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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

2005 Hurricane season ends; Do the hurricanes know that?

For the past few weeks there's been a tone of anticipation creeping into the voices of news anchors as they give the reports about the latest storms forming in the north Atlantic. They have been ending these reports with a countdown to November 30th, which is the official end of the 2005 hurricane season.

So what now? Now that the season is officially ending, what happens to any hurricanes that form in the north Atlantic? Do they get counted towards next year's tally? Or do we just pretend they're not there and hope they go away?

This sort of thing has happened before. 2004's Cyclone Catarina - a.k.a. Hurricane Catarina, not to be confused with 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina, which caused so much devastation in the southern U.S., most famously the destruction of New Orleans - formed off the coast of southern Brazil near the Brazilian state of Catarina, in a region where no hurricane had ever been known to form before - and as such, it fell outside the normal naming conventions. And the "Perfect Storm" of 1991 , immortalized in the book and movie of the same name, similarly formed in the far north Atlantic in a region where hurricanes were not previously known to form, and also never received an official designation.

The 2005 hurricane season officially ends today. Here's hoping it ends in reality, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Cool scenes that we will never see in Star Wars" post deleted from IMDb

Dammit. Over on the IMDb's message boards for Revenge Of The Sith, the "Cool scenes that we will never see in Star Wars" post has been deleted.

It's too bad. It was a collective creative work of dozens - maybe hundreds - of Star Wars fans. There were so many posts and responses that it crossed over the "read-only" posting limit - and then quickly "expired" by IMDb rules and was swept away by posts of the "Who's hotter, Padme or Leia?" variety.

My own contributions to this thread have been saved here on my blog - you can jump into them here. A few of the participants probably archived all or most of the posts, although the only ones I can find online cover the first dozen or so - you can find them by Googling "dead tusken raiders buried in the backyard" (the punch line to one of my favorites) or "cerodeus" (one of the contributors and possibly the founder of the thread.) Unfortunately, the IMDb has taken steps to ensure that its message boards cannot be archived by tools like the Wayback Machine - but if you'd like to give it a shot, the URL for the "Cool scenes" thread was http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0121766/board/flat/19530375 .

Monday, November 28, 2005

Roast Turkey Soup

Damn, this is good soup. If you still have the skeletal remains of your Thanksgiving turkey, you can make this soup. Otherwise, you'll have to wait for your next turkey dinner.

Ingredients:
Bones of one turkey (leg, thigh, and wing bones are probably sufficient, but I threw in everything)
Water
Carrots
Celery
Sprigs of parsley
Salt
Whole black peppercorns
Whole cloves of allspice
Dark turkey meat
Noodles
Canned corn kernels (optional)

1. Remove meat from bones. Roast the bones. (I have no idea what this means, but I was told that it is the secret of this soup. So I put the bones in a foil-lined pie tin, covered them over with foil, and put them in a 400 degree oven for about a half hour. Then I turned off the heat and let the bones sit in the cooling oven until I was done doing whatever I was doing.)

2. Put water in stockpot. How much water? I dunno. How much soup do you want?

3. Add bones. Turn on heat. You are going to be slowly bringing this water to a boil.

4. Clean carrots, maybe two of them. Slice however you like. It won't matter much, because they will have lost their carrot-ness - their taste, their texture, their flavor, their vitamins - by the time the soup is done. Add them to the stockpot.

5. Ditto on the celery. This stuff is basically going to make the soup stock and is donating its flavor. By the time you're done, you'll have a hard time identifying anything that had once been celery.

6. Add sprigs of parsley, fresh if you can get them. Tear them up a bit - you will be able to identify them later on, and you want to get some in each bowl of soup.

7. Add salt. Not too much, maybe two tablespoons (assuming you've filled your stockpot about 2/3 full with water.) You can always add more salt later.

8. Add peppercorns and allspice, maybe a tablespoon of each. Less if you are weak and cowardly.

9. Gradually bring to a boil. But just to a boil.

10. Reduce heat once the soup begins to boil. Simmer on low heat for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

11. During the simmering process be sure to scoop off any floating globs of fat or scum (my grandmother called it shummy) from the top and edges of the pot. (This won't be as much of an issue as it would be for chicken soup, which uses the same basic recipe but uses uncooked chicken as the meat. The turkey bones have already had much of the fat cooked off of them.) Be careful not to scoop out all the parsley.

12. Taste. Add salt if necessary.

Remember, your flavor is coming from the marrow of your bones. The salt and spices and vegetables add to it, but the marrow is the real source.

13. After you've decided it's soup, or very nearly so, add the dark meat. This will be very stringy, so you may want to cut it into short pieces first, or keep it in very large chunks.

Scoop out into bowls, being careful to avoid giving anybody any of the smaller bones from the ribs or the vertebrae. (You may want to just stick to legs and thighs and maybe wings. That should be plenty for your soup.) Add noodles and, if desired, corn. (The corn adds some interesting variations of texture and taste to the soup. Plus, if you have leftover corn from Thanksgiving, it's a great way to get rid of it.)

One interesting aspect of this soup: about an hour after having it, you will want it again. And an hour after that...and an hour after that... It pays to make a lot of soup at once.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Intruder at the Christmas Tree

My nephews are visiting and, as is our tradition, we are putting up our Christmas Tree this weekend. It took me about a half-hour to assemble it and about another half-hour to fix it so that it stood up straight in the base. My nephews and I then spent about another hour working on decorating it (with non-breakable ornaments only!)

We took a break for our Sunday dinner, leftover turkey and some turkey soup I just made, and the reading of "The Littlest Turkey." (I wanted to do this on Thanksgiving, but my nephews had to leave before I got to it.) We then returned to finish the tree only to find this waiting for us:
Nikki had once again decided to interject himself into a holiday activity. He hissed and swatted at us as we tried to shoo him away. Three of the ornaments visible here are hand-painted leftovers from my 2003 Christmas project for my friends at work: a gold-leaf ball that never dried, an "Escher sphere" reflecting an imaginary landscape of snow and trees and stars, and on the extreme left partially obscured by a gold bells ornament is the very ornament pictured here .

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Materialistic holiday update

I am about 80% done with my Christmas shopping. I was about 50% done before Thanksgiving, but I have been able to pick up some major gifts at big post-Thanksgiving discounts. Unfortunately the remaining 20% will take a lot of effort, since I haven't got a good idea what I'll be getting these people.

