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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Who needs sleep?

I usually sleep, at most, about five hours on a worknight. Even when I was working a very physically demanding job, I rarely got more than six hours of sleep. On a weekend I might allow myself eight hours if I get to bed early, but I usually wake up feeling like I'm wasting time sleeping, time that could have - well, could have been wasted on something else.

How much sleep do people typically get? I hear eight hours as a recommended minimum all the time, but I can't imagine finding the time to get that much sleep on a regular basis.

Oh, well, time for bed. If I'm asleep in five minutes and the cats let me sleep through the night, I could get up to four and a half hours before my alarm goes off.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Blooms and blossoms delayed

It's April 24th, 2018, and my cherry trees aren't in bloom yet. My irises haven't bloomed either. Nor have my tulips. The daffodils are nearly spent. Once they are, I'll be able to dig them up, divide them, and spread them around a bit.

I just had frost on my windshield yesterday, but already my lawn could use a mowing.

The tomato seedlings are coming along nicely - whichever ones have survived. I may have mostly Roma plum tomatoes, or none at all. I sort of last track. We'll find out in a few months, I guess. It's probably not too late to start a few more seeds...

Monday, April 23, 2018


Me, after coming home from work 45 minutes late, taking my mom to physical therapy, going grocery shopping, scouting out a new view from Holy Trinity Cemetery, and taking my mom home from physical therapy: I'd like to go out and get some photos today, but I don't really feel like running out again. Besides, it's not like there won't be any more sunny days.

Me, a few minutes later: To hell with that. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. There may not be any more sunny days. Get those photos now.

So, with the sun rapidly sinking in the west, I went back to the cemetery and reshot the Nanticoke Panorama from a slightly different angle, and with much better lighting:

Click to zoom. See original post for details.

I then ran out to the Shickshinny Boat Launch (latitude 41.178696, longitude -76.106361 - put that in Google Maps and you'll be able to see exactly where I was standing) and took some new photos of the Susquehanna from more-or-less the same place I took the original image back on April 1:

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Image may contain: tree, sky, mountain, outdoor, nature and water

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Overall, I'm glad I went out and got these photos. I'm glad I didn't presume to wait on another sunny day.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The floating cross

When we stopped at Holy Trinity Cemetery in Newport Township last week to locate my great-grandparents's grave, something unusual caught my eye, something that I decided I would have to follow up on later. Just a few rows away, a cross appeared to be floating over the cemetery.

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It wasn't, of course. Instead it looked like an elegant solution to a problem: a cross had broken at the bottom, and was now supported by a wire frame that preserved the remnants of the original but kept the shape of the original. But thinking about it a bit more, I realized that wasn't the case.

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What was holding up the cross was actually the wire frame on which the cross - a home-made grave marker - had been built.

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The base of the cross had been broken off, or dissolved away from exposure to acid rain over the decades. How many decades? It was impossible to tell - just as it was impossible to tell for whom the cross was intended to serve as a memorial.

The cross has broken glass of several colors incorporated into it, or pressed onto the surface.

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Perhaps eighty or ninety years ago someone died and was buried. Someone else cared enough to build a wire frame and pour a cross of concrete around it, carefully incorporating colorful bits of broken glass into it. Now, the cross is breaking down, the name of the person it honors lost to history, or buried in the annals of the Holy Trinity Cemetery. But for the moment it remains hanging on a wire frame above the surface of the cemetery, a testament to the love of the builder for the person buried here.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


We'll be changing shifts again at work soon.  For the past six months or so I've been working a 6:00 AM to 2:30 PM M-F shift. This has worked out for me quite well for a number of reasons, despite having to be out of bed by about 3:30 each morning. I don't know what shift I will be working come June, but it will definitely be very different.

I swapped days off this week with someone so he could go to a wedding this weekend. I had Thursday and Friday off, and I'm working his Saturday and Sunday. He starts a half-hour later than me, and his breaks are at different times. It's enough of a difference to have knocked me for a loop. Whatever my new shift will be, it's going to be one heck of an adjustment.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Nanticoke panorama

Panorama 1, April 20, 2018. Click on the image to see in higher resolution
Panorama 2, April 23, 2018

Panoramic view of Nanticoke as seen from Holy Trinity Cemetery in Newport Township.

