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Archive for December 2008

Happy New Year

To all who come through the doorway of our Virtual Ballroom:

May peace, happiness, prosperity, and all good things sprinkle your lives every day, every hour, every minute.  Here’s to 2009!


Upon understanding a cow’s point of view…

Good morning, everyone…

Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you have milked a milk cow by hand? Although it probably puts me in the category of being older than dirt, I lost track of the number of dairy cattle I milked by hand. Although we had the most modern electric milking machines available at the time, when the power went out I still had to resort to hand milking many a time.

Funny thing, but you can learn a lot from milking Guernsey cattle. If you cannot tell by the decrease in milk hitting the pail when the cow is milked dry, the cow will always let you know, typically by stamping her hooves, deliberately bumping into you to show her displeasure or, when all else fails, kicking you a smart one in the shins. Being bovine does not always imply stupidity.

As many of you have expressed your thoughts yesterday morning regarding the War in Gaza, there comes a time when, despite all of our efforts to milk this war between Gaza and Israel, the cow is simply milked dry. All anyone is going to do by persisting in attempting to work toward peace with these two nations is make the cow mad. Maybe if we are really persistent, we might get involved in the conflict, maybe even a smart kick in the shins for all our persistence.

Of course, I could be wrong, but on the other hand, this could be an utter disaster.


Quote of the Day — December 31, 2008

We who are of mature age seldom suspect how unmercifully and yet with what insight the very young judge us. W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965) The Razor’s Edge, 1943

How they remove snow elsewhere…

Good morning, Netizens…

Here is a nifty way to quickly avoid those pesky snow berms.


Horsey on WAMU

Good morning, Netizens…

It’s cold outside and snowing again but the incredible fiasco surrounding Washington Mutual still has not died down. Perhaps today’s cartoon from David Horsey may help everyone understand why and how this came to happen.


Cars of the future you may not see…

Good morning, Netizens…

Meanwhile on the lighter side of life, a little satire…

According to the AP news wire, you can sit back, relax and let your car parallel park itself — without a single scratch or ding to your bumper.

That’s what Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday about its new self-parking technology, which it announced will debut as an option on the 2010 Lincoln MKS sedan and the new seven-passenger Lincoln MKT luxury crossover vehicle. The technology uses ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle, combined with electric power steering to angle and guide it into a snug parking space — all with the push of a button. That is if they survive the economic downturn.

I have a few ideas of better uses of automotive technology that could be used before 2010 and would be quite indigenous to Spokane. For example:

The Leaping Lincoln: This specially-equipped model comes standard with extra-heavy duty electronically-controlled coil springs designed with Spokane’s wintry weather in mind. One push of the little red button on the dashboard and this sumptuous luxury model can leap even the tallest snow berm with ease. According to the engineers proclamations, such technology could even be put to use in the other seasons of the year, such as jumping potholes, for one example. On the downside, pretty soon you would have cars jumping all over the place with resulting mayhem akin to one of our City Council meetings.

The Cad-track Cadillac: Not to be outdone by Ford Motor Company, GM has already began talking up its latest Cadillac SUV, titled “The Cad-Track”, which if you can believe what you read, comes equipped with bulldozer-like tracks in lieu of the front tires. For those who demand the utmost in performance from their $160,000-plus automobiles, when driving conditions get really bad, there is even a pair of optional skis for the rear tires that automatically deploy with the push of a button. You’ll never be late for work again because of deep snow. Leaping Lincolns and Cadillacs with tracks? What other madness could be bring to Spokane?

The Raspberry Chrysler, of course: For the gadget person in us all, this gadget-based Chrysler mid-sized sedan comes with all kinds of options. My personal favorite is a specially-designed computer which, among other things, detects red light cameras. If you happen to slide through a red light a bit late, it will automatically rotate your license plate to show a witty slogan or defiant saying, thus flipping the bird to the cameras. However, the finest in my opinion is the external speakers which can be programmed to sound loud raspberries whenever you drive by one of your favorite buildings or places. That would be fitting for City Hall, wouldn’t it?

If I, attired only in my new bathrobe, can come up with such discredited ideas before breakfast, I am reasonably certain others may already have devised the car of the future. Have you? Share the wealth.


Relief ship rammed by Israelis


(In strictest-keeping with my desire to show the latest and most-accurate depictions of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, I am including this press release which tells of Israeli gunships firing upon an unarmed ship purportedly in international waters on a mission of mercy.DL)

(Larnaca, Cyprus, 10:00 am) On Tuesday, December 30, at 5 a.m., several Israeli gunboats intercepted the Dignity as she was heading on a mission of mercy to Gaza. One gunboat rammed into the boat on the port bow side, heavily damaging her. The reports from the passengers and journalists on board is that she is taking on water and appears to have engine problems. When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza.

The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza.

As the boat limps toward Lebanon, passengers have been in contact with the Lebanese government who have said the captain has permission to dock and are willing lend assistance if needed. Cyprus sea rescue has also been in touch, and has offered assistance as well. The Dignity clearly flies the flag of Gibraltar, is piloted by an English captain and has a passenger manifest that includes Representative Cynthia McKinney from the U.S. The attack was filmed by the journalists, and the crew and passengers will report on Israel’s crime at sea once they arrive in Lebanon.

On board the boat are doctors traveling to this impoverished slice of the Mediterranean to provide badly-needed relief at the hospitals there. The crew and passengers were also hoping to take wounded out for treatment, since the hospitals are not coping. In addition, the Dignity was carrying 3 tons of medical supplies at the request of the doctors in Gaza.

The three physicans on board who were sailing to Gaza are: Dr. Halpin (UK), an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, medical professor, and ship’s captain. He has organized humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza on several occasions with the Dove and Dolphin. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics. Dr. Mohamed Issa (Germany), a pediatric surgeon from Germany is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics. Dr. Elena Theoharous (Cyprus), MP Dr. Theoharous is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.

Yet Israel thumbs its nose in the face of maritime law by attacking a human rights boat in international waters and has put all of these human rights observers at risk. At no time was the Dignity ever close to Israeli waters. They clearly identified themselves and the Israeli attack was willful and criminal.

The Dignity is still in international waters, 40 miles off Haifa. Everybody on board is safe at the moment as the boat slowly makes its way to safety in Lebanon.

(Portions of this message verified through multiple independent news services)


The lighter side of yesterday…

Good morning, Netizens…

After well over two weeks of near-desperation caused by record-breaking snowfalls mixed with equal amounts of administrative ineptitude in City Hall, I feel obligated to find at least a tiny spot of levity in this entire situation. I admit when I look outside, with a series of six foot deep snow berms caused by the plows and graders, the streets covered with a dense packed snow atop ice and still no end in sight to winter’s depredation, it is difficult to find something funny, or even remotely humorous about life in Spokane these days.

Perhaps the most-enduring funny moment did not take place either in City Hall or even outside, but on two of our three local TV stations yesterday during the height of the storm. Despite the fact at that time we had already seen over five inches of new-fallen snow, with two inches per hour falling from the sky, I was startled when two of our “experienced TV meteorologists” stood deadpan before the cameras and made the prediction that we would get four inches or less of snow from the storm. They persevered with this forecast through the news at noon, and nobody apparently thought to look outside, much less the NEXRAD radar. For what it’s worth, we received nearly 12 inches of snow, followed by a nifty sleet storm, in North Spokane, but nary a snow plow was seen. Now that’s not funny, I know.

Another humorous moment fell on my ears when a real rah-rah supporter of Mayor Mary Verner, who was present during the city’s press conference yesterday, was heard to opine that Queen Mary would probably be yet another in a long string of one-term mayors if the snow keeps falling. I have absolutely no idea where our beloved Mayor came up with the idea of plowing only a handful of streets, but it did demonstrate that City Hall is dangerously out-of-touch with where the taxpayers live in Spokane. What made it humorous is how all three TV stations bought the story, hook, line and sinker that plowing a handful of streets, rather than all major thoroughfares, was a good idea.

I’ve heard a few fundamentally good ideas of how Spokane could improve its snow removal operations over the last few days. One was particularly good, of using giant snow-throwers similar in function to those smaller units we have used with such good effect on our sidewalks and parking spots, combined with a series of trucks to haul the snow away to various dump sites. I’ve seen this work before, in bigger cities in the Snow Belt. It does away with those ridiculous berms thus restoring some semblance of sanity to our lives. When someone asked an associate what to do with truck loads of snow, he immediately responded with, “Dump it anywhere but on my street.”

The not-in-my-back-yard philosophy never seemed quite so applicable before.

Another reader’s question that bears some introspection was how many babies will be born next August due to families being snowbound this winter? While I’ll submit that is a very interesting question, our Virtual Statistician who normally tracks such things is busy with other affairs, such as trying to locate his automobile that disappeared in a Manito Park snow berm shortly after the previous storm.

