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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

McGilicudy Tricks the Tooth Fairy - Part II
by Chuck & Victor

Copyright © 1995, 2006 by Chuck Nugent, Victor Nugent & David Delgadillo

Continued from Monday...

As darkness settled over the world the tooth fairies flew out in all directions from their castle. They checked each little sleeping boy, girl and leprechaun and, when they noticed a tooth missing, checked under their pillow. If the fairy found a tooth under the pillow they would use their magic to turn it into a dollar bill.

Now there was a new fairy assigned to the area where McGilicudy lived and when she checked McGilicudy she fell for his trick. A more experienced fairy would have double checked - especially when dealing with a mischievous leprechaun, like McGilicudy. But she did not check. She simply performed her magic and turned the soap chip into a dollar.

Now Tooth Fairies have been given their special magic on the condition that it only be used to change teeth into dollars. The monetary authorities have strictly forbidden them to change anything else into money. So, when this fairy changed McGilicudy's soap chip into a dollar, the monetary authorities immediately began to withdraw her Life Space. The poor fairy barely had the strength to make it back to the castle. The other fairies didn't want to see her die and they pleaded with the authorities to spare her as she was obviously the victim of a trick.

The monetary authorities finally agreed to spare her only on the condition that the other fairies find and punish the trickster before sundown. It didn't take them long to find McGilicudy and discover that he had used the old licorice trick on the fairy.

When they caught up with McGilicudy he was at the store ready to pay for Lord Tubac. As he handed over his eight dollars the fairies changed one of them back into a soap chip. The clerk told him that he was a dollar short and returned his seven dollars and soap chip. Poor McGilicudy was so sad - but at least he still had a bigger collection of Space Rangers than any of the other leprechauns.

But the fairies were not done punishing McGilicudy. He packed all of his Space Rangers and his tooth brush and headed over to Sean's. But as he headed over to Sean's, the fairies changed all but one of his Space Rangers into bars of soap. When all the leprechauns went to Sean's room after supper to play,

McGilicudy proudly dumped out his Space Ranger collection. Despite the fact that he didn't have Lord Tubac, McGilicudy still knew that the others would all compete to join his team which was the best. But, instead of wanting to join his team they all laughed at the pile of soap bars that fell out of his bag. Poor McGilicudy, instead of the biggest and best force of Space Rangers, he now had one old ranger - and ten bars of soap. The one saving feature was that Sean, being McGilicudy's best and most loyal friend, let McGilicudy's ranger join his forces and shared his rangers with McGilicudy.

But McGilicudy learned that cheating does not pay and from that day on he never tried to cheat anyone, especially Tooth Fairies, again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tiny Steps Weight Loss Tips
by Chuck

The new Snapple® ad showing a young woman starting her New Year's resolution to begin a diet and exercise program with the small steps of switching from soda to Snapple® for the start of the diet part and doing a turn in the revolving door to the gym rather than just walking past the gym got me to thinking about other small steps one could take. Getting more exercise and losing a couple of pounds is one of my goals for this year but, like everyone else, getting started is the difficult part.

Here are some ideas which I have started using. I doubt that I will lose any weight with these (I also doubt the Snapple® lady will lose any either) BUT, these tactics should help avoid ADDING more weight.

As Dr. VanGrafland, our family doctor when I was a child, used to advise, diet by reducing the size of the portions you eat rather than eliminating whole classes of food.

Exercise your upper body muscles by pushing yourself away from the table at the end of a meal rather than sitting and continuing to munch.

Take the stairs, rather than the elevator, to go from one floor to another at work.

Instead of sitting in your car in a crowded parking lot waiting for a person in a spot near the store to load their parcels, load their kids, find their keys, tune the radio, etc., pull into one of the many spots located further away from the entrance. You will not only get into the store faster but will also get some exercise.

Walk PAST rather than TO the refrigerator.

While waiting in the check out line at the grocery store, bring yourself up to date on the latest Hollywood scandals and alien abductions by reading the covers of the tabloids rather than checking out the deals on candy bars.

Instead of sitting down to put on your socks or tie your shoes, stand up and balance on one foot to do this.

If you like sweets, as I do, but find it difficult not to eat them when they are available, as I do, don't keep them on hand at home or work. In my case, if it is there I will eat it when I have the urge but I won't take the time to run to the store to buy the item every time I want it.

If you find it difficult to avoid the candy machine at work, make it a point not to keep any money in denominations lower than $10 bills in your wallet – vending machines will usually accept denominations up to $5. Limiting yourself to $10 and higher bills will make it more difficult to give in and buy that candy bar.

Good Luck!

Monday, January 23, 2006

MCGILICUDY Tricks The Tooth Fairy - Part I
by Chuck & Victor

Copyright © 1995, 2006 by Chuck Nugent, Victor Nugent & David Delgadillo

In Leprechaun Land the little leprechauns are much like little children everywhere. Like other little children, the little leprechauns like toys and all of them have their own toy collection. Sean and McGilicudy were no exception and they liked to collect Space Rangers. McGilicudy, of course, had the biggest and best collection. He was proud of his collection and he especially liked the envious looks he got from the other leprechauns when he showed off his collection which he did all the time.

One day after school Sean told all his friends that his parents had agreed that he could invite his friends over to spend the night on Saturday and that each one could bring their Space Ranger collections. They could then spend all night (at least until Sean's parents turned out the lights) having their vast army of Space Rangers defend Sean's bedroom from assorted space creatures.

McGilicudy was very excited and was eager to bring his collection which included all but one of the Space Ranger figures. The only one he was missing, and it was the newest and best Space Ranger, was Lord Tubac Supreme Commander of the Universal Forces of Good. If he could get Lord Tubac in his collection then all of the other leprechauns' Space Rangers would have to obey his Ranger.

He had been saving his money and would be able to buy Lord Tubac soon. In fact he just got a coupon for one dollar off the price of Lord Tubac and, with his allowance, would be just two dollars short of the eight dollars needed to purchase Lord Tubac on Saturday. McGilicudy worked hard all week looking for money on the ground and doing jobs for his parents and neighbors. By Friday he had saved up a total of six dollars and would get his dollar allowance on Saturday. But that would leave him one dollar short. He desperately wanted one more dollar so that he could buy Lord Tubac before going to Sean's on Saturday night. Try as he might he could not find any more jobs to make the money by Saturday.

His only hope lay in a tooth that was just little loose. If he could get that tooth out by Friday night he could put it under his pillow and the Tooth Fairy would change it into a dollar by Saturday morning. There was just one problem the tooth was just a little loose and would take a couple weeks before it would fall out. Poor McGilicudy. He was so disappointed and dejected that he could hardly pay attention in school. Even when his favorite time of the day arrived - story time - he was so sad that he could hardly hear the story. But then in the middle of the story the word "Tooth Fairy" caught his attention. He didn't hear much of the story but he did hear the part about some big animal tricking the tooth fairy by covering up a tooth with a piece of licorice and then making a fake tooth out of soap and hiding it under his pillow.

