Today marked what has become an annual holiday tradition for me: Shipping Day. This the day when I send the fruitcakes off to their – hopefully – eagerly waiting recipients. This year was complicated by the fact that I was shipping books as well.

Hopewell, VA Post Office

The first stop was the Hopewell post office where copies of Urban Mermaid were mailed to North Carolina, California, Bulgaria, and Australia. A far cry from the Good Olde Days©, The P.O. in Hopewell is only open for two hours on Saturday. Obviously, a small window for mailing.

The next stop was the UPS store for  shipping fruitcakes. This was an around-your-thumb sort of journey because the UPS store where I shipped my holiday goodies last year, had closed in the interim. Fortunately, my smart phone was able to tell me the location of another store.

I have one complaint about the UPS app for the iPhone. You need to know the Zip Code™ before you can search for locations. What if you don’t know the Zip Code? They must have done this app on the cheap as it seems to know nothing about geo-location.

Long story short, the fruitcakes were entrusted to the big brown truck and it was time for a hot dog at Five Guys. I know they have great burgers but it’s so darn hard to find a place that sells bow-wows nowadays.

The weather today set some kind of record as it topped out at 79 degrees. It was 80 degrees at Lake Gaston  and no telling what it was in Elizabeth City, NC but I’m sure that Cindy Trimm Henderson was on her back deck with a glass of vino. Somehow, shorts & flipflops just don’t put me in the holiday mood.
Urban Mermaid Logo

I had one of those “Oh, Crap!“© moments today. I am supposed to crank out the first batch of fruitcakes this weekend. The filling includes pounds or raisins, currents, candied orange peel, candied lemon peel, candied citron and candied cherries which are soaked for 24 hours +/- in Scotch whisky – Cluny to be precise. This requires a muckle-sized bowl, for starters as well as another not quite so muckle-sized bowl for the pecans and almonds. All this is before I start mixing the batter.

I usually employ my wife’s set of ceramic mixing bowls of which two have the requisite muckle-ness. The problem is that I’m in Hopewell and the bowls are back in Charlottesville.

Last year, I transported the bowls to The Wonder City® in order to have the proper equipment on hand. This time around, I’ve been to C’ville  three weekends in a row and on each occasion, forgot to grab the bowls. No, I’m not making a quick round-trip to Charlottesville just so I can use those mixing bowls.

Instead, I’m going to have to try & make do by using my mother’s hodge-podge of pots, bowls & etc. Baking the 2015 edition of Howard’s Famous Fruitcakes™ is going to be interesting to say the least.

The 4th Annual IPS Day

The 4th Annual IPS Day

[stextbox id=”Quote” float=”true” align=”right” width=”290″] Why sure I’m a Pipe Smoker,

Certainly mighty proud I say,

I’m always mighty proud to say it.

I consider that the hours I spend

With a pipe in my hand are golden.

With apologies to Meridith Wilson

[/stextbox] Today is  the 4th annual International Pipe Smoking Day. While it is rather new as holidays go, around here it is still looked forward to with as much enthusiasm as the annual C.O.R.P.S. pipe show in Richmond, VA. While the latter event is viewed – by Dr. Data, anyway – as something akin to a high holy day, today is a day of importance nonetheless.   Ordinarily, Dr. Data would don his smoking jacket, put on his kilt – for a bit of true international flavour – and load up a bowl of MacBaren’s Scottish Mixture to be followed sometime later with a bowl of his beloved Heather Honey. However, since Dr. Data does have to work on this day – gotta pay for all them pipes somehow – he’s going to forego the kilt & smoking jacket and celebrate by lighting up his meerschaums with a few of his favourite blends and maybe a wee dram of Dalwhinnie. Emily Butcher, writing for, summed things up quite nicely:

 In the tradition of the Native American peace pipe ceremony or the coveted packed bowl set out by the fire next to a cozy pair of slippers at the end of a long day, pipe smoking is an art which has historically been promoted to foster relaxation and socializing — a slower approach to life. On February 20th a much-anticipated yearly event for pipe smokers around the world will take place in the form of International Pipe Smoking Day. The appreciation of a fine bowl of quality tobacco has held a place in the hearts of generations of men, the act itself promoting feelings of well-being and contemplation, but enthusiasm for the habit has been threatened in recent years. Once viewed as a dying breed, pipe smokers are finding new ways to network and band together in communities and online forums to celebrate the rich, historical tradition of the practice. The scope of the worldwide community has grown considerably in recent years through Twitter and Facebook, and specially-dedicated sites like The event marks an opportunity for these communities to promote a sense of camaraderie on a global scale. The Comite International des Pipe Club, an international organization made up of members from over 25 countries, is dedicated to preserving the pipe smoking tradition and is a strong supporter of the affair. [Today], seize the opportunity to slow down, to relish the small pleasures life has to offer. And as the United Pipe Clubs of America urges, to raise your pipes together to foster friendship, benevolence, and tranquility across all borders.

[boxify cols_use =”450″ cols =”600″ position =”none” box_spacing = “auto” padding =”10 15 13 27″ background_color =”aliceblue” background_opacity =”80″ border_width =”2″ border_color =”blue” border_radius =”10″ height = “50”]Slow Down and Observe International Pipe Smoking Day.

Promoting friendship and benevolence across borders.[/boxify]

I’ve never been particularly fond of Thanksgiving. It seems to me to be one of those “made-up” holidays contrived by Hallmark or the Turkey Council. Oh sure, it wasn’t too bad when I was a kid; you got a couple of days off from school and there was a LOT of college football on TV, but . . . I’ll let it lie with “but”. Once public school was behind me, my enthusiasm waned.

During my college years, Thanksgiving turned into a pain in the rear. Everyone was thrown out of the dorms and told to go somewhere else . . . usually home. For me, that wasn’t too bad as home was just under two hours up the road. For those students who lived hundreds of miles away – like the girl who eventually became my wife – it wasn’t quite so easy. It was a odessy. Take my wife. She had to endure a six-hour plus bus trip just to get as far as Philly. Then, there was a two-hour car ride across the state to reach her home at the Jersey shore. Once Thanksgiving Day had come and gone, it would be time to think about heading back to school. No wonder she gave Thanksgiving a miss during her college years and stayed close to Rocky Mt.

Thanksgiving is this insane American tradition where people drive – or fly – hundreds of miles to have a meal consisting of things they wouldn’t eat otherwise with folks they don’t really like. Then, they turn around and drive/fly hundreds of miles to get back home in time for Black Friday. Countless family feuds have been born on Thanksgiving and – probably – countless divorce proceedings as well.

And what do you do – besides watch Aunt Marge and Cousin Mildred bicker – for entertainment on that day? Well, the wall-to-wall college games of yore have gone elsewhere, For a while, the only game you could watch was the Detroit Lions losing to anyone and everyone. There are now a couple of Pro games on and maybe a college match-up. Friday is the day for college sports but you can’t watch them because you’re too busy standing in line at Mega-mart and making a silent vow to never speak to your cousin Ralph again. Ever! Think of all the fun you could have had raking up the leaves in your yard for the 100th time.

What about the food? Well, an occasional turkey sandwich is OK but you’ll probably be sick of it in a few weeks time because Grandma gave you all the leftovers rather than let her brother’s family have it. And let’s not forget Aunt Ethyl – no one can quite figure out just whose sister she really is – and her “famous” pumpkin/mincemeat pie that tastes vaguely like 10W-30. Uncle George swears by her cooking and then spends the latter part of the afternoon in the bathroom. Believe me, you do NOT want to go anywhere near that place afterwards for at least 6 hours.

Thank you, no. I’d much rather spend my time at home with the cats. A pie for dinner sounds lovely but the pizza joins are all closed on Thanksgiving. Maybe Chinese.

Dr. Data plans to drive 90 minutes to his ancestral home in Hopewell, VA and have a late afternoon meal with his brother. He will do all of the cooking and his brother will do the dishes.

Before you think that I’ve lost my mind, allow me to explain.

This is the first day of the Celtic year and yesterday was the Celtic version of New Year’s Eve. The ancient Celts believed that at the close of the year, all the spirits of the departed would try to return to their mortal homes. Obviously, this could rather unsettling. It was bad enough that the deceased had departed this mortal life; but to have them come back?

