Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Where No Civilian Companies Have Gone Before: Private Space Travel to Make Giant Leaps in 2013

Dream Chaser space plane

                                             Good Day World!

  I’m feeling kinda old today while scanning stories about space travel to share. Buck Rogers would be comfortable with all of this talk about space flight in 2013.

This is all so 21st Century. Space supply ships. The Dragon capsule. Dragon Version 2. SuperDraco  thrusters. International space station. SpaceX. Beam me up Scotty!

“Private companies building new spaceships to soar through orbital and suborbital space are looking forward to an action-packed year in 2013, with new flight tests, launches, wind tunnel tests and rocket technology trials all planned during the new year. 

Image: An artistic rendition of the Dream Chaser vehicle launching into space. Sierra Nevada

Of the many spacecraft being developed only one has already flown in space, the Dragon capsule built by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) in Hawthorne, Calif.The unmanned cargo ship has flown in space three times so far, and carried supplies to the International Space Station twice in 2012 — first in May during a test and then again October.

SpaceX’s next cargo flight to the station is set for May 2013. But a new astronaut-carrying version of Dragon is also in the works. The crewed capsule will be different from its robotic predecessor in several key areas, with SpaceX set to advancing technology for the new ship in 2013.

“Dragon Version 2 won’t look like [today’s Dragon]. I think it looks pretty cool. Dragon one, we didn’t really know what we were doing so that’s why Dragon looks similar to things that have happened in the past,”SpaceX founder Elon Musk told an audience during a talk at the UK’s Royal Aeronautical Society in London on Nov. 21. Musk described Dragon version 2 as having “legs that pop out” and added that it uses parachutes and its eight SuperDraco thrusters for a “propulsive landing.” [SpaceX’s Dragon at the Space Station (Photos)]

The SuperDraco thrusters, located around the base of the Dragon, also act as the pusher launch abort system to move the capsule (and crew) clear of its rocket during a launch emergency.

While Musk was unavailable for to discuss SpaceX’s plans for 2013, company officials did provide SPACE.com details on its expected activities.

NASA needs private space taxis
SpaceX is developing the seven-person Dragon 2 capsule to compete for NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) crew transportation contract. NASA’s commercial crew program is helping industry develop competing space transportation systems to win this ISS contract. Ed Mango is the commercial crew program manager.

“2013 will be a huge year for us. In the first couple of months we’ll kick off work for our certification contract and we’ll award that shortly,” Mango told SPACE.com. (Read the rest here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What a way to start a New Year…

It saddens me to see people murdered every New Year’s Eve like it’s a rite of passage in America. Such a grim statistic for a new year. People who partied until death joined the festivities. A grim aftermath to a night of revelry. Reality. We live in a violent society. 

“Seven people were shot, one of them fatally, during a New Year's party early Tuesday in Columbus, Ga., police said — just one of many fatal shootings to be reported across the country as 2013 got off to a bloody start.

Police detectives told NBC station WLTZ of Columbusthat six people were shot inside the Bar about 2:30 a.m. ET. One of the victims was pronounced dead, and the four others were being treated at the Medical Center of Columbus for non-life-threatening injuries.

Across the country, the New Year rang in with the sound of gunfire:

  • Three people, one of them a 17-year-old boy, were shot and killed Tuesday morning in separate incidents in Philadelphia, NBC 10 of Philadelphia reported.

The teenager was shot in the head about 12:30 a.m. ET during an following a house party, police said. About two hours later, an unidentified man was shot and killed in the Frankford area of the city. Then, about 3 a.m., police who were called to a house in North Philadelphia, where they found three gunshot victims. One later died at a hospital.

  • Police said they were investigating a double homicide Tuesday morning in Elizabeth City, N.C., NBC station WAVY of Portsmouth, Va., reported. The names of both victims were being withheld, but authorities said both were in their early 20s.
  • Police in Suffolk, Va., said a 31-year-old man died at a hospital after he was shot at a "social gathering" about 3 a.m., WAVY reported.
  • In Chicago, which hit the grim milestone of 500 homicides in 2012 last week, New Year's Day kept the toll clicking. A 20-year-old was killed Tuesday morning on the West Side, authorities said. He was among 11 people to have been shot so far Tuesday, the Sun-Times reported.

