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Explanation for Holiday Traffic Jams

I can’t tell you how many times Jerry and I been driving on the tangle of southern California freeways, when of a sudden the traffic slowed to a creep, then finally was at a stall.

“Probably an accident or something,” often I have said.

“Most likely,” Jerry has agreed.

We stalled, crept, sighed with frustration, stopped, started, then at last our speed picked up, the traffic cleared before us and we were now moving at normal freeway speed. We’ve turned our heads in all directions looking for the wreck or the road construction or the detour signs, but in vain. There seemed to be no reason for the stalled traffic. Happened to you? Doubtless, if you live in an urban area. We’ve all puzzled over the phenomenon of a traffic jam to which there is no discernable cause.

Christmas lights and traffic. Tennessee, USA

QT Luong picture used under his “private” guidelines.
Now, a team of mathematicians from the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Budapest, have found the answer and published their findings in leading academic journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Mathematicians from the University of Exeter have solved the mystery of traffic jams by developing a model to show how major delays occur on our roads, with no apparent cause. Many traffic jams leave drivers baffled as they finally reach the end of a tail-back to find no visible cause for their delay.

The team developed a mathematical model to show the impact of unexpected events such as a lorry pulling out of its lane on a dual carriageway. Their model revealed that slowing down below a critical speed when reacting to such an event, a driver would force the car behind to slow down further and the next car back to reduce its speed further still.

The result of this is that several miles back, cars would finally grind to a halt, with drivers oblivious to the reason for their delay. The model predicts that this is a very typical scenario on a busy highway (above 15 vehicles per km). The jam moves backwards through the traffic creating a so-called ‘backward travelling wave’, which drivers may encounter many miles upstream, several minutes after it was triggered.

Dr Gábor Orosz of the University of Exeter said: “As many of us prepare to travel long distances to see family and friends over Christmas, we’re likely to experience the frustration of getting stuck in a traffic jam that seems to have no cause. Our model shows that overreaction of a single driver can have enormous impact on the rest of the traffic, leading to massive delays.”

So, as my early Christmas gift to my readers, I bring this explanation as to why you are now stalled in traffic in Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago or Milwaukee. Relax, tune your radio away from the traffic alert station to one that is playing Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly, or Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, or best of all, Joy to the World…The Lord is Come!


My devotional blog is here.

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Presents Don’t Get Any Better Than This


“Yes?” I answered a few minutes ago.

“Did you read about the young man who just found his mother he had never known?”

“No, where is the story?”

The story is here and is one of the most beautiful and touching you will ever read.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Steve Flaig worked as a delivery truck driver at one of the Lowe’s stores in the area. He was 22 years old, and had known from the time he was small that he was adopted. At the age of 18 with the full support of his adoptive parents he began to search for his biological mother.

There must have been some early Christmas spirit flitting around for last October after doing research through the agency that arranged his adoption, he learned his mother’s maiden name.

He typed “Tallady” into a search engine and came up with an address on West River Drive less than a mile from the Lowe’s store.

He mentioned it to his boss, and she said, “You mean Chris Tallady, who works here?” He was stunned.

For two months, Steve kept the information, secretly looking at his mother as she worked, and contemplating how to share this news with her. He was cautious, not knowing if she would be open to such a revelation. Finally last week, he went to the adoption agency and told them of the situation. As Steve sat there, one of the social workers called his mother and told her she had information about her son.

“The first thing that crossed my mind is something was wrong with him,” she said. Was he sick? Did he need a blood transfusion?”

“And then she said, ‘Christine, he works with you,'” Tallady recalled. “It was a shock. I started crying. I figured he would call me sometime, but not like this.”

She sobbed a lot that day, tears of joy. Flaig called her later that day, and last Friday the two, who until then had occasionally said “hi” as coworkers do, met at the Cheers Good Time Saloon near the store. They hugged, sat and talked for 2 1/2 hours.

From the Grand Rapids Press 

On Tuesday at work, they hugged again. Yes, there really is a spirit of Christmas. Yes, wonderful and touching moments such as these do graze our senses from time to time. Yes, there is love in the world, and healing for long-ago hurts, and joy and connection and sweetness and light. Chimes yet play, sparkling lights glisten, and, I promise, angels still sing.

Christmas presents don’t get any better than this.


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…”Very Merry Christmas Now”…”Miracle”

Breaking news says they have been found!

