General Archive

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When Happy Holidays Isn't Good Enough

ScroogeI've written about the Salvation Army before, in the appropriately named entry, The Salvation Army - To Give, or Not to Give?. Now, I have reservations about that organization, and I've personally decided to donate to other, more deserving groups, but as I wrote in that entry, "I do think the Salvation Army does much more good than harm. So, if the only way you would donate would be to drop your change into one of their kettles, then don't hold back! Most of your money will go to helping people, and it's better than doing nothing at all." I certainly wouldn't advocate hostility towards the group, but here's an example of a Christian who was none too happy with one of the bell ringers, Salvation Army bell ringer says 'Happy Holidays' led to assault. Yes, you read the headline correctly. The bell ringer was wishing people 'happy holidays', and was assaulted because of it. Here's how she put it.

"The lady looked at me," said Vindiola. "I thought she was going to put money in the kettle. She came up to me and said, 'Do you believe in God?' And she says, 'You're supposed to say Merry Christmas,' and that's when she hit me."

How petty and small minded can you get? Here's a person volunteering their own time to collect money for a Christian organization helping the poor, and another person is angered to the point of violence over their choice of wording in well wishing? It's absurd. And it's not even like saying 'happy holidays' is always (or even usually) a deliberate downplay of Christmas. I remember when it used to be the standard greeting on Christmas cards in lieu of wishing 'Merry Christmas and a happy New Year' simply because it was shorter. Or do these people hate New Year's so much that only Christmas should be mentioned in holiday greetings?

Granted, some people do say 'happy holidays' deliberately to avoid only Christmas wishes, because there are other holidays that people celebrate around this time of year. But that's meant to be more inclusive to those other people, not as some sort of hostility towards Christians. What type of person does it take to get upset at somebody extending good will towards a larger group of people?

It's kind of ugly, but here's a good chart I came across showing the proper response to different holiday greetings depending on the particular affiliation of the people involved.

Holiday wishes flow chart

If you can't read it, the appropriate response in every case is:

"Thank you! You too!"

...because honestly, if you can't see past the words of the wish to its good intent, then it's not the holiday well-wisher who's broken, it's you.

So, happy holidays to everyone out there who's celebrating some sort of holiday right around now. And if you're not celebrating anything, then just have a nice day.

Image Source: Imgur

Monday, December 9, 2013

War on Christmas 2013

Santa in the CrosshairsChristmas is only two weeks away, so it's time to ramp up my efforts in the War on Christmas. To tell the truth, the whole idea of the war is a bit silly, considering all the ways Christmas has been dealt with in this country's past, from the Puritans outlawing it, to some cities treating it "like a nightmarish cross between Halloween and a particularly violent, rowdy Mardi Gras" (see first link below). I've written a few blog entries on Christmas over the years, so I'll just provide links to those below. The first three are especially good for actually being informative.

My previous War on Christmas posts:

But I really do like Christmas. We've already put up the tree, decorated the front yard, and gotten most of the decorations up in the house, and we'll visit with family, excange presents, and celebrate on Christmas Day. We do pretty much all the normal traditions other than go to church. So, ignoring the 'war', here are a couple more Christmas posts.

My positive Christmas posts:

And as has become my annual tradition for this site, here is Tim Minchin singing his secular Christmas carol, White Wine In the Sun. And just in case you missed the link above, if you buy the song from iTunes this month, the proceeds will go to the National Autistic Society.


Related Links to Other Sites (the first is serious, the rest are humorous):

Monday, December 9, 2013

Buy White Wine in the Sun, Support Autism Society, Again

Cover Art - White Wine in the SunI have a tradition of posting Tim Minchin's song, White Wine in the Sun, every year around Christmas (I'll be posting it shortly this year). As described on Minchin's site, "This is a captivating song and a beautiful and intelligent exploration of why Christmas can still be meaningful even without religious beliefs. There's just the right amount of sentiment and some very gentle humour illustrating Tim's feelings about Christmas and the importance of family and home. It is a heart-warming song and may make you a little bright eyed."

Tim Minchin has his own tradition - donating all the proceeds from the sale of the song in the months of December and January to the National Autistic Society, a tradition that he's keeping this year. So if you don't already own it, go buy the song and help support a good cause.

More Info:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Exploration Day 2013

Moon PrintToday is traditionally celebrated as Columbus Day, but Columbus really was a horrible excuse for a human being. It's not just the myth about him proving the world was round, or lucking into finding a continent that nobody knew existed, but his horrible, horrible treatment of the natives and even the Spaniards in the first Spanish colony in the Americas.