Tale of two cities: Homicides plummet in New York, leap in Chicago

  • Another man was also shot and killed early Tuesday at a Georgia nightclub, this one the Club Fiesco located in South Augusta, police told NBC station WAGT of Augusta.
  • A suspect was in custody after a man killed one person and wounded four others Tuesday morning at a convenience store in Lansing, Mich., NBC station WILX of Lansing reported. Three of those injured were reported to be in critical condition.
  • Four people were shot, one of them fatally, at about 3:30 a.m. at a gasoline station in Lorain, Ohio, NBC station WKYC of Cleveland reported.
  • Police said a man shot his girlfriend in the head in Port Arthur, Texas, during an argument Tuesday morning, NBC station KBMT of Beaumont reported. She was pronounced dead.
  • A 19-year-old high school senior was dead and two other people were wounded during a shooting incident about 2 a.m. ET during a New Year's Eve party at an American Legion building in Clayton, N.C., NBC station WNCN of Raleigh reported.
  • In Corpus Christi, Texas, a 35-year-old man who was found injured in parking lot Tuesday morning died at a hospital, NBC station KRIS of Corpus Christi reported. Police haven't confirmed how the man was wounded, but they arrested a man armed with a handgun after an hour long standoff at a nearby apartment.
  • Police in Flint, Mich., said they had no suspects in the death of a man who was found Tuesday morning with a gunshot wound, NBC station WEYI reported.
    • Indianapolis police who were called to a duplex shortly before 5:30 a.m. found a dead man with what appeared to be a gunshot wound, NBC station WTHR reported. No other details were immediately available.
    • Sheriff's deputies were investigating a fatal shooting Tuesday afternoon in Columbia, S.C.,NBC station WIS of Columbia reported.”
  • (Source)

First meteor shower of 2013 peaks this week

Quadrantid meteor shower

Good Day and Happy New Year World!

How about starting the year off with some cool stargazing?

What better activity than to observe meteor showers while you contemplate all the New Year’s resolutions you aren’t going to keep!

“The first meteor shower of 2013 will kick off the year's night sky events this week, giving stargazers a chance to ring in the New Year with a celestial fireworks display.

The Quadrantid meteor shower is an annual meteor shower every January. While this year's "shooting star" show is not expected to outshine some of the morespectacular meteor showers of 2012, it may give stargazers with clear, dark skies a great start to the New Year.

Photo - Astrophotographer Jeff Berkes took this photo of the Quadrantid meteor shower on Jan. 4, 2012.

"Those who brave the cold might see up to 40 meteors per hour, although moonlight will make faint meteors harder to spot," officials with the Hubble Space Telescope explained in a January sky watching video guide.

The waning gibbous moon will be out in full force during the shower's peak, but skywatchers in dark areas of the Northern Hemisphere during the wee hours of Thursday morning might still get a decent show.

Scientists suspect that the meteors of the Quadrantids are debris from the asteroid 2003 EH1 — the same source of the Geminid meteor shower every December. The asteroid itself may be a chunk from a shattered comet that broke into pieces several hundred years ago, NASA officials said in a statement.

The Quadrantid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through a stream of debris from the comet. The fragments slam into the atmosphere at 90,000 mph (144,841 kph) and burn up 50 miles (80.5 km) above the planet in a dazzling display.

The meteor shower is named for the outdated Quadrans constellation, which is no longer recognized by astronomers, NASA officials said.

"Located between the constellations Bootes and Draco, Quadrans represents an early astronomical instrument used to observe and plot stars," they added.

However, the constellation was still relevant in 1825, when the meteor shower was first documented by astronomers.

"Located between the constellations Bootes and Draco, Quadrans represents an early astronomical instrument used to observe and plot stars," they added.

