Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sexual Violence in War

Guinean woman are being raped and beaten in public by troops. They are trying to turn the community in on its self by forcing husbands, partners, and families to turn on these woman.

Despite the emotionally and physical toll of the rape and abuse, the women remain determined to improve the state of there country, and punish the ones who have abused them.

First Lady Promotes Health of Children

Many past first ladies have had special causes; Laura Bush had reading, Nancy Reagan had "just say no to drugs". Michelle Obama is promoting good health and nutrition, especially for young people.

Michelle Obama says health experts believe we are on track, for the first time, to see the younger generations with a shorter average lifespan.

The article questions whether promoting healthy eating would cause the companies producing unhealthy foods to lose profits. Companies would likely respond to the demand for healthier food by producing healthier food. What's more important anyway; profits or the health of children?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Airlines Sending Repairs Overseas

Industry is sending 1 out of every 5 planes overseas.

FAA requires overhaul of planes every two years. Until just a few years ago, unionized American employees of each airline did the work.

Since 2002 airlines have been doing anything to cut costs. Maintenance has been one of the biggest areas.

Using a non-union shop in American, they cut their costs in half, and using another shop outside of America, it can be as little as 1/3 the original cost.

All of the shops have to be approved by the FAA. The last time a plane crashed because of maintenance error was in 2003 - and that was serviced in the US.

But, the inspector general of the Department of Transportation says that FAA and industry inspectors are not monitoring work the way they should.

The FAA does not require airlines to report where their air crafts are being serviced, so they don't even know where to check.


I'll admit that I am totally and completely biased on the issue of outsourcing air craft maintenance, but it seems like a risky thing to be doing.

When you hire well paid unionized employees, they are more likely to care about there jobs, and therefore do the best they can at making sure the air crafts are properly maintained.

Also, it used to be easy to find the root of the problem. US Airways air craft was obviously serviced by US Airways employees. Now it could be serviced anywhere in the world, by anyone.

If airlines kept employees in the U.S. it would provide many well paying jobs to Americans, and that would help stimulate a hurting economy. People would be able to afford to travel more. Outsourcing is a short term solutions to a bigger problem.

In the airline industry, maintenance seems like the last place you would want to be cutting costs. Especially with people already more nervous about air travel after 9/11.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Office Manager Suicide

On September 29th, Mike Kovac had lunch with a friend, and then disappeared from his office, leaving his belongings behind. When he didn't return home, is wife called him in missing. His wife said he had been showing her how to pay bills, something that he usually did.

Kovac was found in a storage closet behind boxes 9 days after he killed himself with a knife.

Monday, October 12, 2009

6-yr-old suspended

A 6-year-old first grader from Delaware was suspended and ordered to go to reform school for 45-days after bringing a camping utensil - fork, spoon, and knife combination - to school to eat his lunch with.

Because of the districts zero tolerance policy, they do not make exceptions to there suspensions based on intent.

The boy is being home-schooled while his parents try to overturn his punishment.

I understand being cautious, but I think this is completely ridiculous. If a child is bring weapons to school with the intent of injuring another child, I don't think possession rules are going to be that effective in deterring them. After all, their intention is worse than just carrying around a weapon.

I certainly don't think weapons should be allowed in school. Possession of them should be addressed, but I don't think punishment is always the right option, especially when it is clear that their intention was not to harm anyone.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama Pledges Again to End "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

On Saturday at a fund raising dinner for human right Obama plegded to end "don't ask, don't tell".

Some are upset because he hasn't given a timeline, and that he has made the same promise in the past.

Obama supports same-sex relationships, but not same sex marriages because of religious reasons. He has put forth a package for domestic partnership benefits for federal workers (though they did not include health benefits) and has pushed for hate crime legislation.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Obama said he was surprised by the Nobel Peace Prize win.

He won it for "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".