My Christmas gift project for my friends at work is about 50% completed. Another 40 hours or so of working on it and I should be done!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Luck organs

Adam Felber at Fanatical Apathy just wrote a post suggesting that if "Intelligent Design" is a serious argument, then one must recognize that the "design" of human beings - with their fragile knees and spines and appendices, big heads and small birth canals - falls a little short of most definitions of "intelligent".

I've written in the past about what I call "biological practical jokes", situations in human physiology that are so perversely ironic that they could be held as evidence of malicious intent on the part of any purported "designer." (I do not believe in a "malicious designer", by the way.)

There is another aspect of human life that I have always wondered about. We humans are prone to defects and aberrations: bad eyesight, bad teeth, poor ability to regulate blood sugar, etc. In the dim dark ancient days of, say, three hundred years or more ago, I cannot imagine that many people with crappy eyesight, a mouthful of rotting teeeth, or lying on the ground in a diabetic coma had much opportunity to reproduce. Not that some of them didn't manage to get laid, but I imagine people with good eyes and decent teeth and an ability to eat whatever whenever without worrying about dying probably did a lot better in that arena.

But then we humans compensated for our frailties with technology. Bad eyesight? Here's some glasses / contact lenses / radial keratonomy / laser surgery to correct your vision. Bad teeth? Go to the doctor to have them pulled / filled / resurfaced / straightened / replaced - and here's some toothpaste and dental floss and instructions on how to use them. Can't control blood sugar? Here's some insulin and a list of dietary recommendations, and maybe some medication to keep you in balance.

So we go around with our defects compensated for (but not corrected or eliminated) by technology, and we go on happily copulating and squeezing out little ones who carry our genes. And that's all well and good, as long as the plug doesn't get pulled on technology.

But there are some other things in human physiology that make you scratch your head. In a pre-technological (or at least pre-surgical) society damage to them would have almost certainly resulted in death. Things like the appendix, whose proper biological function is uncertain and possibly nonexistent, but whose malfunction can result in death; or the spleen, which does perform a known biological function but is not absolutely necessary to life, yet is so susceptible to damage through injury or disease that it is frequently removed as a result because its malfunction is a threat to life.

So why do we have an appendix or a spleen? Let's ignore (or dismiss) any arguments about the "mysterious ways" of an intelligent designer and look at it purely from an evolutionary point of view. Why do we humans still cart around genes for these fragile, dangerous things that we could probably just as easily do without?

I propose that these organs are a biological indicator of difficult-to-measure factor: luck.

Granted, there's a lot of luck involved in evolution overall. Only organisms that are strong enough, or clever enough, or sneaky enough, or persistent enough, or lucky enough get to pass on their genes to the next generation. If you were the sort of kid who tended to wander into the middle of busy street, odds are you never made it to adolescence with a fully functioning reproductive system. Or maybe you did, but you got banged up a little. Maybe a lot. And maybe you had to make a trip or two to the hospital for a little life-saving emergency surgery.

Once upon a time there wouldn't have been that sort of emergency surgery available for pre-adolescents who got gored by a Woolly Rhinoceros or an Irish Deer and had their appendices or spleens ruptured. They would have died, slowly and painfully, and their genes would have died with them. Meanwhile their companions, who were quick enough or clever enough or lucky enough to avoid getting gored in the first place, would have gotten the opportunity to grow to sexual maturity and pass on their genes to a new generation - including the genes for their spleens and appendices.

It's not a strong argument for why we carry around vestigial or semi-vestigial organs that amount to little packets of unstable explosives stored here and there in our bodies. It doesn't explain why those individuals born without an appendix or a spleen don't have a strong reproductive advantage over those of us born with all our organs intact. Still, it is an interesting avenue of thought to explore: the possibility that the presence of organs that are non-essential in their function, fragile and easily damaged, and lethal in their damaged state may actually be an aspect of natural selection for a characteristic as intangible as "luck."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Where's MY Thanksgiving dinner?

Nikki the cat was afraid he'd be left out of the Thanksgiving dinner, so he grabbed a seat at the table. Note the Tofurkey on the left.

The Littlest Turkey compendium

Special for Thanksgiving: The Littlest Turkey, complete in one post.

THE LITTLEST TURKEY
by
D.B. Echo

Once upon a time there was a farm where turkeys lived. All of them were young and plump, big and strong and proud. All of them except one. He was smaller than all the other turkeys. He was called the Littlest Turkey.
The Littlest Turkey wanted to run and play with the other turkeys, but they didn't want to play with him. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," they would say. "Come back when you've gotten bigger."

But the Littlest Turkey was sure he was as big as he was going to get. He tried to eat as much as he could, but he never seemed to get as big and plump as the other turkeys. And he knew that unless he got big and plump like the other turkeys, he would never get to go to the Laughter House.

The Laughter House was a wonderful place. The Littlest Turkey had never been in there. He knew that only the big and plump turkeys would get to go inside the Laughter House. He had seen them go in once, and had heard their squawks and gobbles of laughter for a little while. It must be wonderful in there, the Littlest Turkey thought. All those turkeys go in to laugh, and none of them had ever come out again. How much fun they must be having!

The Littlest Turkey decided that, big and plump or not, he would get into the Laughter House the next time they let the turkeys in.

*********


THE LITTLEST TURKEY

Part 2
by
D.B. Echo

The weather started getting cooler, and the leaves on the trees started to change colors. All the turkeys knew that soon it would be time for the biggest holiday of the year, Turkey Day.
"Just before Turkey Day is when they take the big and plump turkeys into the Laughter House," thought the Littlest Turkey. "But this time I'm going to get in there, too!"

It wasn't long before the big day came. All of the big and plump turkeys lined up to go into the Laughter House. The Littlest Turkey waited near the entrance of the Laughter House, then squeezed in between two very big and plump turkeys. No one noticed him because he was so little.

The Laughter House was dark inside, and there was a sort of moving sidewalk there that was taking turkeys into another room, where he could hear gobbles and squawks of laughter. One by one the turkeys hopped up to ride the sidewalk. The Littlest Turkey hopped up, too.
The turkey in front of him, whose name was Tom, turned around. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," he said. "Come back when you are bigger."

"Yes, go away," said the turkey behind him, whose name was also Tom. "They do not want little turkeys at the Market. Only big and plump ones."

"No," said the Littlest Turkey. "I want to go to the Market with you." He had never heard of the Market, but he realized that it must be even better than the Laughter House.

A Man spotted the Littlest Turkey. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," he said. "Come back when you are bigger."

"Oh, please, Mr. Man," said the Littlest Turkey. "I do so want to go to the Market with the other turkeys."

"Very well," said the Man. "We've got a quota to meet, anyway."

