Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Saturday Six - December 29, 2012

1. Q is for QUACK: What’s the worst medical advice you ever received? When I was a young mother in my twenties, I was basically told by a doctor - when I complained about horrible back pain I was experiencing- that it was normal.  She pointed out that my daughter was an infant and I carried her around a lot and that was why she thought I had such severe back pain.
I was only able to find relief after I followed someone else's advice and visited a chiropractor.  It took several months but it seemed to solve my problem.

2. Q is for QUEEN: What do you think you’d most enjoy about living the life of royalty? That's a hard one...  I guess, since I'm not a big fan of it, I would enjoy having someone else do the housework for me!

3. Q is for QUICK: What household chores are you least likely to procrastinate about doing? Cleaning the bathroom.  I can't stand a dirty bathroom so I am highly motivated to clean it often!

4. Q is for QUIET: Where do you go when you feel like you need quiet time alone with no distractions? I take a drive - unless I'm home alone - or take a walk if the weather is nice.

5. Q is for QUIT: What would you most like to quit doing in 2013? Gaining weight.

6. Q is for QUIZ: What subject in school did you most dread a pop quiz in? History.  I had such a difficult time remembering dates. 

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Random Acts for the New Year

I've heard two different stories recently about what one could call "random acts of kindness".

The first comes from a man named Patrick who described the act on his blog, Patrick's Place.  In short, he was the beneficiary of a nice (and generous) gesture and he chose to pass that on to someone else.  You'll have to click the link for the details, though.  (It's short.  Go over and read it.  I'll wait here.)

The second act was mentioned on Google+ yesterday.  A woman stated that she stopped to pay a toll on the way to her relatives on Christmas and was told that it had already been paid by the driver of the car in front of her - who also wished her a Merry Christmas!  This, understandably, made her day!

I've been thinking about these acts and I've decided that I'm going to do some extra acts of kindness in the new year.

Now, let me pause and say that I am not one of those people who makes New Years resolutions.  I just never did that sort of thing.  This is different, though, at least in my mind.  I'm not doing this for myself, though it might be beneficial to me, too.  I simply want to spread some smiles in the new year - even if they are from minor acts.

So, I'm going to attempt to do at least one act of kindness every day for the entire year of 2013 - though sometimes this might only involve holding a door open for someone or allowing someone to go ahead of me in line somewhere.

In addition, I'm going to try to do a more substantial act at least once a week.

We'll see how it goes.

I'm going to document my acts here on my blog. (Somehow... I've not worked out the mechanics yet.  Perhaps a weekly blog post where I can list what I accomplished the prior week will suffice.)  I think this will keep me from forgetting about my goal.

I'm also going to need some help in the way of suggestions. That's where you come in. I've been to the Random Acts of Kindness website and they have tons of ideas so I do have one resource but I'd like some suggestions from my readers, too!  After all, we're talking about 365 days! That's a lot and I'm not the most creative individual.  I'd especially like ideas that allow me to remain anonymous. I like to be sneaky that way.

Think of a small thing (or a not-so-small thing) that you did for someone that brightened their day - or something that someone did for you! You can leave your ideas in the comments or email me by clicking the contact button on the side of my page.

Thanks, in advance!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday Six - December 22, 2012

1. P is for PAIN: What’s your pain tolerance: do you handle pain well or are you a baby when it comes to discomfort? I handle pain fairly well, I think.

2. P is for PARTY: Are you the type that’s in the center of the action at a party, or do you wind up in a corner with a few folks you know well? I would be off in a small group, most likely.

3. P is for PAYMENT: How often do you write a check instead of paying cash or using a debit card? I hardly ever use checks anymore.  I even pay most of my bills online! I almost always use my debit card.

4. P is for PENCIL: On the desk where your computer normally is, are there more pens or pencils? Pens

5. P is for PINTO: What is your favorite kind of bean? I like those small black beans.

6. P is for POT: Copper, Non-stick, Stainless Steel: What are most of your cooking pots made of? Most of mine are stainless steel.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Nature of the Christian God - Loving or Vengeful?

Someone I follow on Goggle+ posted a link to an article describing a video game called Left Behind: Eternal Forces. If you've never heard of them, Left Behind was originally a book series for young adults that was based on the Christian idea of the end times and the lives of the people "left behind" after the rapture.  There are now movies and, it appears, a video game based on the series.