However, the constellation was still relevant in 1825, when the meteor shower was first documented by astronomers.

Just in case you aren't interested in braving the cold, NASA is streaming the shower for free online from Jan. 2 to Jan. 4. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has a light-activated camera pointed to the sky to record and live-stream the meteor shower during its peak.” (Source)

Editor's note: If you snap an amazing photo of the Quadrantid meteor shower and would like to share it with SPACE.com, contact us at spacephotos@space.com.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Top Ten Weirdest Stories from National Geographic in 2012

               Good Day World!

Here we are. The last day of the year. There’s a lot of topics with the usual Top 10 lists floating around. I settled upon the following one because it’s about animals and other living things in the natural world.

It’s my way of saying I’m tired of documenting people’s stupidity and triumphs every New Year’s Eve.

Animals are more interesting. They don’t take partisan views on subjects and tend to get along – interspecies - fairly well. Unless, of course one is a predator, and the other is natural prey. Then all bets are off. At least there’s no surprised involved in that relationship.

But I’ve seen elephants and dogs become great friends. Cats and dogs get along – under the right conditions. I had a goat whose best buddy was an old chicken named “Stupid Ludmilla.”

So I’m winding up this year with a tribute to all animals and living things like Slime Mold!). Enjoy:

World’s Smallest Frog Found

“Coming in as tenth weirdest is the housefly-size frog Paedophryne amauensis (below), the world’s smallest known vertebrate.At an average of 7.7 millimeters long, the frog is a hair smaller than the previous record holder, the Southeast Asian fish species Paedocypris progenetica, whose females measure about 7.9 millimeters, scientists said in January. Full story>>

Two-Faced Cat a Mystery

In August, Venus the two-faced cat became a feline hit: The three-year-old tortoiseshell debuted her own Facebook page, was featured in a YouTube video, and appeared on the Today Show. (Watch National Geographic cat videos.)

One look at this cat and you can understand why: One half is solid black with a green eye, and the other half has typical orange tabby stripes and a blue eye. The coloration may be a genetic mashup that one scientist called “absolute luck.” Full story>>

See the rest here and decide which one you think is the best!

It’s time for me to walk on down the road… for the last time in 2012! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

AS IT STANDS: Are you ready for New Year’s Eve?

                                
  By Dave Stancliff

For The Times-Standard
  It’s the day before New Year’s Eve, and all though the land alcohol companies are stocking store shelves with visions of obscene profits. Sales for products like Pepto Bismol and aspirin will go through the roof.
Ah! the rites of New Year’s Eve! A firmly entrenched holiday that celebrates booze and partying. What could be better than that? Millions of Americans gleefully get hammered and make New Year pledges they’ll never keep. But that’s okay.
New Year’s Eve parties are for adults and children are not welcome. Thoughtful parents often have New Year’s Eve parties for children, sans the booze, of course. Having never been to one I can’t vouch for what they do for fun.
Some people wait all year long to let their hair down and do the “Funky Chicken,” on this anointed holiday for drunkards. With any luck, other party-goers will be doing the same thing and everything that happens…is forgotten the next day.
Make no bones about it; New Year’s Eve is a rogue holiday that makes the rest of them look like milquetoast. The festive stage is set for a night of revelry drenched in champagne, cocktails, beer, rum, tequila, whiskey, wine, and vodka.

People also celebrate the holiday by getting high in other ways. There’s a slew of other possibilities ranging from cocaine to marijuana. But that’s not what you see on posters outside nightclubs and party places. 
I can see why the cops don’t like New Year’s Eve. Nothing is worse than a drunken moron on the road endangering themselves and others. Despite educational campaigns nationwide against drunk driving, more people will die on this New Year’s Eve from alcohol-related accidents than at any other time of the year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes on New Year’s Eve than during comparable periods the rest of the year. And 40 percent of traffic fatalities involve a driver who is alcohol-impaired, compared to 28 percent the rest of the year.

