Friday, December 31, 2010

Auld Lang Syne So Quickly

Tomorrow feels like it should be five months away rather than mere hours. I'm not ready for a new year! So much happened in 2010 that I'm still trying to come to grips with it all. Snow was a huge feature here, in the nation's capital. Snowmageddon was an apt name because the sky seemed to keep falling on us week after week! There simply was no respite. Despite that, some good came with the blizzards. People got out and actually communicated with each other -- verbally and snowbally. There was such a festive atmosphere as people had snow stuffed down their pants and shirts. Such gaiety! Uh, except for the cop who didn't take kindly to his personal SUV being pummeled with snow balls. There really wasn't any need to draw a gun, but I guess when you're out-numbered, edginess is to be expected. Sadness and disbelief also slipped into our lives. A lot of extraordinary people died during the past twelve months. Losing Lena Horne was unbelievable. She seemed so ageless and immortal. Thank goodness we still can listen to her magnificent singing and watch her movie performances. Though he was old enough to be my father, I've had a life-long crush on actor John Forsyth. Not only was he incredibly handsome and elegant, but he was an admirable man who managed a fairly regular life in the crazy world of Hollywood. Elizabeth Edwards' passing was painful because she had been so vital and uncomplaining. Breast cancer would have been enough to derail many women, but her husband's bad behavior had to have felt like the last straw. Her enduring dignity and devotion to her children will outshine anything John does for the rest of his life. I don't even want to think about the never-ending disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Reverberations from that disgraceful and preventable event will continue for years as will the pain felt by the families and friends of those killed. The continuing ecological damage may never be completely realized and the lives of those who worked and lived on the Gulf are forever changed. Shame on B.P.! Natural and worse, man made, disasters crippled millions around the world and started me thinking about how human activity is responsible for much of the suffering. We're pretty cavalier about drilling deep into the Earth for coal, oil, gold and other "commodities." Is anyone thinking about the huge toll this is taking on Planet Earth, herself? And how about the humans who must go down into those deep holes? As we enter a new year and decade, I hope and pray that we learn from mistakes made during the last decade. Hope is a good thing but it cannot be allowed to overrule action. We cannot hope ourselves into breathing cleaner air, drinking purer water. Improving standards in education, health care and lifting people out of poverty will require hard work, sincerity, realism and sacrifice. The best I can do is hope that Congress quits the political bickering to work out practical solutions. Sadly and unfairly, hoping is the best I can do. The incoming House leadership has already decided to strip the District's non-voting delegate of her committee voting rights. At that point, the over 1/2 million District residents (local and federal tax-paying American citizens) will be completely muzzled and silenced. So much for hope . . .

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mother Nature's Firey Finest

I hope you can forgive my obession with sunsets. I just can't resist when they're this splendid! The sky towards the east this evening was hot pink and made the bare branches of trees stand out beautifully. The Washington Monument also looked lovely in front of a pink glow. ;- )

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Agony and Ecstasy of Christmas

Children agonize over listing all the stuff they want for Christmas for months in advance. Some adults do, too. There are those "gotta have" gifts that can spawn great agony and mourning if they don't appear under the tree. [In my memory, thoughts of those "gotta-have" treasures evaporated soon after the new year.] Then there are the "that's nice" gifts -- usually from one's grandparents, but not on the child's official list. If you had your druthers, you would trade all of them for just one from your list . . . but no way. If your grandparents are in the room when you open their "that's nice" gift, you are expected to graciously thank them for it, even if you have to fake it. That's a whole lot harder than it sounds, particularly for kids under the age of 14. Parents watch closely for appropriate reactions and if they don't happen there'll be hell to pay later on: "Grampa and Grandma aren't made of money you know" -- or -- "They went out of their way to find something nice for you and I expect you to appreciate it" -- or -- "Grandma made that crocheted toilet paper cover with her own, two hands; you WILL LOVE IT!" Teens have a particularly hard time with Christmas because the symbolism of Christmas gifts is incredibly important. I'm not talking about the Gift of the Magi here. I'm talking about those all important gifts given between boys and girls. Back in the dark ages when I was in middle school, "dog tags" held huge significance when exchanged between a girl and boy. These silver disks were engraved with the owner's name or initials and worn on a chain around the neck. An exchange of these necklaces meant a couple was going steady. That meant the boy should carry the girl's books as they walked home together from school and they could hold hands in public. [I know - sounds pretty dorky, but that's how it was.] Of course at the ages of 12 or 13 most boys were clueless about girls and what we expected of them. Girls matured faster than boys and often underwent growth spurts before the boys did. Many girls learned to slouch to try not to tower over the boys. My dad wouldn't have any of that. He was a stickler for good posture so for a few years, I had to just tower over boys until they caught up to me. In junior high school we put on an annual Christmas Pageant. Yes, it would have been politically incorrect by today's standards, but I was never aware of any complaints. The program wasn't overtly religious, but it did mention the reason for celebrating Christmas. The choirs were a mixed bag and sang beautifully -- no prob.
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Getting back to the agony and ecstasy of Christmas -- several years ago I decided to enter holidays with no expectations. That way, I'd always be pleasantly surprised. It's worked well for me. A neutral state of mind allows me to accept the disappointment if I goof with a gift for someone who clearly wanted something else. It also allows me to be thrilled when an unexpected gift (one not on the person's official list) brings pleasure. Besides, too much changes from year to year -- family members move away, or loved ones die. Traditions that were the glue of a family celebration just can't hold up to those transitions. So, in closing -- I believe that Christmas is for children and adults need to back off. Our only role should be reiterating the reason we celebrate on December 25th. It's not to make merchants happy and wealthy; It's not to see how much stuff you can get; It's not to compete with your friends to see who gets the latest gadget first; It's not to snarf-down pounds of fat and sugar; It's not to gripe if you don't get that thing that "everyone else has . . . whine" Christmas celebrates the birth of a baby in a barn of all places about 2,000 years ago. Because he was special, cool stuff happened after his birth and the world changed after the baby grew up and started walking and talking. Keep it simple.
Merry Christmas, y'all!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

