Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Today is twelfth night

The King cake is a tradition of many Twelfth Night feasts.
Photo: public domain

Traditionally there are 12 days of Christmas beginning on Christmas Day (December 25) and ending on Epiphany Day (Little Christmas/Three Kings or Wise Men Day) on January 6. Customs vary by country but almost always there are special activities, foods, and in opening of presents as well.

The celebration of Twelfth Night came about in medieval and Tudor England when Candlemas originally ended the Christmas season. A special cake was prepared with a bean and pea hidden inside. The man who found the pea in his slice of cake became king for the night while the woman who found a pea became Queen for the night. Christmas carols and feasting would also take place. A special punch for Christmas, wassail, was often drunk on that night but also during the entire season as well.

Since Twelfth Night is about the impending arrival of the Three Kings, the statues of them would appear in the crib or the following day in countries such as Ireland. Christmas decorations would start to be taken down as well and certainly by the end of Epiphany Day. Edible portions of wreaths (fruits or nuts) would be consumed as part of a feast as well. The famous Shakespeare play Twelfth Night was written as entertainment for the holiday.

Twelfth Night is considered secular by Christian denominations and not a required day of observance. The following day, Epiphany Day, is a solemnity and observed by attendance in church.


First Day of Winter/Winter Solstice

Today is the first day of winter and the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day for the Northern Hemisphere. The Winter Solstice usually falls between December 20-23 and the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn resulting in the North Pole being tilted the furthest away. The result is shorter days for sunlight for the Northern Hemisphere. And the further north you are (like Alaska or Scandinavian countries) means less sun during the day. The reverse happens in the Southern Hemisphere as the sun is closer to them and they celebrate the Summer Solstice. Those closer to the South Pole can have nearly 24 hours of sun during this time of year.

Winter Solstice seen from space.
NASA

Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as it marked an important time in the agricultural cycle. By this time all crops and livestock had been prepared for winter. Important foodstuffs were stored for the months when virtually nothing grew. Wine and beer, which had been fermenting during the year, was ready at this time. Cattle and pigs would often be killed at the start of winter so they would not have to be fed during this time. The early months of winter were tough in many places and often called the “famine months” since little food was to be found. Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as a renewal or that the year was reborn. For out of the seeming withdrawal of the sun, it would come back just as strong and powerful as before. Thus the Winter Solstice was seen by many as the start of a new year such as the old Roman Feast of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) which happened around the 25th of December.


Here They Come! Black Friday (US)

Black Friday Shopping Photo: Public Domain
Black Friday Shopping
Photo: Public Domain

Today is called Black Friday or as it used to be known, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is not an official public holiday though many government employees and a select number of private companies do take the day off. Schools are generally out as well so a lot of kids from grade school to college have the day off. The day after Thanksgiving has been a major retail event for decades. And the term “Black Friday” likely came from such overwhelming numbers of people and vehicles filling the streets, sidewalks, and malls on this particular day.

Until fairly recently most retail stores were closed on Thanksgiving Day. Only a limited number of stores, often grocery and 24 hour restaurant or retail operations, would be open. Usually stores would open around 6:00am the next day but a few years ago some big retailers like Target started opening up at first late at night but now open at 6 pm. It has not been without controversy as workers get a limited Thanksgiving with their families. Most retailers if they are wise will pay extra for the inconvenience but they are not required to. Federal law does not mandate extra pay if you work on a holiday or on weekends. Overtime pay for most non-exempt (meaning hourly workers)is only legally required once you exceed 40 hours,

The sheer masses of people trying to get into stores or malls creates hazardous situations. People being stomped on or worse have occurred. Criminals like to take advantage of the situation to rob shoppers, stores, or break into cars. It bears remembering that if you leave anything visible in the car such as backpacks, bags, GPS devices and mobile phones that it may trigger a smash and grab. This has become quite an problem in San Francisco when tourists leave such gadgets plainly visible in their car.

Black Friday is often used to measure consumer spending for the upcoming Christmas season. Merchants use the data from the sales made to forecast what the projected seasonal earnings will be. If modest or low, it tells them the rest of the season will be lackluster unless they step up their marketing. If sales are booming, then retailers are looking forward to a prosperous Christmas season.

Of course if you want to avoid the whole Black Friday mess and have access to the internet, you can shop from the comfort of your home. Why stand outside a store for hours when you can order the very product you want, often with the same discount, when you can do it at home? That is something likely to get stronger if the present trends hold up which is why there is now a Cyber Monday.


Thanksgiving Day Comedy

For Thanksgiving the comedian has much to choose from. But in the end the perennial favorite is going to be the famous (or infamous) turkey drop from WKRP season 1. Many imitations but the original still has it.

But of course no Thanksgiving would be perfect without those who foolishly decide to deep fry turkey and forget some important things when deep frying turkey.

Pleasant Cruise Turns Into A Titanic Like Adventure

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Sunshine berthed at “Alto Fondale” wharf, Port of Livorno, Italy 2013
Photo: Piergiuliano Chesi (Wikipedia)

There is nothing like taking a nice cruise.  You board the ship, stow your things, and prepare for a nice cruise enjoying the sights and sounds. Except that is not what happened recently to passengers aboard the Carnival ship Sunshine. Hours after leaving Port Canaveral Florida, it experienced what the Carnival called a “technical issue.”

