Saturday Surprise — Office Christmas Party

If there was one thing I dreaded even more than the Annual Review in my other life as an accountant, it was the office Christmas party.  I generally avoided them at all costs … as it was, I spent most of my waking time each week with these people, about half of whom I didn’t even like, so why on earth would I want to spend what little ‘free’ time I had with them, too?  And, as you probably all know by now, I have a stubborn streak about the length of a football field, so telling me that I must do something is the best way to ensure that I won’t do it.toon-Maxine-office-partyAs the season, I am told, is upon us, I thought it might be fun to indulge in a little Christmas Office Party humour.  And besides, we all need something to laugh about, right?party-1

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I went looking for funny stories about Christmas office parties, sure there must be many, but every one I found pertained to either people having sex with co-workers, or getting drunk and being disgusting, none of which do I find humorous.  And so instead, to wrap up Saturday Surprise, I give you this …

Commodified Culture

I have often posited that greed is possibly the single biggest cause of the mess we are in today. As we wade knee-deep into the Christmas season, with retailers hoping to turn red to black on their income statements, advertisers are in full swing trying to convince you that you simply must have that shiny new object. Our friend Hugh has written a very good, thoughtful and thought-provoking post on this topic that carries a message we all need to hear, to be reminded of. Thank you, Hugh, for this post and your generous permission to share it.

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You have probably seen the commercial. A young woman walks into the kitchen of a very posh house and places two sets of keys down on the counter and smiles at her husband (presumably). They race out of the posh house and stand beside two brand new GMC trucks (costs, appx. $50,000.00 apiece). One truck is blue and the other is red. The man points to the blue one, but his wife has already claimed it for herself and he weakly smiles as he realizes that the red one is his.

I have borrowed the words of Robert Heilbronner to help us grasp what is wrong with this commercial, so typical of those we see on our television at this time of year. To begin with these are apparently Christmas presents that the woman has bought for herself and her husband. Thus begins the set of problems this commercial sets…

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Saturday Surprise — A Little Jaunt

Last night when I was contemplating how we should spend our time together this morning, I thought that it’s been several weeks since we’ve travelled together and maybe now, before the snows come, would be a good time for it.  So, I checked into some things and I think you’ll enjoy the places we’re going to visit today!  So, hop aboard the Filomobile and let’s go to …


Krong Ban Lung, Cambodia!  There is a simply gorgeous lake here, but also a couple of interesting tidbits.Yeak Laom-1It’s believed that 4,000 years ago, a volcanic eruption created a crater that, over time, filled with water. The lake was once surrounded by thick forest on all sides, but today only a thin layer remains, with most of the land having been farmed.

The waters of Yeak Laom are crystal clear, and they stand in stark contrast with the bright green in the background—if you visit during or shortly after the rainy season. Exotic birds and butterflies are common sights, and wild pigs may also come around.

Although the lake is considered sacred by the local people, swimming or playing in the water is common for both locals and tourists. Wooden docks with steps have been built to facilitate access. In 2018, bureaucratic procedures were started to register Yeak Laom and the land around it as state land to better protect the environment. Other measures to protect the lake forbid people from using detergents, gambling, or having arguments while in the lake.  Okay, now the detergents I get, but gambling or arguing???princess-thaiIn February 2016, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand was planning to pay a visit to Yeak Laom, and in preparation for her visit, as toilets are not common in the area, a special toilet was constructed for the princess to use during her visit.  An air-conditioned toilet.  At a cost of $40,000.  That she never used.  That was thrown away after her two-hour visit, during which the urge never hit.cam-photo-toilet.jpgIt took 10 labourers 19 days to build the eight-metre square toilet.  It has silver railings up its white-washed steps and an all-white tiled roof.  This area of Cambodia being a particularly poor region, I’m sure this toilet is far more luxurious than most of the homes in the five villages that surround the lake.  The building was allowed to remain after the princess’ visit, but the toilet was disassembled and thrown out.  Why?

“If you have a king—well, just, normal people can’t use the king’s toilet.”

Ah, arrogance is world-wide, isn’t it?  But isn’t this lake just beautiful?Yeak Laom-2


Next I thought we’d travel over to France … Équihen-Plage, France, to be precise, for I am told there are some interesting holiday homes made of boats.  Upside down boats, that is.  You’ve heard of houseboats, yes?  Well these are upside-down boat houses!  Ah … we have arrived … let’s take a look …boat houses-1Équihen-Plage is a fishing port and farming village some 3 miles south of Boulogne on the English Channel coast with a population just under 3,000.  The tradition of the boat houses began after World War I when old boats unworthy for the sea were dragged up to high ground and turned upside down. The hull, which now became the roof, was covered in tar to ensure that it was watertight. A door cut out on the sides provided entry, while windows let in air and light. Even then, the interior was dark and stuffy. The entire length of the boat served as a single room. Space for cooking and sleeping were shared.

