Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How do be a good Christmas guest - Debretts knows

So let's say...an invitation is extended from a friend, family member or aquaintance to their annual or semi-annual or once-in-a-while Christmas get-together. In responding affirmatively to the invitation, there are certain responsibilities that are attached to attending a festive gathering. The source for all things social is Debretts, who offer a guide on anything and everything for all occasions. One can adapt the advice as one sees fit.

First on the list, Debretts suggests that guests arrive with, in their words, "goodies." This means to me that one should ascertain the ages and tastes of the host family before showing up with what could be embarrassing gift selections, like a set of cosmetics for a young female instead of a male. Then again... But I digress. Or, a tie to suit a family member recalled as Bruce, who ends up being the family pooch.

Speaking or writing about the family pooch, there is no mention regarding decorum where pets are concerned. Nothing noted regarding the passing of food tidbits under the table to whining or barking dog(s), neither is there any guidance as to how to proceed for dogs that beg while performing cute tricks. On the other hand, this would not be applicable to the family cat who prefer to make a statement walking accross the table... But I digress.

Another suggestion from Debretts is to check out what food item to bring along. Bean cassserol (here's Martha Stewart"s recipe for interested persons: http://www.marthastewart.com/340211/green-bean-casserole) is not everyone's cup of tea, so to speak, or aspic (for more about aspic, check this out: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-aspic.htm Somehow gelatin embedded with meat pieces doesn't do it for me, at least. Gelatin by itself, however, i.e. Jello et al, is a favorite personal dessert but definitely does not travel well in a warm car. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjBHgPeg8T4

As a guest, Debretts advises, don't take over the role of host. This would or could include monopolizing the conversation focusing on, for example, past get-togethers and/or family fiasco celebrations. Memory joggers like "remember when blah-blah danced with the floor lamp and eneded up being treated for electric shock" -type reminders is not mannerly table talk. In the way of help, here are some conversation starters focusing on a wide range of subjects - take your pick and be witty: http://aesthetichealingmindset.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/social-savvy-for-the-holidays-%E2%80%93-conversation-starters-for-more-interesting-table-talk/

Debretts also suggests that thoughtful guests offer their assistance in the kitchen. This could include salad- making or dish drying or aspic de-geling (is aspic still on the holiday menu, one wonders or was it ever?), which is tricky (http://whatscookingamerica.net/gelatintip.htm) and the wrong move can result in a plate of colored liquid. But again, I digress.

In as far as missing a favorite TV program, Debretts suggests that recorders be set up to ensure that favorite programs aren't missed. Don't make demands of the hosts to watch a favorite show. Perhaps other guests may also have their own favorite TV program like the weekly football telecast while other may be fans of X-Factor or Glee, which could cause program conflicts. Perhaps a good conversation starter is to go around the table and vote as to which programs to watch. Just a suggestion.

Another suggestion is not to comment (or presumably criticize) a host's way of entertaing, Debretts advises.
No statements or subjects that touch on bedtime activities like "When I was young, we had our Christmas cake at 5 o'clock and were in bed by 8…" Comments like these will always be seen as implied criticisms, and should be avoided at all costs."

Get into the spirit of the get together and as Debretts advises, "don't be a party pooper." If everyone participates in a Christmas sing-a-long featuring Barry Manilow singing holiday favorites (for example), sitting with folded arms and mumbling bad words to one-self  is not being a good guest.

Once the wine bottles or fruit juice have gone and the aspic has disolved into a color-less liquid with pieces of disgusting grey meat floating on the surface, it's polite to thank the hosts for extending an invitation to their holiday party. Debretts suggests that  you "thank the host effusively for his/her hospitality."

"Thanks for the invite even though I missed the big game," is not nice. Neither is "did we mention we changed our address, phone number and e-mail?"

After all and in the end, it's all part of the Christmas celebration.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wookie the cat tale still has legs

It's been almost a year now that Wookie the cat has been missing. Going out on a limb here since nobody has written any updates, one presumes that there have been no sightings.

In the way of background info., Wookie's disappearance caused a local uproar in Bedford, England, when his owner Mike Harding was threatened with a legal fine for posting posters of his puss, in the hope that somebody - anybody - had spotted his beloved feline.

So here we are another Christmas almost upon us and still no news updates concerning the cat's fate. What is interesting, though, is that this blog story still has legs so to speak. In the year that the tale was told here, for whatever reason, there is still interest judging by the hits. We're not talking hundreds of hits but even so, the story always climbs up to the top of the pile. Also included in these numbers are spammers most likely but it's still personally noteworthy that people around the globe drop by to read the story.

