Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions and Blue Monday - the cure

Happy New Year! As many reckon, we are entering a new decade - the teens. Resolutions will be made, and psychologically, we all have another chance to start over again with a clean slate.

There are many great New Year Quotations about putting behind the Old Year and looking ahead to the New Year:

From this high comes the low when reality bites, again. Resolutions are broken. The memories of Christmas and New Years parties fade. Gatherings with family and friends end. Debts hit. Winter sets in. We settle back into the same old same old. To make it worse, there are no established holidays to look forward to in the near future.

Then depression can hit, most likely on Blue Monday.

The date of this emotional crash has been calculated in the "Blue Monday" formula . (Yes, there is an app for that.) This year it's January 25, 2010.

How to cope with Blue Monday? A ton of advice is out there in cyberspace, but the best advice I found is from the Good Book:

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 3 (KJV)

So beat back Blue Monday with these New Year's Resolutions: FRP - Forget, Reach, Press
1. Forget the things which are behind
2. Reach forward to things which are before
3. Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in God in Christ Jesus

I must have been over my blue Monday when I penned this poem in the winter of 1976. (Yes, I know this dates me.)


Don't be afraid to fail
Or your dreams you'll cease to strive
Heed not the mockings of those
Who really are not alive

Look not to the side for direction
To the lamb-skinned wolves nearby
Who say that they do speak the truth
But devour with a lie

Look above for your direction
To the star in the sky
And don't be afraid to fail
And be not afraid to try!

To my writer friends, keep on writing! To my readers, thank you for your encouragement and support. May God bless you all in your calling for 2010.

photo from:
everystockphoto: happy new year

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas 1776 - the gift of freedom

1776 was a watershed year in American History. July 4th, the colonies had declared independence from Britain. And so the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783) continued.

By December 1776, prospects of victory seemed remote for the Continental Army. The British had driven General Washington from New York to retreat to Pennsylvania. The annual enlistment of the American soldiers were expiring at the end of the year and funds as well as morale were low. If there was every a need for a Christmas miracle, it was needed in 1776.

In this bleak setting on Christmas Day, General Washington made a daring move to attack the enemy, crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey. The day after Christmas, Washington caught the Hessians by surprise and won the Battle of Trenton. That victory boost the morale of the Continentals and spurred the troops to continue fighting and eventually win the war.

For our first American Christmas in 1776, we got a priceless present from our founding fathers and mothers - Freedom!

Likewise, on the first Christmas, which we celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God, we can receive the ultimate gift of Freedom:

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
(John 8:36,King James Version)

Merry Christmas and God Bless America!
Painting jpg from:
Wikimedia: Washington Crossing the Delaware

Related links to the Battle of Trenton:
Trenton 1776
Battle of Trenton
Timeline of the American Revolutionary War

Monday, December 14, 2009

December 15th - Bill of Rights Day - Sometimes we do learn from history


December 15th should be celebrated by all Americans. On this day in 1791, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, were ratified by three-fourths of the States. This document secured our freedoms as much (or more so) as the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It still lives and serves to prevent us from repeating the mistakes of our past.

One of the dark periods of American history was The Salem Witch Trials. In 1692, hundreds faced accusations of witchcraft; 19 people were tried and hung for it; an 80 year old man pressed to death for refusing to submit to a trial; dozens languished in jail for months without trials.

What were they thinking?

The philosopher George Santayana had said: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

With the Bill of Rights added to our Constitution, our founding fathers did learn from history. When enforced, the first ten amendments can avert human rights violations, such as what happened in the Salem Witch Trials.

Let's look at some of these rights:

First Amendment: freedom of speech, of the press, freedom of religion, and of assembly; right to petition

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Fourth Amendment: protection from unreasonable search and seizure
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fifth Amendment: due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Sixth Amendment: trial by jury and rights of the accused; confrontation clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Eight Amendment: prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

I cannot think of any major country in the world where such freedoms are given to their citizens. Can you?
With that in mind, Thomas Jefferson has been attributed to say:
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
Freedom isn't free

Related links:
Bill of Rights Day

Photos from:
Wikimedia Commons: Bill of Rights
Wikimedia Commons: Salem Witch Trial

Quotes from:
Wisdom Quotes: George Santayana
Quotation Page: Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Geminids - more star showers

Did you see the Leonid meteor showers in November?

Last month, very early on November 17, I got up at 1 a.m. as it was to be the prime viewing for the Leonids. I admit it. I did not leave the comfort of my home, as I looked out the windows in all directions. And I did not see any falling stars this time. Sleep overcame me and I went back to my warm bed.

I was not alone in my defeat. That night (November 16), an episode of the TV show, The Big Bang Theory: The Adhesive Duck Deficiency showed that the rocket scientists missed viewing the Leonids, too. And they were outside camping.

Good news for star gazers. This December 13 & 14, the Geminids should be at least ten times as good. And there is a much better chance of seeing this meteor shower.

So what are the Geminids? Each December 12 to 14, the earth's atmosphere passes through the debris of an object called 3200 Phatheon, thought to be an extinct comet. This JPL applet provides an excellent simulation of the cause of this meteor shower: 3200 Phaethon (1983 TB)

Universe Today offers some excellent viewing tips: Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower.

I do not know if I will be brave enough to shiver out in the snow. Most likely I will be viewing the stars from the comfort of a warm house.

Please share any cool experience you had viewing the nighttime sky.

For more information on this meteor shower, check out Sky and Telescope: Geminids: An exception to the rule

One final thought. I cannot count the stars, nor name them, but there is Someone Who does:

He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.
Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
Psalm 147:4-5 (King James Version)

Photo from:

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Geminid meteor shower

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pearl Harbor Day, 1941 - World War Two Soldiers Remembered

My mother-in-law wrote down memories about World War II in this article: World War Two - before, during, and after.

During the Great Depression, my father-in-law had been in college ROTC and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Army. He was scheduled to be discharged January 1942, but December 7, 1941 changed all that.

The next day, President Roosevelt delivered his "Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation:"

"Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. ...
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. ..."

Four days after Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on the United States. As a result, my father-in-law was first sent to North Africa, then Sicily to fight in the European Theater. Later, he waited in England where he would be part of the invasion into France on D-Day + 4. After the liberation, he witnessed the horror of the concentration camps.

In this deadliest conflict of human history, when the war was over, more than 70 million people (military and civilian) lost their lives.

The 2001 mini-series, produced by Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks, "Band of Brothers" chronicled what the soldiers of Easy Company had endured during the war. It was based on the Stephen Ambrose book of the same name, which gets its title from the St. Crispen's Day Speech in Shakespeare's Henry V .

The video clip below show Easy Company's first encounter with a concentration camp inside Germany. These images give a glimpse of what my father-in-law had experienced in Europe.

After the war, my father-in-law made a career in the Army. When stationed in West Germany, he took his sons to the Dachau concentration camp site, as a lesson in man's inhumanity to man and why we had fought this war. He passed away a few years ago on Pearl Harbor Day.

Other links honoring World War Two Soldiers and all those in harm's way, who guard our freedoms:

World War II America (Battle Hymn of the Republic)

Sir Winston Churchill - Finest Hour

Related links:
photo from Pearl Harbor