During the Second World War, nearly all the boathouses got destroyed, but their legacy lingered on. In the 1990s, about sixty years after their disappearance, the village decided to revive the ancient heritage and erected a couple of upturned boat houses and fitted them with modern facilities to entice tourists. They can be rented now with prices starting from about three hundred Euros, or $340 USD.boat houses-2

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All this traveling is making me a bit hungry … what about you?  Ready for a little bite before we head to our last stop?  Let’s just pop over to Nottingham … yes, the place of Robin Hood and the evil sheriff, but that isn’t the theme of the restaurant we’re going to.  Remember the Edgar Allen Poe story, The Pit and the Pendulum?  My dad read that one to me when I was … oh, probably 7 or 8 … and I had nightmares for days … er, nights.  Anyway, in the town of Nottingham is a restaurant named The Pit and the Pendulum that sounds intriguing.

Wow … this place is creepy, isn’t it?  But it’ll be fun.  Let’s take a peek at the drink menu …drink-menu-e1543644452708.png

Y’know … on second thought … I’m not all that hungry after all … perhaps we can grab a pack of crackers on our way to …


The former mining town of St. Blazey in Cornwall, England, home of the world’s largest greenhouse. For fifty years, a clay mine on the edge of the English town had slowly been abandoned, until in the late 1990s when a new concept was proposed for the area called Project Eden. Eden-1A near polar opposite to the crater left by the old mine, the Eden Project was designed as a massive greenhouse complex, consisting of two biomes bubbling off of the ground and reflecting both a tropical and Mediterranean climate.  After the deep depression left from the mine was filled in with thousands of tons of soil, construction began and the two largest greenhouses in the world were created over two and a half years. Inside the hexagonally-patterned biomes are over one million different plant species, each one reflecting the climates of their respective biomes.Eden-2The Tropical Biome features rubber plants, bananas, and bamboo stalks towering above visitors in the nearly four-acre dome. The Mediterranean Biome is only 1.6 acres, but is similarly filled to capacity with olive plants and grape vines.Eden-3Along with stunning flora, cascading waterfalls and footpaths wind past massive boulders and ponds and even a few statues can be found carefully placed around the Mediterranean biome. Although the greenhouses are the central attraction of the complex, the grounds of the Eden Project are also covered in temperate plants that can grow in an uncovered atmosphere. Eden-night


And now, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired and ready to go home, perhaps for a 10-minute nap, a hot cup of coffee, and a bit of time spent with a good book.  I hope you’ve enjoyed our little jaunt today … we’ll do it again soon!  Have a great weekend … don’t forget, just 24 days ‘til Christmas … better get shopping!  I have mine mostly finished … no muss, no fuss … all done online! Amazon-Xmas-gifts

Saturday Surprise — A Nice Story And A Cute Video

Every now and then it happens that Saturday Surprise collides with Wednesday’s Good People and the result is … awesome, heartwarming and fun!  Today is one of those times!

The story begins at Thanksgiving 2016, when Wanda Dench made a text-a-boo-boo … or an erroneous text sent to the wrong person.  The story is told in the following text messages … the recipients of the original text inadvertently included Jamal Hinton, a complete stranger …

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Wanda DenchJamal HintonAnd so it happened that 17-year-old Jamal went over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house for dinner! Wanda-JamalSince the heartwarming story first broke Dench has named Hinton as her ‘honorary grandson,’ which is quite fitting.  The two stayed in touch, and last year, he was invited back for Thanksgiving 2017.   In an interview with the Arizona Republic last year Dench said, “It was really nice having everybody here, we got to laugh about last year and reminisce about how it all blew up on our phone and how I had to change my number. We had a laugh and a good time.”

The two have stayed in touch, and ‘Grandma’ Wanda even sent Jamal a couple of gift cards at Christmas last year.  And this year … well of course Jamal was invited back and his girlfriend too!

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text-6Hinton finds the dinners and his newfound family meaningful. “The world is becoming a better place than it used to be. With all the Donald Trump going on and all the racial comments going on, it’s kind of good to see there’s still good people out there.” Dench gave her new ‘grandson’ an open invitation for all future Thanksgivings at her house, so this is a tradition likely to live on for a lifetime.

