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What you need to know about Hanukkah

The Winter Jewish holiday known as the Festival of Lights begins at sundown tonight.

Jewish people around the world celebrate this traditional holiday that lasts eight nights. The festival is not a “High Holy Day,” like Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, but is a joyful celebration that recounts the story of a miracle.

What Hanukkah celebrates

Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah commemorates the story of the Maccabees, or Jewish fighters, and their victory over the Syrian-Greek army, according to

According to the Torah, the Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and cleared it of idols that had been placed inside by the Syrians, a practice forbidden in Jewish law. The Maccabees wanted to light the temple’s seven-branched candelabrum, or Menorah, but realized they only had enough holy oil for one night. According to the story, a miracle happened and the oil lasted for eight days, allowing enough time to prepare new oil in the religious tradition. Now, Jewish people commemorate the miracle by lighting a Hannuhkiah, a special type of menorah that has eight regular candles and one special candle.

How Hanukkah is observed

The holiday begins on the evening of Kislev 25 in the Jewish lunar calendar, which generally falls sometime between late November and late December.

The Shamash, or special “attendant” candle, is lit first each night. It is then used to light all the other candles. On the first night, the Shamash would be used to light one other candle, on the second night, the Shamash is used to light the first and second candles, and so on. This continues every night until the eighth and final night of Hanukkah. Special prayers are said when lighting the candles and the lit Hannukiah is placed in a doorway or window.

To honor the miracle of the holy oil, Jewish people eat foods fried in oil. Latkes or potato pancakes paired with applesauce and sour cream, or jelly doughnuts are favorites at Hanukah celebrations.

Gifts are often exchanged on each night of Hanukkah, though this is more of a modern tradition, which many believe is inspired by other winter holidays where gifts are exchanged like Christmas, Kwanzaa and Three Kings Day.

Hanukkah games

Jewish children play with a “dreidel,” a four sided spinning top with Hebrew letters on each side. The letters spell out an acronym for “a great miracle happened here” and include Nun, Gimmel, Hei and Shin. In this game, each player starts with the same amount of playing pieces, typically chocolate coins called “gelt,” which take the place of real money. Players take turns spinning the dreidel and follow the instructions indicated by the letter the dreidel lands on. To start, each player places one piece of gelt in the center pot.

These are the instructions for each letter:

–Nun: “nothing” Nothing happens
–Gimmel: “everything” the player takes the whole pot
–Hei: “half” the player takes half the pot
–Shin: “put in” the player places one piece in the pot

When a player is out of playing pieces, he or she may borrow a piece from a neighbor. The game is over when one player has all of the pieces.



By the Mighty Mumford

This dinky forty-four tonner,

By now has bitten the dust…

Unless someone’s restored–

It would make it up most hills–just!

Its original line to Springfield

Gave up the ghost years ago…

The company only got bigger

to lay union crew sizes low,

It looks like this engine is working,

Dropping off a car on a spur…

Real nice to have favored memories

Through photos peering through history’s blur!

–Jonathan Caswell

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Propelling Your Blog As The Next Hot Ticket Item

The Little Mermaid

Eureka! I’ve finally discovered the secret to blogging success! The good news is that I can’t wait to share the magic potion with all of you! Whoot!


Let’s get started…

What is ‘blogging success’ at the outset? Is it something achievable? Is it quantifiable? For me, a successful blog is one that is loved by all. A blog that is pampered in its niche attracts thousands of visitors, garners hundreds of likes and is home to a never-ending string of comments. A successful blog stands out from the rest because, well, it is amazeballs. But what does it take for an amateur to get there? Did it cross your mind at some point in time that those established bloggers were starters, like you? Yeah? Good!

1. Passion

Passion is the key to unlock the door to blogging success. When you blog, you have to do it out of love…

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A Clean Break: The Freight Village Concept

The Sidewalk

Sustainability is big business in building, but what can be done to reduce environmental impacts of the freight transport sector to make it more sustainable?  Currently, freight emissions and noise pollution are a big problem in and around the port areas.  To make matters worse, greenfield areas are threatened as the demand for more warehouse and distribution space grows.