McGilicudy immediately began scheming. As soon as school was out he ran to his friend Shamus and talked Shamus into loaning him a piece of licorice. McGilicudy then ran home and chipped a piece off the bar of soap in the bathroom. He then went outside and rubbed the soap chip on the sidewalk until he had it in the shape of a tooth. After brushing his teeth for the night, McGilicudy carefully covered his loose tooth with the licorice. He did such a good job that when he looked in the mirror the tooth appeared to be gone. After carefully placing the soap chip under his pillow, he quickly drifted off to sleep.

To be Continued...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Armagha's Last Trick - Part II

Continued from Wednesday January 18, 2006

Copyright (C) 1995 by Chuck Nugent, Victor Nugent & David Delgadillo

The next morning Sean got up and got dressed for school. He had trouble with his shoes but he finally got them on - and then fell flat on his face when he started to walk. Then he noticed that the laces were tied together. He fixed the shoes and then went down to breakfast. As usual, he put a big spoonful of sugar on his cereal while his little sister said grace. As soon as his sister finished he shoved a big spoon of cereal into his mouth - and immediately spit the salty mess out! His father, being a college graduate, immediately realized what had happened and proceeded to pass the salt shaker around so the others could put sugar on their cereal.

But Sean had had enough and went out to get his bike to go to school. The bike was gone, but by now he suspected that Armagha had been playing tricks so he looked up in the tree and saw his bike. He climbed the tree, got the bike down and pumped air back into the tires.
He then met McGillicudy and both had to rush to get to school on time.
They agreed that Armagha was responsible for this and vowed to spend all recess planning appropriate retaliation. Meanwhile, Armagha accompanied her Father to the Principal's office where her Father signed the papers needed to transfer her out of the school. When her father finished, Armagha looked at the clock and saw that it was almost nine. Armagha turned to the Principal and asked if she could quickly visit her classroom to say good-by to her friends. The Principal thought that would be a good idea and gave permission.

When Armagha walked into the room Sean and McGillicudy glared at her to let her know that they knew she was responsible for the tricks and that they would get back at her. But Armagha just smiled demurely and told the class how sad she was to be leaving. Sean and McGillicudy suddenly realized that she had timed her tricks in a way that they couldn't get back to her.

Armagha kept an eye on the clock and started to leave just as it changed to nine o'clock. As the clock turned to nine the magic crystals in their pants turned to ice cubes and both jumped up in surprise! The rest of the class thought they were standing up to say good-by to Armagha so they stood to say good-by also.

As Armagha left the room, the last thing she saw was Sean and McGillicudy each ready to explode with anger at her trick and, at the same time squirming in agony with the ice cubes in their pants. She was so happy with her perfectly executed trick that she laughed all the way to her new home on the other side of Leprechanland.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

iPods® for First Aid
by Chuck

Answer YES or NO to the following questions:

1 Have you ever taken a First Aid Training Course?

2 Have you ever had to use your knowledge of First Aid in an emergency situation?

3 Do you own an iPod®?

In your mind you are probably asking What does an iPod® have to do with first aid? Well, if you are like most people, you have probably taken one or more first aid courses. You have also, fortunately, never had to use the first aid knowledge and skills acquired in order to save a life. Finally, unless you work in a profession where the chances of having to use first aid are high and you are required to continually review first aid procedures, it is more than likely that you are unsure as to whether you could remember what to do in an emergency situation. Here is where the iPod® comes in.

iPods® are rapidly becoming very popular due to their small size, easy portability, high quality output and the very large quantities of music and other files that can be stored on them. As the price continues to fall and the amount and variety of music and other files increases more and more people will acquire and use them. Let's face it, we need something to do while we wait in line at the Motor Vehicle Dept., the doctor's office, the dentist's office, the airport, etc.

So, we have need to have immediate access to First Aid information but, as chance of our having to use the information is, fortunately, very slim, it is not practical to lug a first aid manual with us. Enter the iPod®. It is light, portable and becoming a must have gadget to carry with us. Why not use a small amount of vast storage capacity of the iPod® to store basic first aid information?

This is exactly what an outfit called FIRSTAIDPOD.COM has done. If you go to their website at you will find free downloads of podcast first aid information along with free first aid eBook downloads.

Obviously, and the site makes this very clear, the podcast and eBook downloads are NOT substitutes for first aid training which is usually available free from the local Red Cross and other agencies as well as from employers as part of their professional development training. They are also not a substitute for common sense. If another person at the scene has more training than you have then stand back and loan them your iPod®.

But, on the off chance that you encounter a situation where you have to administer first aid, having information at your fingertips via your iPod® to supplement what you remember from training could be of great help to you and a benefit to the victim.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

ARMAGHA'S Last Trick- Part I

Copyright (C) 1995 by Chuck Nugent, Victor Nugent & David Delgadillo

It had been a while since the little faire Armagha had tricked her Leprechan friends, Sean and McGillicudy. After Sean and McGillicudy had put her in a box and mailed her to Abu Dubi in retaliation for her loading them on a food cart and shipping them on a plane to New York during their class'es field trip to the airport she had been a little reluctant to play another trick on them.

But then her father came home and announced that he was being transferred to a new job on the other side of Leprechanland. That set Armagha to thinking. The other side of Leprechanland was too far away for McGillicudy and Sean to play a trick on her. So, if she could think of a trick and time it so that she left right after - well, she just might be able to avoid their retaliatory trick.

Armagha thought and thought, but as the day of departure drew near she had no ideas. Then her father announced that the movers would come on Thursday and move everything out of their house. The family would spend the night in a hotel and first thing Friday morning her father would take her to school to check her out and they would leave town immediately. Armagha made her plans and waited for Thursday night.

After the movers had moved everything out of their house, Armagha's father locked the door and the family went to the hotel where they had dinner and went to bed. As soon as everyone was asleep, Armagha slipped out of bed and flew directly to Sean's house. Sean was sound asleep as she quickly tied his shoes together. Then she went downstairs and put salt in the sugar bowl and the sugar in the salt shaker. After that she went outside, took the air out of Sean's bike tires and, used her magic to put his bicycle up in the tree. The final trick of this naughty faire was to put some of her father's magic ice crystals in the underwear Sean was to wear tomorrow. She said the magic words she had copied from her Father's book and left. The magic words would cause the invisible crystals to turn into ice cubes at exactly nine o'clock the next morning.

Armagha then flew to McGillicudy's house and did the same tricks to him. Then she flew back to the hotel and went to bed.

To be continued on Friday January 20, 2006

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Benjamin Franklin's 300th Birthday
by Chuck

Today is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin. The tenth son of a Boston soap and candle maker, Franklin was apprenticed, at age 12, to his brother James' newspaper, the New England Courant, where he learned the printing trade. At seventeen, following a dispute with his brother, Franklin ran away and fled to Philadelphia. It was in Philadelphia where he rose to fame and dazzled the world with his wit, inventions, scientific discoveries and public service. The list of Franklin's accomplishments in the eighty-four years between his birth in 1706 and death in 1790 and is too huge to enumerate here.

