Theft of Titanic TV Foiled By Lexus!

Sergeant Joe Friday (Jack Webb on the old Dragnet show) would have shaken his head at disbelief. According to the Sacramento Bee, three burglars entered a home and stole a large television. The television size is not given but one assumes it must be 40 inches or larger (and either a plasma or lcd television requiring 2-3 people to move it) since they encountered a major problem: it would not fit in their Lexus. As this hapless trio tried to maneuver the television into the car, a neighbor spotted them and notified police.

Eventually they gave up and drove away leaving the television on the curb. Police traced the car to a 19-year-old man and arrested him for stolen property. The two other accomplices remain at large. Needless to say they never considered the television size in relation to the Lexus’ interior space. Another example of mathematics having a use in the real world!

Source:
1) Sacramento Bee, No Room In Lexus For Suspected TV Thieves, 28 Dec 2010

 

Christmas Is Here

Instead of musing about Titanic I decided to offer some thoughts and more about the Christmas season.

Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus: A saint and a fairy tale

Martin Luther, when he rebelled against the Catholic Church, desired to reform Christmas to reflect its true meaning. So he decided that gifts ought to be coming from the Christ child (Christkind in German). The problem was convincing kids and everyone else to accept gifts coming from a baby. So they eventually developed a convenient stand-in, an angel who serves as a gift-giving Christ child that flies around on Christmas Eve leaving presents. The name Christkind stuck and today young female girls are selected to be Christkind in German cities and towns. Dressed in white with glittering gold wings and crown, she makes many public appearances to spread the joy of the season. In Nuremberg the Christkind is usually a 17 year old girl chosen in a city-wide contest serving for two years. The post comes with chauffeur to drive her to the many appearances required in December and afterwords.

Yet Luther was unable to dislodge St. Nicholas, whose feast comes on 6 December, as he was too beloved a figure for many. So German children got the best of both worlds with both St. Nicholas and Christkind. And today St. Nicholas is more popular than ever and not just in Germany. His feast day is celebrated in many countries and usually the beginning of the Christmas season. Some of the renewed popularity comes from the import of another gift-giver: Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a composite figure drawn from several sources. It begins with the real Saint Nicholas but draws upon the British Father Christmas (a figure that went through several changes from pagan, to saintly, then a merry party giver and finally a gift-giver), the Dutch Sinterklaus, the French Pere Noel, and even the Christkind. Some versions, like the French, Dutch, and Swiss, have him accompanied by someone to remind children to be good (or he might take you away in a sack!). With early settlers being English and Dutch, Saint Nicholas was very popular but Sinterklaus was too hard to say and became Santa Claus.

Santa Claus then took on attributes of the Christkind in being able to fly around and hand out toys. Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas (1822) added that he had a sleigh pulled by magical reindeer. He could go up and down chimney by touching his nose. These fairy-tale attributes had add-ons later with him residing at the North Pole and elves making toys. The image of Santa Claus as a jolly fellow with apple cheeks and twinkling eyes came from illustrations in Harper’s Weekly in the late 1800’s. His commercial appeal became apparent to shopkeepers and department stores. And Coca-Cola used him in the 1930’s to advertise during the Christmas season. Santa was completely secularized and turned into a fairy-tale figure. Nothing of his connection to Saint Nicholas remains (except the use of the name St. Nick).

Today when I read that Santa Claus has been removed (because he might offend someone or is considered religious) I laugh. There is nothing religious about Santa Claus. Replacing him with Frosty the Snowman (a character created for an animation) does nothing but shift images with no connection to the importance of the holiday. Which is also why you rarely see images of Santa Claus inside Christian churches. You are more likely to see a rendition of Saint Nicholas as a bishop or illustrations of him handing out gifts to children while wearing his holy office. If there is one good thing to Santa Claus is that we can have Saint Nicholas stand apart. He was a genuinely good man who cared about children and those being harshly treated (he suffered for his faith by being imprisoned). He reflected his faith in Jesus in how he lived. Remembering and honoring the real Saint Nicholas means looking towards the real meaning of Christmas rather than a fairy-tale creation called Santa Claus.

Various Christmas Thoughts
-The Hallmark Channel’s The Christmas Card is destined to become a Christmas classic. A soldier in Afghanistan gets a Christmas card from young woman in a small mountain town in Northern California. While on leave he visits the town and meets the woman and family. In short he falls in love with her but there is a complication: she is engaged. Ed Asner plays the father and one of his best roles in recent years. Rent or buy it: you will like it!

-Dogs with antlers: bad idea!

-I like “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” How many Christmas themed songs have a verse like this: “They should never give a license to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves.” On the other hand I can do without the Chipmunk Song. Always gets on my nerves.

