Something to see

Ye stars, that are the poetry of heaven! — Byron

Three of the brightest luminaries of the night sky, visible to the naked eye and all together in one place? Yes:

WASHINGTON — It’s not just families that are getting together this
Thanksgiving week. The three brightest objects in the night sky —
Venus, Jupiter and a crescent moon — will crowd around each other for
an unusual group shot.

Starting Thanksgiving evening, Jupiter and Venus will begin moving
closer so that by Sunday and Monday, they will appear 2 degrees apart,
which is about a finger width held out at arm’s length, said Alan
MacRobert, senior editor at Sky and Telescope magazine.

Then on Monday night, they will be joined by a crescent moon right next to them, he said.

Look in the southwestern sky around twilight — no telescope or
binoculars needed. The show will even be visible in cities if it’s a
clear night.

“It’ll be a head-turner,” MacRobert said. “This certainly is an
unusual coincidence for the crescent moon to be right there in the days
when they are going to be closest together.”

The moon is the brightest, closest and smallest of the three and is
252,000 miles away. Venus, the second brightest, closest and smallest,
is 94 million miles away. And big Jupiter is 540 million miles away.

The three celestial objects come together from time to time, but
often they are too close to the sun or unite at a time when they aren’t
so visible.

Huffington Post

The November issue of National Geographic has a great article on light pollution, Our Vanishing Night,
which points out that most city skies have become virtually empty of
stars. So being able to see this event is a rare pleasure that city dwellers
will want to enjoy. Check out the photo gallery from the article here.

Lift your eyes

Don’t’ miss it! The next time the three will be as close and visible as this week
will be in Nov. of 2052, according to Jack Horkheimer, director of the
Miami Space Transit Planetarium.

Let your eyes dance over this beautiful sight.

the night shop
Annette Marie Hyder

the night sky, a pawn shop
filled with broken dreams
and dazzling deals
blinking in its deep display case
is promising all your hocked stuff
back for free
every wish you ever made
on every star you’ve ever seen
will be given back with interest
if you still have your ticket

you do have it
don’t look in your pockets
look up

Black Friday

Everyone loves a bargain

Retailers have been pushing back the opening time for their Black Friday after-Thanksgiving-day sales, some opening as early as 10:00 PM Thanksgiving night and many adopting midnight openings.

An estimated 250 people were waiting in line when the Mall of
America in Bloomington opened its doors at 6 a.m. The outlet stores in
Albertville opened at midnight, and that also drew good crowds.

Dan Dolezal lined up around 5 p.m. Thursday, hoping to purchase the
family’s first home computer. His wife and daughters, ages 4 and 8,
came about 2 a.m. and took turns napping in the car and standing beside
Dolezal in the dark.

For retailers desperate to turn a profit in these increasingly recessionary times, this sounds like a winning situation. For the workers who have to accommodate these early-bird shopping schedules, it’s an imposition to say the least. Having to curtail celebrating with friends and family in order to be at work at midnight leaves many feeling cheated:

“I feel like I got cheated out of time with my family on Thanksgiving this year,” said Shirley Buchanan, of Fredericksburg.

Buchanan just returned from a Thanksgiving trip to Norfolk prior to
starting her shift at a women’s clothing store she has worked at for
more than 20 years. She said she only agreed to work at midnight as a
favor to her district manager she has known for so long. She won’t do
it again next year, she said.

But at what price?

Who doesn’t like to save money? But money spent on an item is not the only measure of its worth. For many, myself included, the hassle and crush of obtaining that deal is just not worth the money saved. My time is more important to me than the money and I figure the time spent right in with the money when calculating the cost.

Huge sales can be unsafe as well. It’s easy to forget just how dangerous crowds can be when they are out of control. This morning a man died after he was knocked to the ground after shoppers broke down the doors to  Wal-Mart at the Green Acres Mall:

A 34-year-old Wal-Mart worker died Friday morning after he was knocked to the ground after “a throng of shoppers physically broke down the doors,” pushing their way into the store at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, Nassau police said.

The man was knocked down at 5:03 a.m. and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m.

As of Friday morning the cause of death was described as “undetermined,” police said. An exact cause of death will be determined by the county medical examiner’s office, police said. The man’s name was not immediately made public by the police, and the store was closed.

A 28-year-old pregnant woman was also taken to an area hospital for observation, and three other shoppers suffered minor injuries and were taken to hospitals for treatment.

Chicago Tribune

Siren song

If the thrill of a bargain is like siren song to you and you simply must join the estimated 49 million Americans who will hit
the stores looking for bargains over the weekend, here’s some advice:

  • Don’t bring young children or infants with you. They wont enjoy the press and crush, the noise and the frantic atmosphere and you could be putting them in danger.

  • Take public transportation if possible. You’ll be glad you did once you see the never-ending loop of vulture-like cars waiting to swoop in on the first sign of a coveted parking space. You’ll save yourself the frustration that comes with thinking about all the shoppers who are beating you to the deals as you stall indefinitely in parking-spot search mode. And—bonus–you’ll be making your travel experience green.
  • Do bring refreshments, something to drink and a snack. The food courts in malls are so packed on Black Friday that most retailers arrange lavish in-store meals for their workers so they don’t have to leave to get something to eat and vanish–never to be heard from again–once they hit the black hole that is the food court.

  • Bring your patience and your smile with you. And spend them freely on not only the other shoppers, but the clerks and salespeople who have left their turkey and their wine to serve up some delicious deals for you.

  • Be safe.

At least 100 dead in India terror attacks

Image courtesy the New York Times

Coordinated terrorist attacks struck the heart of Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, on Wednesday night, killing dozens in machine-gun and grenade assaults on at least two five-star hotels, the city’s largest train station, a Jewish center, a movie theater and a hospital. The full New York Times article can be read here.

