I was pretty busy at work.

In September I changed jobs. As background, I have worked in law firms for 24 years. I have been a secretary, legal assistant/paralegal, office manager, computer manager, billing manager, bookkeeper, administrative assistant (sometimes more than one of those titles at the same job). When I started working at this firm in April 2006, I took a job as a legal secretary after spending a year as a legal assistant as another firm. But then in August my boss asked me if I would be her paralegal. Initially I said no but then I changed my mind and in September started working as her paralegal. My boss's husband (who actually runs the firm, although my boss is also a named partner) told me if I didn't like it to let them know because they wanted me to be happy and wanted me to keep working there. After a month or so I wasn't happy, for a number of reasons, and when I found out they were looking for a secretary I told them I was interested, and long story short on Monday I went back to my old job.

I am SO GLAD to be back in my old position. It's better for me in many ways. I am happier. I move more, instead of sitting in an office alone all day. I have more interaction with my coworkers and don't feel as out of the loop as I was. Even though I did like having my cave, because I have hermit tendencies, it's not good for me to do that every single day. I've still been eating my lunch in my old office so I still have a cave to go to for now. The only downside is my back has been bothering me but that will improve. My knee is actually improving because of moving more often and not getting stiff. I need to start getting some walking in.

Last night we has our Christmas party at Fazio's. It was nice, I enjoyed it more than last year's party. And I hadn't been to Fazio's in forever. My only complaint was that we weren't offered lasagna as a choice, and I really love their lasagna. We had filet mignon instead which was actually very good.

Speaking of restaurants, I finally made it to Cilantro's this week. It was okay, not as good as I thought it would be. But maybe I need to try it again and have something different. Everyone else seems to like it a lot.

We had the first real snow of the season this week. It finally feels like winter. I have most of my Christmas shopping done. I want to make a few things on Cafe Press, buy a few gift cards and finishing painting some things. Oh I still need to come up with a Christmas card too. Several years ago we started making our own cards featuring our cats on the front and now people expect it and we can never go back to buying them again!

Bodhi Day

For people new to my blog, I like to learn about different religious holidays as they come up on my calendar, so I share what I learn here. I wasn't originally doing Christian holidays because I already knew about most of them, but I have started including those as well.

Bodhi Day is the Buddhist holiday commemorating the day that Siddhartha Gautama experienced enlightenment (bodhi).

In the 6th century BC, Siddhartha (age 29) left his home and family and all his possessions to discover the meaning of life. After 6 years of rigorous discipline and study under the guidance of a number of spiritual teachers, he still hadn't found what he was looking for. He finally decided to just sit under a pipul tree and meditate until he understood. On the eighth morning, he came to the realization which became the founding principles of what the modern world calls Buddhism. He became Enlightened and experienced Nirvana. Having done so, Siddhartha now became a Buddha or "Awakened One".

During his enlightenment experience, Siddhattha attained 3 types of knowledge:

  1. He saw that he had died and been reborn many times

  2. He saw that all beings are reborn according to their deeds, the law of kamma (karma); and

  3. He saw the nature of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the way leading to the cessation of suffering (the Four Noble Truths)

From that point on, he was referred to as the Buddha, the Enlightened One. He is also referred to as Shakyamuni (the sage of the Shakya clan) Buddha, Gautama Buddha, Shakanyorai (in Japanese), and many other names to distinguish him from Amida Buddha, who is not seen as a historical figure but the idealized Buddha of unlimited wisdom and compassion and is equated with all of life itself, and thus signifies all of us.

Customs for the holiday vary according to culture, but Bodhi Day is widely seen as a reminder to Buddhists that with the right effort and understanding any person can become Enlightened.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happy Hanukkah

(Sorry I haven't had time to research so again I'm just using Wikipedia and listing additional resources at the end).

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah or Hanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, began at sundown yesterday.

Hanukkah is from the Hebrew word for "dedication" or "consecration". It marks the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV and commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil."

Around 200 BC Jews lived in the Land of Israel (Judea), which was then controlled by Syria. They paid taxes to Syria, accepted its legal authority and were free to follow their own faith, maintain jobs, and engage in trade. By 175 BC, a new king ascended to the throne and under his reign, the Temple in Jerusalem was looted, Jews were massacred, and Judaism was effectively outlawed. In 167 BCE Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple.

This provoked a large-scale revolt against Antiochus which was successful by 165 BC. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. Judah (the new Jewish leader) ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. But there was only enough consecrated oil (that had not been profaned by the occupiers) to burn for one day. However, miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle.

Hanukkah is celebrated by a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday. Some are family-based and others are communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals. Hanukkah is not a "Sabbath-like" holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath.

The primary ritual, according to Jewish law and custom, is to light a single light each night for eight nights. The number of lights lit is increased by one each night. The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the "lighting of the house within", but rather for the "illumination of the house without," so that passers-by should see it and be reminded of the holiday's miracle. Accordingly lamps are set up at a prominent window or near the door leading to the street.

In North America it is common to exchange presents or give children presents at this time.



Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude."

-- Denis Waitley

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So much for the national championship

I can't believe WVU lost that game. Maybe if Pat White hadn't hurt himself they could have pulled it out but I don't know. They just did not play well. I don't pay much attention to sports in general. I'm not even a big WVU fan (I'm a Marshall grad). But I do like to see WVU do well and I got caught up in the excitement. I looked forward to last night's game and even watched the entire thing on TV. And they lost. It wouldn't have been so bad if they'd played well and lost because Pitt just played better. But they played horribly. They just plain sucked. Oh well. Maybe next year. At least now I can go back to ignoring sports.


(Behind, so this is a backdated entry to Advent Sunday December 2. I don't have time to do a lot of research today so using Wikipedia)

Advent is a Christian holiday, the beginning of the holy season of Christmas, wherein the Church waits and prepares for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. The word "advent" is from the Latin words advenio, meaning "to come" o r adventus meaning "coming". The Greek equivalent is "parousia", commonly used in reference to the Second Coming. Christians believe that the season of Advent reminds us both of the original waiting by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of the Christians now for the second coming of Christ.

The progression of Advent is often marked with an Advent calendar reckoning Advent to start on 1 December, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. We used these when I was an older child/teenager in the Methodist Church, but not in the Church of God in which I grew up. I think in the Methodist church we also had special readings each Sunday and the lighting of advent candles. A different family would do it every week. This period was at one time a period of fasting as strict as lent. This was later relaxed. Purple vestaments are worn at church services.

With regard to older customs, in England, there was a custom (now extinct) for poor women to carry around the "Advent images", two dolls dressed to represent Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you were shown the dolls, you were expected to give them a halfpenny. If your household wasn't visited by the doll-bearers before Christmas Eve, you could expect bad luck. In Normandy, farmers hired children under 12 to run through their fields with torches setting fire to bundles of straw to drive out vermin.

In Italy, among other Advent celebrations, the Calabrian pifferari, or bagpipe players, enter Rome in the last days of Advent and play before the shrines of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Italian tradition being that the shepherds played these pipes when they came to the manger at Bethlehem to pay homage to the infant Jesus.


More info: