President Gerald Ford was the decent sort of Republican who I often fear does not make it into national politics anymore because his values are too good and his sense too common.
His passing, may, I am afraid, mark the beginning of the end of an era of decency in American National Politics. Let us hope not.
I once had the chance to have dinner with him, if you call being in a very large room, with say 2,000 other people having dinner with him. But my table was close enough that I could actually see him fairly closely and see when he laughed, which he did quite a bit, the mantle of the U.S. Presidency long off his shoulders and smack on the back of President Reagan's at the time.
He wan an engaging speaker, and I found him very funny, as did just about the entire audience, who had not had to pay for the tickets. That always makes for a more delightable audience. But among all the jokes and witticisms one stood out that I will never forget, in part because it played on his own reputation as having a lack of coordination, and for another because the person he mentioned was a particular favorite of mine.
"Bob Hope and I went golfing yesterday," Ford quipped, playing on the fact that Ford and Hope were well known golfing buddies, "Bob had a really outstanding day. He shot a birdie, and Eagle, an Elk, a Moose and a Lion."
The laughter went on for a good two minutes and had Bob Hope been there (Darn!) he would have led the laugter.
So let's lift a glass to Former President Ford today. May he rest in peace, perhaps one President who will be able to.
Once again Christmas Eve is here. That holy night when we remember the birthday of Jesus, through gift giving by the world's second greatest gift giver, a man of many names.
As the world turns children are asleep in Russia and parts at the Eastern most side of the International Date Line and Santa is already at work while in time zones to the west, children go to sleep every hour preparing for the arrival of St. Nicholas, Sinter Claus, Old St. Nick, whatever you want to call him. But for most Americans, for the many of those who wait for his annual visit he is known simply as:
As children here learn at an early age, Santa, that example of love, generosity, giving and kindness that is an annual reminder that we are not the center of the universe, (or at least Santa should remind us, sometimes we forget despite the Red Suit and the bells and the flying reindeer) starts out from the North Pole on Christmas Eve with an amazing journey. A mission to bring presents to good children all over the world.
By the time evening falls in North America, the time change will allow Santa a brief pit stop at his workshop at the North Pole, where he can fill up on last minute presents, a little hot cocoa, feed for his reindeer, and then start his approach to visit North and South America.
In the old days, Santa's travels were a complete mystery. Even still, on a house by house basis, tracking the jolly old elf is neigh on impossible. But since 1955, as a result of a telephone number mistake in a Sears call Santa hot line promotion, the NORAD's bi-national U.S.-Canadian Aerospace Defense and Warning Command, which has sophisticated radar, satellite, jet and television-web monitoring of the skies approaching North America, has been tracking the travels of Santa every Christmas eve to the delight of families in North America.
I can well remember local weather stations picking up their news feeds in the 1960's as Santa approached the continent from Iceland and Greenland. But then there was a news blackout in those simple, pre-cable, pre-internet days of black and white, get up out of your chair and turn the knobs television. That was all we could get about Santa without a call. Not so today.
Today with the help of the World Wide Web, NORAD has a website with a special Santa tracker at http://www.noradsanta.org/en/default.php where you can follow Santa's progress on Christmas Eve as he makes his way here from the North Pole flying through countries around the world.
The NORAD website makes the most of today's technology, with radar, satellite, jet aircraft and webcam images of Santa's trip coming in to us over the web in real time.
The web also has, with the help of Santa's nutritionist, a cookie counter, so that we can see how many cookies Santa has eaten during the course of his travels. Don't be too shocked. It takes a lot of energy to go up and down all those chimneys, and get in and out of houses, er, other ways. I'm betting that his reindeer, Dasher especially, gets a few cookies on the side, but that's just hearsay. Could just be Blitzen starting trouble again.
They also post regular movie updates in case you don't have time to follow the map, which shows just which major cities Santa has visited. Those who sleep through the big event can access these movies of the various stages of Santa's trip later and the site links to free media player downloads so that you can follow along. (Parents - if you do not have the current version of Real Player, Quicktime, or Windows Media player for PC or Mac, I recommend downloading this IN ADVANCE of the big event.)
I hope you enjoy this. It is a fun way to explore the world and geography. Perhaps also an activity for parents who do not celebrate Christmas but whose Children will not let go of their fascination with it. This site at least gives them some experience with global maps, geography, technology and the like.
Merry Christmas (and/or) Seasons Greetings!
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Last year, in our first year of publishing, I was astounded to discover just how many countries our readers came from. Most of course come from the good old USA. This is not surprising since the bulk of early readers came from friends and relatives and friends of theirs.
This would have been in February of 2005. But at some point I included one of those free search engine counters, Site Meter, that gives out the total visitor number that you see near the top of the page. As of this post I'm closing on 30,000 hits, unique visitors, but I don't think I will make it before the year's end.