A small thing?  Perhaps, but … seems to me that a whole lot of these “small things” add up to a whole lot of good in the world, a whole lot of heart, a whole lot of love.

Okay, so that was nice and heartwarming, but the holiday season has now officially kicked off and I think we need to start the weekend with something funny, don’t you?  So, you know what that means … a funny animal video!!!

Have a great weekend, folks, and don’t let the crowds crush you if you go shopping!  I went shopping from the comfort of my own chair, in my jammies, while sipping coffee last night!  Keep warm & safe!

A Stark Contrast …

Donald Trump is spending his Thanksgiving weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate. However, rather than spending a nice, quiet weekend with his rather macabre family, he spent the day on Thursday doing his usual routine of criticizing people, places and things, while patting himself on the back.  Only this time he crossed a line.  During a series of phone calls with members of both the military and the media on Thanksgiving Day (what, does he think these people got nothing better to do with their holiday than listen to his mindless ramblings???), he was asked by a reporter what he is most thankful for.  His answer?

“I made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you won’t believe it.”

He is thankful … for himself???  To be sure, he has made a difference, but not one that he should be either proud of or thankful for.  He has, in two short years, taken us about 25% of the way down a path toward becoming a friendless, third-world nation where violence and bigotry in all their ugly forms run rampant.  The difference he has made in this country is not a positive one, either on an international, national or personal level.  If asked the question: ‘Are you better off today than you were two years ago?’, most would have to respond with a resounding NO!

Trump-phone2Not content to stop there, he kept talking …

“And I mean, you see it, but so much stronger that people can’t even believe it. When I see foreign leaders, they say we cannot believe the difference in strength between the United States now and the United States two years ago. Made a lot of progress.”

By ‘foreign leaders’, he is referring to the likes of Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman, not the leaders of democratic nations.  The remainder of the phone call was dedicated to Trump attacking … attacking anything and everything he could think of to attack:  judges, Mexico, military technology, and people seeking asylum.  Same ol’, same ol’, and it doesn’t even bear repeating.

But let’s take a look at what the last real president we had was doing on Thanksgiving …Obama-ThanksgivingBarack, Michelle and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, were at the Greater Chicago Food Depository helping serve Thanksgiving dinner to people in need, as they have done nearly every year:  In 2015, the Obamas helped feed military veterans at Friendship Place; in 2014, they were at Bread for the City; in 2011, they went to the Capital Area Food Bank; in 2009 and 2010, they chipped in at Martha’s Table.  Not golfing or feasting at some high-end country club, not spewing hate and venom, but simply volunteering their time for the benefit of others.  While Trump was tooting his horn about the ‘difference’ he had made, the Obamas were actually making a difference.

And what was Obama thankful for this year?

“I am grateful for the next generation of leaders—the young people who are tolerant, creative, idealistic and doing the work to create the world as it should be. Who understand that hope requires action. From the Obama family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.”

Oh, how I long to have our real president back!

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Good People Doing Good Things — Scott Macauley

Today I am focusing solely on one good person, for his deeds deserve the spotlight.Scott MacauleyIt began 33 years ago in 1985, when Scott Macaulay’s parents divorced, and he found himself all alone for the Thanksgiving holiday.  He was divorced also, and he really didn’t want to spend the day alone watching football with a tv dinner, or grab a burger from McDonald’s for his Thanksgiving dinner, so he placed an ad in the local paper, asking 12 strangers to join him for Thanksgiving dinner.McCauley-at-storeWell, he got twelve strangers to join him that year, and he enjoyed it so much that he has continued the tradition of a free Thanksgiving feast every year since.  He has hosted widows, the homeless, and college kids who can’t go home for the holiday.  Today, he estimates that he has about 70 people each year, and sometimes as many as 100, and he has no intention of stopping.  About a week before the day, he goes grocery shopping, and while he won’t say exactly how much he spends on the food to feed the crowd, he did say that it’s over $1,000! And apart from an occasional small donation from someone who has attended one of his dinners, Macauley fully funds this all himself.  He says he begins saving for next year right after the meal is finished.

