Google Doodles

Google is noted for having one of the most cleanly designed home pages on the Web, with its iconic logo and white background. But one of the things I like best about Google design is how they “doodle” their logo to commemorate anniversaries and special days. I grab a copy of these special doodles whenever I see them. Here are a few.

This 2009 doodle is a double nod to Thanksgiving and to the classic cartoon show, The Great Pumpkin.

Celebrating the discover of water on the moon in 2009.

In observance of the 2010 Martin Luther King day. The use of a grayscale image reminds us of the black & white photography of the 1960s that chronicled Dr. King's struggle for Civil Rights.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2010, reminiscent of the 1960s black & white photography that chronicled Dr. King’s struggle for Civil Rights.

The filename for this one was go_gle, with the underscore representing the missing "o" being abducted by the UFO. If a Google user clicked on the logo, they were taken to the search results page for "unexplained phenomenon"

I’m looking forward to future doodles by Google.

$10/Month=17 Years Less Debt

I just received my first credit card statement that reflects the provisions of the credit card reform act. One of the new rules states that credit card companies had to modify their monthly statement, showing how long it would take to pay off your account if you pay only the minimum amount. There, on my statement, was a little table. It said that by paying just the minimum amount due, it would take 20 years to pay the entire balance. The second line in the table said that if I added just $10/month to my payment, it would take just 3 years!

Now, I was aware of the 20 year payment plan, having calculated it out in an Excel spreadsheet several years ago, so we don’t do minimum payments.  But I was shocked that adding just $10 more per month would knock 17 years off the repayment schedule.  Seventeen years! Isn’t it amazing how banks keep the minimum payments adjusted so they can earn interest payments that are basically equivalent to the way a mortgage works? (Except for the consumer tax write-off, of course.)

Another provision of the new credit card rules requires that statements must detail policies for interest rate changes. Apparently if I am late with my payment…even by one day…my current rate will almost triple.  And banks don’t understand why “Main Street” is so angry at “Wall Street” these days?

P.S. We took Dave Ramsey‘s Financial Peace University class at a church a couple of years ago. We were inspired to get rid of all our debt, and it really feels good to see our debt snowball get bigger and accelerate the process.

How Rich Are You?

I know that I am blessed and privileged, simply by the fact that I was born in the U.S. – something I was given without any effort or forethought or desire on my part. In spite of this awareness, I still occasionally find myself holding a pity party because I don’t have that new car in the television commercial, or when a favorite magazine features a tastefully decorated beach house on the Carolina coast , or I visit one of my clients who insists I “just try on” their newest luxury watch.

So every now and again, it’s good to put my life into perspective. Here’s a site that helps with that perspective thing: www.GlobalRichList.com. Try it – true to my cultural competitive biases, my first impulse was to high-five myself. But that feeling passed in about 0.5 seconds, when I realized the implications.

Again, try it. Are you richer than you thought?

A Coffee Kind of Night

Six blog posts down…still four to go @ 10 p.m. I can see it’s going to be a coffee kind of night.

1) The Coffee Party: New Rival of The Tea Party
2) Starbucks Allows Guns On These Premises
3) Caribou Coffee Gets a Makeover
4) Coffee Is Good For Your Heart
5) Tall, Grande, Venti…Trenta?
6) Trivia: Oklahoma Has a State Senator Named Coffee
7) Coffee Artist (video)
8 ) 1984 Coffee Achievers (video)
9) Frank Sinatra sings The Coffee Song (video)
10) Coffee Jokes (lame, but they’re clean)

And now this…

One of the criticisms Neil Postman made in Amusing Ourselves to Death was that television news lacked local context. I was reminded of his comments earlier this week when I was watching CNN‘s morning show. Coverage of a national news story was interrupted to air live video of a fire in Dallas.

You couldn’t see much in the video, because the screen was mostly filled with dark billowing smoke. The voiceover told us that there were four buildings involved, but no one had been hurt and no other buildings were at risk.

Obviously, it is an important story for its immediate neighborhood, and but why did the CNN producers decide it was necessary to create  a Postman “…and now this…” moment?

Scanning my mother-in-law’s photo collection has revived an interest in genealogy. Most of my family history is recorded in the Scandinavian countries, scrawled in town and church registers in languages that I can’t read. My husband’s family history is much different, with some of his ancestors living in the United States since the late 1600s…which means the family records are written in English. While tracing his family tree, U.S. history has become more real to me.

Unfortunately, most of his family members share the sentiments of Time magazine columnist, Joel Stein, who writes that he thought family history buffs are “massive dorks.”  Okay, so the shoe fits…I am a massive dork.

The other thing you often hear about genealogy fans is that we spend more time digging for information on dead people, at the expense of making real connections with family members who are alive.  Okay, so the shoe kinda fits here, too.

I thought about family stories and genealogy research while I was scanning those photos. Then one day, I was replying to a letter our nephew had written for a school project. I wanted to include something fun for him, and I started thinking about all those photos. I located a school photo of his mom when she was about his age, and included it with my letter.

Here comes the connection to my communication studies. Handwritten letters. Old photos. Stories. Walter Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm Theory says, among other things, that humans are basically storytellers, and that our understanding of the world is formed by the stories that we hear and believe. When we communicate today, it is most frequently done electronically or by phone. Our communication is now ephemeral. We are not leaving sentimental letters, to be bound by ribbons and stored away for future generations to discover.

So I am resolved to begin writing letters to my children, nieces, and nephews. I can include photos, stories from before they were born, and tidbits from my genealogy research. For example, I can explain to my niece Lindsay that she and my husband can trace their hazel eyes to her great-great-great grandfather Thomas McCracken, and send along a photocopy of the Muster Roll when he volunteered to fight for the Union during the Civil War. Right there, under “Physical Description” – eyes: hazel.  Not blue or brown, like the current generations. Hazel. And she’ll learn about it the old-fashioned way…a handwritten letter.

Field of Joy

When I was scanning the family photos, every once in a while I came across a photo that literally gave me joy. I had another one of those moments today, when I decided to drive a different route to the post office. It was early in the day, the sun just peeking over the tops of the bare trees. There, to my right, in an empty lot, was a field of snowmen!

Field of Snowmen
A few snowmen

There was something about them…just standing silently, casting their long morning shadows. They were a little like the  Chinese Terra Cotta Army. Almost magical. Each snowman wears a different costume, mostly colorful and bright, lending “personality” to each.  

As I walked back to my car, it was fun to watch the faces of others who were driving past the empty lot. Without exception, everyone did a double-take and then wide smiles spread across their faces.

So where did these snowmen come from? There was a sign in the field that read, Snowmen for Africa.com. The project is a fundraiser, and “Frank Msambya of Daystar U.S. will be living in a tent in the snow in empathy with the many bright young men and women in Africa stuck in refugee camps and urban slums.”

I hope to make it back to the site tomorrow. If you’re interested, it’s on Fairview Avenue in Roseville, MN, a few blocks south of County Road D. I promise, it will make you smile!