It includes a map feature that shows the last 100 hits and I've been able to enjoy seeing the effects of different posts and where they have drawn hits from. It was not long before I was regularly getting hits from around the world - but in a small number.
As time went on however, the popularity of this blog grew and hits from around the world grew too so I began to look for a free engine that would actually list the countries that visitors came from and found it in OneStat.
Now I should point out to all of you that there is very limited information that I can get from these services, especially for free from any service of this kind, and that any website or blog can do the same. Check out one of these sites to see what they can get if you are concerned because there is software to block what you are sending out and Firefox has some apps that I think will do the same. Also, if your ISP uses multiple ISP's you may be able to disconnect and reconnect without losing track of where you are in a session.
Before I report what I think is the interesting part, the countries on the list, I should point out the problems with it, that is that the country "Other" is pretty large and that certain probable but not certain hits were probably included with the US. Nonetheless, here is the minimum count from 2005 and 2006 combined.
In 2005 I was visited by users in 111 countries from all around the world. Even Nepal was represented and I wondered if the Dali Lama had peeked in somehow or for some reason. Perhaps he needed a joke for a dinner somewhere? Not likely, but that is the kind of thing that makes you wonder.
When someone made a comment on my blog, I generally attempted to respond back. This led to some interesting conversations. When I was 12 I was very interested in ham radio but only got as far as listening in on short wave radio and sending away for QSL cards, proof that you had actually gotten the signal that broadcasters, big or small would send if you wrote for them in those days. Check Wikipedia if you are interested in this topic.
In 2006, so far, 20 more countries were added to the list, bringing the total up to 131! When I saw the U.S. Virgin Islands today I had a aching desire to escape to there for the warm weather. Not gonna happen, not unless a lot of you do a lot of last minute purchases through my Amazon.com link. LOL
I noticed also that Iraq joined the list this year. Was it that everything was shot to heck last year? Communications were at a shutdown? Or were our diplomats or others allowed to communicate out through other means? Perhaps it is a sign of improvement. But I find it odd that in a small universe like that that someone found my blog.
Well, peace to all of those on Earth and good heath and happiness, I say. And long lives to all and their children.
Here's the list.
2005 List of Countries With Someone Visiting at Least Once
Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bolivia Brazil Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Canada Chile China Colombia Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) Croatia (Hrvatska) Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Estonia Finland France French Polynesia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Guam Hong Kong Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jordan Korea (South) Kuwait Latvia Lebanon Libya Lithuania Luxembourg Macau Macedonia Malaysia Maldives Malta Mauritius Mexico Moldova Morocco Myanmar Nepal Netherlands New Zealand Nicaragua Nigeria Northern Mariana Islands Norway Oman Other-Unidentifiable country not on the list. Could include a friend at the South Pole. Pakistan Peru Philippines Poland Portugal Puerto Rico Qatar Romania Russian Federation Saint Kitts and Nevis Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Montenegro Singapore Slovak Republic Slovenia South Africa Spain Sudan Sweden Switzerland Taiwan Thailand Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Venezuela Vietnam Yemen Yugoslavia Zimbabwe Sub-Total 111
New Countries Added to the List Of Peter Files Blog Reader Origins in 2006 - Preliminary
Algeria Antigua and Barbuda Bangladesh Barbados Cayman Islands Costa Rica Fiji Georgia Grenada Guatemala Iraq Jamaica Kenya Monaco Mongolia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Sri Lanka Tanzania Togo Virgin Islands (U.S.) Total 131+
If you've visited from a country not on this list, PLEASE leave me a comment with your country name. I'll be glad to add you. I will update this list at the end of the year.
Why did the elephant balance himself on the marshmellows? To keep from falling into the cup of hot chocolate!
This for all those desperate parents who face the dooming prospect of finding themselves with just over a week before Christmas Eve (the wrapping overnight) to buy presents for your children.
Between my wife and I we represent families of 80 grandchildren between them! Yes, nuclear families you can be stunned and shocked now. Now, we were each one of those grandchildren and I was the oldest in my generation which was 40+ the most recent of which has not yet graduated from college. Also, most of these live within the Chicago regional area and so I had a chance to grow up and see them react to Christmas presents of all kinds.
My cousins have started on the next generation and so I have seen many recent reactions by children and parents to the current crop of toys and I feel that my experiences can yield vital aid to the unwary parent with less experience.
Some Rules-Guidelines to Consider When Buying Christmas Presents For Your Children
Consider the age of your child in selecting presents. I won't go into the obvious facts about babys who won't remember their presents in later years, obviously their presents tend to be mostly to reassure you that you are doing everything you can to make them safe, warm, dry, comfy and really, really cute. If possible, child movie stars.Wrap presents for young children in interesting playable boxes and such since that is what they will want to play with. Keep their presents cheap since the quality of gifts will be ignored until about age 3. After that the power of TV commercials ruins them and your wallet for life.
