On to 2016

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As we move from 2015 to 2016, a toast …

To kindness, love, and patience … to family, friends, and the good people we don’t know …

To sincerity, honesty, and integrity … to prudence, justice, and restraint …

To generosity, gratitude, and humility… to joy, laughter, and friendliness …. to the positive, the compassionate, the brave, and the humble … and to the majority of the world that is good.

Wishing good health and happiness for all.

Salute! Yamas! Proost! Skål! Sei gesund! A la votre! Şerefe! Gān bēi! Terviseks! Kippis! Salut! Cheers!

On Exploring a Giant

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. (Steve Jobs, business professional)

Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises. (Pedro Calderon de la Barca, dramatist)

In the game of life, less diversity means fewer options for change. Wild or domesticated, panda or pea, adaptation is the requirement for survival. (Cary Fowler, business professional)

Modification of form is admitted to be a matter of time. (Alfred Russel Wallace, scientist)

Biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose. (Richard Dawkins, biologist)

On Exploring an Unexpected Place

Ljubljana, Slovenia is a place on my bucket list.

I know the thoughts racing through the mind of most readers right now …. “Ljubljana, Slovenia? Where’s that? How does one say that place? What the heck is he thinking?” (Was I close?)

First the pronunciation – lyoo-BLYAH-nah. I even discovered that the Italians and Spanish simply say (and write) Lubiana, which I find helpful.

Slovenia is a small country that was part of Austria-Hungary (WW I), part of Yugoslavia after WW II, and part of Italy for 27 years between the two World Wars. It became independent in 1991, and has been part of the EU and NATO since 2004.

It has a small coastline along the northeastern Adriatic Sea, and those who remember my background note that Slovenia is very close (a few miles/kilometers) to my birthplace – Trieste, Italy – so I’ve seen Slovenia in the distance, but haven’t visited.

I recall watching a feature on a Slovenian skier from Ljubljana during the Sochi Winter Olympics, and a Rick Steves episode expanded my attraction for Ljubljana. Yep, I’ve even researched how to get from Trieste to Ljubljana by train – so it’s time to pass along this hidden secret to others. FYI: Trains don’t connect the two cities, but I discovered the way.

Enjoy this short tourism video. For those wanting to do see the Rick Steves episode, here it is. What do you think? Ready to join an aFa tour group?

On a Holiday Reprise as Shorts

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Hoping everyone had a wonderful Christmas Day. Ours was simple as we hosted one (my father-in-law). After dinner, we played 3-handed euchre for multiple hours. The next day we took a 3-hour drive to visit an aunt, then returned the next day.

For part of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I took time to visit many bloggers, which I greatly enjoyed.

For the rest of this week, I hope to put together a few Explore posts to for light enjoyment

A reminder, Tuesday is the Kennedy Center Honors telecast.

Did all your packages arrive on-time? My wife and I were keeping it very simple this year. I ordered a small gift. (Good luck following this one)

  1. Records showed delivery, but I didn’t have a package.
  2. Knowing the odds of finding it before Christmas Day was slim, I ordered something else and paid more for two-day delivery (which would have been the 24th).
  3. Later the same day, we located the original package at the front door down the street (obviously the wrong address) – and the resident didn’t know it was there because she was out-of-town visiting family.
  4. Meanwhile, the second package has been sitting in Orlando (Florida) for more time than it was supposed to take to get here.

Thank you for the many kind comments regarding my Christmas post linking the goodness of people, Santa Claus, and the spirit of Christmas. To coincide with that post, LB (@Cruise Stories) shared this interesting post for the season, in which Rachel (a Jewish woman) tells about her love of Christmas movies.

On the same theme, the executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University had a wonderful column in the local paper, which paralleled my Christmas message. Here’s his closing statement, plus the link to the entire column.

During this Christmas season, as we assemble with family and friends, let us pledge to make every encounter life-giving, to commit that all of God’s creations have a place not only in this world but in our heart. If we can be “for other people” we will never be “different to other people.. Nor they to us. Merry Christmas from a rabbi. (Rabbi Abie Ingber)

Calvin (@Beyond Plum Creek) shared this message through a song, which isn’t a Christmas song, but it sure fits my theme of Christmas is for everyone and that Santa is the Spirit of Christmas. Have a good final week of 2015.

On the Spirit of Christmas 2015

Although the daily news goes against these thoughts, but I truly believe the following:

  • The majority of people in the world are good.
  • Smiles are the universal language that crosses all language and cultural barriers.
  • Kindness is the universal action that everyone appreciates.

These points are constantly in my head when volunteering at the English Second Language (ESL) classes – especially with Arabs and Muslims. For me, Matt Harding’s videos support my thoughts. After all, all one has to do is watch the faces in the video. Maybe that’s part of the reason this video frequently waters my eyes.

You may wonder what this has to do with the Christmas season, but (to me) it demonstrates an important essence of the holiday season in today’s world.

Yes, Christmas is a Christian holiday … and yes, I’m a Christian. While some complain about the secular and commercial aspect by proclaiming “put Christ back into Christmas”, my contrarian nature sees another view. For those embracing that mantra, I say go for it – but not at the expense of others because the spirit of Christmas is for everyone.