I’d also like to dispel a myth: Caffeine won’t sober you up! The fact is, caffeine may help with drowsiness, but not with the effects of alcohol on decision-making or coordination.
The body needs time to metabolize (break down) alcohol and then return to normal. There are no quick cures - only time will help. So, if you do plan on go out and get blitzed tomorrow night, make sure you have a sober designated driver with you.
  Now some people have tried to convince me that New Year’s Eve is all about reflections on the past year - that people really want to gather and talk and the booze is only secondary. I wasn’t born yesterday.
You may hear talk about good or bad things that happened last year, but the brunt of the conversations go more along the lines of:
“Wow! Did you see that blond?”
Or, “Look at Howard! That’s 16 bottles of beer and he’s still going!”
Let’s be realistic, a New Year’s Eve party is about the here and now - getting drunk and having fun doing stupid things. There’s nothing highbrow at all when it comes to a New Year’s Eve Party.
New Year’s Day is another animal.
It’s the day after the party and people are sober. Some are cranky with throbbing headaches, swearing all the while they’ll never take another sip of whiskey again. Yes, it’s a day for reflection and planning for the future. A noble day with traditions that are observed worldwide.

A day of new starts. The first day of the year, full of promise for the days and months ahead. A day that represents hope for a better future.
But first we must get through New Year’s Eve, unscathed by our own stupidity if we let our sense of reason soak in alcohol and marinade in regret the next day.
Seeing as how this is my last column for 2012, I’ll take this opportunity to thank you for reading my ramblings. I’m not making any pledges for the New Year, but I will try to continue to offer topics of interest.
  As It Stands, Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why some older men get the ‘Grumpy Old Man Complex’

                  Good Day World!

When I turned 60 a couple of years ago, nothing earthshaking happened. I did not suddenly become a grouchy old man. I didn’t instantly morph into Archie Bunker. And let me also add that the following article about grumpy old men is malarkey (thanks Joe Biden)!

Talk about a bad rap. My wife actually says I’m nicer now, and less likely to lose my temper than ever before. She tells me I’m aging like a good wine (not whiner) and that the silver in my hair looks distinguished. So, before seizing on the stereotype the author has projected, consider there’s no empirical research out on grumpy men when they hit 60.

The doctor in the article can go on all day about low testosterone, but I don’t think he’s looking at the whole picture. Men can get cranky about a lot of things, at any age. So I bid you consider this when you read the following: 

“The look: A scowling face, a wagging finger, and a shaking head. The targets: The economy. Teenagers. Windmills.

Some informally dub it “grumpy old man complex.” British author Carol Wyer labels it “irritable male syndrome,” a spike in the outward crankiness of guys of a certain age.

As more baby boomers hit 60 — the age when male grumpiness seems to kick in — be ready for a growing chorus of grouchy flare-ups, like a Donald Trumprant set to explode.

The condition isn’t just a stereotype represented by the proverbial fist-waving shout, "Get off my lawn!"Testosterone levels generally fall as men age, according to the Mayo Clinic. Such hormone drops are known to dampen male moods, says Dr. Ridwan Shabsigh, head of the International Society of Men’s Health and a urologist in New York City.

“Testosterone is a hormone that grows muscles, reduces fat in the body, affects energy, and improves sexual desire,” Shabsigh says. “However, it also has neural-psycho effects. And in some men we encounter in our practice, those affects can be mostly visible: low mood and irritability."

Grumpiness is even used as a mood description in screening questionnaires for low testosterone. One form many U.S. male patients are asked to fill out is a test for Androgen Deficiency in Aging Men (ADAM). Androgen is the family of hormones that controls the development of masculine traits. Question No. 6 on that form reads: “Are you sad and/or grumpy?”

“Patients with low testosterone tell me they feel less capable of concentration. And they feel less capable of tolerating the nuances of everyday life – from family, friends, colleagues and customers,” Shabsigh said. “Whatever you do, you have people around you, and you get irritated sometimes. The ability to tolerate or deal with it is reduced when the testosterone is low.”