Pure speculation, perhaps it's a seasonal thing in that people - okay me - wonder whether Wookie is "out there" somewhere, having to depend on an occasional mice meal or on the kindness of others, as people plan their festive menu. Perhaps he is forced to find shelter living under garden shacks. Then again and putting in a positive light, maybe some kind stranger took him in and he lives out his life as a pampered cat. Thing is - nobody knows.

Perhaps if Mike Harding is reading this, he would or could provide an update, if any. Meanwhile, perhaps sympathetic cat lovers (or even likers) feel moved enough to donate to their local animal shelter in Wookie's name. Or just donate, anyway. They can always use the money.

Meanwhile, verifiable updates on Wookie are welcome and Wookie if you're reading this: come home for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Delaware names Ambassador to Mars.

In as far as scientific community is concerned, no one can say with any certainty that there is life on Mars, the planet - not the candy bar. This reality, however, hasn't impeded the state of Delaware from appointing an Ambassador to Mars. Really.

Last week, the Governor of Delaware, Jack Markell, named one Dr. Noureddine Melikechi, vice-president for research at Delaware State University, as the state's "Ambassador to Mars" in recognition of his achievements as role in the launch of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory planned for November 25.. 

In a letter to Dr. Melikechi, the governor sang the praises of his state.
“As Delaware’s new Ambassador to Mars, we would very much appreciate it if you could let any Martian tourists or investors know that Delaware is conveniently located on the East Coast with a great port, strong community, excellent workforce and top-notch research facilities."

As expected in his role as governor, he also went on to promote his states local tourist attractions.
“We have beautiful beaches, important historic sites and, of course, tax-free shopping.”

I mean, one would assume or at least imagine or guess that there would be some type of  Mars/Earth/Delaware reciprocity and that Martian visitors could or would or might want to take advantage of the state's beaches, not to mention tax free shopping. Of course before all of this can take place, there have to be signs of life. But I digress.

“We appreciate your commitment to scientific excellence, your significant contributions to our state’s reputation as a cradle of innovation, and the esteem your work is bringing to the First State” the governor wrote.

 According to NASA, the MSL Curiosity rover has 10 science instruments to search for evidence that Mars had "environments favourable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life."

The Governor provided a copy of Delaware’s new State Travel Guide to Dr. Melikechi. Although the guide is available at http://www.visitdelaware.com/, Melikechi will bring a paper copy in case Martian operating systems are not compatible with our technology.

He will be traveling to Cape Canaveral where he and his colleagues will be working in preparation for the launch.

Interesting promotional idea. If this catches on, can other states be far behind? Next thing you know, somebody will come up with a Martian to English dictionary...

Read the governor's letter here: http://news.delaware.gov/2011/11/18/governor-markell-names-ambassador-to-mars/

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lamb eyeball, anyone? How about fresh beaver tails?

Let's say...one is tired of the usual fast food options or the conventional menu offered at neighborhood eateries (not that there's anything wrong with local restaurants - I'm a fan). Perhaps there is an inner urge that can't be fulfilled at a buffet, a need for something different. Something on the exotic and perhaps a little eclectic side? How about some Nepali goat brain? Maybe live drunken shrimp, perhaps? Or lamb eyeball (no mention if it's served open or closed - hopefully closed), or perhaps boiled fertilized duck egg, a side of beaver tail. These food options are "average" fare for a group of adventurous diners who have named themselves, Gastronauts. Presumably, the name refers to gastronomical exotic fare and not the end result after eating unconventional food choices. But I digress. Already.

The group, created by two friends in 2006, were seeking out meals that offered a culinary experience not ordinarily found at your regular restaurants. Initially, the first meeting of the club, which has its home base in New York City, attracted a mere half dozen people. I can understand why. Over time, however, the membership has grown to 1000 eaters and plans are to expand to other U.S. cities.

The club, according to one Curtiss Calleo, an art director and graphic designer, who founded the club along with magazine editor, Ben Pauker, is open to all and has bankers, artists, designers among others, as members. There is no registration fee and members/participants pay for their own meals held monthly in restaurants.No mention of the name of host restaurants, though. The invitations are sent via e-mail to 70-80 people, who usually respond quickly to the invite.

In as far as the food served, at a recent gathering in New York for example, the invitees ate balut, a Philippine snack of boiled fertilized duck egg. Just wondering here what fertilized duck egg is preferred say...over unfertilized duck egg. Just a thought. Anybody know? But I digress. Again.

