Disaster Relief Links

We talked about where to send some vitally needed cash to help with the Asian Tsunami efforts. See some of the links below. And let’s give it up to Denver’s own corporate behemouth First Data/Western Union. Their charitible fund has pledged to donate over $1 million in matching funds from funds provided for by their employess.
Here are some links:

American Red Cross International Response Fund

AmeriCares South Asia Earthquake Relief Fund

Direct Relief International International Assistance Fund

M�decins Sans Fronti�res International Tsunami Emergency Appeal

Oxfam Asian Earthquake & Tsunami Fund

Sarvodaya Relief Fund for Tsunami Tragedy

UNICEF South Asia Tsunami Relief Efforts

The International Red Cross is now reporting that over 100,000 (!?!) people are dead. Malaria and diarhea and a growing pandemic of water borne diseases is already beginning to take hold in the area and the deaths will continue to mount.

(Meanwhile the President is on vacation. ho hum.)

Hmm, Aid For Tsunami Ravaged Nations Or Throw A Big Party?

President Bush has repeatedly said that the paltry $35 million in aid that the US is sending to the absolutely decimated Indonesian Sea region, still digging out from one of the worst earthquakes in history, is not a sign that the US is stingy.

In other news The 55th Presidential Inaugural Committee has raised $40 million in donations for the big Bush inaugural ball and has already spent $30 million of it.

Is it just me or is $30 million for a party a pretty dumb thing right now when entire nations’ coastlines have been leveled and buried and over 80,000 people are dead (!) ?

It stinks.

Why not dial down the big celebration a bit, perhaps throw a good old fashioned Texas BBQ tailgate party at the Redskins stadium, and funnel the money instead towards the earthquake victims relief efforts.

But then again, that would indicate that the original money was paltry and stingy wouldn’t it?

Seems as though the GOP would rather the world saw us as stingy and crass, not just stingy.

While we are on the subject, take a moment and send some dough to Oxfam – a great, great developing nations assistance charity that is in dire need of funds. I just sent them $20.00 and I am one poor dude. If you can afford to read this post, you can too.

Best of 2004

The end of the year is near and several tasks are on hand. I need to craft my final draft for my annual celebrity dead pool and take some time to enjoy the many end-of-year retrospectives and best-of lists.

Here are a few places to start:

List of Bests – a collection of best of lists
Year in review – a collection of best of lists.
Best Nonfiction 2004
Best Web links
The Best 20 Food Books of 2004 as Chosen by Leite’s Culinaria
Amazon.com: Books / Best of 2004
Art Forum’s best films of the year.
Art Forum’s best music of the year.
The Onion’s best albums of the year.
Best Photojournalism of the year.
The Nation’s Top Outrages’ of the year.
Games Magazine’s Top 100 Games for 2005. (as well as all the others.)
Reuters best photos, plus links through Metafilter of many other sources

This should keep you busy for the rest of the week.

Merry Christmas

Have a great year and always brake for Penguins (It’s a silly game. Tip: jump just before the flag).
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Friday Fives

1. It’s Christmas Eve: What is the holiday tradition in your home? Big meal today or tomorrow? With family ? Go to church? Open presents or wait for Christmas day?
As a kid, each year we would load up the presents and head to Grand Junction to go to grandma’s house. Recently – the past three years – Christmas has been kind of a catch-as-catch can – shared with friends and a good meal. It is Christmas Eve and I still have no real idea what I am doing for Christmas this year. We used to always go to Christmas Eve services and then come home and open up our presents.

2. I still remember many Christmas’ as a kid. What was your favorite? Did involve a special present (toy) What was it?
Favorite Christmas? Not really – they all seemed to merge into one big happy childhood memory. There was a year when it seemed my parents went crazy with toys – action figures galore and some tools all under the tree. I found the presents in mom’s closet and unwrapped them and played with them a little bit everyday after school. I thought I was so cool. Then one day I came home and mom scolded me after discovering my poor rewrapping job. She threatened to take away the toys. Looking back, I probably ruined Christmas for her because of my youthful selfish greed.

3. What are some of your favorite winter/cold weather activities and/or sports?
Sledding is still fun. Heading down a big snow hill on an innertube or a toboggan. We haven’t had any real snow the last few years so I haven’t been for quite some time.

4. What type of winter coat do you have? Is it your favorite or was there another? Gloves or mitten? Hat or ear muffs? Scarves or face
mask?

