Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have yourselves a merry little...

This Christmas I asked Santa for some peace on Earth and goodwill to all mankind. Hope he delivers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gift wrapping is a bitch

The second most stressful thing about the holidays? Gift wrapping.

First you have to pick the right paper. Then you have to cut it to just the right size. Then you have to tape it together -- without getting the tape stuck to itself or smudged with fingerprints -- and fold the ends just so and tape them. And the eternal debate: ribbon vs. bow vs. nothing?

I like Jimmy Kimmel's advice: Why not just wrap the person's head? (Which, after watching this very funny video of Jimmy Kimmel's Aunt Chippy trying to wrap a box on Jimmy Kimmel Live, in a video titled "Chip's Tips -- How to Wrap a Present," made even more sense.)

And that, friends, is why there are gift bags.

Bonus video: "How to Wrap a Cat for Christmas."

I don't know what drug that cat is on, but I need to get me some.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Did you hear the one about the world ending on 12/21/12?

I laugh in the face of apocalypse! Ha ha!

First up, why you shouldn't drink at work....

I was also amused by this Weekly World News front page, as edited by REM.

But the funniest bit I read regarding the world (as we know it) ending on 12/21/12 was this End of the World FAQ Guide from NASA. Scientists can be such apocalyptic killjoys, what with all their facts and hard science. Sheesh.

But just in case those NASA scientists are wrong, it's been fun knowing and writing for all of you. Peace.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You pet owners will understand

I have a confession to make. I suffer from OLRD, Obsessive Lint Rolling Disorder. I just can't help myself. Whenever I see a few strands of cat hair, I have to lint roll them up.

Oh sure, I have tried other methods, but nothing gets fur and fuzz up like a trusty roll of sticky paper.

I love lint rollers so much, I have one in (nearly) every room of the house. And I am not afraid to use them.

I even lint roll my cats.

For years, I have kept quiet about my obsession, fearing no one would understand or that people would mock me. But after seeing this brilliant ad from Scotch-Brite titled "Lint Police," I know I am not alone.

I am so sewing on a "no lint" patch onto my black suit jacket.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dogs make (almost) everything better

Once again, this blog has gone to the dogs.

But there is something just so doggone funny about a a cute canine photograph. And I don't know about all of you, but I have been in dire need of a reason to smile of late. So I asked a bunch of my dog-loving, dog-owning friends to send me funny or super cute pictures of their dogs. Which they did.

I hope these pictures make you smile as much as I did.

Oh, and if I left out a picture of your pooch, please email it to me. If I receive enough funny dog photos (that are not grainy, underexposed or overexposed) I will do a follow-up post.

First up, Bella. Just wook at dat wittle King Charles Cavalier Spaniel puppy face! I dare you people not to say "aaaaw."

Next up, Winston, aka Winnie the Pooh.

Now before you start shaking your head about Winston's mom putting a helmet and Doggles on him, read what she wrote me:
Just so you don't think I'm one of those people who dress up their dogs....I decided after watching [Winston] clunk his head and get goose eggs and cuts on his head... and getting poked in the eye... to become one of those people. My family is horrified. [However,] I will do what I must to make our blind Winnie the Pooh's life a little more comfortable.
I don't care what your family thinks, C. You're a good mom.

Though while we are on the subject of people who dress up their dogs, let us take a moment to admire Tillie, who let her humans dress her in this cow costume.Yet still loves them. (My cat, Felix, is disgusted.)

And behold this adorable pug, who is all heart.

Though I am slightly disturbed by the cannibalistic undertones of this photo of my friend N.'s pug, Pansy.

Ah, what could be sweeter than two dogs peacefully snoozing side by side, like Daisy Mayhem and Patsy Marie, my friend "Betty Cracker"'s two boxers?

Perhaps a lovable lab baring his, uh, twig and berries as he happily snores away on the couch, like my friend Vinny here?

Dogs sure do know how to relax.

Though lest you think that dogs are just a bunch of slackers, Zoe here wants you to know she puts in a full day's work -- and knows Photoshop.

But the best thing about dogs? They are always there to welcome you home with a great big hug.

I love that spot so much, I've been pestering the spouse to let me get an Irish Wolfhound. (Though that dog has at least a foot and probably close to 100 pounds on me. So probably not a good idea.)

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas from Raven, Dave S.'s whipador....

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Putting the "Cat" in Christmas

Watching the latest Simon's Cat video, titled "Santa Claws," brings back fond Christmas memories. Fond for me, that is. Not so sure for my mother, who was the one typically shooing our two curious Siamese cats away from the tree and all of the fragile ornaments we had carefully placed on it.

Fortunately, our Christmas trees -- and ornaments -- fared much better than Simon's.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fewer semi-automatics, more mental health care

My daughter’s school is about 20 minutes away from Sandy Hook Elementary. When I arrived at school midday (I volunteer in the library), there were two cop cars outside. Despite them, I had no problem walking into the building that houses the library -- no checking in anywhere, no locked doors. Sent a chill down my spine.

At the time I arrived, I had no idea that an entire classroom of kindergartners, as well as several teachers and administrators, had been mowed down just a few miles away. I only learned that shortly before I left the library.

Many of the teachers who work in our district live and have kids who go to school in Newtown. I cannot imagine the fear they felt.

I heard that Obama brushed away tears as he talked about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. I also read that he said now was not the time to talk about gun control, or words to that affect. But if not now, when?

How many innocent people -- too often children -- have to die before politicians take a stand against the NRA and pass tougher gun and ammo control measures? I'm not saying the government should strike down the Second Amendment (though I would not object). But it's time to put a ban on semi-automatic weapons (the weapon of choice for mentally deranged killers), limit the amount of ammunition one can purchase, and institute strenuous background checks. Yes, that won't solve the problem. But it's a start.

And while the pols are at it, how about making it less expensive for Americans to get mental health care? Maybe if we made it easier to get mental health care and more difficult to buy guns and ammo, we could avoid another tragedy like the one that took place today... and the one in Aurora... and the one in Tucson... and the one at Virginia Tech... and the one at Columbine.

