December 31, 2002

Gifts, Ads, and Wishes

Remember the broken mailbox post? Well, I got a new post for Christmas, as I mentioned, and we put it up (well, brother-in-law got up to his elbows in Quikrete and put it up) on Sunday, so yesterday would have been the first test of its sturdiness. However, our mailman brought the mail to the door again. Why? Well, because two groovy Boston chicks (their phrase, not mine, dammit!) sent me a package with handwritten messages all over it saying "Do not Bend or Squash!" What was this totally unexpected package, you ask? It was a box of Turtles! For some reason, I've been unable to find them on this island, and when Shelley mentioned them in her blog the other day, I was reminded of them. What a wonderful surprise gift! Thank you, ladies!

Ads I wanted to see but didn't this Christmas season: the Staples robot that's in love with the scanner; the Folgers college kid secretly coming home for Christmas. Ads I did see and enjoyed: the Jack in the Box one where Jack mangles Spanish so badly his mouth is drawn all over his face, and another Jack in the Box ad, this one the room service leftovers-foraging one. I didn't see a single Budweiser ad with Clydesdales this year; suppose A-B is retiring the critters?

And finally, to all the folks over there on the link list, and all the others whose writings I've enjoyed over the past year, let me leave you with a quote from Bilbo Baggins on the occasion of his eleventy-first birthday:

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."

Sounds good to me. Happy New Year, everyone!

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:28 AM | Comments (17)

December 30, 2002

Birthday aloha

Today is the birthday of my blog buddy Jen. She's (gasp) thirty-something, and I'd like to wish her a wonderful day. I urge y'all to do the same!

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:56 AM | Comments (10)

December 29, 2002

Year in Review, part 1

Christmas is over, spammers! No more damned Kinkade Santa Claus figurines or Pasta Pot flyers in my e-mail, please! And, for that matter, no more solicitations to get an international drivers license. What's up with that, anyway?

The New York Times Magazine has a collection of articles this week about some of the more prominent passings of 2002, from sports (Johnny Unitas, Ted Williams) to comedy (Spike Milligan, Chuck Jones) to terrorists and their victims (Abu Nidal, Daniel Pearl).

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:14 AM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2002

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou

Once more into the breach, dear friends...

Right click and take that little guy. Then let me and She (No, not H. Rider Haggard's She) know in our respective comments.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:04 PM | Comments (1)

Catching up

What was happening while I was sidetracked by Christmas? Well, here are a few things I noticed and stockpiled:

If you're interested in a timeline of the Trent Lott story as it appeared in the media, the Online Journalism Review has it.

BlogCon participant Jenny got a mention in the WashPost "Blogging as Tech Story of the Year" article of a week ago.

What happens if the Bush plan to outsource government printing jobs goes through? Well, for one thing, archiving government documents if there's no centralized control of their publication becomes problematic.

20 municipalities have now passed resolutions instructing employees not to collaborate with federal officials, thus defying the Patriot Act. They aren't all Berkeley, either.

Finally, be careful out there: what you say in your pages may have unforeseen consequences.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:23 PM | Comments (4)

December 26, 2002

Christmas glut

Christmas gifts gone mad: look at our tree on December 25 and assume the most spendthrift family in the world lives there; then open up the gifts and find things like calendars, cans of compressed air, golf tees and balls, and clothes of the denim persuasion. We have so many "musts" each Christmas that a keen observer could look at the packages and determine "ah, Sister's calendar; ah, Mother's engagement book; ah, Brother-in-law's weird stuff." The surprises are few and far between, which is just the way we like it.

Last Saturday our poor postal delivery person mailman was trying to stuff our streetside mailbox with yet more catalogs, when suddenly the post broke off at the base! The poor guy was seated in his truck, holding on to the post with one hand, and you could almost see the wheels in his head turning. "What do I do with this thing while I get out and go tell the homeowner about it?" Fortunately I noticed the dilemma and came out to solve his problem. My brother-in-law, being the bright observant sort, noticed the absence of the mailbox and gave me one for Christmas. It was one of the weirder-looking packages I've ever seen.

Having said that about surprises, have a look at my new toy! Suddenly my 300 vinyl LPs are available for play again. The 30-year-old Pioneer turntable gave up the ghost in about 1985, and I've been unable to find anyone to repair it (even the manufacturer would rather sell me a new one), so all those early Neil Young, Stevie Winwood, Airplane and CSN albums have been lying fallow for a long time indeed. 'Course, the upside of that is, they've suffered very little wear!

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:20 PM | Comments (6)

December 24, 2002

Yes, Virginia

Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus?Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

From The People's Almanac, pp. 1358-9.