I had this cool black wool coat that I bought in Germany that I eventually gave away for some reason and I miss that coat. It was kind of like a Navy pea coat but a bit heavier and with fancy snapping closures. I am a glove guy and have to have them. I was frostbitten once and ever since I need to keep my precious fingers toasty warm or I am miserable.

5. Would you ever sleep in an igloo or one of those Canadian Ice Hotel thingies?
I would love to – thanks. When do we leave? I would love to travel to the North or South pole and see all the glaciers and the majestic barren whiteness.

A Deeply Coded Christmas

Putting Christ Back In Christmas

There it was, half constructed in the driveway � a wooden manger box, built to exacting specs that my father had dug up through extensive research at some dumb library in Chicago.

In the back of the garage, a wooden loom for making woolen clothes � another of Dad�s projects. Mom was about halfway done making the bolts for this year and next week she planned on making the robes.

It�s August 2004 and Christmas � my father�s version. It’s ight around the corner. He is so into this Christmas thing – so embarrassing to neighbors and friends.
———————
It started about three years ago. We were all in church on Christmas Eve and Dad had a revelation � that�s what we call it around the house � a revelation. He realized that Christmas, the current celebration of our Christmas holiday was being done wrong.

�December! December! No, No, No� he shouted during the third verse of �O Holy Night.�

�We have to get home. Christmas in December! It�s for Pagans,� he declared

We were whisked out of the church and Dad ran home in the old Saturn station wagon as fast as he could, ignoring intersections and stop lights along the way.

Leaving us all puzzled and a bit scared in the car � he dashed from the car and into the house � ambling the stairs two at a time. We sat in the car, still stunned.
Mother reached over and closed the driver�s side door and we all made efforts to get out of the car � me, my sister Annie and our little brother Jake � 3 years old and still full of traditional Christmas wonderment, dressed in Christmas pajamas and wearing Santa Clause slippers.

We found Dad upstairs in his office, reading a deeply highlighted copy of �The Bible Code.� The Code had become his tome, his book of books and rarely these days would he make a decision or settle on a plan of action for himself or the family without first checking it. Torn notepapers drooped from the edges of nearly every page and yellow Post-It notes were sticking out all over the top of the spine, providing him quick access to his new road map.

�The Bible is just part of God�s plan!� he cried out. It�s all in HERE,� he thrust his Code in the air. Tears were running down his face. He had a pencil and graph paper in his hand.

�We are celebrating the Messiah�s birth on the wrong day! Can�t you see, it is the wrong day! It is so simple. Why don�t people take the time to study this tremendous book and get the REAL message of our savior!�

I looked at my older sister Annie. She was 14 and in all honesty it was a Christmas miracle just getting her off the cell phone and into church on Christmas Eve. If Jesus was born a 16-year-old beau-hunk, and she was afforded the chance to flirt with him, then perhaps she would be more eager to enjoy the holidays. But her idea of a good Christmas is a trip to the mall and congregating with her boy-crazy bunch of friends as they shop. Jesus was not part of her holiday plan.

I stared at Annie and she stared back. Dad, we were both thinking, had gone off the deep end.

He pulled us all by the hand and raced downstairs to the kitchen table. He had three bibles, his annotated Bible Code, a few notebooks with lots of scribbles and some graph paper and he began explaining how the Bible Code, when drafted onto a graph paper matrix, using the original Greek and Aramaic texts, meticulously detailed the exact date and time of the birth of Christ.

Mother was staring, jaw dropped and the rest of us didn�t move. Dad had gone a bit mad. Worse this time than before when he realized a new Biblical source determined some iffy stock purchases that proved futile and expensive.

�Here we go again.� I thought to myself � giving Dad that old all-to-familiar smile of acceptance, tinged with some embarrassed regret.

�It all comes down to Rash Hashanah!.� He shouted, using a telescoping pointer on a grease board full of statistical dates written in Hebrew and Aramaic.

Grease pen in hand he furiously flung dates, times, codes and cryptic markings across the board. Turning and staring each one of us down, I saw and excitement in his eyes that was just short of joyous and perhaps closer to maniacal.

�September, 11 the year BC! Jesus was born on 9/11!�

He was on fire now. Yellow highlighter in his mouth and three different colors of markers in his hands; the notes on the board were being applied furiously.

�Look, look, the matrix clearly illustrates that Joseph (Yosef) and Mary (Miriam or Miryam were in Bethlehem (Beit Lechem) and stayed in a succah, a stable.

