My Lottery Dream that almost was



That was my response when I saw the Tennessee Cash 4 pick for tonight.  Why?  Because several nights ago, I had a dream where I was in my childhood neighborhood walking to my old house, and some girl I was walking with for some reason told to play the lottery and pick 3, 5, 8, 1.  Now, these were the digits that were selected the one time I just happened to be watching, several nights later.  I about kicked myself, but decided to read the rules first.  Fortunately for my sanity, you have to pick them in order to win, so I wouldn’t have won anyway.  I could have picked the option to allow for any combination, but then my winnings would have only been $200, and that’s if I played it at the exact right time (they draw 3 times a day).  Still, it’s pretty weird isn’t it?

PS In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t normally play lottery, and I’m not likely to start now over this.

Top 5 Christmas Songs…and one more


My musical tastes have always been eclectic, and I hope you enjoy my picks for my favorite Christmas songs…and one more.  All links will open in a new window, so you can keep this up while you listen/watch.

5.   Last Christmas – Ariana Grande

I have no idea why I like this version so much lately, I just do.  I like the way she has the fugue in the background to an already good song (the original was by some group called Wham).

4.   God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings – BNL & Sarah McLaughlin

I’ve always liked this as a hymn, and this country-ish version has been echoing through my head lately.  I was really surprised to see Sarah McLaughlin!  I would have expected a country singer, but she does this very well.  Enjoy!

3.  Oh Holy Night – Pavarotti

I love Pavarotti, God rest his generous soul!  This version is solidly operatic, exactly what you’d expect from the great Pavarotti!

2.   Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys

Definitely the most fun Christmas song, and its pure Beach Boys.  They didn’t alter their style at all.  You’ve got everything from the usual higher pitch singers blending in perfect harmony, to the low contrast that comes in with “Christmas comes this time each year” – my favorite part.

1.   Christmas Time –  The Darkness

My all-time favorite Christmas song!  This version is the music video, which really adds to it.  This band is, as the name suggests, a typical dark toned heavy metal band, but you’ll get none of that here.  The song does have some sadness to it but…well, just wait and see.  It’s beautiful!

And one more…

Christmas Time – Christina Aguilera

I’m not a huge fan of Christina Aguilera, but she is very talented when she wants to be.  She really did an excellent job here, from the Fa la la las, to the end.  The harpsichord was a nice tough too.  Well, I’m tempted to go into a rant about how she wastes her talents, but nah.  It’s Christmas!  I didn’t put this in my official top 5 list, but I just wanted to add it in because it has also been echoing through my head lately.

Just say “Merry Christmas” – It’s OK

Merry Christmas

The “war on Christmas” is not being waged by Jews, Muslims, the government, or even atheists or the political left.  I’ve never met a Jewish person who had a problem saying “Merry Christmas”.  I’m happy to wish them a “Happy Hanukah”.  My Islamic friends back in London got me a Christmas card and a gift.  Most atheists I’ve met celebrate a secular version of Christmas, and just see it as a day off from work and a time to have fun.  I occasionally hear rumors that the government is making it illegal to say “Merry Christmas” in a public place, but I have yet to see any evidence of this.  Christmas is actually a Federal Holiday, so clearly they aren’t the culprit.  As for the political left, as much as they loathe the open expression of religion, I have yet to hear of, or even the radical feminists denouncing Christmas.  So let’s ask ourselves, this sudden discomfort we have saying “Merry Christmas” – this sudden reaction by cultural warriors (myself included) to the “war on Christmas” – who is causing this?  Well, where do you hear the more secularized “Happy Holidays” most frequently?  Do you hear it from President Obama, or former President Bush?  Do you hear it from your friends of other faiths?  Coworkers?  Maybe the coworkers…maybe.  But you usually hear it either on TV, or at retail stores.  On TV, you hear it on commercials, or the news.

That means corporations are the culprit!  Massive retail stores who have spent decades, if not centuries turning a sacred time a year into a cheap expression of materialism and instant gratification, who now go out of their way to make their employees work on Thanksgiving Day (because Black Friday just wasn’t enough for their greedy hands) – these massive retail stores want their employees to say “Happy Holidays” because THEY fear that people of other faiths will be offended.  Besides, they want Jews, Muslims, Hindus, whoever to also buy their junk.  I feel sorry for the employees, often forced to work on Thanksgiving Day now, and pushed into saying “Happy Holidays” knowing that someone like me might get offended at the watering down of our celebration of the birth of Christ.  It’s gotten worse.  Due to our most justified reaction, this year I’ve noticed that retailers nervously just say “have a nice day”.  If they say “Merry Christmas”, they fear they might offend religious minorities.  If they say “Happy Holidays”, they fear they might offend us devoted Christians.

