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

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 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.

Omar’s Listenin’

I watched season three’s penultimate episode of the Wire last night and was, as is always the case, blown away by the best written, most tightly directed and grippingly real television show on the air.
Most of my friends aren’t fans of the show and never give it a chance, which is a clear shame.
I once compared The Sopranos to Shakespeare, and to King Richard III in particular for its plot twists and ability to have real redeeming characters.
But the Wire? It is Faulknerian in its scope and its depth. The multi-dimensional characters, interacting in a multi-dimensional narrative played out in the all-too-real world of drug wars, organized crime and inner city police department bureacracy.
If you haven’t gotten on board, do so.
Keep an eye out for season one, now out on DVD. Season two and three will run off and on in reruns on HBO and HBO On Demand as well as a release of season two scheduled for this spring.
The Hollywood rumor mill is whispering that the show may not return next year, which would be a travesty as the emotion tied to these characters is heart wrenching.
I hope HBO sees the light and brings The Wire back for an other go ’round.

Pesky High Finance Rumors

So, Sprint and Nextel are apparently in merger/aquisition talks. Which is kind of tedious. I was wonderfully informed Friday that I got a promotion at work and will begin a new function as a supervisor for the retail sales support team. And although all the talks about Sprint and Nextel are just rumor and third and fourth hand regurgitation of unnamed sources, it stills causes some anxiety. At the least, I expect a few years for any shake out from a merger of the two companies, but still . . . coming from a guy who has been laid off three times in his life, there is always the little voice in the back of my head worrying about the long term future.
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Friday Fives

Friday Fives

1. The world ends tomorrow and only you can save it – by appearing as a contestant on a Reality TV show. Which show would you pick. Why?(No, none, neither is not an acceptable answer.
I would like to think I could save the world be appearing on “Last Comic Standing,” but I don’t have 15 minutes of really strong stand up material, so the world would crumble. As a show that I think it would be fun to be on, maybe the Amazing Race?

2. Armed only with a used deodorant dispenser, a hammer and some wood screws, and a hanky, craft a Charming Christmas present for Granny.
I remember in first or second grade once I made a golden Christmas tree out of a card board tube and some dried macaroni – painted gold with spray paint. I did eventually give it to grandma. On further review it was quite an ugly craft and her acceptance of said garbage was a demonstration of pure love.

3. In the dream where you show up to school naked, why do you never go swimming? (haha, thanks
I don’t do well naked in crowds. I have dreams about this, terrorized at the thought of being before a group of people naked – and the taunting soon begins. What is with this world and its fascination with fashion? Maybe the cave people were right to wear only a few animal skins and carry clubs. Although that would take the fun out of Ed’s shopping experiences. The boy loves his sweaters and an all naked society would put a damper on that.

4. Name the top five reasons you still believe in Santa Clause.
1. I believe in the low cost bribe that cookies and milk can achieve.
2. I believe that homes are safer if a fat hairy man can slide down your chimney – fire prevention is no joke.
3. I believe that a well equipped toy-centric society based in the North Pole is the absolute goal of any Utopia.
4. Santa exists because my momma says its so.
5. My father, GW, never had a Santa suit in his closet, verified after searching for Christmas presents on several occasions as a boy – ergo Santa must be the one doing the delivering. This is pure, scientific deductive reasoning and can’t be challenged.

5. Your 15-year-old self runs into you today. What would his/her reaction to your adult-ized fashion be?
“Wow, look at that gut! Dude, you need to step back from the keg and the caramels!” I think that guy would be a little disappointed that I am just another working drone milling away in a cubicle in an office park instead of a famous, artistic savant that I was convinced I was supposed to be.

Reading List, Pt II -or- Now Bush Is Banning Books

The story so far. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, can’t get a publisher in the United States to publish her book because her book and her works haven’t been sanctioned by the government. Apparently the Treasury Department, through the Office of Foreign Assets Control has decided to enforce an obscure 1917 law (Trading With the Enemy Act) that prohibits American companies from publishing works by dissident writers in countries under sanction unless they first obtain U.S. government approval, or pay a $1 million fine.

This is a huge uphill battle for the esteemed Solicitor General to argue before the Supreme Court. And no, this issue is not up before the Supreme Court, not yet. But it will be, it will be.

My dear, dear Patricia Shcroeder and the American Booksellers Association is spearheading a class action lawsuit made up of publishers, authors, booksellers and readers demanding this practice cease.

This thing will be before the esteemed solon of nine faster than you can rig a voting machine in Ohio. And the US Treasury Department will lose. I suspect even Scalia won’t be able to defend this one.

But what is shuddering to me, what makes my blood really boil is that the government, in the year 2004 is even considering this.
At the beginning of the last century a book was censored – banned in Boston as they say. It couldn’t be published in Great Britain and booksellers who sold it in America were fined and thrown in jail. The case went before the courts and low and behold the government was told that no, our goverment can’t dictate what can and can’t be read. The book – Ulysses, by James Joyce and the rest is history (see below. And for those of you who can’t scroll down the two inches to the previous post – Ulysses was declared the best work of Fiction in the English language for the previous century.)

Have we learned nothing? Apparently not.