Archive for December, 2009

Happy Sylvester!

December 31, 2009

Yes, Happy Sylvester.

January 1st is not the first day of the new year here in Israel.  In the Hebrew calendar the year begins on the 1st of Tishrei, which is in the fall.  So celebrating the beginning of a new year on December 31st is a definite no-no according to the religious powers-that-be, who go so far as to fine and/or remove licenses from establishments who host “New Year’s Eve” parties on this date.  The Israeli solution to this is simple.  We don’t call it New Years.  We call it Sylvester.  And Sylvester parties abound.

Why Sylvester?  People throughout Europe (except in England, I’ve found) refer to it as Sylvester as well.   I was always told by various Europeans that in Catholicism, each saint has a day on which s/he is remembered, and December 31st happened to be Saint Sylvester’s day.  The fact that no Catholic I’ve ever met knows about this saint is interesting, but irrelevant.  The name has stuck.

(I do wonder why celebrating the “Christian” calendar is a no-no but celebrating a Catholic saint’s day is OK, and indeed there are some rabbis who are beginning to make a fuss about Sylvester as well, but so far it’s worked, so ssshhhh.)

Israeli writer and columnist Daniel Rogov wrote this about it:

Americans and the English refer to the night of 31 December ‘New Year’s Eve’ but Europeans, Israelis and many others around the world refer to the celebration of the onset of the year as ‘Sylvester.’ Oddly enough, no one is quite sure just how this appellation came into use. In fact, no one is even quite certain just who Sylvester was.

Until recently, most scholars agreed that Sylvester was a Catholic saint. After that, however, all became confusion, some speculating that he was an obscure parish priest who attained sainthood primarily because he walked barefoot from Bordeaux to Jerusalem.  Others hypothesized that the Sylvester in question was the Roman-Catholic pope whose major claim to eternal fame is that he is said to have brought a dead bull back to life. Yet another school of thought has it that Sylvester was in fact an Italian monk, more famous for his seduction of local maidens than for his saintliness.

Those interested in such things will be delighted to know that there is a new hypothesis that may explain who Sylvester really was. In his recently published ‘France in the Middle Ages,’ historian Georges Duby speculates that the Sylvester in question might have been Peter Sylvester who was the bishop of Beauvais in 1431, when Joan of Arc was arrested in his city.

The reason that this particular Sylvester earned the love of most Frenchmen is that unlike most of his church colleagues, he did not believe that the young maid was acting under the influence of the devil. Although he did not accept Joan’s claim that she was  ‘following the direct orders of God,’  he did feel that she was  ‘a good Christian and a young woman of purity who lived according to the rules of the church and who had no evil in her.’  He concluded that there was no reason to bring her to trial.

Because his beliefs were not acceptable to those churchmen who wanted to try and execute Joan, Sylvester was arrested during the morning of December 31st. After being charged with idolatry, fornication and conversing with the Devil, the 82 year old bishop was placed in a cell and his former colleagues began to torture him in order to gain a confession. Several minutes before midnight, the bishop died. His last words were:  ‘The year ends and so do I.'”

Officially, of course, it is not a holiday.  Both December 31st and January 1st are regular workdays.  It hasn’t stopped people from holding Sylvester parties.  And the fact that this year it falls on Thursday night, and most people are off on Fridays, makes it much easier to “just happen to” have a party.

We’re not going to one of the “fashionable” huge parties.  We’re getting together with friends, lots of food and potent Swedish Glögg (courtesy of partner).  We’ll argue with kidlet about why she’s getting the non-alcoholic version of the glögg.  We’ll stay up to toast 2010…..um, I mean Sylvester.  Or maybe just each other.

So to my non-Israeli friends I wish you Happy New Year!  And to all my Israeli friends have a Happy Sylvester!  (And wherever you are, please travel safely.)

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The Facebook Phenomenon

December 30, 2009

What is it with this Facebook deal?  I started gathering some facts from sites around the web.

As of the beginning of December, there were 350 million users.  On average, 50% of its active users log on to Facebook everyday.   (I’m one of ‘em…)

More than 6 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide). That is twice as much as the time spent on Google.  There are more than 55 million status updates daily. (I haven’t yet found how many there are on Twitter, but probably more than that!)

More than 70 translations are available on the site and about 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States.