The Littlest Turkey rode the sidewalk into the other room. He wondered what things would be like at the Market.

*********


THE LITTLEST TURKEY
Conclusion
by
D.B. Echo

The Littlest Turkey was cold. He was colder than he ever remembered being before. But then again, it was hard to remember much since they had chopped his head off.

He was in a case with the other turkeys, the big and plump turkeys. Turkey Day was coming soon, and people were coming to the Market to pick turkeys to take home.

They always seemed to want the big and plump turkeys. One time a little girl had seen him in the case. "Mommy, mommy, look at the little turkey," she said. "I want to take home the littlest turkey."

"No, dear," her mother said. "We are having many people over for Thanksgiving. We need a big, plump turkey."

One by one the other turkeys left the Market to go home with people. Turkey Day was coming soon, and people were taking away more and more of the big and plump turkeys. But no one wanted the Littlest Turkey.
Finally, the day before Turkey Day came, and the Littlest Turkey found himself all alone in the case.

"How sad," he thought. "No one wants to take me home."

It was late in the day, and the Manager was about to close down the Market for the night. Suddenly a Man came into the store.

"I have a coupon," he said, "for a free turkey. Do you have any left?"

"You're in luck," said the Manager. "I have one left." He showed the Man the Littlest Turkey, all alone in the case.

"It's a little small," the Man said. "But I guess beggars can't be choosers. Besides, it's just me and my wife this year. A little turkey might be just what we need."

The Manager took the Littlest Turkey out of the case and traded him to the Man for the coupon he was holding. "Happy Thanksgiving!", he said to the Man.

"I'm not going to be left behind for Turkey Day," thought the Littlest Turkey happily as the Man put him in the trunk of his car. "I'm so happy. But I'm so cold." He rolled around a little as the car pulled out of the parking lot. "I sure hope I'm going someplace warm."

THE END

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Talking turkey

The President pardoned the National Thanksgiving Turkey yesterday. Two of them, actually, named Marshmallow and Yam.

But why? Is this ceremony implying that it s somehow un-American to kill, cook, and eat turkeys? Just once I'd like to see the President - any President - say "We are gathered here to pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey, as is our annual tradition. But, goddamn, that's one fine-lookin' bird, all big and plump and juicy. Pierre, fire up the oven. Bob, get my axe - it's in the Oval Office, behind the chair, next to my baseball bat."

Thanksgiving is a celebration of carnivorosity and gluttony as Americans stuff themselves silly and then plop down to watch some football. We then proceed to slowly consume the leftovers and eventually declare that we are all feeling sick from eating so much turkey. Sick from the turkey? Well, it's probably food poisoning resulting from eating improperly preserved leftovers. If you get a "stomach virus" in the next week or so, it might not be a virus at all.

I know someone who insists on a Tofurkey every year. I've tried it. It's horrid. Not just the taste, but the texture as well. Tofurkey is covered with cheesecloth-like bumps to try to simulate the texture of plucked turkey skin. This is one aspect of vegetarianism I've never understood: why, if eating meat is so evil, do so many vegetarians try their best to recreate the taste and texture of meat with their non-meat meals? It's intellectually and ethically dishonest. I'm not a vegetarian, but I could live on lentils and barley for a good long time. The combination has a texture and flavor and mouth-feel that is delicious and uniquely its own without having to be dressed up as simulated meat.

I've been looking around at children's books about Thanksgiving lately, and any of them that feature turkeys as main characters seem to be about the turkey trying to save itself or its family from the chopping block. Why? Are we trying to teach our kids that omnivorosity is wrong? Maybe create a little family conflict at the Thanksgiving dinner table? I really think my Littlest Turkey is a more appropriate sort of holiday fable. At least there the turkey winds up in the freezer case and eventually the oven, as do millions of real turkeys each year.

But not Marshmallow and Yam. Nope, they're doing to Disneyland!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Xbox 360: How's your Nintendo?

I was out doing more pre-Black Friday Christmas shopping last night. I picked up a major gift for my mom and most of the accessories that go with it. (I won't say what it was just yet - there's a teenie tiny chance that she might read this before Christmas.) While walking into the store of national electronics retailer Best Buy I noticed a line of people off to one side of the entrance. Some were in camp chairs, some were sitting on blankets, some were standing, some were using cell phones. They all looked about college age. It looked like the line waiting for the opening of a new Star Wars installment.

Hmm, I thought. The store is open, so I don't see why they're not in there. Are they protestors? Nobody has a sign, and nobody is accosting me, yelling "Just say no to Coltan!" Maybe they're job applicants? Best Buy can't be hiring that much seasonal help! Has the economy really gone that far downhill that people are willing to line up in the cold for a handful of seasonal retail jobs?

I went into the store in guided missile mode. I quickly found the thing I was looking for - a saunterer was standing directly in front of the display for it, wobbling from side to side, so I had to keep ducking around him, first to the right, then to the left, then back again, just to read the card under the display model. Finally I caught the eye of a clerk - he wasn't really the clerk there, he was just a substitute clerk, and I think he was relieved to meet a customer who knew exactly what he wanted and didn't have any questions. He managed to talk me into a two-year service plan for $20 - hey, this is for my mom, and if something goes wrong with it, I'd like her to be able to get it fixed.

I went to the checkout and struck up a trivial conversation with the generation-Y girl who was ringing up my purchase. "Why are all those people lined up out there?", I wanted to know. "Oh, you silly old man," she replied*, "they're waiting for the Xbox 360 to come out."

Oh, I thought. Well, that's certainly worth standing in line in the cold for hours.

I flashed back to a time years ago when the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was all the rage. This was 15 years ago when I was living in Delaware. I was getting a ride back to Pennsylvania with my sister. We had stopped along the way at a McDonald's to grab something to eat and I was browsing through a newspaper that someone had left lying around. There was a small side article that stated that apparently imports of the NES system at that time constituted a significant portion of the U.S. trade deficit with Japan.

Back then, "Nintendo" was synonymous with "video game". And now? Nintendo is still in the game with the GameCube, but I think it's a distant third behind the PS2 and Xbox. And who uses the old NES anymore? Maybe some retro-gamers, but otherwise it's just a museum piece. Today's hot technology will be obsolete in a year and nearly forgotten in five, and the people who were standing in line in front of Best Buy will wonder what they were thinking. Years from now I suppose at least they'll have memories of a night spent in the rain and the cold with a bunch of other gamers, waiting for a chance to buy a game that now sits in the back of a closet collecting dust.

*No she didn't. But she was probably thinking it.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Christmas lists

My family and friends have been pressuring me for Christmas lists.