Five churches can be seen here:

St. Stanislaus (now closed) on the far left, orange and copper-green with a gray roof on the domed steeple;

St. Joseph (now closed), brick red with a dark steeple, partially obscured by trees;

Holy Trinity (now St. Faustina Main Site), tawny yellow with a dark steeple;

St. John Slovak Lutheran, yellow-orange with a dark steeple;

and St. Mary's (now St. Faustina Secondary Site), brick red with a gray steeple.

The image is level, the far landscape actually slopes up from left (north) to right (south), while the grounds of the cemetery drop off on a sharp hill.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Record Store Day is Saturday, April 21

See here for the official Record Store Day site!

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From Facebook page of Joe Nardone's Gallery of Sound

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From Facebook page of Embassy Vinyl, 352 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA
Record Store Day is an annual event (first held in April 2008) that celebrates independent record stores, record culture, and the art of music on vinyl. Record stores are becoming fewer in number every year as more people chose to download or stream music, and many who choose to buy physical records or CDs do so through online retailers. Participating record stores often feature special promotional items for Record Store Day, so stop by your local record store and see what they've got. Go here for locations of participating stores near you.

(That link shows me a list of seven record stores within fifty miles on Nanticoke. Seven. Two of them are Gallery of Sound locations, which once boasted eleven stores throughout the region, including two in Wilkes-Barre alone. The Electric Mindshaft in Scranton, a favorite haunt in my college days thirty years ago, is apparently closed now, and may have been closed for as much as four years. It looks like Hazleton currently has zero record stores. HINT: Search by zip code, not city, for a list of nearby record stores.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How dark are your skies?

How dark is your night sky? How well can you see the stars? The International Dark-Sky Association would like to know.

From the IDA Facebook page

The image above shows a representation of the Bortle scale, which provides a standard reference that allows the sky to be compared between different locations. See here for a detailed flowchart of how to use it. From just eyeballing the chart, I would say that Nanticoke is about a 6 on a good day - we get some light pollution from Wilkes-Barre to the East, the Crestwood Industrial Park in Mountaintop to the South, and the State Correctional Institute at Dallas to the North, as well as local pollution from unshielded streetlights and other randomly-directed lights.

Submit your assessment of the darkness of your sky to this post (post removed) on the IDA's Facebook page. And be sure to visit their website.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Snow on Forsythia blossoms, April 17, 2018

It's Tuesday, April 17, 2018, and it's been snowing off and on all day in Nanticoke and throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. For the most part it's just been flurries, but around 4:00 this afternoon, as I drove from a root canal follow-up appointment to the Barnes & Noble at the Arena Hub Plaza in Wilkes-Barre to pick up a copy of James Comey's newly-released book "A Higher Loyalty" (40% off with my member's discount), I encountered a fairly solid squall. The squall was over by the time I reached the bookstore, but the snow began to fall again as a fine dust a few hours later, just before 7:00. I stepped outside to try to get some photos, but the snow was too fine to show up in photos, and melted almost as soon as it hit any surface. I decided to pack it in.

Almost immediately, the snow began to fall in great, downy flakes. It was still melting quickly, but I was able to get the shot above of snow on the Forsythia blossoms.

NOW are we done with snow?

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Oven-fried chicken

About a year ago I had a craving for Shake 'n' Bake chicken. Not that I ever had this much when I was young, and those times that I did have it I didn't really enjoy it. I had a notion that there must be a way of making a version of the coating at home. I found a recipe online, and through trial and error I have come up with a good working recipe.

Oven-fried chicken

Chicken thighs (8) or chicken drumsticks (10) or equivalent
Extra virgin olive oil
Butter (one thin slice per piece of chicken)

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup seasoned cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Other seasonings to taste

Parchment paper

Thaw (if frozen) and soak chicken.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. (Or is it 450 degrees? That's the temperature I baked the chicken at yesterday. It came out darker, but all of the residual fat seems to have rendered out without drying the chicken.)

Add all ingredients for coating to one gallon plastic storage bag and mix thoroughly by shaking.

Coat bottom of large cast iron frying pan or non-stick roaster with a shallow layer of olive oil. (I use both, putting four pieces of chicken in each.) Add one thin pat of butter for each piece of chicken.

Remove skin and fat from soaked chicken. Add to bag with coating mix, up to half the pieces at once. Shake until thoroughly coated.

