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Thursday, 22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Every 4th Thursday in November is the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It is basically a harvest festival where people gather together with family and friends to stuff themselves with food and feel grateful for things that are going well in their lives. Traditionally, people eat turkey and other autumn foods like cranberries and pumpkins. It became a federal holiday in 1941. There's a cultural idea that this festival dates back to early colonial times. It's true there was a feast of thanksgiving back with the Pilgrims, but it was in honor of a military victory and not repeated the next year. There would be similar festivities to celebrate other victories and these were held at any time of year. The had mostly fallen out of favor by the mid 1880's, until Lincoln declared two of them in honor of Civil War victories.

Some folks who I've talked to described hearing this like learning there was no Santa Claus. Sorry. Personally, I like the idea of having a harvest festival and having a national holiday that is secular and non-statist-patriotic. It's a cultural disaster that we've established this connection to that particular feast with the Pilgrims. It's as if Germany established a holiday and said it commemorated their successful invasion of Poland. So I'd like to reject the Genocide Day aspect tacked on to what ought to be just be a harvest feast.

One of the traditions associated with the holiday is making a list of things that they are thankful for. I'm thankful that I get to see my family today, since it's unexpected for me. Also, that I have the resources to deal with my immigration problems and will (eventually) be able to return to my school. I'm thankful that I had a useful telephone conversation with the foreign student office. I'm thankful that I will soon be getting one last needed document in the mail. I'm thankful for their advice. I'm thankful that stupid "anti-terrorist" restrictions on who can learn about what kind of technology in the UK won't apply to me. Indeed, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to laugh at the idea of a Silicon Valley native sneaking overseas to get access to sekrit British technology. I mean, not that they don't have any. At one time, they had a total monopoly on the secret of excellent musket design. It's just that, well, the silicon wafer computer chip was invented in my neighborhood, so to speak. The ipod was invented in my home town. (My dad worked on the nano.) Alarmingly, as the US now spends very little money on R&D, it may be the case that Brits do have some advanced technology not available here. Um, but we invented MySpace. Anyway, I'm getting off topic.

As soon as my admission letter and proof of lodging come in the mail, I forward them off to my visa service who goes and stands in line at the British consulate in LA and then I should be able to travel very shortly afterwards. I want to believe it will be like a week longer, but that's overly optimistic. I need to get plane tickets (it turns out that same day sales are rather pricey (my credit card bill is for $1500)) but I don't want to do it until I have a better idea of when exactly and at the same time, I need to be concerned about financial details. Maybe I can fly standby. So, yeah, I'm thankful that it's all going to work out, hopefully soon.

Sometimes people say "Happy T-day" where the T stands for both Thanksgiving and turkey. However, I'm a vegetarian. My friend Sarah sent me a poem in honor of this:

The turkey bird,
it cannot fly.
I'd rather have
a piece of pie.

1 comment:

Daniel Wolf said...

les,

your immigration story has some similarity with Charles Stross's The Atrocity Archive, in which a young English philosopher is not allowed to leave the US (and Santa Cruz, at that) because whe is is possession of some arcane knowledge vital to the nation's occult security.

I've gotten a lot of mileage out of the suspicion that I just might be "in CIA" (not "in the") as a Yank improbably lodged abroad. Perhaps you should revel a bit in the fact that someone out there thinks you, too, could be an intelligence asset or vector. Anachronistically wearing hats or boutonnieres or hanging around cafes without any apparent gainful activity are often taken sure signs of covert activity.

And never forget to add the acronym W.A.S.T.E. and a little posthorn symbol to any items of postage you might send. As Proverbs for Paranoids Nr. 6 goes: If you can keep them guessing, you don't need to worry about answers.