The character you play in the video game is supposed to be a member of a Christian gang and you roam around looking for atheists or believers of other faiths.  You then try to convert them.  If that fails, you can kill them.  Yep!  You heard that right.  You get to kill people who don't believe in your god.  How... pleasant.

The person who posted the link thought the premise of the game is distasteful and wondered what the reaction would be to a video game if the roles were reversed and the atheists were killing the Christians. In response, another Google+ member commented that she also thought it was horrible but stated that "No God would stand for this".

Oh, really?

This is one of those statements that drives me up the wall! Is she seriously talking about the biblical god? 

You know, the same one who people believe caused a great flood that drowned every living thing on the earth with the exception of those on Noah's ark? (Genesis 6-9)  That's right:  Men, women and children along with the animals who were not lucky enough to be chosen to be on board all drowned. What a terrific story for children that is!

In Numbers 31:7-18 we see God ordering his chosen people to kill the Mideanites. They slaughtered all the men, burned their towns and camps and took the women (and presumably the children) hostage. Moses was angry that they allowed some of the people to live and ordered them to kill all the boys and the women who were not virgins.  They were allowed to keep the remaining women and girls for themselves.  I'll let you contemplate what they would do with those girls keeping mind that women were property at that time and men had multiple wives and sometimes concubines.

That same god is the one who ordered the destruction of the city of Jericho along with every man, woman and child - with the exception of the family of the prostitute who helped the spies. (Joshua 5:13-6:27) (And people let their children sing songs about the walls of Jericho tumbling down while completely ignoring the slaughter that took place after those walls came down. That's just plain disturbing.)

In fact, Moses and the chosen people went all over the place slaughtering people as commanded by Yahweh.  Just read through the Old Testament of the Bible for more examples.  Don't overlook the plagues and famines that God caused as punishment to people.

Now don't try to tell me that he somehow mellowed over time into a peaceful god that we see in the New Testament! In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says that he has not come to bring peace but a sword and the destruction of a third of the earth's population by god's angels is mentioned in Revelation 9:15.

No, I would argue that the god described in the Bible is exactly the kind of god who would approve of the actions of the main character in the video game. Killing non-believers is behavior that the Christian deity would approve of and no amount of sugar-coating is going to change that.

Go on and believe what you want to believe but if you want to call yourself a Christian I request that you actually read the Bible:  The whole Bible, not just the select verses that people like to quote. And please try to read it objectively.  If ,when you are finished, you still believe in God and want to be a Christian, then so be it.  Just don't go on deluding yourself and telling me things that are clearly not accurate about the nature of that particular deity that is outlined in your holy book.

Image found here

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Loonies Explain the School Shootings

The Westboro Baptist Church says that god is punishing our nation for the acceptance of gay marriage and that is why he sent the gunman to Sandy Hook Elementary School to kill those children and teachers.  We are all accustomed to this group making ridiculous claims like this one but this time around it seems that they are not the only ones making absurd claims.

It must be Jump on the Loonie Bandwagon Week (trademark pending) this week!  First up there is former governor of Arkansas and former Presidental candidate, Mike Huckabee!  Huckabee first stated that we shouldn't be surprised that the shootings took place because we've removed god from our schools.  He was later asked to clarify his remarks so he tried to brush them aside by explaining that he really meant to blame the lack of morality as evidenced by the sale of contraceptives - which he likens to abortion - for the rampage.

Bryan Fischer, host of American Family Radio (a radio show) then offered a spin of Huckabee's original idea:  That we've removed prayer from schools and that is why god wasn't there to protect those children. So, Fischer's version of god didn't send the gunman but just declined to protect the victims.  Interesting.

Then we hear from Dr. James Dobson, who also has a radio show, who states that we have turned our back on god and that the shootings were god's judgement falling on us.  His show is called Family Talk with James Dobson but I seriously hope that young children aren't listening to that sort of drivel as it might give them nightmares.

Newt Gingrich, the former Presidential candidate, must really miss being in the spotlight so he, too, had a statement to make about the shootings.  He blames, "anti-religious, secular bureaucracy and secular judiciary seeking to drive god out of public life". Oh, and video games.  That's an oldie!.