More about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy here.

UPDATED 12/15/12: More food for thought: "Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States" by Ezra Klein of The Washington Post (via I found these two paragraphs particularly telling and tragic:
If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. “Too soon,” howl supporters of loose gun laws. But as others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Putting the ho ho hos in Christmas

Apparently, putting the Ho in Halloween was not good enough for Victoria's Secret. Now they've gone and put the ho ho hos in Christmas.

(Not that I am saying that Victoria's Secret models are hos. But they are going to freeze their tuchuses off dressed in those skimpy outfits at the North Pole. Just saying.)

Also, my suggestion re next year's Victoria's Secret Christmas video? Less singing, more cleavage.

Moving right along....

While I understand Victoria's Secret is an "intimate apparel" company and that sex sells, selling sex for Christmas just seems, I don't know, wrong. (I don't know about all of you, but I do not want to envision mommy French kissing Santa Claus.)

Call me an old fart but it used to be if you were naughty, you got a lump of coal, or nothing. Now if you're naughty, you get lingerie from Victoria's Secret.

Though, seriously, who buys panties that say "WHERE'S MY GIFT?"

THE SCENE: The boudoir
GAL (dressed only in her new Victoria's Secret "WHERE'S MY GIFT?" panties): "You like?"
GUY: "Where's my gift? I've got your 'gift' right here, sweetheart."

(See, this is the reason I don't write romance novels, people.)

Hoping you've been nice this year....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Top 12 Reads of 2012

The following 12 books are my favorites that I read in 2012 -- the books that made the greatest impression on me or that I remember the most fondly.


The Time in Between by Maria Dueñas. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to live through the Spanish Civil War or the Second World War in Spain, or Morocco, but thanks to Maria Dueñas' beautiful prose, I almost can -- in a good way. Told from the point of view of a young dressmaker, whose world is turned upside down several times by misfortune and war, The Time in Between is a story of fortitude, friendship, and fashion. It is also one of my new favorite books. Couldn't put it down.

Magic Words: The Tale of a Jewish Boy Interpreter, The World’s Most Estimable Magician, A Murderous Harlot, and America’s Greatest Indian Chief by Gerald Kolpan. I do not know if I could do a better job describing this book than the subtitle does -- certainly not in under 100 words. Suffice it to say, I loved this book. And if you are interested in the history of the American West, showmanship, or magic -- or love a rousing tale of adventure, mystery, and love, you will enjoy Magic Words. By the way, as with many of the other books listed here under "Fiction," Magic Words is based on actual people and events, which makes it doubly delightful in my opinion.

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. The Last Chinese Chef is a love story, about food. Specifically Chinese food. No, not the food most of us Americans call Chinese but authentic, classic, timeless, exquisitely prepared and served Chinese food that is served in China, at least in certain restaurants and homes. It is also a culinary history (of sorts) of China and a story of friendship and family. And to a lesser degree it is the story of a food writer who discovers her late husband was not faithful and may have sired a love child. If you love food, how it is prepared, how it tastes, or stories about food, The Last Chinese Chef is a must read. Though I warn you, this book will make you very, very hungry.

Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore. This was the Christopher Moore book I managed to read all the way through -- and I'm glad I did. Having just returned from a trip to France, and having an abiding love of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting, I was immediately sucked into Sacre Bleu, which claims to be about the color blue (or ultramarine), and it is. Sort of. But it is more a sly, witty work of historical fiction covering the French art world of the 1890s. If you are a Christopher Moore fan, a lover of Paris (particularly during La Belle Epoque), and/or a fan of Impressionism, this book is a must read -- though you may not think of Impressionism in the exact same way again after reading it.

Angelina's Bachelors: A Novel with Food by Brian O'Reilly. When Angelina D'Angelo's beloved husband, Frank, suddenly dies, she pours her grief into her cooking -- which leads her to discover new friends and a new life. To quote on book review, "Filled to the brim with homemade warmth, Angelina’s Bachelors is a sweet tale of overcoming grief, redefining family, and following your heart -- through food." O'Reilly, a producer at the Food Network, and his wife, a cookbook author, enrich the story with recipes and a true love of food. A feel-good read, perfect for a chilly night.

Rococo by Adriana Trigiani. I laughed, I cried. Rococo is the story of Bartolomeo di Crespi, B. to his friends and family, a New York-trained interior decorator who has decorated nearly every home in his home town of Our Lady of Fatima, New Jersey. The book is supposed to take place in the 1970s, but the story -- of chasing a dream (to renovate his home-town church), of family (a warm and funny albeit dysfunctional Italian one), and the quest to find the perfect ottoman -- is timeless.Very funny.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. I'm not sure why I loved this book. Maybe it's because I love magical realism and the exotic, or maybe it's because I'm a bit of a geek. But I could not put it down. Literally. A story of hackers and jinns, Arabian royalty and rabble, good and evil, Alif the Unseen takes the reader on an extraordinary journey into the unseen -- a kind of modern Arabian Nights.


Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill. A cheekily written mystery, set in Thailand, featuring eccentric characters (the narrator, a wise-cracking female crime reporter, her body builder little brother, and her hacker extraordinaire transvestite older brother, Sissy), and a plot that keeps you guessing. Cotterill's followup, Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach, is also good fun.

The Case of the Missing Servant and The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing* by Tarquin Hall. I loved these two "Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator" mysteries, which are set in India (mainly in Delhi). I loved the whimsical characters, the (Anglo-American) author's use of language, and the humor. If you like a witty mystery set in an exotic locale, check out The Case of the Missing Servant -- and if you like it, The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing.


Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis. I clearly have a thing for art history books. Also John Singer Sargent (one of my favorite painters). And Belle Epoque Paris. While nonfiction, Strapless often comes across as historical fiction, which I consider a good thing. A fascinating story about the painter John Singer Sargent and "Madame X," aka Virginie Amelie Avagno Gautreau, the subject of perhaps Sargent's most well known -- and infamous -- painting, Portrait of Madame X.