Let me make it clear that I neither need nor want anything for Christmas; I am in a financial state where anything I need, I can buy for myself, and anything I want, I can also buy for myself or can talk myself out of buying. I don't want to make Christmas lists, but I do, just to make them happy and to try to avoid getting too much stuff that I neither need nor want and would never have bought for myself.

I have been making two Christmas lists these past few years. One is for my family and consists of things that lean more towards the "needs" column - socks, underwear, shampoo, toothpaste - all things that I have gotten from my family in the past and could just as easily buy for myself. This year I may add on a few fancy items - a new Timex watch to replace the one that gave up the ghost earlier this year (20% off on Timex watches this week at Kmart), or a shaving mug/brush/soap set, to take the place of the environmentally-hostile cans of shaving cream I use throughout the year. Maybe some gloves, too, to tide me over until some of the 5000 pairs of gloves that I already own decide to reveal themselves.

The other list is for my friends. Well, specifically for my cousin and our friend Darren. The three of us decided a few years ago to reserve the big-ticket "wants" lists for each other. This takes the financial pressure off our gradually-dwindling families (all three of us are now members of the single-parent club, having lost the other parent to death) and means that we won't be disappointed by asking our families for the latest CD's or DVD's and getting socks instead. My list consists entirely of things I would probably buy for myself in the next few weeks, or could just as easily do without. (Do I really need or want a copy of the new DVD special edition of Death Race 2000?) We've started making things even easier for each other by pointing out the best possible prices for the items. (The first season DVD boxed set of War Of The Worlds [The Series] is available at Best Buy for half the price that Amazon is asking, but only through Wednesday, and if either of them decides to get me the DVD of War Of The Worlds [2005, with Tom Cruise], I've alerted them to the fact that my mom has a $3 off coupon in this week's People magazine, and they should see her before making the purchase.)

So the deed is done, the lists are made, and I can move the crass materialistic focus of holiday shopping off of myself - and back onto my friends' and family's Christmas lists.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Some rules for shopping this holiday season, Part 1

I was out doing a little early Christmas shopping yesterday and tonight, and I noticed I wasn't the only one. The Christmas shopping season has definitely begun. To make the Christmas shopping experience a little more pleasant*, here are a few rules I've derived over the years:

1. Please control your children. The time to take care of this one is well before you go out to the Mall. Teaching your children how to behave in public is something that you should have been working on from the day they were born. Once you're out there, don't think you can figure out on the spot how to rein in your children when they have decided to play "tag" through an entire store. And there is a corollary to this one:

2. Please discipline your children, but not here. Yes, it is important that your children know how to behave, but again, the time to instruct them in this is long before you ever set foot in the store. Do not decide to discipline them in the middle of a store or the middle of a crowded Mall walkway. If you are having a problem with your kids, remove them from the store, take them home, and sort it out there.

3. Don't be rude. Few things piss me off more than rudeness in public to total strangers. This includes the use of obscene language in front of kids. Don't piss me off. (That should probably be rule #1, and actually summarizes all the other rules.)

4. Please do not have joyous reunions with long-lost friends in the middle of a walkway. So you haven't seen so-and-so in years? Great! So they're looking good? Fantastic! So you really need to get together sometime and catch up with each other? Super! Now, would you mind stepping off to the side? I'm trying to shop.

5. Please do not engage in conversation circles. A conversation circle is a fascinating human geometric structure created when three or more people meet in the middle of a walkway and decide to talk. If it's just two people, they tend to stand face to face, about 24 to 36 inches apart. (This is true in the U.S.; there was a study a while back that shows that this distance, and the likelihood of physical contact, varies from country to country.) Three people will form a triangle with each person about 18 - 24 inches apart, shoulder to shoulder. Four people will form a diamond, five people a pentagon, with the shoulder-to-shoulder distance decreasing but the diameter of the construct always increasing. I once saw a conversation circle made of about 12 people, all standing shoulder to shoulder, forming an impenetrable circle about ten feet across in the middle of a walkway. People going in every direction had to squeeze around the people in the conversation circle, who were blissfully unaware of the existence of anyone other than themselves. Which brings us to the next rule:

6. You are not the only person in the world. Some people slip into solipsism while shopping. They will stand in the middle of an aisle, oblivious to the fact that other people are trying to navigate the aisle with their shopping carts. You are not the only shopper in the store, nor even the most important shopper. I am. Which brings us to the next rule:

7. Get out of my way. There are many different types of shoppers. The two extremes are the Saunterers and the Guided Missiles. These roughly correspond to "gatherers" and "hunters". In a Mall, Saunterers will move slowly and aimlessly, apparently waiting for inspiration to strike them, or perhaps waiting for the drugs to wear off. Guided Missiles know exactly what they want and where they have to go to get it. They move with determination and speed, which doesn't always work well in a Mall walkway jammed with Saunterers. The Guided Missiles will weave in and out of the Saunterers, who are often known to come to complete stops for no readily apparent reason. I am a Guided Missile, and a big one at that. Get out of my way, and we'll all be happier. And finally...

Special rule for retailers: Baby, it's cold outside.
This is especially true in regions like Northeastern Pennsylvania where temperatures can get painfully cold during the Christmas shopping season. People shopping indoors need to dress for the weather outdoors. That means hats and scarves and heavy coats. So unless your store has a heated indoor parking lot, or offers changing rooms and lockers or a coat check room, please do not heat your establishment to make everybody toasty and warm. This may be great for employees, but it will tend to make shoppers grouchy and overheated. And sweaty. And smelly. I can smell them. If your store or Mall is full of smelly sweaty people, I'm gettin' out of there. And I don't want to walk out of your sweltering hot store into the freezing cold air. That will also piss me off.

So, see? Very simple rules that, if we all follow them, will make me happy this holiday shopping season. And when I'm happy, it's a better shopping experience all around.

*More pleasant for me, that is. But trust me, you want me to be happy when I'm out amongst the crowds.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Adding still yet even more blogs

Just two blogs getting added today. I've been visiting both of these blogs for a while now, and it's high time I make things easy on myself by giving them links.

The first is Melanie's Hyperextended Joints. Melanie is young, pretty, funny, has eight joints that hyperextend, and lives in Boston. And she's a lesbian, and doesn't have a problem letting you know that. Go check out her site!

The other is Gort's Gort42. Gort is from Wilkes-Barre, which is very close to Nanticoke. Gort's been coming by since my little photographic ramble through Wilkes-Barre a few weeks ago. Click on over and see what Gort has to say!