Finally, I noticed this last one yesterday. Joel C Rosenberg, a best-selling evangelical author, is blaming Jon Stewart and his television show, The Daily Show, for the killings! Yep. He says that they are waging a "cultural war against Jesus and Christmas"  and are driving god our of our society.

As an atheist, I obviously think all of these claims are utterly absurd.  If you look at this from my point of view, you have to wonder why anyone would listen to anything these people have to say but yet we give them television and radio shows and encourage some of them to run for public office!  It's outrageous!

Worse, it distracts us and keeps us from addressing the real issues at hand.  Isn't it about time we examined the situation and tried to come up with some actual solutions based on the facts of the situation?

  • People with mental illnesses sometimes have a difficult time getting or affording treatment in our country. How can we change this?  
  • What can we do to keep people with mental illnesses from obtaining weapons if they are a danger to themselves and others?  
  • What about those weapons?  Does a civilian really need an assault rifle?  I can't legally purchase a flamethrower or a tank, after all.  Maybe we need to take a closer look at what we are able to purchase.
  • What about limiting the ability to buy ammo for some of these more dangerous weapons? This would allow people to continue to collect some of these guns if that is what they want to do.
  • What about people who legally purchase weapons who aren't mentally unstable?  Should we hold them accountable if they don't keep them out of the hands of children or people who shouldn't have them?  
  • What about laws that require someone to report when a gun is stolen?  Does this help keep them off the street?
  • What about the gunshow loophole that allows a person to purchase a weapon without a background check?  It's time to take a look at that one, in my opinion.
  • Gun buy-back programs are a terrific way to get some illegal guns off the street.  They generally pay a person for the gun but no questions are asked about where it came from. Maybe we should try to fund more of these programs.
In short, there are many things that we can do to try to prevent more of these tragedies in the future.  It's time to start the discussion and actually do something.  Trying to blame a tragedy on gay people, secular society or enforcement of the 1st amendment isn't going to solve anything and it just makes you look silly.  It's time to work together to try to minimize these kinds of disasters.

Image found here

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Another Pizza Mogul Takes On Obamacare

First it was Papa John's owner who objected to the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and now another pizza company's founder is objecting to the legislation.

Tom Monaghan, the founder of Dominos Pizza, is objecting to the ACA because he believes that contraception is a "gravely immoral" practice that has nothing to do with healthcare and doesn't want his company to provide health insurance that covers birth control for women.  He's actually suing the government over this issue.

I'm sorry but I'm about to lose my patience with this sort of argument!  You know what I find "gravely immoral"?!?  Let's make a list! 
  1. People who want to impose their religious beliefs on another person! If you do not believe in using birth control then don't use it!   It is not up to you to decide whether or not your employees use contraceptives.  It is clearly not your business at all!
  2. Unwanted children being born and then abused or abandoned!  What exactly do you think could happen if a woman has no access to birth control?  It might result in an unwanted pregnancy and subsequent birth of a child who she did not intend to have. Wouldn't it make more sense to make it easier to avoid an unwanted child?
  3. Children being born who have parents who cannot provide for them! Exactly what do you think happens to these children?  Yes, they might put the child up for adoption but not all unwanted children are adopted!  Some of these children - especially those who are not "perfect" end up in foster care for the rest of their childhood.  Do you really think that is best for them?  Seriously? 
  4. Higher abortion rates due to unwanted pregnancies - that could have been avoided if low cost contraceptives were available! Abortions should be minimized and the best way to do this is to make sure that women have easy and cheap access to contraceptives!  And yes.  There are studies supporting this.
  5. Ignorance about contraceptives in this day and age! Contraceptives are prescribed for a variety of reasons - including, but not exclusively for birth control - and it isn't any of your business why unless you are the patient with the prescription!  Even if you object to using birth control yourself you have no right to tell me or any other woman what she should do. That should be up to her and that is that.
This lawsuit is ridiculous in the first place.  Do these people not read or listen to the news? Hobby Lobby tried to sue the government over the ACA and they lost their suit. What makes this case any different than that one?  There is no difference that I can see and I've no reason to believe that this suit will succeed either. It is simply a waste of time and money that could be spent on something more productive.

It's time to stop arguing and face the facts that the vast majority of people in the US want Obamacare enacted.  You're fighting a losing battle and just embarrassing yourself!

Image obtained here

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Changes to Instagram

Instagram is a free photo-sharing program. Many people use Instagram to share photos taken with their phones with friends on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.  It was initially available for Apple products like the iPhone, iPad and iPod but now is available for Android products, as well.