Then Yeshua the Messiah came from heaven, to the earth, the manger or feeding trough is mentioned where Mary laid the baby after the birth. There is mention of Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) and the shepherds. It mentions the angels who announced the birth to the shepherds, and the star in the sky announcing His birth. All the details from the Gospels are present and there is probably much more in this matrix than I have shown, since it didn’t take me too long to develop it as is. �

�Dad, we know all that. If you had stayed in church just a few minutes more, Pastor Green would have covered it as well. It is the Christmas story.� Annie said. She blew some more gum into a bubble and rolled her eyes.

�But wait, that is just some statistical groundwork to show that the basic crypt of the code is valid,� he added.

�Now, review the basics of the code transliteration, and factoring in the addition of the modern day Roman calendar and its dominance over both the traditional Jewish calendar and the Greek. Now, we cannot simply say Yeshua was born exactly on September 11, 3 BC. But what do we know of the birth and the virgin conception? A human conception last 270 days or so. Let�s back up from September 11, 3 BC, remaining mindful that 4 BC is a statistical leap year and then we get 254 days. That means 18 days backwards in December 4 BC, should be the exact date of the conception, factoring a 31-day month for December. We can then target the conception to December 13, 4 BC based on a 271-day average human gestation period for male babies. I should mention that the Hebrew word for pregnancy is “herayon� So, talking the results of the Bible Code, we can easily postulate:

hey resh yud vav nun.

Translating the Hebrew to the corresponding numerical value:
hey=5, resh=200, yud=10, vav=6, nun=50; or total=5+200+10+6+50=271

�Certainly, by now this should all be making sense�? Dad explained.

I was baffled. Jake was eating a Band-Aid. Annie had picked up her cell phone and was just seconds away from dialing out. Hopefully she was calling for help.
Mom reached over and patted Dad�s shoulder and handed him a paper towel to wipe his sweating brow.

�No, dear. Most of us don�t understand any of this at all,� she added.
Oops, I thought. She is just encouraging him now. This could go on for years. My eyes began wondering over to the Christmas tree and the presents awaiting my full attention.

Dad turned around now and looked at us; leaping over to the tree and announced, �This Family would be a God-like Family as we have always been, and would celebrate Christmas in a true Christian manner.�

I didn�t like where this was going.

He began gathering the presents and announced that Christmas, the birth of Christ would be celebrated on 9/11 from now on � to do otherwise is not honoring the savior.

————————–
Well, that was Christmas, 2001. The terrible terrorist attacks of 9/11 were still very fresh on everyone�s mind and Dad seemed to have taken it particularly hard. But he was no longer reading every word about it in the paper and no longer sitting blankly in front of Fox News for another clue as to how this happened to our nation.

Instead he found his solace in the Biblical Code and worked hard to get God�s message out as detailed in the cryptic lore which he compared to a fifth book of the Gospel in its importance to mankind. He preached, taught, professed and spoke to everyone and anyone that would listen

Since that day, our family has seemed to regress into some form of archaic Christian clan. Dad began insisting we learn Greek and Aramaic and we were enrolled in a Rabbinical Torah School to help us learn the Talmud.

Each August we begin preparations for Christmas. Dad builds a new and realistic manger and stable and mom lovingly crafts traditional and accurate robes and cloth for the manger scene. And each night on 9/11, he lights a bright star on the house and we reenact the manager scene, acted out exactly as it was depicted in the Bible Code.

During the month of September, it is as if our traditional Presbyterian family went Jewish. We celebrate Rosh Hashanah (because Mary and Joseph did) and we live �among the Jews� for the entire month in our little Ohio suburb of Middleton.

I got to the point, eventually, where I enjoyed the robes and homemade sandals. It was kind of fun. Out among the �civilians� – roughing it. We didn�t have to bath or wear underwear or brush out teeth and except for the nativity scene, staged nightly the first ten days of the month on the front lawn, the whole thing was kind of fun.

Annie on the other hand didn�t take it so well. The fights were epic. She was mortified to the point of tears and her mood this year really changed right around the middle of July when she realized her joyous summer days at the pool, where she worked as a lifeguard and wore the skimpiest little bikini she could find , would be end soon. Her life as a civilian would be traded in a few short weeks for robes and head coverings and a strict Hassidic observance of the Sabbath. At 17, she swore this was her last year at home and she was counting the days to her 18th birthday and a chance to leave.

