Thursday, January 1, 2009

Random Thoughts on New Year's Day

I'm not much of a holiday person. I just don't get into them very much, and usually just go along to get along with the people who are into holidays. I enjoy Christmas the most, but it takes me quite a while to get into the holiday spirit -- usually not until the last few days or so. New Year's Day is quite an unusual holiday too. It's all arbitrary -- just the way that we mark the Earth's orbit around the Sun. We could have started at any time in the year and ended up in the same place calender-wise as long as we came out astronomically accurate. This last year we ended up putting an extra day in at the end of February and tacking on an extra second at the very end of the year to make it all come out right.

I've never been much of a New Year's party animal. In college, my buddies and I might have gone out and partied a little, but we usually joked that it was best to stay off the roads on "amateur night." And is there anything worse than beginning a new year with a hangover? I don't think so. The New Year's tradition around the old homestead is to sit at home and watch the ball drop in Times Square on the telly, but my "bucket list" would include a trip to Times Square at some point to check it out for myself.

I spent this New Year's Day sane and sober with my grandson. He's in kindergarten and was having a bit of a problem understanding what all the hoopla was about. I got out the calender and tried to explain what day it was and how we were about to move into a new year, and he stayed up late and we watched the ball drop together on TV, then watched and listened to the fireworks and celebrating going on around the neighborhood, then went around and wished the other family members a "Happy New Year!" I probably should have picked up some sparkling grape juice so we could toast the new year together, but it didn't occur to me until it was too late.

In just a few minutes the brew-ha-ha was all over. The neighborhood settled back down. Everyone went about their business. My grandson and I played a few hands of War and Go Fish before he called it a night. It even looked like Times Square was pretty played out by about 12:30 a.m judging by the background shots on TV. Some people stuck around to watch T.I or whoever the hell that was playing "music," but the rest of Times Square looked like it was emptying out. I spent the remainder of the night piddling around online.

Usually, my favorite part of New Year's Day is overdosing on college football, but the powers that be have screwed that up little by little until they've ruined that. They've moved the traditional New Year's Day bowls around to where you're not left with much by the end of the day -- just a Rose Bowl that I couldn't be more uninterested in (couldn't we have both teams lose) and a crappy Orange Bowl matchup. The Cotton Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, which should be on on New Year's Day, are on January 2 this year, the Fiesta Bowl is on January 5, and the BCS Championship game is not on until January 8. The best part in the past was always having another game to watch. This year, if you've got a crappy Rose Bowl (which we do have with USC leading Penn State 31-7 at this moment in time), you're stuck with it.

One good thing about New Year's Day is that it is a good place to stop and take an accounting of where we have been in the past year and what we have to look forward to. This New Year's Day, with an Inauguration Day just around the corner (only 19 days now!!!), is an especially appropriate time for the taking stock and the looking back.

Think Progress compiled a few statistics from 2008, taking stock of the last year of President George W. Bush's time in office...

– Number Of U.S. Troops Killed in Iraq: 322.
– Number Of U.S. Troops Killed in Afghanistan: 151.
– Number Of Jobs Lost: 1.9 million.
– Number Of Banks Federal Government Now Owns Stock In: 206.
– Number Of Uninsured Americans: 47.5 million.

– Change In Housing Prices: declined 18 percent.
– Change In Health Insurance Premiums: increased 5 percent.
– Change In Number Of Delinquent Mortgages: increased 75 percent.
– Change In Use Of Food Stamps: increased 17 percent.
– Change In Dow Jones Industrial Average: declined 35 percent.
– Change In Bush Approval Rating: declined 9 percent to 29 percent.

The looking forward is up to you and whether that makes you hopeful or depressed probably has a lot to do with your personal situation and whether you think Barack Obama will bring us the Change™ we need. I'm generally optimistic with some reservations.

While I'm on the subject of New Year's Day, a few other notes...

I hate to be the one to say this. I've always liked Dick Clark, but Great God, Almighty!!! Please, someone talking him into retiring or something. He should have never returned after his stroke. He looked like he died, the undertaker embalmed him, and they were moving him around with robotics, hydraulics, wires and string. He looked and sounded terrible. It was painful to watch.

It looks like Microsoft's Zune mp3 player did not handle the holiday very well. Most of them turned into useless bricks at the stroke of midnight, requiring a battery drain and a reboot. Some users are still having problems.

U2 has a pretty pessimistic take on New Year's Day. "Nothing changes on New's Years Day"

And in keeping with my whole arbitrary calender idea, some including Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne are suggesting that we finally, nine years in, are entering the 21st century.

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