Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Start the Year Learning Something

It took quite a long time before 1 January again became the universal or standard start of the civil year. The years of adoption of 1 January as the new year are as follows -

Country Start year
Venice 1522
Sweden 1529
Holy Roman Empire (Germany) 1544
Spain, Portugal 1556
Prussia, Denmark and Norway 1559
France 1564
Southern Netherlands 1576
Lorraine 1579
Dutch Republic 1583
Scotland 1600
Russia 1700
Tuscany 1721
Britain and
British Empire
except Scotland 1752
Thailand 1941

March was the first day of the numbered year in the Republic of Venice until its destruction in 1797, and in Russia from 988 until 1492 (AM 7000). 1 September was used in Russia from 1492 until the adoption of the Christian era in 1700 via a December 1699 decree of Tsar Peter I (previously, Russia had counted years since the creation of the world—Anno Mundi).

Autumnal equinox day (usually 22 September) was "New Year's Day" in the French Republican Calendar, which was in use from 1793 to 1805. This was primidi Vendémiaire, the first day of the first month.
-From Wikipedia

Happy New Year to all my loyal readers (you know who you are)!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Escape From the Holiday Hullabaloo

Here is a nice site full of fun distractions:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Greeting for Those Who Can't Open the Email

A Southwestern Holiday greeting from the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden.

Best wishes for a Great Christmas and a Grand New Year.
Doug, Kim and Melanie MacEachern

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Attributes of Netflix

One really cool aspect of this movie service is you can create your own film festivals. We have been on a Mira Nair jag. Her movies are each wonderful little works of amazement. We just finished the Perez family and it was delightful. We have also seen Monsoon Wedding, Full Frame Documentary Shorts, Hysterical Blindness, Kama Sutra, A Tale of Love, Mississippi Masala and we have been pleasantly surprised by how each one is its own little jewel. She uses some recurring actors but there are some really famous people in these too that obviously enjoyed making these gems. Highly recommended.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008


The past few weeks have done nothing if not put on display the culture of greed that has been simmering in our nation for some time now. It has spread like a nefarious disease throughout our society, leaving no person untouched. Some would blame the free markets but I blame Wal Mart.

This sad state of our materialistic madness is epitomized by the trampling death of the temporary employee who drew the ill-fated lot to pull guard duty at gates of hell in the early morning of the aptly named black Friday 2008. But this just scratches the surface. People everywhere are debasing themselves in the oddest of ways, all in the name of money and stuff. Rather than save those pennies to fund education we are falling all over ourselves to grab the latest big screen and a fistful of DVD’s to put under our laser lit plastic Christmas tree. To what end?

Yet we decry the fact that major corporate CEO’s flew private jets to a meeting in Washington DC to beg for more money from the people who apparently have a limitless cache for acquiring landfill fodder at Walgreen’s and Big Lots (thus making the Chinese rich) but never have enough money for their medical bills or to pay the guy who maintains the streets they drive on to get to the store. And now the State of Arizona is getting on the greed bandwagon, erecting photo cash registers to rake in dough from folks who dare to drive faster than 11 miles an hour faster than the ADOT recommendation for speed on our highways, which is a number that has been tinkered with by politicians for years completely detaching it from any scientific method for determining what is truly a safe speed when everyone knows that traffic pretty much regulates itself. Nothing is what is seems and there are deep, less than obvious explanations for everything anyone ever says, does or knows. In short there are no clear standards for anything anymore.

Capitalism is the best system man has yet to come up with for managing our existence in the most efficient and fair way possible. So what has gone so wrong that we are all nestled in our reclining couch munching fast food staring blankly at the bailout news on our 52 inch screens in between episodes of CSI and glimpses of Brittany’s personal roller coaster ride (man, that is living!). I think it comes down to morality and personal responsibility.

In my view (and I think Adam Smith would agree) capitalism only works if the participants are morally upstanding individuals who impart their ethos to the issuing generations. The Founding Fathers understood this well. That is why they built in all those checks and balances. The most recent case in point seems almost trivial against the backdrop of the current economic chaos: Hillary cannot accept the job of Secretary of State at the current salary because she was in Congress when they voted to give that job a raise. In today’s world the symbolism of that provision has far greater power than its practical application, just as the symbolism of the flying Big Three brothers completely obliterated the practical and common sense implications of their decision to get in and get out as fast as possible. We all need reminding what is right thing to do from time to time. Indicting politicians is a pretty pathetic way to teach that lesson.

We need to pay attention to the right symbols and embrace them. That is what true leadership is about. Our capitalistic society is suffering from a lack of true guidance from the top. Everyone can justify their greed and rationalize it away. Bill Clinton blamed the dictionary; George Bush simply ignored the critics of his and Cheney’s double dipping, even John McCain had to go back to Vietnam to find something he was really proud of. Politics has wrung every last drop of virtuous sweat from the brows of the people and that mien is percolating through our culture more thoroughly than water through an espresso machine. We are doomed to failure at our own hand because it truly is “all about me” and because everyone is doing it that is the model our children learn.

It may be too late but there is a simple way to address this. Whenever I get depressed I climb my way out by doing something for someone else. If we could all spend a bit more time thinking about making things better for our fellow man instead of how we are going to get on Judge Judy and get paid for airing our dirty laundry in front of the nation rather than really solving our simple problems by working together we would not need to be doing these fake bailouts with the fake money that we are all faking is there in order to stave off the inevitable.

This holiday season be an example of goodness and light and give the greatest gift of all. If we all do it maybe it will trickle up to our leaders and then we will change the world.