How many snow plows and road graders in the private sector made their payments on time this winter?



Quote of the Day — December 30, 2008

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Martin Luther King Jr.(1929 - 1968)


Good morning, Netizens…

This radar image doesn’t really do the job of describing 2 inches an hour of snow falling justice, does it?

This morning’s commute will be a nightmare again. Those who are still waiting on the snow plows to arrive will wait longer; those who have already dug out the berms after the road graders marched through get to start the cycle all over again!

This truly SUX!


The Kings of the Earth Rise Up…

Good morning, Netizens…

“The Kings of the Earth rise up, and the rulers take council together…”  Handel’s Messiah

The news from the Gaza Strip, like nearly every war that is actively being fought around the world, keeps getting worse and worse. According to AP, at least 315 are dead and 1400 wounded, as the Hamas-led Palestinians lobbed at least forty missiles into Israel, and Israel retaliated with their superior bombs, missiles and now Israeli tanks are massing at the borders between the two warring countries.

As in many similar wars, the forces of Mother Nature may come to play a minor fugue or two, as today the weather forecast in the Middle East is for rain, which according to several military authorities, would impair the Israeli air force’s ability to operate over Gaza and could pave the way for Hamas to escalate the rocket fire into Israel. The non-stop bombing of Gaza, officials said, made it difficult for Hamas to set up and fire the launchers.

The battle rages onward unabated.

What truly is both frightening and somewhat predictable is that while the entire world sits ensconced firmly upon their opinions watching the bloodshed and filing diplomatic protestations, it is entirely possible that others in the Islamic world are taking advantage of the situation to continue developing atomic weapons. After all, when everyone is distracted by open warfare and bloodshed, what better time is there to develop better weapons for mass destruction? It is a macabre world that defines progress as being able to develop better weapons to kill people, but it does seem to be the world we live in, does it not?

Of course, never one to sit on the sidelines, Iran is eagerly feeding the flames of the war between Hamas-controlled Gaze and Israel. That, too, works to their advantage, so long as they do not get their hands dirty enough that later on, they can say unequivocally they had nothing to do with the war in Gaza, and thus perhaps sell that party line to Obama as he takes office in January.

What do you believe will be the outcome of the war in Gaza? Do you want peace in the Middle East?


Quote of the Day — December 29, 2008

The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900), Ecce Homo, Foreword

If it weren’t messy enough…

Good morning, Netizens…

If it weren’t truly mad enough with over 40 inches of snow on the flat, snow berms the sizes of Volkswagen beetles on every street corner and ridiculous emergency declarations that the City, County and State have issued that really do nothing to resolve the ugly mess we’re in, now we have RAIN.

The wooly gray skies shortly after dawn this morning made no promises that we would see sunshine anytime today, either. Rather, we are facing winter storm watches and hazardous weather alerts throughout most of the day, with rain, snow and rain mixed with snow for most of this coming week.

Of course, muttering dire imprecations about the current weather will accomplish nothing at all, but remind us how messy this all is. However, if we wish for warm, balmy weather, then we will have a really big mess when this all melts down and then we have flood warnings.

Shouldn’t we be happy and content with our snow berms or should we hope for flooding?

On the optimistic side, we can actually see bare pavement on our street after the grader came by yesterday with its blade firmly on the ground. Ordinary cars, not just big four-wheel-drive pickups, are moving once again, hence we can hope that what passes for normal commerce in this plebian town will resume sometime soon.

But try and buy a snow-blower, a snow shovel, rock salt or other devices for snow removal. They delivered 16 new snow blowers to a nearby hardware store yesterday morning just after opening, and by 10:00 AM they were sold out again.

Fortunately we had several snow blowers working on our intersection. Today we have rain. Tomorrow we may have ice again, but for a time, we have exhilaration.



I have such good intentions

Making New Year’s Resolutions

Why is it that my ambitions

Fall short of absolution

The reason’s I hate 2008 a Little

The reason(s) I am really looking forward to a New Year and all these reasons happened on Fifteen Days before 2009:

  • Wednesday - Fifteen days before New Year’s it snowed two feet; an hour and a half to get home
  • Thursday - Snowed another foot; first “snow day” from work
  • Friday - Second “snow” day; screen door sealed shut from two inches of ice on other side; after slipping hot water through door sill and then tossing out rock salt, finally slipped through with coal shovel and pounded on remaining ice; ceiling leaked in living room, soaking and sopping the dry wall until it fell in white chalky gooey globs onto the carpet; climbed up to roof, shoveled and pounded ice
  • Saturday - Shoveled and shoveled and snow blowed four hours; water leaking at corner of living room ceiling, sending rivulets down behind plate glass mirror; repeat “up on the rooftop”; renter next door called to say furnace was not working; called repairman who said he would get there later (five hours later at 7:30); time and a half, $500 repair; 11:30 out on roof again because center of living room ceiling is dripping (eventually a gallon before finished shoveling
  • Sunday - Screen door sealed shut again; same routine as before.
  • Monday - First day of two-week vacation. Uncovered cars (again) of new foot of snow; shoveled and snow blowed the parking area, the neighbor’s parking area, the mail boxes, the paper boxes (another four hours). Haven’t seen mail since Wednesday; paper arrives every other day
  • Tuesday - Got my one and only Christmas card; back on the roof to shovel because of dripping in the middle of the living room ceiling; furnace next door went out again; picked up small part for furnace;
  • Wednesday - Christmas Eve – 20 minutes after putting the pies in the oven, the power went out for the entire neighborhood of 2100 houses; discovered the power supply for computer had been fried by the power outage; snowed four inches; plows came by at 11:30 at night and plowed me in.
  • Thursday - Getting ready for Christmas dinner at son’s; at noon, center of ceiling pouring water like turning on a faucet; spent next hour on ceiling shoveling, pounding, jumping up and down, spreading rock salt; got stuck on berm created the night before; shoveled; became point man for hubby to barrel out of parking spot; point man again half a mile later to get over berm created along Park – looked both ways and said “gun it!” and miraculously made it to clearer passage way of Park.
  • Friday - New leak on east side of house, back on roof for another hour, shoveling and scraping and taking up asphalt, generally really tired of this; head for Eager Beaver on Evergreen to fix computer; do the gunning of Park again; very heavy, very slow traffic
  • Saturday - Snowed another four inches; snow blowing walkway working out to parking area. Gee – a whole day without the ceiling leaking somewhere.
  • Sunday -
  • Monday -
  • Tuesday -
  • Wednesday -

Thursday - New Year’s Day – and hopefully this is a sign that 2009 will be a whole lot better than 2008.  ~ JeanieSpokane

War breaks out between Israel and Gaza

Good morning, Netizens…

Reuters reports that more than 155 people have been killed in the Gaza Strait this morning as Israel, responding to rocket attacks on Israeli soil, began bombing the Hamas-controlled region south of Israel. Israeli warplanes and combat helicopters began the attacks on what it termed were “terrorist infrastructure” after previous days of rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Israeli air campaign was “criminal” and called for the international community to intervene.

The air strikes followed a decision by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet to take reprisal for cross-border Palestinian rocket attacks following the collapse of a six-month-old, Egyptian-brokered ceasefire a week ago.

Asked if an escalation of the assault could include targeted strikes against Hamas leaders, army spokeswoman Avital Leibovitch said: “Anything belonging to Hamas could be a target. You can interpret that as you like.”

While the majority of the world leadership called for an immediate ceasefire, the White House appeared to put the blame on Hamas, stating “Hamas’ continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop,”


Feast or Famine…

Good morning, Netizens…

It is either feast or famine in the City of Spokane snow removal operation, if experiences this morning are to be given any credibility. After the first body-slam of snow one week ago last Thursday, it took four days before we saw a single snowplow coming rumbling down our street, and then it did a desultory, half-hearted job at that. The City of Spokane’s pretty color-coordinated map located at never gave us a clue when the plows would be arriving, hence we could not be prepared and have our vehicles moved off the street.

However, at approximately 2:30 this morning, as if to make up for perceived lack of attention, two city plows came rumbling by the house a total of five times between 1 and 3 AM with their blades scraping the accumulated ice and snow off the street and piling it neatly beside the street. Of course, this created yet another big snow berm that will need to be dealt with before anyone goes to work today.

Unfortunately for some, two of our household will be working straight through the weekend, making up for the three work days they lost during the previous storm. Equally unfortunate, the weather forecast is now for rain mixed with snow or vice-versa, which promises an icy mix guaranteed to to delight drivers throughout the city.

At least now with temperatures hovering near 30 degrees at a quarter to four in the morning, the de-icer may function as it should, and perhaps city intersections will be better than they were when temperatures were hovering near zero.