Rather that list the details of Franklin's life or his numerous accomplishments, let's take a look at Franklin through the eyes of Franklin's fictional Poor Richard the namesake of Franklin's famous Poor Richard's Almanac. In the Almanac, which was written and published annually by Franklin from 1732 to 1757, Franklin dispenses numerous one and two line tips for better living. The almanacs contained other information, but are best remembered for these short one or two line bits of wisdom. Poor Richard's Almanac was an immediate success and made Franklin known throughout British North America.

Most, if not all, of these sayings were not original but copied from others going all the way back to the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. On the one hand they are common sense guidelines for good living that should be obvious and known by everyone. On the other hand, they are so basic and obvious that most people don't think about them which is why the majority of the human race, since the time of Adam and Eve, continues to make the same stupid choices and mistakes generation after generation.

Because of these sayings and Franklin's own long and successful life, he is often held up as an example of the wisdom of living by these guidelines. Franklin did probably try, and try is the operative word, to live by them. More than likely, Franklin used them as a daily reminder in his life-long struggle to do the right thing. Like the rest of us, Franklin's actions did not always live up to these ideals. There were periods in his life when he squandered his money, over indulged in food and drink and enjoyed the favors of other women (his eldest son, William was the product of a illicit union before his marriage). But struggled on and kept trying to follow these bits of wisdom and, looking at his life as a whole, we see that he succeeded more than he failed. So, armed with the knowledge that the advice from Franklin's Poor Richard is not only good but also helped Franklin in his struggle to do what was right, we will proceed.

Since it is the New Year and the number one resolution for most people these days is stick to a diet and lose weight we will take a look at Poor Richard's advice in this area first. You will note in these instructions, as in his instructions in other areas, Franklin stresses moderation rather than denial. Eating is for pleasure as well as nourishment but, done in excess, the pleasure is not only diminished but other problems result as well. The goal here is balance in daily activities.

Eat to live, and not live to eat.

To lengthen thy Life, lessen thy Meals.

A fat kitchen, a lean Will.

I saw few die of Hunger, of Eating 100000 .

Eat few Suppers, and you'll need few Medicines.

Excess in all other Things whatever, as well as in Meat and Drink, is also to be avoided.

Wouldst thou enjoy a long Life, a healthy Body, and a vigorous Mind, and be acquainted also with the wonderful Works of God? labour in the first place to bring thy Appetite into Subjection to Reason.

If thou art dull and heavy after Meat, it's a sign thou hast exceeded the due Measure; for Meat and Drink ought to refresh the Body, and make it cheerful, and not to dull and oppress it.

Money is the next category and one, A penny saved is a penny earned, that many associate with Franklin. Franklin followed many of these precepts and became wealthy. But he also went against the wisdom presented here at times in his life and lost (for example, on an early trip to London to gain further training in the printing trade he squandered his funds and was forced to return home broke). Here, Franklin is not only passing on the wisdom of the ages, but also has personally experienced both the benefits of following this advice (as evidenced by his success and fortune) and the consequences of ignoring it (as evidenced by some notable failures in his life). In an era where use of credit is widespread, savings small and people are stressed out by people trying to satisfy unlimited wants, it pays to pause and reflect on these sayings.

Buy what thou hast no need of and ere long thou shalt sell thy necessities.

If you know how to spend less than you get, you have the philosopher's stone.

If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some.

So much for industry, my friends, and attention to one's own business; but to these we must add frugality if we would make our industry more certainly successful. A man may, if he knows not how to save as he gets, keep his nose all his life to the grindstone, and die not worth a grout at last.

The use of money is all the advantage there is in having it.

There are three faithful friends - an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.

Time is money.

Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.

Ne'er take a wife till thou hast a house (& a fire) to put her in.
(In other words, don't get married until you can afford it. (NOTE: the (& a fire) refers to the ability to furnish the house with heat and light – and much more by today's standards. Franklin is obviously not suggesting that the wife be thrown into a fire).

He that buys by the penny, maintains not only himself, but other people.

Again, He that sells upon Credit, asks a Price for what he sells, equivalent to the Principal and Interest of his Money for the Time he is like to be kept out of it: therefore

- He that buys upon Credit, pays Interest for what he buys.

- And he that pays ready Money, might let that Money out to Use: so that

- He that possesses any Thing he has bought, pays Interest for the Use of it.

- Consider then, when you are tempted to buy any unnecessary Household stuff, or any superfluous thing, whether you will be willing to pay Interest , and Interest upon Interest for it as long as you live; and more if it grows worse by using.

Yet, in buying Goods, 'tis best to pay ready Money, because,

- He that sells upon Credit, expects to lose 5 per Cent by bad Debts; therefore he charges, on all he sells upon Credit, an Advance that shall make up that Deficiency.

- Those who pay for what they buy upon Credit, pay their Share of this Advance.

- He that pays ready Money, escapes or may escape that Charge.

If you would be wealthy think of saving as well as getting:
The Indies have not made Spain rich because her outgoes are
greater than her incomes.
(Here Franklin is referring to the vast wealth of gold and silver the Spanish government received from the Aztec and Inca treasures. However, their spending increased by more than the huge inflow of gold and silver causing the government to be in deficit.)

You may think, perhaps, that a little tea, or a little punch
now and then, diet a little more costly, clothes a little
finer, and a little more entertainment now and then can be no
great matter but remember what Poor Richard says "Many a little
makes a mickle; beware of little expense for a small leak will
sink a great ship."
(Note: mickle is an old English word meaning great or greatly)

A child and a fool imagine twenty shillings and twenty years can never be spent.

These last few relate to the proper attitude toward money and wealth. These are a variation on St. Paul's observation that the love of money is the root of all evil (note that St. Paul said that the love of money and not simply money is the root of all evil). Again, the emphasis is on balance in one's life.

He does not possess wealth; it possesses him.

He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.

Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Friday the Thirteenth Visit to El Tiradito
by Victor

Friday the Thirteenth has always been associated with superstition and bad luck. Whether it involves a black cat crossing your path, or walking under a ladder, there is something about it that creates irrational fear for many people throughout the world. Occasionally, these fears involve the supernatural. The story I have compiled for today is the story of El Tiradito, the castaway and sinner.

El Tiradito is an old shrine in Tucson, Arizona which is dedicated to an adulterer who was murdered by his lover’s husband. According to the official version of the story, El Tiradito was a young man named Juan Olivieras who lived in Arizona during the late 1800’s. He grew attracted to his mother-in-law who lived in what is now Downtown Tucson, and one day his lust led him to sleep with her.

However, this adulterated love wasn’t meant to last. One day, Juan’s father-in-law walked in on his unfaithful wife and Juan making love in their house. Hatred and rage soon engulfed the man as he watched his marriage get desecrated by his back stabbing son-in-law. Full of anger, the man grabbed a nearby axe and killed Juan.