-I used to get a tabletop Christmas tree from LL Bean. But last year they dropped their supplier and did not have any. I got one from another source (the one that used to supply LL Bean) but this year decided to not get one. The reason? Cost. These decoratives, which are balsam tree parts attached to foam cores, look nice but are very pricey. Shipping is sometimes extra depending upon the source. A step up from a artificial tabletop but a more expensive one. Checking around the area I found that small natural tabletop trees (sans decorations) were available for considerably less. And they are in much better condition than the balsam decorative that often arrives with many needles less than when it began the journey

-Fruitcakes are disliked in this country because the mass produced varieties are terrible. Alton Brown demonstrated on his show Good Eats how to make one yourself and the key is good ingredients. Bad ingredients=bad fruitcake no matter how much booze you add to it. But you can buy good fruitcakes by seeking out good bakers. Some of the best fruitcakes are made by religious orders. The Mondo Fruitcake blog rates many of them. I get a fruitcake every year from the Assumption Abbey in Missouri and never disappointed. Give real fruitcake a chance and taste one of the recommended ones at the blog. But avoid the mass produced ones at all costs. They are almost always overly sweet, rely on cheap ingredients, and truly are doorstops.

Well that wraps it up for this Christmas. I wish everyone here a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2011.

Titanic Cliche Roundup

A recent scan of news headlines proves Titanic is used by news editors to hook readers. Here is just a sample of recent news headlines that utilize Titanic in the headline.

Microsoft as the modern day Titanic; we all know how that ends
ZDNet (blog)

Titanic Vinashin could sink on first debt default?
VietNamNet Bridge

The Titanic Sinking Of The Denver Broncos: 10 Thngs That Will Right The Ship
Bleacher Report

EU fish policy is “sinking Titanic” say campaign groups
Fishnewseu

Titanic: The all purpose hook that can be recycled endlessly for sports, business, and environment news. Not to mention politics, entertainment, and weird stories as well. And likely a porn parody next.

Titanic Cliche of Day:Bette Midler Compares Las Vegas To Titanic

Bette Midler recently completed a concert series at the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. During her time there, she saw the impact of the recession. In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, she opined:

When asked if it was like performing on ill fated liner the Titanic – which sank on 5 April 1912 after hitting an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – Bette agreed, saying: “Yes. It kind of was.”

Thanks Bette! We sure can see how those 1500 people, without life jackets and dumped into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic, sure resembles your performing in Las Vegas.

Source: Post Chronicle, Bette Midler Likens Caesars Palace Residency To Performing On Titanic, 26 Nov 2010

Titanic Musings: The Day After The Great Bird Feast

Another year, another Thanksgiving. This year some retailers decided to open to get early shoppers in. They hope to cash in on the pre-Black Friday crush that is often the case. Out here in the San Francisco Bay Area, a cold blast from the north has sent temps down to freezing in some places. It is cold enough that produce growers have to work covering plants to prevent frost from ruining the citrus crop. Many though decided to brave the very cold temperatures to camp outside of stores that open early in Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). People were camped outside the local Target store for two days so that when it opened at 4 a.m. this morning, they would be one of the first inside.

Of course the local media was excited. They rolled out with their vans and cameras to show people at home the spectacle of grown men and women choosing to sleep outside a store to be the first inside when it opens. Stores are not displeased hoping the attention will bolster sales. Some even handed out store maps so that shoppers will know exactly where to go when the doors open. Sometimes it does get out of hand. A jerk tries to sneak ahead causing tensions and even a minor altercation. Or worse, someone brandishes a weapon threatening anyone who gets in their way.

Turkey is the center of a Thanksgiving feast. Long ago these flightless birds roamed around in flocks and had to be hunted. Now you just go to the grocery store and decide fresh or frozen. Or organic and free range. Heritage turkeys are being bred and available either online or through speciality retail stores. Those birds cost more and can be less fatty than their cousins in the store. When I was a kid, most people roasted their birds using butter, herbs and other seasonings. Getting a moist bird was an art but today brining has become the preferred method. This presoaking allows the turkey to retain moisture as it cooks allowing for a moist and tender bird.

Another fad is frying the whole turkey. This is popular in the south but requires lots of preparation and care. It requires a large container full of hot oil (usually peanut or vegetable). You cannot do this indoors, on a balcony or fire escape. Too many people have tried it resulting in fire departments coming out to put out fires. You must do this outdoors and away from any structure. And never ever think of putting a frozen bird into the hot oil! The results are explosive and life threatening. And you have to set up a system of lowering the bird in and out of the oil to avoid oil splattering out of the pot. Is it worth it? Many say yes but I have heard people complain kosher birds do not come out as well. Since you cannot brine a kosher bird (it already is salted) it may not be as tender as a bird brined before frying.

Mashed potatoes are a favorite. The trick is getting them light and fluffy. America’s Test Kitchen believes Yukon Gold potatoes are the best to use for this. After trying both Russets and Yukons, they are right on. For light and fluffy, put down the hand masher and either use a hand ricer or food mill. I use a food mill and the results are terrific. Warm not hot milk (you choose the type but half and half is decent but for out of this world use heavy cream) and melted unsalted butter are then added. For those practicing Kosher, warm turkey or chicken broth (or stock if you have it). Then lightly fold it all in and taste for seasoning (usually salt and pepper). I sometimes add a scallion and prepared horseradish for extra zing.

