New Year’s Eve is extended

Photo courtesy of hornblowerholidays

Party like you’ve got an extra second!

New Year’s Eve will last one second longer due to a leap second. This coming New Year’s Eve, the radio controlled clocks will, after 0:59:59, instead of jumping to 1 o’clock at the next tick of the second, pause shortly in order to insert a small portion of extra time: a leap second.

Science Daily

This extra second is necessary because official time depends on two
timescales—one that uses atomic clocks and another that is dependent on
the earth’s rotation—and they don’t match up perfectly. The scientific details are here at Smithsonian.com.

What to do with that extra second? Kiss a little longer, cheer a little longer, see one more perfect firework painted against the sky, savor the threshold of 2008 for one last second before rushing into the new year — hold your breath and make a wish; may your New Year’s wishes come true.

Happy New Year!


tanka with kigo
Annette Marie Hyder

new year’s eve is like
the unopened box that holds
new shoes I adore

can’t wait to slip into them
and wear them out of the store

Families left homeless after fire receive $1 million anonymous donation

Photo courtesy Hometown Source

Up in smoke

Dozens of Minnesota families were left homeless after a fire at a
Burnsville apartment complex. They watched as everything they owned
went up in smoke. Intangibles were consumed in the fire as well. Hopes
and plans for the coming holiday; children’s dreams.

In preparation for the holidays, Janice Cotton wrapped a doll for her 1-year-old
daughter and a portable Nintendo video game
system her 4-year-old son. On Monday, she watched the Christmas presents
she had been hiding and everything else disappear in flames.

“Everything — we lost everything,” she said.

More than 120 firefighters from six area departments fought the blaze
for six hours in subzero wind chills after it was reported about 4 p.m.
Monday.

Those firefighters were not the only heroes.

An anonymous donor contributed $1 million on Tuesday

The dozens
of families left homeless after the fire had a present waiting for them on Tuesday — a $1 million
donation.

The contribution
averages more than $15,000 for each of the 64 households left homeless
by Monday’s blaze, which displaced nearly 200 people.

Jean
Golden, a spokeswoman for the Goodman Group, said company chairman John
Goodman set up a $50,000 fund at U.S. Bank after the fire. A business
executive contributed an additional $50,000, and countless other
donations also began flooding U.S. Bank locations across the metro area.


More heroes

More heroes, from the article at The Pioneer Press:

Shortly after the fire, individuals,
organizations and businesses flooded the Burnsville High School gym
with donations, including food, car seats, diapers and gift
certificates. The high school girls basketball team was the first on
the scene Monday night, said Ruth Dunn, spokeswoman for the
Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District.

The team was playing a
game in the gym when the fire started. Students sent text messages to
each other asking for donations of toys and wrapping paper. Students
donated more than 500 toys within hours. They stayed up until early
Tuesday morning wrapping them.

The next day, the student council
started a fund drive throughout school. By 10:30 a.m., they had raised
more than $5,000. Teachers canceled health and physical education
classes Tuesday so families could use the gym and volunteers could
collect donations.

Fire victim Rhonda Hayes was waiting at the
gym to return to her apartment Tuesday. She said she was touched by the
outpouring of generosity.

“The way the community came together,
it’s enough to make you cry, more than not having a place to stay,” she
said. “Now you know you can depend on the community. We live in the
right place.”

Click here for the entire article at The Pioneer Press and for information on how to donate.

Amazingly there were no fatalities.

ABC News Coverage

Minneapolis Star Tribune Coverage

Globe News Wire

Even more exciting than Obama shirtless pics


             

                    Photos courtesy of Library of Congress

Obama to be sworn in on Lincoln’s Bible

There’s been a lot of coverage of President-elect Obama’s shirtless Hawaii pics. The country is agog over presidential pecs. But even
more thrilling I think, for the historical significance, is the fact that Barack Obama will be sworn in
as president on the same Bible that President Abraham Lincoln used at
his 1861 inauguration.  He’ll be the first president to use the Lincoln Bible at inauguration since President Abraham Lincoln himself.