Earlier today I heard interviewed both the mother and the grandmother of the children who, along with their father, had been missing since Sunday in snowy, rugged terrain in northern California. I could hear the terror in the mother’s voice this morning as she told of her family venturing into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree.

Rescue search teams today were frantically racing time. Another powerful storm was bearing down on the area, and the family had already been missing for four days.

Then a few hours ago as heavy snow began to fall:

A California Highway Patrol helicopter crew spotted Dominguez atop a small bridge and landed nearby, sinking into 2 feet of snow, flight officer David White said. The family had taken shelter in a culvert beneath the bridge and stomped “help” in the snow, White said.

The miracle part:

All four were walking, talking and drinking hot chocolate while being checked at Feather River Hospital for dehydration, hypothermia and frostbite, treating physician Kurt Bower said. He expected them to be released later in the day.

Bower said the family had some water but nothing to eat during their ordeal.

“I’m surprised how good they are,” he said. “There’s a miracle from God in there somewhere.”

The very merry Christmas part:

“Our hearts are all full right now,” said Cory Stahl, who closed his pest control business so his employees could help look for the father, Frederick Dominguez, their co-worker. “It’s a very merry Christmas now.”

There are tidings of great joy in the world tonight, a big chunk is in Paradise, California and surrounds the family of Frederick Dominguez.

All the details are here.


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Wrapping Up Christmas

A Christmas Bow, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

There have been times when, dead on my feet, at the striking of the midnight hour on Christmas eve I stood wrapping gifts, digging out bows from plastic bags, scribbling on tiny gift tags, hoping my supply of tape would not fail me, and trying, for a few more hours, to maintain some semblance of the Christmas Spirit. My ideal for late Christmas nights does not include such stress, and I certainly don’t want the wrapping of gifts for my loved ones to be merely a taxing chore through which I must plow before I can get on to the next scheduled round of holiday reveling and merrymaking. I’m of the mind that the trappings of Christmas should in no way swallow up authentic joy and the genuine celebration of the birth of Jesus.

On Thursday last, I shopped for the final gifts, and in the evening, I wrapped them. Although I admit that wrapping a large number of gifts is a tiring task, at the same time that simple chore fed me a glittering dose of pleasure. A little room that we call the game room opens off the balcony overlooking our living room and there, besides boxes of games, checker boards, and the like is a piece of cabinetry where I store wrapping paper, bows, and gift boxes. A square antique table, whose weathered surface we don’t worry about has been the scene of many a rowdy family game, and I use that table on which to place the gifts for wrapping.

Throughout the year it’s neat to have a spot where the wrapping materials are easily accesible and I often leave out this basket of ribbons. I must admit it doesn’t always look this neat in the little room , and if I were more honest, I would have taken pictures when I was up to my neck in paper and ribbon scraps, and the cupboard drawers were sprawled open and the floor was littered with plastic bags and the waste basket was overflowing…or when the grandkids don’t put back the games, and puzzle pieces are scattered all over and Chinese checker marbles are rolling around underfoot. Some day I might snap a few pictures when Chloe and the boys take over the room to wrap presents for their parents or to devise very special decorations for whatever season is in vogue.


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Taken in (See more photos here)

But I digress. A hot fire roared in our fireplace on Thursday’s holiday evening as I wrapped the presents and thought of my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and how blessed I am to have so many of them. Christmas carols played over our stereo unit and Jerry sat in his easy chair before the fire. Finally I was finished. I sorted the gifts by families, and set some at the top of the stairs. These we would bring back to Lake Havasu for our family here. The rest of them I placed on the piano that sets a mere few feet from the game room. I left the angels among the gifts, and after a while I lighted candles and looked…and thought…and cried a little…for my family, for Jesus, for candles and love, and for the spirit of Christmas.


My devotional blog is here.

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He’s Gone Green, He Has, Poor Santa!

Santa Claus cyclists dressed in green

Five men dressed in green Santa Claus costumes, on behalf of The Climate Group, promote energy-saving appliances to help combat climate change.

From BBC News

Bring him back! I demand a chuckling, roly-poly red-suited Santa with his magic sleigh and all the fat reindeer and Rudolph with his energy-squandering flashing red nose.


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Gourmand Mice Swig Down Coffee

“Jerry, you’ll need to bring the traps up again.”

