A friend asked me if I knew the purpose of, or meaning behind, Kwanzaa.

I had to admit that I had no clue what the true celebration was all about.

So, in an effort to teach myself ...

... here is a primer for those who are also unsure:

• Kwanzaa was "founded" in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga
• It is a celebration of the African American community
• Kwanzaa means "first fruits of the harvest"
• It is celebrated from December 26th through January 1st
• Kwanzaa is based on family, community and self
• The colors of Kwanzaa are green, red and black
• Kwanzaa is not a replacement for Christmas
• The gifts exchanged during Kwanzaa should be of an artistic
   or educational nature
• The seven days of Kwanzaa represent seven remarkable

I read three very interesting sites dedicated to the celebration of Kwanzaa and I must admit that I am greatly impressed with the purpose and intent of this special time for African American people to celebrate and rejoice in their heritage.

Below is my interpretation of a "kinara" containing seven candles called "mshumaa".

Celebrating Kwanzaa

The seven candles represent Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Want to learn more?

• Kwanzaa Information Center
• Celebrate Kwanzaa With Kids
• Wikipedia - Kwanzaa

And so ... Happy Kwanzaa!


Happy Holidays

I wish you happiness, health, prosperity, love and most of all ... may the spirit of peace and hope be with you always.


Do you believe in Santa Claus?

Do you remember the last time you truly, really, honestly believed in Santa Claus?

I do.

The memory is so real, so vivid ... I am still filled with wonder when I pull that particular Christmas from the happy recesses of my childhood memories.

It was very cold during the winter of my 6th year. Although I live in the desert southwest, the winter can produce many "three dog nights".

The windows in my bedroom wore that sweet mixture of frosty crackles of crisp ice to steamy droplets making channels and raceways for the imagination of a small child. Peering through the windows after dark, the lights outside would blur and become delicate fractals of color that danced when the winter breezes blew.

I was so very excited about the prospect of Santa Claus coming because I wanted a new bicycle.

No, let me correct myself.

I yearned for a new bicycle. In my six-year-old plaintive whine, I insisted that if I did not have a new bicycle, "I would just die."

I believed that I could stay up and wait for Santa Claus to come to be assured that my new bicycle would be powder blue with a fancy white seat.

In what seemed like the deep, wee hours of the night, I felt my father lift my sleeping body from the cuddly, warm folds of the nest I had made in front of the Christmas tree and gently lay me down in my own bed.

As Dad kissed my brow and pulled the covers up to my chin, I swear I heard him chuckle.

Later ... perhaps moments, minutes, an hour? I heard the sound of hooves dancing on the rooftop!


I leapt from the bed and ran to the window but the sky was only beginning to show the dawn of day and all that was outside was blanketed in my window's soft focus blur on the world.

Then I heard it. Sleigh bells.

He was here! Santa Claus was here!

Behind me, my bedroom door opened and I heard my Mom whisper, "Janni, if Santa catches you peeking ... he may not bring you that bicycle."

Into my bed I flew.

Later, I awoke to the smell of hot chocolate and toast.

Coming out into the living room ... now filled with wrapped gifts and the family I so dearly love, I see my shiny powder blue bicycle with the fancy white seat.

Santa Claus had come! He had not seen me spying.

Right there, right then ... I had never been so sure of anything in my six-year-old life.

Santa Claus was real, he did have reindeer, and they each wore bells.

I knew it because I heard it!

Now, as a grown up, I realize I was dreaming ... but the confidence of a small child in a sweet myth of Christmas still brings me so much joy.

Yes, I was dreaming.

Or was I?


Every December, my living room fills with a generous bounty of holiday cards sent to me in honor of the season. Most are Christmas cards but I also receive cards celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

When I get the card, I first read the message and view the signature. Then I ponder the image on the cover.

I find myself wondering why some people chose the card they sent. Was it the image? Perhaps the verse or printed statement? Or the spirit of the card combining the image and the message?

Each year, just before Thanksgiving, I head to my Hallmark Gold Crown Store and literally spend hours looking through their selection of cards to find the right choices to mail in December.

Each card selection must be "just perfect".

The boxed cards for clients must be holiday non-specific because I want to be politically correct. Good form and all, you know?

The boxed cards for friends must reflect "me". I try to send simple, understated cards with a quiet message of genuine warmth.

