2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

Free Pirates Theme Pack!

pirates12

The pirates of legend have always been a very interesting lot, unlike those clowns in Somalia…they are only wanna-be’s!  The new year also happens to see the second season of a television show of which I am very fond:  Black Sails!

Celebrate the New Year with this new Pirates Theme pack I have just created for Windows 8 and 8.1!  You can download it here:

http://tinyurl.com/k9rdfnr

Christmas Tradition Sanderson-Style!

christmas

Well Christmas of 2014 is finally upon us!  I can only imagine that most of you probably feel the same way as me about the energy of Christmas.  It always seemed to be more fun as a kid.

I have a 13-year-old daughter who — of course — no longer believes in the physical existence of Santa Claus.  So I never sneak aroundf placing gifts under or around the tree as she sleeps during the early hours of Christmas mornings.  I no longer take a couple of bites of the cookie that used to be left for Santa on a saucer next to a glass of milk that I would usually end up pouring down the drain (since room-temperature milk just simply does not seem that great!).  And we no longer take her to see Santa in the malls.  No, Isabella is a bit too old for that.

I guess I used to do these things for her and my step-daughters because they were things that I used to enjoy as a kid.  Part of me did it all because I wanted to give them the same sense of Christmas enjoyment that I used to get from my parents.  The other part of me feels the obligation to do so as part of a family tradition.  And I hope that my daughter and step-daughters end up following suit as well.

But the fun I derived as a parent could not compare to what it was as a child.  I remember my Mom rushing me off to bed.  Sometimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night and try to bust Santa putting the gifts under the tree.  But it would all be the same as it had been before I went to bed.  Sometime after I returned to bed and later woke up, my mother would have worked her Christmas magic of adding all of “Santa’s gifts” to those that were already under the tree.

I also remember huge family gatherings with not only my grandparents, but also aunts, uncles, and cousins!  Massive amounts of food (turkey and dressing, jellied cranberry, ham, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes and gravy, green-bean casserole, broiled cabbage, sweet potatos, and other such fine fixings!) would be spread about the center of my grandmother’s large, cherry-wood table.  Chairs would be brought in from other rooms and sometimes other homes.  We kids would always sit in the living room on the floor, eating at the coffee table.  The sounds of Elvis’s Christmas music would be playing in the background.  My grandmother was a HUGE Elvis fan as we all lived in Memphis at the time.  My personal favorite was Blue Christmas.

My cousins and I would joke around.  I remember one time making fun of my grandfather behind his back (he tended to always be a grumpy stick in the mud).  His teeth had fallen out; when he would eat Christmas dinner, it was funny to watch his lower jawbone almost go completely up into his sinal cavity!  I pointed it out to my big brother and sister and my cousins before I started imitating it myself.  We all laughed and were quite merry at these events, the way we were supposed to be.

I remember some of my all-time favorite toys I got for Christmas as a kid, all of them now misplaced and gone.  A Star Trek transporter and the Captain Kirk and Mister Spock action figures that came with it that would fit in the transport chamber; a Back-Trac remote controlled futuristic tank; a die-cast replica of James Bond’s Aston Martin DB-V, complete with gadgets like the bullet-proof pop-up shield, front-mounted machine guns,  and a working ejector seat (complete with the Korean fellow who always flew out of the top of it!); a Merlin electronic toy that allowed me to play memory games, tick-tack-toe, and a bunch of other cool activities.  I remember the joy of handing the gifts out to each family member to whom it was tagged; and most importantly, I remember opening my own gifts!

I also remember riding my new bike around the neighborhood with my friends as we all enjoyed celebrating the daytime hours afterward.  I would go over to their house, see what all they got; and they would do the same with me.

Yes, Christmas was always much more fun as a kid.  But as I got older, I suddenly realized that Santa was not the reason for Christmas; it’s Jesus!  It was all about honoring his birth — the fact that he was born to a virgin mother only to be crucified when he reached his 30s…all so that sinners like you and me could be forgiven our sins by God and accepted into Heaven.

In my eyes, there is nothing wrong with getting caught up in the fun of Christmas; but let’s not remember the TRUE reason for CHRISTmas.

Raw, Raving Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

bilbo

The latest “Hobbit” movie, The Battle of the Five Armies, is a tremendously excellent movie with very cool, and sometimes even humorous, action sequences.  There is also no doubt that this is probably the most epic film to be released over the holiday season.  And Legolas / Orlando Bloom fans are in for a real treat as his portrayal is not only massively impressive, but downright entertaining.

This film has all sorts of elements that make it very memorable.  It has action, adventure, comedy, romance, intrigue, and tragedy.  The only problem I had with the film is that it moved a little bit slowly through the middle hour of the film or so.  But this was to be expected by any Tolkien fans who have read his famous novel, The Hobbit.

All actors did a fabulous job of enacting their roles.  Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen reprised their roles as Bilbo Baggins and Gandolf the Grey.  Richard Armitage adeptly portrayed a Dwarven king who had to choose between wealth and the loyalty of those who served him throughout all three movies in the franchise.  Evangeline Lilly portrayed a brave elf warrior who encountered friction over the love she felt for one of the dwarves.  And finally, Luke Evans did a wonderful job as Bard, the man tasked with fighting a dragon that had totally destroyed his personal township.

The set was massive and the effects truly wonderful.  I highly recommend this film to those who enjoy fantasy and adventure films.  I give The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies four out of five stars.

15 of the Coolest Ways to Enjoy Christmas!

santa phil

Well, Christmas is upon us!  It’s that special time of year that is both joyful and stressful.  We enjoy the festivity but sometimes get lost in the tedium of trying to get everything ready for that very special day we only celebrate once a year.  Most of the time, it is best to get started early.  Some people even shop clearance after Christmas so that they can save time, money, and trouble for the same big day the following year.

