12 nights ago we marked the Mother Night, the winter solstice, when Sunna fell to her lowest point on the horizon and the night was the longest of the year. Tonight we mark the Yule, the end of the twelfth night since the Mother Night, and the turning of the wheel of the year.

Why the 12th night? I honestly don't know: tradition has recorded this night as the New Year in many cultures. There are indications that in the Old North, Winternights (around October 12th - there's that number again!) was celebrated as the New Year, but Yule was kept as well. Twelve is a particularly interesting number for heathens: there are 12 gods and 12 goddesses listed by Snorri in the Prose Edda, and 24 runes in the Eldar Futhark.

Our goši and his wife are coming over this evening to celebrate with us: we'll talk until the wee hours, or at least until after midnight. So have a Glad Yule, and I'll put off posting again until next year. There are already several items in the queue ...

00:00 /Asatru | 1 comment | permanent link

National Archives' Digital Woes

As the proud owner of a pile of vinyl LP's, a rack of laser disc's and a few 5.25" floppys formatted to the Commodore 1541 drive, I can appreciate the problem here ...

Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "The National Archives, entrusted to preserve America's official history, will have to handle roughly 100 million emails from the Bush White House, up from 32 million during the Clinton years, according to the Wall Street Journal. 'The rapid adoption of electronic communications technology in the last decade has created a major crisis for the Archives,' the Journal reports. 'For one thing, the amount of data to be preserved has exploded in recent years, thanks to the proliferation of high-tech tools such as personal computers and wireless email devices such as BlackBerries. At the same time, technology is becoming obsolete so fast that electronic documents created today may not be legible on tomorrow's devices, the equivalent of trying to play an eight-track tape on an iPod.' The director of the Electronic Records Archives Program tells the Journal, 'We don't want to turn into a Cyber-Williamsburg, a place that keeps old technologies alive.'"

(link) [Slashdot]

00:00 /Technology | 1 comment | permanent link

Did competition dash Barbie's holiday dreams?

Having raised three girls in the 80's, I've seen more than enough of Barbie and her ilk - and yes, I made rather merciless fun of her plastic, wholesome, non-anatomically correct beauty. But this bit still troubles me ... folks who watch this market carefully are seeing what I would consider to be some disturbing trends, despite the fact that this years downturn for Barbie was due mostly to competition from other dolls:

AG Edwards analyst Tim Conder thinks Barbie's problem goes beyond the challenge from Bratz. "No doubt Bratz have taken significant market share from Barbie in the last three to four years. But I think changing consumer trends could put Bratz in the same situation down the road."

According to Conder, the traditional toy business overall is in for turbulent times ahead as kids at an earlier age show a preference for gadgets like cellphones, iPods and videogames.

"Boys don't want to play with GI Joe and young girls are moving away from Barbie," he said.

Electronic toys, including animated dolls like the 'Amazing Amanda' mentioned in this article, do not require the child the use any imagination - in fact, they almost demand that the kid not imagine at all, by supplying nearly every kind of behavior available in their "target" toy. No need to pretend Amazing Amanda is hungry - she'll cry and tell you she's hungry!

Kids can still find workarounds for this kind of directed behavior today, but as these devices get more sophisticated, look out! "Play pretend" could become a quaint relic of a time long past.

Imagination is crucial to the later development of the creative, artistic impulses - deny or repress a child's imagination and, well, who knows? This is something that is a new thing: no culture heretofore has ever tried to do this en masse, to boys and girls, rich and poor, not even wild-eyed fundamentalist religious zealots. And I'm not sure, given the pace with which our society moves and technology advances, that there's anything we could do about it, even were we to decide we wanted to.

If Mattel was hoping that Princess Barbie and Fairytopia Barbie -- its two big doll initiatives for 2005 -- would light a fire under sagging Barbie sales over the holidays, the toymaker may be in for another rude awakening.

(link) [CNN.com]

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

US government warns it's running out of cash

Hmmm, do you think things have really changed with this "conservative" regime? Remember Gingrich in 1994?

Gingrich had a different spin on the standoff. "We were elected to get rid of all the phony promises and the phony excuses and to be honest with the American people and say to them, 'You want to balance the budget? You want to save your children and grandchildren, you want to have lowered interest rates, you want to have lower taxes?' We can do it. It is not easy. It takes hard decisions. But we have to have a dialog among ourselves and it has to be honest."

When Newt made the above statement the national debt stood at less than $5 trillion. If Bush gets his way, the debt will stand at nearly double that by the end of 2006.

I wonder what conservative Republicans are conserving here? It's certainly not our tax dollars...