Of course, the cards to loved ones take extra special care:

I read through every (yes, every) card in the appropriate section. Sometimes I pick up a card to read it three, maybe four times ... the decision is crucial for me.

By this time, the other shoppers have moved on. The Hallmark staff have become used to me lurking in the store (they even know me by name).

Yes, I tend to overthink the whole card sending thing.

So, when I get an unusual or odd holiday card in the mail, I spend a great deal of time imagining what was going through the sender's mind when they chose that particular card.

A few days ago, I received a card from Kelly. It is a "Happy Holidays" card that looks just like a red floral Hawaiian shirt (shape, color, design, everything). I will hang onto it long after the holidays simply because it is charming.

Nikki sent me the most wonderful card featuring a photo of her beautiful children. It has been such a pleasure to watch these young ones grow through pictures and this card too, will be a keeper.

So what is the point of this post?

This year I received two Leanin' Tree cards that I just had to share with you.

You ponder 'em. Let your imagination run wild.

"Just what were these people thinking?"

Armadillo Reindeer

"Armadillo Airlines featuring Santa, The Air Marshall"

Boot Me Baby

"Chester's Boots Roasting By An Open Fire"

[Suggested Card Titles By Jann]


My phone rang just before midnight.

Anna had something remarkable happen last night.

I am relieved. I am happy.


I had planned to write only "holiday related" posts until Christmas ... or perhaps, even until the New Year.

However, something has come across my desk today that has caused me to raise an eyebrow and give pause.

As many of you may know, I am a bit of a copyright activist and work online to educate toward copyright understanding.

In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed. Its purpose is to establish guidelines for copyright protection (and violation punishment) in this "new" electronic age of computers, software, and the Internet.

While much of the D.M.C.A. is inherently valid and reasonable, I have compared its final version to a "rough draft".

Too much of the D.M.C.A. is impractical, not founded in Constitutional Law, too broad, or perhaps even too incident specific ... to be considered as the standard for "new" copyright guidelines in the digital age.

However, some of the laws enacted have been put to test.

A Russian software programmer, Dmitri Sklyarov, was arrested five months ago for writing a program that allowed people to disable encryption software protecting Adobe electronic books.

He was released Thursday, to return to Moscow. The release was contingent on Mr. Sklyarov testifying against the Russian software company he was working for when he wrote the violating software program.

Was Mr. Sklyarov wrong to write this program?

According to the D.M.C.A., he was. In basic English, the D.M.C.A. makes it illegal to sell technology that circumvents encryption software.

So why has Mr. Sklyarov become a martyr to so many people worldwide?

Ponder this:

The program he wrote functions solely to do an illegal activity.

However, until the program is actually used and an encrypted electronic book is circumvented, is the software itself actually illegal?


And then today, along comes an article regarding Eric Corley and a lawsuit implemented by the Motion Picture Association of America.

A lawsuit based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A lawsuit that was won by the MPAA.

It appears that Mr. Corley had numerous websites and was prolifically active on message boards and newsgroups.

So what did Mr. Corley do to make the MPAA angry?

He linked. Yes, he hyperlinked.  Yes, you read correctly ... the (A HREF="Whatever.com") dance.

However, he linked to websites that contained downloadable software that circumvents the encryption on movie-based DVDs.

What? He was sued for linking to the violating software?!

Yes indeed. Because the D.M.C.A., in part, prohibits an individual from "trafficking" in or providing to others a computer program that is designed to circumvent the copy-protection scheme shielding a copyrighted work.

I must stay on my toes regarding the law, copyrights, and new rulings.

This medium is so very dynamic.

The only thing that I recognize as static is the intent behind both cases.

Want to learn more about these cases or copyright?

• New York Times: Sklyarov Article
• New York Times: MPAA vs. Eric Corley
• Digital Millennium Copyright Act (.pdf file)
• R.I.G.H.T.S.


About this time last year, I wrote herein regarding my adventures in attempting to ship carefully packed and sealed boxes via United Parcel Service (U.P.S.).

I learned well from last year's experience and went directly to the United States Postal Service.

Wait, let me clarify.

Not directly. No. Not gonna happen.

The Post Office nearest to my home had six cars in queue on the street waiting to get into the parking lot. The lot was full. Cars were already lined up in the parking lot.

Mom and I ... and all my Christmas gifts ... headed to a different Post Office.

Ditto. Déjà vu.