In early 2012, the company was acquired by Facebook and, if I'm not mistaken, it became easier to share your photos from your phone directly to Facebook. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure as I do not use Instagram but this is my understanding.

What you need to know if you do use Instagram is that the terms of service are changing as of January 15, 2013.  As of that date, Instgram can use your photos or your username or your likeness for advertising purposes with no compensation to you. In other words, they can use your photos to advertise their product without asking your permission.  I believe there are a lot of people who might have a problem with this. It's the principle of it, after all.  Although the pictures are still your property, they can be used by someone else.

Luckily, there is an easy way to ensure that your photos are not used without your permission:  You can close your account with the company before January 15th when the new terms of service kick in.  

I'm not thrilled that Instagram is changing the rules in the middle of the game in this way but there is nothing we can do about that. The key is to educate others so they know what is going to happen. I suggest we spread the word as best we can so people can make an educated decision about what to do going forward.

That's what I'm doing with this post.  Now it's your turn.

Image found here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

I'm sure that everyone by now has heard about the horrible shootings that took place last Friday that resulted in the death of 20 elementary school children and 7 adults.

It's simply horrible to think of what the surviving children and family members of the victims must be going through.  I hope that there are plenty of counselors available to help everyone work through their grief.

In the aftermath of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school on Friday, we've seen the usual responses.

  • Flags are lowered to half staff.
  • Facebook posts/blogs/tweets and other online communications are created containing poetry and condolences to the families and friends of those killed.
  • People talk about gun control laws.
  • Other people say that now is not the time to talk about gun control laws.
  • Public officials make statements and offer condolences.
  • Memorial services are planned.
  • People try to find someone/something to blame or some reason that this happened.
  • We all mourn the loss of those who died.
  • The loonies come out.
Yes, there are always those people with their unusual view point that have to have their say along with everyone else.  Please understand that I'm not referring to people with mental illnesses when I use the term loonies. No, I'm talking about people who have such a distorted view of the world that it is next to impossible for most of us to understand their logic. 

The members of Westboro Baptist Church, are an example of the sort I'm talking about.

Yes, this group seems to believe that the shootings of children and teachers at the school were God's judgement and stated that they were planning on picketing the memorial service yesterday.  It appears that they didn't actually show up, but that's not unusual. They get the attention they seek regardless of whether they are actually there or not, I suppose.

Now, yes. They have the right to free speech.  That's right.  I believe they have the right to spew whatever hate they want in this way.  That's what the 1st amendment is all about, after all.  It was created to address unpopular speech not opinions that everyone would necessarily agree with. 

In the same way, the rest of us have the right to ignore them and/or to give our own opinions.  That's the way it works.

I am troubled, however, by a recent move by the group Anonymous. The group has hacked Westboro Baptist's website, hacked into one of their Twitter accounts and released the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of church members.  

I'm sorry but I believe this is wrong.  It is illegal and it doesn't stop the group from doing what they are doing - at least not in the long run. As I stated before, the group has a legal right to do what they are doing.  It might be reprehensible and it might be hateful and mean but it is legal.  Doing something illegal to combat them is not going to help.  It only means that you might end up in jail or fined while they continue to do what they do.  

Worse, I'm afraid that this might cause more violence.  What if an armed individual decides to pay church members a visit and starts shooting?  More bloodshed is only going to make matters worse. I know some folks would figure that the world would be better off without people like the members of Westboro Baptist but I don't think we have the right to make that judgement.  

I can only hope that nothing of that sort happens and that everyone is able to calm down and be rational.  And yes.  I believe it is time that we had a discussion about guns in the United States. I have no solutions and there are no easy answers but it is time we started talking.  Let's hope that we can make that discussion logical, reasonable and productive.  We have to find a better way.

Image found here

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Lone Voice in the Wilderness

I am in a business where I deal with people under contract with our company.  Enclosed with the usual paperwork I received from one of these people was the following card.  It is about the size of a business card and, as you can see, it has a religious message and scripture (John 3:16). I've taken a picture of both the front and the back of the card.