He is going to donate the 1.4 million dollars in prize money to charity.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

House Expands Definition of Hate Crimes

The house voted by a wide margin to change the definition of hate crimes to cover those committed because of a victims gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The hate crimes measure was approved as a part of a $681 billion dollar policy measure. Some republicans see this as blackmail. The bill also included military benefits, authorized pay, weapons programs, and other essentials for armed forces.

Some republicans accused supporters of trying to punish "thought crimes". They think it is wrong to punish someone based on what they may have been thinking.

Mike Pence, Republican for Indiana is worried the bill will inhibit freedom of speech and deter religious leaders from speaking their beliefs because of fear of getting caught up in the law.

The bill must still be approved by the Senate, but it has large support there.


I didn't realize that gender, sexual orientation, gender orientation, and disability were not already included in hate crime legislation.

Sexual orientation is included in 33 states hate crime legislation, but the only groups covered by federal legislation are race and religion.

I disagree with Mike Pence, when he says that he thinks this will inhibit freedom of speech. If religious leaders were going to worry about what they said about sexual orientation, they would also worry about what they said about other religions, because they are included in hate crime legislation.

This legislation is long, long over due and I am hoping it passes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dalai Lama Urges U.S. to Address Rich-Poor Issue

While accepting a human rights award, the Dalai Lama chastised the U.S. for not doing much to address the gap between the rich and the poor.

He said the "real greatness of America is your ancestors' principles", while urging the U.S. to preserve those.

Obama plans to visit the Dalai Lama on a trip to China next month.

Monday, October 5, 2009

To Protect Galapagos, Ecuador Limits A Two-Legged Species

The population of the Galapagos has doubled in a decade to 30,000 people. The small islands are feeling the environmental impact of so many additional humans.

New species, such as cattle, fire ants, and rats; have been introduced to the islands.

The government has recently expelled more than 1000 poor Ecuadorians.

“We are being told that a tortoise for a rich foreigner to photograph is worth more than an Ecuadorean citizen,”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pawlenty Rolls Out New Political Organization

Republican Governor from Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, created a new political action group called "Freedom First" to help get republicans elected in 2009 and 2010. He has signed on a number of veteran Washington hands, making this one of the first concrete signs he may be considering a run for presidency in 2012.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Health Care Debate,8599,1926833,00.html

This article discusses the state of health care in West Virginia. A public option is wanted, but it is worried that by offering a public option private insurers will be put out of business. The Senate Finance Committee voted and the public was voted down 15 to 8 originally, but with an amendment including reimbursements to medicare rates, 2 democrats joined support and it was voted down 13 to 10.

Maine Republican Olympia Snowe has offered an amendment that calls for public health insurance only if private insurers don't do enough to offer affordable coverage. This would be determined on a state-by-state basis and private insurers would be able to change before a public option took hold.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Abortion Fight Complicates Debate on Health Care

The article is about a proposal to ban the use of subsidies to fund abortions. They say that people will be free to purchase additional "rider" insurance that covers abortions. States will all have to have at least one plan that covers abortions (private) and one that doesn't .

The is abortion debate is frustrating to me. In this instance especially, it's flat out discrimination. In these economic times, many people don't have the means to pay extra for abortion coverage. If they can't afford to get an abortion, it's going to be very hard to raise a healthy happy child.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

I've just finished reading the book Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. The book goes from Christopher's first short runs that always resulted in injuries, to his first 50 mile run through the sweltering hills and canyons of rural Mexico.

As a journalist, McDougall is able to see some of the worlds greatest runners, and watch the greatest races. He becomes curious about the Tarahumara (or "running people") who reside in secluded caves in Mexico. He searches for a man named "Caballo" and together they compile a small race for some of the worlds greatest, most diverse ultra runners.In attendance are the Tarahumara; runners from a near-by village of Urique; Scott Jurek - a vegan and one of the worlds best ultra marathoners; "Barefoot Ted" - a man who always runs barefoot through any type of terrain; Jenn Shelton and Billy Barnett - young and fast Californian partiers; and a few more.