The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. Part art history, part memoir, The Hare with the Amber Eyes is one man's poignant search for the family history behind a set of Japanese netsuke (wood and ivory carvings) he inherited, which takes him to Paris and Vienna and Odessa. As a Jew, I was heartsick reading about the treatment of the Jews, even prominent ones, such as the author's great-grandparents and their extended family, in the early through mid-1900s in Europe, particularly in France and Austria, where much of the book takes place. A must read for lovers of art history, memoirs, and/or Europe before and during the Second World War.

Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach. Before stumbling upon this book at my local library, I had no idea who Gertrude Bell was or anything about the history or formation of Iraq. Boy, was this book an eye opener. The incredible story of an incredible woman, Desert Queen shows how (and why) things went so terribly wrong in the Middle East -- then and now -- and why any Western attempts to "fix things" or bring democracy to that region will most likely fail. To repeat myself, fascinating.

For more great reads/book recommendations, click here (or on the BOOK NOOK label at the bottom of the post).

So what were some of your favorite reads of 2012? Please leave a comment with the name of the book and the author.

*I'm counting these as one selection.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The bigger the boobs, the better the present?

A friend just emailed me this article about a controversy in the UK over this card (at right) aimed at 13-year-old girls.

For those who can't make it out, the text on the front of the card says: "You're 13 today! If you had a rich boyfriend, he'd give you diamonds and rubies. Well, maybe next year you will -- when you've bigger boobies!"

And I agree, giving a 13-year-old girl diamonds and rubies is outrageous, even if it is her birthday and you are a sheik. But the part about getting a rich boyfriend -- and better presents -- when you have bigger boobies is absolutely true.

This is yet another tempest in a D-cup. (And no, I will never get tired of using that line.)

I actually applaud the card for keeping things real. Girls with bigger boobs (who are not hideously overweight and do not have faces that would scare off little children, or rich boyfriends) do get richer boyfriends and better presents than flat-chested women (unless the flat-chested woman has an exceptionally beautiful face). If it wasn't true, plastic surgeons would be out of business. 

Indeed, I don't think the card went far enough. What it should have said was, "-- when you've bigger boobies and that acne has cleared up!"

Monday, December 10, 2012

Football humor

Before I was a football fan, I was a football fan's girlfriend. (Back in the day, when the spouse and I lived in Chicago, and we were not yet married, we would go to the Cubby Bear by Wrigley Field to watch New York Giants football games with my future brother-in-law, who would tell me to go stand in the babe section.) So I could totally relate to (and laugh at) this video titled "Every Fan's Girlfriend: NFL" from the NOC.

Today, I am proud to say, I watch New York Giants (and New York Jets) football games whether or not the spouse is around. However, I am still waiting for the spouse to agree to salsa dancing lessons (though we did name our Chevy Cruze rental car "Victor.")

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Hanukkah, Bitches

Friend of the blog Another David S. sent me this Hanukkah video from Bubala Please, titled "Making Latkes" (which was sent to him by his mother), and I just had to share.

WARNING: Some of the language in this video is definitely NOT KOSHER. So probably best not to watch it with kinder in the room.

And if you liked the first Hanukkah episode from Bubala Please, be sure to watch Episode 2, "Hanukkah Bush," below.

WARNING: The language in this video is also inappropriate for kinder, bubbehs, too.

I so want to pimp out a Hanukkah bush right now and eat some latkes.

On a more G-rated note (G being for Geek), check out this amazing instructional video on how to light a menorah -- with a robot and a little nitroglycerin -- created by the Jewish nerds at the Israel Institute of Technology, aka The Technion.

[A tip of the kippah to fellow blogger Dave S., a real mensch, for that excellent video.]

Wishing all my Jewish friends (you goyim, too) a MF good Hanukkah.

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's the little things

Just received my shipment of eight tiny (187ML) bottles* of Charles de Fere Jean Louis Brut Champagne from!

 Looks like it will be a Happy Hanukkah (which starts tomorrow at sundown) and a Merry Christmas after all!


*I'm a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, rarely being able to ingest more than a few sips of wine or beer or spirits without getting a killer headache. So I am always loathe to open a bottle of wine, and especially Champagne, for fear of wasting it. That's why I was delighted to come across these delightful mini bottles of bubbly -- Charles de Fere Jean Louis Brut -- while dining out last summer. More proof that good things often come in small packages. Now I can enjoy a sip of Champagne whenever I like, without the headache or the guilt.

UPDATED: Voila! My Champagne Menorah!

(I tried using my magnum of Dom Perignon, but it wouldn't fit in the frame.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

All I want for Christmas is...

Jimmy Fallon (and the Roots) making annoying Christmas songs listenable again.

Yes, folks, Jimmy Fallon has done the impossible. He has made me like Mariah Carey's overplayed, oversung Christmas song "All I Want for Christmas Is You" likeable again. Even more amazing, he has made Mariah Carey likeable. (The producers of American Idol should send Fallon a check.)

Check out this great Late Night "Music Room" version of "All I Want for Christmas Is You," performed by Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Mariah Carey, and a bunch of adorable elementary school kids.

Take that, Justin Bieber!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's the 2012 J-TWO-O Holiday Gift Guide!

It's the 2012 J-TWO-O Holiday Gift Guide, your one-stop blog post for fun, quirky yet practical, as well as inexpensive, Chanukah and Christmas gifts!

First up, Holidickeys -- mostly because I love saying "Holidickeys." Say it with me now: Holidickeys. So what are Holidickeys? Per the Holidickeys FAQ page, "Holidickeys are faux collars inspired by the changing seasons.  You may refer to them as dickeys, toppings or johnny collars. Holidickeys come in Peter Pan and Ruffle collars and in a variety of seasonal prints." (Note: These dickeys are just for women.)

And speaking of shirts, how about a stylish, super comfortable tee or a polo shirt from Prepster Pineapple? Makes a great stocking stuffer for the preppy guy or gal in your life! (Did you people seriously think I was not going to pimp my own business?)

And speaking of guys, forget beer goggles. Instead, get him a pair of beer socks! (Sock It to Me also has other great socks for men and women, including sushi socks, bacon and eggs socks, and ninja socks.)