After coming to terms with what he had done, the father-in-law fled south to Mexico. As for Juan, he was buried on the spot where he was murdered, in accordance with an old Mexican custom. A shrine was built over his grave, which is known today as the Wishing Shrine.

According to the legend, if you light a candle at the shrine and the candle stays lit until dawn, your wish will be answered. Many people pray for worldly possessions, which the shrine ignores. A prayer will usually be answered if it involves good health, forgiveness for a sinner, or finding love.

Unfortunately to the disappointment of many, a candle rarely stays lit. Some individuals have devoted many a night over the years praying at the shrine only to have their prayers ignored. This kind of rejection can destroy a person’s spirit. Despair can cause some people to do grave things.

According to the book Arizona Twilight Tales, by Jane Eppinga, there was once a woman named Amilia who was in love with a man named Juan Mario. One day, she discovered that Juan was married and had 3 children. Not sure of what to do, Amilia decided to pray at the shrine for Juan to leave his wife so that she could finally be with him. But her candles never lasted till sunrise.

Feeling frustrated, Amilia gave up after a while, and, in her despair, turned to the devil for help. She performed a voodoo ritual in which she took the remains of one of her old candles and formed it into the crude shape of a man. Then, after offering a prayer to the devil, stuck the effigy with needles and buried it. After realizing the grave consequences for her actions, Amilia abandoned the shrine and disappeared. Juan Mario was supposedly found dead of a heart attack soon after.

The superstitions and history surrounding this shrine have made it a very famous historical landmark, one definitely worth checking out if you have the time.

The shrine is located behind the parking lot of the El Minuto Cafe on Main St. just south of Cushing St. in Tucson.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Gelatin Cake Recipe
by Chuck and Victor

This recipe, with slight modifications, was obtained from a neighborhood child care provider affectionally known as "Grandma Wanda" by the children. She was one of the child care providers who took care of Victor and his brother, David, during the day when they were young and we were at work. She made this cake one day while our family was visiting her, and Victor liked and later asked me to ask her for the recipe. This was added to our recipe collection and is now made periodically by Victor. Enjoy!

2 Small Packages Black Cherry gelatin desert (Jello or store brand)
1 Small Package Orange gelatin desert (Jello or store brand)
1 Small Package Lime gelatin desert (Jello or store brand)

Mix each flavor separately, omitting ½ cup of water on each package.

Let them set overnight in shallow pans.

Cut into ¾ inch or 1 inch cubes.

2 Small Packages Lemon gelatin desert (Jello or store brand)
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 ½ Cups Pineapple Juice

Mix sugar & juice. Heat and mix in lemon gelatin desert (Jello or store brand). Chill in bowl until it begins to thicken.

Fold in 12 oz Cool Whip. Now fold in gelatin cubes & pour into bunt pan
or cake pan & chill for ½ a day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

by Chuck and Victor

Copyright © 1993, 2006 Charles J. & Victor L. Nugent

Once upon a time, when Sean the Leprechaun was a wee tike, he and
his Dad visited a tropical beach in Honduras. While they were on the
beach Sean saw a lady walking very erect and carrying a load of coconuts in the hat resting on her head. As she passed, bathers, sunning themselves on the beach, would call her over and buy one or two of her coconuts.

Upon seeing this, the wee little Sean pointed to the coconuts and
said excitedly, "Cocos Da! Cocos Da!" Seeing him the lady came over to them and his Dad brought two coconuts.

The lady removed two coconuts from her had and deftly sliced the top off the top of each coconut with her machete. Bending her knees while keeping her head and back perfectly straight, she handed one coconut to Sean and one to his Dad. While his father was paying the lady, Sean quickly dug into his coconut with his sand covered little fingers. Eagerly he scooped up the creamy meat and offered some to his Dad. His eager smile of anticipation was such that his Dad, setting aside sanitary concerns, graciously accepted the now gritty and slightly brownish treat.

Despite the look and feel of it in his mouth, The rich, creamy coconut meat tasted very good. Having sampled the first offering, his father was able to decline additional samples from the little tike. But that didn't matter as Sean eagerly drank the sweet milk and devoured the remaining meat - sand and all!

After consuming their little treat, they both strolled into the cool surf and continue d to splash and play in the waves.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Talking Dog

Here is a joke that I received in an email the other day. It is an old one in that it has been around for a while making the rounds of the workplace. People used to type things like this up, then photocopy them and pass them around to friends and co-workers. Now days they just email the story to their co-workers and friends who, in turn, forward the email to their list of friends. After a while not only has everyone seen it a dozen times or so but the header information from all the forwarding takes up a dozen or more pages in the email.

A guy is driving through Alabama and sees a sign in front of a house
that reads, "Talking Dog For Sale." He rings the bell to inquire and
the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard. The guy goes into the
backyard and sees a Labrador Retriever sitting there.

"You talk?" he asks.

"Yep," the Lab replies.

"So, what's your story?"

The Lab looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I
was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA
about my gift, and in no time at all they had me jetting from country
to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running."

"But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't
getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security wandering near suspicious
characters and listen in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was
awarded a batch of medals."

"I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired."

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for
the dog.

"Ten dollars," the guy says.

"Ten dollars? This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so

"Because he's a liar. He never did any of that stuff."

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Profitable Sunday Morning at The Tucson Home Show
by Chuck

View of the Show

This past Sunday morning my wife and I attended the Tucson Home Show at the Convention Center in Tucson. I normally don't go to these shows, but Victor had volunteered to manage a booth for the Ki Center Martial Arts, where he has been active for years, and had two free passes for us.

Victor in his booth

We got Victor to the Convention Center in time for the 9:30 opening of the show for the day. The parking lot was almost full when we arrived and I was surprised by the large number of visitors who were there at that time on a Sunday morning. We had intended to just take a quick look around and leave. However, we ended up spending almost four hours at the show which occupied both the ground floor exhibition hall and a large upstairs ballroom.

The thing that both surprised me and resulted in our spending so much time at the show were the large number of timeshare vendors. These vendors had large booths with big banners that read Register to Win a $500 Home Depot Gift Card or something similar. Having worked trade shows myself, I know that the purpose of these giveaways is to collect names and contact information in order to try to sell something later. One look at the entry form and I knew, without even reading the fine print, that they were collecting information for a timeshare solicitation. So, I backed off, but Bella, my wife, wanted to try for the prize so, after warning her about the telephone calls she would be receiving, I stood by as she signed up.

I have attended a number of timeshare presentations in the past mainly to get the free gift. But I also had a secondary objective and that was to explore and understand this market with the intent of eventually buying. Early last month, Bella and I attended one in Sedona, Arizona where we did purchase a one-week timeshare with which we are very satisfied.

As soon as Bella began filling out the contest entry form a sales rep came over and began trying to schedule an appointment. I tried to blow off the rep by saying that we recently purchased a timeshare and were not in the market for another at this time. However, rather than backing off, this only encouraged the rep to push harder for the appointment. When he promised a $175 gas gift card and a week's free stay at their resort in Hawaii, I accepted.