Certain metabolic and kidney diseases, including diabetes, are known to cause abnormally low testosterone, Shabsigh says, adding the prevalence of those disorders rises with age.

In healthy men, testosterone levels remain within normal limits until about age 60, with a gradual decline after that, studies indicate. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, up to 30 percent of men beyond the age of 75 have low testosterone levels. The question of whether to treat such cases of low testosterone “remains a matter of debate,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

It's not always hormones or other physical health issues, though. Men aren’t as likely to share worries or concerns about aging which can leave a guy prone to flailing outbursts into the ether. Older-guy grumpiness can also be traced to major life changes like retirement that come with advancing years, Wyer says.

“Women have friends and we talk about our problems and we take medication and all that kind of stuff. But for men, it’s something they suppress. It’s a male thing ,” says Wyer, author of the upcoming humor book “How Not To Murder Your Grumpy."

Feeling that they no longer are useful, especially, if a man has held an important position in employment prior to retirement, "can result in severe depression at worst and general grumpiness at best,” Wyer said.

Wyer's husband of 25 years, John, turned 60 this year and became very grumpy just after his birthday, she says. "I have spoken to other women in the same position who have said exactly the same: Husbands, even those who have looked forward to a big birthday, have become morose soon after,” Wyer says.

John Wyer, who owned his own business and misses "the cut and thrust" of his work, has self-diagnosed his own occasionally gloomy anger as something of a byproduct of Western society’s collective view toward — and value of — people who are 60 or beyond.

“One of the things that really took hold of me was the fact that I was approaching a ripe old age, let’s say, and I felt society can cast you off as a little bit of a no-hoper. I just feel that isn’t right. I feel people in increasing years have a lot to offer.

And they shouldn’t cast off to one side. And I suppose my grumpiness is a little bit of a protest against sliding down that particular route,” he said.

“You think, well, gosh, there’s got to be to be something a little more than this. Being grumpy is just my way of getting through it and laughing at myself.” (Source)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fashion Police: Big Brother and Sister may be watching you

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Mannequins give new meaning to Fashion Police.

Good Day World!

I always thought mannequins were on the creepy side.

I’ve seen movies where they come to life. I even remember one movie where this guy fell in love with a mannequin!

Now the creep factor is official. Some guy is designing a new line of mannequins who can spy on you! That’s right. The eyes have a camera in them and they watch your every move! I use to think that, now it’s reality.

As far as I’m concerned there’s too many issues involved with these new mannequins. So far only a few stores have them. Let’s hope it doesn’t catch on with most stores.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

NOTE TO READERS – I’m taking tomorrow (12/28) off, but will be back on the 29th. See ya then…

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Curtain Calls for Entertainers in 2012: We’ll Miss You All

                                                  Good Day World!

 It’s that time of the year when we look back for a moment, and then forward to the New Year. One of my favorite entertainers, Andy Griffith took his final bow this year.

Andy Williams, Donna Summer, Phylliss Diller, and Ray Bradbury, are among the other 58 luminaries who also left us in 2012. Go to the link below for a slideshow of Curtain Calls this year. The most recent (and number 59) is: 

Charles Durning, veteran character actor, dies in New York at 89

Dec.24th - Charles Durning grew up in poverty, lost five of his nine siblings to disease, barely lived through D-Day and was taken prisoner at the Battle of the Bulge.

His hard life and wartime trauma provided the basis for a prolific 50-year career as a consummate Oscar-nominated character actor, playing everyone from a Nazi colonel to the pope to Dustin Hoffman's would-be suitor in "Tootsie."

Durning, who died Monday at age 89 in New York, got his start as an usher at a burlesque theater in Buffalo, N.Y. When one of the comedians showed up too drunk to go on, Durning took his place. He would recall years later that he was hooked as soon as heard the audience laughing. (Read more here)

Here’s a list of stars that passed on to the Great Matinee in 2012:

Slideshow: Curtain calls

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

AS IT STANDS Wishes You a Very Merry Christmas!