Jake, well, Jake didn�t know no any better. Now 6 years old, he was still full of mystery. He still got Christmas presents and Christmas � although Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh themed gifts had started to run their course; the gifts came, only in September. Jake would get some of the neighborhood kids to come over and help him each fall as he watered and fed the mules and the animals Dad rented each year for the manger scene.

Life had taken on a new rhythm all its own.

That is, until Easter – – – but that is a whole different issue.

— Merry Christmas, 2004, RW.

Special thanks to George Saunders and Roy A. Reinhold (whoever you are, you delightful scholarly wack job.)

Santaland Diaries & Arlo For The Holidays

With just five more shopping days until Christmas, I think it is entirely appropriate to re-introduce the world to the magic of Mr. David Sedaris and the Santaland Diaries. Read by the author, this classic of modern Christmas and commerce is streaming audio in Real Player format and a 128k stream. Next to a Thanksgiving Day listening to Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant, Sedaris’ Christmas tale is a must-listen holiday treat. Gather the family around the wireless and enjoy.

David Sedaris
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Bonus: Not an audio clip but the Scary Photos of Santa Gallery is a Hoot!

(If you are like me and think of Real Audio as part of the evil empire, download and install the free, simple and very, very effective Real Alternative classic media player - less memory, no fussing with the registry and unlike Real Audio, this little gem doesn't dial home and tell Time Warner what you are doing on line.>

Friday Fives

1. You are trapped in the car on the traditional family holiday road trip. What five things must accompany you on the trip for survival? (Snacks, games, diversions, comfort all come into play.)
1. Springsteen tunes – Hell, all his songs are road trip music.
2. Beef Jerky. Preferably secured from a road side stand by some retiree who makes it himself. That is powerful medicine.
3. Red Vines. I like candy.
4. A good solid pillow
5. A magazine of word puzzles to occupy my mind and make time fly by a bit faster.

2. Along the same lines: If you could take a road trip to anywhere do you just hop in the car and go or lots of tedious, meticulous follow-the-time-table planning? Where does it take you?
I am generally a by-the-seat-of-my pants kind of guy. One quick two-second glance at the map and then we are off and hope for the best. I have been hankering for years to take a long road trip to Branson, Missouri – just for the shear eye shock that the place promises. We should pack up the whole gang and head out on the road.

3. Barring the use of plane, car, train or boat – what would be your favorite mode of transport for your ideal road trip (real places aren’t necessarily in order for this answer – be creative.)
Conveyance: Either a flying carpet or flying jet pack. I think a trip to Casablanca in 1940 – with dinner and dancing at Ricks would be a good trip. As would a trip on the Battlestar Gallactica to the ends of the universe. (I am such a geek but man, I loved that show!)

4. Did you ever play any travel games when you were a kid, such as “the license plate game” or “20 questions”? If you had to entertain Reid on a car trip, how would you keep him from getting bored/antsy during long trips? (If you don’t know Reid, insert anyone else, then call me and we will have you meet Reid. He is starting to do well in small groups.)
We used to play the roadside sign alphabet game all the time as kids on the road to Hayden from Craig to see Grandma. Once older, we had official road trip bingo games to occupy us on the trips. For Reid, I suggest porn. It always works and always has.

5. New mini topic: This is the start of the holiday weekend celebrations. What is your winter drink? (Booze and soda is hardly considered a special holiday drink.) I mean something fun and special. How is your signature beverage concocted?
For the winter holidays, I prefer a Gin Martini. 7 parts Bombay Blue Saphire Gin to one part Dry Vermouth. Shaken in a nice shaker and served into chilled cocktail glasses that have been rinsed with Vermouth. Served with a couple of cocktail onions.

It’s De.lov.ely

I have about 700 or more bookmarks, all stored away on my computer. Firefox does an okay job managing them and helping keep them organized but sometimes they become a bit unwieldy. And sometimes there is a site you have on you system and home and you can’t remember what it is or how to get there and you want a centralized place to get it. Lots of different tools have been developed to help with that (Yahoo has a bookmark manager. You can go to Furl or Backflip.) But after reading about del.icio.us on Metafilter, Fark and Tabletalk, I decided to give it a try.
I really like this. It uses a heirachical filing system, much like the way Gmail organizes their conversations. It allows you file a link in several different places and makes retreiving them easy. And my favorite part of the site is you can see what other people are bookmarking/linking as well. Kind of like and unfiltered Metafilter or Fark.

Great fun.

Give it a try.