Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Merry Christmas

I don’t know whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or another holiday. I celebrate Christmas because that is the day we celebrate as the birth of Christ. I respect other religions and their traditions and beliefs. I expect the same respect for my traditions and beliefs.

Obviously, I have no problem with public displays of the Nativity scene. Since the United States is mostly a Christian nation, public displays of religious symbols such as the Nativity should be expected at Christmas time. If someone requests to have another display, such as a menorah, or something to represent Kwanzaa (I apologize, I don’t know enough to know what an appropriate symbol would be), next to or near the Nativity, I have no problem with it. I do have a problem when someone says that a symbol of another faith is appropriate, but a Christian symbol, such as the Nativity, is not. That’s discriminatory. And I would feel the same way if a community refused a Menorah when a Nativity is displayed. Wrong is wrong no matter which symbol is being refused.

I recently read that Santa Claus himself was outlawed (sorry, I can’t remember where) as a Christian symbol. Huh? Santa is not a religious symbol. Santa is a symbol of goodwill, generosity, and love to all children in all nations. There is nothing political or religious about Santa. Jews who celebrate Hanukah also give their children Christmas gifts from Santa Claus (or at least some of the Jews I know do).

A neighborhood association near where I live has advised that homeowners are not to put displays out at all. The association has approved luminaries, and any other display will result in a visit from the Association (gasp! horrors! The Association!) I usually don’t pay attention to homeowner association rules, but this one brought out the white trash redneck in me. Remember the Roseanne episode where the Conner’s decorated with the tackiest Christmas decorations they could find? That’s how I felt on reading the article.

I understand the why. This is an upscale neighborhood and they want the decorations to be “appropriate” to the neighborhood. I really do understand. I wouldn’t want my $250K house next to a house decorated by Roseanne in her white trash mode. But, I also don’t want to live in a neighborhood where every house looks exactly alike. If I want to put out a Nativity scene or Santa and the Reindeer, I should be able to do so on my own property.

So, whether you decorate with a nativity, simple lights, a nativity, Menorah's in the window. or no decorations at all, I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful, joy-filled Christmas.

Merry Christmas to All!

Monday, December 22, 2003

Christmas Vacation

So, Friday was a looong day for me. Got to work early because I had so much to get done before I could leave on my two weeks vacation. Didn't get everything done, but the one thing I wanted to do is so late anyway that another couple of weeks is not a problem. But guess what my priority will be January 5th?

We had a Community Advisory Board meeting for our high-risk program. The CAB is where we invite selected members of the public, our components, and staff within our agency to a meeting where we can discuss what we have done, what we plan to do, and how to go about improving the program. Sometimes they are very productive, other times, they are pretty much just a dog-and-pony show for the citizen members. I can't yet decide just where this meeting fell: not as productive as some, but still more than just dog-and-pony. Not much different from most meetings, I guess.

Then, we had to get ready for our Christmas luncheon. Everyone started showing up about 11:15 for the 11:30 lunch. It was about then we realized that we didn't have plastic forks. Spoons and knives we had, but no forks. We called the main facility and found they had some to give us. A director was told to go get them. At noon, he hadn't yet gone, said he thought it (the lunch) started at noon. Now, why would he think he didn't need to the get the forks until noon (or later) when he thought the lunch started at noon? Actually, if you knew him you would understand that he's not always the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Lunch was really nice, as usual. There was plenty of good food, Christmas music on the boom box, and good companionship. The fact that gifts were involved didn't hurt either! I think a good time was had by all. Last year, we catered the lunch and it was a disaster! The caterer was one of the people we worked with (she's no longer with us - her leaving had nothing to do with the lunch). Several of us knew that she did catering on the side, and the things that she had brought in from time to time were very good. So, when we were making decisions on the Christmas lunch, we decided to make it easy on everyone and have her cater. Well, we were still talking about it this year. I think she allowed a half sandwich per person. The veggie trays you get from the local grocery stores had more veggies, and I think there was one bag of chips. I had sort of blocked the whole fiasco from my memory because I seem to remember being instrumental in pushing to have her cater.

I got a couple of hours of work done and then Tina and I had a class in Small Animal Handling to teach. I graded some papers while Tina taught, and inserted a few pithy (!) comments as appropriate. I finally left the office about 545p (I should have left at 430p) after getting, I think, everything else done. I typed some memos, prepared some letters to be mailed out, and typed minutes to three meetings I attended last week.

Oh, the reason I was typing the minutes days after the meetings? My computer developed a corrupted hard drive and wouldn't even let me log in. When I called Computer Services, I was told they would pick up the CPU and return it "sometime". This was Wednesday. I explained that this just would not do, that I had time-sensitive documents that had to be done before going on two weeks vacation, not to mention the work that would have piled up when I got back on top of whatever I couldn't do before leaving if I didn't have a working computer. Well, they took pity on me (thank you!) and got the CPU back on Thursday. I then found out that my Outlook was missing. This is where all my calendars, task lists, and contact information are stored. Ok, the calendar isn't that important. I constantly revise the task list, so re-doing it would not be more than an annoyance, but I couldn't reproduce the contact list. I called Computer Services again, and when Rob called me back (he's the one who was so great about getting my CPU back so fast), he said he thought it was gone, but he'd do what he could. Then, when I tried to print, I found my printer wouldn't print. Arghhh! Rob had forgotten to install the printer drives. That was fixed, then eventually Rob found my Outlook files and life is good again! Thanks again, Rob!