From US News and World Report:

Barack Obama will be sworn in as president on the same Bible that President Abraham Lincoln used at his 1861 inauguration. Learn more about the Lincoln Bible, which hasn’t been used by another presidential inauguration since Lincoln’s, at the Library of Congress’s website. The release from Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee:

Facing a nation divided, teetering toward civil war, President Lincoln used his first inaugural address to call for national unity, arguing that our Constitution was created “to form a more perfect Union.” Now, 147 years later, President-elect Barack Obama is echoing President Lincoln’s call in words and in symbolism.  He will be placing his hand upon the same burgundy velvet-bound Bible that was used by President Lincoln at his first inauguration as he is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

President-elect Obama is deeply honored that the Library of Congress has made the Lincoln Bible available for use during his swearing-in. The President-elect is committed to holding an inauguration that celebrates the unity of America, and the use of this historic Bible will provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage.

US News and World Report

Coffee kick greater for men than for women

Photo courtesy of myrevolution


Not fair!

Men get more from a cup of joe than women do.

Science Daily reports on a study from the University of Barcelona that shows that caffeine has a greater effect on men, and starts only ten minutes after consumption. Additionally, contrary to previous thought, decaffeinated coffee also produces an increased state of alertness:

“Numerous studies have demonstrated the stimulant effects of caffeine, but none of these have looked at their effects in terms of the consumer’s gender,” Ana Adan, lead author of the study and a researcher in the Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology Department of the UB, tells SINC.

“Although both the men and women saw an improvement in their activity levels with the coffee, which increased in later measurements, we observed a greater impact among the males,” the Catalan researcher tells SINC.

Full article at Science Daily


Cup O Joe Pincushion Kit

Mug with old fashioned typewriter on it for your joe

Now that’s what I call a strong cup of joe! (cartoon)

68 percent of Americans believe in angels


Photo courtesy of myopera


Victoria’s, snow and heavenly

Angels float over our
winter landscape as imprints in the snow–snow angels; snuggle into our
lingerie drawers courtesy of Victoria’s Secret and ring through our
consciousness at the sounding of bells, thanks to It’s a Wonderful
Life
, where little Zuzu Bailey asserts that “Every time a bell rings,
an angel gets its wings.” Touched by an Angel was watched by 24
million people for nine years. The interest in angels is abiding.

68 Percent of Americans believe in angels

According to a Pew Survey,
nearly seven-in-ten Americans (68%) believe in angels. They believe
that angels and demons are active in the world. Majorities of Jehovah’s
Witnesses (78%), members of evangelical (61%) and historically black
(59%) Protestant churches, and Mormons (59%) are completely convinced
of the existence of angels and demons. In stark contrast, majorities of
Jews (73%), Buddhists (56%), Hindus (55%) and the unaffiliated (54%) do
not believe that angels and demons are active in the world.

The survey can be found here, in PDF form and here as an HTML document.

Another poll found that more people believe in the devil, hell and angels
than believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution:

That very large majorities of the American public believe in God,
miracles, the survival of the soul after death, the resurrection of
Jesus Christ, and the Virgin birth will come as no great surprise. What
may be more surprising is that substantial minorities believe in ghosts,
UFOs, witches, astrology, and the belief that they themselves were once
other people. Overall, more people believe in the devil, hell and angels
than believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The Wall Street Journal


Photo courtesy of
skeptiseum


The belief in angels spans cultures and centuries

Guardian angels, supposedly protective spirits, have been common to the religious beliefs of many cultures. The earliest depiction of an angel–or the precursor of angels–may be the winged figure on an ancient Sumerian stele. Other precursors may be the giant, winged, supernatural beings, part human and part animal, that guarded ancient Assyrian temples and so may have served as models for the conception of angels as protectors.

Indonesian guardian angels such as this are hung over infants’ cribs and the beds of small children to supposedly safeguard them as they sleep.

The Skeptiseum

The long history we have with these winged
creatures–real or imagined–continues to shape and inform
interpretations of events and to color world views.


Interpretations

Colleen Hughes, editor of Angels on Earth told CBS News that she
believes most people believe in angels “because too much stuff happens
to us that we can’t explain. There are coincidences that we’re willing
to chalk up to coincidence, and there’s too much that we aren’t,
because we have this feeling that it was something else.”

Tom Elliott and his son Zack believe they met an angel at a San Francisco Giants baseball game and that he gave them tickets:

Zack’s a huge Giants fan, just like his dad, and his dad’s dad (whom they called “Pa”).

“I said someday we’ll be able to see a game together, the three of us, the three generations,” Tom said.

But Pa died before they ever got the chance. They were still in mourning when a friend offered Tom two tickets to a game. But when they got to the box office, the tickets couldn’t be found.

“We backed away from the window, kind of looked at each other in total despair, not really sure what we were gonna do,” said Tom.

