31 December 2010

(un)Happy New Year

It is New Year's Eve and I am at home, forced to sit out the normal festivities by 2 blizzards. And these are really blizzards, not just some snow flakes and a little wind. The 2 interstates were shut. The roads were horrible. The weather was and continues to be dreadful. There have been wind chill temperatures of -49 Fahrenheit in places. Funny how it was nearly 30 a few days ago.
The first storm arrived on Wednesday. I got stuck at work because there was no way to pass through the drifts on the sidewalks or streets with the ice bike.
I went out between storms today. Most places were closed. I needed to get the food for a New Year's Day evening meal. Indeed it was a difficult jaunt.
Well, I got home, I ripped my down vest, realized my camera was broken, then discovered the New Year's Eve party was postponed until the next day- the day I would be inviting many of the same people over for a dinner. So far 2011 is looking to be a real challenge and it hasn't even started yet.
Looking back, there were plenty of challenges for me in 2010- leading a canoe trip, a bike trip mostly into the wind, putting on the Christmas show, taking on new responsibilities at work, and I won't even delve into the challenges you encounter in relationships.
Well I hope your new year doesn't get drowned by difficulties and disappointments. Slan.

The Christmas cake

My brother in law made this incredible Christmas cake. It was big! It was good. 2 layers with some strawberries in the middle. I still have a part of it.

26 December 2010

The day after is still Christmas

It might be Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day but in other parts of the world the Christmastide continues onward until Epiphany on January 6th. In Ireland, the Wren Boys might come out on December 26 in costume and sing and ask for small donations for the "Wren Dance." Not sure how prevalent it still is in Ireland. Sounds fun to me.
Here the snow lays heavy upon the ground. The wind whips it up in a fury making for dangerous yet awe inspiring landscape. 

25 December 2010

Tidings of Christmas Joy

God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay.
For Jesus Christ our Savior,
Was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power,
When we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas day
 More on this older carol and how merry might not be about revelry is found here and here.
It certainly has joyful meter and is rather bright and cheery as opposed to some other carols speaking of the same theme. This one is certainly a song to be sung by carolers seeking the wassail. I think I will make wassail this year.

24 December 2010

Happy Christmas 2010

Happy Christmas everybody.

For some it is the most wonderful time of the year and for others the most stressful. Then there are others who just don't care. But we'll let them be that way.
It can be like the Frank Capra film It's A Wonderful Life- life events and circumstances can dictate who we are, what we are worth until we just want to escape the pressures that life presents.
It was fortunate that George did have Clarence- somebody who can look from the outside. Without the whole bridge and "George never existed" scenes, it would we a sad, sad film.
So what am I getting at?
We are not living for ourselves.
Just at its simplest Christmastime invites goodwill and peace to break out at least once a year. That's the magic of Christmas and how even if ones do not recognize the bigger thing which Christmas commemorates (Christ coming to the earth to die in order to free us.), it harmonizes and even points subtly to it. We just overlook it either because we don't care or do not know. George was fortunate, an angel was able to show him the bigger picture.

Upon this nativity I do behold

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
You've probably heard this dozens of times if you watch Charlie Brown Christmas. Linus takes the spotlight and tells Charlie Brown (and everyone else) what Christmas is all about. I have seen it 3 times this year and it doesn't get boring. Hulu is still streaming it until the end of the year.  A Charlie Brown Christmas is short and to the point and doesn't follow too many rabbit trails. Short summary- Charlie Brown is stressed by Christmas. He seeks help which send him in a different direction. Linus sets it straight (or should we credit the King James Bible?) and Charlie Brown changes his viewpoint.
I like how Schulz was already contrasting the befuddled Charlie Brown with the "give me" attitude of some of the other characters- something that still rings true today about our celebrations in the West.
So should I bemoan the reality that much of the world around celebrates things which are symbols of Christmas?
Gifts, parties, Santa, and the like all fit into the celebration of Christmas but really are not what Christmas does commemorate. Throw in the whole Saturnalia  and yuletide stuff and you got a real misshaped holiday.
It does come to the question- did God come or was it an elaborate hoax?
The Jamestown (ND) College choir put on a real excellent program a few weeks ago. Their program drew upon the theme that before the Christ child came, the world was in darkness. The Finnish folk song "Lost in the Night" expresses that theme.

Lost in the night doth the heathen yet languish,
Longing for morning the darkness to vanquish,
Plaintively heaving a sigh full of anguish:
Will not day come soon? Will not day come soon?
Must he be vainly awaiting the morrow?
Shall we who have it no light let him borrow?
Giving no heed to his burden of sorrow:
Will you help us soon? Will you help us soon?
Sorrowing brother, in darkness yet dwelling,
Dawned hath the day of a radiance excelling,
Death’s dreaded darkness forever dispelling:
Christ is coming soon! Christ is coming soon!
Light o’er the land of the heathen is beaming,
Rivers of life through its deserts are streaming,
Millions yet sigh for the Savior redeeming:
Come and save us soon! Come and save us soon!
 The choir also performed a song we also did for the Christmas radio at HCC: Night of Silence. I did that song in high school as well.

May all the blessing of the nativity be yours.