Christmas Vacation Part II

Now that I am on vacation, I'm looking forward to getting some stuff done around the house. There are so many things I want to do, and so little time and money. The big stuff will wait until we get our income tax refund. I just want to get some of the clutter out now. And, by the time I go back to work, things will be different!

We're planning on going to Melbourne where Dale's dad lives and hopefully, we'll get together with my brother and his family before leaving. But, if that's not possible, we'll see John and Judi whenever it's possible after the holidays. We're leaving on Christmas Eve and will be back sometime Sunday.

I have 16 days of vacation planned, three of that are holidays; six are weekend days, and seven are vacation days. Ten paid days off and I'll only be charged for seven. It's good to be a government employee!

We have so much junk in this house that it's getting unwieldy. How can two people collect so much stuff?? Luckily, we've got our Christmas gifts planned so that we won't have even more stuff. My van needs some work, so I've been driving Dale's van. He wants his back and I want mine, we're going to fix mine so we'll each get what we want. It might be a couple more weeks, but it will get done!

It will be a sad time in Melbourne. Dale's mom passed away in September and this will be the first Christmas without her. She was a lovely lady and is missed by all who knew her. She would want everyone to enjoy Christmas and that is what we will do. I'm also hoping we'll be able to spend time with Dale's best friend Stewart and his wife, Dina, while we're there. They've been friends for years and I always feel bad when we're in Melbourne and Dale doesn't get to see Stewart. It's that time of year to see people you miss and I'd like to get to know them better.

So, while we are gone, I won't be posting. Some of you might enjoy missing my posts (he he) and others will just have to patiently wait until next week.

So, enjoy the holiday. Light the Hanukkah whether they be Christmas lights or Hanukah candles. Hang the mistletoe and holly; enjoy the holiday spirits (eggnog, punch, or your favorite libation). Have a wonderful time at your Holiday meal, whatever may be served. Eat, drink and be merry and worry about the calories next year!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

The U.S. Soldier Is Time Person of Year

Time Magazine got it right and chose the US Soldier as the Person of the Year. It’s about time, and long past, that the soldier was recognized for the achievements, and sacrifices, they have made for over two hundred years.

For too many years, citizens of this country have belittled the armed forces. Not all citizens, mind you, but far too many of those in the public eye, and those everyday citizens who mindlessly follow the words of those in the public forum. Too many people today rely on the words spoken by their favorite actor, singer, writer, or sports figure to determine what they themselves think. Thought and consideration as well as some study have to be put into forming opinions. Then you have to determine how those opinions go with your own values, morals, and ethics. Many people change their values, morals, and ethics to fit what they have heard someone else say. It’s much easier to repeat someone else’s thoughts than it is to form your own opinions.

It took four jets and the deaths of nearly three thousand people to wake America up to the fact that not everybody in the world likes us. And because of this event, we had to go to war. Not a declared war, and not against an enemy that could be easily identified. We are at war against hatred and bigotry; hatred and bigotry that is directed at America. And it is the soldier who faces this everyday.

Thousands of young men and women enlist in the Armed Forces every year. They don’t do it for the money; the soldier is not paid that well. Some enlist for the educational benefits, some for the technical training. No one enlists to die in a foreign country, but they know that it can happen. And every citizen of the US knows that when the bullets start flying, someone can die. No one wants our soldiers to die: not the “average” citizen on the street, the politicians, not the military establishment. Sometimes it’s right to make compromises and appeasements. But there comes a time when you have to draw a line and say, “enough is enough.” Our soldiers are the ones who have to enforce that line. And sometimes they die.

No matter what our political ideology is, we have to honor and respect the American soldier. They are doing what most of us can’t or won’t do. Putting their lives in danger to protect American values and, ultimately, American lives.

To the American Solider: You are the Person of the Year. God Bless!

Read the full story at: http://www.time.com/time/

Libya Got a Clue

It was announced that Libyan Prime Minister Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi has admitted that Libya had Weapons of Mass Destruction program. Libya has agreed to allow UN inspectors to oversee the dismantlement of the program.

Earlier this year, Libya took responsibility for involvement in the Lockerbie Scotland crash of Pam Am Flight 103. As a result of this, Libya is paying out millions of dollars to survivors of the Lockerbie victims.

It appears to me that Qadhafi has taken to heart what happened in Iraq. Qadhafi a) wants to keep his position as Prime Minister, b) wants Libya to continue to exist as he know it and c), enjoy the wealth that is possible for Libya by taking these steps.

While it was a long time coming, I admire that Qadhafi has taken this step. It takes a certain amount of courage to admit that your country was involved in something as heinous as Lockerbie. It’s easy to deny and continue to deny in the face of evidence and world opinion. Look at Saddam. He would still be in power had he a) admitted to the WMD program, b) allowed inspectors free access to the country, or c) provided proof that it did not exist or that the weapons had been destroyed. Saddam chose to do none of these things. And look where he is now.

I don’t know what made Qadhafi take this step; whether it was his own future he is concerned about, the future of Libya, or whether the UN finally did something right. I’ve heard several of the talking heads say that it was the UN who made him do it. I personally don’t believe it and the reason is not important to me. Qadhafi has taken the high road. I don’t for a minute mean to suggest that we should think that Libya is now our best buddy. It’s taken far too long to come to this place. For whatever reason, Qadhafi is here and we must take the chance while we have it. Let the UN oversee the dismantlement. We’ve got enough to do.

Qadhafi hopes that other countries will look at Libya as a good example. I, too, hope that other world leaders who have WMD programs take a second look at what happened in Iraq. Qadhafi did and he and Libya will come out ahead.

Kim Chong-il: are you listening?