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I say this all the time: Thanksgiving is pretty much the only holiday I respect and honor. Many will debate me about that as they see their holidays. But that’s very subjective. To them, theirs, to me, mine.

Holidays are about reflection, about honoring something or somebody, and about tradition. We all have our own traditions. We inherit many of them from our parents and general lineage.

I am grateful for the fact that I didn’t inherit any Thanksgiving tradition from my lineage, as I grew up in a different country where we didn’t have the kind of Thanksgiving we have here in the United States. Erntedankfest in Germany is the equivalent, and sometimes people equate the two, but they are not the same in the heart. And I certainly have no idea what day Erntedankfest falls on.

For Thanksgiving, having no inherited traditions, I have had to make my own. In the first few years of my adulthood, I was able to participate in the Thanksgiving festivities of others where I was invited.  I certainly remember my first one, as an AFS exchange student in high school.

As it turned out, making the turkey became my job. There must be homemade cranberry sauce. Then later the Waldorf salad became an added tradition.

Inviting friends became the norm. I always preferred staying at home for Thanksgiving and “hosting” rather than going to someone else’s house, but there were exceptions over the years. Thanksgiving to me is about reflection and hanging out, not travel, not stress, not getting everything right.

I have no deity to thank. Just the people that have been good to me all my life, children, family, lovers, and friends. And those, whether they are here right now or not, as I get ready to make the stuffing, are the ones I think about and am grateful for.

It’s been a good ride.


Not just humans experience stress. Animals, by just existing, are exposed to predators, or dangerous situations. Watch this sheep and her lamb.


I am not sure that what the poster claims is accurate. Numbers like these alone do not a successful presidency make.

A successful presidency would not have lost control of the House in 2012 and both houses of Congress in 2014. A successful presidency would have chewed up the Republican base by now. But the opposite happened. The Republicans chewed up the Democrat base. Some of the numbers look good because at the end of Bush, the country was in an economic free fall.

Obama could have been much more successful. A number of things went wrong, and the Democrats and Obama better figure it out in the next couple of years – or else.

If we really deported all the undocumented aliens, as so many Republican politicians seem to be asking for (led by Sarah Palin again, who wants to hire enough ships to send them all back across the ocean to Mexico), we would ruin our economy.

  • Who would make the beds and clean up in the 50,000 hotels and about 4.6 million hotel rooms in the United States?
  • Who would work in the harvests in the California Central Valley?
  • Who would lay bricks, pave roads, paint bridges, and work in factories all over the United States in mostly low-paying jobs?
  • Who would drive around to empty the portable toilets at outdoor concerts?
  • Who would bus tables and wash dishes at the 616,000 restaurants in the United States?
  • Who would handle our luggage at airports?
  • Who would pick up the garbage in New York City?

I realize that not all people doing the jobs I just listed are undocumented, but many, many are. Things would get pretty ugly pretty quickly without immigrants. Not all immigrants are illegal. But 11 million, we estimate, are.

Do we really want to deport 11 million people?

Norbert Haupt:

After a comet landing by the European Space Agency, NASA is now getting ready for a Pluto flyby. This will be very exciting stuff. We have never had a good look at Pluto and its moons.

Originally posted on DARK MATTER SPACE:

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft comes out of hibernation on December 6 at 3:00 pm EST. Now about 2.9 billion miles (4.6 billion km) from Earth, and 162 million miles (260 million km) from Pluto, the spacecraft will be put through a month-long preparation for its six month flyby of Pluto, with the primary phase of the mission slated to begin on January 15.

New Horizons’ current state of hibernation means that most of the spacecraft’s systems are shut down except for monitors and a weekly beacon-status transmission. So far, the probe has gone through 18 hibernation phases since it launched in 2006. This works out to 1,873 days in hibernation or two-thirds of the Pluto flyby mission.

The hibernation technique, which NASA pioneered, is a way of conserving onboard resources, cutting down on mission control personnel time, reducing time…

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Here are a list of facts:

  • Gas prices are lower than they have been in years, and are still falling.
  • The  U.S. is the second largest oil producer in the world, poised to take the number one slot from Saudi Arabia. Oil imports are declining.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at 17,000, a record. It was at 7,000 when Bush left office, and never higher than 14,000 while he was in office.
  • The dollar is now at its strongest levels in years.
  • There is no inflation.
  • Our interest rates are the lowest in 30 years.
  • Our deficit is rapidly declining.
  • Our unemployment rate is lower than 6%. We have added 200,000 jobs a month, every month, for years. We have added 10.6 million jobs over 56 straight months of job growth.
  • We have almost doubled the wealth of billionaires in the country since Obama. The wealthy make more money than ever today, and their taxes are the lowest in history, and the lowest in the world.
  • America is leading the world once again and is respected internationally, unlike when Bush was in office.
  • Obama brought soldiers home from Iraq and stopped the bleeding and dying of Americans for foreign causes.
  • Obama found and killed Osama bin Laden.