So here is my advice.  To retailers, unless your company forbids you from saying “Merry Christmas”, just say “Merry Christmas”.  It’s OK.  Religious minorities are not going to be offended that in a predominantly Christian country, where Christmas is a Federal holiday, people are wishing each other “Merry Christmas”.  If I went to Israel, I would not at all be surprised to hear people wishing each other “Happy Hanukah” and I would happily join in.  To the rest of us, just calmly wish our friends in the retail sector a “Merry Christmas”.  Don’t say it with politically righteous indignation.  Say it calmly and naturally.  We won’t win this culture war by fanning the flames, and causing a previously benign element of religious minorities to feel under attack.  They aren’t the enemy.  The corporations are the culprit.  They may be able to control what their employees say, but they can’t control us.  And I’m sure that if you wish the retailer a “Merry Christmas”, they will sigh in relief and probably say it back.  If I were in Israel, and witnessing a culture war by corporations against Hanukah, I would eagerly wish all my Jewish friends a “Happy Hanukah” not only as a warm wish, but in solidarity with them to protect their sacred holidays.  To my friends of other faiths, remember, this doesn’t just affect Christians and our Christmas holiday.  We live in an increasingly globalized economy, and if corporations can do it here in America, it won’t be long before they’re doing it everywhere.  So let us stand in solidarity against the greed of these multinational corporations.  Remember that the retail employee is just earning a paycheck, and they more than anyone deserve a warm, calm wish for a “Merry Christmas”.

The first minute is an example of an atheist who has no problem saying “Merry Christmas” and getting into the spirit (Stefan Molyneux, one of my favorite atheists, and libertarian)

PS. A link to my favorite Christmas song (You won’t see this one coming)

I miss liking Obama


In our darkest hour, at least that we millenials can remember, Obama gave us hope.  We had 8 years of fear, debt, a weak economy, and blind nationalism that sickened any of us with even the most basic critical thinking skills.  The Bush era was a nightmare for us.

I admit it.  The neocons had turned me off to America for a while.  To them, that is a mortal sin.  Everyone is supposed to love ‘mer’ca!  If you don’t, there must be something wrong with you.  And to them “America” is whatever they support.  Don’t support the war in Iraq?  Why do you hate ‘mer’ca?!  Don’t want to torture accused terrorists?  Why do you hate ‘mer’ca?!  Don’t like oil subsidies?  Well, you get the idea.

I escaped to England, thinking I would find something better in the land of my forefathers.  Well, it wasn’t England so much as it was London.  I’ll spare you the details, but know that when America suffered over here, I suffered over there.  I suffered over there, so I didn’t have to suffer over here…heh heh heh (Imagine my Bush voice).  When the economy tanked, my own finances likewise tanked.  When I thought all was lost, there was that enthusiastic progressive, multiracial, with and Islamic father and Christian mother, who represented an “America” I found far more appealing.  It was an America where people were free to be different, where hard work paid off.  It was an America of “hope and change”.  It was no longer the America of angry pseudo-conservatives watching endless FOX news, calling food stamps recipients “lazy” while ignoring subsidies for big business, and supporting every war against every nation of brown skinned Muslims since they all look like Osama bin Laden.  That America was dying, and a new one was being born.  That the rebirth was being led by a man who looked Muslim, that was just a plus for me.  Take that neocons!

Due to circumstances, I was moving back home.

When Obama was inaugurated, he declared “Change has come to America”.  To this day, I still think he meant that at the time, but he was wrong.  Change doesn’t come from inauguration.    (I’ve discussed my disappointments with Obama here and here).  Now the Republicans are in control of Congress, and rather than turning over a new leaf, they’re back to the same old tricks.  They are seeking more subsidies, more welfare for big banks, and cuts to school lunches.  We can’t afford decent food for our kids, but we can afford to back risky derivatives trading with FDIC insurance.  (Details in this article).  In all of their efforts to “cut spending”, you will hear no mention of ending oil subsidies, or auditing the Pentagon.  Actually, they will include more funding for weapons that the Pentagon didn’t even request.  But we can’t afford nutritious school lunches – sorry kids.  It’s the same old crony capitalism the Republicans have been pushing since the party was founded.  As the Republicans remind me of why I despise them so much (though I consider myself conservative), I can’t help but miss the Obama I voted for in 2008.  Now, more than ever, we need that Obama.  But he is a broken man now.

