Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Eve Ball, Times Square, NYC

December 31st is almost here and the countdown to 2010 is on.....
The most famous image that welcomes each New Year for many millions around the world is the dropping of the Ball in Times Square, NYC, on New Year's Eve.

The tradition began more than a century ago when Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of the New York Times, hired Jacob Star, a metalworker to build & lower the first Ball, a 700 pound wood & iron ball--5 feet in diameter & illuminated by 100 - 25 watt bulbs, to mark the passing from 1907 to 1908. This year's new Times Square New Year's Eve Ball is a geodesic sphere, 12 feet in diameter, double the size of previous balls & weighs 11,875 pounds. It is covered in 2,668 triangle shaped crystals made in Ireland by Waterford artisans, most of these featuring the design of an angel with uplifted wings, the rest adorned with a starburst. It is powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs designed to create a spectacular multi-colored kaleidoscopic effect of more than 16 million colors & billions of patterns.

The cost of the New Year's Eve Ball? Two million dollars, twice as much as the last ball built in 2007. The ball drops 77 feet in 60 seconds. Before 1995, it was done by 'six guys with ropes & a stopwatch'. In 1995, computer controls were added and now it's 'one guy & a button for the winch', according to Countdown Entertainment, that oversees the event.

The Ball has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exception of 1942 & 1943, when the ceremony was suspended due to the wartime 'dimout' of lights in NYC. The crowds still gathered in Times Square in those years & greeted the New Year with a minute of silence followed by the ringing of chimes from sound trucks parked at the base of the tower---symbolic of the past, when New Yorkers gathered at Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan, where the chiming of the bells 'rang out the old & rang in the new'.

The original ball was replaced by Jacob Star's company, Artkraft Strauss in 1920 with one made of wrought iron, then in 1955 it was again replaced with an aluminum ball that weighed just 200 pounds.

In 1981, to reflect the 'I Love New York' campaign, red lights & a green stem were added to make it an apple.

A more traditional white ball replaced the apple in 1987 & was upgraded with strobe lights, rhinestones, computer controls, until it was retired in 1998.

Waterford Crystal designed the Millennium Ball for the 2000 ceremony & has rebuilt or tweaked it each year since. The Millennium Ball, is in the so-called ball vault in the building's basement. The Centennial Ball, built in 2007 went on display this month at the new Times Square Information Center. And the aluminum ball (that became the Apple) between 1955 to 1998 is in Atlanta at the headquarters of Jamestown, the real estate concern that owns One Times Square.

The tradition of ball 'dropping' to signal the passage of time dates back long before New Year's
Eve was ever celebrated in Times Square. The first, 'time-ball' was installed atop England's Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. This ball would drop at one o'clock every afternoon, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers. The tradition is carried on today in places like the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.,where a time-ball descends from a flagpole at noon each day.

So when the countdown begins on December 31, 2009, 10...9...8....7...6....5....4....3...2....Welcome to 2010

Happy New Year!

The Whole Hogmanay

The Scots have a most unique way of ringing in the New Year...it's called Hogmanay.

"Hogmanay's origins date back to pagan rituals that marked the time of the winter solstice. Roman celebrations of the hedonistic winter festival of Saturnalia and Viking celebrations of Yule (the origin of the twelve days of Christmas) contributed to celebrations in Scotland around the new year. These celebrations and other ceremonies evolved over the centuries to become the Hogmanay holiday celebrated in Scotland today."

"A custom known as "first footing" dictates that the first person to cross a home's threshold after midnight on New Year's Eve will determine the homeowner's luck for the new year. The ideal visitor bears gifts—preferably whiskey, coal for the fire, small cakes, or a coin—and should be a man with a dark complexion. Why? The answer hearkens back to the 8th century, when the presumably fair-haired Vikings invaded Scotland: a blond visitor was not a good omen."Here's more about the festival of Hogmanay from the National Geographic site.

Monday, December 28, 2009

This Year's Resolutions: By readytoescape

A few ideas to get us started on our resolutions. We only have a few days left, before we begin a 'new era'.

This Year's Resolutions: By readytoescape
"I’m givin up my coffee.
Crushin out that last cigarette.
I’m gonna forget,
Each and every regret.
I’m gonna lose weight.
And get back into shape.
I’m gonna try to forgive,
All of those that I hate.
I’m gonna get involved,
With all of those,
Whom my life revolves.
Just let old worries,
fizzle, dissolve.
Gonna sit back,
And let the good life evolve.
I’m gonna clean house,
Gonna puff my chest out.
Of all the above,
This one goes without doubt.
Gonna regain my pride,
Try not to push others aside.
Gonna live this way,
till the day after I died.
I’m gonna live free,
Let no one dictate.
Don't tread on me,
Til I reach that Pearly Gate.
Written this year 2010,
I’ll strive to make good ,
ReRead this poem again and again.
To stay on this course,
I pray to heaven,
I won’t have to rewrite this,
In 2011."
Christmas is Over

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The dawning of a new decade

Pat, on TM, linked an article this morning that got me really excited and it may do the same for you guys.

Oh boy, there almost over

Leonard Pitts called this last decade, we are about to say good bye to, the uh ohs. That's a great name for it. It started with that awful election and went down hill from there. It was a pretty rotten decade for me too! Maybe, it was because I let the beginning define the decade for me. I did focus on the negative way too much. I wallowed in the misery.

But it's almost 2010
I think this next decade will be great!
I can't wait.
A lot to anticipate.
No time to hesitate.
We need to celebrate.

We must all have great expectations for the next ten years.