Good Day World!

I want to thank all of my readers for visiting this blog this year. You came in record numbers and I’m truly humbled by your interest.I wish you a happy holiday. Above all I wish for…Peace on Earth! Here’s a Christmas story for you:

From war with love: Christmas letters home span centuries but hit same notes

Across three pages — typed on Christmas Eve 1966 from a village in South Vietnam — the soldier’s words to his wife dance seamlessly from a description of singing carols in the jungle to his latest enemy kills to, finally, a vow of eternal affection.

“Last night we had a candle-lighting ceremony ... Gasoline drums welded together end to end with a white Noel on the side. Electric light on top covered by red cellophane ... Reindeer and Santa Claus at front. It was raining,” Army Gen. Sidney B. Berry wrote to his wife. He next reveals how he recently had perched in a helicopter door, firing his rifle at men below: “We all were shooting. And we killed several ...”

“Lovely Anne, I love thee,” Berry closed. “Perhaps the best aspect of this whole period of separation is our increased appreciation and understanding of each other. I love thee, and I will devote the rest of my life to to thee.” He signs off: “Thy wearied professional, Sid.”

This time of year, communication from combat lines has long provided a poignant piece of Christmas.

Today's troops, for the most part, send their holiday wishes via email or Skype video chat sessions. But life was much different before technology began shadowing  service men and women so far from home.

At the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pa., thousands of notes, authored by service members from conflicts past, are painstakingly stored in acid-free folders, tucked inside protective boxes, and categorized by family, forming numerous narrow rows flanked by shelves 10 feet high. Many of the correspondences, once jammed in attic boxes, have been donated to the archive. Museum directors retrieved several dozen Christmas missives for NBC News to review.

From the Civil War to the Vietnam War, troops ranging from privates to a general struck the same literary chords — no matter the success of their conflict, their era, or the location of their last battle. They often chronicle violence during a moment meant to celebrate peace. They typically express humor, perhaps to put families at ease. And they reveal yearnings to be back with gathered families and friends.

“A lot of people wrote letters to their mothers at Christmas. I guess it’s a time you really to think about home, really start to think about where you come from,” said Conrad Crane, chief of historical services at the Army Heritage and Education Center.

Some of the letters offered to NBC News were were originally mailed to nieces, parents and wives.

On Dec. 28, 1862, five months before the U.S. Army’s siege of Vicksburg, 1st Illinois Light Artillery Capt. John T. Cheney sat at a humid encampment, he wrote, near the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi and scribbled some lines to “My Dear Wife.” Her name was Mary. He also had two children at home at the time, including an 11-year-old son, military archives show. On now-yellowed paper in cursive style, Cheney mentioned to Mary that he was, “waiting to retreat” — revealing, however, he believed his unit “ought not to be compelled to do so.” He told her that he and his men were living off of half bread rations and three-quarter meat rations but he reassured her that he was “not yet out of medicine.” And he acknowledged that on Dec. 24 he had procured three gallons of whiskey for his men: “We had a very pleasant Christmas Eve.”

“I am quite well and could I only know that you were well at home I would be thankful,” Cheney wrote. Less than two years later, he would accompany Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous march on Atlanta. “I wish I could step in and stop with you all tonight ... Give my love to all of the friends and kiss the little ones for me a time or two ... Good night.”

Not surprisingly, the intended audience of each letter, Crane said, generally shaped the tone of words from

On Dec. 26, 1917, Adam F. Glatfelter penned some thoughts to his niece, Carrie, from Camp Gordon in Atlanta. The training center was built to prepare men to head to the trenches of Europe to fight during World War I. In cursive hand, using a pencil, he told her of spending Christmas Day playing music with his military orchestra for the local bishop. He joked that his ensemble was quickly becoming “pretty popular” with folks in Atlanta. He listed his holiday meal: two turkey dinners. And he thanked her for sending a spool of thread.

“Do not worry about me,” he wrote, signing as “Uncle Frank.”