The Freight Village

A concept called the ‘freight village’ has been successfully trialed and adopted in locations in Europe and Asia.  Within a central urban area, goods are consolidated and then transferred into “clean” vehicles for the last mile delivery.  Last mile delivery is a term used in logistics for shipment of goods from a transportation hub to their final destination (the business or the home).

3048031457_9857c6b1a9_zHuw Lynes. Electric Truck

Examples of clean vehicles include hybrids, methane-powered vehicles and electric vehicles charged by a renewable energy source.

The main objectives are…

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Dangerous Design: Walking in Suburbia

OUI! To be in a “car culture” neighborhood BUT do not drive

The Sidewalk

Cities are hot stuff these days.  After a half a century of people fleeing the nation’s cities for a “better life” in the suburbs, they are coming back.  As city centers are becoming more and more desirable places to live, rising property values are making it impossible for the less fortunate to stay.

Those who are being priced out of the cities are migrating into suburban and exurban areas where living is more affordable.  Many of them do not have cars.

Suburban Poverty Surpasses Urban and Rural

Many suburbs and exurbs, particularly those which developed over the second half of the twentieth century, are laid out in a patchwork of developments cobbled together by rural highways or arterials, and they do not support safe walking.

It is an unfortunate reality today that the very places that were designed for heavy vehicle use have a growing population of those who cannot afford cars, according to…

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Agatha Christie said that if you marry an archaeologist, the older you get, the more interesting he will find you.

It’s a little late for me to marry an archaeologist, but a man who still thinks you are beautiful when every law of your universe tells you that you are not, is even better.

Beauty is not in the eyes of every beholder. Many people don’t find anything older than a 2-year old cell phone beautiful. Not everyone likes to wander the ruins of previous ages or gets teary-eyed while looking at a stone circle. There are many who look at the wilds of the arctic and only see places to drill for oil. They look at cities and imagine a bulldozer taking it down to nothing so they can build again.

None of us expects to get old. We might anticipate maturity. A mellowness, perhaps. A few gray hairs…

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Home Front in Early WWII

Pacific Paratrooper

Remember a FULL-service gas station? Remember a FULL-service gas station?

It Was Hard To Keep The Good Times Rollin’

Columnist Marquis Childs said after Pearl Harbor: “Nothing will ever be the same.” Thirty-five years later he added: “It never has and never will be.” We need to remember that in 1941 as much as 40% of U.S. families lived below the poverty level, approximately 8 million worked for less than minimum wage and another 8 million were unemployed. The median income was about $2,000 per year. The government, in virtually fighting two separate wars, entered into civilian lives by raising taxes, rationing, controlling prices and allotting jobs.   Once the war began, truck convoys became commonplace and train depots burst into arenas of activity. The movement was not entirely servicemen as women began to migrate into towns and communities near the military bases and jobs when they entered the workforce. Judy Guion’s (Greatest Generation Lessons)…

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The Ableism of Internet Map Directions

Great thoughts!

Blind Injustice

For most of us, it is easy to get transit directions to get from Point A to Point B. You just go onto Google Maps (or maybe Bing or Yahoo Maps), type your starting point, type your destination point, and get directions from there. It seems simple enough.

Simple enough for able-bodied people.

If you are wheelchair-bound, or told by your doctor or your own body to try avoiding stairs, obtaining directions are not that simple for one reason—to my knowledge, not a single internet map provider gives people an opportunity to select wheelchair-friendly directions.

The problem is especially noticeable in my hometown of New York City, where the subway system is so unfriendly to wheelchairs that it is in the midst of lawsuits right now. Given the lack of wheelchair access with the subways in New York, and with transit in many parts of the world, there is a…

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