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And Merry Christmas to All!
"'Is the Christmas spirit still alive?' some ask. Well, you bet it is. The Christmas spirit of peace, hope, and love is the spirit Americans carry with them all year round, everywhere we go."
Ronald Reagan - Radio Address to the Nation, December 24, 1983.
Christmas was, without a doubt, my dad's favorite holiday. He passed away last year just before Christmas and we wound up Christmas Eve/Morning in a Holiday Inn Express between funerals/wakes. This year Mary, Drew, my sister, mom and I will all be together to properly celebrate the birth of Christ.
But this is about my dad and how he so cherished the Christmas season. When I was younger, I remember him meticulously hand painting ornaments. Every year, he beautifully decorated the exterior of the house with Christmas lights on all the bushes and along the gutters and eaves. When he got older and was no longer physically able to hang lights from the gutters by climbing a ladder the way he used to, he rigged a system of permanent hooks on the house and used a pole with a custom end he made to raise the stings of lights and place them taught on the hooks.
We always had a real Christmas tree. Everyone helped hang ornaments. Most important was that each person hung the ornaments that they had made in school or that, otherwise, were special to them. My dad always hung a small bell that he had on his Christmas tree since he was a child. He always hung it in the same place at the same height and would recount for us each year how, when he was little and first learning to talk, he would tap it while saying, "bell, bell."
Some time around 1920 my dad's dad, my grandfather Otto, started trimming the family Christmas tree using lead tinsel. If you haven't seen lead tinsel hung one strand at a time on a live Christmas tree, you are really missing out on something special. For obvious reasons, lead tinsel hasn't been sold for many years. Lead tinsel is very heavy and doesn't blow in the slight wind created by someone walking by like the feathery aluminum tinsel you buy now days. Lead tinsel is very soft and crinkles in a unique way that reflects light in an attractive understated manner unlike any modern tinsel. However, being made of soft lead, the old tinsel is very very fragile and must be handled carefully and slowly. With these constraints, every year my dad would put the same package(s) of lead tinsel on our tree one strand at a time, and take it all off one strand at a time to be used the next year, just as his father had done before him. The process took several evenings, spending several hours each evening.
My dad loved tracking down difficult to find gifts and would often order items months in advance. He would then meticulously wrap his packages. Sometimes he perfectly lined up wrapping paper patterns so that you could barely tell where a seam or fold was located. Other times he would seal every seam and fold with tape so that it was near impossible to open without a knife. He would often camouflage an easily identifiable gift in an odd shaped or oversized box and maybe even with a weight thrown in so that the recipient wouldn't know what they were receiving until they finally opened up the box. There was no picking up a wrapped package and knowing it was a CD at our house. My dad's specialty, however, was nesting a half-dozen or more boxes in each other, each fully wrapped, to make opening a "biggie" all the more magical. This was done, up to the point where we expected a really expensive gift to be at the end of all the nested boxes, then he changed up and put a regular or gag gift in the last box. You just never knew what he was up to. My dad also started the tradition of getting himself something each year that no one knew about and wrapping it himself with a tag, "From Santa, To Donald." He'd then unwrap it Christmas day in front of us genuinely exhibiting all the excitement of child.
I don't really remember getting any toys when I was a kid other than on birthdays and at Christmas. Likewise, even with clothes, the vast majority were received at Christmas. This combined with the fact that by any reasonable standard my mom and dad overdid Christmas gift giving. We weren't rich, but were sufficiently well off that the wrapped presents, some years, flowed out of the living room into the foyer. We even had to hide gifts in another room when guests came over because it was just so ridiculous. Then Christmas day the unwrapping began.
It wasn't until I was married that I learned that some people unwrap gifts differently on Christmas day. Mary's family pretty much says ready, set, go...and everyone unwraps their presents at the same time. But not the Danz's. We sit and watch everyone unwrap their gifts one at a time, including taking the gift out of its box and looking at it closely or trying it on, peppered along the way with many "ohhs" and "ahhs." Despite there only being four of us, it would take from 8:00 in the morning until after lunch to open everything, although there were plenty of breaks for eating, reading instructions or just playing.
My dad will certainly be missed this Christmas, but mostly he will be remembered.
I don't know how or why, but overnight, my blog has jumped from a mere flappy bird to a large mammal in The TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem. This may have changed by the time anyone else is reads this, but I just thought I'd post it for historical sake since I haven't really followed the TTLB ecosystem much I thought it was interesting. For what it's worth, right now, Danzfamily.com is listed as the 653rd most popular blog out of 18,416. I'm pretty sure it's an error in their ranking system.
Not many entries lately. Still busy with work, the holidays and, darn it, just playing and napping with my son.
I'm in the process of consolidating the registration of the four domain names that I own to just one registrar. They were with catalog.com, domainpeople.com, netidentity.com and register.com. I'm moving them all to godaddy.com.
Each registrar had different login requirements/constraints resulting in four sets of usernames and passwords which took a little work to recall. I have a "system" for remembering such things and it was really put to the test during this process. I've really pushed the limits in maximizing security at the risk of securing myself out. I (and everyone should) have different passwords for different things. This way when I sign up for something requiring a password, I haven't just giving that company, group or person, my one and only password to everything. The downside is that one good blow to my head and I'm locked out of the online/electronic world.
Actually, I've started to keep track of such personal information as usernames/passwords, account numbers, etc. with a secure personal information manager, SplashID, which works on my PC and PalmPilot (Tungsten T). It uses 256-bit Blowfish encryption, which in layman's terms means, if I lose my PalmPilot, no one will be able to extract my information. Given the explosive grown of digital identifiers, the usefulness of such a program cannot be overstated.
The United Nations is responsible for the largest ever corruption scandal in the entire history of the world totaling now over $21 billion dollars which arose out of the Iraqi oil-for-food program under Saddam Hussein. (It's the largest scam ever if you don't include such infamous frauds as communism or the welfare state.) Every level of the U.N. is corrupt, from the lowest park-anywhere-anytime diplomat who refuses to pay thousands of dollars in New York City parking tickets because of diplomatic immunity to the head ignoramus Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Despite being the poster-child for corruption...hold on to your irony hat...today, December 9, is United Nations Anti-Corruption Day. Seriously, the best humor, you just can't make up. It's like the KKK instituting Interracial Marriage Day or the ACLU celebrating Christian Government Day or Charles Manson honoring Mental Health Day.
The United Nations has crossed over from merely worthless to harmful. It is a pustuous sore on America and the City of New York and should be done away with as a concern of the United States. I say, get out and kick'em out.