2020: Here Be Dragons?

Map of Norwegian coast, 1539. Public Domain.

Have you ever seen antique maps with the ominous words, “Here Be Dragons” written across the uncharted regions, or with drawings of sea monsters lying in wait in the menacing oceans?

Heading into a new year, do you feel like you’re entering into unmapped territory in your own life? Do you worry there may be “dragons” lurking ahead for you in 2020?

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Christmas Fruitcake Solution

Do you like Christmas fruitcake? Or do you just pretend to? Some people look forward to making or receiving fruitcakes at this time of year. Other people dread the prospect of eating fruitcake yet again.

If you’ve been faking enjoyment of Christmas fruitcake all these years and would really rather not eat any more of it, I think I have a solution for you:

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The Most Dazzling Christmas Light

Photo by Paul Vladuchick on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What’s your favourite Christmas tradition? Is it exchanging gifts, baking special desserts, decorating the tree, or perhaps wearing ugly Christmas sweaters?

For many of us, our most cherished Christmas tradition probably involves lights, whether they’re on your own Christmas tree, or decorating houses in your neighbourhood. Some people go all out, putting tens of thousands of lights on their home, as in the example pictured above. Apparently, the interior of that house is decorated with the same exuberance, and with all the lights on, the homeowner can’t use the microwave without blowing all the fuses.

This season is inextricably linked to lights, but might we have missed the most important light of all?

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The Perfect Christmas?

Photo by Adam Clark on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

What’s your idea of the perfect Christmas? Many of us have images in our minds of what the ideal Yuletide should look like.

It usually involves a spectacular Christmas tree with enticing gifts piled beneath it. The house would be decorated with pine boughs and red bows inside, and the exterior decked out with lights. The day itself would feature a scrumptious dinner with all the fixings, and numerous home-baked desserts. Top it all off with a house full of family, friends and laughter.

There’s only one problem with this picture.

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How Larch Trees Are Like Jesus

Larch Trees, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Photo by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr CC BY-2.0

It’s easy to categorize trees, isn’t it? Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn. Coniferous trees bear cones and keep their needles throughout the year. It’s simple to tell them apart.

Case closed, right?

But what about the larch tree? It bears cones and has needles like a conifer, but the needles drop off each autumn like a deciduous tree.

So which is it, coniferous or deciduous?

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My Lifeguard Walks On Water

The historic Leuty Lifeguard Station in Toronto’s eastern beaches
Photo by synestheticstrings on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For those of you who live near a large body of water, or who might be visiting one during the holidays, what are some important things to remember when spending a day at the beach?

Remembering to apply sunscreen is definitely important. So is bringing snacks, a blanket to lie on, and perhaps an umbrella to sit under. Maybe a toy bucket and shovel for the kids to play with in the sand.

But isn’t there something more important than all of those?

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Turkey Hotline

Impending disaster! Photo by Matt Shalvatis on Flickr
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For over 30 years now, the Butterball company has hosted a hotline for those encountering problems or questions when cooking their Thanksgiving or Christmas turkeys.

The experts at their turkey talk-line answer calls from over 100,000 people per year, desperate cooks mystified by the process of roasting a turkey and needing advice. Usually, the caller is unsure how to thaw the turkey, or how to calculate the cooking time.

Sometimes, however, the problems are a bit more complicated…not to mention hilarious.

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Feline Prison Break

Photo by Mark Turnauckas on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Did you hear about the “prison break” at a Houston, Texas animal shelter recently?

A cunning criminal had been opening the heavy door of the senior cats’ enclosure for several nights in a row, setting the captives free to roam the shelter. Each morning, workers at the Friends for Life Animal Rescue would arrive to find the door mysteriously opened, and would have to wrangle the 15 cats back into their room.

The staff were stumped at who could be responsible for the feline jail break. It was only when they looked at footage from the building’s security cameras that they were able to crack the case.

The identity of the culprit came as a shock.

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When The Wall Came Down

“The Fall of the Berlin Wall–November 1989” by Gavin Stewart CC 2.0

Ever wonder if there’s a world out there beyond your imagination?

Citizens of the former East Germany got a partial answer to this question thirty years ago when the Berlin Wall began to be dismantled on November 9, 1989.

Those who had been trapped behind the wall for decades were suddenly able to travel to West Berlin and visit parts of Germany they hadn’t seen in almost a generation.

What they saw there astonished them.

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Spot The Mistake

View from D-Day Landing Craft, June 6, 1944

On Remembrance Day in Canada (Veterans Day in the US), we remember the servicemen and -women who lost their lives to ensure the freedom we cherish so deeply today.

The numbers are staggering: it’s estimated that over 400,000 U.S. military personnel lost their lives during World War II. The US National D-Day Memorial Foundation estimates that over 4,000 Allied servicemen lost their lives on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) alone.

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