We then proceeded to fill out the contest entry form for three other timeshare companies where, in addition to a number of other freebies, which are nice but nothing I felt were worth investing a lot of time obtaining, I obtained promises of a $50 Costco gift card, a $100 Visa gift card, a $20 gas voucher, $10 in cash and 10,000 hotel rewards points (which can be used for airline fares, car rentals, etc. and don't expire). I did not have to negotiate for these, but rather let them give me their quick pitch and then choose the gifts I wanted from the list they presented to me. Since we are planning to vacation in Hawaii this summer using the one week timeshare that we have already purchased, the promise of an additional five days lodging for free was attractive. Since the gift cards can be used for things we normally purchase anyway, we can put what we would normally spend on these things away for our airfare to Hawaii.

Now, I will have to attend a 90 minute sales presentation at each one of these places and, I know from past experience, that they have very good sales reps who will make very attractive offers which will only be available if I purchase at the sales presentation. However, I will counter by pointing out that, first I have just purchased a time share and want to finish paying for that before I buy any more and, second, with two children in college and two more getting ready to go to college we do not feel we can afford an additional time share investment at this time.

I made it very clear to each sales rep that I am not ready to buy additional timeshares at this time for the reasons stated above. But they insisted that they wanted me to attend anyway. They stressed that there was no obligation and produced as many inducements as they could to get me to attend. Why?

First, the sales reps at the Home Show will receive a commission for every qualified prospect they register for a sales presentation. Whether I buy or not, they will receive their commission SO LONG AS I ACTUALLY ATTEND THE SALES PRESENTATION. Another sales rep will give the presentation and that sales rep will receive a commission only if I make a purchase.

Second, the companies know that many of the people attending these sales presentations will not purchase. But they give away lavish gifts anyway, because even when people do not make a purchase, they usually come away sufficiently impressed with the concept to both begin thinking about it for the future and, more importantly for the company, telling their friends about it. At these presentations, whether you buy or not, they not only ask you to tell your friends but also ask for names and addresses of friends and family whom they can solicit for future sales presentations.

Third, the timeshare industry is not that well known and information about it cannot be easily distilled conveyed in a 30 second TV spot. Most people are not going to research and educate themselves about it on their own and, in the absence of knowledge about the product, people are not going to buy it. So these companies need the opportunity to educate the public about the industry.

Finally, while the incentives they provide are valuable to me, I am fairly certain that the time share companies are not paying any where near the price that I would have to pay for the same item. Obviously, a five day stay at a luxury resort in Hawaii would cost me $200 or more per night. But, so long as there are vacancies (which there are, otherwise the companies would not be selling timeshare interests for the resort) it will cost them next to nothing to let my family an me use the room in exchange for the opportunity to sell me a ten or twenty thousand dollar timeshare. Similarly with the gift cards. A $175 gas card would cost me, as an individual, $175. But not only would the timeshare company get a discount for purchasing in bulk but would also probably reduce the price further by paying part in cash and part in rooms and conference facilities. Again, if they are not fully booked, the cost to the resort would be next to nothing but the Mobil Corporation or Costco Corporation could use them for sales and other meetings as well as give them away as incentives to employees. It is a win-win for everyone.

Model Train Club Exhibit

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Arrival of the Magi
by Chuck

The following is the account of the arrival of the Magi as recorded in Chapter 2 of the Gospel of St. Matthew. (Source: "The New American Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, pages 1049 - 1050)

The Astrologers. After Jesus' birth in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of King Herod, astrologers from the east arrived one day in Jerusalem inquiring "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage." At this news King Herod became greatly disturbed, and with him all Jerusalem. Summoning all of the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. "In Bethlehem of Judea," they informed him. "Here is what the prophet has written:

'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the
princes of Judah,
since from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

Herod called the astrologers aside and found out from them the exact time of the star's appearance. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, after having instructed them: "Go and get detailed information about the child. When you have found him, report it to me so that I may go and offer him homage too."

After their audience with the king, they set out. The star which they had observed at its rising went ahead of them until it came to a standstill over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house, found the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their coffers and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

They received a message in a dream not to return to Herod, so they went back to their own country by another route.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

On the TwelfthDay of Christmas...Twelve Drummers Drumming
by Chuck

Christmas E-Cards

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

We have now reached the end of the song and have arrived at the last day of Christmas known as Twelfth Night on which the partying and feasting continued. Twelfth Night is the night before Epiphany which is the day the three Wise Men, also known as the Three Kings or Magi, from the East arrived in Bethlehem bringing gifts to the Christ child.

By the Middle Ages the drum, which was probably introduced to Europe from the Middle East by knights returning from the Crusades, had become a common instrument. Among its other uses was to combine it with the trumpet and used to get people's attention when making a big announcement such as the arrival of the king or the reading of an important proclamation. In this case the drum was used to announce the serving of the next course of the feast.

Among other customs in England as well as France and other West European countries was the making and serving of a special Kings' Cake for this twelfth night celebration (the practice of making and serving a special King's Cake survives today in the U.S. as a part of the Mardi Gras celebrations.

Our song and twelve day celebration has come to an end. But it is not the end of the season. For tomorrow is the Feast of the Epiphany, another religious holiday associated with Christmas. While mainly just a religious observance in the U.S., Epiphany is also a day of both religious and secular celebrating in other countries.

While the solstice has passed and the days are slowly beginning to lengthen again, winter still holds the land in its grip. The work of the peasant and noble is light as it is still too early to begin planting and the cold and continuing short days remain an incentive to stay inside and party. So the party season will continue, with Epiphany tomorrow and continuing through the season of Mardi Gras up until Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season.

Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...Eleven Pipers Piping
by Chuck

Christmas E-Cards

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

At the big feasts held during the holiday celebrations the guests were often entertained by musicians, dancers, jugglers, etc. as well as singing and dancing themselves. Bagpipes and their younger cousins the musette (an instrument similar to a bagpipe but the air for the sound came from bellows rather than blowing into the instrument) were a popular instrument for dance music. While we usually associate the bagpipe with Scotland, they were also a common instrument in France as well. Since Queen Elizabeth I was succeeded by the Stuart kings of Scotland, bagpipes and other aspects of Scots culture were common among the upper classes in England as were elements of French culture due to intermarriage of the English and French nobility.

The pipers referred to in the song would be the professional bagpipe musicians hired to entertain the guests with their music and provide music for dancing.

Today, I am presenting a humorous take off on The Twelve Days of Christmas. This song obviously lends itself to gags like this and the invention of the photocopier and later the computer make it easy to produce and distribute things like this. They are especially popular in the workplace where access to copiers and computers make them easy to create and reproduce as well as pass around to the large number of people at the work site.

I think I first saw one of these gag versions of the song when I was in high school and my uncle brought a copy from work to a family gathering. This one was tame enough for both mixed company as well as older children (younger ones wouldn't have understood it). Later, when I entered the workforce versions of this would appear in the office at Christmas time Рsome were rather tame like this one while others were more risqu̩. Of course with the advent of the computer, email and the Internet these are quite common Рif you want to see more versions just go to the Internet and do a search.