And yet, we just voted the Republicans into both houses of Congress and into many state governorships, decimating the Democrats. I can only see four main initiatives of the Republicans:

  • Undo the Affordable Care Act (which would mean taking away the health insurance of 10 million Americans who finally now were able to get insurance).
  • Do nothing further about our immigration problem and somehow deport 11 million people.
  • Send American soldiers back into Iraq to get killed and maimed for the bizarre delusions of a messed-up religion under the lie of calling it protecting our homeland and freedom.
  • Sue, impeach or otherwise paralyze Obama.

So the American people voted to impair or throw out the president who dug us out of the mess Bush put us in?

I don’t get it. What do people want? Go back to where we were in 2007?



Seinfeld Diner

While hanging out  in New York City today, I went to Tom’s Restaurant, made famous as the diner the Seinfeld crew used to hang out in. It’s actually very crowded inside and it looks nothing like it does in the TV show. The reviews are mixed. I didn’t find a table so I didn’t stay to eat.

I stayed an extra day in New York City today, visited the Met and got my much-needed van Gogh fix.

VvG Irises

Vincent van Gogh – Irises

VvG Oleanders

Vincent van Gogh – Oleanders

VvG While Roses

Vincent van Gogh – White Roses

VvG Cornfield

on the right: Vincent van Gogh – Cornfield with Cypress

The world is a more beautiful place after being in the presence of these paintings by my favorite artist for a while. He created so much beauty in so little time. I have already lived 20 years more than he ever did.

Watch this video and  then tell me that you think it is right to simply send these young people away to countries they don’t know and have no connection to. They are Americans, and we need to deal with that reality.



Tallahassee, Florida at 7:30am, temperature 25 degrees F.


Then I found out that there was a shooting here at the local university after 2:00am this morning, after the news cycle, so there is nothing in the papers yet.

A cold morning indeed.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a truly American phenomenon. I do not know of any other nations that have such a thing. Most Americans, should you ask them, think that it was deeply ingrained into the structure of our country and created by the founding fathers.

Far from it. It was first composed by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist (and Baptist minister) in 1892 in an effort to promote the U.S. Flag, at a time when the distribution of the flag was promoted by companies for commercial reasons. They wanted to sell something. Bellamy wrote the pledge to be used in schools. It wasn’t formally adopted by Congress until 1942, and the words “under God” were added only in 1954.

Foreigners that come to America and hear the pledge usually are astounded. They equate it to brainwashing. They compare it to something one would expect in North Korea, but not in the country of “the free.”

I was such a foreigner once, and I clearly remember how it took me some time to get used to it. Pledging allegiance to an object, even if that object is a flag and that flag represents a nation, seemed like a strange thing to do, and trickling this daily into the brains of little school children struck me like a delusion at best.

I have been a U.S. citizen for many decades now, and I participate in the pledge, when I am in an appropriate situation, like a public meeting, but I must admit I don’t do it because I have some allegiance to this object of fabric that represents our nation, but because I don’t want to be different lest I offend someone. I participate with those who grew up with the pledge all their lives – at least since 1946, who don’t know it any other way.

Americans often are prickly about this ritual. “You don’t have to participate, you can remain seated if you want.” But nobody dares. Being “unpatriotic” is not looked upon favorably at this “free” country.

They often say that people died protecting the freedoms we all enjoy today and we should show proper respect for the flag for that reason.

This, of course, is nonsensical. The pledge has nothing at all to do with the fact that people died. Many Americans today do not believe that those people that died in the wars of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq died for our freedoms. I personally do not believe that the 50,000 Americans that died in Vietnam made any difference in the freedom of our country and what it is today. If the Vietnam war had not happened, and nobody had died, we would be no less free today.

People willing to die for something does not automatically make that something good. People died by the millions defending Nazi Germany. What a terrible waste! Should Germans now show respect to the Swastika because their grandfathers died for it?

So making school children pledge their allegiance to a flag to show respect is a dubious practice. It would be much more practical and effective to educate them about the real reasons we are free now, the enormous risks the revolutionary generation took in the fight against England, the fact that the French (a people we often ridicule now as cowards) came to the aid of the colonials, the fact that the founding fathers separated church and state, and many, many others.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are an acquired taste that we Americans grew up with an cherish. Foreigners don’t get it.

It’s the same with the Pledge of Allegiance.



Jupiter and North America

[picture credit: John Brady]

The green speck is what North America would look like on Jupiter to scale.

Made Out of Meat

Wonderful reading about two aliens talking about humans:

They’re Made out of Meat.


Lion, Nov 2014, Oil on Canvas, 24" x 24"

Lion, Nov 2014, Oil on Canvas, 24″ x 24″

Trisha and Mary Ann went to Africa on Safari. Between the two of them, they brought back over 4,000 photographs. This is my favorite lion. Painted for Mary Ann.


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