Besides its religious significance, Christmas is also a celebration of goodness: The goodness that ties the entire human race. The goodness that crosses all geographic and cultural boundaries, including language and religion. The goodness that is for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Sikhs, and all other religions. The goodness is for all ages, all genders, all races, and all sexual orientations … simply the goodness for all people everywhere.

Yes, the roots of Santa Claus lie deep within Christianity. From St. Nicholas (Nicholas of Myra), other traditions developed as baby Christkindl (eventually Kris Kringle), Father Christmas, and Sinterklaas. Europeans brought these traditions (and others) to the United States that serve as the foundation for Christmas today.

Several events in mid-to-late 1800s helped morph Santa: mainly Thomas Nast’s version of Santa in Harper’s Weekly, and Clement Clayton Moore’s icon poem, The Night Before Christmas.

Although Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and various Norman Rockwell paintings helped transform Santa’s image in the early 1900s, it was artist Haddon Sundblom’s portrayals of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola that cemented the image of Santa Claus that we embrace today. From 1931-1964, Sundblom’s Santa served as a brilliant marketing total for the beverage company giant.

All along the journey from Nicholas of Myra to the modern-day Santa, goodness is the common theme. Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas – the one who portrays goodness and kindness to all. If goodness is for everyone, it seems logical to me that everyone can celebrate Christmas. Santa Claus is the one who sees kindness across cultures, religions, races, and languages. After all, the majority of us want kindness, plus peace and goodwill for all.

In the spirit of Santa’s goodness, thank you for all the joys you regularly give to me. Thank you for helping me maintain my faith in humanity. One hand is sufficient in counting the number of visitors here I’ve physically met, but I am sure of one thing – You are the good of Santa’s spirit.

For my video gifts to you, enjoy two version of Silent Night. The first by Mannheim Steamroller accompanied by beautiful displays from the night sky is one of my long-time favorites. For those preferring a singer, Placido Domingo joins The Piano Guys.

Merry Christmas to those who accept Santa as the spirit of Christmas … Happy Holiday to those preferring that greeting … and to my Christian friends, a blessed Christmas to you.

Peace to all.

On Holiday-Week Shorts

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This post is a cheap imitation of Opinion in the Shorts … make that very cheap … but it’s a way to dispense some information.

With this being Christmas week, I realize upcoming posts will be around a different schedule – so here’s my hopeful plan for the rest of 2015

  • The next post will be my Christmas post (on either Wednesday or Thursday)
  • Several Explore posts between Christmas and the New Year (a light and easy agenda)

Many thanks to everyone attending my holiday party. It seems my new (non-Onion) gift supplier was a success … thus the challenge for next year. Nonetheless, thanks for all the smiles you gave me.

We enjoy watching the Kennedy Center Honors during the holidays. This year’s show is December 29th on CBS, so check your local listings. This year’s honoree are singer-songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, actress and singer Rita Moreno, conductor Seiji Ozawa, and actress and Broadway star Cicely Tyson.

We finally saw the latest James Bond movie – Spectre. Typical Bond, thus enjoyable. During the holiday we hope to see The Big Short, Concussion, and maybe the latest Star Wars.

I enjoy making limoncello – a wonderful Italian drink that is sweet, lemony, and strong. It’s easy to make, and this past-post tells how. This year I’m in the process of making a variation – gingercello – sweet, gingery, strong, and a touch of heat – an interesting combination. I hope to bottle it soon, thus give away some to friends.

This remains a holiday classic in my warped world.

The Democratic candidates had a presidential debate this past Saturday. Yep – I didn’t watch – but I’ve put together a collection of fact checks: Annenberg, PolitiFacts, Associated Press, Washington Post.

As soon as I heard Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) comment about the recruitment videos, I shook my head – and it seems that the fact checkers are backing up my apprehension.

Because The Mummies were above with Carol of the Belts, I’ll send you into the week with one of their songs. Have a good week.

2015 aFa Holiday Blog Party

Welcome to my 2015 Holiday Party for my friends, their guests, and whoever stops by this weekend!

In the spirit of the holiday season, this gathering is for everyone: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics, and others. I say everyone because I’m a firm believer that the majority of the world is good – and in spite of all the crap we get from the news each and every day, the WordPress community helps prove my point … so peace and goodwill to the global community of goodness!

My wish is for guests get a gift and mingle with others – which also means gifts can be traded!

Come back to mingle with the guest and watch available entertainment.

This is going to be a bit crazy for both readers and your host, so I request your patience! … but make sure you read the Overview and Directions below the next video.

Overview

  • Behind each number is a surprise gift. *
  • Once the number (gift) is taken, it’s no longer available (so state your number in the comment)’
  • While I hope to strike-through taken numbers, I do have to sleep and run errands – so I request readers check the comments for taken numbers. (See the Update note above the numbers for my progress).

Directions

  1. Pick (click) an available number for your surprise gift.
  2. In your comment, type your number (hopefully on its own line so all can see it) and tell everyone about your gift.

Positive cheers to all in the spirit goodness for the season! Have fun!!!!

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UPDATE: (Marked out down through Tim)

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DogElf

* Gifts selected by visitors are for amusement purposes only, thus never intended for the host to purchase and send to those selecting.