HUGE mistake / tiny correction

Though I applaud The Washington Post for correcting it's mistakes in print, at times I'm appalled by the way in which they do it. The following appeared at the bottom of page 2 in the A section today. Until now, I haven't gone looking for corrections to earlier stories, but now I'll make a routine of it.
A Dec. 15 A-section article, about the requirements of the new health-care law that Americans buy insurance, incorrectly said that, according to estimates by congressional budget analysts, the federal deficit would increase by $250 billion over the next decade if the mandate were removed. The analysts predict a decrease in that amount.
Confusing plus or minus $250,000,000,000 is not simple semantics. It's a huge mistake and should have been addressed as such! If you ask me, this called for something far more upfront than a bullet point among six other corrections. I have learned to live with the regression in the paper's attention to grammar and spelling, but this sort of thing is inexcusable. Come on, Post editors: you can do so much better than this.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It just occurred to me. . .

. . . how shocked Richard Holbrooke must have been when he discovered he was no longer among the living. One minute he was in a important meeting with the United States Secretary of State, discussing matters in which he had been deeply and completely involved. What must have seemed like minutes later, he was heading toward that "loving, white light." Holbrooke was an incredibly smart, capable diplomat who was completely devoted to his country and his mission. He was strong-willed and opinionated; characteristics that often rubbed people the wrong way. Nevertheless, he earned hard-won respect from colleagues and adversaries alike for his efforts to stop the carnage in Eastern Europe and more recently in the Middle East. There is much speculation about the short term and long term effects his loss will make on U.S. foreign relations. His inherent knowledge of human nature and the idiosyncrasies of world politics will be hard to replicate. Sure, there are capable men and women out there who are willing and able to step-in, but Holbrooke was one-of-a-kind; a legend in his own time. The personal loss for his family and friends is, naturally, enormous. The impact of his loss on world politics and peace will reveal itself soon enough. Perhaps the suddenness of his death will make others think twice before stepping back into full-on-war-mode. I hope his dogged determination to protect life and to secure and maintain peace will inspire others long after his funeral tomorrow. Rest In Peace, Richard.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ambiguity at its Finest

Forgive me, please. I received the following in email and simply HAD to share. I have no defense other than it's a cold, windy Monday and I ain't got nothin' else . . . 1. Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things. 2. One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor. 3. Atheism is a non-prophet organization. 4. If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes? 5. The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. 6. What if there were no hypothetical questions? 7. If someone with multiple personalities threatens suicide, is it considered a hostage situation? 8. Is there another word for synonym? 9. What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant? 10. Would a fly without wings be called a walk? 11. If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked? 12. Can vegetarians eat animal crackers? 13. How do they get deer to cross the road only at those yellow road signs? 14. One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people. 15. Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra? 16. Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery? 17. How is it possible to have a civil war? 18. If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done? 19. Whose cruel idea was it for the word lisp to have an "s" in it? I don't know who came up with these, but some sound "George-Carlin-esque". Such brilliance gone too soon!