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Nativity 01 (copy)

This nativity set, loaned by Noreen Dickerhoof, was scheduled to be part of this year's Corvallis Nativity Festival.  

• ROSE (roz) n. One of the most beautiful of all flowers, a symbol of fragrance and loveliness. Often given as a sign of appreciation.

• RASPBERRY (raz’ber’e) n. A sharp, scornful comment, criticism or rebuke; a derisive, splatting noise, often called the Bronx cheer.

We hereby deliver:

• ROSES to a pair of mid-valley yuletide traditions that each open today. 

First, the Corvallis Nativity Festival opens its doors today to begin its 25th annual festival.

The festival brings together, for four days only, a mind-boggling collection of nativity scenes that have been donated for the festival by community members and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which hosts the event each year at 4141 NW Harrison Blvd.

It is flat-out astonishing to view the different ways that artists and cultures from around the world have pictured the nativity story. A variety of musicians and formal concerts add to the appeal of the event, which always offers a nice entry point into the holiday season.

Thanks to all the volunteers who have made this event an essential part of the Corvallis holiday season for 25 years now. (And if you're at the Nativity Festival, the Pastega Christmas Lights Display at the Benton County Fairgrounds is in the neighborhood; the two events combined make for a nice double feature that is virtually guaranteed to put you into the holiday spirit.)

In the meantime, another mid-valley holiday tradition opens tonight: Christmas Storybook Land runs through Dec. 14 at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center in Albany. 

All of these destinations run thanks to the power of volunteers — and they all could use additional help. It's a little too early, perhaps, to make New Year's resolutions, but maybe you could lend a hand?

• ROSES to NASA's InSight lander, which plopped down exactly as planned on Monday on the red planet — and to a pair of Oregon State University scientists who helped with the mission. OSU atmospheric scientist Jeffrey Barnes and his colleague, Dan Tyler, have been working for years with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to provide information about what to expect from Mars' atmosphere during what project planners called the "seven minutes of terror."

That's the term for the seven minutes or so during which InSight slowed from a speed of about 13,000 mph as it entered the atmosphere and descended to land softly on the planet's surface. A lot of things need to go exactly right during those seven minutes, and one miscalculation could have sunk the entire affair.

But thanks to work by Barnes and Tyler (and, of course, thousands of other engineers and scientists), the operation went like clockwork. InSight will go about its business, probing the interior of the planet, as attention turns toward a followup mission to Mars in 2020: That mission will probe the planet for the building blocks of life, and Barnes and Tyler again will play a role.

• RASPBERRIES to The Washington Post, for an article about the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree that managed to cut Sweet Home out of the picture.

The Post ran a story earlier in the week as the tree, a 75-foot-tall Noble fir, arrived on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol after its 3,000-mile journey. Crews worked Monday in pouring rain to get the tree in place. 

The story also reported that the tree had been harvested "in the area of Blue River." 

Well, we suppose that might be true — depending on how broadly you define "the area of Blue River." But we know better: We know the tree was harvested in the Sweet Home Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest, and we also know how the community of Sweet Home embraced and celebrated the tree and all the hoopla that surrounded its selection and eventual journey to Washington. Not even The Washington Post can take that away.

• ROSES to Greg Hamann, the president of Linn-Benton Community College, for collecting a well-deserved honor. Hamann recently won the Howard Cherry Outstanding Community College Administrator Award, presented by the Oregon Community Colleges Association. Hamann was honored for his dedication to serving community colleges for more than 20 years.

Hamann tried to downplay the honor, giving much of the credit to LBCC's leadership team: "I just got to play one role," he said. That might be true, although we doubt it. It is true that he plays that role well. (mm)

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