Thursday, November 14, 2013

Facts about Christmas

With the Christmas carols and such playing already, here is a list of gathered Christmas facts and trivia. enjoy.

"Hot cockles" was a popular game at Christmas in medieval times. It was a game in which the other players took turns striking the blindfolded player, who had to guess the name of the person delivering each blow. "Hot cockles" was still a Christmas pastime until the Victorian era.

"White Christmas" (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, was the first movie to be made in Vista Vision, a deep-focus process.

"The Nutcracker" is the name for the ballet performed around Christmas time each year. "The Nutcracker Suite" is the title of the music Tchaikovsky wrote.

"Wassail" comes from the Old Norse "ves heill"--to be of good health. This evolved into the tradition of visiting neighbors on Christmas Eve and drinking to their health.

A Christmas club, a savings account in which a person deposits a fixed amount of money regularly to be used at Christmas for shopping, came about around 1905.

A traditional Christmas dinner in early England was the head of a pig prepared with mustard.

According to a 1995 survey, 7 out of 10 British dogs get Christmas gifts from their doting owners.

According to historical accounts, the first Christmas in the Philippines was celebrated 200 years before Ferdinand Magellan discovered the country for the western world, likely between the years 1280 and 1320 AD.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy 37.1 million real Christmas trees each year; 25 percent of them are from the nation's 5,000 choose-and-cut farms.

After "A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens wrote several other Christmas stories, one each year, but none was as successful as the original.

Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday. This tradition began in 1836.

Although many believe the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, it is not. It is the fifth to tenth busiest day. The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the two busiest shopping days of the year.

American billionaire Ross Perot tried to airlift 28 tons of medicine and Christmas gifts to American POW's in North Vietnam in 1969.

America's official national Christmas tree is located in King's Canyon National Park in California. The tree, a giant sequoia called the "General Grant Tree," is over 300 feet (90 meters) high. It was made the official Christmas tree in 1925.

An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees. A spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck.

An average household in America will mail out 28 Christmas cards each year and see 28 eight cards return in their place.

Animal Crackers are not really crackers, but cookies that were imported to the United States from England in the late 1800s. Barnum's circus-like boxes were designed with a string handle so that they could be hung on a Christmas tree.

As early as 1822, the postmaster in Washington, D.C. was worried by the amount of extra mail at Christmas time. His preferred solution to the problem was to limit by law the number of cards a person could send. Even though commercial cards were not available at that time, people were already sending so many home-made cards that sixteen extra postmen had to be hired in the city.

At Christmas, Ukrainians prepare a traditional twelve-course meal. A family's youngest child watches through the window for the evening star to appear, a signal that the feast can begin.

At lavish Christmas feasts in the Middle Ages, swans and peacocks were sometimes served "endored." This meant the flesh was painted with saffron dissolved in melted butter. In addition to their painted flesh, endored birds were served wrapped in their own skin and feathers, which had been removed and set aside prior to roasting.

Before settling on the name of Tiny Tim for his character in "A Christmas Carol," three other alliterative names were considered by Charles Dickens. They were Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam.

California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the top Christmas tree producing states. Oregon is the leading producer of Christmas trees - 8.6 million in 1998.

Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorated the Christmas trees. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral decided have the ends bent to depict a shepherd's crook and he would pass them out to the children to keep them quiet during the services. It wasn't until about the 20th century that candy canes acquired their red stripes.

Charles Dickens' initial choice for Scrooge's statement "Bah Humbug" was "Bah Christmas."

Child singer Jimmy Boyd was 12 years and 11 months old when he sang the Christmas favorite, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." The song hit the top of the pop charts.

Christmas caroling began as an old English custom called Wassailing - toasting neighbors to a long and healthy life.

Christmas Day in the Ukraine can be celebrated on either December 25, in faithful alliance with the Roman Catholic Gregorian calendar, or on January 7, which is the Orthodox or Eastern Rite (Julian calendar), the church holy day.

Christmas is a summer holiday in South Africa. Children are fond of the age-old custom of producing pantomimes - for instance, "Babes in the Wood," founded on one of the oldest ballads in the English language. Boxing Day on December 26th, when boxes of food and clothing are given to the poor, is observed as a holiday.

Christmas is not widely celebrated in Scotland. Some historians believe that Christmas is downplayed in Scotland because of the influence of the Presbyterian Church (or Kirk), which considered Christmas a "Papist," or Catholic event. As a result, Christmas in Scotland tends to be somber.

Christmas presents were known in antiquity among kings and chieftains, especially on the European continent. However, they have been common among ordinary people in Iceland only during the past 100 or so years.

Christmas trees are edible. Many parts of pines, spruces, and firs can be eaten. The needles are a good source of vitamin C. Pine nuts, or pine cones, are also a good source of nutrition.

Christmas trees are known to have been popular in Germany as far back as the sixteenth century. In England, they became popular after Queen Victoria's husband Albert, who came from Germany, made a tree part of the celebrations at Windsor Castle. In the United States, the earliest known mention of a Christmas tree is in the diary of a German who settled in Pennsylvania.

Christmas was once a moveable feast celebrated at many different times during the year. The choice of December 25, was made by Pope Julius I, in the 4th century A.D., because this coincided with the pagan rituals of Winter Solstice, or Return of the Sun. The intent was to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one.

Cultured Christmas trees must be shaped as they grow to produce fuller foliage. To slow the upward growth and to encourage branching, they are hand-clipped in each spring. Trees grown in the wild have sparser branches, and are known in the industry as "Charlie Brown" trees.

During the ancient 12-day Christmas celebration, the log burned was called the "Yule log." Sometimes a piece of the Yule log would be kept to kindle the fire the following winter, to ensure that the good luck carried on from year to year. The Yule log custom was handed down from the Druids.

During the Christmas buying season, Visa cards alone are used an average of 5,340 times every minute in the United States.

During the Christmas/Hanukkah season, more than 1.76 billion candy canes will be made.

During World War II it was necessary for Americans to mail Christmas gifts early for the troops in Europe to receive them in time. Merchants joined in the effort to remind the public to shop and mail early and the protracted shopping season was born.

Electric Christmas tree lights were first used in 1895. The idea for using electric Christmas lights came from an American, Ralph E. Morris. The new lights proved safer than the traditional candles.

Following Princess Diana's tragic death in 1997, the Ty toy company, famous in the late 1990s for its popular Beanie Baby line of beanbag animals, issued a "Princess" bear in tribute. The royal purple Beanie, bearing an embroidered white rose on its chest, became so desired that at Christmas time, American collectors were willing to spend up to $300 for one on the secondary market.

For every real Christmas tree harvested, 2 to 3 seedlings are planted in its place.

There are two Christmas Islands.
The Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean was formerly called Kiritimati. Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean is 52 square miles.

Frankincense is a sweet smelling gum resin derived from certain Boswellia trees which, at the time of Christ, grew in Arabia, India, and Ethiopia. Tradition says that it was presented to the Christ Child by Balthasar, the black king from Ethiopia or Saba. The frankincense trade was at its height during the days of the Roman Empire. At that time this resin was considered as valuable as gems or precious metals. The Romans burned frankincense on their altars and at cremations.

Franklin Pierce was the first United States' president to decorate an official White House Christmas tree .