To warm the hearts and (other parts) of coffee, tea, or cocoa drinkers, consider the Chalk Board Mug from the Spoon Sisters. No more having to guess which mug has decaf! (Click on the link to see other great kitchen-related gift suggestions.)

And what goes better with a cup of cocoa than a delicious chocolate-covered Hanukkah-themed pretzel rod from the Painted Pretzel? (That would be a rhetorical question, i.e., don't answer. Work with me here, people.) Heck, forget the cocoa, just give me a six-pack of dark-chocolate-covered pretzels. (Sadly, their Deck the Halls Christmas gift pack already sold out, but the Painted Pretzel has other yummy chocolate-covered pretzel gifts still available.)

Moving from the kitchen to the living or dining room, may I suggest the Brooklyn Slate Cheese Board? Perfect for entertaining, plus no more people asking you, "What kind of cheese is that?"!

For the nerd in your life, how about a Star Wars-inspired flash drive from

Mimoco also has Star Trek, Hello Kitty, and super hero flash drives.

And speaking of Star Wars (and nerds), how about a lightsaber flashlight? Perfect for when you go to the dark side! (Batteries included not.)

Getting back to fun flash drives, check out this cool lipstick flash drive, which would make a great stocking stuffer or holiday gag gift for the woman in your life or a female friend with a sense of humor.

Or maybe your lady prefers more traditional hardware? If so, why not get her this 135-piece tool kit -- in pink! Sisters are doin' it for themselves. (Though my father always said the only kind of hardware a woman wanted was this.)

And even though you probably have a set of salt-and-pepper shakers, I think the Silent Butler Cutlery Salt and Pepper Shakers from is pretty cool, as well as environmentally friendly!

Speaking for eco-friendly gifts, check out these adorable soy tealight candles from Green Irene, which come in creme brulee, spiced chai, and other tasty flavors. (They would have come in handy after Super Storm Sandy blew through, though I personally can't stand scented candles.)

Looking for a gift to give the celebrity obsessed or a magazine lover? Head on over to YourCover, where you can create a personalized fake magazine cover of your loved one -- or coworker or friend.

For you cat lovers or those who have friends with cats, I recommend the Cat Scratch DJ Turntable (mostly because that picture cracks me up, though my cat, Felix, would probably use it).I also like the Sharp-End Cat Pencil Sharpener, which makes a nice stocking stuffer, and the Cat Tao Glasses from Uncommon Goods (which have become our favorite glasses since my sister-in-law bought me a set for my birthday last month).

And for the dog person in your life, I suggest the Bad Dog Tumblers or the Interactive Dog Puzzle.

Last but in no way least, for those in a charitable mood this holiday season (or to teach a youngster in your life the importance of giving, as opposed to receiving), give someone you love a cow... or a goat*... or a pig this holiday season, courtesy of Did you know, and I quote, that "The gift of a dairy goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day -- a ton of milk a year"? And "Extra milk can be sold or used to make cheese, butter or yogurt." When was the last time a gift you gave to someone did that?!

Want to recommend a gift? Just a leave a comment with the name of the item and a link to it.

*Putting the baaaa in baaaah humbug?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas is a beach

Growing up in New York City, the child of divorced parents for whom Christmas meant very different things, Christmas was always a confusing holiday to me (and not just because I was Jewish).

For my mother (a Jew from the suburbs of Philadelphia), Christmas meant getting out her bags and boxes of Christmas ornaments, which she had begun collecting in her 20s. Untangling and then testing strand upon strand of twinkly lights which, no matter how carefully we put them away the previous year, still wound up getting tangled and having loose bulbs, which caused the entire strand not to work. Putting on a stack of classical music records on her old but serviceable portable stereo. Pouring herself a glass (or two) of good red wine. And then spending the evening (and possibly the next) decorating the enormous (to me) tree she picked up somewhere on Lexington or Third Avenue.

To this day, even though I have not decorated a tree with my mother in well over 20 years, I have fond memories of Christmas -- and not just because it was the one day of the year when I received a pile of presents and could wake my mother up before 9 a.m. (though that didn't hurt).

For my father, a near-scratch golfer (and also a Jew), Christmas meant going someplace warm to play golf with his buddies. It was also the holiday I was assigned to spend with him. So typically as soon as I had finished unwrapping and admiring my hoard of Christmas goodies, I was whisked off to the airport to spend the next six or seven days on or a near a beach someplace, either alone (as my father played golf all day then had dinner with friends) or with the "mother's helper" who would accompany me when I was younger.

And I hated it, even though I love warm weather and palm trees. Not only was I horribly lonely at a time of year that's supposed to be about getting together with friends and family (both of which were in short supply in my life), but Christmas, at least to me, meant a nip in the air, snowflakes falling, people skating at Rockefeller Center (or Wollman Rink), and singing Handel's Messiah with a group of strangers -- not palm trees, pina coladas, and Reggae music (though I have since come to love all three of those things). Also, the crowds and lines at the airport were enough to deter any sane person from traveling at that time of year.

That is probably why, after I graduated from college and no longer had a winter break, I stopped spending Christmas in the Caribbean or Florida -- even though I start pining for warm weather as soon as the temperature dips below freezing.

Then, this weekend, while strolling the beach on Sanibel Island (while the teenager was away at the Yale Model Congress) at sunset, the spouse and I came across this little Christmas tree, all lit up, just a few feet from the water.

A couple had placed the little Christmas tree there in hopes of featuring it on the cover of this year's Christmas card. And as I stood there, looking at that little tree all lit up, the water gently lapping in the background, the sun setting just ahead, I felt an overwhelming sense (or should I say tidings?) of comfort and joy. And I realized, Christmas can be a beach or the North Pole -- or something in between. What truly matters is not where you spend it but who you spend it with.

Wishing you comfort and joy this Chanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa....

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's black and white and cute all over?

What's black and white and cute all over? This beautiful white mom cat and her six adorable black and white kittens -- appearing live on the Pet Collective's latest Kitten Cam!

(I hope none of you had anything important you needed to get done today, as well as an emergency stash of insulin.)