While enjoying the turkey feast with all the trimmings, I remarked how back in the days of Titanic this would at least a seven course meal. Perhaps even more depending on the restaurant and its clientele. You would have the appetizer, salad, several meats, breads and sauces, a palate cleanser, followed by fruits, cheeses and sweet desert items (with coffee or tea). You can only imagine the food nannies going crazy if this was done today. They would go ballistic with the fat, calories, and decadence of it all. I wonder sometimes if the food nannies were deprived as children since they often dislike so many popular foods! 🙂

One tradition after dinner, and usually with dessert, is watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Every year I watch this show and always enjoy it. We learn the meaning of Thanksgiving and also forgiveness as well. Charlie Brown has to come up with a quick Thanksgiving meal. Thanks to Linus, Snoopy, and that strange bird, they come up with one with toast, popcorn, and pretzels. Patty gets angry but later apologizes when she realizes she imposed on Charlie to come up with a meal. It all works out in the end since Charlie’s grandmother invites them all to her home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, the Christmas season is right around the corner. Already the music is in the air and decorations are going up. Children are getting excited in many parts of Europe. The feast of St. Nicholas is coming up (6 December) and he brings good kids presents heralding in the official start of Christmas season. Time to get the pans out and make Christmas favorites for the holidays. And prepare for some happy times ahead.

President George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

President Geoge WashingtonWhereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

Titanic Musings: Titanic Ghosts, A Really Bad Cruise Experience, And A Pastor Who Compares Himself To Captain Smith

Over the years there have been a variety of supernatural claims around Titanic. Some have claimed Titanic was doomed right from the beginning or that an cursed Egyptian mummy was to blame. Haunted relics of Titanic are claimed and even a reproduction of the famous Titanic stairway might be haunted. My criticism of those going out to seek Titanic ghostly voices got some reaction. So far no one has conclusively proved (under scientific conditions) that such recordings are ghosts.

Mostly you get, no pun intended, dead air when you record nothing, You get whatever ambient noise is going on, traffic sounds (if near a street) and animal sounds (if recording outside). Weather plays a factor as well if recording outside. Ghostly voices, such as they are, could be people talking nearby whose sound carries just far enough to be picked up by the recorder. Consider it even more so out in the rarely peaceful North Atlantic. All that noise (waves, wind etc) which you have to filter out if ghostly voices of torment can be heard. Providing of course they are there. I doubt it and most who skeptics who study such things offer more plausible explanations for hearing the occasional word(s) on these recordings without resorting to the supernatural.

A Bad Cruise
Most cruises are pleasurable and offer lots of distraction. Unless of course you recently were aboard the Carnival ship Splendor. A fire disabled its main engines forcing them to use auxiliary power for navigation. That meant no hot water for cooking or bathing, toilets that did not work, dimmed lighting (emergency only) or no lighting, and uncomfortable rooms without air conditioning. Without power much of the food spoiled quickly leaving them with whatever the staff could pull together. The U.S. Navy did render aid with supplies and—gasp!—spam. Actually spam is not that not bad (Hawaiian’s love it) but with little options but eating it cold, not that great either.

According to CBC News the Urban family from Edmonton was aboard. When asked about the fire, Rosalie Urban is quoted as saying:

[I had] thoughts of the Titanic, I’m like, ‘Did we hit an iceberg or something?’ But we were down south, so I didn’t know what was going on.

Fortunately it was not an iceberg but they did have to spend several uncomfortable days at sea being towed to San Diego with cold showers and cold food. It was at least memorable and something years later one can laugh at. Needless to say they are not laughing at Carnival since they had to refund all the passengers fares and give them vouchers for free cruise in the future. Travelers rebooking on Carnival will not want to sail on Splendor again.

Pastor Feels Like Captain Smith

Biloxi’s Church of the Redeemer is relocating after many decades on the beachfront. It withstood two hurricanes and probably seen a lot of history. Now it is relocating to Popp’s Ferry and of course parishioners are sad to see it go. According to WLOX , parishioners have been helping to paint the new place and move items. As they move to abandon the old church, church leader Fr.Dr. Harold Roberts said (in jest):

“I keep telling people, I feel like the captain of the Titanic.”

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‘Titanic’ Pervert Faces Jail

Sometimes you read things that make you want to barf like this news story. According to Halifax Evening Courier , Alfred Lenin Knapton (age 70) was convicted of eight counts of rape, three counts making indecent images, and three counts of sexual activity with a child. The Courier reports that his victims were two teenage girls and the ordeals lasted years.

The court was told the girls were subjected to the attacks on a regular basis. One of them said they happened weekly for five years until she turned 18, including one on her 14th birthday. The abuse of the second victim lasted two years.

The Titanic angle is that Knapton admitted taking indecent images but claimed they were recreating a scene from the movie. Fortunately the news does not describe the contents of those photos. Knapton faces serious time in the grey bar hotel and has to register as a sex offender when he gets out. One hopes he never gets out except feet first.

Commentary on Titanic news and other related items.