From Two Thousand to Twenty

The New Year holiday, as it’s done in Japan, means cleaning up the day before (today), eating certain things, and hanging out at home (tomorrow). That and visiting the temple or shrine of one’s choice. Japanese religious establishments are a little thin on the ground here in the northeast suburbs, but we’ll do all the other things.

The last day of 2012 will be notable for Lilly as the day she took a test at the Illinois DMV and got her learner’s permit. That was in the morning. In the afternoon, I let her drive the older of our cars – with me in the passenger’s side, as specified by the permit — around her high school’s parking lot, and then for a short drive on some lightly trafficked neighborhood streets. She seemed to take to it.

Now is also the time when the year goes from “Two Thousand” to “Twenty.” Mostly. The change will be complete by 2020, but it’s well on its way.

Item from the Past: Tidbinbilla

Christmas Eve 1991

A summer’s day. I bought sun block today. Along with Pete, his brother, and his brother’s enormously pregnant wife, we went to the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Tracking Station southwest of Canberra to take a look at the big dishes and the small museum, which emphasizes Australian, Japanese and European efforts to explore space.

Had a “Jupiter Dog” at the Moon Rock Café. You’d think there would be a Great Red Spot on it somehow, but it mainly featured onions and diced tomatoes (maybe one of those tomatoes counts as the spot). Returned to town the way we had come, winding through hilly bush and flatter farmland. Sometimes emu and kangaroos bounded across the road ahead of us.

Postscript 2012: The formal name of the place is the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, and it still functions as one of three stations operated by NASA to keep track of far, far away spacecraft, with the other two in California and Spain. “This strategic placement permits constant observation of spacecraft as the Earth rotates, and helps make the Deep Space Network the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system in the world,” notes NASA.

Space: 2012 (and an Oddity from 2006)

Well worth a look: NBC News, the Year in Pictures. Space edition, which includes the likes of Felix Baumgartner before one of his epic, insane jumps from the edge of space, the aurora australis as seen from orbit, an ethereal enhanced-color image of Saturn, nebulae, views of the Earth and more.

One of the strangest satellites in the history of the space age is about to go into orbit,” noted a NASA press release. “Launch date: Feb. 3rd. [2006] That’s when astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) will hurl an empty spacesuit overboard.

“The spacesuit is the satellite — ‘SuitSat’ for short.

” ‘SuitSat is a Russian brainstorm,’ explains Frank Bauer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. ‘Some of our Russian partners in the ISS program, mainly a group led by Sergey Samburov, had an idea: Maybe we can turn old spacesuits into useful satellites.’ SuitSat is a first test of that idea.”

I understand that SuitSat broadcast its position for a couple of orbits and eventually burned up upon entering the atmosphere. The rest of the release is here.

Christmas Morning ’12

Christmas morning isn’t quite the land rush it used to be, but the girls still want to open their presents as they always have. Ann had some trouble going to sleep on Christmas Eve, but that was because she’d slept late that morning, rather than excess excitement for Christmas morning (though there was strong anticipation).

Gift cards, clothes, a little money, toys for Ann, a lot of sweets—it was all in the mix.

This year on Christmas and on the Sunday before, I managed to catch a few hours of a radio show devoted to Christmas music oddities hosted by two guys called Johnny & Andy on WDCB, the public radio station at the College of DuPage. I’d heard them years ago, maybe even these shows, since this year’s seemed to be rebroadcasts from earlier years.

So I got to hear “Solar System Simon, Santa’s Supersonic Son,” by one Francis Smith, which I haven’t heard in years. I’d forgotten how bluegrass-like it was. I’m also happy to report that when you Google that title, mid-2000s BTST entries turn up. Space Age Santa songs seemed to form a short-lived, and little remembered, subgenre of Christmas songs ca mid-1950s. Johnny & Andy even played a song of that exact name by I-forget-who-and-am-too-lazy-to-look-up (that guy records a lot of songs).

Other Christmas recordings played by Johnny & Andy included elf songs, Cajin-themed holiday tunes, Christmas polkas, and songs that tried to capitalize on the monster success of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” all in vain. One involved putting a light on Dasher’s tail, another had two reindeer named Percival and Chauncy becoming Donder and Blitzen, and one parody included the line, “Rudolph is lazy, tired, and has been fired.”