We had driven to our home here in beautiful Crestline on Wednesday morning so that I could wrap gifts, and make other Christmas preparations, assuring that when we come here from Havasu on the 23rd, there will be some semblance of order to our festivities. There’s still a small amount of snow on the ground from the last storm, and the temperatures have been low, so there is freezing every night. Our house is well insulated, and remains at a snug 50 degrees when its locked up and we’re gone, and we’ve come to understand that combination is quite appealing to the mice who vacation here in the San Bernardino mountains.

We’ve known for some time that the mice around here are brilliant, for our skirmishes with them before have quite proved that. Now it seems we are hosting a tribe of epicurean gourmands, for they have taken to nibbling (and no doubt brewing somewhere) expensive coffee beans. On checking our cupboards Wednesday, I found indications of their presence on one shelf only. Residing on that shelf are mostly canned goods, but as we prepared to leave after Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, I had also placed there a sealed plastic bag of gourmet coffee beans. Now I could see that into the slick coffee bag, two tiny holes had been drilled, presumably by mouse teeth, and that there were coffee beans scattered around on my cupboard shelves. Unbelievable. I know the little rascals probably live down in the basement around the water heater, and just come prowling upstairs when their provisions run low, but I had never thought of them brewing cups of coffee. They probably utilize miniature coffee pots and cups the size of my pinky fingernail when a caffeine urge strikes the little brown mice, and they’re probably snickering down there now at their successes in evading Jerry’s traps.

One of them isn’t. Jerry snagged him with white cream cheese on a trap setting smack among the coffee beans.


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A Christmas Carol in Lake Havasu

How many times I have read, heard or seen–at Christmas and other times–various renditions of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

is unremembered by me, but I assure you the number is a hefty one. Christmas is by far my favorite time of the year, and next to the Bible’s (and particularly St. Luke’s rendition) story of the birth of Jesus, this Charles Dickens story is my favorite literary Christmas tradition. It has been performed all over the world in every kind of venue imaginable from Shakespearean theatres to those of amateur underpinnings.

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It’s a wonderful Christmas story, although not at all an account of the birth of the infant Jesus that night in Bethlehem. But the principle of the story is definitely of godly origin for it tells the transformation of a grouchy, negative old man into a giving, thankful, happy being. Tiny Tim’s enduring words God Bless Us Every One are as pertinent today as they were during those dark and dank days in London.

Jerry bought tickets earlier in the week, and last night we sat in small auditorium here in Lake Havasu to watch a fine staging of this enduring classic. It was a small, but elegant production, effected by a talented local cast. The costuming was beautiful. I found a few of the lines difficult to understand, and the lighting was a bit dim. The small amount of live music was jolly and well done. Loved the fogging, the swirling snow and the intimate play of the actors to the close audience.

The star of the show was the story line itself, and Scrooge who spoke the powerful words of redemption and transformation. What prodigious talent was exhibited in Charles Dickens who once said to his friend and biographer, John Forster:

“One is driven by irresistible might until the journey is worked out!”

The working out of his journey has endowed these many generations with capital and rich writings–literature that transcends time and culture–as relevant today as at the raw moment when first story-germ was quickened. Of all, A Christmas Carol must surely stand at apogee. It is splendid drama.

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Illustrations and images from Google images


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A Christmas Night at the Lake

Purple Majesty, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton



“We need to leave as soon as we can,” Jerry said as we were finishing dinner.

So I promptly cleared the table, washed the dishes, gathered my camera and a few other things and went to the car. Jerry loaded in a couple of chairs and his jacket.

Having never done this before, we didn’t exactly know where to go, but after driving through a couple of crammed parking lots, Jerry found a dirt area beside the Lake Havasu Resort very close to the lake. It was a good spot and at first we thought to watch from the car, but then we decided to move down the slight incline and sit right by the lake.

The Christmas Boat Parade was scheduled to begin at 6:00. Right on time from the southern end of the channel began the cruising of beautifully decorated boats. They dripped with lights. My favorite were the group of sail boats, who, for several minutes, as they reached the bridge performed a graceful, circular pirouette.

It was a splendid night, a bit chilly and gusty, but not bad. Christmas carols playing through the area speakers lilted over the lake waters, the strangers beside us became friends, another photographer greeted me as he set up his tripod and through the evening snapped more pictures than I did; we met a couple of dogs, saw a few Santa hats and watched teen-agers twirl lighted plastic ropes in the air. Children called Merry Christmas from the banks, Arizona cactus, howling coyotes and a crescent moon glided by. Then silently moving before us was Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. And so, for the first time, Jerry and I watched the annual London Bridge Yacht Club Boat Parade of Lights. It was magnificent.