Other delicacies served at previous get together include cooked lamb eye ball. Pass. As an after thought, the vision of tail-less beavers is somehow personally worrisome.

Be that as it may, there may be people reading this who are interested in sampling food and would like more information on how and where to become a member:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Snails succumb to deep freeze

Reading the headline of this story, many people are probably wondering what snails are or in this case, were, doing in a refrigerated environment. Snails for many of us, are slow moving invertebrates that live out their lives in our garden soil. However, the Powelliphanta giant land snails are considered an endangered species after the area in which they live(d),  Stockton Plateau on South Island in New Zealand, set up coal mining several years ago. Given their rarity, scientists in their wisdom, decided to save  6,000 of their kind by transferring them to a temperature-controlled room set up by the Department of Conservation. This leads one to wonder if the scientists who most likely had their (the snails) welfare at heart, took into consideration as to whether they (the snails) wanted to be relegated to a room for the rest of their lives. But I digress.

So anyway, the snails, which eat primarily worms and slugs can grow as large as 3.5" accross, can or could live up to 20 years - when their living conditions are favorable. Somehow, things went very wrong and a technical glitch caused temperatures to drop below freezing. Unable to sustain the sudden blast of cold, 800 of their kind were accidentally frozen to death. Sounds like a plot for a bad sci-fi movie.

This leads one to wonder as to why there weren't any systems or alarms set in place that would go off and warn the snail care-givers that something was wrong. But I digress. Again.

Meanwhile, the staff at the West Coast conservancy where they lived or at least existed depending on one's views, are said to be very upset. I bet. Seems that the temperature probe in one of three containers failed causing the room temperature drop to a point where the snails froze to death. Just how many snails are/were housed in each container, one wonders...

In response, staff will conduct more monitoring checks and will be setting up an alert system for surviving snail species. I bet. At least 360 snail eggs hatched this year and they were confident the specie would survive. Some environmentalists were of the opinion that this type of accident shows what can happen when development displaces wildlife from its natural habitat.

"Keeping our wildlife in fridges is obviously not how New Zealanders would like to care for native animals found nowhere else in the world. It's a sad fact that this has been the best option for them because moving them back to the wild in other parts of the West Coast has not worked,"  Nicola Vallance of New Zealand's Forest and Bird organisation commented.

Very sad that industry or poaching is causing the extinction of many species. I'm not a big snail fancier but somehow living out their lives in a climate controlled container is less than ideal. Then again, if scientists hadn't intervened, yet another species would disappear.

Here's a photo of one of them: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10765048

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bah - humbug! French department store drops Christmas carols for rock'n'roll

It's November and many - make that lots - of stores are heavy into Christmas decorations in spite of just coming out of Halloween. Actually, statistically, Halloween is big business when it comes to decorations and related items. But I digress.

Some people enjoy the holiday season and welcome the numerous appearances of mall Santas, plastic Christmas trees ("oh Eleanor - you're so cynical!") of many colors and the playing of the Little Drummer Boy over and over... But I digress. Again.

Then there are others who want to update Christmas and modernize the selection of musical offerings. Such is the case of Galerie Lafayette, a department store located in Paris, France, who recently made the decision to eliminate your Christmas carols with - wait for it - rock and roll. As they have done in seasons past, the store is once again putting on shows leading up to the big day but is seeking a means in which to attract and presumably entice a younger generation to their offerings and merchandise.

To this end, they are using rock legend Iggy Pop to pose for photo fliers dressed in a red Santa hat (does Santa know, one wonders), matching shoes and a custumary, electric guitar. In addition, a window show will include performances by a variety of major-label rock and folk bands. A change from the past is the replacement of cute, furry creatures and puppets in favor of life-size mannequins dressed in black leather, and rag dolls dressed in fashionable duds. This leads one to ask what they will do with your usual Christmas icons like snowmen, most likely relegated to a box in a warehouse, somewhere, never to see the light of day along with older puppets... But I digress. Again.

The bottom line, as expected, is the reason for the change with French household spending dropping 1.3% in September with spending on clothing falling by 7.3%. It will be interesting to see the reaction of French shoppers to the change. As a rule, people like to retain Christmas traditions and somehow Iggy Pop, with all due respect, isn't Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" or "Petit Papa Noel" or "Mon Beau Sapin." Perhaps a combination of both the old and new?

Anyway, here's Iggy and his promo for the dept. store: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYHdX347BR4

Hmmmm - wonder how much he got paid...