I'm going to ignore the issue of whether or not this is appropriate to send in business communication and skip right on to intent. I imagine - and please correct me if you think I'm wrong - that the sender enclosed the card with the intention of "spreading the word" as instructed to do by scripture. (Mark 16:15-16 is a good example)

Now, let's consider who this message would most likely reach. The vast majority of people in my very conservative area of the United States are Christian.  I'm not sure the percentage but it has to be high.  Using the figures found here, if I combine the percentage of protestants, Catholics and other Christian denominations and I come up with 76.9% who consider themselves Christian in the US. (I didn't count Mormons as Christian as they really aren't but that would just increase the number.)  So, a little more than 3/4 of the US is made up of people who would be considered Christians and I think there is actually a greater percentage of them in the area where I live.  My point is that the sender would have an excellent chance of reaching another Christian with this message not a non-believer.  (Yes, it is ironic that she did reach a non-believer with her message but that isn't really the issue here)

So, was she attempting to reach a person in the 25% who are not Christian - or the even smaller percentage who have no religious affiliation at all - or is she not aware of the statistics? Perhaps she has fallen into the trap of believing that Christians are the minority in the US or the world. See, for whatever reason, even though the vast majority of people here in the US have the same (or similar enough) religious views, Christians seem to feel that they are the minority AND that they are oppressed, as well.  (See this post on the War on Christmas for reference if you need one)

So, why does the majority continue to act as if they are in the minority? Even among the religions of the world, Christianity is the largest group so it isn't that.  Yes, there are places in the world where one can be persecuted for being a Christian - or for being anything but a member of the accepted faith - but I really don't think this is it as it doesn't affect a person living in the US on a daily basis.

I think it is deeper than that and I think it comes from the Bible, itself.  2 Timothy 3:12 tells us that all Christians will be persecuted and Matthew 5:10-12 tells Christians, basically, that they are blessed that they are oppressed and insulted but they should be glad because they will be rewarded in heaven. Those are just two examples, by the way.  There are several more if you want to Google it.

Yes, the Bible, tells the believers that they will be persecuted and while this certainly was the case in the early church it is not an issue in the US today. Christians are the vast majority in the United States and they certainly are not being discriminated against nor oppressed here. Isn't it about time they stopped playing the victim and accepted this fact?  I think it is time for common sense to prevail.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Atheist at Christmastime

I've been making several Christmas-related posts recently and people may be wondering why an atheist would be interested in celebrating Christmas.  There are several reasons, actually.  One is that I grew up in a Christian household so the traditions I grew up with have to do with Christmas as opposed to another holiday during this season.  Another reason is that I've come to realize that Christmas - despite the "Christ" in the title - is just not exclusive to Christians anymore.  Frankly, a lot of "Christmas" traditions came from things done for other celebrations.

For example, the idea of bringing greenery - evergreen, holly and such -  indoors around the time of the winter solstice is not a coincidence.  It was done by the followers of Ra in ancient Egypt. Ra was their sun god so they celebrated the winter solstice - the day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight - as they knew the daylight hours would increase from that day until the summer solstice. They brought evergreen boughs indoors to decorate as a way of reminding themselves of the warmer months.

Many religious festivals were held in the winter - especially if a culture had a sun god of any nature.  Ancient people did take note of the winter and summer solstices and celebrated them. It is not a surprise that early Christians chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus around this time of year so that people wouldn't miss gathering together at this time.  (Personally, I think it's just a hop, skip and jump from celebrating the sun god to celebrating the son of god but I'll admit I'm just being punny.)

Saturnalia was celebrated by ancient Romans around the time of the winter solstice.  The practice of gift-giving is thought to have come from these ancient celebrations.  The Catholic church forbade the practice as pagan during the Middle Ages but, obviously, they changed their mind at some point.

Gift-giving is not the first Christmas practice that was discouraged due to pagan origins.  Did you know that putting up Christmas trees was considered a pagan - and therefore undesirable - practice in colonial America? In fact, the puritans disliked the idea of celebrating Christmas altogether as they considered it a Catholic practice.  It was outlawed in early Boston.  It wasn't until the late 19th century that Christmas trees were finally commonplace in the United States and holiday celebrations were accepted practice.

Caroling - or wassailing - appears to have pre-Christian roots, as well. Peasants would visit noblemen and sing in exchange for food or drink.

The hanging of wreaths on our doors seems to come from ancient Rome where they did so to celebrate victory.  The advent wreath comes from pre-Christian Germany were people would gather greens and light fires during the winter months as a sign of hope for spring to come.