Winter drops

Winter had been dropping upon us like a a load of bricks since Thanksgiving. But now it is officially the winter.
The snow lay on the ground, thick and cold. This the most snow I can recall on the ground before the calendar said winter began.
And this winter attack on fall has kept me off the bike for more days than I recall from previous years.
I got my winter bike ready the day before the major snow arrived but did not think the studded tire would be necessary. Oh it was necessary. I was slip slipping around the snow swamped intersections and side streets.
Winter biking is a little crazy. The streets get less room and the sidewalks are dicey or inconsistently cleared. Plus it tough to gauge how many layers to put on since the physical exertion creates heat and sweat.
I went running outside a few nights ago. It was a rather good evening to do it. The temperatures was high enough and the sidewalks were mostly clear. I brought my camera with and captured some lights in the neighborhood. Nothing too elaborate around my neighborhood. Apparently the "suburbs" are where to find the big displays. I have yet to see one.

22 December 2010

It was 20 years ago today

That the first birthday assemblage ever was held. Maybe not the only one but the one that coincides with my particular DOB.
I came up with the assemblage because I did not like the word party. Yeah, that's right, a word snob. So I held this gathering, er assemblage, at Lehigh on my birthday or at least on the day nearest my birthday that was not a school night. The assemblage included games, including bingo, drawings, prizes, something dramatic, and food. I hardly recall much about them besides they were well attended. I printed tickets as invitations, so people felt obligated I assume. 
Here's a few pictures, but I don't think these are from the first one.  The Emmy winner Kevin Myers appears in most of these.
 Above I believe we are playing one of the many games which involved creativity and prizes.
 Here we are reading one of the many scripts I wrote for the assemblage. I think it was some sort of a musical comedy. I incinerated years ago.

 The birthday cake which my mom  baked and decorated. Sort of a Simpsonized version of myself.

A finally some guests enjoy the food. Well, at least some of them. One of the gals is my former GF.

16 December 2010

Make your sauna

Where I work we get packages from around the world and occasionally they are packed with newspapers from these places.
Just the other day I had a box with a Russian language news tabloid that had the story of Michael Jackson's death a few years ago.
But here we have an advertisement from a Finnish DIY store- Starkki (something of a cross between Home Depot and Menard's.)
But instead of loads of other krep which you would see in Home Depot ad, this one focuses on the most important one to Finns- the sauna. And it is important to note how it is pronounced- 'sow- nah.' This differentiates it from the 'saw-na', which is usually a dry heat contraption masquerading as the Finnish sauna.
I have heard it said that sometimes Finns have built their sauna before even having a home. In fact some have even lived in their sauna (without the steam of course.) This may be hyperbole.
Starkki has all a Finn would need to build or improve their sauna- doors, benches, cedar, the rocks to be heated. My MFG -mostly Finnish girlfriend- has seen some elaborate saunas when she visited Suomi (aka Finland.) For the less well to do Finns, they can shell out 39 Euros for an infrared heating element. Sounds a bit blasphemous since your can't pour water over it and get steam. The lady in the ad doesn't mind. She can't believe the price.
Hopefully this weekend I will enjoy a real sauna and perhaps take some pictures to share with my Finnish readers. I do have Finnish readers, right?

The "Ugly" Christmas Sweater

We've been on an ugly kick here this last year (remember ugly online ads) so it makes sense to look for the ugly Christmas sweaters. Think Bill Cosby getting run over by a reindeer and a dozen elves and throw in a random snowman. Actually these are rather quaint-snowflakes and stars. The one below I actually own and has appeared on the blog before. I got it for only a buck last year!
So perhaps these don't fall into the ugly category, but you can make your own and send them to me- http://www.thisisgrow.com/archive/officemax/myholidaysweater/955279d6.74941 

08 December 2010

Downloading into December

Man alive! It's December already. Once Thanksgiving come its a slippery slope to the end of year.
It has been a while since I've had time to post. I still don't have time, but I will anyway. But what this post needs is pictures!
 At left is my MFG (mostly Finnish girlfriend) holding a box of Lux flakes- a popular soap from yesteryear.
Lux used to sponsor a few radio shows- notably the Lux Radio Theater which produced radio adaptations of current films. For some unknown reason this box was found back at my parents home. I decided to use some and I think it worked out ok. Oh and by the way I am doing a radio show of sorts on December 11. You might want to come- more info here. You won't regret it.
Went swing dancing tonight. Only danced 3 times until it was over. I was just warming up by the 3rd time. There will be other times.
Here's the Thanksgiving feast my family devoured. Nearly all this food was prepared by my brother in law. It tasted fantastic. My FMG joined us this year. it was a real good time. Didn't have an internet connection so I did not get to blog at all or leave my usual Thanksgiving address. I'll need to do my Christmas one early since the 'net back home is pretty dang slow.
I have been reading a best seller as of late. One you might know about- The Purpose Driven Life. I am a little late to the party but the information in the book is as beneficial now as ever. I really experiencing some inner growth- and that's no tumor! At first I was a bit skeptical of the book but now I like it.
And finally, something about beer.
Its a Hamm's beer pull found on my MFG's farm. Nothing fancy about it. I think it dates from the 70s before Hamm's disappeared for a while. I think it may be for one of those spigots that comes out the side of a truck. Nonetheless it is short and stubby.
That's all for now. I hope you can make it to the radio show.