In addition to providing a humorous interlude in the series this is also a good example of how the song could have developed in the days before the printing press. Unlike today, when there is basically one version of the carol, there were many. The carol varied from village to village and grew and changed as it was passed from one village or group of people to the next. Some changes were simple misinterpretations of what someone heard in another village while others took liberties and made changes to what had been passed on. In an environment like this it is easy to see how the carol could evolve and grow.

Here is one version of a humorous take off on The Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

December 25, 2004

Dearest Tim:

I went to the door today and the postman delivered a partridge in a pear tree. What a thoroughly
delightful gift. I couldn't have been more surprised.

With deepest love and devotion,


On the second day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

December 26, 2004

Dearest Tim:

Today the postman brought your very sweet gift. Just imagine two turtle doves. I'm just delighted at your very thoughtful gift. They are just adorable.

All my love,


On the third day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

December 27, 2004

Dearest Tim:

Oh! Aren't you the extravagant one. Now I really must protest. I don't deserve such generosity. Three French hens. They are just darling but I must insist, you've been too kind.



On the fourth day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

December 28, 2004

Dear Tim,

Today the postman delivered 4 calling birds. Now really, they are beautiful but don't you think enough is enough. You're being too romantic.



On the fifth day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

December 29, 2004

Dearest Tim:

What a surprise. Today the postman delivered 5 golden rings; one for every finger. You're just impossible, but I love it. Frankly, all those birds squawking were beginning to get on my nerves.

All my love,


On the sixth day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

December 30, 2004

Dear Tim:

When I opened the door there were actually 6 geese a-laying on my front steps. So, you're back to the birds again, huh? Those geese are huge. Where will I ever keep them? The neighbors are complaining and I can't sleep through the racket.

Please stop.



On the seventh day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

December 31, 2004


What's with you and those crazy birds? 7 swans a-swimming. What kind of terrible joke is this? There're bird droppings all over the house, and they never stop with the racket. I can't sleep at night and I'm a nervous wreck. It's not funny. So stop sending me all these birds!



On the eighth day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

January 1, 2005

O.K. Buster:

I think I prefer the birds. What am I going to do with 8 maids a-milking? It's not enough with all those birds and 8 maids a-milking, but they had to bring their cows! There is manure all over the lawn and I can't move in my own house. Just lay off me, wise guy.


On the ninth day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

January 2, 2005

Hey! Stupid,

What are you? Some kind of sadist? Now there's 9 ladies dancing. They have been dancing constantly since they arrived yesterday morning. The house is in total chaos. They cows are getting upset,
and they're stepping all over those screeching birds. What am I going to do? The neighbors have
started a petition to evict me.

You'll get yours,


On the tenth day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

January 3, 2005

You Rotten Sadist,

Now there's 10 lords a-leaping. What little was left of my house has now been smashed as the lords have been leaping everywhere as they chase after the maids and ladies. Worse, the cows can't sleep and they've got the diarrhea. My living room is a river of manure. The commissioner of Buildings has subpoenaed me to give cause why this building shouldn't be condemned.

I'm sending the police after you.

One who means it.

On the eleventh day of Christmas...

Ms Sarah FitzPatrick
131 Love Lane
Why, AZ

January 4, 2005

Listen! Looser,

Now there's eleven pipers piping. And they never stop piping except when they're chasing those maids or dancing girls. The cows are getting very upset and are sounding worse than the birds ever did. What am I going to do? There is a petition going around to evict me from the neighborhood.

I hope you're satisfied, you rotten, vicious swine.

Your sworn enemy,


On the twelfth day of Christmas...

Law Offices
Sue, Pillage, and Plunder
303 Knave Street
Los Angeles, CA

January 5, 2005

Dear Sir:

This is to acknowledge your latest gift of 12 drummers drumming which you have seen fit to inflict on our client, Ms Sarah FitzPatrick. The destruction, of course, was total. All correspondence should come to our attention. If you should attempt to reach Ms FitzPatrick at Happy Dale Sanitarium, the attendants have instructions to shoot you on sight. With this letter please find attached warrant for your arrest.


Sue, Pillage, and Plunder

Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...Ten Lords A-Leaping
by Chuck

Christmas E-Cards

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

The ten lords a-leaping most likely refers to leaping dancers (called morris dancers) who performed leaping dances between courses at feasts. This type of wild and strenuous dancing probably evolved from more ancient war and fertility dances and would have been a popular form of entertainment for this type of function. Unlike the nine ladies dancing in the previous stanza where the dancers appear to have been guests dancing for enjoyment, these were professional dancers brought in to entertain the guests while they dined.

In yesterday's entry I made reference to an article by Fr. Hal Stockert, a Roman Catholic priest and author, in which he claimed that evidence he found indicated that The Twelve Days of Christmas had been created by Catholics in England as a code to secretly educate their children in the Roman Catholic faith during a period when the practice of the Catholic religion was illegal in Britain. While I am still trying to find Fr. Stockert's original article as well as determine whether it was originally published in print, on the Internet or both, basic facts of Fr. Stockert's thesis are outlined below.

While doing research in the British Isles in late 1970s or early 1980s on a topic totally unrelated to The Twelve Days of Christmas, Fr. Stockert came across references in old letters and reports to parent's using the The Twelve Days of Christmas as a code to teach their children the basic tenants of the Catholic faith. In Origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas Fr. Stockert states that these references to the carol were made in passing in the letters and articles and were not the main topic of the letters or reports. He also states that the references he found were in letters and reports by Irish Jesuit priests to their superiors in France. Fr. Stockert admits that he did not follow up and research the topic but, finding the information interesting, he made notes of these entries. After he completed and published his original research, he wrote and published a short article about The Twelve Days of Christmas being a code used by persecuted Catholics in England and included historical background about the laws and official persecutions (including executions) of Catholics in England during this period. By his own admission, the article was based on bits of information that was not thoroughly researched and was presented solely as an item of interest or suggestion for future research by someone else.

Fans and critics alike have jumped on this and thousands of web pages have been devoted to discussing, praising and criticizing the idea of religious symbolism in The Twelve Days of Christmas. Fr. Stockert has been harshly criticized for sloppy research and not having the facts to back up his claims. This charge of poor research is reinforced by the fact that Fr. Stockert's written notes on this subject were, according to Fr. Stockert, destroyed when a water pipe in the ceiling above the room containing the notes broke and the room flooded. Further, information he originally published on the Internet was posted on a message board of some sort in a format that is no longer readable. Fate has thus made it appear that his article was pure fiction.