The book goes into depth about things such as the physics of running shoes, the "persistence hunting" theory about humans being able to run animals to the death, and the best things to eat as runner. It's all very factual and subjective - not preachy- like some of these topics often are.

The book is very interesting, and hard to put down. I recommend it to anyone who is a runner, interested in running, and, in particular, interested in ultra marathons.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

For the first time, AIDS vaccine shows some success

An AIDS vaccine was tested on volunteers in Thailand. Half were given placebo's, and the other half the vaccine. Of the 16,000 volunteers, 74 given placebo became infected, and only 51 given the vaccine did.

The vaccine is a combination of two other, previously tested vaccines that did not have any effects on humans. Scientists say they do not know why this vaccine was more effective.

Even though the effectiveness of the vaccine is small, it is a huge step in the right direction.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Grocery Wars

Cub, Rainbow, and Lund's/Byerly's had been the top three grocers in the Twin Cities, but recently non-unionized discount grocers have been moving in and making gains. Super Target, Aldi, and Walmart are all fairly new to the Twin Cities, but Super Target has already moved up to #2 and Walmart is #4.

Similar scenarios have happened before - "In the long run, though, this battle will drive someone out of business. That's always been true in the Twin Cities. The 1950s neighborhood grocers that grandma shopped gave way to Red Owl and Del-Farm, then Applebaum's and Country Club, then Cub and Rainbow."

Long time cashiers and Cub can make up to $22/hour, where at Super Target few make more than $10/hour.

Walmart has avoided the Twin Cities because of the union stronghold. They waited for other non-unionized businesses, such as Aldi and Target, to move in before following.

Discount stores are able to sell groceries like produce at below cost because they save on wages, benefits, and sell large amounts of non-perishables. Stores like Kowalski's are unable to do that because a large portion of their money is going to their employees.

Monday, September 14, 2009

At Least 19 Killed in Ramadan Food Stampede

It is traditional for Muslims to give away food for the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. Due to extreme poverty, people rushed to receive their food. 19 women were killed in the stampede and at least another 25 women were injured.

When a parent "I love you" means "do as I say"

This was an interesting article about the top of "conditional" vs "unconditional" parenting.

Conditional parenting is when a parent scolds a child or withholds "love" from the child when they misbehave, or do poorly in school. In unconditional parenting, the parent will address what the child did wrong, but not make them feel as though they are less loved because of it.

The article said studies have shown that positive conditional parenting (praising a child more when they do well) has both positive and negative effects. The child may do what the parent wants, but often they have a feel of being controlled or motivated by an outside source, instead of feeling as though they achieved something on their own. Negative conditional parenting has shown no positives and only increases children's dislike of their parents.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Health Care Reform and "American Values"

People on both sides of the aisle are using incorrect terms, such as "uniquely American", "Canadian" and "British" to describe our current health care, and health care to come.

The premise is that "American values" point to one form of health care - private insurance.

Dr. Allan S. Brett says that when politicians use the term "American values", they are assuming all Americans have the same values.  They are also assuming these values mean the same thing to the different people. Freedom could mean freedom to choose what health plan a person wants, it could also mean freedom from worrying about being able to afford health care if they became too sick.

Choices of physicians and where to go to the doctors are increased in a single payer system, because there are no insurance restrictions.

In the past twenty years, patients have been more and more able to get whatever test or procedures they want done.  Doctors think less about how effective they will actually be, and a lot of money is wasted.

Dr. Brett says that one uniquely American thing about our health care system is that we deny coverage to a portion of our population.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama Health Care Speech

This article looked at Obamas speaking skills, and how he is using them to win over congress, and a country that has seemed to be loosing faith in him.

He addressed the issue of health care in a more articulate and simplified manor, talking not just to congress, but also to the American people watching him on their televisions.

He has used his speaking before to come back after difficult times, like after accusations of racism came out because of comments made by his former pastor.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hatoyama Stands By Campaign Vow For Sharp Cut In Japans Emissions

Japans presumptive prime minister is stand by his campaign promises to cut emissions from 1990 levels by 25%.  Though he said that his promises were contingent on other countries making similar goals.