Put each piece of coated chicken on a pat of butter (for browning.)

Place uncovered in pre-heated oven for twenty minutes.

After twenty minutes, remove and turn over each piece of chicken. Return to oven for additional twenty minutes.

Allow to cool.

To freeze for later use, wrap each cooled piece of chicken in parchment paper and place in freezer bag. Remove air and freeze.

This allows me to make a week and a half of lunches at once. (One serving is one thigh or two drumsticks.)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

In bloom 2018

Last year I started writing posts that noted the dates when various flowers and trees came into bloom. I had posts but no photos. This year, I have photos, though I've been posting about other things.

Crocuses are usually the first blooms to appear. I photographed these on April 8, 2018 at our family plot at St. Mary's Cemetery on Middle Road. They had probably first come into bloom about two weeks earlier.

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Daffodils are the first flowers to appear around our house. They were once more widespread, but eventually choked themselves out. This season I may dig them up after they are done blooming and spread the bulbs out to other spots around the house. These photos were taken April 10 and 11, and the daffodils had been in bloom for at least a week.

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Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor

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A black-and-white photo captures subtle details that are overwhelmed by the color rendering in the color version.

Our forsythia just began to open today, April 15. Some other forsythia in the neighborhood and other parts of town have been open for several days.

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I haven't noticed any tulips blooming yet. I wonder if I missed them, or if they didn't survive past winters.

Cherry blossoms should be open in a week or so. I'll keep an eye out for them!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The halfway game

Let's say, for the sake of argument, the year was 1995. I was in a bar with a friend. I was vaguely bored, as is usual for me in social situations. I  had bought a beer with a ten (or maybe it was a twenty) and had gotten a $5 bill back in my change. Something looked odd about it, beyond being very worn. The picture of Lincoln looked smaller, and the filigrees and scrollwork more ornate. I looked for a series date, and found it: 1930.

What would cause a $5 bill from 1930 to appear in a bar in West Pittston in 1995?, I wondered. I thought about some kid rummaging through their grandparents' sock drawer in search of cash to take to the bar. Or maybe it was some octogenarian raiding his mattress for beer money? But then something special hit me about the year 1930. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Sixty-five years had passed from the time of Lincoln's death to the time this $5 bill with his image was printed. Sixty-five more years passed before this $5 bill was given to me as change at a bar in West Pittston. This bill represented the halfway point between the year Lincoln was shot and the current year. It was a sort of stepping-stone that allowed one to cross between the present day and a historical event.

I can think of lots of examples of this "halfway game":

- Today I was reminded of the NBC miniseries Holocaust, which dramatized the events surrounding the Nazi program of Jewish extermination in WWII. That miniseries ran in April 1978, almost exactly forty years ago. When it aired, it had not yet been forty years since Germany invaded Poland in 1939.

- The TV series Happy Days aired in the mid-1970's and was set in the mid-1950's. Were a similar nostalgic show to be aired today, it would be set in the late 1990's.

- Star Wars (the movie known today as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) came out in 1977, forty-one years ago as I write this. Forty-one years before that was 1936 - the year in which Raiders of the Lost Ark is set.

This is a somewhat unnerving exercise. I expect it to get more unnerving as additional years pass.

EDIT, 4/15/2018: Assuming my recollection of details is correct and this wasn't, say, a 1931 bill that I was looking at in 1997 or a 1932 bill that I was looking at in 1999 or a 1933 bill in 2001, this incident took place twenty-three years ago as I write this - a surprisingly long time ago. If that is the case, then twenty-three years before that was 1972, the year that the flood brought on by Tropical Storm Agnes transformed this area forever.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Memento mori

As you take West Main Street out of Nanticoke, PA into Newport Township, it becomes Old Newport Street. On the right, just past Turkey Hill and across from Barbara's Custom Floral, right before the road transforms again into River Road, there's an old cemetery built on some hills. As you approach the gate along the stretch of yellow brick road and past the memorial to coal miners, you're greeted by signs in Polish and English letting you know that this is Holy Trinity Cemetery. The tombstones there are old, many dating from the early years of the twentieth century, the most recent from the mid-1970s. (It's possible there are a few more recent graves there.) Most of the graves are untended, surrounded only by grass. Here and there some plastic flowers or an American flag - some new, some in tatters - indicate that some visitor has been by recently. But for the most part, the cemetery gives the feeling of only having been visited by those who keep the grass cut and trees trimmed.