That’s when a stranger approached:

“He said, ‘I’ve got 2 tickets for you here,'” Tom recalled. “‘I want your young son to see the game,’ and he just handed us two tickets. And as we looked down at the tickets, he turned around and walked away. Before we could barely even say ‘thank you.'”

But there’s more to the story. The seats were some of the best in the house, right above home plate – and there were not 2, but 3 of them. In a sold-out stadium, one seat stayed empty the entire game.

“I said, ‘Man, what a great seat like that and a great game and nobody sat there?’ And then Zack turned to me.”

“I said, ‘Dad, someone was sitting there the whole time.’ We got to finally watch a game with Pa. That was the best game possible.”

“Is it possible that the guy who gave him the tickets could have just been a nice guy, not an angel?” Smith asked.

“Well, Tracy, what I would ask you is, ‘Does it matter?'” Grinnan said. “I mean, it’s the interpretation of Tom and his son that really does matter. And to them, that man was an angel. He performed an angelic deed, if you will. And his actual origins I don’t think are as relevant as the effect that that deed had on those two people.”

CBS News

From “messenger” to “sweetheart”

The word “angel” comes from the Greek word for messenger. It’s become a term of endearment. Imagine using the terms “delivery person,” or “UPS guy,” or “courier” as a  term of endearment. Yet, the ideas of goodness and superlative beauty that we have come to associate with the word angel perfectly explain the etymology.

Link to names of angels.
Link to angels in film.


You call me angel

Annette Marie Hyder
From the consequence of wings (on angels and monsters and other winged things)


Winter solstice moon

Photo courtesy of mettamusings

The shortest day of the year  

December 21, 2008 marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, for those living north of the equator. The word solstice derives from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) and the astronomical event takes place two times each year. This years 2008 winter solstice is on December 21st. The official beginning of Winter is also the beginning of the countdown to Spring.

The winter solstice can actually be calculated down to the second and it occurs at the instant when the Suns position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance from the observer. Even though the event is instantaneous, the full 24-hour period is commonly considered the winter solstice. Most in North America recognize the seasonal significance of the longest night as the first day of winter (much of the northern United States has received plenty of snowfall and share of colder weather conditions this month), a time of cold-weather activities like snowman building, skating, skiing, and snowboarding.

Winter Solstice 2008

There’s an interesting article, A Solstice Tribute, Shorter Than the Day Is Long in The New York Times.

Winter Solstice Moon
Annette Marie Hyder
Previously published in Eclectica Magazine

Peering over my shoulder
licking at my skin
like a cat
with its pull
a rasping tongue

and like a cat
hard to predict
what will a moon
like that
do next?

My eye is a spoon

I’m eating up the scenery
Annette Marie Hyder

The leaves, a golden toasty brown,
fill the ground
sloppily
like a huge box, spilled
of toasted crunchy corn flakes.

All I need now
is a big pitcher of snow
to pour over them like milk
and granules of frost
to sugar their tops.

Financial duress, authorial reinvention and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


Photo courtesy Wikipedia

On December 19, 1843, A Christmas Carol was first published

The story’s popularity played a critical role in redefining the importance of Christmas and the major sentiments associated with the holiday. A Christmas Carol was written during a time of decline in the old Christmas traditions. “If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease”, said English poet Thomas Hood.

Wikipedia

Not only that, but Dickens wrote the story under financial duress. At only 31 with a large family to feed, pressing financial needs and a
dwindling reputation, Dickens had hit hard times after his earlier
successes with “The Pickwick Papers,” “Oliver Twist” and “The Old
Curiosity Shop.”



Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The story of the story is a fascinating one

With the unforgettable characters that have become part of our vernacular and the story itself Dickens amazes. Add to that the fact that Dickens wrote the book in six weeks, did all the editing, chose the paper and the binding and used his own money–self-published it–and the story behind the story begs to be told.

Now, just in time for Christmas, there is a book about Dickens:

“The Man Who Invented Christmas” by American historian and crime novelist Les Standiford has enjoyed brisk early sales at a time when many people may need some holiday cheer during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

“The need to be reminded of the importance of charity is even greater in difficult times,” Standiford said in an interview.

“I learned that Dickens needed money, he was desperate,” Standiford explained.

Haunted by his father’s incarceration in debtor’s prison and his own experience of being forced to work at 12 to support his family, Dickens underwent a prolonged period of introspection before his fortunes turned again with “A Christmas Carol,” according to Standiford.