While I reject Fr. Stockert's thesis for reasons explained below, I believe that he is a very good scholar and that his intentions were to provide a thought provoking piece for someone else to research more fully and prove or disprove. As to his notes, I believe that they existed and were destroyed as he described – throughout history tons of documents have been lost due to fire, flood, crumbled with age, etc. As to the notes or information published on-line by Fr. Stockert in 1982 these probably are unreadable. The Internet itself did not become available to the public (it was originally a military project) until the first Bush Administration, following the end of the Cold War, made it available to the general public. The World Wide Web, which most of think of when we hear the term Internet was not created until 1994. Prior to the Internet there existed bulletin boards and various other message type boards on line which information could be exchanged and posted. While the boards still exist the computer code used to generate them is often unreadable as are many things created with older DOS based word processors. The rapid development of computer technology has left behind a large amount of material that currently is not readable using present day computers and software.

From its earliest years to the present the Church has often been forced to operate underground in order to survive. Pope John Paul II ran such a church in Poland prior to his ascent to the Papacy. Other religions have had to operate underground as well. In the Southwestern U.S. there is the four hundred year old story of the Crypto-Jews (also known as Marranos, Conversos and hidden Jews) who had been forcefully converted to Catholicism in Spain during the Inquisition but had secretly kept their Jewish faith alive from generation to generation in the Spanish colonies where they had sought refuge from persecution.

In England from 1558 to 1829 it was illegal to be a Catholic or practice the Catholic faith. Priests especially, but members of the Catholic Church in general as well, were arrested and executed, often in a very barbaric manner, for practicing their faith. In Ireland the persecution was conducted with even more zeal. These are documented historical facts and do not need Fr. Stockert's research to support them.

However, the laws and persecutions were limited to a few periods between the years 1558 and 1829. The laws remained on the books but were usually not enforced which enabled Catholics to practice their faith openly. The periods when the Church was forced to operate underground coincided with the era of Queen Elizabeth I and her Stewart successors in which rival claimants to the throne of England, aided by unfriendly foreign governments, sought to forcibly remove the reigning British monarch. Religion was a factor in these disputes but politics and power were the driving force. The references that Fr. Stockert gives refer to correspondence between Jesuit priests in Ireland with their superiors in France. The Jesuits were a powerful order and often involved in politics. Their vast world-wide network of highly educated and motivated priests was a good source of intelligence which leaders of the order exchanged for increased wealth and power for the order. I am not arguing here whether this was good or bad – it is a fact and for this reason the Jesuits were both used and feared by secular rulers. It is therefore understandable that the British monarchs saw the Jesuits as a serious threat. At various times the Catholic monarchs of France and Spain also went after the Jesuit order despite their common Catholic faith (the old Spanish mission church, San Xavier del Bac in Tucson was founded by the Jesuits but later transferred to the Franciscans when the King of Spain issued an order expelling the Jesuits from Spain and all of its dominions). One need look no farther than the founding of the state of Maryland to see evidence of the lack of enforcement of the anti-Catholic laws. George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, was Secretary of State to King James I (successor to Queen Elizabeth I). In 1625 he left public life and practiced his Catholic faith openly. Not only was he not arrested but, in return for his previous service, King James awarded him with a large grant of land in Newfoundland where Calvert attempted to establish a colony. Finding the climate and conditions in Newfoundland too harsh for their plans, Calvert and his son, Cecil Calvert (1606 – 1675), the second Lord Baltimore, petitioned James' son, King Charles I for a second land grant further south and were given the land that is now the State of Maryland. In establishing his colony in Maryland, Cecil Calvert decreed that there would be a separation of church and state and Christians (his freedom of religion did not extend to Jews and other non-Christians) of any denomination were free to worship as they pleased. Here we have two English kings who not only tolerated the open practice of the Catholic faith by a lord of the realm but rewarded him with land grants and stood by as he used the land received to establish a haven for Catholic and other non-Anglican Christians (Puritans and other non-conformist creeds were outlawed along with Catholics during this period.) The fact that the active persecution of Catholics was limited in terms of time is one reason for believing that Catholics would not go to the trouble of investing a secular song with a coded religious message.

A second and, more compelling reason is the fact that, with the possible exception of the seven sacraments, none of the coded teachings in the song were illegal. Both the Roman Catholic and the Anglican (Church of England) shared these beliefs. Teaching a child about the Old and New Testament, the Four Gospels, the Apostle's Creed, etc. was not a way to identify a person as Roman Catholic since Anglican parents taught their children the same articles of faith. I am a practicing Roman Catholic. My father's side of the family were Irish Catholics and I was raised in that religion. However, my Mother's side of the family were Irish Protestants (Presbyterian) from Ulster (Northern Ireland) and my Mother has been an active member of the Episcopal (the American branch of the Anglican Church) since her youth. I have thus, grown up with both churches and have attended mass in both churches. When I attend church with my Mother I have no problem following the mass and responding from memory with the rest of the congregation as the ritual of the mass is essentially the same as that of the Catholic Church. Other than the fact that the current pastor of the church my Mother attends is a woman, there is very little difference between the mass at her church and my own Roman Catholic parish church. My father used to tell a story about a Catholic priest whose big desire in life was to celebrate mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Given the opportunity to visit New York City, the priest went straight to St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Arriving just before the morning mass, the priest introduced himself to the priest who was about to celebrate mass and, after telling him of his desire to celebrate mass in this church, asked if he could celebrate the mass with him. Seeing the man's great desire the pastor stepped aside and let the out-of-town priest celebrate the mass. Everything went fine and the priest left the church filled with happiness. On the street outside he bumped into an acquaintance and, pointing to the church he had just exited, excitedly described the joy of having celebrated mass in St. Patrick's. When he finished, his friend had a puzzled look on his face and said, St. Patrick's is across the street. This is St. Thomas Church. You just celebrated mass in a Protestant Church!

Is the carol The Twelve Days of Christmas really a code used by persecuted Roman Catholics in the British Isles to teach their children the faith? I think not. Did some Catholics use this carol to secretly teach the faith to their children? Given the large number of Catholics, their differing circumstances, and the varying degrees of enthusiasm of the local officials charged with enforcing the anti-Catholic laws it is possible that some did use the carol for this purpose. If someone were to make a serious attempt to uncover the letters and reports that Fr. Stockert found and then dig further they might discover isolated instances where the carol was used for this purpose. Until then, we have to accept the fact that a theory has been put forward and no one has as yet come forward with hard evidence to prove or disprove it.

Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Monday, January 02, 2006

On the Ninth Day of Christmas...Nine Ladies Dancing
by Chuck

Christmas E-Cards

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

The nine ladies dancing evokes images of music and dancing which were a big part of the celebrations at this period of history in England. The term ladies probably refers to noble ladies as in a Lord and his Lady or a lady in waiting (high born ladies who waited on the queen at court – not servant women). In this case ladies would be women dancing socially and not entertainers. For the most part women were not entertainers in this era so it is unlikely that this refers to a troupe of dancing women.