The European Union has promised to cut emission by 20% for 1990 levels, and 30% if other countries follow.  In the United States, congress is debating over a bill that would cut emissions by 6%.

Some are worried a 25% cut would be too harmful to the economy of Japan, and thousands of jobs would be lost. 

There is also concern that the Obama administration will not have time to win congresses support on reduction of carbon emission.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stimulus-Assisted Schools Still Facing Crippling Cuts

Schools across the countries had to cut lay-off thousands of teachers and give pay cuts to others. 

Schools were given a stimulus so they could afford to hire back teachers.  Most of them still received pay cuts.

One of the problems schools are facing is no way of testing the quality of teachers, and laws that force them to lay teachers of based on seniority, instead of how good they are.  Schools are getting stuck with not enough teachers, and those they do have, aren't always the best.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Some Parents Oppose Obama School Speech

Some conservative parents do not want their children to watch Obama speak in their schools about the importance of staying in school.

The republican chairman in Florida said he “was appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.”

And Chris Stigall, a Kansas City talk show host, said, “I wouldn’t let my next-door neighbor talk to my kid alone; I’m sure as hell not letting Barack Obama talk to him alone.”

Some parents want schools to offer alternative classes for children to attend.  Others say they don't see how listening to the president of out country speak is damaging our children.

I do agree that President Obama is sending a socialist message by urging kids to stay in school.  Public schools are one of the few social programs we have in America!  I don't understand why people who are already conforming to this would worry about there children being indoctrinated.  They've already given the same message to their children themselves! 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sleep: Natures Time Management Tool.

Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA argues that sleep has evolved to optimize the use of time.  It keeps animals safe when the hunting, fishing, or scavenging is scarce or risky. In this view, differences in sleep patterns, including periods of insomnia, are not seen as problems but adaptations. 

There is opposition to almost ever idea offered about sleep.  Some believe it consolidates memories, others think sleep is needed to repair neural damage. Critics also point out that sleeping animals are less alert to predators than waking ones.

Siegel points out that sleepers are less vulnerable than they appear, being highly sensitive to certain sounds such as thumps, voices, or a babies whine. He also argues that the need for sleep is diminished in the most important waking hours - killer whales migrating for weeks on end, fully alert, with no sleep, is an example.

Siegel says that the elderly, who general sleep much less than young adults, may not be sleep deprived because of less sleep. They no longer have the need grow, and they have more of a need and ability to do things for themselves.

Siegel comes to the conclusion that people simply may not sleep well, or at certain hours because there is work to be done.

Obama Simplifies Health Plan

Obama plans to address a rare joint sessions of congress to get support for his health bill.

Obama is going to be more detailed in outlining his health plan, instead of leaving it broad for congress to fill in the details.

Obama has not given up on a proposal for a government run competitor to the private insurers.

He is going to focus on areas of potential agreement - such as regulation of the private companies, to prohibit them from denying coverage, or charging them more for pre-existing conditions.  Also, subsidies to make health care affordable for lower income people.

Obama is losing support for his health plan, but still prefers a public option of health care to compete with the private providers. He has to cut some things from his plans in attempts to gain support.  Some things that may be dropped are proposals requiring the government to create school based health clinics, and collect nation wide date on race, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

If he doesn't gain enough support he may have to change his plan from one that requires all Americans to have health insurance, to one where all children, or families with children to be insured.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Japanese opposition set for victory; PM quits as party head

The Japanese Prime Minister announced his resignation as the head of the party that has governed Japan for decades, after it was defeated in the Japanese elections on Sunday. 

The Democratic Party of Japan won against the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan.

The DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama has been compared to Barack Obama, and is touting a message of change. He is attracting large crowds in support.  