Have your streets been plowed?


Christmas Day Reverie…

Good morning, Netizens…

A Reverie on Christmas Day…

I had no great aspirations as I floundered through the snow on Christmas Day, save to buy some cigarettes at my neighborhood Mini-Mart and to give the employees there a brief Christmas hug, for they are as much family as my own; we know them each by name, the names of their spouses and children. As fate would have it, having given my abrazos to each, and many Merry Christmases later, as I was about to leave for home, I encountered a person who gave me considerable pause on Christmas Day in the snow.

A woman, gaunt and even a bit haggard, was standing at the corner of the building, deliberately out-of-sight of the store employees inside. She had tears streaming down her face, and was huddled against the building as if seeking comfort from its gray glass-and-stone wrapper. Her clothing spoke plain sentences about destitution, her eyes hollow and devoid of anything save grief which wracked her skinny out-of-luck body. Almost immediately I recognized her, although she is now in worse shape than when I saw her last.

Quote of the Day — December 26, 2008

Electricity is actually made up of extremely tiny particles called electrons, that you cannot see with the naked eye unless you have been drinking. Dave Barry (1947 - )”The Taming of the Screw”

Hope Springs Eternal on Christmas Day…

Good morning, Netizens…

It is nearly 6:30 AM on Christmas Day, and despite the fact that few, if any, people will be dropping by the Virtual Ballroom this morning for their daily regimen of a cup of Virtual Espresso, after the events of the previous 24 hours in the “real world”, I felt now more than ever I needed a cup of something authoritative enough to dispel any remaining pre-Christmas snowstorm, power outage, slipping and sliding through the courses blues and put myself in the proper mindset of rejoicing.

The hardest part of it was navigating the waist-deep snow piled in incongruous piles everywhere there was room for piles, not to mention driving by car down snow-filled streets, but the minute I stepped onto the sidewalk leading to the Virtual Ballroom, the snow simply ceased to be a factor, as some thoughtful persons had removed every shred of the dreaded white stuff from the sidewalk, piling it over where magnolias bloomed last summer.

Stomping my feet free of snow, I stepped inside the doorway and was not terribly surprised, for the Virtual Ballroom, like the grand old lady that she is, was festooned with twinkling lights, magical icicles hanging from the rafters and a huge Christmas tree in the middle of the dance floor with presents for everyone clustered beneath the tree. Tiny elves flitted and flew around the room and a host of ghosts stood quietly singing Christmas favorites over behind the bandstand. It looked, smelled and sounded like what I always hoped Christmas could somehow be, and I was momentarily overwhelmed.

The Christmas Story

Good morning, everyone!

In keeping with a tradition that is more than a decade old, an old friend, Connie Estell sent me a copy of the King James Version of the Birth of Jesus. She and I have been doing this, posting the Christmas Story in our respective versions of the Bible online, since before 1998, although I had posted the story previous to that, since 1992. This ritual, if you can call it that, is one of my final Steps Toward Christmas, as I wrote in late November of this year.

It is now Christmas Day, very early on a cold winter’s morning. What better time than this to tell the true Story of Christmas?

For most of the people in Spokane, Washington, Christmas has already passed them by, as Christmas is largely consumerism and hyperbole. However, for some, Christmas is a celebration of a father’s love for his Son, and the mystery thereto.

If you can imagine a father conceiving a son, knowing in advance that his son would be forced to die an ignoble death on a wooden cross, would you? Moreover, would you accept the pain and suffering of being the person to ask your son to so give his life that others might find redemption? While these religious tenets and beliefs are somewhat out of favor in our world, and while people are turning away from religious events in droves, what no one can change is that the birth of his Son Jesus is still one of the many mysteries of faith, and thus is the cornerstone for the true meaning of Christmas.

As is my habit each year for over the last decade, tonight I willingly step aside from the vacuum we call modern society, and for whatever good it might find in each of your hearts, I post the story of the birth of Christ in a manger in Bethlehem, as was originally foretold by the prophets. It represents a love of a father for his child, and for the generations that would follow his name.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the only true star of Christmas, in a story that has withstood the test of time for us all, Emmanuel, which translates from the Aramaic to mean, Christ with us.

Tradition of Christmas

Good evening, Netizens…

We have mentioned promise and hope as parts of Christmas which have great meaning in all our lives. Materialism is perhaps one of the other aspects of Christmas that gets often mistaken for traditions, but in our household, we have a unique situation as grandparents, that we can paint on a fresh canvas of our grandchildren, impressing on them that there is so much more to Christmas than gross materialism.

One of the traditions we have already celebrated is our granddaughter learning to make Christmas cookies for friends and family.

As you can see by the flour on her nose, this tradition will live on into the next generation.



I am thinking of many things this Christmas 2008. I have many losses this year and it is more poignant at Christmas – missing my parents, missing the childhood days of traditions at Christmas and the total unbelievable excitement that permeated the air and made all of us giddy.

I miss the infancy of my oldest child, who was born 15 days before Christmas. The birth of Jesus never meant more to me than at that time. I was filled with awe thinking of Mary giving birth in a barn; thinking about the future of her baby and that he would become my Lord. I am remembering holding my new little baby on Christmas Day, dressed in a red and white sleeper with a Santa hat, looking more beautiful than the Gerber baby! I was the envy of the entire world! I think of Christmas as birth, as a new beginning, a fresh start, the dawn of HOPE.

I want to grasp this HOPE and clutch it tight to my chest, let it carry me forward through 2009. This is my goal today, now. To bring this HOPE to the new year like a flaming torch.

Power out in downtown…

Good evening, Netizens…

A short time ago I received an automated e-mail announcement that a client located in downtown Spokane had lost regular electrical service and was going on battery backup. Now I know why. Upon further investigation I discovered that an underground power vault located near Monroe and Sprague has exploded, cutting off power to most of downtown Spokane. Street lights, stop lights, even the Davenport and the Spokesman-Review building. 

The power outage reportedly encompasses a six to eight block radius.


Significance of Poinsettas…

While a good many of our customs originated in Europe, the poinsettia is a
western Christmas tradition.

The poinsettia was named after Joel Poinsett, first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, who imported it from Mexico in 1828.  Mr Poinsett loved scientific discoveries and later co founded the predecessor or the institution that we call the Smithsonian.  Samples of his “discovery” were sent to horticulturists and botanical gardens.  The Ecke family of California was instrumental in developing the  bright red poinsettia as a commercial crop.

Today’s varieties include pink, gold, white, marble,  deep burgundy and a multitude of variegated varieties.

The poinsettia is native to Mexico and cultivated by the Aztec Indians. After the Spanish conquest and the introduction of Christianity, the poinsettia was used in Christian rituals.  Franciscan priests used the poinsettia in their nativity processions.

The red in a poinsettia is actually bracts, not the flower.  The colorful leaves were used to make reddish dyes.  The milky white sap, today called latex, was used as a fever medicine.
Researchers at Ohio State University have extensively researched the effects of ingesting poinsettia foliage and found that it is not toxic.  Although it can cause some indigestion, a 50 pound child would have to eat 500 leaves to exceed levels of toxicity.  If you have a latex allergy, be careful around poinsettia plants. These popular Christmas plants contain a compound similar to that found in rubber latex — and can cause a severe allergic reaction.

A Pleasant Surprise…

Good evening, Netizens…

I simply could not resist taking this picture earlier today when, for a very brief period of time, the sun actually made its presence known to Spokane. It was still frigid (although not nearly as cold as previous nights this week) and snow covered everything. But for a very brief moment in time, the sun faintly shone through the break between snow storms, and for that brief moment, the day seemed unquestionably more beautiful than ever.

Then after awhile, as if satisfied that it had satiated Spokane’s need for a brief respite, the downy gray clouds moved back in and it began to snow in earnest once more.

A small but not necessarily quiet voice stated, “It must be a Christmas present from God.”

Who am I to argue with such divine logic?


Spokane Declares an Emergency…

Good evening, Netizens…

A few hours ago, Mayor Mary Verner declared an emergency, hoping to obtain some state and/or federal funding to help Spokane deal with plowing the city’s streets. In the meantime, snow is beginning to fall hard in Spokane and the current weather forecast is for 4-9 inches of more snow before Christmas Day.

“I am declaring an emergency in order to allow my departments the greatest flexibility possible to gain additional resources as needed and to start the process to seek any state and federal assistance that is available to our city,” Mayor Mary Verner said.

In my opinion, it is too little, too late. After days and days of optimistic, glowing reports about how well the city was doing at plowing its streets, suddenly now the light bulb comes on and Queen Mary suddenly realizes what a terrible mess our city streets are in? How many days will we wait for the plows this time? When will we be able to return to work after this storm passes?