Frumenty was a spiced porridge, enjoyed by both rich and poor. It is thought to be the forerunner of modern Christmas puddings. It has its origins in a Celtic legend of the harvest god Dagda, who stirred a porridge made up of all the good things of the Earth.

Frustrated at the lack of interest in his new toy invention, Charles Pajeau hired several midgets, dressed them in elf costumes, and had them play with "Tinker Toys" in a display window at a Chicago department store during the Christmas season in 1914. This publicity stunt made the construction toy an instant hit. A year later, over a million sets of Tinker Toys had been sold.

George Washington spent Christmas night 1776 crossing the Delaware River in dreadful conditions. Christmas 1777 fared little better - at Valley Forge, Washington and his men had a miserable Christmas dinner of Fowl cooked in a broth of Turnips, cabbage and potatoes.

Greeks do not use Christmas trees or give presents at Christmas. A priest may throw a little cross into the village water to drive the kallikantzari (gremlin-like spirits) away. To keep them from hiding in dark, dusty corners, he goes from house to house sprinkling holy water.

Hallmark introduced its first Christmas cards in 1915, five years after the founding of the company.

Historians have traced some of the current traditions surrounding Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, back to ancient Celtic roots. Father Christmas's elves are the modernization of the "Nature folk" of the Pagan religions; his reindeer are associated with the "Horned God," which was one of the Pagan deities.

If traveling in France during the Christmas season, it is interesting to note that different dishes and dining traditions reign in popularity in different parts of the country. In south France, for instance, a Christmas loaf (pain calendeau) is cut crosswise and is eaten only after the first part has been given to a poor person. In Brittany, buckwheat cakes and sour cream is the most popular main dish. In Alsace, a roasted goose is the preferred entrée. In Burgundy, turkey and chestnuts are favored. In the Paris region, oysters are the favorite holiday dish, followed by a cake shaped like a Yule log.

In 1647, the English parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Festivities were banned by Puritan leader, Oliver Cromwell, who considered feasting and revelry, on what was supposed to be a holy day, to be immoral. The ban was lifted only when the Puritans lost power in 1660.

In 1752, 11 days were dropped from the year when the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar was made. The December 25, date was effectively moved 11 days backwards. Some Christian church sects, called old calendarists, still celebrate Christmas on January 7 (previously December 25 of the Julian calendar).

In 1907, Oklahoma became the last US state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.

In 1937, the first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria.

In 1947, Toys for Tots started making the holidays a little happier for children by organizing its first Christmas toy drive for needy youngsters.

In 1996, Christmas caroling was banned at two major malls in Pensacola, Florida. Apparently, shoppers and merchants complained the carolers were too loud and took up too much space.

In an effort to solicit cash to pay for a charity Christmas dinner in 1891, a large crabpot was set down on a San Francisco street, becoming the first Salvation Army collection kettle.

In America, the weeks leading up to Christmas are the biggest shopping weeks of the year. Many retailers make up to 70% of their annual revenue in the month preceding Christmas.

In Armenia, the traditional Christmas Eve meal consists of fried fish, lettuce, and spinach. The meal is traditionally eaten after the Christmas Eve service, in commemoration of the supper eaten by Mary on the evening before Christ's birth.

In Britain, eating mince pies at Christmas dates back to the 16th century. It is still believed that to eat a mince pie on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas will bring 12 happy months in the year to follow.

In Britain, the Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551, which has not yet been repealed, states that every citizen must attend a Christian church service on Christmas Day, and must not use any kind of vehicle to get to the service.

In Finland and Sweden an old tradition prevails, where the twelve days of Christmas are declared to be time of civil peace by law. It used to be that a person committing crimes during this time would be liable to a stiffer sentence than normal.

In France, Christmas is called Noel. This is derived from the French phrase "les bonnes nouvelles," which means literally "the good news" and refers to the gospel.

In Greek legend, malicious creatures called Kallikantzaroi (also spelled Kallikantzari) sometimes play troublesome pranks at Christmas time. According to the legend, to get rid of them, you should burn either salt or an old shoe. Apparently the stench of the burning shoe (or salt) drives off the Kallikantzaroi. Other effective methods include hanging a pig's jawbone by the door and keeping a large fire so they can't sneak down the chimney.

In Guatemala, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25; however, Guatemalan adults do not exchange gifts until New Year's Day. Children get theirs (from the Christ Child) on Christmas morning.

In Medieval England, Nicholas was just another saint - he had not yet been referred to as Santa Claus and he had nothing to do with Christmas.

In North America, children put stockings out at Christmas time. Their Dutch counterparts, however, use shoes. Dutch children set out shoes to receive gifts any time between mid-November and December 5, St. Nicholas' birthday.

In Norway on Christmas Eve, visitors should know that after the family's big dinner and the opening of presents, all the brooms in the house are hidden. The Norwegians long ago believed that witches and mischievous spirits came out on Christmas Eve and would steal their brooms for riding.

In Portugal, the traditional Christmas meal (consoada) is eaten in the early hours of Christmas Day. Burning in the hearth is the Yule log (fogueira da consoada). The ashes and charred remains of the Yule log are saved; later in the year, they are burned with pine cones during Portugal's thunderstorm season. It is believed that no thunderbolt will strike where the Yule log smoke has traveled.

In southern France, some people burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year's Day. This stems from an ancient tradition in which farmers would use part of the log to ensure a plentiful harvest the following year.

In Sweden, a common Christmas decoration is the Julbock. Made from straw, it is a small figurine of a goat. A variety of straw decorations are a usual feature of Scandinavian Christmas festivities.

In Syria, Christmas gifts are distributed by one of the Wise Men's camels. The gift-giving camel is said to have been the smallest one in the Wise Men's caravan.

In the British armed forces it is traditional that officers wait on the men and serve them their Christmas dinner. This dates back to a custom from the Middle Ages.

In the Netherlands, Christmas centers on the arrival of Saint Nicholas, who is believed to come on horseback bearing gifts. Before going to bed, children leave out their shoes, hoping to find them filled with sweets when they awaken.

In the Thomas Nast cartoon that first depicted Santa Claus with a sleigh and reindeer, he was delivering Christmas gifts to soldiers fighting in the U.S. Civil War. The cartoon, entitled "Santa Claus in Camp," appeared in Harper's Weekly on January 3, 1863.

In the Ukraine, a traditional Christmas bread called "kolach" is placed in the center of the dining table. This bread is braided into a ring, and three such rings are placed one on top of the other, with a candle in the center of the top one. The three rings symbolize the Trinity.

In Victorian England, turkeys were popular for Christmas dinners. Some of the birds were raised in Norfolk, and taken to market in London. To get them to London, the turkeys were supplied with boots made of sacking or leather. The turkeys were walked to market. The boots protected their feet from the frozen mud of the road. Boots were not used for geese: instead, their feet were protected with a covering of tar.

It is a British Christmas tradition that a wish made while mixing the Christmas pudding will come true only if the ingredients are stirred in a clockwise direction.

It is estimated that 400,000 people become sick each year from eating tainted Christmas leftovers.

Jesus Christ, son of Mary, was born in a cave, not in a wooden stable. Caves were used to keep animals in because of the intense heat. A large church is now built over the cave, and people can go down inside the cave. The carpenters of Jesus' day were really stone cutters. Wood was not used as widely as it is today. So whenever you see a Christmas nativity scene with a wooden stable -- that's the "American" version, not the Biblical one.