Every toy purchase must be assessed in terms of how much damage it can inflict on you either passively or aggressively. I put your needs first because if you trip on a Magnetix marble and fall down the stairs and are crippled for life it will hardly do much good in providing for your little darlings' future. Especially be wary of toys that can be used to wake you up in the morning by toddlers who don't know that hitting Daddy in the tummy or head with the Little People Farm House will not cause brain damage, hemorrhaging, a ruptured appendix, or just massive pain. Remember, from the law's point of view, being woken up in the morning by being banged repeatedly on the head with a giant metal dump truck is not a legal cause for tossing the kid across the room. They will send you to jail for that. For a long time. A long painful time.
Every toy purchase must be assessed on the damage it can do when it is thrown, hurled or tossed across the room when your younger child has a tantrum because he or she was not allowed to open the bread first or help saute the mushrooms for dinner at age 3. Interestingly, young children, while lacking the ability to hit their target have a remarkable ability to hit some target, especially when they have no target in mind. When buying balls, soft balls are far better than rubber balls. Little metal cars and wedding crystal do not mix. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! Don't worry too much, your head is the likely accidental target in nearly every case.
Buying cheap often yields more child diversion than buying expensive. When children scream for gifts, the $0.79 blow up punching ball gets far more use than many of the electronic toys you can get today. You know the ones I mean, the ones with the long rubber tube at the end that once the ball is inflated you roll up into the ball until it disappears and has a big heavy rubber band that goes through a loop on the other end. Most kids can make it go starting at 3 and 4 years old AND it is a great anger and aggression release. Have 10 in reserve in case friends are over and they are all grumpy. If you can't find them, try the local party store where you get the goody bag stuff for birthday parties. A lot of those things make great toys.For many years of childhood, quantity is valued far more than quality. Don't be an idiot and buy someone under 16 one really expensive gift and then nothing else except clothes. Young kids love to open presents. "Are there any more presents for me to open?" = "Am I as loved as I think I am?" Here is where suggestion number 5 really helps you out. You know you are going to probably buy some really nice items, but no younger child will be unhappy opening 5-20 small items priced between $1-$3 if they are things they will really use.
And I do mean small, until they wise up. Even still, even through the teenage years, a few extra small thoughtful presents will go a long way. A gas card, some movie tickets, inexpensive jewelry, that kind of thing. For the smaller crowd, when you are giving extra presents to open, coloring books, trademark or not playing cards, funny pens, squirting things, tiny action figures, little cars, light up bars or necklaces, fake jewelry, tiny watches, candy, whatever, it is important to wrap it separately so that each one counts an individual gift, but, small items wrap faster than big items so give yourself a break and buy small. Even sizes count too. Squares are easier to wrap than round suckers bundled together, unless you have a small box. And the box can hold precious treasures found along the way, so consider decorating the box itself so that the top and bottom have the paper pasted on, inside and out on one present and the closure is done with a ribbon. Good for rock collections and girls items alike. And the paper does not have to have reindeer on it.
Back to self preservation. Be wary of gifts that have multiple tiny parts of any kind. Especially those where when you lose one the whole set is ruined. This is not always intuitive to the casual observer. I'm not naming any names (Hot Wheels TM) but some kits have lots of parts that require a lot of skill to put together even when you have the instruction sheet and some of the parts are easily confused with parts from the other kits and can wind up on the floor where you may happen to walk on them in your late night trek in socks or bare feet from the bedroom to the (Ouch!) kitchen or bathroom, where in hopping up and down, impaling yourself even deeper on the toy, you crush the part making the whole kit useless.
Give at least one or two entertaining books that you won't mind reading over and over and over and over and over to and with your child. (See lists below.) Pick good ones and reading time will be a bonding thing that you will always remember.
Resist the temptation to get non-seasonal gifts, especially if there is a chance your child will outgrow those roller blades by spring. You can always give a little card with a picture of them saying that you will get some for them then, until then they will have to content them self with this winter related item they can use now.
Avoid projectile toys. The obvious self-preservation aspect of this rule needs no elaboration.
Avoid objects capable of making fire. Ditto.
Avoid toys that make really loud noise unless you have really solid floors, or a heated garage, or that drum set comes with headphones.
Substitute inexpensive expansion pieces when possible. You can buy extra Thomas the Tank Engine TM wooden track for twice the amount that you can buy the nearly equivalent quality Brio TM wooden track, or not. Does Thomas care what kind of track he's on? I don't think so. Note that Thomas Carry Along set Trains (square stubby magnets and different gauge) are not compatible with the wooden and blue plastic track models (larger round magnets). Carpe Diem.
Encourage your children to buy or make(!) presents for others at as young an age as possible. As they see how much work it is, they will value the gifts that they receive and the meaning behind them even more.