Administratively, yours is the right decision. Unfortunately you should have made this decision last Friday when City Hall was closed, the STA buses could not run because of waist-deep snow and most major thoroughfares in Spokane were nearly impassable.

This is not about politics. This is about genuine human misery and a perceived lack of caring on the part of our City Government.


Santa’s Ride…

Good morning, Netizens…

This is yet another of my almost-true stories about Christmas. However, unlike most, in this story I became not only the author but the protagonist, as well. Although in the final version, which you are about to read, I gave Freddy the Logger the credit, whom some of you may know from reading The Springdale Tales, in actuality, I was the Santa in this story. The Darigold milk truck was, indeed, stuck in the snow, and I happened upon it in time to strike a bargain with the route manager and thus procure the milk for distribution. That Christmas Eve, armed only with a Toyota 4X4 full of milk, I made the first (and possibly the last) ever Santa’s ride distributing milk to all the needy families I knew in Springdale. Coincidental to this story, I also managed to capture what I feel is the essence of a real-life character you know by his non de plume of Freddy the Logger.

I hope you enjoy it…

Peace and Good Will, Just for December 25?

Here’s the question. Is the season of Christmas the only time we feel nice towards each other? Do we need a holiday (like Easter) to generate kindness?

Diana on December 24 at 9:05 a.m.

On which day can we resume complaining about not getting the proper snow removal we pay for with our hard-earned tax dollars? I like the idea of pretending everything’s okay. It’s kind of like having imaginary friends, the kind that never hurt you or do anything wrong!

Does the season of peace and happiness end on Dec. 26? When did it start? Please fill me in.

hmmm, Diana - really good point there. It’s like the radio station I listen to. It’s my favorite station. John Tesh is on in the evenings and I like his tips on living a good life. But this year the station started playing Christmas music the 15th of November. 24 hours a day. And I thought to myself, aaaack, I’ll get some kind of tick in my right eye if I listen to Christmas music 24 hours a day for 45 days. I love Christmas music - but for far less time. The down side of all of this is that I get into it and really enjoy it, especially right now. And you know what? The day after Christmas, precisely at midnight, the Christmas music will abrubtly stop. Somehow that just isn’t right - I mean, they got me in there, hooked me with bells and jingles and silent nghts and then they drop me cold turkey! I think there should be a few days of lingering withdrawal Christmas music. Maybe one song every half hour the first day after Christmas, decreasing through New Year’s. And THEN they can call it quits.

Tina Fey Comedienne of the Year 2008

Good morning Netizens…

Picture Credit: AP

It was announced recently that Tina Fey was voted the Associated Press Entertainer of the Year, an annual honor chosen by newspaper editors and broadcast producers across the country.

According to the AP members, she is the performer who had the greatest impact on culture and entertainment in 2008. You betcha.

In case you missed it entirely, it was Fey who most impressed voters because of her indelible impression of Gov. Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” helped drive the show to record ratings and eventually drew an appearance from Palin herself.

“Tina Fey is such an obvious choice,” said Sharon Eberson, entertainment editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “She gave us funny when we really needed it and, in a year when women in politics were making huge strides, Fey stood out in the world of entertainment.”

The question remains who was the greatest comedienne, Tina Fey or Sarah Palin? That depends largely upon the opinion of the consumer.


Picture of the Day..foreplay anyone?

Good morning, Netizens…

Picture Credit: Associated Press (Author unknown) December 23, 2008

In this photo provided Tuesday by the Missouri Department of Conservation this appears to me to be a male prairie chicken “strutting his stuff” but I could be wrong, though.. A new state-federal program will pay certain Missouri farmland owners to set aside land as habitat for prairie chickens, which once roamed the state’s prairies in large numbers.

It isn’t every day that the news wire leads us to a discussion of sexual foreplay, but what the heck. It’s the Internet, right? At my age in life I’ll always narrow my eyes down to a squint, as if trying to remember such things, and then grin that positively evil  way before hastily adding, it’s about the Prairie Chicken, right?


A cost comparison…

Good morning, Netizens…

Cartoon Credit: David Horsey,,Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Just remember our Congress, the folks we helped elect into office, voted for the mess we are in, and then took a brief from the ordeals of government.


Quote of the Day — December 24, 2008

They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad to realize that I’m going to miss mine by just a few days.

Garrison Keillor(1942 -)

Spokane Streets a Farce!

Good evening, everyone…

City of Spokane snow removal crews today have finished their first all-City plow and have completed removing the snow berms downtown. Tonight, they are picking up streets that were missed and are working on their second round of residential plowing. Spokane City News, December 23, 2008, 7:07 PM PST.

Today I drove nearly 60 miles, 20 inside Spokane Valley. While on a normal day, such a statement would generally not merit more than a wrinkled brow or perhaps a sniff of insignificance, since it would normally take me less than three hours to cover the entire area. Unfortunately, due to the condition of the city streets, it took me nearly six hours, excluding the amount of time I spent waiting on various accidents to be cleared from the thoroughfares. I began driving at 8:05 AM and returned home at 7:02 PM. Most of the accidents I witnessed fell into two categories: 1. hills and intersections where it was physically impossible to stop a moving vehicle due to ice on the roadway and 2. total idiots who were driving far too fast for conditions.

I have spoken before about my all-weather driving experience, and I have driven in towns of comparable side to Spokane three days after a major snowfall many times. We were not prepared for a storm of this magnitude. In fact, we were ill-equipped for a storm of any magnitude based upon my driving experiences today.

Hills and major intersections throughout the majority of places I drove had no traction sand applied, leaving the roads snow-packed, icy and very dangerous. These areas include twenty-ninth, Grand Boulevard and High Street on the South Hill, North Nevada from the Freeway to Wellesley, Greene Street Hill, Mission Boulevard, Boone Street from Division west to its terminus, all side streets off North Division from Foothills to Francis and all side streets on hills north of Francis from Division.

In all, I saw the aftermath of six accidents, excluding two jackknifed tractor trailers who got high-centered on snow berms turning off main thoroughfares onto side streets, one on Ruby, the second on Trent near Argonne. From listening to the police scanner, I gather there were many other trucks and tractor trailers that had similar issues. At both these sites on North Ruby, tremendous traffic jams occurred from the lane closures, and on North Argonne it took nearly two hours for a tow truck to arrive. It was frustrating for everyone, and simply unacceptable.

During my six hour drive throughout Spokane, I did not see a single snow plow, sanding truck, road grader or other snow removal equipment. However, I did see two City of Spokane Police cars that were not stuck. Now that is priceless.

Having experienced the road conditions today, and having read the Spokane City News released by City Hall this evening, my only comment is balderdash and poppycock! I would have thought the City of Spokane would have learned some essential lessons about snow removal and abatement after the debacle last winter’s storms left behind. We are facing another major snow storm expected to move into the area by mid-day tomorrow and lasting until perhaps as late as Christmas Day night, and in my opinion our streets are still not safe to drive, based upon reasonable winter driving conditions.

Get some sand on the hills and major intersections! People are being hurt by unacceptable driving conditions.


The Christmas Promise

Generally our Christmas cards say things like, peace, hope, and love.

I want to add: promise

I like to think of this time of year as a time to start over, clean your slate; it’s a time to dream dreams, have a vision, and it’s a time for the dream to come true – that’s the promise.

Peace, hope, and love are wonderful! Don’t get me wrong. It’s just so much more real to me when it is a promise. Something you can put your faith in, like a child, to truly believe that something you wished for WILL happen. And it is basically simple. No fangled hoops to jump through. It is a promise of the good things the New Year will bring, the faith that you believe those good things will transpire.

May your promises be BIG and full of peace, hope, and love!




From Calamity to Ecstasy

Good morning, Netizens…

Cartoon Credit: David Horsey,, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

If you drove by Manito Park over the last few days, you undoubtedly witnessed a lot of kids and adults in the throes of ecstacy in the snow. In this morning’s cartoon, David Horsey shows a highly logical use for the automobile. After all, at least on residential streets you cannot drive them, can you? You might as well put them to good use, as the cartoon shows.


Seen and heard department…

Good morning, Netizens…

Seen and heard Department…

Mayor Mary Verner is implementing immediate security measures at City Hall, after rounds were fired into the building over the weekend. Additional security for the building has been under consideration for several months. (City of Spokane News, December 22, 2008; 5:08 PM)

Oh? This implies someone must have had the capability to navigate the snow berms and residential street snow chaos to shoot at City Hall. Doesn’t this leave police with a somewhat-limited number of persons as suspects?

Look for someone who is very angry with City Hall driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle.Of course, at the present rate of snowfall, it might be Spring before police can capture the miscreants, as their squad cars keep getting stuck on city streets.

How many times have you been stuck?



Quote of the Day — December 23, 2008

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.