La Befana, a kindly witch, rides a broomstick down the chimney to deliver toys into the stockings of Italian children. The legends say that Befana was sweeping her floors when the three Wise Men stopped and asked her to come to see the Baby Jesus. "No," she said, "I am too busy." Later, she changed her mind but it was too late. So, to this day, she goes out on Christmas Eve searching for the Holy Child, leaving gifts for the "holy child" in each household.

Long before it was used as a "kiss encourager" during the Christmas season, mistletoe had long been considered to have magic powers by Celtic and Teutonic peoples. It was said to have the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring themselves good luck and ward off evil spirits.

Mistletoe, a traditional Christmas symbol, was once revered by the early Britons. It was so sacred that it had to be cut with a golden sickle.

More diamonds are purchased at Christmas-time (31 percent) than during any other holiday or occasion during the year.

More than three billion Christmas cards are sent annually in the United States.

Myrrh is an aromatic gum resin which oozes from gashes cut in the bark of a small desert tree known as Commifera Myrrha or the dindin tree. The myrrh hardens into tear-dropped shaped chunks and is then powdered or made into ointments or perfumes. This tree is about 5-15 feet tall and 1 foot in diameter. Legend says Caspar brought the gift of myrrh from Europe or Tarsus and placed it before the Christ Child. Myrrh was an extremely valuable commodity during biblical times and was imported from India and Arabia.

New York City's Empire State Building's world famous tower lights are turned off every night at midnight with the exception of New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and St. Patrick's Day, when they are illuminated until 3 a.m.

On Christmas Day, 1989, Eastern Europe was permitted to celebrate Christmas freely and openly for the first time in decades. Church masses were broadcast live for the first time in history.

One Norwegian Christmas custom begins in late autumn at harvest time. The finest wheat is gathered and saved until Christmas. This wheat is then attached to poles made from tree branches, making perches for the birds. A large circle of snow is cleared away beneath each perch. According to the Norwegians, this provides a place for the birds to dance, which allows them to work up their appetites between meals. Just before sunset on Christmas Eve, the head of the household checks on the wheat in the yard. If a lot of sparrows are seen dining, it is suppose to indicate a good year for growing crops.

One notable medieval English Christmas celebration featured a giant 165-pound pie. The giant pie was nine feet in diameter. Its ingredients included 2 bushels of flour, 20 pounds of butter, 4 geese, 2 rabbits, 4 wild ducks, 2 woodcocks, 6 snipes, 4 partridges, 2 neats' tongues, 2 curlews, 6 pigeons, and 7 blackbirds.

Originally, Christmas decorations were home-made paper flowers, or apples, biscuits, and sweets. The earliest decorations to be bought came from Nuremburg in Germany, a city famous for the manufacture of toys. Lauscha in Germany is famous for its glass ornaments. In 1880, America discovered Lauscha and F.W. Woolworth went there and bought a few glass Christmas tree ornaments. Within a day he had sold out so next year he bought more and within a week they, too, had sold. The year after that be bought 200,000 Lauscha ornaments. During the First World War supplies of ornaments from Lauscha ceased, so American manufacturers began to make their own ornaments, developing new techniques that allowed them to turn out as many ornaments in a minute as could be made in a whole day at Lauscha.

Per a November 2000 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans thought they would spend at least $500 that year on Christmas gifts. This was a slight drop from 1999 gift-spending.

Postmen in Victorian England were popularly called "robins." This was because their uniforms were red. The British Post Office grew out of the carrying of royal dispatches. Red was considered a royal color, so uniforms and letter-boxes were red. Christmas cards often showed a robin delivering Christmas mail.

Queen Elizabeth's Christmas message to the nation was televised for the first time on December 25, 1957. For the next 40 years, the BBC aired the event.

Right behind Christmas and Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday ranks as the third-largest occasion for Americans to consume food, according to the National Football League.

Santa's Reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.

Since the 1840s, the residents of Pietarsaari, a town on Finland's coast, have decorated a Christmas street, Storgatan, since the 1840s. Suspended over the street are three large illuminated decorations: a cross symbolizing faith, an anchor representing h

St. Nicholas was bishop of the Turkish town of Myra in the early fourth century. It was the Dutch who first made him into a Christmas gift-giver, and Dutch settlers brought him to America where his name eventually became the familiar Santa Claus.

Telesphorus, the second Bishop of Rome (125-136 AD) declared that public Church services should be held to celebrate "The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour." In 320 AD, Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified 25 December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The "Twelve Days of Christmas" was originally written to help Catholic children, in England, remember different articles of faith during the persecution by Protestant Monarchs. The "true love" represented God, and the gifts all different ideas:
The "Partridge in a pear tree" was Christ.
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity-- the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which relays the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of Creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

NOTE: Urban Legends Reference Pages says the above fact is False.
The abbreviation of Xmas for Christmas is not irreligious. The first letter of the word Christ in Greek is chi, which is identical to our X. Xmas was originally an ecclesiastical abbreviation that was used in tables and charts.

The actual gift givers are different in various countries:
England: Father Christmas
France: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)
Germany: Christkind (angelic messenger from Jesus) She is a beautiful fair haired girl with a shining crown of candles.
Holland: St Nicholas.
Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)
Spain and South America: The Three Kings
Russia: In some parts - Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure) in other parts it is Grandfather Frost.
Scandinavia: a variety of Christmas gnomes. One is called Julenisse.

The best selling Christmas trees are Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir and white pine.

The Canadian province of Nova Scotia leads the world in exporting lobster, wild blueberries, and Christmas trees.

The Christmas season begins at sundown on 24th December and lasts through sundown on 5th January. For that reason, this season is also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The Christmas turkey first appeared on English tables in the 16th century, but didn't immediately replace the traditional fare of goose, beef or boar's head in the rich households.

The custom of singing Christmas carols is very old - the earliest English collection was published in 1521.

The day after Christmas, December 26, is known as Boxing Day. It is also the holy day called The Feast of St. Stephen. Some believe the feast was named for St. Stephen, a 9th century Swedish missionary, the patron saint of horses. Neither Boxing Day or St. Stephen have anything to do with Sweden or with horses. The Stephen for whom the day is named is the one in the Bible (Acts 6-8) who was the first Christian to be martyred for his faith.

The first British monarch to broadcast a Christmas message to his people was King George V.

The first charity Christmas card was produced by UNICEF in 1949. The picture chosen for the card was painted not by a professional artist but by a seven-year-old girl. The girl was Jitka Samkova of Rudolfo, a small town in the former nation of Czechoslovakia. The town received UNICEF assistance after World War II, inspiring Jitka to paint some children dancing around a maypole. She said her picture represented "joy going round and round."

The first Christmas card was created in England on December 9, 1842.

The first commercial Christmas card sold was designed by London artist John Calcott Horsley. He was hired by a wealthy British man to design a card that showed people feeding and clothing the poor with another picture of a Christmas party. The first Christmas card said, "Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you." Of the original one thousand cards he printed for Henry Cole, only twelve exist today.

The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

The four ghosts in Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" were the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Yet to Come, and the ghost of Jacob Marley.

The movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000) features more than 52,000 Christmas lights, about 8,200 Christmas ornaments, and nearly 2,000 candy canes.

