Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! I'll be back next week with a new post. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis the season...

You better not pout, you better not cry. No matter how much the traffic and the mean people at the malls make you want to. At the very least you can read the stories in this post and maybe feel a little more jolly and a little less stabby.

If you're a parent, you're jumping for joy these days. It's the one time of the year children behave without being told to. :) The ever-powerful naughty or nice list has been looking over their heads for quite some time now, thanks to retailers starting the Christmas season in September. If you need a little reassurance that you're receiving something other than coal in your stocking this year, you can check Santa's Naughty or Nice List for yourself.

One of the traditions of Christmas is the annual tree hunt. When I was younger it used to include traipsing all over kingdom come to find the perfect tree. Lately, it involves my parents and a race to see if they can beat their time from last year. I believe they are down to 10 minutes, parking lot to tree to parking lot again. One of my favorite authors has this to say about her tree-hunting experience. Compare and contrast.

The Guardian reported a trend in the UK of purchasing replantable trees, calling them a "surprise hit." In fact, the demand has been so high, grocery market giant (and tree supplier) Tesco had to order more after running out the first week of December. The article touts their green and green-saving credentials.

Today is a big day around the country for office Christmas parties (or so the DJ on the radio told me this morning). Office Secret Santas are usually a yearly nightmare. Drawing names; landing someone you don't know, or worse, don't like; and then having to find that person a gift. But Yahoo! posted a story on the type of Secret Santa you can really get behind. An anonymous man in Kansas City had, at the time of the article, given away $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills to needy strangers - a police officer with terminal cancer, a homeless man, a woman who couldn't afford presents for her 27 grandchildren, and a woman who'd lost her entire family in the course of two years among others. The nameless giver doesn't talk about his own finances but expects to give away around $40,000 this year.

MSNBC had a story on a similar situation. A six year-old little girl in southwest Florida wrote a letter to Santa asking for just one present. Her family had been hit hard by the recession and, in an aborted attempted to find a job in New Jersey, had sold or given away nearly everything they owned. Postal workers were touched by the little girl's note and decided to provide a trimmed tree, presents and furniture to the family.

And finally, I was late with my Hanukkah presents to Jewish friends this year, so it follows I'm late posting a story about what one rabbi is calling a Hanukkah miracle. The Palm Beach Daily News wrote a story on the reunion of two women, old friends from neighboring Polish towns who had survived the Holocaust and subsequently lost touch for 65 years. The nephew of one of the women unknowingly attended the same temple as the other woman, and after a chance gift of a book to the temple's rabbi by that nephew, the two women reconnected.

I hope every has or has had a wonderful holiday! As a little gift to myself, I'm taking next week off from the blog and will return in the new year. So happy new year too!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

End of the year fun...

So it's the middle of December. Time for holiday travel, overspending and ugly sweaters. It's also the time of year for countdowns and montages. Today's post packs in a little of everything.

I was more than overjoyed with Southwest opened a terminal at Logan Airport when I lived in New England. The cheap fares, decent customer service and funny flight attendants usually made up for the long lines, minimal service extras and grumpy TSA agents that come with air travel. So I had to click on this link from the Today Show this morning, showing a "flash mob" of Southwest employees kicking it to Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Oh, those crazy kids... (Note: Those who cannot handle Saving Private Ryan-esque cinematography should avoid this link.)

VentureBeat reported on the "biggest shopping boom since before the recession." I joined about a billion other people doing their Christmas shopping online this year. Aided by really good deals (and the motivation to avoid crowds at all costs), I, and apparently many others, pretty quickly finished my shopping and then sat back and waited for the presents to come to me. In the first 43 days of the holiday shopping season, consumers spent 12 more than last year, or $23.82 billion dollars.

I found the above photo on Google Images. There were so many, each much worse than the last. *gleeful giggle * I had such a hard time picking...

And finally, the first "Best...of 2010" image gallery came to my attention this morning via NASA on Twitter. Yes, I follow NASA. Yes, I'm a giant nerd. Popular Science had the 72 (??) best science images of this year collected on its website. I didn't flip through all of them, but there's a pretty cool acorn squid-thing around image 35. Fair warning, Mom, you will not like image number 1.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Going to the chapel...

This weekend I'm attending the wedding of one of my childhood friends. I've known her for around 20 years (frightening thought we're that old but anyway...), and I'm very happy for her and her future husband and wish them the best of luck. :)

So as I was casting around for stories today (Google Alerts let me down for this week), I happened to see two separate video stories on MSNBC's website. The first is about a couple in Pennsylvania who was too poor to afford to print their wedding photos when they first got married. Their negatives remained in the photographer's storage until he died 45 years later. The couple was encouraged by the man's son to come look for their negatives and finally print them. Little did they know exactly how large a haystack it would be...

The Today Show's Natalie Morales reports on the second story, about the holiday generosity of strangers via those ubiquitous red Salvation Army kettles. She notes all the things of massive value people have dropped in this year, including an engagement ring and matching wedding band. The video can be found on the text link and in the box above.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hope and inspiration...

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I was going to put up a "Happy Thanksgiving!" post on the day, but it got away from me and all of a sudden football was on, the fire was going and I was asleep in a chair...

So yesterday was World AIDS Day. Every year for the past 22 years, this has been a day to lament the disease's progress and the staggeringly horrible statistics. But this year, for the first time ever, there was some good news to report. The Victoria Times Colonist and the Greater Binghamton Press both noted the 20 percent drop in reported cases, the promising progress on a vaccine, and the fact the Catholic Church has said condoms are morally justified in combating the disease - a massive turnaround on an earlier stance. All of these things give you hope that one of the most deadly epidemics on the planet might be getting closer to being controlled.

The Daily Mirror posted a story on a different sort of inspiration. The paper had a long story on the four winners of the Northern Ireland Youth Achievers Award. Honored at a banquet on Nov. 29, Blair Richie, Rachel McStravrick, David Meehan and Jamie Johnston were all recognized for not only their efforts at helping others but for the way they have turned their own lives around.

Today's final story comes from Yahoo! News. In an unprecedented step for democracy around the world, Icelandic citizens have chosen to elect their own countrymen to a special committee to re-write their constitution. Inspired by their country's descent into bankruptcy after the credit crisis deflated their economy, everyday Icelanders have the chance to be part of a major event in their national history.

(Photo courtesy of The Daily Mirror)