A call to charity (5×8-12/21/10)

Year-round Santas, what killed the Christmas card, the eclipse, Shaq conducts an orchestra, and the math behind the headlines.


What if we didn’t have anything to give away, but we gave things away anyway?In Fargo, meanwhile, someone is leaving cards and presents for people, but nobody knows who.

A rabbi, a priest and a minister have been meeting in their town of Canton, Ohio, to look through more than 700 letters. About 360 of the letter writers will be chosen to receive $100 each.

There is, the Boston Globe says, a demographic call to charity. And it’s young people who are answering it.

It’s a fine line between giving help and the helpless. Marketplace reports an increasing number of white-collar retirees are starting to ask for financial assistance for their golden years.


We haven’t sent out “the Christmas letter” at our house in several years, now. Part of it is we didn’t want to write in “code,” (“Ralph has started some exciting new ventures” is Christmas-letter code for “Ralph was sentenced to 3-6 years at Lino Lakes”), and part of it is with social networking, many people already know what’s going on (codewise) with the family.

In turn, we haven’t received that many cards this year and those we have received have only a name; there’s no message associated with it. Who’s got time for that, anymore?

Has Facebook killed the Christmas card? Writing at Slate today, Kate Julian thinks so:

Here is how much I’m craving some Christmas card love: When the third card arrived last week–that’s right, bringing our total to a measly three–I opened it even though it was addressed to a Mr. and Mrs. D. Farrell. I realize that I shouldn’t be reading other people’s mail, but it didn’t have a return address. And since I’m in no position to be picky given the year’s record low haul, I put the Farrells’ card on my fridge. It’s there to keep the other two, a Scottie dog with snowflakes from my husband’s eightysomething cousin Bernice and a photo of two friends with their baby, from looking pathetically lonely.

One of her theories is that more women are working and women make up 80 percent of card purchasers. “Maybe 2010 is the year we finally said, ‘To hell with it, I’m not staying up late tonight to lick envelopes,'” she says.


We didn’t get to see the lunar eclipse last night, but a lot of lucky people did.


Shaquille O’Neal conducted the Boston Pops last night.


There’s nothing funny about the story out of Maplewood, where a man is charged with stalking a woman, according to the Pioneer Press. According to the criminal complaint, Dhang Dao Vang sent over 800 voice and text messages to the woman last July between 11 p.m. and “the next morning.” The number of messages seems “out of control,” said Maplewood Deputy Police Chief Dave Kvam.

Is it even possible to send 800 messages over that time period? Assuming “the next morning’ was 11 a.m., it would require sending more than one message a second minute for 12 straight hours.

Bonus: On second thought…

This will come as a big surprise to the thousands of airline pilots who have been furloughed or took buyouts in the last few years: there’s a shortage of pilots coming.


The Senate is debating whether to ratify New Start, the arms control treaty the Obama administration negotiated with Russia. Do you worry about the danger posed by nuclear weapons?


I’ll be live-blogging the release of census data at 10 a.m. CT.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: A report out today suggests that the government’s primary foreclosure-prevention program, Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, has failed to live up to expectations. What can homeowners do to prevent foreclosure?

Second hour: Eager to attract digitally savvy readers, public libraries across the country are expanding their electronic book collections. The directors of the St. Paul and Hennepin County libraries are guests.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Dr. Jon Hallberg.

Second hour: Is Islam a religion of peace?

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Crimes against the environment.

Second hour: The future of e-books.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Willmar mayor-elect Frank Yanish defeated the incumbent, Les Heitke, who served for 16 years. Some people in the city say the political landscape will change with this new leadership. A few months ago, the City Council considered adopting the 287 agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the current mayor didn’t support it. There was a loud outcry about the issue, so the issue was tabled. Now the mayor-elect plans to put it back on the table. Ambar Espinoza will report on the current state of race relations, and political and social climates in Willmar.

  • davidz

    Be careful when you use math to make or debunk a story. You MUST get your math right.

    There are 86400 seconds in a day (not counting leap seconds). There are 1440 minutes in a day, and I’m guessing you missed a step in your calculations.

    At one message a second, it would take about 14 minutes to send 800 texts. If the phone supports sending a message again w/o retyping it (some do), that wouldn’t be too hard. Even sending a simple message isn’t that hard, especially for the obsessed. Watching twitter is enough to convince me that people don’t think most of the time before they send off their messages anyway.

  • bsimon

    My brother’s mother-in-law sent us a handwritten christmas card. It was several paragraphs long. I’m guessing she’s not on facebook.

  • Ryan

    I have a Facebook account but still enjoy receiving the Christmas letter from friends and family. Facebook allows us to know little snippets of what is going on in people’s lives and keep some level of connection but feels so sterile to me. I’ll take the letter. My wife and I sent our Christmas card and letter out last week–a stamp is a small price to pay in my opinion.