The six kittens -- three of whom are (mainly) white, three of whom are black -- were born on November 12 and will be available for adoption when they are eight weeks old. Any readers in Southeast Florida?

(You can find out more about mom cat and her kittens and other Pet Collective pet cams by clicking on the video.)

All together now: AAAAAAAAAAAAAWWW

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Style

Less than 30 days 'til Christmas, people! Do you know where your Christmas lights are?

Admit it, you love those houses that go way overboard for Christmas -- as long as they are not next door to or down the block from you. And by overboard, I am not talking strings of pretty twinkly lights tastefully draped over a few trees or a discreet little manger in the front yard. Oh no. I'm talking a life-sized plastic Santa and sled pulled by eight not-so-tiny reindeer and/or a Las Vegas-worthy sound-and-light show.

Speaking of which, while synching your Christmas lights with music is nothing new (love that Waitresses song), I am horrified amused by how people try to one-up themselves or their neighbors each year.

And now in the ultimate fusion of pop culture and holiday commercialism, someone has gone and synchronized his Christmas light display to the Korean pop (or K-pop) hit "Gangnam Style" by PSY, the video of which just became the most-watched video ever on YouTube with over 805 million views. (Don't worry, Justin Bieber fans. I'm sure the Bieb will be okay.)

I particularly love these two YouTube comments about the "Gangnam Style" Christmas house:

"Your neighbors must love you..." from stewis93


"The only way this would be even more awesome is if Santa came out of the garage doing the dance," from brokinwand92, which I totally agree with. (Indeed, it is only a matter of time -- days -- until someone does a "Gangnam Style" parody featuring Santa and some sexy reindeer or helpers.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Give that dog some turkey!

I have heard of dogs begging for some turkey.

I have heard of dogs barking for some turkey.

I have heard of dogs who jumped up on the counter for some turkey.

But this is the first time I have seen a dog salsa dance for some turkey.

I give you... "Sloopy the Dancing Chihuahua"!

I wonder what Sloopy would do for a Klondike bar.

Hope Devin gave Sloopy some turkey. He deserved it after that performance. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I want a deep-fried turkey

I saw this video, titled "Eat, Fry, Love: A Cautionary Remix*," featuring Master Thespian and deep-fried turkey lover William Shatner, on a friend's Facebook page. And, of course, I had to share it with all of you, if only so that I would not be the only one singing "I want a deep-fried turkey. I want a moister, tastier turkey" to myself for the next 24 hours.

Wishing everyone a tasty and safe Thanksgiving.

Dingle dangle. Dingle dangle.

*Though it should be called "Eat, Fry, Love: A Cautionary Thanksgiving Tale."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

And speaking of turkeys: It's Thanksgiving

I was trawling YouTube in search of a funny Thanksgiving song to share with you, my loyal readers. Instead I came across this turkey -- the latest worst song ever, a new viral video titled "It's Thanksgiving" by 12-year-old aspiring Rebecca Black wannabee Nicole Westbrook. The song, like "Friday," was written and produced by Patrice Wilson.

(So don't say I didn't warn you.)

Here's a taste of the lyrics:

December was Christmas. (Christmas) January was New Year (New Year). April was Easter. And the 4th of July, but now it’s Thanksgiving.

Oh oh oh it’s Thanksgiving. We we we we are gonna have a good time.
Oh oh oh it’s Thanksgiving. (alright) We we we are gonna have a good time.
With a turkey, eh mash potatoes eh, and we we we are gonna have a good time.
With a turkey, eh mash potatoes eh!
It’s Thanksgiving
It’s Thanksgiving

Yo. It’s Thanksgiving giving giving and I’m trying to be forgiving. (come on girl)
Nothing is forbidden. You know we I gotta have.
I gotta give thanks to you, and you, and you.
Can’t be hateful, gotta be grateful.
Gotta be grateful, can’t be hateful.
Mash potatoes on my – on my table.
I got ribs smelling up my neighbor’s cribs. (alright)
Can’t deny
Havin’ good times
We’d be laughing till we cry

Speaking of laughing till we cry... I could be wrong, but I'm guessing "It's Thanksgiving" may be with us until (or after) it's Christmas -- making music critics and others who make a living penning snark thankful to have something new to write about, while making the rest of us thankful for the Mute button.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The real threat to America?

Justin Bieber. Canadian.

Forget about cracking down on Mexicans or faceless terrorists on the other side of the world. We need to do something -- now -- about these upstart Canadians coming across the border and stealing our awards right here on our shores!

Justin Bieber, American Music Awards Artist of the Year?

Justin Bieber, American Music Awards Favorite Male Artist -- Pop/Rock?

And that's just the tip of the Bieberg!

You see that word right there, American? Does that mean nothing to you voters? He's a Canadian, for Pete's sake!

And he's not the only one.

Carly Rae Jepsen, she of "Call Me Maybe" fame and another Canadian, was named Best New Artist by the American Music Awards -- beating out beloved British boy band One Direction. And you know these Canadians pose a serious threat to America when they beat out a group of five wildly popular mop-topped British boy singers.

People, if we want to truly make America great again, we need to do something about these Canadian singers (I knew there was a good reason I didn't like Neil Young), actors (time to beam up William Shatner), directors (King of the World James Cameron? A card-carrying Canadian), and personalities (Answer: Popular Canadian game show host; Question: Who is Alex Trebek?) swooping in and taking American awards, hearts, and dollars.

John McCain and Lindsay Graham, get on it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

And the fur is flying

I don't know about all of you, but when I see a tongue-in-cheek video for an insurance company featuring skydiving cats, I do not assume that dozens of our furry friends were thrown out of airplanes with parachutes on their backs. 

But according to a report on CNN, the fur has been flying since this "skydiving cats" commercial began airing, with people accusing the maker of the ad, Swedish insurance company Folksam, of cruelty to cats.

Rest assured, my feline-loving friends, no cats were harmed during the making of that commercial. All five cats were shot in a studio against a green screen -- with fans to give them that wind-blown look.

Now skydiving dogs? That's a whole other topic....