In addition to adding two new blogs, I've changed the status on an old favorite. In celebration of SuperG's recent posts to his old site, I have brought his My Distractions In This Modern Age out of the graveyard of "Gone but not forgotten" and have granted it "on semi-hiatus" status! Welcome back, political SuperG!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Littlest Turkey, Conclusion

Click here for Part 1, in which the Littlest Turkey makes up his mind to get into the Laughter House along with all the big and plump turkeys.

Click here for Part 2, in which the Littlest Turkey manages to get into the Laughter House and learns that there is an even more mysterious and exciting place where the big and plump turkeys go: the Market!


THE LITTLEST TURKEY
Conclusion
by
D.B. Echo

The Littlest Turkey was cold. He was colder than he ever remembered being before. But then again, it was hard to remember much since they had chopped his head off.

He was in a case with the other turkeys, the big and plump turkeys. Turkey Day was coming soon, and people were coming to the Market to pick turkeys to take home.

They always seemed to want the big and plump turkeys. One time a little girl had seen him in the case. "Mommy, mommy, look at the little turkey," she said. "I want to take home the littlest turkey."

"No, dear," her mother said. "We are having many people over for Thanksgiving. We need a big, plump turkey."

One by one the other turkeys left the Market to go home with people. Turkey Day was coming soon, and people were taking away more and more of the big and plump turkeys. But no one wanted the Littlest Turkey.
Finally, the day before Turkey Day came, and the Littlest Turkey found himself all alone in the case.

"How sad," he thought. "No one wants to take me home."

It was late in the day, and the Manager was about to close down the Market for the night. Suddenly a Man came into the store.

"I have a coupon," he said, "for a free turkey. Do you have any left?"

"You're in luck," said the Manager. "I have one left." He showed the Man the Littlest Turkey, all alone in the case.

"It's a little small," the Man said. "But I guess beggars can't be choosers. Besides, it's just me and my wife this year. A little turkey might be just what we need."

The Manager took the Littlest Turkey out of the case and traded him to the Man for the coupon he was holding. "Happy Thanksgiving!", he said to the Man.

"I'm not going to be left behind for Turkey Day," thought the Littlest Turkey happily as the Man put him in the trunk of his car. "I'm so happy. But I'm so cold." He rolled around a little as the car pulled out of the parking lot. "I sure hope I'm going someplace warm."

THE END

The Littlest Turkey, Part 2

Click here for Part 1, in which the Littlest Turkey makes up his mind to get inside the Laughter House.
THE LITTLEST TURKEY
Part 2
by
D.B. Echo

The weather started getting cooler, and the leaves on the trees started to change colors. All the turkeys knew that soon it would be time for the biggest holiday of the year, Turkey Day.
"Just before Turkey Day is when they take the big and plump turkeys into the Laughter House," thought the Littlest Turkey. "But this time I'm going to get in there, too!"

It wasn't long before the big day came. All of the big and plump turkeys lined up to go into the Laughter House. The Littlest Turkey waited near the entrance of the Laughter House, then squeezed in between two very big and plump turkeys. No one noticed him because he was so little.

The Laughter House was dark inside, and there was a sort of moving sidewalk there that was taking turkeys into another room, where he could hear gobbles and squawks of laughter. One by one the turkeys hopped up to ride the sidewalk. The Littlest Turkey hopped up, too.
The turkey in front of him, whose name was Tom, turned around. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," he said. "Come back when you are bigger."

"Yes, go away," said the turkey behind him, whose name was also Tom. "They do not want little turkeys at the Market. Only big and plump ones."

"No," said the Littlest Turkey. "I want to go to the Market with you." He had never heard of the Market, but he realized that it must be even better than the Laughter House.

A Man spotted the Littlest Turkey. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," he said. "Come back when you are bigger."

"Oh, please, Mr. Man," said the Littlest Turkey. "I do so want to go to the Market with the other turkeys."

"Very well," said the Man. "We've got a quota to meet, anyway."

The Littlest Turkey rode the sidewalk into the other room. He wondered what things would be like at the Market.

(To be concluded.)

Click here for the thrilling conclusion, as the Littlest Turkey learns what things are like at the Market!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Littlest Turkey, Part 1

Something special for Thanksgiving. This story is based on actual events. Sort of.

THE LITTLEST TURKEY
by
D.B. Echo

Once upon a time there was a farm where turkeys lived. All of them were young and plump, big and strong and proud. All of them except one. He was smaller than all the other turkeys. He was called the Littlest Turkey.
The Littlest Turkey wanted to run and play with the other turkeys, but they didn't want to play with him. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," they would say. "Come back when you've gotten bigger."

But the Littlest Turkey was sure he was as big as he was going to get. He tried to eat as much as he could, but he never seemed to get as big and plump as the other turkeys. And he knew that unless he got big and plump like the other turkeys, he would never get to go to the Laughter House.

The Laughter House was a wonderful place. The Littlest Turkey had never been in there. He knew that only the big and plump turkeys would get to go inside the Laughter House. He had seen them go in once, and had heard their squawks and gobbles of laughter for a little while. It must be wonderful in there, the Littlest Turkey thought. All those turkeys go in to laugh, and none of them had ever come out again. How much fun they must be having!

The Littlest Turkey decided that, big and plump or not, he would get into the Laughter House the next time they let the turkeys in.

(To be continued.)

Click here for Part 2, in which the Littlest Turkey finds a way to get into the Laughter House.

Click here for the conclusion, in which the Littlest Turkey learns there is someplace beyond the Laughter House: the Market!

Hyperblogia

Anyone familiar with blogs has probably witnessed the condition known as blogorrhea, the tendency of some (and, at times, possibly most) bloggers to go on and on and on and on about a subject. I've done it. Half the bloggers I link to have done it. The good ones only do it some of the time; for some bloggers, almost every entry is a marathon of words nearly devoid of content.

Surprisingly, the word blogorrhea is not derived from the word diarrhea, but is in fact a variation of the mental condition known as logorrhea. The application of the term to blogging is usually not a suggestion that an actual underlying mental illness exists but is more often a stylistic criticism equivalent to "Dude, if you don't have anything to say then shut up already!"

There is another condition known as hypergraphia, a compulsion to write excessively. It is possible that some of the better and more respected authors throughout history have had this, but the writing generated in a state of hypergraphia is not necessarily good or even coherent. Hypergraphia can also alternate with periods of severe writer's block, and may be a sort of bipolar disorder, similar the more familiar "manic-depression".