Francis P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" was an immediate sensation, and became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O'Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

"Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn't any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

"It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, 'If you see it in the The Sun, it's so,' and that settled the matter.

" 'Well, I'm just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,' I said to father.

"He said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.' "

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents' favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, "Endeavour to clear your mind of cant." When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl's letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

"Is there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O'Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master's from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

(Thanks to Barricks Insurance for the text.)

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:36 PM | Comments (10)

December 22, 2002


Stocking stuffers:

Tangerine for toes--check
Walnuts (substitute for hard candy)--check
Candy Canes for top--check


At least three jokes per person--check
At least one serious item per person--check


Got Little Smokies for pigs-in-a-blanket?--check
Got biscuit dough?--Uh-oh
Got eggnog?--Double uh-oh

Got wrapping paper?--check
Got ribbon?--check
Got gift tags?--check Yikes!

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:38 PM | Comments (3)


Right click and take this little wreath. Link back to the site you took it from. Leave a message in the comments if you do it - I'd like to see where it goes!
Let's celebrate the holidays around the web!

I got mine from Ms. Toxic.

I'm shipping it to Jen.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:34 AM | Comments (2)

Servers and DNS Propagation

Well, who knows? It was a week ago that our host switched servers on us with no advance warning, in an attempt to resolve our inability to ping weblogs and other MT sites while on a server "farm." Ever since then this site has been bouncing back and forth between the former server's DNS address and the replacement one's. Everything I've read says the process should take 48-72 hours, so why it's taken a week and is still moving around between the two is beyond me. In all my attempts to figure out what's going on, I've learned the DOS ping command, and learned that my version of Win95 doesn't have the ipconfig.exe program, for reasons that remain unclear. With ipconfig, you can ostensibly "flush" your DNS settings, and that seemed to be desirable; I've tried unsuccessfully to find a copy of it to download from Microsoft or anywhere else.

If anyone has any ideas, explanations, or a source for that program, I'm up for it.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:13 AM | Comments (2)

December 20, 2002

Christmas Stories

The season wouldn't be what it is for me without various Christmas stories. We all know Clement Moore's The Night Before Christmas, of course, O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, and Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I have a few other favorites: Cleveland Amory's The Cat Who Came for Christmas and its sequels, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (yeah, yeah, it's not strictly a Christmas book, but there's a wonderful scene when Francie and her brother acquire a tree for the holidays), Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (that's the book, not the movie or tv show...I love the Karloff cartoon version, too), and Tom Mula's hilarious Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol (that's the audio cassette, which is performed by the author).

There is one more that I like a lot, and it's from an author you wouldn't expect. Every Christmas Eve the CBC broadcasts a reading of a Frederick Forsyth novella called The Shepherd. Here's the blurb: "Forced to crash land because of a faulty electrical system, a young RAF pilot finds salvation on a chilly Christmas Eve." Don't believe the latter half of the sentence; it is no such thing. What it is is a ghost story. The CBC had a legendary storyteller named Alan Maitland who died a year or two ago, and his reading of this story became a tradition on the flagship evening program As It Happens. Fortunately for me, my local public radio station carries the show every day, and so I get to hear it each year. If you're in tuning distance of Canada, try to find Radio One that day; it's worth the listen. Failing that, you can find it on tape at Books on Tape or at Amazon. You won't be sorry.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2002

Fruitcake FOTS

Presumably the doorstop fruitcake we know evolved from this.

The Christmas pudding of today was completely different at its origin. It started life as a 14th Century 'porridge' called frumenty. This combined the unlikely ingredients of boiled beef and mutton with fruits, wines and spices and was more like soup than a pudding. It tended to be eaten as a fasting dish in preparation for the Christmas festivities.

By 1595 it had evolved into the more recognisable dessert we know today. It was thickened using eggs and bread crumbs, more dried fruit was included and the addition of ale and spirits gave it much more flavour. It grew in popularity until, in 1664, the Puritans banned it as a 'lewd custom'. It was, mainly due to its rich ingredients, described as 'unfit for God-fearing people'.

It remained in obscurity until 1714 when George I, who developed a taste for plum pudding, re-established it as part of the Christmas feast. This was despite the fact that the Quakers objected, calling it 'the invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon'. Having survived this vilification, it had fully established its place on the Christmas menu by Victorian times. It was around this time that the tradition of placing a silver coin, a thimble or even a ring was established. Although most often depicted as a sphere - because of the original method of wrapping it in a damp muslin cloth before steaming - these days it is more usual to find it basin-shaped. Christmas Pudding is often set alight with a small amount of brandy, decorated with a sprig of holly and served with brandy butter, custard or cream... or all three! It may also be served cold or reheated by frying gently in a knob of butter.