The Oatmeal has a new webcomic explaining just how bad of a person Columbus was, in more detail than I've done and in a more entertaining way than I could do. I highly recommend going to read it:

The Oatmeal - Christopher Columbus was awful (but this other guy was not) Modified Portion of The Oatmeal's Christopher Columbus Comic

While the Oatmeal proposes changing the holiday to Bartolome Day, I prefer a proposal I read before, changing it to Exploration Day. I could simply link to that old entry, but if you're here already reading this, I'll save you the click. Below is an excerpt of the main portion of that old entry, Happy Exploration Day:

I've written briefly about Columbus a couple times before, Debunking a Columbus Myth and Columbus Day. There are a lot of misconceptions about Columbus and his role in history - misconceptions that are still being taught to my middle school daughter, by the way. In reality, he was a bit of a crank. The concept of the Earth being a globe had been known for thousands of years prior to Columbus. In fact, Eratosthenes had calculated the size of the earth to a very accurate degree back around 240 BC (or BCE). Why Columbus had such a hard time securing funding for his trip was that he was so far off in his estimate of the size of the Earth - 15,700 miles in circumference vs the true 25,000 miles. Educated people knew that in theory, you'd eventually end up in Asia by sailing west, but they didn't think any of the ships of the time would allow someone to carry enough supplies to complete the journey. And they were right. Had there not been two unknown continents, Columbus and his men would have starved to death. And Columbus never did figure out that he'd discovered a new continent. He went to his dying day thinking he'd found islands off the coast of Asia.

And if his technical incompetence weren't enough, Columbus was a pretty ruthless governor. To quote an article from The Guardian:

As governor and viceroy of the Indies, Columbus imposed iron discipline on the first Spanish colony in the Americas, in what is now the Caribbean country of Dominican Republic. Punishments included cutting off people's ears and noses, parading women naked through the streets and selling them into slavery.

His actions were so bad that he was arrested and taken back to Spain in shackles. He later received a pardon from the crown, but only after a new governor was put in charge of the colony.

Granted, Columbus was important historically. His unintended discovery of the New World set off a wave of European exploration that changed the course of history. But why do we have a holiday celebrating this tyrant who only lucked his way into the history books instead of starving at sea?

If what we truly want to celebrate on this day is the spirit of exploration, then why not just come out and make that the focus of the holiday? Make a day that honors those like Magellan, Lewis and Clark, Lindbergh, Armstrong and Aldrin, the Wrights, Amundsen, Hillary, Cousteau, the engineers behind the Mars rover. Make a day that honors all those that push the frontiers of our knowledge.

More Info:

I'll note that after I shared some of that information with my wife and daughter, we began using 'Christopher Columbus' as a profanity in place of a certain orifice that everybody has. e.g. Bill O'Reilly can be a bit of a Christopher Columbus when he starts yelling at his guests. I think that's the most appropriate way to remember his legacy.


Updated 2013-10-18: Okay, so it's a few days after Exploration Day, but reading back over this entry, I saw a couple things worth changing. I slightly reworded the paragraph explaining The Oatmeal's comic, and added an image of a portion of the comic (Photoshopped slightly).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

@%^$#!$ Steelers

SteelersI've never been a huge sports fan. I'm not oblivious to sports, but for the most part, I don't make it a point to watch them. I have gone through a few periods where I'll follow a particular sport for a little while, but none of those periods has lasted long term. When I was in middle school, it was hockey, back when Lindros was just getting started in Philly (when PRISM was still in business). Early in college it was English Premier League soccer - I actually recognized players. Later in college it was NFL football and college basketball, thanks to having roommates who were real sports fans. The college basketball thing was perfect timing, too - Maryland won the national championship the year after I graduated (and look where Juan Dixon is now). Once I moved down to Texas, my first year here I even hung out with a guy who got me to watch NASCAR. But once I got away from the influence of my old Maryland friends, I drifted away from watching sports. Of course, as a red-blooded American, I couldn't miss watching the Superbowl every year, and you can't avoid watching some sports, but I usually spent my time doing other things.

Well, last year, I actually started following football again. The problem is - I'm a Steelers fan. I was too young to watch them win their first four Superbowls during their dynasty years, so I always defended them as having the most Superbowl wins of any team, but never having seen them even make it to the big game. Finally, when I was in high school, they made it to Super Bowl XXX against the Cowboys, but they lost, and I've hated the Cowboys every day since. But then, once I'd moved to Texas, they actually went all the way and won Super Bowl XL, and then again just a few years later for XLIII. But, like I explained above, those were the years when I wasn't following football very closely. So last year, when I started actually paying attention and watching them every Sunday, they began to suck. After a decent start to the season, they lost 5 of their last 7 games, taking them out of the playoffs.

And now this season, it's even worse. They're 0-4 right now. It's their worst start since 1968. The best thing about their bye this week is that I don't have to watch them lose yet again.

Anway, I just read an article on ESPN.com that sums it up pretty well, Steelers fans need lessons in losing. Here's my favorite paragraph:

Abandon all hope: Let's be honest, with so much to celebrate over the years, you may have, on occasion, talked some trash or acted superior to your friends in Cleveland or Philadelphia. These people have been waiting for decades to rub this 0-4 start in your face. Don't you dare give them the pleasure. It's gonna sting a little, but the best tactic is to beat them to the punch by accepting, fully, what is happening to your Steelers. Basically, says Simons, you need to "Accept losing: If you can enter a Zen state in which you abandon all hope and really, really expect them to lose every game, you'll have a fun, happy season."

Well, I've gotten part of that last sentence. I do expect them to lose every game for the rest of the season. I just doubt that's going to make it fun and happy.

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