Even Gene Autry recorded other reindeer-themed songs, such as “32 Feet – 8 Little Tails,” and “Nine Little Reindeer,” which aren’t exactly forgotten, but hardly the hit Rudolph was. Then again, Autry recorded a lot of Christmas songs.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

A fine Christmas to all. Back again on Boxing Day or so. This year the holiday’s a little sad, but a drop of melancholy has its place in the occasion even in ordinary years. The season’s endless commercial messages deny that, of course, but to quote the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

I like this version, the one that introduced the song, especially for the line, which was dropped in later versions: “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

Gray December

Today was intensely gray. One of the more overcast days we’ve had in a while, with cold drizzle most of the time. Various sources said that snow was on the way—something that hasn’t stuck to the ground since late February. As of about 10 pm, we’d gotten only a little snow, though some places not so far away reportedly have much more. Here, I can still see the grass poking through.

In fact, puddles of water are still visible on the driveway, lit up by the streetlight. That can only mean one thing tomorrow: sidewalk ice. Lilly might have to brave it walking to the corner to catch the bus, and Ann might have to deal with it on her walk to school, unless it gets called off. But that doesn’t look likely, considering the piddling amount of snow.

Lilly got around to having a birthday event earlier this month, a couple of weeks after her birthday according to the calendar. “Event” because I can’t call it a party. She doesn’t call it that any more. Just a gathering of friends who spent the evening with her, ate some food, watched a movie, and all slept on the living room floor overnight.

But we did have a cake, and she got some presents, mostly gift cards to shops best known to her and her friends.

He Gave Up the Corncob Pipe Years Ago

You never know what will turn up aggregated by Google News these days.

Washington, DC—Frosty the Snowman testified by video link today before a Senate subcommittee on the effects of climate change on Snow People. Speaking from his winter residence in Frostbite Falls, Minn., a sometimes visibly agitated Frosty recalled how his community has lost members due to unexpectedly warm spells in the continental United States that have been occurring more frequently in recent years.

The usually happy, jolly soul also complained of the hardships involved in summering much further north than in previous decades. In recent years, Frosty and his wife Crystal have established camp on the remote Ellesmere Is. in the Canadian Arctic during summer in the Northern Hemisphere, a place “even we consider a barren wasteland,” Frosty said…

And so on. Maybe it made it to Drudge, too, under the screaming head: FROSTY BITES CONGRESS!

Christmas Tintinnabulation

Ann wanted to go to the library last night, and when we got there we chanced on a performance of the Random Ringers, a handbell ensemble. They were playing in a part of the Schaumburg Township Library sometimes given over to movies and small concerts, with about 50 people watching.

The ringers were more than half finished when we got there. Ann wasn’t especially charmed by the music, but I insisted on staying for a few songs, because I liked them—especially the large bells. The handy “Major American Handbells Sizes and Weights for Diatonic Pitches” says that the bells can weigh as little as 7 oz. or more than 18 lbs. I’m not sure the largest of the Random Ringers’ bells were at the large end of that scale, but they looked big enough to be weapons.

The Random Ringers include 12 performers and a conductor, Beth McFarland of Mundelein, Ill. “Random Ringers is a community-based choir and not affiliated with any religious environment, but most members ring in their own churches,” says the concert program (leaflet, really). “Members hail from the North and Northwest suburbs and practice in Arlington Heights each Monday night.”

We heard “Welcome Christmas,” “Good Christian Men Rejoice,” “He is Born” and “Silent Night.” A fine tintinnabulation, it was.


I returned from Dallas yesterday after a visit with my brother and his family. Deb now reposes at Calvary Hill Cemetery in Dallas. Her obituary is here, but I’m also going to paste it in, since who knows how long obits remain accessible on newspaper web sites.

Stribling, Deborah Kathleen of Dallas, born 28 October 1954 in Peoria, Illinois, the only child of Harold and Eleanore Triplett, died 5 December 2012, of complications of colon cancer. She is survived by her mother, Eleanore June Triplett, of Dallas; her husband of thirty-three years, Jay V. Stribling; and her sons, Samuel C.S. Stribling, and wife, Emily, of Dallas; Dees A.J. Stribling, of Austin, Texas; and Robert A.C. Stribling, of Dallas. She was a musician, choir director and teacher. Most recently, prior to her illness, she was assistant organist and children’s choir director at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Dallas. Rosary will be at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 6306 Kenwood Avenue, Dallas, TX 75214. A funeral mass will be at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on Thursday at 10:00 a.m., with a reception to follow at the church and interment at Calvary Hill Catholic Cemetery at 2:00 p.m.

A lot of people turned up for her funeral mass last Thursday—her old friends, former and present co-workers and many students, some very young. We should all be so fortunate to be remembered so fondly when our time comes.

In Memoriam

Deborah Stribling, nee Triplett, wife of my brother Jay, mother of my nephews Sam, Dees and Robert, musician, teacher, and more, passed away this evening. Requiescat in pace, Deb.

I will post again after a period of mourning.