The modern Christmas custom of displaying a wreath on the front door of one's house, is borrowed from ancient Rome's New Year's celebrations. Romans wished each other "good health" by exchanging branches of evergreens. They called these gifts strenae after Strenia, the goddess of health. It became the custom to bend these branches into a ring and display them on doorways.

The northern European custom of the candlelit Christmas tree is derived from the belief that it sheltered woodland spirits when other trees lost their leaves during winter.

The poem commonly referred to as "The Night Before Christmas" was originally titled "A Visit From Saint Nicholas." This poem was written by Clement Moore for his children and some guests, one of whom anonymously sent the poem to a New York newspaper for publication.

The poinsettia, traditionally an American Christmas flower, originally grew in Mexico; where it was known as the "Flower of the Holy Night". It was first brought to America by Joel Poinsett in 1829.

The popular Christmas song "Jingle Bells" was composed in 1857 by James Pierpont, and was originally called "One-Horse Open Sleigh."

The Puritans forbade the singing of Christmas carols.

The real St. Nicholas lived in Turkey, where he was bishop of the town of Myra, in the early 4th century. It was the Dutch who first made him into a Christmas gift-giver, and Dutch settlers brought him to America where his name eventually became the familiar Santa Claus.

The Super Ball® was born in 1965, and it became America's most popular plaything that year. By Christmas time, only six months after it was introduced by Wham-O, 7 million balls had been sold at 98 cents apiece. Norman Stingley, a California chemist, invented the bouncing gray ball. In his spare time, he had compressed a synthetic rubber material under 3,500 pounds of pressure per square inch, and eventually created the remarkable ball. It had a resiliency of 92 percent, about three times that of a tennis ball, and could bounce for long periods. It was reported that presidential aide McGeorge Bundy had five dozen Super Balls® shipped to the White House for the amusement of staffers.

The table for Christmas Eve dinner in the Ukraine is set with two tablecloths: one for the ancestors of the family, the other for the living members. In pagan times, ancestors were believed to be benevolent spirits who, when shown respect, brought good fortune.

The tradition of Christmas lights dates back to when Christians were persecuted for saying Mass. A simple candle in the window meant that Mass would be celebrated there that night.

The traditional flaming Christmas pudding dates back to 1670 in England, and was derived from an earlier form of stiffened plum porridge.

The world's first singing commercial aired on the radio on Christmas Eve, 1926 for Wheaties cereal. The four male singers, eventually known as the Wheaties Quartet, sang the jingle. The Wheaties Quartet, comprised of an undertaker, a bailiff, a printer, and a businessman, performed the song for the next six years, at $6 per singer per week. The commercials were a resounding success.

Theodore Roosevelt, a staunch conservationist, banned Christmas trees in his home, even when he lived in the White House. His children, however, smuggled them into their bedrooms.

There are twelve courses in the Ukrainian Christmas Eve supper. According to the Christian tradition, each course is dedicated to one of Christ's apostles.

When Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, died on December 4, 1894, he willed his November 13 birthday to a friend who disliked her own Christmas birthday.

Yuletide-named towns in the United States include Santa Claus, located in Arizona and Indiana, Noel in Missouri, and Christmas in both Arizona and Florida.

Christmas comes from Old English; Cristes maesse or Mass of Christ

Germany made the first artificial Christmas trees. They were made of goose feathers and dyed green.

"It's a Wonderful Life" appears on TV more often than any other holiday movie.

Rudolph" was actually created by Montgomery Ward in the late 1930's for a holiday promotion. The rest is history.

The Nutcracker" is the most famous Christmas ballet.

Jingle Bells" was first written for Thanksgiving and then became one of the most popular Christmas songs.

If you received all of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," you would receive 364 gifts.

Holly berries are poisonous.

Contrary to common belief, poinsettia plants are non-toxic.

Mistletoe was chosen as Oklahoma's state flower in 1893 and later changed to the state floral emblem.

In 1843, "A Christmas Carol" was written by Charles Dickens in just six weeks.

Christmas became a national holiday in America on June, 26, 1870.

An angel told Mary she was going to have a baby.

Traditionally, Christmas trees are taken down after Epiphany.

In Mexico, wearing red underwear on New Year's Eve is said to bring new love in the upcoming year.

Santa Claus was born in 280AD as Nicholas, he wore a red and white Bishop's robe

The first electric Christmas tree lights were telephone switchboard lights

Joseph could have had Mary stoned to death for becoming pregnant

Christ was most likely born in the summer, as the Gospels state that shepherds who saw the star were watching their flocks in the fields at night. Judean winters are cold and rainy, and the flocks were more likely to be sheltered in caves during the winter months.

The "Christmas star" is thought to be Sirius, the "Dog Star" which is the birghtest star in the night sky.

The number of wise men that sought to find the new Messiah is not mentioned anywhere in the bible, nor is it mentioned that they were kings. They were more likely either persian priests or astronomers.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


It happened 24 years ago. I was a young man in college, doing semi-well in all my classes, had a girl that I loved and was engaged to, and seemingly had it all. The only problem in my life at the time was that my parents had split, and it was causing some added stress, but for the most part, I was fine. Then, one night, it happened. I was working late at the campus computer lab, and the director of computer services came by and started talking to me. I didn't think much of it, since he was in charge of the facility and came by at night on occasion. We talked for a while before it was time to close the building, and I did the rounds to the other labs in the building, making sure that all the computers were shut off before logging out. On the way out, I stopped to use the restroom downstairs, and then it happened. The DoCS came in to use the restroom, and made advances at me. I didn't know what to do at first, all I knew was that I was scared. I mean, I was just a skinny little guy and this guy was taller, older, and obviously quite a bit stronger than I was, so I just stood there. Next thing I knew, he had his hand on my shoulder and was pushing me down toward his crotch area. I still remember his exact words: "There's no one else here, so do as I say, and you will be fine." What could I do but comply? So I let him have his way with me, and waited for him to finish and leave. After he left, I felt sick, and nasty. I washed up, drank water and spit out the taste that was left in my mouth and left to go back to my dorm room. I wanted to tell my friends, especially my then fiancée, what happened, but was too afraid to, afraid that he might find out, and would do something further to me. I began to withdraw, and my moods would change quickly and often, to the point where my then fiancée gave the engagement ring back to me one night after an argument, and I flung it into the nearest snow bank (I was able to retrieve it right away), and the relationship went downhill from there. I grew more and more insecure and eventually, the relationship fell apart. Still, nobody knew what was really wrong. I had started seeing a university psychologist, and he focused on my family problems, but- since he worked for the university, I told him nothing about what happened, for fear that it would get back to him. Eventually, others did come forward with allegations of rape (because that is what it was) and sexual intimidation by the man, and encouraged me to do the same. I had figured there was safety in numbers so filed my report as well. All was going well until one of the plaintiffs retracted his story and admitted to an ongoing thing with the man and that he did it willingly. After this, the campus police threw the whole thing out claiming the rest of us were lying as well. I soon lost my student job at the computer center, and got a job working at the library, thanks to my one friend's mom. Since I no longer worked at the main computer lab, I stayed away from there for the remainder of my time on campus. I still saw the man on occasion, and he would look at me knowingly, but I'd quickly turn around and go the other way. To this day, the memory still haunts me, and until now, nobody but myself knew the full story. Would things have been different had I said something when it happened? Maybe- maybe not. Back then, men reporting rape or sexual harassment from another man was not something that was done. But thinking back on it all, I wish I had. I at least wish that I had told the one that mattered most to me at the time. All I can do now is move on.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Time again to help a good friend promote her newest book. For a chance at winning a free copy of "Valor of the Healer", by Angela Korra'ti, click on the link below, and follow the directions. Her last book "Faerie Blood" is also an excellent read! "Valor of the Healer" Giveaway

Leadership Lessons- Part IX: Resilience

(Originally Published 03 August, 2009)
(Note: I'm not sure if this is the video that originally went with this post. The one I originally posted was no longer available.)