I am wondering if maybe there's a blogger's version of this, hyperblogia. (I just discovered I'm not the first to suggest this - but maybe I'm the second!) For a while I've been keeping up a two-posts-a-day schedule...not because (or, not just because) I'm a stats whore who wants to see my "visits" and "page views" stats go higher each month than the previous month, but also because (I think) I had something to say, or pictures to share.

But now I feel like I've sailed off a cliff. I don't feel a pressing need to post, and I don't have many pictures that I'm inspired to post. Is this just the "depressive" side of a hypergraphia cycle?

I'm wondering if it's something else entirely. Something has changed in this room, at this computer. Something in the air - literally. I think that some component of my computer has begun to churn out quantities of ozone. I can smell something that I don't think was here before. After sitting here for a while, I begin to feel headachey and dizzy, with a ringing in my ears, a metallic taste in my mouth, and sometimes even an increased heart rate. I have a window open with a fan pumping in fresh air, but that doesn't do enough to keep the headaches away. (I bought a Carbon Monoxide monitor just in case, but that's reading a steady zero ppm CO level.)

As I mentioned yesterday, this whole computer setup is more than five years old. Maybe my 19" CRT monitor is beginning to give up the ghost. Maybe something else is starting to overheat. I'm keeping everything powered off and unplugged while it's not in use. Maybe that will help.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The leaves of yesteryear


In October 2000 we were all much, much younger. September 11th was just another day, this computer was still relatively new, and my scanner worked with a minimum of cajoling. I was out raking leaves at the end of October - leaffall must have happened two weeks earlier than it did this year. I had raked up a big pile of leaves from my trees and from other people's trees that had blown into my yard. I was looking at the pile and admiring the colors when an idea struck me.

I picked out a few of the nicest, most colorful leaves, dropped them onto my scanner bed, and scanned them. This is the resulting image. I'm pretty sure I didn't process the colors at all; I think this is what they actually looked like. The leaves are long gone, digested in my compost pile and recycled through my gardens, but this image is a memento of what the leaves looked like one Autumn long, long ago.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Shooting the moon, again

I am still amazed at the fact that I can point my digital camera at the Moon and take a picture. I took this picture yesterday, after sunset had brought my leaf-raking to an end. Unlike the photo I took last April, I used the 4x digital zoom on this one in addition to the 3x optical zoom. I used the 10-second delay timer to minimize camera shake, and kept my hands very, very steady.

Even after further magnification, many lunar features are easily recognizable.

Pinwheel weeds

I came across these weeds yesterday as I was raking leaves in the back yard. I was about to put away the ladder in the background when I noticed the pinwheel whorls growing on and around it.

They look like an illustration out of an eighteenth-century book of fantastic plants. I have no idea what they are. I have never seen them before.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Angel of the Front Steps

Angel of the Front Steps
November 12, 2005

The bottom step leading to our front door cracked apart last Winter. There isn't much you can do about this in the Winter other than try to warn people away from it. I did this by placing a plastic statue of an angel in repose on top of the broken piece, hoping that the mailman or paper boy (or girl) wouldn't step in that spot and break his or her respective neck.

As soon as the weather got warm enough to use mortar this past April I made an attempt to repair the stone step. It was my first time working with mortar and I was surprised at how solid the resulting joint was. Aside from not using enough colorant I think I did a passable job. But by now the angel had become a fixture on our steps, and I figured it would be wise to steer visitors away from the repaired piece until we know the joint is going to hold in the long term. This Winter will provide a real test.

Extension cord at sunset

I was raking, shredding, and bagging leaves today. More than a few of my Oak leaves had blown across the street and onto the tree lawn in front of my neighbor's shrubs. (These are the same shrubs seen in this photo from 30-some years ago...just a few feet taller.) I decided to rake, shred, and bag those leaves too - not just because I'm a nice guy and these are nice, elderly neighbors, but also because these are Oak leaves, some of the most valuable carbon sources for my compost pile, and I don't want to see them get scoffed up by some landscaping service.

So there I was with my electric lawnmower powered by an extension cord stretching across the street to my garage. I had my camera with me (of course) and I realized that the setting sun meant I had better hurry if I didn't want to be working in the dark. I tried to get a few pictures of leaves casting shadows on other leaves, but wasn't too happy with the results. Then I turned around and looked at the street.

My extension cord is heavy-gauge but a few years old, and has been coiled and uncoiled many times until now it is full of permanent bends. The pattern the shadow of the cord cast on the road was beautiful.

And fleeting. Shadows at sunset quickly lengthen until the whole world is in shadow. I took this picture, put the camera away, and returned to my leaf gathering.

Yellow Brick Road, November 12th 2005

Yellow Brick Road
Nanticoke, PA
November 12, 2005

I missed a great opportunity with the Yellow Brick Road last Sunday. As we were driving to the Fall Festival I glanced up the alley between the cemeteries and saw that it was completely filled with lemon-yellow Maple leaves. Unfortunately by the time I got back to that spot later in the day the wind had picked up and the sun had set.

Today I gave my 72nd pint of blood and treated myself afterwards to Chinese food (Singapore Mei Fun and Won Ton soup.) On the way home I drove past the cemeteries on Washington Street and saw that there were still some leaves in the alley. The blue sky and bright sunshine made a nicer backdrop than the pinkish overcast sky in last February's photo. There was little traffic on Washington Street today, which was good, since most of the photos required that I be standing in the middle of an intersection.

As a parting shot I took a series of close-ups of the bricks themselves. This is the closest of the series. Against the browning Maple leaves the alley's bricks look more pinkish than yellow.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sammie as The Crow

A while back (a year or more ago) Sammie from sdfsdf.wox.org posted a picture of herself with cold cream covering her face, creating a perfect canvas for some industrious fan to Photoshop KISS makeup onto her. Nearly a month ago she posted a similar photo with a challenge for someone to repeat the trick. Two days ago one of the regulars at her site finally posted a completed image. (It is, unfortunately, no longer accessible.)

I took the liberty of going in a slightly different direction and used Sammie's white face as the basis for a version of the makeup from The Crow. I smeared the white around to make the coverage a little more complete, and then dyed her blonde hair black. I think my completed image looks a lot more cheerful than the tragically late Brandon Lee's Eric Draven. I'm posting it here because I have no easy way of delivering images to Sammie's site. I hope she gets a kick out of it!

For anyone who thinks "Intelligent Design" ISN'T religion in disguise...

...Pat Robertson says you're wrong.

This from the Christian Communication Network:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., Nov. 10 /Christian Wire Service/ -- Pat Robertson's initial comments made on "The 700 Club" on November 10, 2005 regarding Dover residents voting area school board members out of office for supporting "Intelligent Design".