I took a pic of my Maggie on Iphoney. Can you see why I often lose her on the couch? She's like an anole, she blends in real well.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas The Night Before Christmas (Texas Style)

'Twas the night before Christmas, in Texas, you know.
Way out on the prairie, without any snow.
Asleep in their cabin, were Emma and Sue,
A dreamin' of Christmas, like me and you.

Not stockings, but boots, at the foot of their bed,
For this was Texas, what more need be said,
When all of a sudden, from out of the still night,
There came such a ruckus, it gave me a fright.

And I saw 'cross the prairie, like a shot from a gun,
A loaded up buckboard, come on at a run,
The driver was "Geein" and "Hawin", with a will,
The horses (not reindeer) he drove with such skill.

"Come on there Cheyenne, America & Misty, to the right,
There'll be plenty of travelin' for you all tonight."
The driver in Levi's and a shirt that was red,
Had a ten-gallon Stetson on top of his head.

As he stepped from the buckboard, he was really a sight,
With his beard and mustache, so curly and white.
As he burst in the cabin, the children awoke,
And were so astonished, that neither one spoke.

And he filled up their boots with such presents galore,
That neither could think of a single thing more.
When Emma recovered the use of her jaws,
She asked in a whisper, "Are you really Santa Claus?"

"Am I the real Santa? Well, what do you think?"
And he smiled as he gave a mysterious wink.
Then he leaped in his buckboard, and called back in his drawl,
"To all the children in Texas, Merry Christmas, You-all"

Merry Christmas, Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad

Christmas Eve is here and to everyone, wishes for a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Star Power

An old star chart showing the constellations as the objects that they represent
A star forming region in the Large Magelllanic Cloud
This image provided by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Tuesday Dec. 15, 2009 shows hundreds of brilliant blue stars wreathed by warm, glowing clouds. The festive portrait is the most detailed view of the largest stellar nursery in our local galactic neighborhood. The massive, young stellar grouping, called R136, is only a few million years old and resides in the 30 Doradus Nebula, a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. There is no known star-forming region in our galaxy as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus.
.... oops... how did this get in here. (Ha!)

"By approaching the night sky with fresh eyes, you become more intimate with the world."

I found the complete article that Ivy quoted from yesterday, because I was so impressed with the part she quoted. Here is a paragraph from that article that captured me again: "If we’re not mindful, intellectual knowledge can easily cloud our direct experience. When we’re guided through life solely by our intellect, by our ideas of what we know, we’re robbed of a sense of discovery. A nonconceptual awareness allows us to approach each moment as fresh and new. A depth of wisdom can arise from such immediacy, and lead to greater wonder about the mysteriousness of life; we may realize just how little we can ever know."

About half way down the page, there's a section called Starry Night, which talks about meditation as a way to cultivate a nonconceptual awareness. Since it's done outdoors, it's probably not a good time to try it, but it is a good example of a way to learn for someone who has never mediated before (and that includes me). STARRY NIGHT

Monday, December 21, 2009

My little chickadees

Here's my woodpecker, who visits sometimes.

Along with my cardinals, mourning doves and
sparrows, there are tiny little birds with white
underbellies & black/gray backs, and their
beaks are orange/red.

What are they?

Winter Wonderland brings a White Christmas

It is the first day of winter and Mother Nature decided to caress the Northeast with a blanket of snow yesterday. Here in Southern Connecticut, the snowstorm slipped in after dark and by morning's light eight to ten inches of fresh snow cover was everywhere.

This gift from Mother Nature assures us that we will indeed have a White Christmas, something that does not occur that often. It just happens that this is a repeat performance of a similar snowstorm the same time last year.

A blanket of snow is a picture perfect event, especially at this time of year. So for my friends in climates that rarely experience this, here are some of the sights I saw as I wandered around my own winter wonderland.

As I was clearing a path to feed the birds, my Cassie, one of my calico cats, was peering out the side kitchen window to see what I was doing.

The birds had been patiently waiting perched in a weeping cherry tree hoping I soon would be out to feed them.
When I walked out of my driveway to see just how the outside world was doing, there was my neighbor's giant evergreen, adorned with a blanket of white, a perfect Christmas tree.

The sun did not come out until late in the day and as darkness descended, the lights along the driveway and in the house added to the enchanted look of the season.

To all my friends who gather here, from my home to yours, Seasons Greetings.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recipe for Christmas on de Bayou

To start my party preparation, I had to have my Christmas lights. In order to hold down the amount of work and time for preparation, I recommend you just leave your lights up all year. The hummingbirds enjoyed them and they added a nice touch to my bird pics. I stepped on a few over the last year but, heck, I just replaced those lights. And I'm here to tell ya, that's one thing that China does well, they can makes some tough Christmas lights. Mine have literally been though hell and high water.

Next is the Christmas tree. It helps if you have a sister with a QVC addiction. She always has an extra tree laying around. I decided to leave it au natural this year. Actually, I just hate taking off all those tiny oraments after Christmas.

Next is setting up your tables. I place my tables in two different rooms because there is no room in just one to put all the food. Also I need several electric outlets and my wiring does not allow for more than one hot appliance going on one side of the kitchen.

Presentation, presentation, presentation. That is very important with food preparation for a party.

Then you need some peeps to enjoy the food. Down here there are plenty of peeps who enjoy food. That might be why Louisiana is the happiest state in the country.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Colors of Christmas

Christmas is just a week away and as I travel about I see the colors of Christmas in lots of places.

The traditional colors of red and green, together with glittering gold, sparkling silver, winter white and a bit of blue make it pretty clear that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. As I drive in and out of my driveway, I get to see those Christmas colors.

And we are enjoying the nightly splash of color coming from our Christmas tree that stands on the porch. Even our fur family seems to be enjoying the season.

Here's to a peaceful and happy holiday season, and stay tuned for some more of my favorite Christmas things.