Welcome to the ninth and final part of the series on leadership. First off, I would like to apologize to those who have been following for the delay in getting this one posted. It's been a long weekend, filled with much cherished visits from an old friend, and car repairs, and by the time each was finished, I was too exhausted to do anything else. Now without further ado, I present you with part IX. To date, I have covered Focus, Urgency, Initiative, Competence, Communication, Politics, Intellectual Honesty, and Interdependence. In this post, I will discuss Resilience. Resilience is defined as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

As an effective leader, one is expected to be of resilient character; therefore, developing and maintaining this quality of leadership should always be one of top priority. It is also the responsibility of an effective leader to nurture the experiences of those under his leadership to help them to develop a sense of competence and self-confidence for dealing with and overcoming their own mistakes and misfortunes. One must recognize that, at all levels of leadership, one must take steps to insure his own resilience as well as the strength and stability of those around him. To these ends, the following guidelines should be taken into consideration:
  • The first step in forging and solidifying either personal or team reslience is taken when a leader begins to place his trust in others.

  • By confiding in others, a leader takes two important steps toward building resilience in them. By verbally sharing experiences, one integrates emotionally and bonds a sense of mortal trust with others.

  • Allowing those under one's leadership to have a great deal of control over how assignments are accomplished reinforces one's confidence in them. It also motivates their desire to perform their duties with skill and excellence.

  • It is prudent that a leader be driven to serve purposes outside his own self-interest, as the extreme individualist never becomes a successful or effective leader.

  • An effective leader should always forgive and forget the honest errors of others and to help them to rebound and recover from their mistakes. This responsibility is of paramount importance.

  • It is of vital importance that one does not become confounded by one's miscalculations when a particular strategy does not work. In light of such a situation, one's primary task should be to formulate a new premise and take decisive action.

  • In matters of either crisis or routine, it is always wise to ask others for their opinions, ideas, or suggestions. By taking such action, it often improve the action taken and reinforce concensus between a leader and those whom he leads. Moreover, restricting one's choices to the confines of his own knowledge is self-limiting. This is especially so when others possess knowledge and ideas that will allow one to improve upon his course of action.

  • While an effective leader is expected to be successful in all that he does, he must also possess the strength of character to experience and recover from failure.

  • A leader often encounters traumatic situations that are sudden, unexpected, and short-lived; however even in the most dire conditions, he is expected to maintain his composure and assist others in maintaining theirs. The fact is that anyone can commit a mortal mistake when overcome by panic and despair.

  • When met by mistakes and misfortune, there is no gain in retreat. Running away from a problem never solves anything, nor does it soothe feelings.

  • And last, but not least,
  • We must always recognize that in the most perilous circumstances, a leader must retain a sense of hope- trusting in his own ability and in the competence of others to stand firm against what would otherwise be an overwhelming tide of helplessness and despair.
In conclusion, as an effective leader, one's training and values will enable him to sustain even excessive periods of hardship while maintaining some measure of hope- the mortality fail-safe of human will.

Leadership Lessons- Part VIII: Interdependence

(Originally Posted: 29 July, 2009) Welcome to Part VIII of the series on leadership. To date, I have covered Focus, Urgency, Initiative, Competence, Communication, Politics, and Intellectual Honesty. Each of these can be found in their own discussion earlier in this blog. Today's topic is Interdependence, or the quality of being mutually dependent on each other. Interdependence can be either a great strength or a fatal weakness. If this is to be a strengthening quality of one's leadership, one must always permit the individual to strive within an environment of mutual dependence. Otherwise, the loss of the individual will more often than not become a fatal weakness- an Achilles' heel. In order to employ interdependence as a strengthening quality of leadership, the following guidelines are important:
  • Whenever a distinguished leader suddenly begins to behave erratically, in a way contrary to both his past record and to the well-being of the group, there is usually a misguided rationalization for it. However, as he has served honorably in the past, it is noble to help him work through his personal crisis.

  • Knowledge is power, but withholding information from those who should rightfully posess it is a personal weakness, one that others often pay a heavy price for as a result.

  • It is every leader's duty to freely exchange his knowledge, not through intellectual superiority, but as a means by which one helps to resolve problems and make better decisions.

  • On becoming a leader,one does not gain the authority to act independently of established rules or regulations. However, leaders should be duty-bound to abide by and uphold the policies and orders of higher command as they set the examples that others imitate.

  • Every member of a group has the right and duty to make meaningful contributions to the group as a whole. However, no one has the right to use the group's resources as a means of pursuing a personal agenda.

  • Extrme care should be taken to preserve the "individual" that exists in all who serve under one's leadership. Simply put, one's individualism- found in specialized abilities and knoweldge- is a key asset that contributes toward the achievement of common goals.

  • A leader who asks for the assistance of others, in order to accomplish a task or to succeed in achieving his goal, is not weak, but wise. A leader who provides assistance to another is not an intruder, but a friend.

  • There are times when virtually everyone will become sceptical of those in positions of higher authority. However, this scepticism neither justifies withholding information, nor does it condone taking independent action.

  • Sometimes the behavior of great officers crosses over the line of propriety, and must be reigned in by a more steadfast leader.

  • Everyone has the right to expect that all leaders will make good on their oath of office. In otherwords, a leader should be reliable, dependable, trustworthy, and mutually supportive of those that serve under him. The moment that a leader goes against his oath of office he loses his value to the group.

  • in conclusion,
  • One good leader sometimes makes the difference in whether the group succeeds or fails. However, it is the cooperative, collaborative, and corroborative effort of the entire group that will be more likely to lead to success.

As an effective leader, one will never have a more satisfying assignment than when serving among others with whom there is a shared mutual dependence-or even a symbiotic relationship.

(Next: Lesson IX- Resilience)

Leadership Lessons -Part VII: Intellectual Honesty

(Originally Published 28 July, 2009)

Yes, there are two videos this time (dual episode, dual example)

I have covered six of the qualities of leadership thus far: Focus, Urgency, Initiative, Competence, Communication, and Politics. Today, I will discuss Intellectual Honesty. "What is Intellectual Honesty?", you may ask. Simply put, it is one's personal code of honor. All leaders are entrusted to maintain a high standard of personal honor; therefore the following guidelines are important:
  • Since humans are emotional beings, we can be drawn into doing the wrong thing by what, at the moment, seems a necessity- necessity that often proves to result from either ignorance or denial.

  • Distrust is the result of many factors. Any leader who gains some ends by selfish scheming and underhanded practice my imagine that he has found the key to success, but eventually, the day comes when he is found out, and even his plausible words lose all value.

  • A dishonest person is soon denied the chance to be honest because the doors of opportunity are closed to him. To be true to oneself is to be true to those who provide the keys to opportunity.