Macauley lived just north of Boston in the town of Melrose, Massachusetts. Obviously, he cannot do all that cooking, nor fit all those people, in his house, so he prepares and serves the meal at a local church that donates the space each year.  The menu includes: Four large turkeys, five kinds of pie (pumpkin, apple, mince, cherry and the ever-popular Hershey’s frozen sundae pie), sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, butternut squash, cranberries, fruit cups and rolls with butter.  I typically cook for 8-10 people on Thanksgiving, and that is exhausting!  I cannot imagine how many hours this man must spend on his feet, in the kitchen, and all to do something good for others.Macauley-fireplaceHe goes all out, too … no skimping here!  A few days before, he hauls in sofas, recliners, oriental rugs, even a couple of fake fireplaces, and decorates the church’s rec hall to resemble a cozy living room. Candlesticks and cloth napkins are placed on the tables, curtains are hung in the windows, and adjoining rooms are set up for guests to relax and get to know each other over appetizers: chips and dip in one room and cheese and crackers in the next.

“This isn’t about the food, though. It’s about having a place to go. Silence is unbearable, especially on Thanksgiving. My goal is always to replicate the feeling of having a nice dinner in somebody’s home.”

And he has memories …

“There was a guy one year who’d just lost his wife. And after dinner, he put on her old apron and helped me to do the dishes.”

One year, he said, an elderly woman paid $200 for an ambulance to drive her to the church from her nursing home. She arrived decked out in fancy clothes and told Macaulay she hadn’t been out in seven years. She cried when dinner was over.

Another year, Macaulay took a plate out to a woman who was living in her car and was too ashamed of her plight to come inside until almost everyone had gone home.

Then there was the time his parents both showed up. Macaulay’s mother was dying of breast cancer and wanted to be with family. So did his dad. “There they were, sitting on the couch together, holding each other’s hand, years after their divorce. I can still see them sitting there. That’s a happy memory.”

Macaulay also has a son, Walter, 22, who pitches in to help serve and clean up. He’s the designated turkey carver. Neither father nor son batted an eye a few years ago when Macaulay’s ex-wife strolled in with her new husband and offered to play the piano while everyone ate!

Imagine if just a few people in every city did what Scott Macauley is doing?  He is a true humanitarian, something we need many more of today.  Thank you, Scott Macauley, for your contribution to the people in your town, and for giving the rest of us just a wee bit of hope for the future of humanity.

Saturday Surprise — Thanksgiving!

Last Sunday I was at the grocery store doing my usual weekly food shopping when I noticed at the back of the store where the butcher shop and meat reside, a coffin filled with turkeys.  Hmmm … my thoughts were that they were jumping the gun a bit, that it was too early for turkeys to start appearing.  Then on Wednesday I had an email from Betty Crocker, the subject of which read “Only 8 more sleeps ‘til Thanksgiving”.  Say WHAT???  No way!  It can’t already be … I looked at my calendar … FORNACAZONI!!!

Where did summer go?  Where has the year gone?  How did this happen?

Well, the reality is that Thanksgiving is only 5 days now, and I, who am usually well-prepared, with menus planned, supplies and groceries bought, am wondering if the local pizza place delivers on Thanksgiving.  Sigh.

Well, knowing that I wasn’t going to make it go away by ignoring it (I tried that once – it didn’t work), yesterday morning I bounced out of bed, cleaned out the fridge to make room for a 24-pound turkey, spent a few minutes with our friend & neighbor, Maha, discussing the arrangements, and then trotted out after Chris got home to buy the turkey.  I haven’t named him yet, so feel free to offer suggestions.  Last year’s was either Ralph or Rusty … I forget which.  What?  Of course I always name our turkeys!  How else would I distinguish this one from another one?  He died just to grace our table and fill our bellies … the least we can do is give him a name!

So anyway, in honour of the fact that next week is Thanksgiving, I thought I would make today’s post a bit of Thanksgiving humour!

I really loved this one … especially the punch line …

The Turkey Popped Out of the Oven

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The Turkey popped out of the oven

and rocketed in to the air;

It knocked every plate off the table

and partly demolished a chair.

It ricocheted into a corner

and burst with a deafening boom,

Then splattered all over the kitchen,

completely obscuring the room.

It stuck to the walls and the windows,

it totally coated the floor,

There was turkey attached to the ceiling,

where there had never been turkey before..

It blanketed every appliance,

it smeared every saucer and bowl;

There wasn’t a way I could stop it;

that turkey was out of control.

I scraped and I scraped with displeasure

and thought with chagrin as I mopped,

That I would never again stuff a turkey

with popcorn that hadn’t been popped.

written by Jack Prelutsky


No Turkey Died – But….

When I was a kid in Indiana, we thought it would be fun to get a turkey a year ahead of time and feed it and so on for the following Thanksgiving. But by the time Thanksgiving came around, we sort of thought of the turkey as a pet, so we ate the dog.  Only kidding.  It was the cat. – David Letterman

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From the Butterball hotline …

butterballThanksgiving Dinner on the run. A woman called 1-800-323-4848 to find out how long it would take to roast her turkey. To answer the question, the Talk-Line home economist asked how much the bird weighed. The woman responded, “I don’t know, it’s still running around outside.”