Dr. Seuss (1904 - 1991)

Remembering Dad

Remembering Dad

If I could, if there was some way I could talk to him once again, I would let him know I am thinking of him:

Hey Dad,

I have missed you so much! Your unconditional love for me (your Pumpkin), has guided me all these years without you. I have wanted so much to show off my boys to you; you were such a great influence on them. They loved “Grandpa from the farm” and then when you moved to the Oregon coast, “Grandpa from the beach.”

Picture of the Day 12/22/2008

Good morning, Netizens…

Photo Credit: Scott Eklund/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Scott Hoffman of Seattle has been a Whirling Dervish for 35 years, demonstrating here what living in peace looks like through the Sema Ceremony that was performed at the Great Hall at South Lake Union Park in Seattle. For more than 700 years, the Whirling Dervishes have performed the ceremony. As lovers of the 13th-century poet and mystic, Rumi, the Whirling Dervishes follow his example of love, inclusion and equality. Led by Jelaleddin Loras, Master Musicians direct from Turkey and the MOA Whirling Dervish Ensemble celebrate Rumi’s mystical union with the whirling prayer dance of the Mevlevi Sufi Order. (December 19, 2008)

Having seen this ceremony on several occasions, it is quite moving yet surreal.


Quote of the Day — December 22, 2008

We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom. Stephen_Vincent_Benet (1898 - 1943), Litany for Dictatorships, 1935

The Narft man…

Good afternoon, Netizens…

Although not a Christmas story, here is a fantasy fable originally written for Marty Hibbs, who I think understands cats, and for David Elton who has written about his weiner dogs…

The Narft Man

by Dave Laird

Copyright 1992-2008

It was a snowy winter’s day, and Mrrowzr had just returned indoors from an abbreviated visit to the outdoors. Entering the house from the front door, she shook her paws free of the remaining droplets of snow, while all three other cats sniffed at her as she went by, eager to see if anything were amiss. Although she endured the humility of the three other cats sniffing her behind, as if she were a common street cat, she quickly grabbed a bite of food, a drink of water, and then made straight for the bedroom to rest awhile.

Here’s how it is done…

Good morning, Netizens…

Here is a conga line, or at least that is what one resident of Lincoln, Nebraska calls it. They close the streets one section at a time, and then here come the plows. Boom! Next.


Sideswipes —

Good morning, Netizens…

Dr. J. sent me a heads-up this morning in e-mail that another powerhouse Pacific Storm is about to march ashore in Seattle. Weather forecasters are talking high winds, sleet, snow, rain—you know, all the usual dire things. With a stinging windstorm expected to slam into the Puget Sound area Saturday afternoon, packing snow, freezing rain and gusts of up to 75 mph, utility officials were scrambling Friday to prepare crews to deal with the possibility of widespread power outages.

Shucks, folks, this isn’t that bad is it? Well, here in Spokane, we are bracing for yet another snow storm. In the parlance of the Spokane Weather Bureau, 5 TO 9 INCHES OF SNOWFALL WILL BE POSSIBLE ACROSS THE SPOKANE AND COEUR D`ALENE AREAS. THE HEAVIEST SNOWFALL IS EXPECTED SUNDAY MORNING THEN AGAIN SUNDAY EVENING INTO SUNDAY NIGHT.

Gee, does this mean we are going to close City, State and Federal government for an unprecedented third business day on Monday? Sure, why not? Look at all the money maybe we’re saving the taxpayers. I’m certain the City employees have a benefit package to cover being paid for such contingencies as snow emergencies, don’t they? Most people I know have missed two days of work already, and it comes right out of their pockets, not the city’s largess.

Yesterday, in the middle of the day, the Mayor of Coeur D’Alene announced that all city streets in that fair city had been plowed. I wonder how many miles of city streets (and engineers to measure them) Coeur D’Alene has compared to Spokane? That must be a mileage issue.

One delightful old wag told me yesterday they should be done with the side streets in Spokane maybe by Sunday night, excepting when it starts snowing Sunday, the city crews will probably stop all snow removal operations on residential streets, to put all their energies back into plowing the main thoroughfares.

I am a lineman for the county

And I drive the main roads…

Attribution: Jimmy Webb, 1968

I’d stick to the main roads so long as I can get there from here in Hillyard which ain’t happening. (various expletives deleted) The Wag of Spokane.

Cross-train Mayor Queen Mary on a road grader. Put her in the saddle of one of those grand machines, along with all the other talking heads of City Hall, and we could have our city streets completely plowed too.


Think we have it bad?

Good morning, Netizens…

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash (INDIA)

Labourers carry bricks on their heads at a brick kiln at Kodhasar village, 40 km (25 miles) south of the northern Indian city of Allahabad. This picture made it to the near-top of my personal list of one of my favorite pictures of the year, simply because it made my headaches appear insignificant by comparison.


He makes it look easy…

Good morning, Netizens…

Picture Credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

The government took steps yesterday to tighten the bail conditions for suspected Ponzi Scheme fraudster Bernard Madoff. They eliminated the bail provision that allowed Bernie to walk the streets without restriction during the day, confined to his home only during the night. The new security measures include a requirement that Madoff’s family hire a security firm to monitor the posh penthouse address at 133 East 64th Street where Madoff is confined on a $10 million bond.

Aw, poor Bernie!

In this picture, Bernard Madoff walks down Lexington Ave to his apartment December 17, 2008 in New York City, surrounded by members of the news media. You have to admire a man who created a fifty billion dollar Ponzi Scheme single-handed from his own office and can smirk about it.


Finding humor in a snowbank…

Good morning, Netizens…

Now that I have pilloried and castigated the our union Street Department, as is usually my rule, now I’m going to take an ironic look at this entire disaster called snow day 2008 and see if there is any comedic content to be taken from it.

My first candidate is the reference by both Mayor Verner and others to the “the city’s 967 miles of streets”. Oh, really? Was this done with a computer program, or not? I have visions of four harried city engineers armed with yardsticks last summer measuring each street for future snow events. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen stranger things happen with engineers, and I know more than a few.

I watched a neighbor’s three-legged dog navigating through through the snow earlier today totally convulsed in laughter. Most of the dogs I’ve seen over the last 24 hours hip-hopped through berms, keeping their heads above the snow, but in the long run, they didn’t do any better than the three-legged mutt. The only difference was the poor miniature schnauzer minus a rear leg completely disappeared each time he ended up in the deep snow. Then you’d see him re-emerge as he hopped upwards again, then disappear back into the two feet of snow. When he jumped the last time, he ending up on a section of the sidewalk which had been cleared from snow, he stood stock-still a moment, as if in shock. Then, shaking himself free of snow, he trotted nonchalantly on down the sidewalk as if it were an ordinary day and he owned the town.

Among the various combatant vehicles I have seen plowing through knee-deep snow on our street in valiant attempts to reach the main thoroughfares North or West of our community, perhaps the most amazing was the three-way vehicle. Some truly kind soul driving one of those huge Dodge four-wheel-drive pickup trucks chained up was proceeding in a stately manner down the street, and behind him were two small front-wheel-drive cars, daisy-chained to one another and attached to his rear bumper with a tow rope. In retrospect I thought it was probably illegal as could be, but then laughed when I realized that the police cars haven’t been able to negotiate side streets for several days, and thus these snow warriors were safe from prosecution. The last car in the ad hoc train was a Honda, which did a nice job of plowing a small furrow through the snow on the street. We cannot get snow plows or road graders to come down our street, and it is nearly 48 hours since it stopped snowing, so I give you the Hillyard answer: a Honda on a tow rope.

Two of my neighbors, a delightfully ambitious and very active pair of senior citizens, have a daily regimen they have followed since moving into the neighborhood. Each day, rain or shine, arm-in-arm, they take what they refer to as their constitutional walk around the block. While most of our neighborhood walkers have all but disappeared from the snowscape due to the depths of depravity that Mother Nature has bestowed on us, yesterday I saw them walking through the snow wearing what to my untutored eyes seems to be traditional Swiss Alpine gear, complete with snowshoes. She, of course, hails from Germany and Switzerland, and thus it didn’t seem the least to be out of the ordinary.

Anyone else able to find humor in our present cataclysm?


The Bush Legacy?

Good morning Netizens…

Cartoon Credit: David Horsey/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

In today’s David Horsey cartoon he takes yet another broad-handed swipe at President George Bush and some of it connects. As another political commentator recently observed, George Bush is the lame duck President of our generation, who has a broken wing and cannot float above the waters of contention that rumble around our country these days.

Of course, we did not mention the fact that Congress just voted themselves a pay raise, but we will get into that afterwhile.


Quote of the Day — December 19, 2008

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 - 1962)

Formatting issues in new Blogs…

Good morning, Netizens…

Here is a brief update to various tricks to using the new web format for the Blogs.

