Happy Thanksgiving.  What are you thankful for?  I am spending the day today with a woman I took to her high school senior prom.  I’m thankful for the fact that I’ve spent about sixteen thousand days with her so far.

We’ve all heard about Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and many people know Sarah Hale campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday beginning in the 1840’s.  Did you know it didn’t become a national holiday  by law until 1941?  Before that, Presidents issued proclamations.  I thought you might enjoy President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1863.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Things I Know

  • George Pataki was on MSNBC this morning.  It sure sounded like the kickoff of his presidential campaign.  The man hasn’t been Governor of New York for four years, but he can still dance around a question with the best of them.  In my opinion Governor Pataki is not nearly conservative enough to win early Republican presidential primaries.

  • Mike Barnacle, TV commentator and newspaper columnist, asked today if you’d rather be felt up or blown up.  Well, the answer is obvious, but still, when I was a kid, Mike, neither one was a choice at the airport.  So, civilization is in decline.

  • The last time I took an airplane, I wanted to buy something useless from Sky Mall.  The next time will probably be because I’m very, very lonely.

  • At the American Music Awards, Justin Bieber said “We’re all here because of Michael Jackson.”  Uh, no, Justin.  You may be here because of Michael Jackson, but my kids are here because of the Flamingos and the Moonglows.  I can’t ask my folks, both of whom are deceased, but I believe I’m here because of Vaughn Monroe.

  • I am now three years older than my father ever was.

  • One of my adult children bought me a Rat Fink T-shirt for my birthday.  I love it.  But the only place I ever get any reaction when I wear it is California.

  • I spent a good part of today raking leaves in my back yard.  I bet that even though I’ve done that, next summer my backyard will still be fungus central for my roses and lilacs.

  • One of my friends had a colonoscopy.  I know it’s a bad pun and I love bad puns, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask him how everything came out.

  • While on vacation, we saw the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas.  We’ve also seen the Eiffel Tower at King’s Dominion amusement park in Virginia.  I hear there’s one in Paris France too.  Maybe it”s a franchise.

Room For Improvement

If you think your vote isn’t important, consider this:  in New York, three state senate seats and two congressional districts are still up for grabs and the election was three weeks ago.

One of the reasons for this is that when an election is very close, the absentee ballots, which are on paper, become very important and must be scrutinized and counted carefully.  Another reason it’s taking so long is that New York’s new voting system, using computers, isn’t anywhere near as modern as it could be.  Under the previous system, we had those old-fashioned, mechanical voting machines.  You pulled the handle and the curtain closed.  Then you pushed down a bunch of levers and the machine counted your vote mechanically.  When the polls closed, the people who supervise the polling places opened the machines and read the totals on the mechanical registers inside.  They wrote the numbers down and then telephoned the numbers to the board of elections.  Later, the machines were transported to the Board of elections in case there were irregularities.  One way discrepancies arose is that someone writing down the numbers at the polling place, or at the board of elections might transpose the numbers.

Political party committeemen also called or took the numbers to each party’s election headquarters. 

Except for absentee ballots, and emergency ballots where there were problems, the old mechanical system didn’t have any paper ballots.  The new system is computerized.  Do you vote on the computer?  No; of course not.  Everyone now votes on a paper ballot.  The paper ballots then get scanned into the computer.  Computers, we’ve all been told, are supposed to eliminate paper.  That isn’t always so, especially in this case.  In addition to everyone using a paper ballot now, local boards of elections are required by state law to print far more ballots than anyone reasonably expects them to use.  This has got to cost millions of extra dollars statewide.  There isn’t a lot of privacy under the new system either.  There’s no curtain you get to vote behind, for instance.  Also, the paper ballots have to be preserved in case there’s a problem.  

Do the computers in the polling places tally the votes?  Yes, they do.  Do the computers report the results to the board of elections electronically?  No; of course not.  The same hand-written reports used under the old system are still the way the elections results get reported.  So the same errors can be introduced in the same ways.

With appropriate security, I suppose it’s now possible to report the results electronically and tally them electronically too.  Then, the results could be displayed in real time on the board of elections website and anyone could log on at any moment to see the progress of the voting once the polls close.  In New York, the polls close at 9:00 PM and with appropriate security we ought to know the results in almost all elections statewide, before midnight.

Couldn’t someone highjack an election by hacking some computer somewhere?  I suppose so, but these days computer security is good enough that multi-national corporations and individuals like you and me trust our money to the computerized banking system. 