We get the idea of hanging mistletoe from the Norse, ancient druids and native Americans.

This website is a wealth of information about Christian traditions around the world and the origins of many of the things we do to celebrate the holidays today.

My point is that just like early Christians borrowed some practices from other religions and even the times of year to hold celebrations, non-religious people continue some of the customs we enjoy even if we don't do them for the same reason that some others do.

When challenged on this, I like to point out that the real reason for the actual season is the axial tilt of the earth and doesn't have anything to do with any particular religion. Without the tilt, we wouldn't experience the changing seasons and we wouldn't be celebrating the solstice in any way or for any reason.  And yes.  This answer makes me a smart-ass and I'm alright with that.

Seriously, though, what does decorating a tree in your home or hanging a wreath on your door have to do with a baby being born in a stable in Bethlehem, anyway? (or in a house, depending on which version you prefer)  Absolutely nothing.  These are secular traditions and anyone can participate in them.

Regardless of your personal traditions and no matter what you celebrate this time of year, I hope that you get to spend time with your family and loved ones.  That is the most important part of the season to me and I hope that it is important to you, as well.

Image found here.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday Six - December 8, 2012

1. N is for NAME: Were you ever tempted to change your name, and if so, which name would you rather have had? I never liked my name, Cathryn, and disliked the fact that EVERYONE called me Cathy as a nickname. I always wanted to be a Sabrina or a Samantha.

2. N is for NATURE: What do you enjoy most about being in the great outdoors? Almost everything!  I love camping and hiking and being outdoors.  It's less fun when it's rainy and muddy, though.

3. N is for NEWSSTAND: If you had to purchase a magazine at a newsstand, which title would you be most likely to buy? Probably Time. I used to subscribe to it but I just never seemed to have time to read it! (there's a joke in there somewhere)

4. N is for NICKEL: If a president were to replace one of the current presidents on our coins, which one would you like to see immortalized on our currency next? I think John Adams would be a good choice or perhaps Thomas Jefferson. I'm not sure I like the idea of replacing any of the current ones, though.  Seems kind of sad to consider that.

5. N is for NOSE: Which aroma from the kitchen is your favorite? Cinnamon with vanilla as a close second.

6. N is for NUT: When you’re ready for a snack, which variety of nut is your favorite? I enjoy peanuts.  I'm sure that's a boring choice but there you go.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Mystery of the Christmas Pickle

Have you ever heard of the tradition of the Christmas pickle ornament?

Several years ago, I saw a pickle ornament being sold in one of those junk catalogs you receive in the mail.  I thought it was an odd thing to place on your Christmas tree so I took a closer look.  It mentioned that the ornaments are a tradition in Germany.

Well, that made sense to me. The first people to bring greenery indoors during the winter months did so to celebrate the winter solstice and this pre-dates Christianity but the idea of bringing an entire tree indoors to decorate appears to have originated in Germany.

The legend states that the pickle was always the last ornament to go on the tree and it was hidden in the tree so it wasn't easy to find. The first child to find the pickle on the tree on Christmas day would get an extra present from St. Nicholas. That seems like a nice tradition and I almost purchased a pickle just because I liked the story.  But I didn't.  After all, it's a still a pickle which is an odd thing to have on a tree.

The other day, I saw something that caught my attention:  A short article on the myth of the Christmas pickle. Myth?  Yes.  It appears that it might have been made up.  See, St. Nicholas was supposed to arrive earlier in the month  in Germany- the 5th or 6th of December - not Christmas.  Also, German children open their presents on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day.  The biggest problem with the story is that people in Germany seem to have never heard of this tradition!

There is an alternate story of an American civil war soldier who was captured and held in Georgia.  The man was wounded and didn't know if he would live or die. He begged his guard to bring him a pickle to eat so he did. The prisoner eventually recovered and was released. He was sure that the pickle had aided his recovery so he started the tradition of the pickle ornament on the tree with his family.  That story seems a bit odd but I suppose it is possible.

Regardless of the origins of the pickle ornament,. it is now a tradition in some families here in the US.  Oddly enough, the ornaments are often made in Germany.

Image obtained here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Question of Angels

I've wondered about something for years now.  Every now and then I come across a tree ornament that has an angel on skis.

