Sunday, December 20, 2020

Santa's Many Helpers

 As a kid, did you believe in Santa? Or were you one of those smart-kicks who questioned how Santa would be able to visit all the children of the world in one day only?

Early on, and in anticipation of my inquisitive mind, my parents had made me aware of that Christmas is not necessarily celebrated everywhere on the globe and that some countries had Christmas on the 24th while other kids, mostly in English speaking countries, would first be served with gifts on the 25th. It sure stopped a barrage of further questions to my parents. Albeit, what I didn't know then was that the gifts had to be delivered on the MORNING of the 25th, which wouldn't give Santa much of a leeway to reach across from country to country. And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer wasn't even known in Germany in those days. But in spite of all these obstacles, I was a believer in Santa for the longest time. Guess my parents made sure of it. 

Nowadays we know the real reason for Santa living up to the task. Santa has a large group of helpers all over the world. Yes, folks, that's the way Santa manages to get all over the world. There is a modern word for it: Outsourcing! Young dynamic managers fresh from school have been promoting this for years. It's the reason that if you order an item from say Amazon, it's not really coming from Amazon, but from China or Bangladesh. The moment your order is received at Amazon, it will be forwarded to China where the item goes into shipping. Obviously, shipping from China takes a bit more time than shipping. from say North Pole, AK. I have first-hand knowledge of this, as I ordered a pack of red Christmas candles from Amazon. They did sent me an email telling me that the item is coming as an "import" and that that would be the reason why Christmas and Santa would be gone before I would be able to stick the candles into my Advent decoration. But who would have thought that candles are not available directly within North America?

The difference with Santa's old-fashioned outsourcing compared to Amazon's is that Santa has it's own transportation system of reindeers, and not enough with that, once the Santa helpers come to your village they also use bicycles and some have big red trucks with lots of room for big hard parcels

We were lucky enough that we met a whole group of biking Santa-helpers coming along here. So, of course, we now know how Santa is getting the job done.

Just be on the look-out and you might see some as well.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Between Two Nuts

It's the 3rd. of Advent and I am sitting with the lighted Christmas tree. 

A bowl of walnuts is in front me. It's customary to crack nuts during Christmas. We've always done it and we continue to do so. It's kind of not getting to be Christmas without it. And while I am cracking a nut I am thinking that the English language has a special word using nuts as in, "You are nuts" meaning you are crazy. No other language I know (and I am only knowing 5) uses the nut for "crazy". Now, I don't need to delve into the origin of the saying, maybe YOU can come up with an explanation. Meanwhile, following the meaning of "nuts" being "crazy" I must think of what is still happening in the US. "Nuts" seems to be the word of the day. Repeating a falsehood does not make it become the truth, regardless of how often one says it. But the soon-to-be-gone president of the US doesn't get it. And the cult-goers are loving his lies. If this spectacle would have played out in 2016 staged by the democrats, the other side would have been outraged, and quite rightly so, I dare say. An election is held to make one side the winner and the other a loser. One side is smiling, the other will be disappointed, and those are the rules of the game.

Hiding in the White House, sulking and scheming about new ways to disturb and derail due process is unamerican, unethical and quite frankly disgusting behavior, not worthy the office of the US president. A disgrace to the country while the world leaders are watching the unfolding theater in disbelief. But even more "nuts" are those State reps. who co-signed an amicus letter supporting the presidents outrageous lies.

What the attempt to overthrow a legal election with the help of the US Supreme Court also showed us, is that the further existence of the US democracy was hinged on the forthrightness and clear view of a few people at the court. If a democracy is allowed to degrade to that low level that it can get to the very brink of extinction, and be saved only in the 11th hour, there ought to be a number of other failures prior to that.

Comparing the base build of the American democracy with that of a few other countries in Europe, the main difference is that Congress has granted way too much power to the office of the president and the executive branch. It is completely unthinkable that f.ex. German Chancellor Angela Merkel could rule through executive orders. It is the German "Bundestag" (Parliament) and the "Bundesrat" (compare to the Senate) who decide absolutely every thing (without any exemption) happening on the federal level. It would be unthinkable that the President of the "Bundesrat" could block anything from being voted upon (like "Moscow Mitch) What ever legislative initiative comes from the other chamber must be voted upon. The German Bundespraesident has representative functions only without any legislative power. Thus Germany built up a functioning democracy, something America has failed to create.

Sad to watch a neighbouring country failing and with so many (74Mill) being "Nuts".