First, if you have not done so go to your favorite blog and at the top of the screen you should see a button that says create a user profile. Click that, and fill out the friendly form. Remember, you must provide the Spokesman with a valid e-mail address; otherwise this will create errors and your application for a user profile will fall flat on its abundant backside.

You can edit/choose a picture to represent you online while you are there, but it is not necessary. Click submit/save at the bottom.

Then wait for the e-mail message that confirms your identity. You have to answer that message by clicking on the link which takes you back to the blog, and you are once more logged in as yourselves.

OK, logged in? Does it say welcome (user name) at the top. Then you’re ready to begin banging on the keyboards once again.

Two: Since many of you like to use bold,italics, and underscore in your messages, here is a quick tip. If you create a message offline using something like Microsoft Word or Open Office (both work well) go ahead and create a post using the bold, italics and underscore formatting the external processor provides you with. (Such as Control-B, Control-I or Control U hot keys) Apparently this may or may not work when commenting to a post. If it doesn’t work, please let me know. I’ll get it fixed right away.

Cut and paste your message to the Blog and the formatting will appear and function. Remember: this is a short-term “fix” since there are buttons present on the message creation page, but no glyphs to explain what services they serve. If you hold your mouse over one of the blue on white boxes atop the message creation screen, it will tell you what each button does. The glyphs are coming!

That is the best I know at the present.


Some apparent solutions…

Good morning, everyone…

First, before I defend my use of the term Queen Mary let me set the stage just a bit. Both my wife and I have lived for decades in the so-called snow zone: me in Colorado’s high country, Suzie in the Midwest snow belt. We have both seen huge ugly blizzards that shut down major cities, with snow totals that exceeded the 26+ inches that fell yesterday. Yes, I can recall a 29 inch snowfall that fell in less than 24 hours. It was hideous, but Denver was back up and operational within 14 hours after the snow stopped falling. The same applies to Lincoln, Nebraska. You wait until the snow stops, then throw every resource you have at clearing the streets. You don’t wait overnight to put every resource on the job. Until the streets are cleared, only emergency traffic is allowed. This is the price one pays for living in Spokane. Here are some of my apparent recommendations and solutions:

Scope of the problems…

Good morning, Netizens…

Here, in my opinion, is the scope of the problem(s) facing Spokane as of 6:00 AM this morning, with my proposed solutions to follow in a separate message:

According to my time chart, it stopped snowing at approximately 4:15 yesterday.

At the present time we have only a few city bus routes that can operate. There is one South Hill route listed, and none of the extended routes listed on <a href=’’>the Spokane Transit Authority website </a>. Some of the bus routes still have not been plowed; most secondary routes are either not plowed or only marginally accessible.

According to a live interview with Marlene Feist this morning, graders are just now beginning to move into secondary and residential streets. Thus, most side streets are inaccessible or at the very best, accessible using a four-wheel-drive chained up. KREM-2’s 1 ton four-wheel drive van got high-centered on-camera on a side street this morning.

Most of the hills are snow-packed, icy and dangerous regardless of what vehicle is used. Numerous slide-offs and accidents are already being reported.

Both the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department, the Spokane Police Department and the Washington State Patrol have stated that if you do not have an emergency need to travel today, please stay home. Despite that fact, people persist in attempting to travel with predictable results.

The temperature currently is 14 degrees, six degrees below the minimal temperature at which the liquid de-icer currently used on icy streets will work. The temperatures will continue to drop over the next 24 hours rendering any hope of using de-icer both a waste of resources and adding additional hazard to the problem, as it will freeze.

There are other problems facing the City of Spokane today, but these are the most-apparent. Feel free to contribute other problem statements I may have overlooked.


Streets are a Travesty this AM…

Good morning, Netizens…

It’s 5:44 AM here in Spokane and I just spoke with John Olsen who called me to give me a “heads up” about the mythological nature of the snow removal last night. He was standing at 14th and Bernard and it appeared to him that it had been HOURS since a snow plow had plowed Bernard on the South Hill. He eventually ended up hitching a ride with a neighbor who had a four-wheel drive with BIG tires, and eventually made it successfully downtown.

An 18 wheel truck, unfortunately, got stuck on Third and Washington Streets downtown and after partially jacknifing had to chain up in over 18 inches of snow.

Add to that, at 5:05 AM this morning, my son got stuck on Glass Street and Nevada and reported that he was high-centered on Nevada and Mission.

I have other reports as well of people stuck on main streets.

So, Queen Mary, where are the snow plows this morning? Are you waiting for the snow to stop before you plow?


Band of Friends Part II

Good morning, Netizens…

Originally I was going to write about my band of friends, those people whom I have loved and admired throughout most of my days. However, writing about my band of friends has changed so much, particularly with Community Comment and the Virtual Ballroom, that I decided to write about another person’s band of friends before I spoke of my own loved ones.

Christmas Holly

Holly is a common adornment in holiday arrangements and home decorations. Despite the association with Christmas, holly did not get its name from “holy”.  It is translated in Old English as holegn, or Old Norse as Holfr, or perhaps German as hulst, French as houx or Welsh as celyn.  It
actually probably goes back to the ancient root word, gel, which means “prickly” or “to prick”. 

Quote of the Day — December 18, 2008

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

Bob Thaves, “Frank and Ernest”, 1982

Oh great! Just what we need!

Good morning, Netizens… According to the National Weather Service (The REAL weather forecasters) they have issued both a Hazardous Weather Outlook and a Winter Storm Warning for today and this evening. Although there were clouds present over Spokane most of the night, which is why our temperatures did not drop to Oh My God status, the actual snow could begin as early as 10:00 AM this morning. Snow intensity could vary here in Spokane from 2-6 inches, depending a great deal on chance. So be prepared. -Dave-

Quote of the Day — December 17, 2008

When I have been asked during these last weeks who caused the riots and the killing in L.A., my answer has been direct and simple: Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame. Dan Quayle (1947 - )

David Horsey Cartoon

Good evening, Netizens… We’re putting the cart a little ahead of the horsey here, pun intended. This cartoon was supposed to be for tomorrow’s message, but I wanted to make certain I had figured out how to post an image first. So, here is tomorrow’s David Horsey cartoon taken from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Dave

Say Jeanie…

Good evening, Jeanie… I understand you are “in the know” about how to post pictures. Is that true? Dave

Band of Friends

We have a “band of friends” at Community Comment It’s time to have a little face-to-face communication, or, keyboard to keyboard. I like the keyboard method because each person can pretty much use their imagination to what each of us look like.

Origins of the Christmas Tree

The origin of the Christmas tree is much disputed.  Our modern Christmas tree evolved from early traditions of the Egyptians, Romans and Druids.  

They all used decorated trees in winter celebrations long before the advent of Christianity.  The Egyptians brought green date palm leaves into their homes at the winter solstice to symbolize life’s triumph over death.

The Romans decorated their houses with greens and candles, and exchanged gifts at the feast of Saturnalia during the winter solstice.  Druids, who viewed evergreens as sacred, used them during their mysterious solstice rituals.

Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to express hope for the coming spring.  

Our modern Christmas tree celebrating Christian traditions probably started about 400 years ago in Germany. Most historians trace the lighted Christmas tree to Martin Luther. He attached lighted candles to a small evergreen tree, trying to simulate the reflections of the starlit heaven — the heaven that looked down over Bethlehem on the first Christmas Eve.

The Christmas tree tradition most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants moving into Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all.

By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.

Change is inevitable…

Good morning, Netizens…


Today we begin the transition from the old familiar Blog format to the new Blog format. Beginning at about 10:00 AM this morning and perhaps lasting for several hours, a series of updates and upgrades will be taking place which may affect how you access Community Comment, but it is all for the good, as they say.


Please bear with us as we begin this transition.



Quote of the Day — December 15, 2008

It is all very well, when the pen flows, but then there are the dark days when imagination deserts one, and it is an effort to put anything down on paper. That little you have achieved stares at you at the end of the day, and you know the next morning you will have to scrape it down and start again.

Elizabeth Aston, The True Darcy Spirit, 2006

The Great Depression…

Good morning, Netizens…

Things are admittedly tight this year. There are some who are suggesting we are headed for another Great Depression. Or are we?

There is a really good slideshow/video by Jim Kershner showing how The Great Depression affected Spokane. It contains some truly great archive photographs of how it actually was “back then”.

Could history repeat itself?



Good morning, Netizens…

It is 7:00 AM here in Spokane, and the temperature is 5 degrees with a 13 MPH wind out of the North North-East. For those of you are either curious or into pain, that translates into a Wind Chill of -12 degrees. What makes this even tolerable is that if you believe the weather forecast Tuesday the nighttime temperature could drop as low as -11 degrees before our nightly temperature rises to above zero. BRRRR

It’s going to be a cold week. As I briefly mentioned in Huckleberries Online the coldest place I recall has to be minus 36 degrees in International Falls, Minnesota in 1983, my better half says for her it was minus 35 in Lincoln, Nebraska in the early 70’s.