  • It is easy to recognize the faults of others, but it is much more difficult for one to admit that he may be the one responsible for those faults he finds in others.

  • To be held in high regard, one;s actions should not betray his words. However, it is of vital importance that one's actions not betray doing what is right for the common good.

  • A leader who makes a habit of being true to himself and to others is one that can be trusted and relied upon in times of crisis. This holds true for everybody.

  • For security purposes, a leader may not be able to fully disclose the nature of a task to everybody. However, no leader should ever,under any circumstances, mislead those around him as to the nature of the task.

  • There may be limited time for one newly appointed to a leadership position to begin developing healthy relationships with those around him, but under no circumstances should he use whatever limited time is available to undo any potential to develop healthy relationships.

  • The morale and motivation of a team is a direct refelction of how they perceive their leader's integrity toward them.

  • in conclusion,
  • Intellectual honesty may result in one being dismissed for a time only to be recalled to duty when the success of the task at hand depends upon one who has proven his rustworthiness.
An effective leader must not only act with integrity of word and deed, but also integrity of idea and principle. This should be nothing less than any effective leader's code of honor.

(Next: Lesson VIII- Interdependence)

Leadership Lessons- Part VI: Politics

(Originally Published 27 July, 2009)

So far in this series, I have covered five of the main qualities of leadership: Focus, Urgency, Initiative, Competence, and Communication. (For follow-up, please refer to the corresponding entries titled Leadership lessons- Parts I-V) This entry will cover yet another important aspect: Politics.

It is a given fact that politics are the means by which civilized people conduct their affairs. Civilized conduct also helps to smooth out occasional wrinkles that tend to surface in interpersonal relationships, and well-intentioned and functional politics are of vital importance to governing organizations and the people within. However, every person also posesses the potential to display the dark side of power and authority. Following are some guidelines to keep such disfunctional and abusive behavior under control:
  • In any organization, rules of conduct create an atmosphere of decency by controlling irrational behavior.

  • A leader who seeks to distinguish himself at the expense of the innocent is in fact digging two graves, as the wrongful distruction of another's reputation will soon serve to destroy one's own.

  • Even the most notable leader can become so weakened by flattery that he ceases to exercise his authority properly, ceases to acknowledge that which is factual, and ceases to heed honest and constructive criticism until he gets to the point where he finds that those who once trusted him have deserted him.

  • A leader who emphasizes the commonalities of those around him, and has the ability to help them understand the differences that separate them, equips them with a great deal of skill to control their own irrational behavior.

  • A leader who constantly strives to find fault with others does not always succeed. However, in doing so, he causes harm to those around him and creates a distrustful environment for everyone.

  • While a leader may not always be convinced to act on factual evidence, he should never allow himself to be corrupted by his own determination in order to achieve his own ends despite what is the truth.

  • A person's bloodlines are bestowed upon him at birth, and are neither cause for alleged guilt nor reason for disqualifying him from any recognition. In order for humanity to improve, we must respect the rights of everyone to have an unrestrained part in our progress.

  • Although a leader has every right to expect those around him to follow lawful orders, no leader has the authority to force anyone to participate in his illegal activities or abuses of power.

  • A leader who respects the authority and power of his position exercises them in devotion to his duty in order to ensure the success of others

  • No leader or leadership group can ever completely prevent others from sowing fear, distrust, doubt, and dissent. However, every leader should stand prepared to boldly uproot any seeds so sown by anyone else.

  • Finally
  • Political games never end and are never resolved to the satisfaction of everyone. There is always going to be something that goes unresolved, something that goes unsaid, and always someone waiting and ready to replace those who are exposed for creating disfunction within the organization

In the end, everyone pays the price for those who would spread fear in the name of self-righeousness or who would otherwise create an atmosphere of distrust, suspicion, and fear among others. Protecting the individual rights of others is a continual price of leadership, and a price that any effective leader should be willing to pay lest he become corrupted himself. There is no success worth sacrificing anyone's individual rights and no reason why one person's corrupted ambitions should corrupt those of anyone else.

(Next: Lesson VII- Intellectual Honesty)

Leadership Lessons- Part V: Communication

(Originally Published 24 July 2009)

"Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing."- Rollo May

I have received a few comments about this series of posts from those few who follow my ramblings, and thus far, they have been positive, so I will continue on today with Part V of this series (there will be four more after this one, and a possible wrap-up of the entire series.) Thanks to my readers for their support and encouragement.

Before going into today's subject, I will briefly go over the first four characteristics of leadership:
  1. Focus- the ability to concentrate on the task at hand in order to complete it successfully,

  2. Urgency- the ability to complete the task at hand purposefully, diligently, and with the utmost patience,

  3. Initiative- The power or ability to begin or to follow through with a plan or task enrgetically and with determination, and

  4. Competence- The state or quality of being adequately or well qualified to perform a given task.

Today, I will discuss communication. Communication is a key element in leadership, as without it, nothing would be accomplished. However, communication is never effective without understanding, and failed attempts at communication often lead to dangerous situations. Also, despite the varied means of communication that are at our disposal, there are certain circumstances in which the only effective means of communication is vi a face-to-face encounter. Following are a few guidelines for effective communication:
  • All things considered, effective communication is the single most important element in resolving any crisis situation. Inversely, it is also the single most important factor in preventing a crisis situation from happening.

  • An effective communicator doesn't always necessarily have to agree with other people. However, tolerating another's differences and diversity of opinion is important.

  • The first battle of most hostile encounters almost always starts just as the communication process is ending. Inversely, the last battle ends only after communication between the opposing parties resumes.

  • Silence is not always golden, but powerful messages can be conveyed without speaking a single word. Sometimes what is not spoken is more important than what is actually said.

  • When one judges another solely by body language, gestures, vocal intonation, and facial expressions, it often leads to misinterpretation- not only where people of different racial or cultural backgrounds or different ideologies are concerned, but also when interacting with people from one's own culture or background who share the same ideology. Therefore, it is of extreme importance that one's non-verbal expression should not cause another to misinterpret what one is trying to say.

  • When one is having difficulty in expressing his thoughts, feelings, opinions, or ideas, it is important to remain patient in order to gain understanding.

  • If one person fails to listen to what another person is trying to convey, that person will often fail to properly respond to what has been said.

  • If nothing else, you gain more knowledge by listening when another person has very little to say.

  • Effective communication does not always end in agreement between people. This is true, as some of the most effective communications simply end with the opposing parties arriving at the reason(s) why they disagree with each other.

  • Interrupting another while they are in mid-sentence is generally considered to be rude. However, sometimes doing so can be the smartest and kindest thing you can do to them at that moment.

  • The use of some forms of advanced technology (ie. telephone, email, etc.) inherently separates the emotion from the communication. However, no technology is capable of removing the harmful effects of what has been improperly said.

  • In conclusion,
  • Always remember that, no matter how a message is delivered or recieved, the way in which you communicate must permit the messages to be understood.

Effective communiction is the lubricant of effective leadership, and one can never become an effective leader without being understood, or without understanding others.

(Next: Lesson VI- Politics)

Leadership Lessons- Part IV: Competence

(Originally Published 23 July, 2009) So far, I've covered three important characteristics of leadership:
  1. Focus- the ability to concentrate on the task at hand in order to complete it successfully,

  2. Urgency- the ability to complete the task at hand purposefully, diligently, and with the utmost patience,

  3. and
  4. Initiative- The power or ability to begin or to follow through with a plan or task enrgetically and with determination.