I didn’t think anything of it, since it’s not uncommon for ships to rock back and forth. But it didn’t rock back. It kept leaning,” said passenger David Crews, according to CBS Orlando. “Plates and silverware started sliding off the tables. Then the tables themselves started to slide. Glasses and plates started to fall and shatter. At this point, it was pure chaos. Screams. Cries. Panic.”

An electrical switchboard problem resulted in the ship tilting to one side (whether it was port or starboard is unclear right now). The result was panic. Like most people you take the occasional bumps and jolts when on the ocean as nothing. But when it did not right itself quickly and things began sliding and coming off the walls, people began to panic. And of course water started coming in making it appear the ship for the moment was in serious peril.

The situation thankfully did not last long and apparently was corrected quickly by the ship officers. The damage was done though as passengers took to social media to report what happened. Although the ship’s crew quickly got to work to clean up all the mess caused by the tilt, many just wanted to get off the ship at the next port of call (many did). The initial offer of a $50 credit by the captain was considered insufficient by many. Carnival likely had to offer other compensation to passengers who choose to leave early. And you cannot blame them. That is a pretty scary thing to go through. Thankfully though it was not at all like Titanic. However it is not a great way to start your vacation.

Sources:
1. Cruise Ship Chaos: ‘Technical Issue’ Causes Carnival Sunshine To List To One Side, Terrifying Passengers (CBS New York,1 Nov 2018)
https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/11/01/cruise-ship-chaos-technical-issue-causes-carnival-sunshine-to-list-to-one-side-terrifying-passengers/

2. A scene from the Titanic: Carnival cruise ship terrifies passengers after leaning to one side (Deseret News,2 Nov 2018)
https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900040078/a-scene-from-the-titanic-carnival-cruise-ship-terrifies-passengers-after-leaning-to-one-side.html


Happy Saturday

Happy Saturday everyone! There are no new updates regarding the Titanic auction. It is up to the judge now to make some rulings on the matter. As soon as I learn something new, I will send it out.

On a lighter note,criminals sometimes make foolish mistakes but certainly the gal in Florida who was fleeing police in a stolen vehicle earns a special notation in the Foolish, Stupid & Idiotic Criminals Encyclopedia. I found out about this from a volunteer in the nonprofit I work for. His son was the dispatcher on this call.

The moral of the story (other than the obvious crime does not pay)is to be careful where you fleeing into before making that dash from the police.


Happy Sunday

Now that autumn has arrived, we are seeing the fall colors appear. Leaves start changing color and chilly nights are becoming the norm in many places (except those who have a summer-in-fall climate like in the San Francisco Bay Area). And of course Halloween is not that far away now.  Already retailers are unpacking their Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and will appear just before All Hallows Eve.

Have a nice Sunday everyone.

Autumn Landscape
Charles Rondeau (publicdomainpictures.net)

Sunday Musings

Titanic mural at Newtownards Road and Dee Street in Belfast, NI.
(Andy Welsh,http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallrevolution/68715920/)

With summer now in the rear view mirror, autumn is coming up soon. Many stores have already put out Halloween candy and a few costumes. One grocery store nearby has started making pumpkin pies and put out whole pumpkins for sale. But who puts out pumpkins in September? No one that I know of. A few commercials with Halloween themes are starting to appear as well. And of course we are starting to see just the usual beginnings of “true” ghost stories starting to appear.

Autumn is usually the transition from Summer towards Winter. The days get shorter and the nights longer. Temperatures start to drop in most areas but not always. The San Francisco Bay Area usually has its long awaited summer. Most of the year the temperatures along the coast are in the 60’s to low 70’s Fahrenheit and often cooler due to the marine layer. But in September and October, heat arrives from the interior. The wind shifts to off shore and temperatures usually soar sometimes with record breaking days. Usually it lasts just a few days at a stretch but it can be quite miserable with all the concrete radiating heat in downtown Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose. Most homes do not have air conditioning. We wait anxiously for the fog to return and rejoice when it brings the cooling we so desperately want. But it creates spectacularly bright days which is great for sightseeing. Beaches that normally are only visited by people walking their dogs or surfers become popular spots. Just remember that sand can be hot as well!

Of course the big news for Titanic buffs is the bankruptcy of Premier Exhibitions and the impending sale of the artifacts. The best news would be for the collection to stay in the U.S. or Britain conserved by a museum (or group of them). Hard to see how it will play out but the big money is on the Chinese to purchase it. Of course they will swear up and down they will keep it all together and in the court’s jurisdiction. I suspect though that little by little it will go over to that new theme park in China where a Titanic replica is being built. What Clive Palmer could not pull off they are doing quite handily. From all accounts, it will be quite a sight to behold.

Going over to You Tube you will find all kinds of videos about Titanic. Some are trailers or clips from the various Titanic movies. Others purport to present shocking new evidence of how it really sank. Some of the more reliable ones are from reputable sources like the History Channel, BBC and others. Then sometimes you come across one that makes you stop and enjoy. My Heart Will Go On has become an international standard from that movie and for Celine Dion her most famous song. Here is a lovely rendition of that song on a violin.