AFP - Treasury Secretary John Snow has warned that unless Congress raises the national debt limit, the US government will run out of cash to finance its daily work in two months.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

NSA Web Site Plants 'Cookies' on Computers

OK, so the NSA may have been involved in some pretty serious Constitutional crimes recently - but placing cookies wasn't one of them. I have never really understood "cookie paranoia". No website operator can deduce anything more from a visit to the site than your IP address and possible general geographic location unless you fill in a form giving them more information. Which is precisely what most folks who see the nefarious cookie spying on their porn surfing do.

To track your browsing using cookies would require a massive cross referenced database of cookie ID's and domains - some ad companies (DoubleClick comes to mind), have been accused of this in the past, but the truth is that since most ads are served remotely, there's no need whatsoever to coordinate cookies. All that needs done (and frequently is done) is to set a cookie from the ad server domain showing what ads have been viewed (and possibly clicked), with the only reference at all to the page currently under view being for the purpose of paying for the display of the ad!

I wonder how many of the folks who lay awake at night worrying about their computer turning into a cookie jar are the same folks who wear rubber gloves when typing to keep from catching a computer virus...

AP - The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Hot Tech Skills For 2006?

Well, somebody's lying ... obviously, if you ask the guy who runs the classified ad site (below), he'll say business is great! But if you ask some other sources:

Gartner Inc., a high-tech forecasting firm, estimates 10 percent of computer services and software jobs will be moved overseas by the end of this year, while a study by Meta group projects 40 percent of corporate tech operations will move offshore by 2008. link

Having been personally outsourced, offshored and generally shafted by the high-tech industry, I think I'll put my money on Gartner and Meta Group's predictions, rather than industry mouthpiece Computerworld. But even they can't dodge the truth forever: one of the 'related links' that popped up when I read the article was J.P. Morgan Chase starts two-year hiring spree in India...

Computerworld is running a 3 page story on what tech skills will be in demand for the coming year. They suggest developers, security experts and project managers are in demand. It also comes up with some good news. FTA: 'Despite the notion that hordes of U.S. IT jobs are being sent offshore, in reality, less than 5% of the 10 million people who make up the U.S. IT job market had been displaced by foreign workers through 2004, says Scot Melland, president and CEO of Dice Inc., a New York-based online jobs service. The numbers of jobs posted on Dice.com from January through September for developers, project managers and help desk technicians rose 40%, 47% and 45%, respectively, compared with the same period in 2004, says Melland.'

(link) [Slashdot]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Pakistani Man Discusses 'Honor' Killings

More news from the "Religion of Peace"™...

AP - Nazir Ahmed appears calm and unrepentant as he recounts how he slit the throats of his three young daughters and their 25-year-old stepsister to salvage his family's "honor" — a crime that shocked Pakistan.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Jesus as a Sweet Potato?

Veggie Tales Nativity Set
Last year, Jesus was a chicken as the Chicken Creche won the prize for the most tasteless nativity set - this years winner is shown at the left.

Perhaps he's not a yam, but a butternut squash... I wonder what theologians would have to say about depicting god as a vegetable? I wonder what it says about our culture?

via orangeBlog

00:00 /Humor | 3 comments | permanent link

Fear destroys what bin Laden could not

A great editorial from Robert Steinback, writing in the Miami Herald. Read the whole thing.

Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another terrorist attack? Are there no principles of law and liberty more important than this? Who would have remembered Patrick Henry had he written, "What's wrong with giving up a little liberty if it protects me from death?"

(link) [Miami Hearld]

via MyAppleMenu

00:00 /Politics | 1 comment | permanent link

Letter From Rome: Vatican Considers Consigning Limbo to Oblivion

The mind numbing, convoluted turnings of a theology that once consigned stillborn babes to Hell, because Adam took a bite of an apple... and then turned around and claimed that we Heathens were unenlightened barbarians and religious savages, destined to Hell because of that same fruit.


This month, 30 top theologians from around the world met at the Vatican to discuss what happens to babies who die without baptism.

(link) [NYT > Home Page]

00:00 /Asatru | 1 comment | permanent link

Montana Beef Council promotes new cookbook

Note how this is funded: via a "check-off". That's bureaucratese for "hidden tax". Beef producers pay a $1 per head check off tax, and this is one of the projects it funds. Note that the cookbook isn't particularly "grass fed friendly" - it follows the governments guidelines for percentage of fat in cuts of beef, and therefore makes my meat appear much fattier than it actually is, putting my grass fed product on par with factory farmed feedlot beef. Lovely. If anyone out there is still suffering from the illusion that there's anything resembling a free market in US agriculture, stories like this should ally those apprehensions.

HELENA, Mont. - Just in time for your New Year's resolutions to eat healthier, balanced diets - great taste and nutrition come together in a new check-off-funded cookbook.

(link) [Ag News/updates from www.theprairiestar.com]

00:00 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

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00:00 /Humor | 0 comments | permanent link

Shoat? Greep? WTF???