The fastest growing demographic is the 35 years and older age group.  In 2009 the 35-54 age group grew 276.4%, and the 55+ demo is not far behind with a 194.3% growth rate.  Many people from this demographic are using Facebook to connect with high school and college friends, stay in touch with children and grandchildren, and even begin to use it for some business networking purposes.  In every single age group, there are more women than men.

More than 45 million active user groups exist on the site currently. (I get so many invitations to join silly groups, I usually ignore ’em.  Some are pretty good, though.)  Everyday, more than 10 million users become fans of Pages.  There are more than 1.6 million active Pages on Facebook that have created more than 5.3 billion fans!  More than 3.5 million events are created each month.

Psychologists have introduced the diagnosis FAD (Facebook Addiction Disorder), as a new kind of addiction disorder.

An average user has 130 friends on Facebook.   I have more.  My “friends” can be sorted into different groups.  Family.  Friends I see regularly, and friends I have reconnected with from childhood, schools, etc. – this is the largest group.  I love getting back in touch with people with whom I was once close and catching up with their lives.  (At times it replaces phone conversations – all the updates and comments turn into chats among friends.  And there’s always  private chat, or messages.)  And I love seeing the photos!

People whose work I admire – authors, musicians, artists…I have more as “friends” than pages where I’m a fan, and I love reading their status updates regarding their books/concerts/whatever, and the interaction of comments.

And then my gaming friends.  In many of the games one needs friends/neighbours/house members/soldiers – in other words, more friends who play the game – in order to advance or to earn more points/coins/whatever or to gain an advantage.  So people in the games will request to become friends with others who play the same games.  It works out that if people regularly play one game, they usually play several, so one gains in all of the games.  Some of my gaming friends have become friends over time.  Of course, some of my friends and family also play some of the games.  And sometimes we form groups just to support each other in the games.

Inside Social Games publishes a list of the 25 most popular Facebook games each month.  In December 2009:

Of course, every time someone makes a new game, there are immediate copies.  FarmVille, FarmTown, (Lil)Farm Life, Fantasy Farm, and about 10 more based on the same premise.  Mafia Wars, Mob Wars, Mobsters, etc.  Castle Age, Age of Castles, Age of Chivalry, etc.  Some people like playing them all.  It gets way too repetitive for me.  I actually started out with FarmTown, and spent entirely too much time there…then more of my friends were playing Farmville, so I “built” a farm there too.  Now I rarely play FarmTown.  A lot of the games I try out, and then don’t bother to continue.  Some I play for a while, then stop. Friends constantly invite me to try new games.  Some I check out, some I don’t.  It’s a matter of time as well.

My daily/almost daily games?  Of the top 25:  Farmville, Yoville,  Happy Aquarium, Bejeweled Blitz (yikes, that’s addictive), Farkle, (FarmTown).  Not in the top 25:  School of Magic, Castle Age, an occasional game of Bingo.  A few more I play every now and then, usually when someone sends me something.  Kidlet also plays Farmville and Aquarium, so that it’s common to hear her yell from her room something like “Hey, Mom, I need a cow, send me one!”

It’s pretty funny when kidlet posts something to her friends, then when I respond goes “oops”, because she forgot that I can see it.  But that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

In any case, social networks like Facebook (Twitter, MySpace, eons, and more focused networks like Ravelry, LibraryThing, Steepster, etc etc etc) are changing culture and society.  How, and to what extent, is being studied and analyzed, and probably will be for a very long time.  I know people who on principle refuse to join.  Partner joined Facebook then closed her account.  It’s no longer a generational thing, as seen by the changing demographics.  How pervasive it is in our lives reflects a shift in how we as people interact.  I find it fascinating.

I have to go harvest my crops now…..

If ya can’t beat us, join us!

December 29, 2009

I’m very proud.

In September we greeted a new “nephew” in the family,  partner’s brother and his wife brought home a beautiful little furry addition to the clan. This is Peki (and kidlet).

Peki is a bright, friendly little fellow who loves visitors and playing.  His favourite toy is, of all things, a stuffed mouse.

Partner felt that Peki was so little, winter could be cold for him, and so she decided that she would knit Peki a sweater!  She hasn’t knit anything in something like 30 years.  But she embraced this new project, and wanted to get right to it.  I went through my mystery stash – a trash-bag size of yarn that someone at work gave me after his wife passed away, huge balls of untagged, unidentified, mostly acrylic yarn of various colours – and chose some yarn, got the required needles, and downloaded the easy dog sweater pattern from Talking Tails.  Partner got to work, and did it all, from casting on to sewing up, all the skills from memory.  Knitting is something that never leaves you!