With the book, and its enduring characters like Tiny Tim, Scrooge and Marley, Dickens had hoped to redeem himself with an uplifting message about a world of universal charity, empathy and family harmony.

Read the entire Reuters article here.

Read A Christmas Carol, By Charles Dickens:
A Christmas Carol: In Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, By Charles Dickens

Buy A Christmas Carol, By Charles Dickens:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Bantam Classic)

The Man Who Invented Christmas, By Les Standiford

See film versions of the story at YouTube:

Mistletoe, Nargles and Norse gods

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Under the mistletoe

From the centre of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had just suspended with his own hands a huge branch of mistletoe, and this same branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to a scene of general and most delightful struggling and confusion; in the midst of which, Mr. Pickwick, with a gallantry that would have done honour to a descendant of Lady Tollimglower herself, took the old lady by the hand, led her beneath the mystic branch, and saluted her in all courtesy and decorum. — From The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens

The familiar convention that if any two people meet under a hanging of mistletoe, they are obliged to kiss, is ubiquitous in popular culture. There are songs, cartoons and jokes about it; Harry Potter kissed Cho Chang under the mistletoe (and nargles) in the Room of Requirement in J. K. Rowling’s book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Although generally associated with Christmas,  mistletoe’s significance during this time of year predates Christianity:

Before Christianity came to the British Isles the Winter Solstice was
held on the shortest day of the year (21st December). The Druids
(Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and
give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of
the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.

BBC–Religion & Ethics

The fatal mistletoe

Mistletoe also plays a huge role in Norse mythology as the means by which Loki, the god of  mischief and fire, brought about the death of the beautiful and beloved god Balder.

Links to versions of the story:

Encyclopedia Mythica

The Death of Balder

The Poetic Edda


I’ve taken portions of the tale in the Elder Edda: Voluspa, in which the Norse Sybil sees and describes, in a weird prophecy, the tale of the fatal mistletoe and woven
it with the themes of lost love and the dying god theme (of which this story is one variation) in my poem The Golden Bough.

The Golden Bough
Annette Marie Hyder
From the book, The Real Reason the Queen Hated Snow

“I beheld fate looming for Balder,
Wooden’s son,
the bloody victim
.”

If it’s true that I took my soul
and put it into an external object
for cherishing and safekeeping,
it is also true that this protection
has grown tusked
bars, has kept me half alive
and never free.

“There stands the mistletoe
slender and delicate,
blooming high above the ground.”

In Winter, mistletoe stays green
against the leafless oak
and grows not from the ground
but perches, like a verdant soul
upon the branches of the tree.

“Hod shall shoot it, but Friga
in Fen-hall, shall weep over
the woe of Wal-hall.”

The very sprig of my vitality
blindly (is love always blind?)
let loose against me
unstrings my heart
which crumbles golden
like withered mistletoe.

And mistletoe is ever harvested
in this way, situated between heaven
and earth, never allowed to touch the ground
but cut by pith scythe and caught on white cloth.

Weave for me a crown of thorns,
green flowers, white berries, cloven
from the golden bough that grows
on soul’s-desire tree–
weep amber tears and kiss
in remembrance of me.


Note: Italicized portions one, two, and three are quoted material from the Elder Edda: Voluspa, in which the Norse Sibyl sees and describes the tale of the mistletoe.


Available at Amazon.com

Hasn’t everyone known a “Loki,” at one time or another?

Whether it is the charming coworker who can’t seem to stop himself from undermining you and simultaneously seeking your approval and friendship, the family member or friend who is out of control for the love of the thrill, or a chance encounter with a stranger who seems to derive pleasure from annoying you/pulling your chain–you’ve probably come into contact with this destructive personality that finds its personification in the Norse god Loki.

Loki Confesses

Annette Marie Hyder

My secret is this:
I know fire
is not applied to objects
it exists already
inside everything.

My talent is that
of a sculptor.
I set free conflagration
like shape from a stone.

My nature is to
sparkle, warm, enchant
crackle like fire
most companionably.

I mean you no harm
when my sparkle blinds
my warmth is uncomfortable
I’ve enchanted you
off your guard.

But I delight in
emotional fireworks
spangling down
the gunpowder roar of discord.
I delight in lighting your fuse.

My favorite tool?
I like forks. And people can be forks too.
Forks are great for skewering with.
And then there are forked flames
my forked tongue
and the fork in the road
where I’ll be waiting.

Yes I char
like fire.
I blacken and hurt and burn.
But it is all
for the sake of my art
nothing personal.