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover. If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there."

---------------------

Pat Robertson responds to media requests regarding previous statements made.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., Nov. 10, -- "I was simply stating that our spiritual actions have consequences and it's high time we started recognizing it. God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in His eye forever. If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin…maybe he can help them."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Form of: A chair

I broke my computer chair, finally.

This was a simple "task chair", the most basic and common sort of chair found in offices. I bought it in the late Summer or early Fall of 2000 - I remember Al Gore and George W. Bush were holding a debate as I assembled it. It served me well these past five years, although it started to fall apart pretty quickly. I was leery of buying a task chair because coming from an office/factory environment, I know that task chairs tend to break easily and often. I have seen countless numbers with backs loose or broken off, arms falling off (in models with arms), and seats broken from the base of the chair.

My chair didn't have arms, but the back became loose a long time ago and had to be constantly retightened. The back pad broke free and was held in place by two pieces of lightweight rope. Finally the seat began to have a little more flexibility than seemed appropriate, and a quick peek under the hood indicated that the seat was almost completely broken free from the base - a few more wiggles and I would be unceremoniously dumped on the ground, or worse. (My computer desk is a round glass top about four feet across on four wooden legs. I blog dangerously.)

I found a replacement chair at OfficeMax. It is item #2088-4438, the Fabric Executive Chair. It is comfortable. It has a high back that is actually designed to tilt. (Backs on task chairs are not designed to tilt . This is one reason why they break.) It is $79.99, about the cost of one color and one black ink cartridge for my printer.

And it is out of stock.

I might try another OfficeMax closer to where I work. Or I might try ordering one online, but that will take time to deliver. So in the meantime, my computer "chair" is an unfinished wooden stool whose seat is nearly at the same level as the keyboard. Oh, well. Maybe I should look into ordering online...

UPDATE: I just ordered one online, using a Visa card and the security ID number thingie from the back of another Visa card. (Actually, it was my ATM card with a Visa logo on it. The two cards look almost identical.) Officemax.com doesn't provide a way to correct this online, or even to cancel and resubmit my order. So now my chair delivery will be delayed as it is scrutized for suspicion of fraud. #*$%&@!, as Redeye's Mother Hooch* might say.

*According to King Features Syndicate, this charater's name is Granny. But I'd swear I remember her being called Mother Hooch thirty years ago.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hanging on

Tree mostly stripped of leaves
Plains Township, PA
November 9th, 2005


We went from "Past Peak" to "Most leaves off the trees" in just a few hours last Sunday night. This was when a line of thunderstorms that had caused death and destruction in the Midwest early that morning finally blew through to the East Coast, stripping most of the leaves from the trees. But not all the leaves, or all the trees. Some trees are still at Peak Color and clinging to most (if not all) of their leaves. And I even saw a line of trees that were just starting to change color.

I took the day off from work today to take my mom for an outpatient procedure. The procedure always leaves her spaced-out and woozy for several hours. She's also not allowed to eat beforehand, so after the procedure it's become something of a tradition for us to go to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast. The Cracker Barrel serves breakfast all day long, which is good since we didn't get there until around 1:00. After breakfast we spent a few hours wandering through stores letting the anesthesia wear off - mostly stores that sold pillows and towels and other big, soft, non-breakable stuff.

At about 4:00 the sky opened up and we were socked with a heavy and lengthy downpour. I fear that many of the leaves that had hung in there up til this point finally lost their grip this afternoon. We'll see in the morning!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

St. Mary's School

Our Lady of Czestachowa Church and School
(a.k.a. St. Mary's)
Nanticoke, PA
March 2005


I attended Catholic shool from Kindergarten through the Eighth Grade. Back then, in the mid-1970's to early-1980's, Our Lady of Czestachowa (my parish, commonly called St. Mary's) had a sort of school-sharing arrangement with another primarily Polish parish, St. Stanislaus. The plan was that all Kindergarteners from both parishes would go to Kindergarten at St. Mary's. First Grade would also be at St. Mary's, but second grade would be at St. Stan's. All even-numbered grades would be at St. Stan's, all odd-numbered grades would be at St. Mary's.

Our Lady of Czestachowah Church
March 2005


That was the plan, anyway. It had gone on like that some time before I started school, but it ended for me after Fourth Grade. From that point on, all classes would be consolidated at St. Mary's. Never mind that there weren't enough classrooms; classes would simply be combined. Fifth and Sixth Grade in one room, Seventh and Eighth Grade in another.

From left to right:
New Rectory (built in the 1980's)
Convent (disused for about 20 years, slated for demolition)
St. Mary's School
March 2005

Things got worse after I graduated from Eighth Grade in 1981. Soon St. Mary's and St. Stan's combined their schools with the much larger Holy Trinity school, which was located two blocks North of St. Mary's and two blocks West of St. Stan's. The "new" combined school, which was located in the "old" Holy Trinity School, was christened Pope John Paul II School, after the young, vigorous Polish Pope.

Wind Tunnel and Nuns' Bridge
(Any wind would get caught between the school and the convent and create a mini-tornado.
Catholic schoolgirls wore skirts, by the way.)
November 6th, 2005


I have fond memories of St. Mary's school. It had its educational shortcomings - at any moment Math, Arts, or Science class could be interrupted for a a supplemental Religion class. The Science textbooks were good, though, and no one stopped me from reading the "advanced" chapters in the back of the book, the stuff we never seemed to get to each year. The Math, English, and Reading classes were also top-notch, so I must give a nod there.

Convent
November 6th, 2005


I was an Altar Boy back in those days. About one week out of every month I would draw 7:00 daily Mass duty - up at 6:00, out of the house by 6:30, a quick morning Mass attended by between zero and ten parishoners, down to my grandmother's house for breakfast, then off to school for 8:30. Each week I would serve one Sunday Mass - 7:00, 9:00, 11:00, or even 7:15 Saturday evening. Once or twice a month I might get called to serve a Funeral - two hours out of school, hang out with a dead body, ride in a Cadillac, maybe get a dollar or two as a tip. The big money was to be made on Saturdays at Weddings, when you might get a tip of $5 or more.


Rear Stairwell
November 6th, 2005


The school isn't entirely abandoned now. I think it still serves as a Head Start school for underprivileged kids. But it's lost a lot of the identity that it had when I was there. And yet it still stands.

But not for long, I fear. Like Three-O-Nina, I cannot imagine that this old relic of a bygone era will stand forever. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of kids passed through its halls and learned about Jesus and Kangaroo Mice and negative numbers and The Red Badge of Courage there. Someday this school will only live on in their fading memories.

