Thursday, December 24, 2009

Where's Santa Now? NORAD knows

From CNN today, the story of how NORAD began tracking Santa:   (official NORAD tracking website here)

One morning in December 1955, U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the director of operations at CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command--NORAD's predecessor--got a phone call at his Colorado Springs, Colorado, office. This was no laughing matter. The call had come in on one of the top secret lines inside CONAD that only rang in the case of a crisis.
Grabbing the phone, Shoup must have expected the worst. Instead, a tiny voice asked, "Is this Santa Claus?"

"Dad's pretty annoyed," said Terri Van Keuren, Shoup's daughter, recalling the legend of that day in 1955. "He barks into the phone," demanding to know who's calling.

"The little voice is now crying," Van Keuren continued. "'Is this one of Santa's elves, then?'"

The Santa questions were only beginning. That day, the local newspaper had run a Sears Roebuck ad with a big picture of St. Nick and text that urged, "Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct...Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night."
But the phone number in the ad was off by a digit. Instead of connecting with Santa, callers were dialing in on the line that would ring if the Russians were attacking.   Before long, the phone was ringing off the hook, and softening up, Shoup grabbed a nearby airman and told him to answer the calls and, Van Keuren said, "'just pretend you're Santa.'"

Indeed, rather than having the newspaper pull the Sears ad, Shoup decided to offer the countless kids calling in something useful: information about Santa's progress from the North Pole. To quote the official NORAD Santa site, "a tradition was born."

From that point on, first CONAD and then, in 1958, when NORAD was formed, Shoup's organization offered annual Santa tracking as a service to the global community. A phone number was publicized and anyone was invited to call up, especially on December 24, and find out where Santa was. Manning those phones over the years have been countless numbers of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel and their families, and for many people, turning to NORAD to find out where Santa is became something to look forward to each year...

These days, of course, a single red phone isn't enough to handle the demand for the information.  Google has even jumped in to assist.  Most people, Frankovis said, just want to know where Santa is. And so the volunteer answering the question will look up at the big screen on the wall at the operations center and see where, on the map that is integrating geographical information from NORAD with Google's mapping service, Santa is at that moment.

"NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa -- radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets," reads the NORAD Santa Web site. On Christmas Eve, NORAD monitors the radar systems continuously for indications that Santa Claus has left the North Pole.    Fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept and welcome Santa to North America.

"The moment that radar indicates Santa has lifted off, we use our second detection system. Satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth's surface are equipped with infrared sensors, which enable them to detect heat. Amazingly, Rudolph's bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allow our satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.....

Last March, Shoup died, said Van Keuren. But in the years before his death, she and her family would take the retired colonel back to Colorado Springs each year for the Santa tracker training. "They would introduce him and he would say a few words," Van Keuren said. "So that was a big thrill for him."

In his later years, Shoup "was not as sharp as he used to be," she said. But his days overseeing the Santa tracker program were still near and dear to his heart. She said the NORAD folks had printed out a sheaf of e-mails kids had written in and gave them to Shoup as a reminder of what he'd started back in 1955.

"For the last weeks of his life, he carried them around in his briefcase like they were top secret papers," Van Keuren said. "Those were just precious to him. I'd read them to him over and over."
Don't tell me there is no Santa Claus!!!  Do you think it pure coincidence that a Sears ad just *happened* to be printed with a typo that just *happened* to connect directly to the most top-secret phone line in the world, of the only organization in the world who has a mandate to specifically "watch out" for (and defend from, if necessary) any aerial traffic coming across the North Pole?   I don't think so.  Santa's not stupid.  He knows who's been bad or good and he knows who might have the ability to accidentally take him out. 

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Goodnight!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ebay enters do-gooder market with new World of Good website

Looks like my favorite GreaterGood network is getting some competition from Ebay. Branding Ongoing

Pick a cause - fair trade, eco-friendly, animal-friendly, people-positive.  Or as they're spinning it, "Shop by Goodprint".  Lots of trademarked marketing jazz going around.  BUT, it is nice to see Ebay responding to concerns they may be providing a global market for exploitive products.  Unlike GreaterGood, however they're offering commissions.  Which I'll take.  But I promise to buy a goat or something equally worthwhile with any proceeds.  So far I'm seeing many of the same artisans on both sites.

So far, Dr. Bronner's products are looking very good to me. Dr. Bronner's Lavender Tea Tree Soap.
 I have no clue what "Shikakai" is, however.  So use at your own peril.  Hopefully it's not in the same line as the "Ellie Pooh" recycled paper products. Wait - Wikipedia says it's a traditional shampoo used in India for centuries.  Have you seen the gorgeous hair on those Indian women? Sounds good.  And it's fair trade and organic!.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I work better on short deadlines

The problem with getting my holiday shopping done early is that it leaves me plenty of time to re-shop.  I stick to a budget much better when I'm scrambling on the 23rd.  Kind of like in school when I would procrastinate until the night before big papers were due and pull an all-nighter.  For some reason, I always got A's on those papers, written from the gut with no time to edit and self-criticize.