Today, I will discuss he quality known as competence. An effective leader is expected to perform all aspects of his duties with complete competence and skill, and, as a result, will be held accountable for making sure that his teammates perform their duties with the same degree of competence as well. The following guidelines will help you to achieve these ends.
  • Despite the degree of knowledge that one has acquired, the demonstration and proof of one's experience are required in order for that knowledge to become wisdom.

  • An effective leader should constantly strive to broaden his knowledge with and through others. Also, in doing so, he should also improve and perfect his own experience through the experience of others.

  • To become a master of any art or science immediately is not possible. Rather, if one wishes to excel at anything, he must first struggle with it while showing a great deal of patience until he learns its secrets.

  • One person posessing devices and instruments that he cannot utilize with complete competence has little, if any advantage over another who posesses the knowledge and competence, but inferior technology and tools.

  • The danger that threatens a leader's effectiveness less than anything else is the danger of knowing too much. On the other hand, it is possible to become extremely learned and still be inneffective in making use of that knowledge. Therefore, it is imperative that a leader acquire the proper knowledge to be put to use for the task at hand.

  • Passive experience does not yield competence in anyone. If one is to add his experience to his skill and knowledge, it must be displayed and acted upon with conscious effort and determination in order to learn the lessons contained within.

  • A portion of the power that a person wields comes with the position that he holds. Howeve, the greaest measure of his power and experience comes as a direct result of knowing his work.

  • A person with full mental capacity to adapt readily to mny and varied demand and unique situations, and who also can be inventive in dealing with unexpected emergencies has a higher vlue placed on him than one whose skill is purely immitative in nature.

  • One of the best ways to instill competence among one's teammates is to help them to overcome their errors and miscalculations before mistakes become habits.

  • Finally,
  • While self-confidence is a positive attribute in any leader, it is not sufficient enough to ensure his effectiveness. In order to become effective, one must provide his team with proper instruction and experience so that they will be able to succeed.

Competence should be the top priority of anyone in a leadership position. However, always keep in mind that it is not possible to be too competent, as there is always more to learn, always others to share your knowledge nd experience with, and always others to learn from whose learning and experience is greater than yours and thus can enhance your own competence. Competence is a great force multiplier.

(Next: Lesson V- Communication)

Leadership Lessons- Part III: Initiative

(Originally Published 22 July, 2009)
In this series thus far, I've covered two important characteristics of leadership:
  1. Focus- the ability to concentrate on the task at hand in order to complete it successfully, and

  2. Urgency- the ability to complete the task at hand purposefully, diligently, and with the utmost patience.

In this post, I will discuss yet another important quality: Initiative.
Initiative is an important quality that every leader must learn to master in order to perform routine tasks and to resolve crisis situations. It is also a quality that should be cultivated and strengthened among his team. In order to do this, the following guidelines should be followed:
  • Since conditions aren't always favorable for even the most seasoned leader or team, most successful tasks rely upon those who are willing to work to overcome obstacles persistently and with unyielding perserverance.

  • An effective leader is not so much the product of his time as time is what he makes of it.

  • One's initiative should neither be easily distracted, haphazard, or without purpose. Initiative can only be taken once he fully comprehends the intentions of those around him or when he knows what the circumstances demand of him.

  • Excessive fear of the unknown is the most limiting factor in achieving one's full potential.

  • Fate does not befall a person despite his action or lack thereof, but rather the person who fails to act relies almost entirely on fate.

  • The person who makes a habit of hesitating to act upon his knowledge and experience is perhaps less valuable to those around him than the person who lacks the knowledge and experience to initiate action.

  • Personal initiative is not a quality that people posess in equal volume. Therefore, an effective leader must learn to stimulate, redirect, or even on occasion restrain others.

  • One's ambition is directly expressed by his initiative. This ambition should be properly expressed in actions that provide for the overall good of others.

  • In times when one is granted substantial freedom to act on any given situation, he should do so without violating any laws or impeding on the basic rights of others.

  • The greatest difference between insignificant and exceptional achievement is often a matter of how much enthusiasm and determination was exhibited in executing one's task.

  • The leader who feels the need to control every action taken by the team destroys the team's will to take the initiative when he is not present.

  • Finally,
  • By way of understanding, the success of difficult tasks, as well as the overall progress of our people, is often a result of the actions taken by those when action was necessary, and those who acted when others would not.

(Next: Lesson IV- Competence)

Leadership Lessons- Part II: Urgency

(Originally published 21 July, 2009)

In my last entry, I dealt with Focus, the ability to concentrate on the task at hand, as well as those that may present themselves in the future. This time, the focus will be on Urgency. As a sense of urgency is a remarkable quality to posess, the following lessons regarding urgency should be considered:
  • Urgency should not be interpreted as haste, as haste can often lead to failure, but as purposeful action. Such action should be deliberate and executed with as much patience as the situation permits. Deliberation is not procrastinating or delaying the action, but a careful consideration and weighing of all options available. Patience is not excessive indulgence, but dilligence. The leader who acts with a proper sense of urgency is the leader who selects the best option to maximize opportunity at the most opportune time.

  • An intelligent leader leader is one who acts with a sense of urgency in any given situation. He knows what the task at hand, and he knows the its purpose. As a result, his energy is more easily focused, and not careless, haphazard, or thwarted.

  • An officer with a strong sense of urgency will become the master of his circumstances and not be slave to them, and will rarely be prevented from successfully completing the task at hand.

  • The most talented leader is one who has a sense of urgency in the performance of his duties, and expects the same degree of urgency in his team.

  • It is rarely better to at quickly in any given situation and err than it is to procrastinate until it is too late to properly act on it, as the time when action is required for any one thing is often limited, and many errors are fatal.

  • It is important to note understand that, in many difficult situations, a moment will arise when a decision is critical to successfully completing the task at hand. Oftentimes, sensing when this moment has arrived is more difficult than the decision itself.

  • Acting with a sense of urgency gives a sense of satisfaction, security, and strength. Often, that which is done with proper deliberation and patience is often done with less trouble, and greater effectiveness.

  • It is a fact that some tasks have limited time parameters in which to be completed, but virtually all tasks have time enough to be completed successfully if the team works together and applies itself to the best of its abilities.

  • When a team acts with a sense of urgency, it first understands the task at hand, and then applies itself by doing what must be done until the best possible results are achieved.

  • In conclusion:
  • The extent of a leader's accomplishments is dependent on his ability, opportunity, and how he applies himself to whatever tasks he is presented with. Ability and opportunity are largely static conditions, but can be modified. How he applies himself is the only one that is in his own control, and he may choose how much application will be combined with his abilities and opportunities. Furthermore, the results of how well he applies himself are what measure his accomplishments.

If one approaches whatever tasks he is presented with, however difficult to achieve, with a proper sense of urgency, he will be able to achieve success, and accomplish more, even under the most trying conditions.

(Next: Lesson III- Initiative)

Leadership Lessons- Part I: Focus

(Originally Published 21 July, 2009)[Note, this was the first of nine posts dedicated to leadership, and how to be a GOOD leader]

A few weeks ago, I posted my thoughts on leadership, and gave my recommendation for a good book ("Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek, the Next Generation", by Wess Roberts, Ph.D, and Bill Ross). At the time, I couldn't find the book in my pile of stuff, and now that I've found it, I will start a short series on leadership. I will take the important ideas from the book, and present them as they apply.