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Rod-Straight Parenting

Can you hear me clapping over here? that confetti flying through your screen and can you see my party hat?

A modern-day father has shown his backbone! Yes!

The Softpedia story was revealed on EBay when, after discovering his son smoking pot in the backyard, a father decides, as punishment, to sell the Christmas present he had bought for the son. Calin Clabel reveals some of the dad’s statements:

“So I was so relieved in that I had finally got the Holy Grail of Xmas presents pretty much just in the nick of time. I couldn’t wait to spread the jubilation to my son. Then, yesterday, I came home from work early and what do I find? My innocent little boy smoking pot in the backyard with 2 of his delinquent friends.”

“I thought I could still justify getting him this present. Maybe it would make him stay home more and ‘rock out’ on this fake guitar thing. He pretty much spends all his free time at his friend’s house playing it anyways (while high on marijuana, I would imagine”

“After I caught him getting high on my patio I did the typical yelling, screaming, kicking out the friends, etc… but I had not decided on a suitable way to punish him. As of the time of me writing this, he does not know I got him Guitar Hero 3. I will show him the auction once it is posted and we can watch it finish together. Sort of a “‘Father-Son bonding experience'”

Unfortunately, this dad’s actions flies in the face of the norm for 21st century culture here in the United States. What do you think? Is that action too harsh? After all, it is Christmas. Could he have chosen a better way to discipline his son? Will this make his son bitter and more likely to rebel further?

I told you my thoughts in my opening lines. What are yours? Be brave now.

Image of painting from Walter Kane at Google images


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First Christmas Card

DSC_0113, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

In our mail that had accumulated while we were home for Thanksgiving was this–our first Christmas card of the season. What a joy to receive it and to see the faces of these our children, Steve and Dearrah, whom we have not seen since August. Soon it will be more than a card, though, for on the 24th of December, they will visit us at our home in Crestline!

Receiving that card gave me a little jolt, I must confess, for it brings to the front of my mind that my own cards are not finished–actually I haven’t even bought them. 😦 I wrote a couple of weeks ago about not having done shopping yet–don’t know what it is, but I am quite behind this year with my preparations. (Did get most of my shopping done when I was home at Thanksgiving time, though.) I believe it may be because I’m in the motorhome and it all is just so different from last year at home in Crestline when I wrote this:

DSC_0322, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

I’m so excited about Christmas and am completely through decorating my house. While our family and friends were here for Thanksgiving, Andrew helped with the outside lights, hung the giant wreath on our stair wall, and the lighted globes in the game room window. Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I try to make it last as long as I can. I forget about this beautiful young lady after I pack her up in January, but I always grin when I find her in a box as I tear through my decorations. She sets on the window sill behind my sink. We smile at each other a lot!

Finally, we’re having winter here and that makes me even more excited. I love every minute of it.

Alaskan Storm To Impact The Area Monday And Monday Night

Special Weather Statement From The National Weather Service

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A cold winter storm will likely bring the first widespread rain and snow of the season late Sunday night through Tuesday. Snow levels will start around 6000 feet, but lower to near 4500 feet by Monday night. Several inches of snow are possible. Snow, rain, and fog will likely make driving difficult.

Well, we’ve had a little winter here in Lake Havasu–couple of days of rain, and pretty cold temperatures. We’ve taken to wearing jackets and have the furnace on here in the motor home. But there’s no snow. 😦

Last night Jerry talked to Ken, our neighbor in Crestline, who said, “Tell Shirley she missed the first snow. Little dusting a couple of nights ago and some still on the ground.” I get teased even in Crestline because I love snow so much. Don’t think I have posted a picture of the little wooden image I have which says, “Think Snow!” but one day I will. A couple of years ago when we had a large amount of snow that wouldn’t seem to stop, Ken and Nancy demanded I remove the sign from our deck!

No matter where we live–the holidays are rolling and Christmas is in the air! I’ve strung lights and greenery across the dash of our motorhome, and some pretty red beads are hanging from stacked up glass cake stands, and I have twinkling clear lights around an arrangement that sets beside my computer and it cheers me, and sometimes we turn our XM radio to the 24 hour Chrismas Carol station. Christmas is definitely my favorite time of the year …even here in the middle of the desert. Anyway Jesus lives here too…and it’s His birthday! I need to bake some cakes…and certainly get the cards going.


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