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ding Dong, Hostess Brands is dead

Another snack-cake sized piece of my childhood died today.

As has now been widely reported, Hostess Brands, the maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and my personal favorite, Hostess CupCakes, is closed. Shut down (ultimately*) by a Bakers Union strike.

And while I have never been a fan of Twinkies, and I cannot recall the last time I had a Hostess snack cake, the thought of never again experiencing the pleasure of scraping the hard chocolate coating off of a Yodel with my teeth before unrolling it, then licking up the creamy filling, and finally partaking in the moist chocolate cake, makes me incredibly sad.

And no, I am not confusing Drake's cakes with Hostess snack cakes. As it turns out, unbeknownst to me until now, the company that is now called Hostess Brands acquired Drake's and several other bakeries in the mid-1990s. So it is not only Twinkies, CupCakes, and other Hostess Brands that are affected but also Drake's and a half dozen other brands (including Wonder Bread) that are ceasing operations. Though Hostess Brands is looking for buyers for many of its iconic brands.

And even though I know these sugary treats are bad for you, there is a little kid inside me that hopes Yodels (and maybe some of the other brands) survives.

So, what was your favorite Hostess snack or Drake's cake growing up? Let me know via the Comments.

*Hostess Brands filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2012, the second time the company had done so.

UPDATE: IT'S TWINKIE MADNESS! ABC News is reporting that at least one New York City supermarket sold out of Twinkies by midday today and that boxes of Twinkies are being sold on eBay for $100. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to choose a (discreet) mistress + tips for avoiding detection

Three years ago, in the wake of the Tiger Woods' scandal, I wrote this post titled "How to choose a mistress." If only General David Petraeus (and so many others) read my blog.

Now, as a public service to all married politicians, top military brass, celebrities, athletes, and CEOs (current and aspiring), I have updated the blog post, adding useful tips such as how to hide your private correspondence. Herewith, A Guide to Choosing a (Discreet) Mistress. (You're welcome.)

A Guide to Choosing a (Discreet) Mistress

1. Avoid women who seem way too eager to get in your pants (or vice versa) -- especially those who show or offer you their panties (see "Monica Lewinsky"), want to videotape you for posterity even though they have questionable video skills (see "Rielle Hunter"), or write a biography of you even though they have never written a book before (see "Paula Broadwell").

2. Never have sex with a woman who has been on a reality show, who wants to be on a reality show, or for whom reality shows are considered "must-see" TV.

3. Similarly, steer clear of name droppers, celebrity seekers, and star f_ckers, or anyone who has ever dated a celebrity, professional athlete, famous figure, or titan of industry, especially if she has dated more than one of these (or claims to have).

4. Do not have sexual relations with women who are your direct reports or who stand to gain or lose position or salary from getting it on with you (unless you are David Letterman).

5. Do not mess around with your wife's best friend, sister, or that neighbor she's always chatting with -- unless you want a really messy and expensive divorce. And for God's sake, man, do not screw the nanny, au pair, or babysitter. (That is so cliche.)

6. Make sure your ho is not on any prescription medication -- or should be.

7. Avoid single women and/or married women who are looking for an escape goat.

8. Steer clear of women who are always texting or posting shit on Facebook or Twitter. (What exactly is it you think they are texting or tweeting all their friends, stock market tips?)

9. Above all, avoid the jealous type. (See Fatal Attraction.)

Other helpful hints:

* Always wear a condom -- and make sure she's on the pill.

* Never leave a paper or electronic trail. Sharing a Gmail account and leaving drafts for each other? So five years ago. (Here's how to properly hide or keep private private correspondence, which was sent to me by the spouse. Hmm...)

* Do no flirt with another woman in your mistress's presence or with someone she might possibly know -- and for God's sake don't cheat on your mistress. (A woman scorned....)

* Don't cheat in the first place.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I will now panda to your baser emotions!

To panda (definition): to act like an adorable baby panda; especially to provide gratification to others -- as in, I will now panda to your need for cuteness by showing you this video of Xiao Liwu* (meaning “little gift”), the San Diego Zoo's 3.5-month-old incredibly adorable panda cub, who was just officially named! 

Here he is getting his 100-day checkup! (Who's a cute little panda cub? Who's a cute little panda cub? Xiao Liwu is!**)

To see an unbearably cute video compilation of Xiao Liwu getting his various baby panda exams, click here.

*Per the San Diego Zoo, Xiao Liwu is pronounced sshyaoww (falling then rising tone) lee (falling then rising tone) woo (falling tone).

**Hey, would you rather I blogged about the Petraeus love triangle (or pentagon) -- or the fiscal cliff? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Books to warm your imagination

I didn't realize how many books I had read the last couple of months until I put together this list. And it only represents some of the books I read! As per usual, there is something for everyone -- and a link to the book on Amazon.

Looking for more book recommendations? Click on the BOOK NOOK label at the end of this post or click on the Book Recommendations link in the right-hand column.

File under "Fiction"

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott. Based on the true story of a couple of British aristocrats, Lord and Lady Duff Gordon, the latter a well-known fashion designer, who were sailing to America on the Titanic and commandeered a lifeboat, refusing to let others aboard. While based on the facts, though, The Dressmaker is the fictional story of a fictional aspiring dressmaker, Tess, who persuades Lady Lucille Duff Gordon to take her aboard the ill-fated ship as her secretary, with the hopes of working for her as a dressmaker once they get to New York -- and what happens after they arrive in New York with the rest of the Titanic survivors. An interesting, fresh (?) take on the Titanic story with some fashion history and romance thrown in. 

The Proposal by Mary Balogh. Let me know if you've heard this one before: a lovely, young, titled widow twists her ankle while climbing a cliff only to be begrudgingly rescued by a big, gruff, dour, albeit handsome, ex-military officer and hero who just happens to be out walking nearby. The two are immediately at odds, though that doesn't stop the now-titled reluctant military hero from wanting to bed the lovely lady. You can pretty much guess how the story turns out, but I still enjoyed this bit of historical romance.