Lesson I is Focus. I will focus on the aspect of focus (heh, I made a pun) as it is the cardinal quality of an effective leader. Without focus, the goals and aspirations of the group will never reach fruition. The following are important points.
  • An effective leader must maintain a clear and unclouded vision about situations that may arise in the future. Such vision requires the leader to deal with all his priorities, but not necessarily sequentially. An effective leader must develop the ability to see and deal with the consequences of his action, or inaction, immediately.

  • The degree of effectiveness of any leader is directly proportionate to the amount of focus he applies to his most important duties.

  • An effective leader should cultivate and expand the full mental ability to adapt and atune himself readily to miscellaneous demands as well as new and unusual situations, and to be inventive when dealing with any crisis that may arise.Such leaders are of far greater value to othrs than they would be if their mental abilities were arrested at mere immitation.

  • The demands of time and attention that are placed on a leader by those on his team increase with rank and position. However, since the leader can not be in more than one place at any given time, it is of vital importance that he be able to distinguish between that which is profitable, and that which is wasteful use of his time and proximity

  • A clear and persistent goal reduces the extent of the effort needed to be effective.

  • While being sidetracked from the main focus may bea result of of taking on too many responsibilities, a gifted officer will most often fail as a result of hasty or uncertain distribution of his talents.

  • An effective leader can not afford to allow his team to be distracted by misdirected competition, as this inevitably leads to failure.

  • When one is not precisely fitted for a job, the best way to hone and develop the skills needed to become successful at it is to concentrate on the enthusiasm and devotion required to do it

  • The most guaranteed way to be selected for a higher position is to concentrate on doing one's present job thoroughly, and to the best of one's abilities.

  • When a leader becomes convinced that the power of concentration leads to success, he will go to great lengths to propagate this power in his team, and will carefully and tirlessly work to prevent wanton waste of profitable effort and valuable resources.

  • And in conclusion:

  • Concentrating on the most important aspects of one's duties gives all the secondary or mechanical operations of one's efforts the ease and expertise of habit.

If you focus your efforts on matters of the highest priorities associated with your position, you will liberate more of your own, and your team's, initiative, power, innovation, and imagination- all which are vital proponents of a successful endeavor.

(Next: Lesson II- Urgency)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring is here... FINALLY!!!

Hello again, it's been a while, again, since I've posted, but it's been a bit hectic around here with the job search and other stuff. However, I'm still here, much to the chagrine of some people, and still kicking. I've got the USS LoPresto (my Star Trek club) up and somewhat running again, and got some nice logo wear for the members to show off their club pride at outings and "away missions". Also been mucking around with some online gaming as well. Still playing Star Trek Online, although I took a short break from the game until the Romulan faction becomes open in May. My latest inursion is into the world of Star Wars: The Old Republic, where I have multiple characters of each faction on the Jedi Covenant server, so if you're a player, or wish to play and game with me, you can find me there.
Now for the big news... SPRING IS FINALLY HERE!!! We've had a few really nice days this week, with temperatures in the 70s and above. This is a nice change from the cold and snow of the winter months, which seemed to be endless. Admittedly, I grew up in the colder reaches of Northwestern PA, and lived there most of my life, but the endless cold from this past winter was even too much for me. Maybe I'm just getting old. We had some thunderstorms last night, where it got rather windy and nasty for a while, but we got nothing like they had down south with tornados and wind damage. We may get more later today and into tonight and tomorrow, and I look forward to it. I always love a nice thunderstorm. :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Blogging Again- The Long Road from August

Hello again, It's been a while (what? 6 months?) since my last post here, but life has been hectic. Let's see if I can remember everything that has happened since then.

The last day of August, I was at work with my then manager, Kim, when someone came into the store and robbed us at knife-point. What was weird was that it happened in broad daylight (4:30pm) and after the guy robbed us, while the police were at the store taking statements and checking for evidence, he robbed another store, a tanning salon, in another part of town. Needless to say, it got more and more undesireable to work at the Turkey Barn. In October, Kim left the store (who could blame her) for another job, and we got some military dictator punk as a replacement. He didn't last long, as he wasn't doing his job as he was supposed to, and was more interested in doing my friend Jess (who had no interest whatsoever in him) and eliminating any "threat" (aka me) to his conquest. Things finally came to a head there, and Kim stepped in for Jess and the rest of us there, and Sargeant Stupid was out the door quicker than he could sneeze. He was replaced by Nancy's (the supervisory (?) manager's) brother/friend (nobody was exactly sure what his relation to her was) Richie, who refused to adhere to people's availability, and, after my Heart Cath- details shortly- I was fired because I could not adhere to THEIR schedule when they would schedule me outside of my availability. So, my time with Turkey Hell (as it was then dubbed) ended in mid-December, and I've been waiting for unemployment to make a decision on my eligibility since. Oh yea, almost forgot the best part (that's sarcasm there) when Nancy accused me of sending in all the customer compliments that I got. I mean, really? I had much better things to do with my time than to make false claims to make myself look good. I told a couple of the customers, and Kim about that, and they all said basically that Nancy was full of it.

OK, enough of the Hellpit. I mentioned that I had a heart catheterization done in early December, after the doctor did a stress test on me as part of my routine physical, and found some questionable spikes on the EKG. Well, the proceedure required my absence from work for a couple of days (Nancy insisted I scheduled it on purpose to purposely inconvenience the store, and told me she wouldn;t let me take the 3 days off - that was over-ruled quickly by the doctor). Anyway, proceedure done, they found nothing out of the ordinary, and in fact told me my heart was as healthy as if I was 10 years old.

Game-wise, I have been doing a variety of things. Played World of Warcraft briefly after the expansion was released, but got bored with it quickly, and turned back to Star Trek Online. Recently, I've been playing Diablo 3, since it doesn't have a monthly fee to play, and recently discovered a new game online called "The Rockstar Game" (link here: ).

Also, I have resurrected my original Star Trek club, the USS LoPresto in this area, and have a few people interested. The registry has changed slightly, from the original, due to restrictions in the Star Trek Online game, and also due to it being the sixth incarnation of the ship- the new registry is NCC-94100-E. Hopefully, we will get a regular meeting schedule set up, and new members down the road. (Pictured to the left is the NCC-94100-E, Vesta Class Science vessel from Star Trek Online).

Also, I've gotten rather hooked on the SyFy hit show, "Haven" since December. I was watching the Episode entitled "Sarah" around the holidays, and got instantly hooked. The show just finished its 3rd season, and will be back in the fall with a 4th season, but of course it left us with a cliffhanger until then. The show takes place in the town of Haven, Maine, and there are a lot of strange happenings every episode that the main characters, Audrey, Nathan, and Duke, have to solve each week. If you liked X-files, you will like this show. As I said, I was hooked, and ended up buying the first two seasons on DVD just to get caught up.

Last, but not least, I have made some great friends since August. I've become good friends with both Jess and Kim from the "Hell".  I don't see Kim or Jess as often as I'd like to, but we keep in touch on Facebook, which is OK.

Well, that's all for now. I will try to update this more often since I have time now.

my playlist

This div will be replaced