Peki wore his new sweater for the first time this week, and it seems that in his doggy-walk world he was a sensation!

(Now hopefully we’ll see what project partner will tackle next……)

Knitters take over the world, news at 11.

When the lights (and the computer) go out…

December 28, 2009

Well, I was blogging the other day about dependence on appliances.  Yesterday I got an even bigger jolt about our dependence.  The electricity went out.  At work.  I was in the middle of drafting a report for my boss.  Luckily I had been saving throughout – I heard a fellow down the hall let out a yell about an entire morning’s work just having disappeared.  So I sat in my dark office to see if the lights would flick back on.  When they hadn’t in a couple of minutes I ran to the kitchenette and made a fresh cuppa tea while the water in the kettle was still hot.  (We all have our priorities.)

We learned that the power was out not only at our plant, but in most of the town and the surrounding villages.  Power company told us they were doing everything possible to get the power back up, but they couldn’t give us a time frame.  So.  I looked at my list of tasks and tried to figure out what I could do.

  • Status report.  Need the computer, it’s a google doc.
  • 2 documents to translate.  They’re in the computer, I don’t have hard copies.
  • Several meetings to set or move.  Calendar’s in the computer.
  • Catch up on documentation.  See translations.
  • Summarize orders and expense reports.  Ditto.
  • HR approvals to summarize for boss.  Online.
  • Edit, print and bind 2 presentations for customers.  No computer or printer.
  • Fill out and send travel requests to main office.  Nope.
  • Prepare notices for all departments (standardized form).  Need computer, printer, and laminator.  Nope.
  • Fax hotel reservations / receive confirmations.   No fax.  And they require something in writing for our business discount, so phoning won’t do it.
  • Charge my cell phone.  Nope.
  • Scan letters of invitation and send to China.  Nope and nope.

Meanwhile, it’s still dark and starting to get colder.  Obviously, no heating system.  At least I have an outside window for a little light, many don’t.  I also have some decorative candles, which I offer to colleagues in darker offices.

I made a few phone calls, sorted the mail, and then started to organize my filing cabinets.  (Couldn’t make new labels, the template’s in the computer, but I could at least start getting things in order.)

We decided to go to lunch early.  The dining room is the only place in the plant with a generator, so the room was light and warm and the food was hot – very important.  Tried to stretch the half hour…

In all, we were without power for a couple of hours.  Not too bad.  But very frustrating.  Does it say something about us that everything we do is somehow connected to a source of power outside our control?  We have become so accustomed to the ease of electronically charting our day we become paralyzed without access.  On the other hand, I don’t want to forego that ease and go back to the way it once was.  I don’t want to be again buried under paper – bad for the environment and bad for my clutter threshold (at least at work….home clutter is another matter….ahem).

I need to ask my boss for a laptop with a battery….chances are slim to none that I’ll get one, but I can try.

Out of Order?

December 27, 2009

Something is odd with my blog account – recording visits and accepting comments – everything is being marked as spam and being thrown out without my seeing it. So apologies to anyone who has commented in the past couple of days , and I’m trying to check things out…

F.C. Day

December 26, 2009

A.  Frustrating Cushion / Frogged Cover

Partner wanted me to knit a cover for a cushion she uses for her back.  I bought the yarn this week, and tonight I started…well, tonight was my first attempt.

The cushion is a totally weird shape.  It slopes in and bulges out in different directions in different places.  I tried the magic loop cast on tonight, in the hope that I can fit and shape over the top of the cushion like a sock and then continue in the round, increasing and decreasing to match the shape.  That didn’t work, I frogged after about 20 rows – the shaping wasn’t working.  First I frogged back just a few rows and tried adding stitches in some places and decreasing in others, but nope.

Tomorrow I’ll try with a provisional cast on, shape in each direction over the top and then join to knit in the round.  If that doesn’t work I’ll have to come up with something else, so let’s hope it works.

Grrr.

B.  Frantic Cat

We have a large paper lamp shade in the living room.  You know the kind – metal frame in the middle from top to bottom, and round bamboo frame covered with paper.