The LDP has been in continuous power of the Parliament for more than 50 years, but it is expected that the power will shift to the DPJ.  If the DPJ wins majority, it will be the first time it will govern the country.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Obesity Rates Rising

Obesity rates continue to rise in America.  The news people are surprised, but I am not.  Considering the economy, it makes sense that people would be eating cheaper, crappier food.  The sad thing is, they are just costing themselves in the long run.  According to the article, medicare spends $1,400-$6,000 more per year on obese adults.  It is a ridiculous waste of money. I understand it might not be easy for everyone, but we should have more programs to prevent this! If that money could go toward better school lunches, and maybe some phy-ed classes, kids would be off to a better start, and less likely to become obese later in life. 

The fattest states are Mississippi and Alabama, and the fittest are Colorado and Vermont.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This article was about how Prius' are one of the only cars that are really selling well.  The high demand for the Prius is causing a need for more workers at the plant where they are manufactured.  Earlier this year, they had to take several vacation days to save money. They now have to work more, and are not having vacations because of the high demand.  They still expect to come out with losses though, because other cars are still not selling well.

Monday, June 29, 2009

God, Firearms, and America

It scares me that there are people like this.  I know there is probably a lot of them.  This article was about a celebration of the right to bare arms at a church. People came from miles around to bring there loaded guns to church.  

There were a few particularly problematic things in here.

 "'But for a deep-seated belief in God and firearms, this country would not be here today,' Mr. Pagano declared from the church’s pulpit."

I agree with this statement.  I don't see it as a very positive thing thing.  Sure, it is good that people came to America for religious freedom, but I don't think it is good that we took the land from the Native Americans.  It makes me sick to think people are proud of this. 

“'I don’t see a thing wrong with having a loaded gun in there,' Mr. Hillerich said. 'If the pastor’s in there and he’s got a concealed weapon and somebody comes in and starts shooting people, he can take him out. That’s his right.'"

This is also a sick kind of statement.  If no one is allowed to carry guns, then no one gets shot.  Is it better to let everyone carry guns to defend themselves? Where do people get these ideas?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Current Events One

So I've decided I want to start paying some more attention to current events around the world.  We used to do this in  Japanese class, and it was usually a lot of fun.  So I will be reading an article, or two, or three, and posting a little summary, and maybe my opinion if I feel the article deserves it.  Some will be total fluff, and others will be informative.

This article is about sexism in Italian media.  Television and magazines portray body as the most important factor in "getting ahead",  which is not that much different than in America.  Young people are more focused on improving their looks than their knowledge or character.  “The body is the new capital for adolescents in Italy,” said Cristina Sivieri Tagliabue.  This gives people incentives to attain a certain look or body type.  They think they need it to get ahead in life.

This was also interesting..

The United States comes in 31st in 2007, which isn't awful, but really not great for a country that prides itself in equality. The sad part is, we were in 23rd in 2006.

Not surprisingly, Japan comes in quite a bit lower, at 91. Italy comes in at 84. 

For economic opportunity, U.S. is 14. For education US is 76, ranking below both Japan and Italy. For health and survival, we rank 36th, though all that come before rank 1. We come in a sad 69th for political empowerment.

The U.S. certainly isn't the worst when in comes to sexism, but it is nowhere near being the best.

Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland rank first through fourth.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

1984 and Jennifer Government

Since I postponed my 1984 write up this long, I figured I would just combine it with my Jennifer Government write up. 

1984 and Jennifer Government are both about what happens when the government goes to far in one direction.  1984 is pretty dystopian, where as Jennifer Government appears to be Utopian, in the beginning.

The idea behind 1984 is that the government is all-powerful.  Food is rationed, everything you do or say is heard and watched, and everything is basically decided for you. "Big Brother is always watching". There is three different groups of people; the rebels, the inner-party members, and everyone else. The rebels live in the older parts of town, they are relatively undisturbed, and mainly keep to themselves.  The inner-party members generally have secret, large house, better food, and are allowed to break the rules.  Everyone else lives in uniform apartments with "telescreens" that watch there every move.  If they do something the party doesn't like, they will be taken away at night, and any record of them every existing is erased, and no one says a word about it.