I rather grab another walnut to crack. It's Christmas after all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

What A Busy Day!

 I had a hunch that we would get a busy day today. The furniture store in the big city had told us that our new 3-Seater would be delivered today. Now, "Delivered" does not mean it would get to our front porch. No Sir, there are no deliveries to Campobello Island. Especially not during these Covid times as no company would send their employees through the US to deliver anything. We are in a truly remote area of the country and there is a price to pay for such luxury. What was set out to happen today was that we would have to drive 60 miles to meet the furniture truck in St. Stephen for transferring our sofa from their truck to our van. And we had been informed (warned) that the delivery guys would not help us re-loading the sofa into our van and that we would have to stay away from them. 

OK, it's a Covid measure and anyway, I had no intention of giving these guys a hug. LOL.

Since we needed a lot of extra kitchen supplies for the coming holidays Bea would drive the small van (with Dixie being a passenger), while I would drive the long van where the sofa would fit it. Of course, yesterday, I had removed 3 rows of seats from the bus to make room.

So this morning we were in contact with the store which let us know that their truck was already in St. Stephen. So we got in a bit of a hurry loading ourselves behind the wheels and heading towards the border.

Bea was ahead of me and I watched her passing through the CBP checkpoint. Then it was my turn. The CBP officers are always extremely friendly and ready to make a funny comment. So when the older officer asked me about where I was heading I told him that I was going to St.Stephen for a sofa pickup.

"How many vehicles are needed for a sofa pickup"? was his comment. "I'm just curious".

We both had a good laugh of it and I explained that Bea would have to do some shopping in town, while I would be returning with the furniture right away.

When my phone rang, it was the truck driver wanting to know a meeting time. 

As agreed, we met with the truck about 75 minutes later. They unloaded the couch, then pulled away, and Bea and yours-truly slid the package through the rear door of the van. I had put a couple of planks on the floor and it made the loading really easy.

For the return trip to the island I took over Dixie which would save her from waiting in the van while Bea was doing her shopping.

Another 60 miles and 75 minutes later I again had passed customs on the island. 

I backed the bus straight up to our porch and, using the planks, I could slide the thing right onto the porch deck.

Of course I had a ball with lifting and pushing the sofa through 2 door ways, and when Bea came home it was almost done.

So tonight we are tired but happy campers with our new sofa.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Ms. Dixie Has A Sleepy Day

 We have gotten another week towards Christmas and this Sunday is the 2. of Advent. We have never been great Christmas shoppers and rather preferred to enjoy being home or venturing out into nature, and this year will make no difference. So for us current Covid restrictions won't make us feel restricted or limited in any way.

Today the focus was mostly staying in a warm and cozy house, as the weather did not invite to extended hiking adventures. 

Matter of fact it has been pouring from a dark sky since yesterday evening, and it was a challenge to get Ms. Dixie out the door this morning. She hates rain and wind and plainly refused to stay outside. Alternatively, she cozied up on her dog bed for hours to pass.

However, after lunch, most of the rain stopped, and it was time to load Dixie into the van for a trip into the woods. The winds were still quite strong, but the dense forest gave enough protection. 

As soon as we released Ms. Dixie onto the trail, she spotted a black labrador and the two had a typical dog meet chasing each other round and round. 

Ms. Dixie loves other dogs, regardless of their size, so we never worry about her starting a fight.

Upon our return home, she went straight back to her dog corner and fell asleep again. Ms. Dixie is the calmest dog we've ever had. She can sleep for extended time without ever making a sound.

And for us it was time to make up for lost calories so my home-made chocolate Advent-cake came in handy.

                  Our Christmas tree stands readily decorated.

A couple of days ago we received message that one of new sofas had arrived at the furniture store so we had gotten busy removing our old set. We had a hard time to get it out of the house as construction changes in our house has made it more difficult to get big pieces of furniture through the doorways. Eventually, we got it all out on the porch. Only hours later 2 ladies appeared with a pickup truck moving the 2 couches to a new home. 

What I didn't notice that day was that the lifting and cajoling with the heavy couches had strained a few tendons in my left shoulder. The next morning I could hardly get into my shirt. Now I am afraid that the pain will not subside before the new couch will have to be brought into the house. It's a 3-seater and I just hope it will prove a bit smaller than the old one. The love-seat, we also ordered, isn't scheduled for delivery until January, which offers some grace time for my shoulder.