Holiday menus — and pleas not to fret — color many Christmas letters home. On Dec. 25, 1944, Navy Pfc. Clark S. Crane dashed off a one-page note to his parents in a V-mail, short for “Victory Mail.” The system offered troops templates bordered by red ink. Their words would be censored by the military — a stamp in one corner validated the content had been approved — then copied to film and printed back to paper before being placed in the U.S. mail.

Crane was anchored near the Philippines at the time, according to the Army Heritage and Education Center, although his letter notes he was “Somewhere at Sea.” He tells his parents how he had “just finished extending season’s greetings ... good natured but well felt” to other men on board via a Christmas poem that he authored with another sailor. He offered one line for his folks.

“‘Shed a tear in your Christmas beer since there ain’t gonna be no egg in it this year.’ Pretty corny, eh?” Crane wrote, noting that was his third Christmas spent at war and away from his parents’ house at 285. N. Maple Ave. in Kingston, Pa.

“Lined up ... for Christmas dinner with tender turkey and cranberries on the menu,” he wrote. “All of it was very good but there was a deficit of brown skin and the savory smell of a Christmas turkey at good old 285 North Maple. Lots of Love, Clark.”

Another poem — albeit a modern, bloody take on the classic “A Visit from St. Nicholas” — formed a Christmas letter home from Douglas G. Anderson, then stationed in Korea. Neatly hand-written on green paper, the note contained no date or location. Records show he was an Army sergeant who would have been about 23 at the time.

“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the tent was the odor of fuel oil. The stovepipe was bent. The shoe pacs were hung by the oil stove with care in hope that they’d issue each man a new pair. The weary GIs were sacked out in their beds. Visions of sugar babes danced through their heads,” Anderson wrote.

“When up on the ridge-line there arose such a clatter, a Chinese machine gun had started to chatter. I rushed to my rifle and threw back the bolt, the rest of my tent mates arose with a jolt.” Staying in rhyme, Anderson described the orders shouted by his platoon sergeant, Kelly.   " 'Get up on that on hilltop and silence that red and don’t you come back till you’re sure that he’s dead.' Then putting his thumb in front of his nose, Sergeant Kelly took leave of us shivering Joes. But we all heard him say in a voice soft and light ‘Merry Christmas to all, may you live through the night."

After the birth of the Internet and as modern service members waged war in Iraq during two conflicts and, now, in Afghanistan, the art of the Christmas letter home has largely been replaced by Skype sessions, said Col. Matt Dawson, director Army Heritage and Education Center.

In historic missives from combat zones, “people bared their souls,” Dawson said. Some of the authors couldn’t be sure that those words wouldn’t be the last their families would receive from them.

Today, such intimate moments are shared during one-one-one cyber chats that rarely, if ever, are saved — unless the troops use a new service called TroopTree.com in which they can record, upload and send personal video messages for family or friends, and do so at no cost.

In most cases, however, sweet sentiments shared during Skype sessions from war zones are simply here and gone.

“So in 20, 30 or 40 years," Dawson said, "when we’re looking for this kind of stuff from the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, it will be more difficult to find," — unless a service member takes time to mail a post card home, as Marine Sgt. Brian Snell did this month. He sent the card to his wife Liz and their two daughters. The front shows a red Christmas ornament stamped with an “Operation Enduring Freedom” logo, atop an American flag.

"Hey love, Hope you girls have a Merry Christmas and New Year. I miss you all,” Snell, 30, wrote to his family, who live in the San Diego area. This is his first deployment. He was sent to Afghanistan in autumn.