But it does feel good to have it all pretty much done and nothing left but the wrapping. 

Guess who's already back to doing cartwheels again?  You guessed it.  Arm's still a little sore when he runs full tilt into the couch, but other than that, he's using it fully.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blow Your Own Glass Ornaments

This opportunity was highlighted on a local news station today - Blow your Own Glass Christmas Ornaments at Elements Glass Studio in NW Portland. $5 of the $38 cost per ornament goes to the Oregon Food Bank. Call and make an appointment for a large group of family & friends.  I'll add this to the "Happy Heathen Holidays" idea bag. 

If DIY isn't quite your cup of tea but you like the idea of custom handblown glass ornaments, don't forget the artisans at Portland Saturday Market!  Open Sat/ Sun in Old Town, and the tried and true "Festival of the Last Minute" the entire week of Dec. 17 - Dec 24.  I can't tell you how many times I've done my last minute gift shopping there.  This year, Cinnamon Bear will be handing out yummy cinnamon bear cookies to all the good little girls and boys he finds at the market. 

I do love supporting local artisans.  Also? Folks on the other side of the world.  Yesterday I helped a woman in Azerbaijan buy a cow through micro-lending at

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Quick plug for a new advertiser Pacific NW, family-owned fruit growers who specialize in very affordable gifts from 21 different farms in Oregon, Washington & California. Grower direct. For every pound of fruit they sell, they donate a pound of fresh fruit to a local food pantry or shelter. Pound for pound. Amazing! Order now and you'll not only help those who need it most but get free shipping, too! Great idea for out of town family, business partners or client "thank you's".

Monday, December 07, 2009

'Tis the Season

Blogging has taken a back seat to holiday preparations and illness around here lately.  I finally succumbed to the cold the Monkey and Mr. Stang were slowly recovering from.  We think the Monkey's elbow did pop back into place on Friday as he heard a "crack" when I accidentally jarred it, but he says it's still very painful.  Supposedly with Nursemaid's Elbow once the elbow pops back in the pain stops and kids return to normal very quickly.  He is able to move it in all directions and put some pressure on it, but his strength has not returned and he's still favoring it. I think he may have sprained it in addition to the dislocation.  Or maybe the multiple reduction attmepts caused some minor damage.  Then again, he could just be afraid to start using it. 
We're treating with ibuprofen but are not overly worried about permanent nerve damage (yet). We'll see how it is doing in a week or so.

We got the Charlie Brown-iest Christmas tree we've ever seen up and decorated.  Here in the NW we're kind of tree snobs.  You see beautiful, asthetically perfect Christmas trees all year around, so it's kind of hard to stomach the butchered (or excuse me: "sculpted") tree farm versions we ultimately get on the lots.  Basically, they take perfectly lovely Doug Firs or Grand trees and prune them into perfectly symmetrical little dense pyramids.  It used to be you could get Nobel Firs that had great character, and plenty of room between boughs to hang ornaments/ lights. But at a price. Full sized trees are generally $45 +.  So we would compromise.  Buy a shorter Nobel for $20 and put it on a short table or decorative box to make it look taller.  This actually worked great because it would leave lots of room for presents, and make it that much more difficult for Kittlins to climb the trunk/ attack the lower branches.

But this year?  The corner lot was only offering butchered Nobel Firs, too. The tree farmers (or lot buyers - not sure which) have apparently determined that Nobels in their natural state are too fat at the bottom.  Either so they can grow or display them more packed in.  So they've started dismembering unsightly Nobel specimens, too, leaving a skinny Ralph Lauren photo-shopped version of their former selves.  It's a travesty.  Unfortunately, I didn't catch on that they'd dared to prune a sacred Nobel until *after* we'd bought the plumpest of the skinny bunch and got it home.  Mr. Stang and I were both sick, and cold (thanks El Nino!) and not in the mood to shop around, let alone head up into the mountains or to a U-Cut and get our own.  But NEXT year, by all the Tree Gods, that's what we're doing. 

After getting our tree up, we headed out for a rare night on the town courtesy of my father and stepmother.  They'd bought us all tickets to the Singing Christmas Tree as they knew someone who was in the choir.  I'd thought it was a fairly religious group from past experience, but still love good Christmas music and the theatrics.  We enjoyed a rare kid-free dinner out before the event at Nel Centro in the swanky Hotel Modera. It's pretty amazing what they've done with this part of town in the last decade.  I swear when I was attending PSU this was an old Travelodge known for it's hourly specials.