Then there’s the time a lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store, but couldn’t find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, “Do these turkeys get any bigger?” The stock boy replied, “No ma’am, they’re dead.”


And how about a few Thanksgiving ‘toons …

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toon-yHave a fun ‘n tasty holiday, my friends, and if you travel for the holiday, do so safely!

Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de Grâce – Redux

Canada t-givingA little while ago, I was skimming today’s comments and saw one from my dear friend Emily, wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving.  And then I remembered … Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving holiday on the second Monday in October!  How could I have forgotten?  It seems that Emily reminded me last year, as well! Anyway, I immediately began looking for information to write a post, but it mostly sounded familiar, and I remembered this post from last year.  Since there are a number of new friends to this blog, and since most of us probably forgot, as I myself did, about this post from last year, I am repeating it this year.  My heartfelt best wishes to all our Canadian friends … enjoy your turkey,  trimmings, and Trudeau!  Love ‘n hugs from your cousins down south!paragraph divider 2Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

I just realized, after a comment by friend Emily (Eschudel of Zombie Flamingoes) that today is Thanksgiving … in Canada!  Action de grâce!

Thanksgiving-CanadaNow, for those outside Canada, I thought I would look a bit into the history of Canada’s Thanksgiving.  We all know the lovely little story about the pilgrims and the natives and the first Thanksgiving in the U.S., which is basically a myth, but whatever.  So, I wondered if Canada has such a feel-good story too.  Well, turns out it’s confusing, but … let me tell you what I found, and then perhaps some of our Canadian friends will either correct me, or fill in the gaps.

According to Wikipedia …

“Thanksgiving is an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

According to some historians, the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America occurred during the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England, in search of the Northwest Passage.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, from 1604, also held feasts of thanks. They even formed the Order of Good Cheer and held feasts with their First Nations neighbors, at which food was shared.

After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year.

During and after the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year.”

But then, I found an article in The Star (Toronto) that I think is more likely to be authentic …

“In the case of Thanksgiving Day, the critical actors were a group of Protestant clergymen in what is now Ontario. In 1859, these men petitioned the Canadian colonial government to declare a mid-week day of thanksgiving in recognition of the harvest. The government agreed to the ministers’ request, and it would do so again four more times before 1866, and annually beginning in 1871.

Protestant leaders had dual motives in lobbying for an autumn holiday. First, they wanted to reassure Canadian Christians, whose faith had been shaken by the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859.

Second, they felt obligated to mould Canadian identity in light of the prospect — and after 1867, the reality — of Confederation. To clergymen, an abundant harvest provided proof of God’s hand in nature, and evidence that Canadians were a chosen people. As such, a holiday that celebrated the harvest would give them the opportunity to remind Canadians of both their material prosperity and their divine national destiny.

Initially, Canadian Thanksgiving was a solemn and pious occasion compared to its American namesake. All businesses closed for the day, and church services were the only activities of note. Ministers delivered sermons that blended nationalism with religious dogma. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, they hailed the superiority of British political institutions and praised Canada (incorrectly) for having avoided the evils of slavery.

Overall, their Thanksgiving sermons celebrated Canada for being a white, British, Protestant country — a perspective that pointedly ignored the presence of French Canadians, Catholics, Indigenous people, and non-British immigrants.

In time, however, the Protestant conception of Thanksgiving Day, and the narrow definition of Canadian identity that it promoted, gave way to other influences. From the 1870s onwards, holiday church services lost ground to secular community events and commercial amusements.

Meanwhile, Canadians began adopting American Thanksgiving traditions, such as family gatherings, turkey dinners, and football games. Such activities enabled previously excluded groups to stake their own claims to Thanksgiving, and by extension, to Canadian citizenship.

By 1957, when the government permanently fixed the timing of Thanksgiving Day, the holiday’s domestic focus was firmly established. While many Canadians used the occasion to close their summer cottages for the season, others devoted the day to family get-togethers and turkey dinners.

Today, Canadian Thanksgiving shows few hints of its religious and nationalist beginnings.”

Interesting … things are rarely as they seem on first glance, and it is always fun to delve into the traditions and history of other nations.  At any rate, I wish all my Canadian friends & readers a very Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de grâce. You have one very obvious thing to be thankful for:  that you have Justin Trudeau instead of Donald Trump! I hope you were all able to celebrate with loved ones, much laughter and good food.

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