If you want to try cooking this, go here.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:24 AM | Comments (2)

December 18, 2002

Reindeer FOTS

Who is this reindeer named Rudolf ...who guides Santa's sleigh with the biological aberration of a red, glowing nose capable of penetrating thick fog?

The whole story of Rudolf appeared, out of nowhere, in 1939. Santas at Montgomery Ward stores gave away 2.4 million copies of a booklet entitled "Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer." The story was written by a person in the advertising department named Robert May, and the booklet was illustrated by Denver Gillen. The original name of the reindeer was not Rudolf, according to the book "Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things," by Charles Panati. The original name was Rollo, but executives did not like that name, nor Reginald. The name Rudolf came from the author's young daughter! In 1949, Gene Autry sang a musical version of the poem and it was a run-away best-seller. The Rudolf song is second only to "White Christmas" in popularity.

Ah, dear old Monkey Ward. There's some possible irony there, too; I wonder if young Mr. May was related to David May, who started the May Co. department stores in Colorado in the late 19th century?

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)


Hopefully I'm back up. My link, for those of you who have done me the honor, should be corrected to add the www. in front of the domain name.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:45 AM | Comments (4)

December 15, 2002

FOTS and Fireplaces

"Yuletide" for "Christmastime" is a term derived from the yule log, which in olden days was a huge log used as the foundation of the holiday fires. Bringing the yule log in was, as recently as the 19th century, as much a part of the pre-Christmas festivities as putting up an evergreen tree today. "Yule" can be traced back to the Middle English "Yollen" (cry aloud) and is thought to date from early Anglo-Saxon revels in celebration of the discovery (after the winter solstice) that nights were becoming shorter.

Back in the Sixties we lived in a green-brick "rambler-style" house in Northern Virgina, on a corner hillside lot. The downstairs part of the house was originally a semi-unfinished basement, with a fireplace in the finished half. That was the family room, and it's where we celebrated Christmas. It had a big two-foot deep hearth, and that was where we put out the waxed paper with the flour for Santa to step on, along with the cookies and milk. One of the amusing memories I have is of a Christmas morning when I went downstairs (finding a ribbon barring the entrance to the room) and saw a white blur race across the carpet. It turned out to be a lilac-point Siamese cat which had some humongous registered name but whose disposition quickly earned him the nickname Damn Cat. Fortunately, mean as he was, he knew enough to stay away from the many roaring fires we had in that room. That's just one of the memories of that room; I won't go into the window-breaking I resorted to one day after school when I had no key except to say that, in retrospect, what in the world was so important inside the house that it couldn't have waited a couple of hours till Mom or Dad got home?

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:49 PM | Comments (7)

December 14, 2002

Tree Facts

In 1880, Woolworths first sold manufactured Christmas tree ornaments, and they caught on very quickly. Martin Luther, in the 16th century, is credited as being the first person to put candles on a tree, and the first electrically lighted Christmas tree appeared in 1882. Calvin Coolidge in 1923 ceremoniously lit the first outdoor tree at the White House.

Note: The rumor that Reverend Luther used the rough drafts of his 95 theses to light the candles is unsubstantiated.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:18 AM | Comments (5)

December 13, 2002

FOTS and Faith

Today's FOTS:

"In America in 1822, the postmaster of Washington, DC complained that he had to add 16 mailmen at Christmas to deal with cards alone. He wanted the number of cards a person could send limited by law. 'I don't know what we'll do if this keeps on,' he wrote."

"Religious organizations that receive funds from covered programs have a federal right, under existing civil rights law, to take their faith into account in making employment decisions, permitting them to limit hiring to employees who share their religious beliefs." (My emphasis). That's from the HHS press release yesterday, announced by Bush amidst all the furor about his rebuke of Lott. The Administration argues that such hiring practices remain in compliance with provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; no doubt there will be court cases to determine whether that's true.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:22 AM | Comments (4)

December 12, 2002


Today's FOTS*

"While it is true that Coca-Cola popularized the red-suited Santa in a 1930's ad campaign, the original image of a man with twinkling eyes and white beard was drawn in 1862 for Harper's Weekly by Thomas Nast, the noted caricaturist, who was a German immigrant. Germany has its own version of Santa, known as Weihnachtsman, or Christmas man."

I have only one other thing to say today: if you haven't yet said Happy Birthday to kd:


*Fact of the Season

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:48 PM | Comments (2)

December 11, 2002

WOT(s), Me Worry?

Today's WOTS*:

was·sail, n.
1a. A salutation or toast given in drinking someone's health or as an expression of good will at a festivity.
1b. The drink used in such toasting, commonly ale or wine spiced with roasted apples and sugar.