Well, yesterday I had to change the light bulb, and when I did I saw that the shade had a small tear, so I took it down intending to either fix it or replace it.  In the meantime I left it on the table.  This evening the cat got curious about this odd new toy, managed to get herself halfway inside, then was seized by panic and tried to run.  The wire loop at the bottom of the lamp wedged around her middle, and as she ran the bamboo frame tore off and unwound in a long spiral behind her across the floor and out of the room as she tried to escape.  Terrified kitteh.  She couldn’t get loose, and wouldn’t let anyone near her.  I finally managed to get ahold of her under the dining room table, but the wire frame was really stuck tight, and we couldn’t get it up or down.  Kidlet held her – trying to avoid the claws and teeth and spitting – while I ran and got the wire cutters.  A few snips, a little wire bending,  and kitteh was free.  Poor Nike.  Lampshade now totally destroyed, along with the cat’s nerves. 

Nike got a little extra treat for dinner.  And hopefully she will leave future lampshades alone.  And I shouldn’t leave such interesting things so accessable.      *sigh*

Shabbat shalom.

It’s official – I’m older than dirt

December 25, 2009

Last night my friend Ayelet and I were coming up with things that made us feel old.  Especially things that younger people say…

Later I recalled taking a quiz once about things you can remember that show your age…took a little digging, but here it is:

Older Than Dirt Quiz

     Count all the ones that you remember- not the ones you were told about!

  •  
    • Blackjack chewing gum
    • Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water
    • Candy cigarettes
    • Soda pop machines that dispensed bottles
    • Coffee shops with tableside jukeboxes
    • Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers
    • Party lines
    • Newsreels before the movie
    • P.F. Flyers
    • Butch wax
    • Telephone numbers with a word prefix (Olive – 6933)
    • Peashooters
    • Howdy Doody
    • 45 RPM records
    • S&H Green Stamps
    • Hi-fi’s
    • Metal ice trays with lever
    • Mimeograph paper
    • Blue flashbulb
    • Packards
    • Roller skate keys
    • Cork popguns
    • Drive-ins
    • Studebakers
    • Wash tub wringers
    • Using hand signals for cars without turn signals
    • Pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards

 

Scoring:

If you remembered 0-5 = You’re still young

If you remembered 6-10 = You are getting older

If you remembered 11-15 = Don’t tell your age

If you remembered 16-25 = You’re older than dirt!

               (My score was 22, by the way….how did you do?)

Energy pit stop

December 23, 2009

My Stitch-n-Bitch group met tonight.  We hadn’t met for a couple of weeks, too many were under the weather and/or crazy busy.  How I missed it!  Only a couple of weeks, and we’re in constant touch online or by phone, and yet it was so good to sit and drink (and eat a bit) and show new yarns and admire works in progress and recently finished objects and share new ideas for projects…and most of all sit and knit.  Other café patrons admired our projects.  We talk about knitting, and only when the needles are going strong do we move on to discuss other subjects.  Lives.  Jobs.  Kids.  Significant others.  Politics.  The State of the World. 

But we always circle back to knitting.  Someone got a shipment of new yarn.  Oohs and aahs, and everyone has to stroke it.   There’s a new book or knitting blog to read.  Someone heard of a new kind of yarn.  I get to show off some of my swap goodies.  Someone found an interesting new group on Ravelry, or needs to vent about a post in a forum.  One of the local yarn shops has some new merchandise, or a sale.  And back to general subjects.  And on it  goes.

We’re tired after a long day working, we all have homes to take care of, some of us have kids.  But just for the evening we enjoy each others’ company and get some knitting done as well.  Just what the doctor ordered.  (Well, if she didn’t, she should have.)

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee:

Knitting is good for you.  Among a multitude of other benefits, it lowers blood pressure, helps teach you to relax, and decreases the stress hormones that can make you sick and aggravate illness.  So far, however, I haven’t been able to get  my doctor to write me a prescription for yarn.

Add the social factor to the mix, and it’s a power to be reckoned with.  Everyone needs a SnB in their life.

Daily dose of “Awwwww”

December 23, 2009

Ordered our 2010 calendars today.  OK, so I’m running a bit late this year.  For my desk, I’m sticking with my choice from last year, the Cute Overload Page-a-Day Calendar, advertised as 365 days of impossibly cute photos.  I did consider getting lolcats this time, but decided no.   (My Never-Not-Knitting calendar is going in my room by my workspace…)

For the central wall calendar, I like the family calendars, so we can see what everyone’s doing.  I ordered the Mom’s Family Calendar this year again.