BoingBoing has links to live streaming TV coverage, Twitter,  photo uploads and discussion threads.

FBI Warns of Possible Terror Plot Against New York City Subway During Holidays

According to news reports, federal authorities are warning of a possible Al Qaeda-orchestrated terror plot against New York City subway and other transit systems during the holidays.

The potential threat — described in an internal FBI memo as “plausible but unsubstantiated” — does not extend beyond the New York City area. Commuters could see security tighten across the country.

The Washington Post is reporting that federal and state authorities are working “to follow every possible
thread,” and a federal law enforcement official said no arrests have
been made.

Link to Washington Post article

Time of Darkness
Annette Marie Hyder

When the world
closes its eyes
plunging itself into a time of darkness
for the last time

turns on side
and curls in on itself
before dying for real in its own bad dream
when everything ceases and desists
for all and every and ever

I want to touch you on your shoulder
lead you away
to other dreams that are just as true
if only some believe
even just we two.

Thanksgiving a loaded holiday for many Native Americans

Copyright Annette Marie Hyder

American Indian Thanksgiving

The Wisconsin State Journal has an interesting article about the roots of the Thanksgiving holiday in the early encounters
between European settlers and native populations. The article points out that there is a
multiplicity of viewpoints among American Indians about Thanksgiving:

When Bobbi Webster, a member
of the Oneida Nation, talks about being thankful, she mentions the
strawberry harvest, tapping maple trees for syrup, the summer solstice
and seasonal change. Feasting, family and giving thanks are the root of
multiple thanksgiving celebrations spread throughout the year for the
Oneida and other American Indians.

And on this fourth Thursday in
November, Webster, like millions of Americans, will gather with her
family for a feast, make her mother’s recipes for chocolate cake and
cranberries, talk about gratitude and celebrate Thanksgiving.

time of year we all celebrate Thanksgiving, but we have 13 ceremonies
of thanksgiving ongoing throughout the year,” Webster said. “Sometimes
you have to take the best of the worlds around you, draw from all the
cultures. Thanksgiving is a time we see what we have in common.”

Read the entire article here.

Pumpkin pie, I love you

Photo courtesy faerikat

I know, already, what I’m going to have for breakfast on Friday: a slice of leftover pumkin pie and a cup of coffee.

Although pumpkin pie is a traditional part of Thanksgiving, it probably was not eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner. Even so, it’s a favorite part of the meal for many (like me) and you can follow the steam of delicious baked pies back through history all the way back to ancient times. Ancient Egyptians kept records of their pie-making practices (honey and nuts were favorably involved). The Romans loved pies so much that they offered them to their deities. And in medieval England they went all out:

In medieval England, they were called pyes, and instead of being predominantly sweet, they were most often filled with meat — beef, lamb, wild duck, magpie pigeon — spiced with pepper, currants or dates. Historians trace pie’s initial origins to the Greeks, who are thought to be the originators of the pastry shell, which they made by combining water and flour. The wealthy Romans used many different kinds of meats — even mussels and other types of seafood — in their pies. Meat pies were also often part of Roman dessert courses, or secundae mensea. Cato the Younger recorded the popularity of this sweet course, and a cheesecake-like dish called Placenta, in his treatise De Agricultura.

Time Magazine

Coffins and live birds

Image courtesy Gutenberg project

Sing a song of six-pence, a pocket full of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie
When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.
Now wasn’t that a tasty dish to set before the king!

“Raised” pies, pies in which the pastry is shaped by hand into a freestanding crust, were originally considered to be disposable containers:

Its sole purpose was to enclose tough meat such as venison so that it would become tender by dint of slow, moist cooking. The most important characteristic of such a crust was its sturdiness; that it later evolved into something marginally edible was quite an unexpected development. Even as late as 1861, a recipe for Common Crust for Raised Pies ends thus: “This paste does not tastes as nicely as the preceding one, but is worked with greater facility, and answers just as well for raised pies, for the crust is seldom eaten.”

Lobscouse & Spotted Dog By Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the crust for a raised pie was frequently called the “coffin” with typical recipes directing you to “raise your coffin on what fashion you please.” Extravagant ingredients for these pies could include Peacocks or live birds like the birds in the English nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence.

Here’s a recipe , from Cindy Renfrow’s book, Take a Thousand Eggs or More, for how to ‘make Pies that the Birds may be alive in them, and flie out when it is cut up.’

Whether you go traditional or vegetarian tomorrow — celebrate Thanksgiving Day or don’t celebrate it for religous and/or personal reasons — I hope you get your slice of the pie and have much to be thankful for.

‘I’ll continue my schooling even if they try to kill me.’

Kandahar’s governor said
Tuesday that authorities had arrested 10 alleged Taliban militants for the Nov. 12 attack on female teachers and students in Southern Afghanistan.

Under Taliban rule, girls were banned from school and were only allowed
to leave the house accompanied by a male relative. The Afghan
government has accused Taliban militants of attacking dozens of schools
and teachers.

Several of the girls suffered grievous facial burns and had to be hospitalized as a result of the attack. If the men who attacked thought they would intimidate these young
women, bludgeon their love of learning into a twisted heap of
acquiescence and cowering, Shamsia shows how wrong they were:

Speaking from her bed at Afghanistan’s main
military hospital in Kabul, Shamsia, the girl who was the most seriously
injured, said “I’ll continue my schooling even if they try to kill me. I won’t
stop going to school.”

Reuters article

the men hoped to extinguish the independence of these young women and transform them into
meek recipients of tyranny, Nuskall, gives a surprising answer:

Nuskaal, a 23-year-old teacher burned in the acid attack on
15 schoolgirls and instructors wants the Afghan government to throw
acid on her attackers and then hang them.

Read the Associated Press article.