Now, I have several of these cheaply-made wooden ornaments on the mini tree I use at work. I have snowmen, Santa Claus, elves, and angels.  Some of the angels are playing instruments, one is riding a rocking horse, one is in a little house.  Then there is this one in the picture on the left.

It is an angel on skis.  Don't let the lack of halo fool you.  It has to be an angel as it has wings.  Now my question is this:  Why would an angel be skiing? If I had wings, I'd be flying. Wouldn't you?

Angels are an interesting subject to me. Now, granted, I don't believe they exist but I'm fascinated with the various depictions of them both modern and ancient.

In the Bible (unless I'm mistaken) all the angels who have names appear to be male.  Gabriel and Michael come to mind.   In fact, even those who aren't named seem to be male, as well.  For example, the two who visit Lot and his family are mistaken by other townspeople as men so they must be male - or appear to be male. (Genesis 19) No mention of wings on them, either.

I checked around the internet and could only find one reference to possible female angels in the Bible and they had wings, as well - but were not actually called angels.  (Zechariah 5:9, if you are curious.)  This seems to be a controversy as explained here where the author also poo-poos the modern versions of angels.  I guess just having fun with the idea of angels living among us for the sake of entertainment is not something the author approves of.

Modern depictions of angels invariably have wings and are female - generally with long hair. I found this website that explains that some angels do have wings and some don't.  This site implies that they don't have wings, however. I guess that explains that - though they both mention that angels are spirits and spirits shouldn't need wings so... yeah.  Clear as mud.

I should mention that angels appear in other religions, as well.  Wikipedia has an article on angels that goes into detail if you are interested.

I do have to wonder what changed that caused people started depicting angels as women with wings. Must be one of life's little mysteries - though I'm betting that it has something to do with an advertising campaign or something.  After all, that's where we got Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer!

 And yes.  I wonder about skiing angels, as well.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Texting Turns 20!

Twenty years ago today the first text message was sent. It was sent from a PC to a phone as phones didn't have keyboards back then.

(It said, "Merry Christmas", in case you were wondering. Not exactly "Mr. Watson, come here!  I want to see you!" but it'll do.)

Originally the text message was intended as a way for secretaries to page their bosses when they were away from their desk but we use SMS for so many other things now days.  This article gives you a bit more of the history as well as mentioning some of the many ways we use text messaging today.

I text people sometimes when I just have a short message for them but don't need to talk to them in person. For example, this morning I sent a short text to my daughter asking her to stop by the house and pick something up this week.  I wasn't sure if she was awake yet so I didn't want to call and I just wanted to convey a short message so a text was perfect.  If I needed feedback on something, I would have waited until after work today and called her.

I know some people who, even though they've had a cell phone for years, don't ever text anyone.  Sometimes it's because they don't have unlimited texting in their plan and prefer not to pay per text.  Sometimes it's because they simply prefer to talk to someone in person.

Do you use the text feature on your cell phone?

Image obtained here

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday Six - December 1, 2012

1. M is for MAC: Which brand of computer do you use most often? My home computer is an Asus and I use a Dell at work. They are both Windows machines.

2. M is for MACARONI: Which pasta dish do you enjoy most? I love plain old homemade macaroni and cheese.  It's best if you use more than one kind of cheese.

3. M is for MAIL: How often do you actually mail a letter versus sending an email or chatting online? I don't mail letters very often.  An online friend and I exchanged a few letters as we both think that writing letters is something that shouldn't die off but, oddly enough, we couldn't keep it going. I think when you follow another person on social media there isn't a lot to communicate in a letter that hasn't already been said.

4. M is for MICROPOLIS: If you had the choice to earn a decent salary at an enjoyable job and could be certain that you could afford a comfortable lifestyle, would you prefer to live in a big city, a small town, or something in between? There are benefits of both but I think I'd prefer a small town. I could always visit cities if I wanted to but I don't think I'd enjoy living there.

5. M is for MOVIE: What is the next movie you are looking forward to seeing in a theater? The Hobbit!  It comes out on the 15th of this month and I'm considering going to the midnight showing if I can find someone to go along with me.  Of course, I'll have to take the next day off work...

6. M is for MUSEUM: Which type of museum would you most likely pay to enter: an art museum, a history museum or a science museum? Any of those would be fine with me.  If pressed to make a choice, I guess I'd go with the science museum.

There are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!