In anticipation of these unwelcome visitors, the Celts would disguise themselves so uncle Angus or cousin Fiona would not be able to recognise their mortal relatives. The Celts would also try to frighten these unwelcome spirits away by doing things like carving a face into a turnip, hollowing it out and placing a lit candle inside. The sight of this glowing, menacing turnip was a sure-fire way to send uncle Angus and/or cousin Fiona packing.

When the Christians arrived on the scene, they co-opted the Celtic New Year’s day and renamed it “All Saints” or “All Hallows” Day. The day before was called “All Hallows Eve” or as it’s known today, “Halloween”. The scariness remained but the disguises became costumes and the carved turnips turned in to jack-o-lanterns. It became a day when the bairns – wee and not so wee – would don costumes and go from house to house where the owners would bribe these fearsome apparitions with candy so they would go away  and not play wicked tricks like haunting or turning  their privy over on its side.

And now you know the rest of the story. In the UK, there is some amount of grousing that Halloween and trick-or-treating is an unwelcome American import. This is rather unfair since it was their ancestors who started the whole thing in the first place.

Last night, we had four kids turn up st the front door of The Parsonage. This was cause for celebration as we have not had a single one for several years. As is his custom, Dr. Data wore his kilt and a good time was had by all.

I will be blogging on the road today thru Sunday as I attend what is likely to be the last reunion of the 290th Combat Engineers in Albany, NY. This World War II Veterans group was founded – in part – by my late father and I can still remember the early planning and organisational meetings. These yearly gatherings have been taking place for over five decades and the ranks have thinned over time; alarmingly so in recent years.

So, before lights out, there will be this one last muster. My father traveled to the early reunions by train and it is only appropriate that I travel – in his place – to this one via Amtrak.

If your old soldier has faded away, why not consider doing something for the ones still in uniform. Become a Soldier’s Angel by visiting to learn more.

King Edward VII of Great Britain was quite fond of hunting. So much so that he ordered the staff at Sandringham House to be set 30 min. ahead so that there would be the perception of additional time for hunting each day. When George V ascended the throne, he kept the tradition; less because of hunting and more because he required that everyone be dressed and on time for dinner. When Edward VIII became King, his very first order immediately following his father’s death was that all the clocks be set back to standard – GMT – time. The lesson that may be drawn here is that Edward started sweeping away his father’s world the very minute that he had the power to do so.

This is exactly what I am trying to avoid in the wake of my mother’s passing. My sainted mother occupied her castle for almost 54 years. During her last year, her health and well-being began to decline precipitously. My brother and I made some minor changes in things simply to adapt to the changed situation. Now that Queen has left her castle, we are making some additional changes here and there but are trying to maintain things as they were for the immediate future. Not because we are afraid to, but because we loved and respected our mother.

The final segment on the CBS “This Morning” so featured a story by Mo Rocca on the nascent tradition of engagement rings for men. Although Mo is openly gay, this has nothing to do w/ gay marriage, etc. The story spotlighted real, heterosexual, couples where either the girl has asked the guy to marry her or, having been the recipient of a more traditional proposal, the girl asks the guy if he would wear an engagement ring as well.

As always, the trend is much bigger outwith this backwards country. Don’t think for a second that this involves the guy wearing a one or two carat rock on his finger. The rings are plainer – read more “manly” – than the ones for the ladies and may  have a small diamond or other precious stone embedded in them. Since single guys will often wear a  ring of some sort on their left ring-finger, they may be hard to distinguish from the run of the mill man’s ring.

What is important here is the concept. Whether he is the proposer or the proposee, the guy is – or should be – of some small value to his future mate and her asking him to wear this small token declaring that he’s off the market is rather touching. The traditional engagement ring has become a large financial investment for the guy; one that is expected if  not required by the girl. Since women, more often than not, are earning their own way through life, doesn’t her husband-to-be deserve a little something?

The “Man-gagement” ring. Hate the name. Love the concept.

This Month’s Rants

April 2021
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Pipe Count

Dr. Data's Pipe Count

480 (+/-)

Dr. Data has PAD - Pipe Acquisition Disorder

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