The Emerald Storm: An Ethan Gage Adventure by William Dietrich. This book reminded me of those old Errol Flynn swashbucklers I adored in my youth -- or for those of you going "Errol who?", a Roger Moore James Bond film (albeit set in the early 1800s). A fun, adventure-filled romp through Napoleonic Paris and Haiti, The Emerald Storm made me wish I had read William Dietrich's previous Ethan Gage adventures first. But fortunately Dietrich provides just enough background to make readers who haven't read any of the prior books comfortable. If you like your adventure novels and heroes with a dash of humor as well as being dashing, I highly recommend the Ethan Gage adventures.

Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson. Even though I studied World War II in school and at university, I was unfamiliar with what going on in the Middle East at the time or the strategic importance of Turkey or the role that women spies and entertainers (who were often both) played. So I found Jasmine Nights enlightening (if that is the right word) on that score. (Even though it is a work of fiction, the book is based on facts/actual accounts.) I also felt connected to the main characters, a young, beautiful, aspiring Welsh singer and a handsome, young, cocky British fighter pilot who narrowly escapes a crash with his life. If you enjoy books about World War II, and/or are interested in the role of British pilots, spies, and entertainers in the war, check out Jasmine Nights.

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen. Another historical romance with a plucky heroine -- this time a young Lady (again, with a capital L) whose virtue has been compromised and who has been banished with her older, female companion/former governess to the gatehouse of her former aunt, where she takes up writing novels -- and a dashing former military hero who rents the estate upon which she lives. There's also a mysterious swashbuckling former Navy captain, a couple of adorable urchins, a former Navy cook and curmudgeon with a heart of gold, and the requisite bad guy, a louche lord. Cliches aside, I enjoyed The Girl in the Gatehouse, which is well written with colorful characters.

Magic Words: The Tale of a Jewish Boy Interpreter, The World’s Most Estimable Magician, A Murderous Harlot, and America’s Greatest Indian Chief by Gerald Kolpan. I do not know if I could do a better job describing this book than the subtitle does -- certainly not in under 100 words. Suffice it to say, I loved this book. And if you are interested in the history of the American West, showmanship, or magic -- or love a rousing tale of adventure, mystery, and love, you will enjoy Magic Words. By the way, as with many of the other books listed here under "Fiction," Magic Words is based on actual people and events, which makes it doubly delightful (in my opinion). Definitely goes on my Top 12 of 2012 book list.

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. The Last Chinese Chef is a love story, about food. Specifically Chinese food. No, not the food most of us Americans call Chinese but authentic, classic, timeless, exquisitely prepared and served Chinese food that is served in China, at least in certain restaurants and homes. It is also a culinary history (of sorts) of China and a story of friendship and family. And to a lesser degree it is the story of a food writer who discovers her late husband was not faithful and may have sired a love child. If you love food, how it is prepared, how it tastes, or stories about food, The Last Chinese Chef is a must read. Though I warn you, this book will make you very, very hungry.

File under "Non-Fiction"

Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists by Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg. I love a good art heist book and Stealing Rembrandts does not disappoint. Inspired by the infamous theft of three Rembrandts from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and written by an art security expert and an investigative journalist, the book recounts various Rembrandt heists through the years while providing a history of the artist and many of his paintings.

The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds, and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot by Chip Brantley. Or How I Learned Where Dinosaur Eggs Come From. We here at J-TWO-O HQ are long time pluot and plum fans. So when I happened upon this book while strolling through the stacks at one of our local libraries, I grabbed it. Written by a fellow pluot and plum lover (and foodie), the book takes readers on a journey to California's San Joaquin Valley in search of the perfect fruit. Brantley also provides a fascinating look at the plum industry and how hybrid fruit is bred -- and introduces readers to some great characters. 

Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings introduced French Cuisine to America by Thomas J. Craughwell. Saw this book in a local book shop and felt compelled to pick it up. Proof that good things come in small packages (and not just me). A fascinating look at Thomas Jefferson the gourmand and how he became a true foodie and oenophile while in Paris. The author also provides some interesting details about Jefferson's relationship with his slave James Hemings and Hemings' life in Paris.

The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age by Janet Wallach. I loved Janet Wallach's biography of English explorer Gertrude Bell, so scooped up her latest when I saw it at a local library. Having never heard of Hetty Green, I was intrigued. I cannot say I loved the book -- Hetty Green had a miserable childhood and both as a child and as an adult she had to hold her own against and battle mean and/or unscrupulous people (more often than not men). But it was fascinating learning about such a hard working, financially savvy woman and about financial dealings (rail roads, real estate, stocks and bonds) during the Gilded Age.

File under "Well that was a waste of money and time."

I don't usually like to include books I disliked in these lists, but I feel compelled to include How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. I had heard via a Facebook friend (or two) and some reviews that this was a fabulous, fun read. So when the spouse gave me a gift card to a lovely little independent book shop near here and I saw the book I picked it up, even though I had misgivings. (I can tell just from reading the jacket copy and a page if I am going to like or dislike a book.)

I rarely use the word "hate" for a book, but I hated this book. I found the author's anecdotes depressing and pathetic and not the least bit funny -- though, to be fair, I stopped reading the book  around a quarter of the way through. I just couldn't stomach wasting another minute on it. Granted, this is just one person's opinion, but if you are interested in the book, I'd advise you to visit your local library not purchase it.

Read a book recently that you would recommend? Please leave a Comment with the name of the book and the author. Thanks!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dump the Trump: Tell the Donald "You're fired!"

It's time to play... Dump the Trump! The blog post where you click on this link to sign an online petition to Urge Macy's to Dump Donald Trump.

As many of you know, Macy's department stores sell Donald Trump clothing and fragrances. (What does Birther smell like anyway?) Macy's also prides itself on social responsibility:
There is no shortage of talk about the obligation of public companies to be socially responsible to the people and communities where they do business. At Macy’s, Inc., we hold those same beliefs – along with a belief that actions speak louder than words when it comes to helping tackle some of the toughest problems facing us today.
And the company has a Vendor & Supplier Code of Conduct that clearly states it will not tolerate human trafficking and child labor, though maybe Macy's should extend that statement to include trafficking in lies and childish behavior.