At those temperatures, you could not venture outside with any bare skin exposed. Three minutes of exposure and you were courting frostbite. You have to remember these times were well before the social networking schemes hit the Internet, so the introductions were a bit rude by today’s standards. You walked outside and went “Oh my God”.

What was your first introduction to frigid cold? How cold was it? Where were you?


The bollixed weather forecast…

Good morning, Netizens…
1:30 AM Sunday

If you haven’t discovered on your own, meteorology as practiced here in Spokane is far from a perfect science. If one gave any credence to the weather forecasts being handed out Friday night through Saturday morning by the various weather forecasters for all three television stations, they missed the mark. Everyone spoke in proper terms of awe about the first really HUGE snow storm that was about to pummel the Spokane area, and how we were about to get as much as 11 inches of snow in town. KREM-2’s Tom Sherry warbled on and on about what a significant storm this was like a jaybird with its balls stuck in the electric fence, but took the weekend off. Smart man. I wouldn’t drive on packed ice and snow under these conditions either unless I was forced to do so.

What was truly funny is that as early as 9:00 AM Saturday morning, anyone who actually knows how to interpret NEXRAD weather radar already was certain that the big storm was fizzling, disintegrating right before our eyes, and that the best we got on the North Side of Spokane was about an inch and one-half to two inches of snow. Unfortunately KHQ-TV now is the only morning news-and-weather game in town on Saturdays, and they continued broadcasting the dire weather forecast long after the storm had fizzled. Now that was funny.

The one part of the weather forecast they did manage to get correct was that, hard on the heels of this snow storm-that-tried was a deep cold front with wind, which did manage to hit Spokane nearly on-schedule. At 1:30 this morning, unofficially the temperature stands at 9 degrees with winds averaging 15 MPH gusting to 25 MPH. The Deep Freeze has arrived.

The equally bad part is what little snow we did get will continue to stick around until the temperature rises well above zero, sometime later in the week according to the current forecast. Street de-icer doesn’t work at such temperatures. They will have to either sand the hills and intersections or put up with lots of accidents and people carping at Queen Mary.


Quote of the Day — December 13, 2008

His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.

Mae West (1892 - 1980)

Cholera in Zimbabwe…

Good afternoon, Netizens…
Cartoon Credit: David Horsey/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

My greatest difficulty with today’s Horsey cartoon is the various ways in which you can look at both Zimbabwe and Mugabe. Conditions in Zimbabwe are past intolerable, with no drinking water, garbage piling up in the streets, sewage flowing down the streets from the broken septic waste sewers and both hospitals that sit empty because of a lack of trained personnel.

What is Mugabe doing for his country? From various news sources I gather that he largely has become a dictator-for-life, much like some other African leaders. What is even more depressing is Mugabe is well-educated, with five or six different college degrees to his name.

There is, according to the cartoon, no cholera in Zimbabwe, but facts are facts. That leaves us with the question, why isn’t Mugabe with his advanced education doing more to help?

Ideas anyone?


A Tale of Christmas Unanticipation…

Good morning, Netizens…

There are many rites of Christmas to which we each, in our own way, pay homage, almost without conscious thought. Round-eyed children gather around Santa Claus at the mall, the camera man leaning forward for a photo child sitting on Santa’s lap, the adults all coo, smile and nod at one another, as if to say, “Now, THAT’S what Christmas is all about!” and it becomes a ritual. This is a story which delves into another Rite of Christmas, which hopefully few of us will ever see.

Quote of the Day — December 12, 2008

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967), a book review

New uses for operating systems…

Good morning, Netizens…
Picture Credit:

The Tech Corner on broken wheels

Everyone has read about Linux at one time or another. Even primordial tribes of the most remote areas of the world have heard the various claims to fame by various Linux distributions, but this morning, a group in The Netherlands Linux on Anything announced they have successfully installed Linux on a potato using a potato cobble-rigged with a pair of red and black wires and perhaps a great deal of luck.

One version of this fanciful story states that this same group permanently installed Linux onto a shetland pony in 2003. Another rumor has it that a different group of hackers managed to install a chopped-down version of Windows Vista last year, but unfortunately the shetland pony passed gas and left Windows Vista in a corner of the barnyard.

Now you know the rest of the story. If your dog suddenly starts trying to reboot over his Gravy Train, you’ll know what is likely taking place.


Those were the days…

Good morning, Netizens…
Cartoon credit: David Horsey/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Ah, yes, I was wondering if David Horsey would pick up on the stories that ran in several prominent East Coast papers about the number of Big Box stores who were laying off Santa Clauses and here we have David Horsey’s vision, complete with a corporate pinhead type with a really nifty tie and a $29.95 pocket watch ready for the embalming of Santa Claus.

Not so fast there, buckwheat!

Our Christmas is still, despite what think tank types want us to think, a magical world at Community Comment in the Virtual Ballroom and Espresso Bar, a place where fancy and imagination always takes precedence over reality. Although we occasionally and somberly report the news of the world, ours is still a place where we as living adults can joyfully recall and embrace our days of innocence, where ghosts returning from their graves can gently remind us of how it once was before our culture became hardened and cynical about life.

As I stumble in the front door of the Virtual Ballroom this morning after forging my through an intensely-cold fog that has settled upon Spokane, I am at once relieved to be off the slick streets, but even more delighted to see our virtual world alive and as vibrant as ever. In the corner of the Ballroom a group of female ghosts are baking Christmas Cookies in an antique cast-iron wood-fired stove. The only magic involved is, despite the roaring fire in the wood box, there is no smoke coming out of the stovepipe that terminates about four feet in the air. When I vapidly ask where the smoke from this contraption goes, one of the ghostly ladies responds, “Why, up the cook, of course! That’s why it’s a smokeless cookstove.”

Some kind of an elf all dressed in green is our barrista of the day, and after sliding a cheerfully bubbling cup of today’s blend in front of me, giggles somewhat like little people do, and announces, “Today’s espresso blend of the day is called The Effervescence of Christmas. If you drink an entire cup of this blend, they say you will forget David Horsey’s Cartoon this morning about the downsizing of Santa, and remember instead the times Santa came to your house and ate all the Christmas Cookies while you slept peacefully.”

Yes, those were the days, weren’t they? Do you still remember those days?


New Illinois State Seal…

Good morning, Netizens…
Cartoon Credit: David Horsey/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

As I noted yesterday, the potty-mouthed Illinois State Governor Blagojevich is in deep trouble with the FBI and Justice Department. Hence, according to David Horsey and others, here we have the new Illinois State Seal as modified to fit circumstances.

Before some start muttering that this is because of Blagojevich’s being a Democrat one hastens to point out this brings the total to 3 governors in prison in 35 years. What is it? Is there something in the water?

The only thing Horsey forgot in this cartoon is an old-fashioned hard bar of Ivory Soap for Blagojevich’s mouth, as based upon the expletives he used frequently during his taped phone conversations. Someone who talks that filthy has no business in the Governor’s Office, but behind the wood shed having their mouth washed out with Ivory Snow soap.



This is the Week of Anticipation. It’s seen in every child as they peer through the window at the snow-crested trees, the lights and decorations draping the tree in the living room, the bells ringing on maybe sleighs drawn by horses, adorned with bells and red leather reigns. You can feel the eagerness that sets everyone on the edge of their seats with expectations of dreams and wishes coming true! It is the underlying and tangible Hope of aspirations; the optimism of expectation!

You remember keenly being that child. All good things were coming your way just because it was Christmas! Christmas meant birth. It was a New Beginning topped by a fresh new year so the slate was entirely clean, ready for your footprint. It was perfect bliss! I loved the feeling of Christmas – all the excitement, the delight, the smiles, the exhilaration!

I felt it again driving home Friday night – first when I passed a horse drawn carriage elegantly moving along Lincoln towards Riverfront Park – beautiful, graceful horses slowly dancing down the street. Then I passed a truck carrying a Santa sleigh, totally engulfed in twinkling red and white lights, ready to be the carrier for the Great Saint Nicholas himself! You could taste the thrill in the air, the crispiness of the night, the anticipation of Santa, of holidays, of Christmas, of magic!

Even as an adult, I am transported to a higher version of myself. I feel an expectation within me that is just bursting; I drag all my Christmas sweaters out of storage and eagerly go through each one; which to wear today; which to wear tomorrow. I gather all my dangly, sparkly earrings that are snow flakes, crystal icicles, blinking reindeers, laughing Santas. What to wear first!

This is the Week of Anticipation!