Always remember that Christmas should be about Faith, Family and Fun. If you put the emphasis there and not on the toys, (or television - I do mean football too) then so should your kids.
Try to have some Christmas activities over the holidays, not just Christmas day, but other free days as well. By Christmas, I actually mean whatever holiday you celebrate at this time, if any.
I hope these tips, "wit" aside, are helpful.
Seasons greetings and happy holidays to all.
May the coming weeks be ones of peace, joy, reconciliation and happiness.
Recommended Children's Books Right-click the links to see information at Amazon.com including reviews and excerpts. You can search for other books, toys, electronics and other gifts using the Amazon search box at the top right of this page.
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch and Sheila McGraw An enchanting and powerful story, about the love between a mother and child. The kind that makes you laugh, and makes you cry, and then makes your heart smile deep inside in a way you can never, ever forget. And neither will your child.
Where the Wild Things Are (Not under your bed!) Of course, just in case you happened to miss Sendak's classic, you and your child will love being monsters every night in this amazing romp with its wonderful and award winning magical drawings.
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub (and he won't get out!) by Audrey Wood, Don Wood (Illustrator) This is as rare and as funny a story as you will find made even more funny by Don Wood's illustrations. Sometimes it's nice to be King. For example, no one can tell you when you have to get out of the bathtub, especially if it's a very nice bathtub. Perfect for the child with bath issues or not. Funny, funny, funny.
Strega Nona Speaking of funny, don't miss author and illustrator Tomie dePaola's saga about Pasta Power and what happens when you don't follow directions. One of those tales we wish we had when we were young so you will enjoy reading it over and over again too, and laugh at the illustrations as well. I happened to meet the author on a book signing tour and a more charming and funny fellow you could not hope to meet.
For Older Kids
The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key I discovered this book in 3rd grade and loved it. It's about a young boy named Jon who falls through a doorway in space that leads to Earth. Jon is just like an Earth boy but has a few extra powers that get him into trouble with some of the worst of the locals. What happens to him? Is his fate the same as the deer killed by poachers? Only one way to find out. I still read it every few years. Darn, will have to read it again this weekend. It will be worth it.
My Side of the Mountain Is a classic for older children and teens who want to know more about wild life and the outdoor. It is the first book in a trilogy by Jean Craighead George. This was the book on which the thrilling 1969 movie was made which I also recommend strongly. My Side of the Mountain DVD
Finally, here are some links to recommendations for great children's books by some of the contributor's to Amazon.com. Just click on the link and look at the list.
Finally, something with you in mind. Even grown-ups like to have a little off time. So here's a suggestion from me for something fun to get and watch. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer 40 Disc Collector's Set has the complete series from beginning to end. I know it's a bit expensive, but it should have good resale value on eBay and it is one of the best series that has ever been on television. Why not click on it and see the reviews?
Is there something wrong with the world when the death of George Clooney's pig gets considerable national attention and media attention? I find this curious.
Are we shaking the wrong end of the curly tail here?
No disrespect here meant. People come to love their pets. They do. But really, shouldn't we let the man grieve in grease, I mean peace?
I suppose people justify all the internet hot links because Mr. Clooney is a celebrity. Still, I never sausage, I mean saw such a fuss over the demise of a pig. At least since the death of Arnold Ziffle from the TV series Green Acres.
Well, I don't want to wallow in 13 oceans of mud here. I just thought that you might like to think about some of the other situations in the world this week, consider another poink, I mean point of view.
I'll say this about George, all this is probably the work of his publicist, I doubt he would take a situation about his beloved pet and ham it up for the cameras over it, in fact, I'll bet that's why he and Danny DiVito were out so late the other night.
You know, the night Danny & George were out having a few stiff drinks together and Danny still wasn't quite kosher by the time he reached ABC for the taping of The View?
I bet they were out having an Irish Wake for George's pet. Heck, if they had all the guys out for awhile, they might even have gone over to a park to kick around the old pigskin, I mean football.
That's it from me, I hope I haven't offended anyone. I'm not myself these days. I think I have a fever. I have been having these hot and cold flashes ever since someone emailed me some photos after my last post. I deleted them as soon as I realized what they were, but the damage was done. Maybe that's what happened to George's pig. Perhaps someone who hadn't loined their lesson, rubbed him the wrong way or pulled his leg.
Alas we shall never know.
Is there something wrong with the world when the focus on the death of a pig?
Perhaps as long as some of the world can make fun of the other part of the world that may spend too much time on it, maybe its not such a bad thing after all.
But if we do spend the time thinking about pet biggies, we should also spend some time thinking about things like AIDS here, in Africa and around the world. World hunger. Global warming and what we can do about it. And what we can do to make even a little difference. Even if it is just listening to somone who needs to ramble on a little about stuff like this.