Those SCT folks are sneaky, though.  The first half of the performance is all secular and Santa (and not in a very flattering light), then after Intermission they start with the preaching and live nativity. By the end, they'd thrown white robes on the actress playing Santa's elf and had her swinging from the rafters on a wire as the choir sang "Hallelujah".  Very "Reason for the Season".  Very understandable from a Christian perspective, though when Christ's birthday isn't *your* personal reason for the season, it loses a lot of the heartwarming effect.  But the music was beautiful and the time spent with family priceless . We just need to find some good heathen holiday celebrations in the future.   Like this one: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Big Brass Concert.  There's nothing like trumpet fanfares and French Horns at Christmas time.  Except, maybe the whole celebration of Peace on earth, Good Will towards (all) Men (and women), love, friends and family thing.  Giving and charity.  Hope, magic and cheer during the coldest, most dismal part of the year.   Those are my reasons for the season and I'm happy to share them with people of all faiths.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Night at the Urgent Care

The Monkey dislocated his elbow last night while attempting to do cartwheels.  Mr. Stang heard a distinctive "pop" at the time though neither of us were closely watching so didn't see exactly what happened.  They call it "Nursemaid's Elbow" and it's common in pre-school age kids because their ligaments are not fully developed yet.  It's generally seen when an adult caregiver unintentionally pulls or twists on an extended arm (like doing arm swings).  But apparently cartwheels can do it, too.  Our family doc. tried to pop it back in (or do a "reduction manuever") twice.  Didn't go. So off to urgent care we went.  They tried a third time - didn't go. Got X-rays.  Urgent Care Doc didn't see any fractures or anything serious but he's still hurting and he has limited mobility.

We are still waiting for the radiologist report to confirm the diagnosis. They tell us they never have to do surgery for "Nursemaid's Elbow" but it's unusual to not pop back in after so many attempts.  Google tells me it will probably self-correct in a couple of weeks regardless of failed reduction attempts.

The Monkey was so very, very brave.  For good or bad, I've settled on a "no sugar coating" the truth approach to bad news with him.  He seems to take more comfort in knowing exactly what's going to happen and suffers more upon discovery of being lied to than he does in the anticipation of traumatic reality.  With adults I can bullshit with the best of them but I just can't do it with kids.  Not when it's important.  Not even to smooth over the rough spots.  It feels like a betrayal of trust.

Sample of the tearful conversation follows.  In reality there were a lot more tears, a lot more "NO, I don't WANNA GO's!" and pathetic "do we have to? and "couldn't we instead????" 's.

Me: "we're going to put ice on it for 20 minutes - if you still can't move it we're going to Dr. L."
Monkey (through sobs): "What is she going to do?"
Me: "She'll need to touch it, move it a little to see what's wrong.  She might try to fix it.  If she can't fix it we may need to go to a different place, like a hospital where they can take a picture inside to see what's going on."
Monkey: "Will it hurt?"
Me: "Yes, a little.  But it's the only way to help it start to feel better.  If we don't get it fixed, it's going to hurt for a lot longer, and you may not be able to use the arm again".
Monkey: "I don't WANNA GO to that place!!!"
Me: "I know, honey, but it's got to be done."

He agreed to go see Doc. L, He was calm in the car and during the examination, though shaking a little.  Then came the first adjustment attempt.  I'll spare you the play by play of the screaming - it was bad enough watching him go through it once.  Let alone twice... then a third time at the urgent care. 
As we were heading back to the exam room at the Urgent Care the lip starts quivering again and he askes "is it going to hurt?"

Daddy, in a transparent attempt to forestall resistance says "No, honey they're not going to hurt you again".

Disbelieving, Monkey says "Mommy???"

Mommy sighs, hesitates then leaves Daddy twisting in the wind.  "I won't lie to you. They're going to need to move it to help figure out what's wrong, and again to get good pictures.  That will probably hurt a little.  If they try to fix it again like Doc. L that will hurt a lot. But then if it works, it will quit hurting."

Sorry Daddy.

Chin quivering, eyes glistening the Monkey stoically walked back to face his doom.  I don't know if gaining the kid cred is worth it.

After all was said and done and the Snoopy splint & sling applied he calmly said "can we go home now?". 
And in the car:  "That wasn't so bad.  I'm thirsty."   And requested root beer.

He slept well all night and this morning greatly enjoyed having us at his beck and call.  Though with Daddy suffering from a sinus/chest infection following a cold (acquired via the Monkey, via daycare of course when we finally relented and let him go back for one day after they got their H1N1 vaccines) he won't get to milk it very far.