Remembering the Post Office across town that we used last year with some reasonable success, we headed to west Phoenix.

The parking lot there is twice the size (since it is relatively near "downtown" Phoenix) and within minutes, Mom had pulled into a close parking space and I had headed into the lobby to get a "U" cart. [A "U" cart is a canvas tub-like gadget on heavy duty wheels that they haul mail in].

As though it was planned karma, a "U" cart was sitting there ... empty ... and waiting for me to use it.

I also grabbed a number ... 22 ... and they were on 91.

A few minutes later, Mom and I were inside the Post Office, the "U" cart now overflowing with Santa Jann's deliveries. The waiting vigil began.

Shifting my weight from one foot to the other, I began to whine quietly and feel grumpy ... similar to a small child's behavior while in line when Mom is busy reading tabloid headlines!

Still dealing with excessive pain from this damned torn rotator cuff, I began to get more antsy.

Feeling far from being in the "joy of the holiday" but instead hurting beyond belief, my moment of self pity was interrupted by an elderly woman who spoke softly to me.

"Young lady ... ma'am?"

I turned to look into the softest blue eyes I have ever seen.

She said, "Would you like my number? I am all done."

Seeing that her number would afford me a quicker departure, I was pleased at the offer.

I asked, "But ma'am ... how did you get your posting done and still have a number?"

She answered in a sweet, almost lyrical voice, "Some nice man had to leave and could not wait and he gave me his number. So I thought you could use mine."

I wanted to hug her.

I took her number and thanked her.

Then turning to the crowd who had many numbers behind mine, I looked for a face ...

... I walked over to a gentleman who looked like he too, had lost his "holiday joy".

He had seen the transaction between the woman and me ... so he knew why I approached.

Without a word, I handed him my number 22 ticket.

Returning to my place in line, I noticed that my shoulder hurt just a wee bit less ... and almost magically, I was humming a Christmas carol.


The World Remembers

Join the nations throughout the world for a moment to remember.

Lest we should ever forget.


Trust. Honor. Integrity. Reliability.

According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, these words are all interrelated.

I have come to learn in my oh-so-many years on this earth that the purpose behind those words is indeed like standing dominos: one falls, and the rest will too.

However, when one stands strong, the rest remain upright.

While growing up, one principle that remained prevalent was that, "You are only as good as your word."

When I made a promise, a commitment ... an agreement ... I was taught to be honorable at all costs to remain faithful to the promise.

Excuses often were outright lies. Similar to the familiar "the check is in the mail".

I have come to learn how truly invaluable it is to be able to trust someone because they are trustworthy.

I have also come to know the heartbreak and disappointment when someone lets you down.

So, if I may ... in this gift giving season ... I would like to suggest a gift that is truly inexpensive but more valuable than gold:

Be trustworthy. Be honorable. Have integrity. Exhibit reliability.

These are gifts that never stop giving.



I am still receiving sporadic email with the subject line reading "re:  " (nothing else in the subject line) and the body of the email is blank.

Since this email is the result of someone using Outlook with a computer infected with W32.Badtrans.B@mm, which is writing to email addresses in their address book ...

... I find myself asking, "Who are these people?!"

Why is my email address in their address books in the first place?

Not once have I received this "worm" from anyone I know.

Yes, the program spooks an alias into the "From:  " line when the sender's computer does not have the SMTP configured ...

... but who in the world uses email and does not configure their SMTP?

(Obviously Jann, it is the people whose computers keep sending you blank email!)

I use an old version of Netscape to send/receive email and it is so antiquated that no one bothers to write virii or wormage for it.

None the less, I still go and diligently do my anti-virus updates with complete regularity.   It is just simple, good prophylactic maintenance.

So watch yourselves.

And because I am an equal opportunity supporter of anti-virus programs, I suggest that if you do not have a condom on your computer, get one of these:

• McAfee
• Symantec/Norton
• Free AntiVirus Software

And if you do have a booger-basher, update it often.


"Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear." - Albert Camus (1913-1960)

Have you ever treated someone with reverance, perhaps bowing to their whims and fancies, simply because you fear them?

Too often people are placed in positions of authority or given respect and treated honorably. But not because they earned it.

No, it is because they are feared.

We believe they have power. We fear their power. This fear empowers them.

Take away the respect, they will doubt themselves.

The power is diminished. Fear is conquered.

..:: Click Here for Links & Archives ::..