One reason people don’t trust government is because they think whatever the government tries to improve will take longer and cost more than it did before.  With respect to our new voting system, it appears they’re right.  If there’s one thing New York’s new voting system has in abundance, other than paper ballots of course, it’s room for improvement.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • More than 1,000 people in Haiti have died in an outbreak of cholera which has hospitalized over 14,000 people.  There are half a million people in Haiti who are homeless since last winter’s earthquake.  Many of them live in refugee camps with little or no clean water and little or no way to handle the sewage.  That’s a recipe for a public health disaster if ever I heard of one.  The US has yet to allocate as many resources as it might because the Haitian government is incredibly corrupt, so a lot of the money wouldn’t go where needed.  It kind of makes you wish you could relocate the entire country, doesn’t it?  Can anything really be done to help Haiti?
  • According to the website of the British newspaper “The Guardian,” Paul and Rachel Chandler ‘free and safe’, say officials in Somalia after spending more than one year in captivity.”  I’m happy the Chandlers are safe, but because of the incredible lawlessness there, I didn’t think they had officials in Somalia, did you?
  • Does this seem strange to you?  Every radio station I ever worked at had a general manager; not one radio station I ever worked at employed even a single general.
  • If we lose an hour in the Spring and get it back in the Fall, without any interest at all, how exactly does daylight saving time save anything?
  • Have you seen the TV spot for  If they’ve invented time travel, I think they should come right out and say so.  Don’t you?  It’s either that or their advertising agency doesn’t understand math very well and that’s not a good thing for a technical company.  One of the actors in the commercial says that has increased the speed of her computer by 100 to 150%.  If your speed increases 100% from what it was before, that means it now takes 100% less time than it once did or no time at all.  If it increases 150%, it takes less than no time; you’ve invented time travel!  Am I missing something?
  • Why would anyone want a Labrador Retriever?  In the first place, how could the dog bring Labrador here, and secondly, if it did, what the heck would you do with it?

Things I Know

  • The Rockettes’ annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall begins today.  I guess that really kicks off the holiday season.

  • The Aston Martin DB5 from the James Bond movies sold at auction for $4 million.  You know, it’s the one with the ejector seat and all the cool weapons.  Since I don’t have $4 million, I’m trying to figure out how to install missiles and machine guns on my 1991 Corolla. 

  • I took two long airplane trips in the last week.  I didn’t want to go anywhere, but I had an overwhelming desire to buy something useless from Sky Mall.  Then I found out that Sky Mall has a website.

  • They have Mexican Coca Cola thats made with sugar, not corn syrup.  I knew that.  My son says hes had some and he prefers it.  I learned in Las Vegas at an Albertson’s supermarket that they also have Mexican Pepsi like that.  The bottles are shaped differently too.  I just didn’t try it.

  • The day they allow people to chat on cell phones while the airliners are in the air will be the same day that cell-phone suppositories come into universal use.

  • It seems odd to me that there’s at least one reality TV show that takes place in Las Vegas.

  • I’m not going to give away the ending, but in the “Cirque Du Soleil Zumanity” show, they have a contortionist who can do pushups while on his back.  Just watching the guy made me think I’d need another shoulder operation and I’ve already had three.

  • Somebody needs a dictionary.  The top ten floors in the hotel where I stayed are labeled penthouses.

  • To be tourist friendly, the Las Vegas strip area could stand a few more street signs.  One thing I’d like to know is which streets cross Las Vegas Blvd at street level and which ones go over or under it.  Another, is that all the properties should have their building address displayed.  I can find the casinos without building numbers.  It’s locating stores, restaurants, etc. that’s a problem.

  • The big, destination resort casinos on the Las Vegas strip have so many things, but I couldn’t find one with an indoor pool.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • He was so dominant during the playoffs leading up to the World Series that I have to ask, what happened to Cliff Lee?

  • Did you vote yet?

  • Why are people cynical about elections?  Do you think it might be because everyone who ever ran for office promised to fight for lower taxes and people’s taxes hardly ever go down?

  • Did you see John Stewart’s rally to restore sanity?  His closing speech raised a serious question:  What’s worse, the light at the end of the tunnel is an on-coming train, or the light at the end of the tunnel is just New Jersey?

  • Why is there a Secretary of the Interior, but no Secretary of the Exterior?

  • Pontiac is no more.  GM’s franchise agreements with Pontiac dealers expired on November 1.  Who’s going to build excitement now? 

  • My car has something called a stability control.  Why would I want to control stability?  It’s instability I should be trying to control, isn’t it?