When I was a kid my family had a weekly ritual. Every Sunday morning, we would head out to 9:00 mass. Afterwards, we would head down a few blocks to my grandmother's house to join the rest of the extended family for a breakfast of Polish sausage and bread washed down with coffee. We would pass around the Wilkes-Barre Sunday Independent and the Sunday edition of the New York Daily News, pulling out the funnies and the ads and Parade magazine. Afterwards the kids would gather in the living room to watch cartoons while the grown-ups sat and talked about the news of the week and the latest goings-on in town. Gradually the dishes would be cleared, and then my cousins' families would drift off home. After everyone else had gone, my grandmother would join my family in the car for a tour of the cemeteries where our family members were buried. Three different ones: Saint Mary's on Middle Road, where my grandfather is buried, along with my grandmother's brother and sister and my stillborn brother and, much later, my father and my uncle; Saint Mary's in Nanticoke, where my grandfather's relatives are buried; and Holy Trinity, where my grandmother's parents are.

Somewhere along the way these traditions ended. The Sunday sausage breakfasts dwindled. Cemetery visits were reduced to a single cemetery, and then none at all, at least on a weekly basis. I still visit the cemetery on Middle Road once in a while, and I can find the family plot in the cemetery in town with some effort. But recently I realized I had no idea where the grave in Holy Trinity is located.

I took today off to take my mom to some appointments. After they were done we went to Cracker Barrel for a late lunch or early dinner, and then went to Wal-Mart on a largely fruitless and frustrating shopping trip. On the way home we decided to take a drive through the cemetery on Middle Road. We drove past my mother's friend's family's grave; my mom used to put flowers on it on behalf of her friend, who lived out of state, and would call her to give her updates on how the grave looked. Since the friend died a few years ago, my mom has carried on in her memory. We also drove past my aunt's grave, the grave of my mother's sister. We then stopped at our family plot, very close to the entrance to the cemetery. When we were there I told my mom that I wanted to visit the grave at Holy Trinity sometime, just so I could remember how to find it. I think my mom understood my concern that when she is gone, there might not be anyone who remembers how to find the grave. We decided to make that our next stop.

It took some doing - I overshot the first time, and had to loop around - but we found it. For future reference, its approximate coordinates in latitude and longitude are 41.196485, -76.014432.

It can be seen from the road, barely, just after the curve straightens out. It's on a steep downhill slope, a few rows behind the double marker with the vase, a few rows over from the grave that looks like an above-ground crypt, near some red stones and a pair of cross-shaped markers.

It can be located by using the trees on the perimeter of the cemetery. Line up the two trees near the Main Street entrance with the space between the fourth and fifth trees from the right along the east side, near the Turkey Hill, and you'll be in the right general area.

Facing toward Main Street

So now I know how to locate my grandmother's parents' grave. And I've put that information somewhere I'll be able to find it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Pennsylvania voter registration deadline is April 16, 2018

I know people who never got around to registering to vote in 2016, and aren't entirely happy with the outcome of that election. Yet here we are, a year and a half later, and another election is coming up, and a lot of these people still aren't registered.

The deadline to register to vote in the Pennsylvania Primary election is Monday, April 16, 2018. If you haven't registered to vote yet, I hope 2016 has taught you that elections have consequences. This year, why not go out and make some consequences of your own? How to register to vote

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

First root canal

Back on October 21 of last year - the day after BlueBear died - I had some fairly major dental work done. Drillings and fillings, deeper than ever before. The dentist warned that if these fillings didn't hold, the next step would be a root canal.

A few weeks later, one of the fillings fell out.

Well, not exactly fell. I had been eating some chicken for lunch at work, and a bit of chicken got caught between my teeth. I discreetly attempted to extract the intruding bit of meat. It eventually gave way - along with a pyramidal bit of filling larger than a piece of rice. My tongue could now detect a significant hole in the side of my tooth.

Uh-oh, I thought.

I called my dentist and she got me in right away. I showed her the filling that had fallen out, which I had saved in a piece of tissue. One of the points of the pyramid was discolored. She told me that this indicated infection under the filling. A root canal was now called for. Putting in another filling on top of the infection would be futile, and would prevent any drainage from taking place, making things worse. She supplied me with a one-week prescription for amoxicillin and a recommendation for a local oral surgeon to perform the root canal.