In Jennifer Government, everything is a private institution.  The police will do anything for you if you pay them enough money.  Laws aren't really all that enforced.  Ad campaigns involve kill people. Hospitals want to make sure you have enough money to pay them before they admit you, even if you are dying. The NRA has just as much power as the police. Most of the world, is totally Americanized. This book does come off as slightly "Utopian" though, because everyone can have whatever they want. They can take out huge loans, spend thousands of dollars on the latest shoes, and don't think twice about it. 

The main character in 1984, who was fighting for change in the government, is forced back into believing Big Brother's lies and spends the rest of his life wasting time drinking gin.  

In Jennifer Government, the ending is happier.  Things work out for  "Jennifer Government" and her family.  Change happens, people riot, and the bad guys go to jail. 

Both stories seem possible in real life. People seem to always want more and more, people want to get what they earned, and not have to pay for other people.  Jennifer Government's life without taxes, everyone fending for themselves, may seem ideal.  On the other side of things, 1984's rigid government censoring may appeal to people who want to be protected from the world. As long as the follow the rules, Big Brother will always protect them.

My conclusion from these books is there needs to be a balance.  A total free-market system is dangerous, and puts a lot of people at a disadvantage.  Total government control is also dangerous, in that it takes away all the enjoyment people get out of living.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vermont Same-Sex Marriage

I was in Vermont this weekend and the issue making all the newspaper headlines was the same-sex marriage bill that passed the Senate 26 to 4.  The governor of Vermont, Jim Douglas (R), says he will veto the bill.  Today the house will vote on the bill, and if it passes by 2/3, it will have the power to override the veto.

I get kind of angry about this stuff because I think we should be so beyond this. Athiest's can get married, can't they? Is marriage really a religious institution? And if it is, why the are there laws to control it?

This makes me sad. America needs to start getting better.

I went to GSA today and we did an activity to demonstrate what it may be like for someone to come out.  We stood in a circle with one person in the middle.  We all held on to strings connecting us to the girl in the middle.  She told each of us she was heterosexual. We responded based on cards we were holding.  The sister saying "its just a phase", Grandma saying "you just need to buy some new clothes", Dad saying "what did I do wrong" ect...  As we said these things, the strings were cut.  The last person, the ally, didn't say anything, and the string wasn't cut.  

It made me think about the social facets of being homosexual.  Not being gay, lesbian, bi, or transgender, I don't really think about that as much as equal rights. Its sad to see how people treat others. 

Anyway, hopefully all goes well tonight in Vermont!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I just finished reading the book Siddhartha* by Herman Hesse.  The book was written after Herman Hesse's journey through India. It takes place many years ago in India. 

Siddhartha is Brahmin as a young boy, and he leaves home with his friend Govinda to try and fulfill his need for knowledge. Govinda loves Siddhartha and sees him like no other person.  Siddhartha is perfect. They become possession-less Samsara, who travel, and think, and fast.

 After many years, Siddhartha decides that life as a samsara isn't right for him, and he Govinda go to see Gotama, the Buddha. Govinda accepts Gotama's teachings and way of life, and becomes a monk, but Siddhartha is not satisfied and he leaves.  

Siddhartha travels to a town, and meets a beautiful woman.  He lives there with her and works and makes money.  He eats rich food and wears fine clothing.  

After many years of this life, he abandons it and moves in with ferryman by the river.  The woman he used to love is traveling to see the Buddha with their son.  She meets Siddhartha again, but she dies of a snake bite and leaves their son to Siddhartha.  The son is spoiled and eventually leaves home, and Siddhartha is saddened.  