           The new set at the LEONS store in Saint John

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

US Democracy Survival Not Granted

Our Democracy’s Near-Death Experience
Now is no time for complacency. The next Congress must shore up our institutions.

By Susan E. Rice
Ms. Rice is a former national security adviser.

Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

It appears that our democracy dodged a bullet — or, more precisely, multiple concerted efforts by the president of the United States to torpedo its very foundations.
While President Trump rages relentlessly about election “fraud,” many Republican leaders continue to parrot false denials of the validity of President-elect Joe Biden’s clear victory. Yet, so far, our democracy has withstood the greatest stress test of our lifetimes.
Mr. Trump and his political allies have been employing nearly every weapon at their disposal to try to retain the White House, notwithstanding the will of the people.
First, the Trump campaign labored (largely in vain) to concoct bogus conspiracy theories to discredit Mr. Biden by falsely smearing his son Hunter. To do so, Mr. Trump and his associates solicited foreign assistance from Ukraine and China and relied on Russian agents to disseminate disinformation.
Second, Trump supporters worked assiduously to suppress the vote by denigrating the legitimacy of mail-in ballots during a pandemic, limiting access to ballot drop-boxes and polling stations, flooding social media with messaging to dampen minority voter turnout, blasting robocalls to deceive voters about where and when to vote and manipulating the postal system to delay ballot delivery.
Third, some of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters intimidated voters at the polls. Heeding calls to “stand by” and “go into the polls and watch very carefully,” they deployed, sometimes armed, in Black and brown communities under the guise of ensuring no fraudulent votes were cast.

Fourth, in the run-up to Election Day, Mr. Trump dispatched an army of litigants to enlist the courts in curtailing access to the polls. Since the election, his legal team has tried repeatedly to halt ballot counting and toss out legitimately cast votes that most likely favored Mr. Biden. Ultimately, Mr. Trump summoned Michigan’s Republican leaders to the White House, apparently in an attempt to coax the state’s Legislature into unilaterally appointing Trump electors.

Despite these machinations, the worst fears about this election failed to materialize. Defying the combined challenges of the pandemic, a chaotic primary season, foreign interference and presidential sabotage, the 2020 election proved to be one of the cleanest and, according to senior U.S. officials, the “most secure” in our nation’s history. The American people voted in unprecedented numbers, risking their health and foiling efforts in many states to make voting as difficult as possible. African-Americans, especially, braved countless barriers to casting their ballots.
There is no proof, nor even credible evidence, of significant voting irregularities, much less fraud. Republican and Democratic state and local officials largely adhered to their legal responsibilities, conducting the tabulation and certification processes honestly and transparently. Federal officials, sometimes collaborating with the private sector, effectively minimized the impact of Russian electoral interference.
The mainstream media duly prepared the public for a protracted counting process, refrained from rushing to call the outcomes in key states and resisted amplifying false allegations of fraud, thereby helping to temper public anxiety.
There has been no significant election-related violence. Supporters of Mr. Biden celebrated joyously, while supporters of Mr. Trump protested a week later without major incident.
Countries around the world have accepted the result, almost uniformly congratulating Mr. Biden on his decisive victory, with many expressing eagerness to renew relations with the United States.
For now, our democracy has held.
Still, the lesson we must learn is not a reassuring one: A determined autocrat in the White House poses a grave threat to our democratic institutions and can severely undermine faith in our elections, particularly when backed by partisans in Congress.
Perhaps only when the stars are optimally aligned — when voters turn out in huge numbers, when the outcome is not close, when state and local officials and the courts adhere to the rule of law, when foreign interference is thwarted, when the media behaves responsibly and when people remain peaceful — can our democracy endure its greatest tests.
Mr. Trump will leave office on Jan. 20, whether he acknowledges defeat or not. Yet, if his Republican enablers in Congress retain a Senate majority, they will not hesitate to reprise the politics of power at any cost, even by again subverting the democratic process.
So, bolstering our democracy depends in large part on the people of Georgia voting out their incumbent senators on Jan. 5. If the Senate flips to Democratic control, Congress will be able to apply the lessons of our democracy’s near-death experience.
It would enact the For the People Act to combat corruption, strengthen ethics rules and improve voter access as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the protections of the 1965 legislation. Congress would pass the Protecting Our Democracy Act to constrain the power of future presidents who deem themselves above the law and finally adopt long-stalled legislation to shore up our election infrastructure against adversaries, foreign or domestic.

Now is no time for self-congratulation or complacency. We must act with the unique urgency and courage of those who know they are living on borrowed time.