Root canal surgery is apparently very popular. It would be weeks before I could get squeezed in. A preliminary appointment was set for late January, but I couldn't get the time off. The next appointment wouldn't be available until early March. In the meantime my employer changed our dental insurance, and colds and the flu started to race around at work. I was sick at least twice in December and January, and it wasn't clear that I would be at 100% for the March appointment. That one was cancelled and rescheduled for today, April 10, at 8:30 AM.

I started another one-week course of antibiotics a week ago, to be sure I would be infection-free at the time of surgery. Today was the big day. I headed out early to be sure to have time for the paperwork and the insurance stuff. After just a few minutes of reading a now-outdated article about mass shootings in a TIME magazine from last October, I was called into the office to get started.

The process began with a topical anesthetic help against the back of my jaw of the left-hand side. After a few minutes, I was numb enough to take a dose of novocaine into the nerve. A few more injections followed, and then I was ready for the root canal.

I don't know the technical actions that go on during a root canal. I know it involved a lot of drilling, and something involving a cordless thing like a low-speed drill, and several pauses for X-rays, and at one point the oral surgeon wryly noted that I had "four canals." The anesthetic was very effective. I didn't feel a thing. I tried to pay attention throughout the process, but towards the end I started to doze off. Before I knew it, it was all over. By 10:00 I was checked out and on my way.

About four hours later the anesthetic began to wear off. Now I can feel it. I'm going to my dentist for a follow-up in a week. With any luck, this will be the only root canal I'll ever need.

There will come soft snows

(With apologies to Sara Teasdale.)

There will come soft snows
and a kiss of frost
temperatures slipping below freezing

(It snowed again today. But I also got some nice photos of some daffodils. Here is one in black & white.)

(UPDATE, April 15, 2018: Barring any freak changes in weather, it looks like April 10, 2018 was the last snow for the season. Mmmaybe.)

Monday, April 09, 2018

Poetry in Transit 2018

April is National Poetry Month, which means that once again there's a call for submissions for the annual Poetry in Transit program! The deadline for submissions is Friday, April 27. Here's the official press release, from

For immediate release
Further information: Contact Joseph Giomboni
Public Relations Office, (570) 208-5957

March 29, 2018 – The award-winning community program “Poetry In Transit” is sponsoring their annual poetry competition for creative artists. Winning poems will be selected from a panel of judges representing the local colleges in Northeastern Pennsylvania and will then be featured on advertising displays inside Luzerne County Transportation Authority (LCTA) buses.

This year’s competition theme is “Unbreakable.” When everything around us seems broken, what remains unbreakable? When everything falls apart, what will still stand?  Poems must be 6 lines or less. Please avoid profanity, outright political screeds, or religious statements. Any language, if accompanied by an English translation, will be accepted. The competition is limited to a maximum of three submissions per author.  Selected poems will be showcased for one year (September – August) on a monthly rotation with the entire 2018 collection.

The competition submission deadline is Friday, April 27.  To submit your poetry, please email your work to Jennifer Yonkoski, assistant technical professor of English at King’s College, at, or by mail to Poetry in Transit, c/o Jennifer Yonkoski, English Department, King’s College, 133 N. River Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711.  If you have questions, contact Jennifer Yonkoski via email or call (570) 826-5900, ext. 5487.

Winners will be selected by an advisory board of faculty from five area colleges: King's College, Misericordia University, Pennsylvania State University - Wilkes-Barre campus, Luzerne County Community College, and Wilkes University.

Poetry In Transit is patterned after the “Poetry In Motion” program on New York's Transit System, and London’s “Poems on the Underground.”

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Old family photos

About eight years ago I dumped some old family photos to Facebook. Back then Blogger's interface for adding photos to posts was slow and cumbersome. Now that they've made it easier, I've decided to archive these here on my blog as well. I'll try to add descriptions and content at a later time.

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Saturday, April 07, 2018

Susquehanna from Shickshinny Boat Launch, April 1, 2018

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This was taken around midday on April 1, 2018, facing west by southwest. I wonder how the same shot would look at sunrise, or sunset? I'll have to check it out sometime.