You probably don’t need some lame writer to tell you how to enjoy Christmas, but I just figured that maybe you could get some good ideas from some of these rituals that have been tried and trued by myself and many others.  These are the best ways of which I know, listed from average to best:

  1. Watch the Spending:  Everything that follows will be next to impossible to enjoy if you forecast the storm of debt coming around the corner of New Year’s Day.  If you are severely challenged in the financial department, consider looking online for gifts that can be created in crafts.  If you have a moderate income, consider one big/semi-big gift and several other small gifts (like those purchased from a dollar store) for each member of the family.
  2. Travel Safe As Necessary:  No one in your family is going to have a very merry Christmas if they are attending your funeral.  And speeding tickets and other moving violations won’t exactly help your Christmas budget.  So plan your travel wisely and put plenty of focus on preparing for the trip.  Check your oil, tires, all other fluids, and have an emergency kit handy in your vehicle (they normally have important items like bottled water, a flashlight, a blanket, and other key items of importance in the event that your car breaks down.
  3. Kindness to Others:  The best example of this can be seen in the movie “A Christmas Carol” after Scrooge’s transformation.  Simply treat people the way you like to be treated if not better.
  4. Send Out Christmas Cards or E-Mails:   If you are traditional, send out Christmas Cards.  If you are sophisticated, then e-mail them.  The important thing here is to let your friends and loved ones know that you are thinking about them this Christmas.
  5. Dine and Drink Merrily:  Cookies and Milk, Rum and Eggnog, Gingerbread Houses, Turkey and Dressing, etc.  These are only a sampling of the many holiday staples to enjoy during the Christmas season.  Enjoy them while they are here for the season.
  6. Decorate the Inside and Outside of Your House:  If you have the extra money to invest, go ahead and get a mess-load of indoor and outdoor Christmas lights.  For indoors, things like light-up Christmas villages, cinnamon brooms, and manger scenes will serve to set up the mood of Christmas.  As for outdoors, don’t forget to hang a wreath on your door (If you are monetarily challenged, then this may be good enough for the outdoor decorations).  You can also put out some really cool things like light-up reindeer, large or light-up nativity scenes, etc.
  7. Make Your Own Christmas Ornaments with Your Kids and Trim the Tree:  You can invest however much money into this project as you want.  Probably the biggest things you will need are glue and glitter.  But you can go to crafts sections of various retailers to find any other materials you may want or need.  Or you may just want to pick up some pine cones off the ground outside.  The sky’s the limit!  And you will make memories that your children will remember forever.  And when the time comes to put up the tree, do so in full festivity!  Play some Christmas music and have everyone participate equally.  Do this often with your kids, and they will do the same with theirs.
  8. Celebrate with Friends and Family:  Accept any and every invitation to party Christmas style!  My wife and I used to accept invitations to Sunday school Christmas parties where we would all have a potluck dinner and play “Dirty Santa”.  Get together with friends and/or family and have a merry blast!
  9. Enjoy Christmas Media to the Fullest:  Come November every year, I’m all about some Christmas music!  I haven’t been actively watching Christmas movies and television shows.  But I plan to be more active this year.
  10. Proudly Tell People “Merry Christmas”:  …and never mind the liberal bastards or the non-Christian immigrants that get offended because they prefer “Happy Holidays”.  Our Nation was founded on Christianity.  If they don’t like it, they can get the hell out of the USA!  And don’t cave in to employers that want you to be “politically correct”.  Some things in our culture are worth taking a stand for.
  11. Christmas Lights:  My family and I always like to drive out to the wealthy neighborhoods and see the overly-decorated yards and houses.  It is always a wonder to behold.  The wealthy have more money to spend on decorations, Christmas lights, and the electricity to run it all.  They pay for you to be able to enjoy it, so enjoy it!  And play some Christmas music while you do so.  You may even want to take some pics with your smart-phone!
  12. Build Christmas Up for the Kids:  Some people don’t play along with the “Santa” legend with their kids, because they feel as though they are “lying” if they do so.  But it is no lie.  Santa DOES exist!  He exists in the hearts and minds of those who believe in him and carry on a time-honored tradition.
  13. Bible Reading:  Many people who own Bibles do not even read them.  But Christmas is perhaps the best single time to do so if you are one of them.  The first books of the New Testament detail the birth of Jesus for whom we truly celebrate Christmas.  I personally feel it is wisest for the whole family to do so.  Some reading this article may be atheists.  But I respect your right to not believe.  But as for me and my family, we do and always will.
  14. Read The Saint Who Stole Christmas:  You’d be doing me a personal favor by purchasing and reading my Christmas short story about the world’s most famous Saint who has to decide what he is going to do to save Christmas in a bad economy.  This e-book is only $2.99 on Amazon and comes in two editions, one for adults (The Off-Color Edition) and one for kids (The Children’s Edition).  I went to great lengths to include plenty of Christmas imagery and spirit.  I’ve heard from some of those who have read it that I was successful in creating a fine Christmas setting.  You can find out more about it and read the first section totally free on my Official Website.  Christmas Teaser
  15. Always Remember the True Reason for Christmas:  Even though Jesus really was not born on Dec. 25, this is the time of the year that we celebrate His birth.  The least we can do is remind our kids that the whole point of Christmas is not about receiving gifts, but in honoring our Lord and His birth.  We need to let them know why it all is so very important.  He made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us and gave us the gift of eternal life so long as we truly believe in Him and allow ourselves to be saved by Him.

These tips may not be useful for all of you, but hopefully all of you will find something of use here in.  I also wish you all the very best this Christmas season.  I wish you a very fine and safe holiday.  God bless all of you!