Partner she said she didn’t want the Cute Overload calendar again  – although she loves the dogs and cats, she says there are too many pictures of  rodents for her taste.  That’s ok, she’s basically a dog person who also appreciates cats occasionally.  Kidlet and I are any-animal people.  So partner’s getting the 365 Puppies-A-Year calendar.

Kidlet hasn’t yet decided which she wants this year, so she’ll wait.  If I find an emo kitten calendar for her I can stop looking…

The  calendar isn’t my only daily “aww”.  I check out the Cute Overload site every day, as well as I Can Has Cheezburger?, the Daily Puppy, and the Daily Squee. A good critter-inspired “aww” or “squee” usually makes the day all right.  Then, of course, I move on to my favourite knitting, mystery, tea and miscellaneous sites and blogs.

And speaking of wee beasties, every year around  this time I sign up for 12 donations (one per month) to the local animal protection organisation, Let the Animals Live.   Renewed my donation today.

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ~ Anatole France

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. ~ Mohandas Gandhi

Lots of people talk to animals…. Not very many listen, though…. That’s the problem. ~ Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.  ~ Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I don’t believe in the concept of hell, but if I did I would think of it as filled with people who were cruel to animals. ~ Gary Larson

I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being. ~ Abraham Lincoln

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. ~ St. Francis of Assisi

The Animals of the planet are in desperate peril. Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen. ~ Alice Walker

Appliances, or What is this dependency?

December 21, 2009

I looked at dishwashers at the mall yesterday.  The little countertop ones, since my landlord won’t finance major kitchen changes, and I won’t pay for something I can’t take with me when I leave.  I know it’s a luxury, but washing dishes is my all-time-most-hated chore, and any contraption that will aid me in doing it would be a blessing.  The little one should be fine, we aren’t a big family, and we eat two meals out…..so that leaves dinner stuff and other meals on weekends.

Unfortunately, such a purchase isn’t at the top of the priority list.  As of last week, first priority became a heater.  The landlord refuses to pay for central heat/air conditioning.  (This is actually more of a problem in the summer heat, but we manage with fans.)  I have an electric radiator type in the living room, and little space heaters in a couple of other rooms.  Last week one of the switches broke off the radiator.  Broke clean off, at a point somewhere inside, no way to jam it back on.  I tried.  :/     So all we can get now is the lowest setting.  Isn’t much.  And the winter is finally beginning in earnest.  We’re lucky to not have the type of winter many are suffering around the world.  (Last time I remember it snowing at my house here was about 20 years ago.  And it melted when it hit the ground.  Of course, then I lived at the bottom of the mountain, and now I live on the top, which gets snow a little more frequently, like every 5 years or so.  It’s always fun, snow falls and the whole country comes to a screeching halt.)  Still, even without being extreme, winters can get cold.  And we’re sitting around with blankets until I go get a new heater.

The stove/oven hasn’t been working right for a while either.  The oven doesn’t turn off, only when I unplug it.  So the whole thing is being used as an extra table, while I use electric burners, a toaster oven and a microwave as needed.   It’s sufficient, so I haven’t felt the urgent need to go out and buy something new.

The washing machine is still going strong (touch wood), despite having a big crack across the top of it.  And the fridge – the last big purchase – is still newish.

We are so dependent on things.  (I’m not even talking about TVs, computers, and other electronic toys,  which can perhaps be classified as addictions, which is a different level of dependency.)  But the basics.  Food storage and preparation.  Caring for clothing.  Heat.  Communication – cordless telephones, anyone?   There seems to be some kind of domino effect with all these things, when one falls, the others begin to as well.  And they’re never something you plan for,  although I suppose one should.   Why can’t it be that we budget for maybe one major appliance purchase per year, or per two years or five, something reasonable?

It wasn’t really all that long ago that people did without the gadgets, using simpler means.  But we bow to the gods of progress, time-saving, keeping up with the trends…and consumerism thrives.  I confess!! I’m a gadget-loving person!  I love doohickeys with multiple functions.  They are my grown-up toys.  (As opposed to “adult” toys,  I’m not talking about those…  Honestly.)

I’m not even going to mention really wanting a car.  Ever since a drunk driver totaled my car going through a red light I’ve been without.  (The guy at the garage looked it over and finally said “Lady, there’s nothing to fix.”)  I’m thankful to have left the hospital on my own two feet.  Couldn’t get much from the insurance.  So…no wheels.

Harumph…..now the dishwasher seems like a luxury even more.

But … I still want one.