Illinois Governor arrested…

Good morning Netizens…

It’s not really part of our local political schema but part of an even bigger picture. The FBI arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris this morning on federal corruption charges. There are a long list of charges and even talk of his impeachment.

All this time we have been led to believe that Washington State has to be the most-corrupt state in the union. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the head of the FBI office in Chicago said if Illinois isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s a strong competitor. We have runners-up for such a horrible title?

Among the charges levied against Blagojevich were that he was attempting to sell former State Senator Barack Obama’s senate seat for cash. Perhaps like most of us, the Governor was a little short of cash for last-minute Christmas Shopping.


Shopping—our patriotic duty?

Good morning, Netizens…

Someone called me on my statements the other day about Christmas Shop-til-you-drop mentality, and after a bit of research and introspection, several of you have perfectly-valid points.

Like most of you, the news that Wal-Mart shoppers were so eager to take advantage of a Black Friday sale that they trampled an employee to death leaves me totally aghast, sickened beyond words and angry at the collective values of our country. That has not changed.

An unfortunate truism, however, is that we are a country in desperate need of more shoppers. Consumer spending makes up 70 percent of the economy and, given that consumer spending is undergoing a sharp decline, the less we shop the worse our economy gets. That is if you believe the economic theory that fewer shoppers equates to declining profits for businesses, which equates layoffs which equates to even fewer Americans with the wherewithal to shop; shopping seems to be the driving factor for most of our economy. This version of economics has even led some observers to state that shopping is an act of Patriotism, such as George Bush urging us to shop after 9/11.

Quote of the Day — December 6, 2008

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

Ray Bradbury (1920 - ), Fahrenheit 451, 1953

The Word of the Day — sentinel

Word of the Day for Saturday, December 6, 2008

sentinel \SEN-tuhn-uhl\, noun, verb:

1. to stand guard and watch
2. a person stationed to keep watch and guard

 Sometimes the puppy barked when a customer came in, taking on the sentinel’s role that no one had assigned him. Eliseo Alberto, Caracol Beach

 At dawn on June 18, as the bell tolls, the sentinel on the East Tower sees a yellowish cloud in the far distance - the dust kicked up by their horses.
 — Lewis Jones, Previous conquests,” review of The Siege by Ismail Kadare (translated by David Bellos), Daily Telegraph,  5/17/2008


by 1579, from Middle French sentinelle, from Italian sentinella, perhaps (from a notion of “perceive, watch”), from sentire “to hear, perceive,” from Latin senire “feel” Entry and Pronunciation for sentinel

Santa’s last-minute shopping…

Good morning, everyone…

After escaping from the outstretched hands of what passes for The Law in Spokane, Washington, and before he returns to the North Pole, Santa decides to do some last-minute window-shopping in Anticipation of the high demand for gifts for this year, for more than ever before, there will be lots of little boys and girls who will awaken on Christmas Day morning to no gifts beneath the tree.

Quote of the Day — December 5, 2008

Keep on going and the chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down.

Charles F. Kettering (1876 - 1958)

Elder Abuse

I have spent several years caring for elderly relatives. My significant other’s grandmother had a stroke and was placed in a nursing home. She was paralyzed, couldn’t speak, and couldn’t feed herself. I sat vigil by her side every evening for 2 ½ years, slowly and diligently spooning food to her bit by bit through the evening. In that length of time I cautiously watched the comings and goings of nurses and aids.

Our family opted to have one of us there every evening and sporadically throughout the day. We observed that residents who had family members present were better treated than residents who did not. Grandmom could express herself by shaking her head, nodding, or, as we found out, stick her tongue out at people who mistreated her. One aid in particular got the tongue frequently. He turned out to have a criminal background and could only find a job as an aid.

The Consumerism of Christmas portrayed…

Good morning, Netizens…
Cartoon source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer and David Horsey

Good morning, Netizens…

This morning’s David Horsey Cartoon clearly speaks of the spirit of the Christmas Season for some. All one has to do is peer at this spirit of Christmas is examine the gross consumerism, the vexing greed and overpowering compulsion to buy, buy, buy, and you observe one of the various and sundry Spirits of Christmas, that I also submit are as many as diverse as the meanings of Christmas itself.

In The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickins, a traditional tale of Christmas if there ever was one, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come each deliver their homilies and thus effectively change Scrooge from a penny-pinching skinflint into a warm-hearted old coot who immediately sets his Christmas Spirit to rights by giving the Cratchit’s a better Christmas than they were expecting.

Some say we have lost the true spirit of Christmas, that we have traded it off for a few pretties and trinkets to give one another, or conversely, that we have traded off the emotional need to give of ourselves to friends and loved ones for the desire to receive.

In the last few days, I have peered into the eyes and I submit into the souls of shoppers in the local shopping malls, observed them in their habitat as sociologists might say, and what I have seen is a imperfect mix of what David Horsey has portrayed and occasionally a brief glimpse of the panoply of human cynicism that Horsey describes so aptly. I have also seen some perfection, where people cared about one another and touched human lives.

As we begin the First Week of Christmas here in the Virtual Ballroom, we need to cling to the hope that the Magic of Christmas will win out over the consumerism, that people will learn the lessons of Christmas and leave our tawdry consumerism and murderous rage to shop behind in favor of the Perfection of Christmas.

The First Week of Christmas has begun.


Picture of the Day — December 3, 2008

Good morning, Netizens…
Photo Credit: Getty Images, December 2, 2008)
Pakistani Rangers (in black) and Indian Border Security Force personnel perform the daily retreat ceremony on the India-Pakistan Border at Wagah on Tuesday.

Retreat ceremony?? Granted both sides appear to have some of most-spiffy headgear imaginable, and no doubt their ritual has deep ceremonial meaning to people on both sides of the Indian-Pakistani border, one would think their energies would be better-spent attempting to find the terrorists responsible for the attack on the ancient City of Bombay, India. However, I do suppose they do have their priorities, don’t they?


Quote of the Day — December 3, 2008

When I was born the doctor took one look at my face, turned me over and said, Look … twins!

Rodney Dangerfield (1921 - 2004)

The Bells of Christmas

“Jingle Bells”, “Silver Bells”, “Christmas Bells are Ringing”, everywhere bells.
Bells can be seen in every aspect of Christmas from poems, quotes, songs and decorations.

Believe it or not “Jingle Bells”, one of the most famous American Christmas songs, was originally written for Thanksgiving! The author and composer of Jingle Bells was a minister called James Pierpoint who composed the song in 1857 for children celebrating his Boston Sunday School Thanksgiving. The song was so popular that it was repeated at Christmas, and indeed Jingle Bells has been played ever since. The essence of a traditional Christmas is captured in the lyrics of Jingle Bells and the sound effects using the bells have become synonymous with the arrival of Father Christmas or Santa Claus to the delight of children of all ages!

The Quote of the Day — December 02, 2008

Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working, honest Americans. It’s the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then—we elected them.

Lily Tomlin (1939 - )

What will Bill do?

Good morning, Netizens…
Photo Credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Hoo boy! In this morning’s David Horsey cartoon, I think he has posed the question that nearly everyone is asking. Once Hillary is sworn in as Secretary of State, what will Bill do with his time?

So, without dedicating more time to Bill Clinton than circumstances dictate, here are some ideas off the top of my head:

1. He could go to one of the Third-World countries as a personal emissary of his wife to combat the continuing growth of AIDS/HIV, Malaria and other horrific diseases striking many of these undeveloped/emerging countries. Even public awareness and acknowledgment of how many people are dying on a daily basis might make a difference.

2. As the courageous folks at Spokane Center for Justice have aptly demonstrated there is a crying need for justice for those least-able to pay for good legal counsel. Bill is a world-class lawyer, right? Why not have him work for the poor and underprivileged to develop a nation-wide program of low-cost legal centers for everyone, not just the privileged few?

He has an opportunity that few of us will ever attain in our humble lives, to serve with great dignity and acumen for people of all races, all walks in life, who desperately need help. With the economy already in the tank, full-blown recession coming on like a storm trooper in gum boots, a lot of little people are going to need all the help they can get just keeping their heads above water.

Now the question seems to me to be, will Bill serve?

Of course, as always, I would love to hear other opinions regarding Bill’s future employment possibilities.


Demonstration in Mumbai…

Good evening, Netizens…
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mumbai residents attend a candlelight vigil in the street near The Oberoi Hotel following a demonstration against the recent terror attacks in the city on Sunday in Mumbai, India.
(November 30, 2008)

Perhaps these innocents, gathered together to denote the dead and wounded from the terrorist attack that lasted three entire days will demand a better reaction time of their government in dealing with terrorism, perhaps not. Only time will answer that, I fear.

One thing remains imminently clear. This could have been the United States, but it wasn’t. I’ll leave it to the historians to only ask why it was not.


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