“There is something about being able to read his handwriting to make the world feel a little smaller, like he isn't on the other side of it,” Liz Snell said. “Unlike a phone call, a letter lingers. You can have a bad day, pick up the card, and he is here.” (Source)

.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Follow Santa Claus on his Christmas Eve flight…

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Santa seen leaving the North Pole…

  • Santa takes an Astronomical Journey!
  • Dec. 24: International Space Station - Astronauts at the International Space Station were just finishing up a routine space walk when the captain of the group spotted a red blur out of the corner of his eye.
  •  
  • "I must say, some of us had wondered if we would miss our visit from Old St. Nick, what with us being way out in space and all. We're thrilled that Santa hasn't forgotten us!"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

AS IT STANDS: ‘Sorry Santa: I’ve got a last minute Christmas list for you’

                                              
By Dave Stancliff/For The Times-Standard

Dear Santa;
With only two days to go before Christmas …

I hate to hit you with this long list of wishes but I’ve been too busy to get them to you until now. I know. You’re pretty busy yourself.  If it helps, the wishes aren’t just for me.

They’re also for other people:
I wish some company would buy the now defunct Hostess brand and continue turning out Twinkies and Ding Dongs for future generations of junk food addicts. While you’re at it, could you help American manufacturers provide more good paying jobs next year?
I wish I had a new right ear. Full stereo. As you know, the darn thing quit working years ago after numerous surgeries. Listen, the ear doesn’t even have to match. My ears are already uneven and I wear hats a lot.
I wish you could explain to me why a guy doing a dance number called “Gangnam Style” that looks like someone riding a horse is the most viewed video in YouTube history?

I wish you’d put some coal in Donald Trump’s stocking for being such a moron this year. He’s really outdone himself. Wait a minute! Make that a notice the IRS is investigating him. If he gets coal he’ll think it’s a good sign!
I wish the LA Lakers would finally jell as a team and win a championship this season. At least get them into the Finals.
I wish books weren’t becoming a thing of the past. Would you leave me a few good ones? I like mysteries, biographies, and history. I’ll add them to my collection.
I wish newspapers wouldn’t disappear. The ink is on the wall and printed editions are slipping into journalistic history as I write this column. If there’s some way you can preserve them, I’ll be glad to do you a favor - like help pull your sled if one of the reindeers get’s the flu on Christmas Eve! 
I wish someone would come up with a canned chili that didn’t taste like dog food.
I wish the federal government’s War on Drugs would cease.
I wish some reality show would offer to professionally landscape my backyard for free. I’d gladly promote the series for the rest of my life or the rest of its run. Whichever comes first.
I wish writers would stop churning out top 10 lists on everything from bathroom designs to car elevators because they do well on Twitter feeds.

I wish you would find homes for all the people who lost their homes when Hurricane Sandy struck. While you’re finding homes, could you just go ahead and include all the people in this country who don’t have a home?
I wish my five year-old granddaughter would get whatever she asked you for this year. She’s really been a good girl and believes in you. That goes for my four older grandsons. They might be past believing in Santa Claus, but they’ve been good this year.
I wish you’d bring me a steering wheel cover that doesn’t smell like rubber. My wife hates the smell so we’re using the factory steering wheel unadorned. The dang thing is cold in the morning. There must be some alternative and I trust you’ll find it.
I wish you’d whisper some sense into the ears of drivers who text or use hand-held phones. It doesn’t look like any amount of laws and fines are makes a difference and the death tolls keeps going up. It’s especially poignant this time of year.

I wish those Mall Santas weren’t so terrifying to little kids. I’ve watched children throw up, urinate, and scream so loud my one good ear throbbed for hours afterward! These guys are your representatives, so if there’s anything they can do to be less scary, would you tell them?  
  I wish every man, woman, and child in America would have the opportunity to enjoy a great Christmas dinner and family gathering.
I wish I’d wake up Christmas morning and hear an announcement on the radio, “All Americans troops are coming home before next Christmas. That’s all American troops. No support troops are being left behind.”
I wish every member of Congress would be visited by ghosts of Christmas past, who’d take them on tours of prior Congresses that worked together and actually served the American people.
I wish for Peace on earth!
 As It Stands, may you have a Merry Christmas!

Discussion: Are Republican Politicians and Activists Above the Law?

Let's start with the most former grifter-in-chief . Trump has got away with being impeached twice (a feat no other American president h...