The bigger point: Donald Trump is bad for business -- that is, Macy's business. So unless Macy's wants to increase its appeal to grumpy, old, racist white guys, the company would be wise to tell the Donald to peddle his made-in-China label elsewhere.

And wouldn't it be great if NBC, which airs his show, The Apprentice, told the Donald "You're fired!" too? Of course that will never happen -- unless the show's ratings go lower than Congress's. Indeed, by the time the new All-Star Celebrity Apprentice airs March 3, people may not remember or care about all of the crazy, hateful, outrageous, and borderline treasonous things Donald Trump said and did during the 2012 Presidential Race. And more's the pity.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Christmas ads already? What happened to Thanksgiving?

I realize that "Bah Humbug" could be my middle name, but there is a part of me (the New York Jew who celebrated Christmas for nearly 20 years and sang the Messiah part) that has a soft spot for Christmastime -- the little twinkly lights, the conifers all decked out, peppermint lattes, gingerbread cookies, even (some of) the music (before it is overplayed to death).

But I loathe how what is or was supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus (though he was actually born in June -- the December date was originally the Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia) has become a retail feeding frenzy -- and how each year we see Christmas ads and decorations a little earlier. Indeed, this Target Christmas ad debuted before Halloween!

To answer your question, Target, No, I am not ready.

Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, and Lowe's have also been airing Christmas ads. And those are just the ones I've happened to see.

I realize one little blogger's lament will not stop the pre-Thanksgiving Christmas madness, but I know I would feel a bit better knowing Nordstrom and I weren't the only ones who thought Christmas ads and decorations should wait until after Thanksgiving (i.e., please to be leaving a comment showing your support for celebrating Christmas at Christmastime and not before). And do not get me started about Hanukkah/Chanukah and Kwanzaa.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Puppy love

I love dogs. That is, other people's dogs. When they are cute and well-behaved and I don't have to take care of them. So when our friend, R., showed us these pictures of her dog Monty with their new puppy, Stella, I just melted.

How cute are they? (Just look at those noses!)

Of course, having cats, who, if presented with a new kitten would either a) swiftly swack it the moment it invaded the older cat's space/food bowl/litter box; b) call UPS to have it returned; c) express their displeasure in a variety of ways; d) ignore it; or e) all of the above, I was curious to know if Monty was at all jealous of the adorable new pup. Far from it, replied R. Indeed, Monty loves little Stella. Here is the proof:

How sweet is that?!

Now please excuse me while I go get an insulin shot.

[Thanks to R. and E. for sharing their puppy pics with me!]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The good, the bad, and the ugly

The good news for Democrats -- and a majority of women, blacks/African Americans, Hispanics, other minorities, those who believe that healthcare should be a right not a privilege, that women have the right to decide what's best for them, that you should be able to marry the person you love, regardless of gender, and that government has a responsibility to help people here at home in times of disaster: President Barack Obama was re-elected.

The bad news (or good news for Republicans): The Republicans still have a majority in the House and have enough seats in the Senate to filibuster any bill proposed by their Democratic colleagues.

And the ugly: Thanks to the Republican majority in the House and their ability to filibuster in the Senate, Republicans are going to do their damnedest to make sure no bill that could possibly help the American people and aid economic recovery (and by extension benefit the Democrats) gets passed in the next four years, so they* can disingenuously blame Barack Obama and the Democrats for any economic or other failure -- even, or especially if, they are the ones pushing us off the fiscal cliff. Heckuva job, Boehner.

*Especially Conservative Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is Chairman of the House Budget and Ways and Means Committees and will no doubt be running for President in 2016. If you think for a second that Ryan and Speaker John Boehner and the Tea Party Republicans -- the few moderate Republicans are gone -- are going to compromise on or pass ANYTHING that could possibly help the Democrats, take another hit of whatever it is you are smoking -- that is if you live in Colorado and Washington State.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why I'm voting for Barack Obama

I saw the following declaration on a friend's Facebook page a few week's back, before Super Storm Sandy. It was written by a woman named Julie E., who beautifully expressed why, even though President Barack Obama did not live up to certain expectations and did not fulfill every campaign promise (though find me a single politician who has), many of us will vote for him over Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Especially now, in the aftermath of Sandy.

So why am I voting for President Barack Obama? "Because I believe...

"no one has the right to tell another what they can and cannot do with their own body.

"Because I believe everyone should be allowed to marry the person they love – and share the benefits of legal marriage.

"Because I believe health care should be a given.

"Because I believe my God may not be your God – and that’s OK.

"Because I believe it is our duty to stop the poisoning of our air and water and land.

"Because I believe serving in the military should not be dictated by whom one has sex with.

"Because I believe equal work deserves equal pay.

"Because I believe lowering the income tax rate for the wealthiest people and corporations does not benefit the whole.

"Because I believe in stem cell research.

"Because I believe some messes take longer to clean up.

"Because I believe in numbers and facts.

"Because I believe Planned Parenthood [helps women become better parents].

"Because I believe racism still exists and pretending it doesn’t hurts us all.

"Because I believe running the country as a business with the sole goal of making more money is selfish and not beneficial to all its people.

"Because I believe guns DO kill people.

"Because I believe in evolution.

"Because I believe it is our duty as good citizens to lend a helping hand.

"Because I believe the world is large and full of God’s creatures and we are not the center of it.

"Because I believe in progress and that it requires moving forward, not going back.

"Because I believe being of moral character is less about preaching and more about doing.

"Because I believe love always trumps hate.

"Because I believe – I still believe – in hope."

Thank you, Julie.

Oh, and regarding the tax issue, the reason why many people I know say they will (and I should) vote for Mitt Romney, I would happily pay a few hundred or thousand more dollars per year to lower the debt, make sure our infrastructure is adequately maintained, help our children and grandchildren receive a decent education, make sure everyone has healthcare, support agencies like FEMA, and make sure those pesky "government employees," i.e., firefighters, police officers, teachers, who protect us and keep us safe and educate our children (respectively) and help our economy to grow, keep their jobs.