I'm sure that some of the more urban readers of this humble blog may harbor an idyllic picture of "life on the farm", where "every day's a holiday, and every meal's a feast". Be warned, this post will put the kibosh on those sentiments...

We finally started Christmas shopping yesterday afternoon - and we finished last night! It was a typical, madcap, Haxtonesque shopping spree - not much money was spent, but immediate family all got some small token. Of course, with Kris, that still means about 15 items, so we didn't finish up until quite late, and got home about 11:30 pm.

We had also done our grocery shopping for the feast tomorrow while we were at it, so I told Kris to unload the groceries and I'd go take care of the critters - we'd made sure that they had fresh water before we left at 3pm, but needed to replenish that supply, throw some hay, lock the chickens in and I wanted to get Donner and Blitzen locked in a stall and get them some goat chow.

I'd just let them out on the pasture yesterday morning - I've had the two wethers locked in most of the week, as on their return from the petting zoo Donner had a pretty stopped up nose, and Blitzen was dribbling a bit too. And it was supposed to rain all day today (and it did rain all day, indeed), so I thought I'd get'em back in and bedded down.

To nobody's surprise, they were already in their stall, begging for some attention and some chow! I got them took care of, and noticed our other goat, a little doe named Francie that we acquired from Kevyn a few months ago, was in the other big stall, also bleating for some love and dinner. So after I took care of the chickens, threw the cattle and the horse some hay, and filled the water tanks, I went back into the barn and got her some goat ration and a flake of hay all for her very own.

About this time, Kris had finished up unloading the groceries and came out to see if she could help me get done any faster. Francie turned, for some reason, so her back was to us, and Kris immediately spotted a problem: "What's that hanging off Francie's butt?"

I hadn't noticed anything, but then again, I'd not seen her backside, and sure enough, there was a dark mass, about six or seven inches long, hanging below her tail. It wasn't manure, as goat shit is very pelletized, and this was a single long lump. The lighting was pretty poor, so we got her into the main area of the barn to have a better look.

It was a fetus! And Francie was obviously still laboring to expel ... the afterbirth? a twin? We had no idea she was even pregnant! It was a bit of a mess - the mass was hanging by the umbilical, and Kris managed to get the cord cut and get the fetus off her while I held her still. She wasn't greatly distressed, but it was very important to get all of the afterbirth out of her, to prevent infection. And we weren't having much luck...

I had to figure this out - Francie hasn't run with a buck since last year! How could she have been pregnant? We examined the fetus: judging from it's size and state of development, it couldn't have been much past 10 or twelve weeks. It was also pretty obviously defective - I wanted to put it somewhere where I could have a better look, in daylight, and that meant protecting the body from the barn cats and the dogs (not to mention the coyotes). So I put it under a rock outside the main barn door.

Mind you, this was 12:30am this morning, and we had both been up since 5am. "Tired" doesn't do it justice. And there we were, in the barn, blood, guts and a goat having a miscarriage.

We finally got her calmed down. I put some fresh straw down in the stall opposite from the boys, and we locked her in for the night. She was not happy with this - she missed Hammer (the horse), who she thinks is her big brother, and protector from the evil cattle and other goats. But she settled in, and we came in to try and get some sleep.

This morning, we called Kevyn, and by the time he got over here she'd expelled a twin as well. Most of the afterbirth was obviously well on the way, and we managed to get a urea tablet placed in her uterus. She'll be fine.

Best as we can figure, she'd been in the same pastures with our Blackface ram, when he was breeding the flock. And he mustn't have been paying much attention to such minor details as species...

So that's my Christmas Eve idyll - doing obstetrics on a goat, who'd been bred by a sheep, at one in the morning following a 20 hour day.

Thank the gods I'm a country boy!

00:00 /Home | 2 comments | permanent link

Powell Supports Government Eavesdropping

Frankly, I don't give a rat's ass who "supports" warrantless searches: that doesn't make them any less unconstitutional.

Bush claims to be a "conservative", one who wishes to restrict government power. But he's showing his true colors - he's as much in favor of expansion of State power as is Teddy Kennedy. I find it bitterly ironic that he's also spending us into oblivion as he crushes our liberty: if this man's a conservative (and I mean on the order of Barry Goldwater or even Ronnie Reagan) then I'm a duckbill platypus.

AP - Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday supported government eavesdropping to prevent terrorism but said a major controversy over presidential powers could have been avoided by obtaining court warrants.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 1 comment | permanent link

Iran rejects Russian nuclear offer

This speaks volumes about Iranian nuclear intentions ... and about the relationship between Russia and the West. Somehow, I don't think the prospect of mullahs with nukes excites Mr. Putin ...

AFP - Iran rejected an offer from Russia for the Islamic republic to conduct uranium enrichment activities on its soil, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link