Govinda comes upon Siddhartha, after hearing from people about the peaceful god-like ferryman. Govinda realizes that it is Siddhartha and talks to him for a while. Siddhartha realizes that none of the words he followed in the past were real.  He decides that the best thing to do is to love everything.  He says it is okay to love people, animals, food, sins, and riches. After years of traveling, going from being unhappy and possessionless, and unhappy with riches, he realizes that it is all okay and has reached his own nirvana.

*Siddhartha Gotama was Buddhas real name. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Christmas Around the World: America


Christmas in America is usually celebrated with gift giving and family visits.  Children are given a couple of weeks off of school for the holiday.  On Christmas Day, children open presents delivered by Santa Claus the night before. 

Santa Claus was brought to America by the Dutch in the 17th century, but did not become an important part of Christmas until 1809, when Washington Irving included him in a novel.  He flew around in a wagon with no reindeer and smoked a pipe.  He brought presents to the children, but didn't live in the North Pole or have a red coat.

Thomas Nast started the creation of the Santa Claus we know today by making drawings of him in the 1860's.  In 1931, Coca Cola choose one of Nast's drawings to star in a Christmas time ad, and the image has stuck ever since.

On Christmas Eve, big meals are often eaten with families, including turkey or ham, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, Christmas cookies, egg-nog, and other things.  For some families, this is followed by midnight mass.

Houses in America are heavily decorated.  Lights are hung outside, along with pine branches and wreaths.  Mistletoe is sometimes hung in the home, in-between doorways. Stockings are hung by fire places, or from hooks, to be filled with small treats. Christmas trees are decorated, by most people, with lights, ornaments, candy canes, tinsel, popcorn, and other things. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Christmas Around the World: South America

Christmas Nativity Scene by krisdecurtis.


The most important day of festivities is Nuche Buena or "good night"  which is celebrated on the 24 night of December.

If the family can afford it, a whole turkey is usually roasted.  Eaten along with the turkey is applesauce.

People who are guests should bring a gift such as pannetone or a beverage.

Children are brought gifts by Santa Clause, who was introduced by the Americans.

Fireworks are often lit off by families, even though they are banned in Peru.

Children are sent to bed after midnight.  Then the adults parties begin.  Dinning rooms and living rooms are transformed into dance floors.  People flirt, and drink, and make new friends. These house parties can last until 5 or 6 a.m. on the 25 of December.  Not a lot happens on the 25 because people sleep in so late.


Brazilians are a mix of people from around the world, and therefore, their Christmas celebrations and traditions are diverse.  

Nativity scenes are set out in homes, shops, and churches.  This is a very important part of the holiday for Brazilians.  

Father Noel bring the gifts to the children, he wears silk while delivering presents due to the hot summer heat.

Despite the heat, huge Christmas dinners are eaten.  They include turkey, ham, colored rice, vegetable, and fruit dishes.

Catholics attend midnight mass on the 24.  They also attend an afternoon mass on the 25.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Christmas Around the World: Australia

Chirstmas in Australia is the start of the summer holiday, it's all about sun, surf, and shopping.  Chirstmas is celebrated in many different ways in Australia due to the amount of people from all around the world living there. 

Up until about thirty years ago, traditional English style Christmas was celebrated.  People roasted turkey and steamed pudding.  Now the celebrations are heavily influenced by ethnicity.  Common sense also played a role in the change of the celebration.  People now commonly have family gatherings in back yards, picnics in parks, gardens, and on the beach. Most people enjoy time with family and friends, and exchange gifts.

Food eaten around christmas is also influenced by ethnicity, some examples of what is eaten are:  
-seafood, glazed ham, duck, or turkey
-cold deli meats
-desserts of fruit salads, pavlova, ice cream, pies, fruit cake, shortbread, and chocolate

Some say the "Swag Man"  may have taken Santa Clauses place in the Australian Christmas celebration.  Swag Man wears a brown akubra, a blue singlet, and long baggy shorts.  He spends his winters under Uluru and drives a four-wheel-drive vehical.

Some families in Australia have real Christmas trees.  Others decorate gum tree branches.  Young children often sing Christmas Carols around the holidays.