Apologies and court victories, Administration style: DiIulio redux and secrecy justified. This is looking more and more like government of, by and for the well-connected. Privacy, too, is under attack, all for laudable goals, but at what price?

*Word of the Season

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:07 PM | Comments (6)

December 10, 2002

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Confusion

I just got back from seeing the movie, and I enjoyed it. However, I have a quibble; at the end of the movie (I don't think this could be called a spoiler, and besides, anyone who really wanted to see it probably already has), Hagrid gets a standing ovation from the students upon his entrance to the banquet hall. My question is, why? His removal was not exactly a major part of the film, and certainly there is no great love for him expressed in the books by anyone other than Harry, Ron and Hermione, so the exuberant joy on the part of the entire student body didn't make much sense to me. Am I nitpicking or missing something?

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:25 PM | Comments (13)

December 09, 2002

Cookin' up some pols

New microwave installed! Frozen vegetables now easily cooked again! I'm a little bemused by separate controls for pizza, beverage, and popcorn; I suspect the designers were bitten by the "featuritis" bug, otherwise known as "we can, so we should".

The Administration continues to fight against FOIA requests. They're all for freedom of expression in the form of monetary contributions to political campaigns, but much less so when their own activities are subject to sunshine.

Here's some commentary about the hiring of Kissinger, Poindexter and Abrams (for those of you below a certain age, the latter two were heavily involved in and convicted of criminal misdeeds during Iran-Contra). The writer's conclusion: Bush "appears not to think they did anything wrong."

I thought the President's Dad was a reasonably good President, but I gotta believe the Navy is playing favorites when it names a new carrier after the guy.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:53 PM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2002

Sing a song of...

. . . .previous

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens,
Two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.

. . . .next

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:02 PM | Comments (6)

Take a letter (Back!)

If you've ever watched any sporting event on television, you've seen his innovation. Remember John Madden's "one knee equals two feet" describing whether a player was in-bounds or not? Did Kristi Yamaguchi really hit all her revolutions and land single-footed? Slow-motion replays, multiple cameras, sports as journalism; Roone Arledge was responsible for all that. He was also responsible for Howard Cosell and Dandy Don on Monday Night Football; your call on that decision.

You may have read a few stories about the "Mayberry Macchiavellis" in the White House, and the subsequent spin Fleischer et. al. have attempted. Here is the text of the letter which started the flap. It's from John DiIulio to the Esquire reporter who later wrote the story (excerpts here), and despite DiIulio's attempts to soften it after the fact, it's pretty damning.

Gadget lovers, rejoice. DVD and VCR players have gotten hitched!

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:07 PM | Comments (2)

December 05, 2002

Sing along with meme

This started here.

Traveled here.

Wandered over here.

Got to here.

And has now made it to me.

Near the village the peaceful village
The lion sleeps tonight
Near the village the quiet village
The lion sleeps tonight

And who knows where it will turn up next?

That question is answered; kd has the mike!

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:48 AM | Comments (5)

December 04, 2002

Money, music, and mud

You thought my comments below concerning the lower-income folks' tax burden were just a misunderstanding? Not so! Mr. Krugman of the NYT takes the idea to its next level. Oh, and that federal raise freeze I mentioned Monday? Well, guess what? It doesn't apply to bonuses for political appointees. Mr. Broder has some thoughts about the Administration's fiscal priorities.

Led Zep multiplied by 1000 will someday chill your food. At least, that's what this research hopes to accomplish. Hey, don't laugh; if it works it could reduce global warming. No speculation yet on how big the baffles might need to be.

Remember the song "Sink the Bismarck?" Well, new research on the wreck indicates the historical record may be wrong; it may have been scuttled, not sunk. Naturally, the Royal Navy disagrees.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:47 PM | Comments (1)

December 02, 2002

Not-so-slow news weekend?

Conventional wisdom had it that the Democrats were fighting over protection for federal workers in their objections to the Homeland Security legislative details; apparently they had a point.

Is this an indication of knowing where one's bread is buttered, or merely an attempt to buy influence? Corporate money flows tilted heavily towards the Republican party over the past 10 years.

I don't want to argue the merits/demerits of whether Islam is inherently militaristic, but I do wonder about the rigor of the argument which says it is. We see quotes from the conservatives saying "[there is] the obligation imposed by the Koran to wage holy war, or jihad, against the 'infidels.' ", but none of those folks explain why there has been no such holy war since Ferdinand and Isabella conquered Granada in 1492. (Given what else occurred in that year, I wonder what the contemporaneous equivalents of Time and Newsweek said in their annual "Year in Review" issues?)

How does one measure "Buzz," or word-of-mouth? Well, try monitoring newsgroups. That's a Q&A with a couple of Harvard professors; excerpts from their study are included.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:41 PM | Comments (5)