We partly have ourselves to blame.  Like Obama, we thought we had won when he took office.  We got lazy while the corporatists on the right and their FOX news viewing grunts got to work.  They obstructed everything, attacked Obama from all angles, and we stuck our heads in the sands.  Eventually, Obama gave in, and now we’ve got an Obama who supports indefinite detention, tolerates oil subsidies, invades countries without Congressional approval, and only faintly opposes torture.  John McCain has done more to end torture than Obama, and McCain is Mr. Neocon!

Still, no matter what Obama has done, I can’t hate him.  In 2008, in our darkest hour, in mine too, he restored my faith in this country.  I’m not an ‘mer’can, but I am a proud American.  But now I know that one man isn’t going to turn it around.  The FOX news viewers may think Obama hates this country because he’s half Kenyan and his father is a Muslim, but I know that Obama loved, and probably still loves, the America that I love.  It’s the America where the poor and downtrodden who don’t stand a chance in Europe can come and have a chance to succeed, and another chance, and another.  It’s the land of opportunity, innovation, and progress.  I have little faith left in Obama, but I’ll never forget what he did for me, and all of us.  Remember what Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over, and over, and over again…and that’s why I succeed.”  We will move this country out of the neocon dark ages, but we will have to fail many times first.

PS  I’m clearly not a typical Rand Paul supporter, but I am a supporter.  I don’t care if it comes from the left wing, the right wing, or a chicken wing on a string at burger king.  I’m not a progressive, but I supported Obama.  I’m not a libertarian, but I support Paul.  I just know that the old left-right paradigm needs to end, and I’ll support any candidate who can make progress towards that goal.

Small Talk – Top 5 Most Annoying Workplace Cliches


You don’t actually want to know how I’m doing, and I don’t actually want to know the details of your life as you’re passing by.  It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, or don’t care about you.  It’s just that we can’t have a serious conversation in the next two minutes, and I don’t care to spend two minutes reciting meaningless pleasantries.  All we’re really saying to each other is, “I acknowledge your existence” and “I acknowledge your existence, too”.

So, without further ado, here is my top five list of annoying workplace conversational clichés, in descending order from least to most annoying.

5.  “Working hard, or hardly working?” This was a little funny the first time I heard it, 20 years ago!  Now it’s just dumb.

4.  “Thank goodness it’s Friday!” For one thing, not everyone is lucky enough to have a Mon – Fri schedule these days.  Besides, is work really so bad that you count the minutes until it’s over?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t do jobs that I hate.  Don’t get me wrong, I like time off, but I don’t get any pleasure by pretending that every waking moment of work is utter agony and that going home will be like getting out of prison after a 20 year sentence.

3.  “Don’t work too hard.” If I have a lot to do, I’ll probably work harder.  If not, I won’t work so hard.  But these 4 words have been repeated for so many decades now that they’ve lost all meaning.  I think they were intended to be a joke towards someone who has an easy job.

2.  “How was your weekend?” Unless you actually want to sit down and talk about our weekends, don’t ask.  I have no interest in saying “it was fine,” and then asking you the same question just so that you can give a similar response.  I once had an interesting coworker who told me of his weekends fishing, camping, or ghost hunting.  Now that, I’ll gladly ask about.

  1.  You – “How’s it going?” Me – “Fine”  You – “Well, I’m glad that you’re fine”.  When people ask how I’m doing, I just say “fine” and leave it at that.  I’m not going to follow that with “And how are you doing?” just to hear you also say “fine”.  It’s not to be inconsiderate, but let’s be honest, you didn’t actually care how I was doing either did you?

Have any of you reading this ever tried to actually tell someone how you’re doing when they ask?  You’ll likely find they quickly exit the conversation, as they had little interest to begin with.  So I for one see no reason we can’t just say, “good morning” and “good morning”, and leave it at that.  I once worked in a building with a man who didn’t even do that.  He just nodded.  When I was trained, my coworkers told me “Oh he’s a nice man, he just isn’t much for small talk”.  For them, his morning head nod was awkward, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air.  Is there a more efficient way to acknowledge someone’s existence than with a simple head nod?  Working with him was far more pleasant than working with most people, who mean well, but really just wear my patience with superficial small talk.

Interesting Links for further thought:

Interesting article on small talk as it relates to happiness

As annoying as is small talk, this article makes a case for why it is important

An amusing blog post by someone who fears succumbing to work place small talk