For what it's worth, I offer this bid to whatever immortality this medium has to offer.

Scenes from the Fall Festival

Some scenes from the Fall Festival held in the basement of the former St. Mary's school in Nanticoke, PA on Sunday, November 6th 2005.

A woman contemplates the Get Well Soon basket (top level with copper-orange bow.)

More baskets, more people.

A winning ticket! Those three cherries on the top ticket tell the world that I'm a WINNER! I let my 50-cent winnings ride on two more tickets - one of which was also a 50-cent winner! The next two tickets were losers, and I slunk back into the shadows.

Even I took a chance on winning my own personal Pope.

The crowd waits in breathless anticipation as the winning numbers are announced for the Chinese Auction. Note the girl on the left who is using her cell phone to call her mom and tell her that they have won not one, but two copies of the prize designated "Collector's Item #1", an autographed vinyl record album from the early 1970's by local Polka star and parish member John Stankovic of the band Stanky and the Coal Miners. Too bad, as she announced to the gathered crowd, they don't own a record player!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Barberry and flowers

Another of my invasive perennials. This Barberry appeared a few years ago among the rocks of a rock garden my grandfather built. I'm not sure what the flowers are - Mums, maybe? - but they're very yellow. And the Blaze rosebush in the foreground needs to be pruned for the Winter, but I didn't feel like doing that before I took this picture this past Saturday.

Duet



Japanese Red Maple and Oak tree, my front yard, November 5th, 2005.

Belt scare

My 1996 Toyota Tercel is nearing the end of its reasonable life expectancy. It's got over 247,000 miles on it and things are starting to wear out. I had to replace the battery last year and the exhaust system last week. I'm hoping to get through the winter without having to replace two other wear items: the tires and the brakes. (Neither item is something you should skimp on, really.)

Yesterday my cousin and her mother and my friend Darren and I went out to our church's Fall Festival. After exhausting everything that had to offer in about 15 minutes we saddled up our cars and headed out to the Penn State Lehman Campus for an arts & crafts show. (My cousin was disappointed with the show, but there were plenty of college girls there so at least Darren and I were entertained.) We took two cars so that if my cousin and her mom decided to, say, spend three hours shopping for shoes, Darren and I wouldn't necessarily have to tag along.

My car was one of the two that we took and I proudly pointed out the features of my new exhaust system (quieter ride, less poisonous gas exhausting directly into the cabin.) It was an unseasonably warm day for the most part, but as we pulled into a pizza place to grab a light dinner the wind began to whip up. (This was the leading edge of a storm system that had caused death and destruction in the Midwest some 12 hours earlier.) Leaves and debris flew through the air and pelted my car. And then, from the front passenger's-side wheel well, came a thwap-thwap-thwap noise.

Must be a stick, I thought, or maybe some leaves. Maybe a couple of acorns are caught in there. I didn't bother to check when I parked at the pizza place and we got out of the car - we were all pretty hungry and wanted to get inside.

After dinner the wind had gotten even stronger. I decided to head home and stop back at the Fall Festival to see who had won the Get Well Soon basket, and Darren decided to continue on with my cousin and her mom. He still had some stuff in my car and we were parked on the other side of the building from my cousin's car, so we both went to my car so I could give him a ride.

And it started again. Thwap, thwap, thwap.

I pulled into an empty space near my cousin's car. Darren and I both got out to check the wheel well.

"This looks like it's stuck in your tire," he said, pointing to a bit of wire about four inches long.

Oh no, I thought, I've broken a belt. My friends had always warned me about this danger ever since I got new tires a while back and was complaining about the constant rumble. I was worried maybe I had damaged my brand-new tires on one of Northeastern Pennsylvania's many, many potholes. Break one of the radial belts on your tires and you'll wind up with a big weak bubble just waiting to pop. If you suspect you've broken a belt, don't run your hand along the tire to find it. The metal is sharp-edged and will cut you.

I tugged on the piece of wire, expecting resistance that would indicate that this wire was actually part of my tire and yes, I had seriously damaged my tire on the one day when I would not be able to get new tires anyplace. Instead, the wire popped out easily. It was just stuck into the surface.

The wire looked mangled and tar-covered. It might have been a belt, but I don't think it was one of mine.

I checked the tire for any signs of damage or bubble formation but I haven't seen anything. So I think I'm good.

For now.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Winnah!

Fall Festival is over. It was OK, but it would have been better with a bake sale.

I won a gift certificate for sausage. Polish sausage. One ring fresh, and one ring smoked. If you've never had real, honest-to-God, non-factory-made Polish sausage, you don't know what you're missing! Come to Nanticoke sometime and we'll show you.

My mom won the Get Well Soon basket! I think she put all 25 tickets from her $5.00 sheet of chances in for it. I put at least that many in, maybe more. (I bought $15 worth of chances altogether but spread them around a bit.)

Fall Festival reminder

St. Mary's Fall Festival
Sunday, November 6th
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
1030 South Hanover Street
Nanticoke, PA


Details here

A study in scarlet




Japanese Red Maple tree in my front yard, November 5, 2005.

Mill Memorial Library, 11/05/2005

The Mill Memorial Library is located near the "main entrance" to Nanticoke, on the corner of Kosciuszko and Main, directly across from the former location of the old Nanticoke High School (now a CVS.) It's a small library. I used to go there as a kid with my father, and later I would use it as a quiet place to work on papers in High School. I don't go there much now, maybe once every few years to see if they have any interesting used books for sale. My own book collection may rival theirs in terms of quality and quantity. I have even donated a few books to them - I checked on one of them yesterday and they still have it, even though I don't think anybody has checked it out since I donated it. (It's Genius, a biography of Richard Feynman by James Gleick. I bought a copy specifically for the library when I saw it at a remaindered books store for about $4.)
I said that we are past peak locally, but that referred to Northeastern Pennsylvania as a whole, or at least the parts of it that I commute through each day. In Nanticoke we are at peak right now.
The Mill is a small library located on a large lot. It's a hilly plot of land that doubles as a public park and is very popular for sledding in the Winter. It is covered with trees, although not as many as it once was. A few years ago a big wind storm damaged a number of trees and they were removed. A few others were removed at the same time for good measure. And earlier this year a number of very old trees were removed from along the edge of the lot because their roots were causing the sidewalks to heave. (They had been causing the sidewalks to heave for years, so they resembled not so much a stretch of sidewalk as a flight of steps. The rise from one sidewalk to the next could be as much as four inches, sometimes more.) Still, what remains is beautiful, and is worth seeing.