So far, for each day's stanza I have tried to explain what that day's gift is describing. The words to this song first appeared in print three hundred and twenty-five years ago in 1780 in a children's book entitled Mirth Without Mischief . The song itself, of course, is much older. Both language and culture change and evolve over time. If one mentioned a gold ring at a sixteenth century feast in England the listener immediately knew that the comment referred to a ring-necked pheasant, not a piece of jewelry. But in twenty-first century urban America pheasants are neither a common food nor a common topic of conversation. Understanding what the original words referred to and the cultural context in which they were makes the song less nonsensical. Essentially I have been explaining the words in this song in a way that twenty-first century urban Americans can understand and relate to.

However, many claim that the secular words and images evoked in the song actually represent religious images. Again, language and culture change over time and a good argument can be made that, in the Middle Ages , during which the temporal and spiritual aspects of life were intermixed in daily life to a much greater extent than they are for most people today, that the words of the song evoked religious images. The New Testament contains many parables (stories with a religious message) which Jesus told to the masses and they understood clearly what he meant but modern people, myself included, need to have the stories explained because life has changed considerably in the past two thousand years.

In recent years an additional dimension has been added and that is that the song deliberately uses secular words and images to convey Catholic religious teachings to children during a period when the Catholic Church was outlawed in England and Catholics persecuted for practicing their faith. This theory, which I will discuss in more detail tomorrow, has spread widely on the Internet and appears on Christian websites (both Catholic and Protestant) where the song is described either as a code for teaching the Catholic faith during a time of religious persecution or presented simply as an explanation of the Christian symbolism behind the words in the carol. Of the many sites that I have visited, all attach the same symbols to each of the days. Below is a description of the religious symbol that each of the stanzas represent (for a more detailed explanation of the symbolism visit the Christmas Carnivals website.)

A Partridge in a pear tree = The One true God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ
Two Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
Three French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity
Four Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
Five Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch" which contain the law condemning us of our sins.
Six Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
Seven Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith
Eight Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
Nine Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Spirit
Ten Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
Eleven Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
Twelve Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Since the above list is the same list of definitions published by Fr. Hal Stockert in a 1982 article (different dates are cited in the various discussions of this as well as whether the original article was in print or on-line – I am still searching for the original article) I suspect that his article is the original source of the definitions of the religious symbolism behind the words in the song.

If it is true that the idea of religious symbolism behind the words in The Twelve Days of Christmas then the claim made on the Snopes.Com site that attaching religious symbolism to a secular Christmas carol is the reverse of the attempts made by others to secularize Christmas has merit. The Snopes author thinks that this is wrong and seems to prefer that a line be drawn between the sacred and secular aspects of Christmas. However, as I have attempted to show in this entire Christmas series, all of our Christmas customs are a mixture of sacred and secular and this practice of incorporating pagan and secular symbols and customs into Christianity was encouraged by the early Church.

While I have no doubt that the The Twelve Days of Christmas evolved from earlier religious carols I am convinced that by the time it was first published in written form it was a carol about the secular aspects of the holiday and sung during the secular celebrations of the holiday season. The purpose of the secular festivities was the celebration of the birth of Christ, a religious event. Humans consist of both body and soul and, as such, are a combination of material and spirit. Thus, it is only natural that celebrations such as Christmas combine both religious and secular elements. The fact that some people wish to attach a religious meaning to a secular carol does nothing to reduce the enjoyment of those who wish to use it as a secular carol.

I, like most people who consider religious belief and practice an important part of their life, enjoy the secular aspects of Christmas as well as the religious. I have no problem with people who wish to make Christmas either more secular or more religious. What I do have a problem with is those who seek to use the police power of government, whether they be Oliver Cromwell's seventeenth century Puritan zealots seeking to stamp out all secular references to Christmas or the ACLU's twenty-first century legal zealots seeking to outlaw religious references to Christmas.

Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

On the Eighth Day of Christmas...Eight Maids A-Milking
by Chuck

Christmas E-Cards

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

The eight maids a-milking addresses two of the major themes of sixteenth century English celebrations and parties during the Christmas holidays – food and romance. What is a feast or party without food? Especially foods that are not common and are reserved for special occasions.

Until the advent of refrigeration, milk was not a common drink because it spoils quickly. However, milk based products that did not spoil such as cheese, sour milk (which is actually a cultured milk much like yogurt and is neither sour tasting nor spoiled) and custards were prized treats. Cheese and sour milk are the result of processes that expose milk to so called friendly bacteria which convert the milk to a state where it can be preserved for a longer period and is also tasty. Custard is similar but this involves the cooking of the milk, which kills the harmful bacteria thereby extending the period during which it can be safely consumed.

The maids, of course, refer to the women who would milk the cows to obtain the milk in the first place. In times past milking of cows or goats was typically a job for women. However, the term maid is also the shortened form of maiden which is a young, unmarried, woman.

The term eight maids a-milking evokes images of the food, especially the special holiday foods, to be enjoyed at this festive time of year as well as the possibilities for romance which was a big attraction for the younger people. In sixteenth century England the term to go a-milking had strong romantic and sexual connotations. It was a term that men used when they wanted to ask a woman to marry them or to have a simple sexual encounter. Like similar expressions people use today, asking a woman to go a-milking was a code used by men to test a woman's response to their intentions. Words have meaning and they carry emotional impact. Requests also require a response. Will you marry me and will you go a-milking with me may convey the same message but the nonsense phrase go a-milking does not carry the emotional impact of marry me. Coded phrases like this allow people to converse more freely while at the same time allowing them to retract a statement more easily. When a man asks a woman to marry him and she says no what can he respond back with without looking desperate and/or foolish? But, when he asks a woman to go a-milking with him and she replies with a no he can easily come back with something like well, I just thought you would like some company when you go to milk the cows. In this case his proposal was received and understood but rejected, at least temporarily, however he is able to dismiss it as a misunderstanding of what he really meant. Both laugh and can proceed without loss of dignity on either side.

As mentioned above, these feasts or parties were a time for large groups of people to come together and have fun. This was a situation where standards could be relaxed somewhat for both married and unmarried people. Single women were not guarded and chaperoned as closely as they were normally. A large party with feasting, singing, dancing, drinking, etc. in a large manor home or castle offered plenty of opportunities for men and women to meet and socialize. It was a great opportunity for single men with honorable intentions to meet and be alone with eligible single women. It also offered opportunities for illicit trysts regardless of the couple's state of matrimony. Rather than discouraging such behavior, the large crowd made it easier for couples to break away from friends and family and mingle among strangers. Also, the large manor houses or castles in which these feasts were held had numerous rooms and alcoves which, along with the noise of the party and dim light (candles were the only source of light) made it very easy to be alone.

The maids a-milking stanza and the other stanzas clearly describe secular feasting which is why many argue that The Twelve Days of Christmas is a secular carol like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and other modern secular carols. It may have evolved from earlier religious carols but by the time it was written down and published it had become a carol describing the secular feasting side of Christmas.

Tomorrow I will present the first of two theories that claim that the obvious secular symbols in this carol are really codes for religious themes.

Copyright © 2005-2006 by Charles J. Nugent Jr. and Victor L. Nugent.

Joe and Bob's HAPPY NEW YEAR!
by Victor

Copyright © 2005-2006 by Victor L. Nugent.