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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

WNAK; or, Robert Goulet is dead

When I was growing up we always had Nanticoke's own easy listening station, WNAK, playing in the house. My parents were children of the 1930's, and came from somewhere in-between "The Greatest Generation" that fought World War II and the "Happy Days" generation of sock hops and submarine races. Technically, I believe they fell into what was called the "Silent Generation" - overshadowed by those who came before them, eclipsed by the Baby Boomers who came after them, conformist, moderately conservative, moderately progressive. Their music was not the rock'n'roll of Elvis and Chuck Berry, but was something smoother, mellower, gentler.

WNAK catered to their tastes, playing a mix of songs from their childhood by performers like The Andrews Sisters, The Mills Brothers, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra, songs by their contemporaries such as Jim Reeves, Englebert Humperdinck, and Robert Goulet, Polkas (always popular in this Polish-dominated area), and hymns (also popular in a primarily Roman Catholic area), along with softer stuff by more modern artists like Elvis, Ray Charles, Jim Croce, Anne Murray, The Carpenters, and The Captain & Tennille. Each day would be punctuated by the ultra-conservative editorials of station owner Bob Nielson and pieces by Paul Harvey and "This Is Pennsylvania" by Peter C. Wambach (featuring the line "It's a beautiful day in Pennsylvania,"), even "Old-time radio dramas" - actually funny little 30-second melodramatic commercials for C.W. Schultz and Sons Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning. Each broadcasting day would end with Jim Reeves' version of "Night Watch":

Bright stars are watching the world as it sleeps
Shepherds watch over the little white sheep
The lighthouse is shining for ships far at sea
As God keeps the night watch for you and for me.

So sleep, sleep in peace and rest
Don't be afraid of the darkness
All's well for over the land and the sea
God's keeping the night watch for you and for me.*

I learned a lot of older songs back then, while other kids my age were growing up listening to The Who and The Doors, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. I would learn those songs, too, but later, as my older sister entered her teen years and blasted them from her stereo. (Later, during her college years, she would work as a DJ at WNAK for a while.) I think my childhood is richer for this layer of musical experience that many of my contemporaries, whose parents were sometimes ten to fifteen years younger than my own, never got to have.

Over time the artists I heard on WNAK have died off. Some, like Jim Reeves, died before I was born; others died when I was young. A few, like Englebert Humperdinck, are still alive and well, touring and performing.

WNAK itself has died, in a sense. Years ago Bob Nielson sold it to a corporation, which gradually morphed the station into a soft rock/easy listening format intended to appeal to the under-70 crowd. A while back Bob Nielsen died. A few weeks ago WNAK changed formats again, now into a Spanish easy listening station. It calls its format "Caliente", but the times I have listened to it - well, without the lyrics, you wouldn't know the music was any different; even polka and mariachi songs are fairly interchangeable.

Now another artist I learned to love from WNAK has passed away. Two days ago I learned that Robert Goulet was gravely ill and in need of a lung transplant. Yesterday he died. Tragically, the world has lost one of its great voices - and a pretty fair actor, too. He will be missed.

*Hearing this song on a Sunday evening was always one of the saddest experiences of my childhood, because it meant that the weekend was ending, and it was time to start thinking about whatever homework I might have been assigned on Friday.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sleepreading

I am exhausted from my 4-day 48-hour rotation. I need some wine to make tomorrow's blood donation go that much easier, and then I'll hit the sack.

I've spent much of this evening catching up on some blogs, including some of my own old posts. And I've had an experience I'm sure many other people have had while reading my writing: I have begun to nod off. Not just nodding off, either, but the woolgathering feature of the hypnogogic state has created embellishments and enhancements to my words that just aren't there - including dream-versions of people that I know coming along to read and criticize my work.

Tomorrow is Halloween. Maybe I'll get dial tone at my house tomorrow. I'm also supposed to give blood, and I'd like to get a haircut and an oil change, too. We'll see what happens.

Goodnight.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Porter Wagoner is dead

In my previous life I had the opportunity to put several episodes of Da Ali G Show on DVD. These included the episode that featured Borat trying his hand at country music, and performing a stirring rendition of "In My Country There Is a Problem (Throw the Jew Down the Well)" for an Arizona honky tonk open mike night.

Earlier in that episode, the Borat character sought advice on how to become a country and western singer from Porter Wagoner. While much of the Borat schtick is based on testing the limits of politeness when individuals are confronted with a bizarre and offensive foreigner, I believe Sacha Baron Cohen (the man who is Borat, Ali G, and several other characters) more than met his match in the unflappable Mr. Wagoner. Borat's numbskulled offensiveness dashed itself on the rock of Porter Wagoner's perfect Southern gentlemanly manners. In the end, I think Cohen simply gave up, and a twinkle in Wagoner's eye suggested that he had not, in fact, been taken in at all.

Gone now. There are other people who knew him or his work better, who can pay more fitting tributes to him. But I will remember him for the time he got the better of a British shock comedian.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blogging Energy Units

I've always felt that I have a finite amount of energy to spend on blogging. Well, of course that's true; but I mean I feel like I have a number of what I call "Blogging Energy Units", or BEUs, to spend each day. The number I have from day to day may vary, but once they're gone, they're gone, and I need to recharge before I have more.

In the past I used to leave extensive comments on a few websites that I don't comment on as much anymore. There are various reasons for this, but the bottom line is that when I left lengthy, well-thought-out comments here and there, I quickly found myself drained of the energy I needed to write my own blog post. I had spent my BEUs for that day. I still try to comment when I can - it's the best way to bring new readers to your site - but now I budget my energy more sparingly.

BEU's aren't strictly blogging-related, either. Today I found myself talking on the phone with one friend who didn't realize that this is the middle of my on-shift while writing an e-mail to another who I haven't spoken to since I got this job back in the beginning of August. Doing those two things, plus reading a wrenching post on a blog I've been reading for the last few weeks, left me once again feeling drained. I spent today's BEUs mostly on non-blog activity!

So you'll have to wait until sometime later to hear from me about how The Office Convention is going, or hear my personal history of WNAK, or hear my thoughts on the local employment situation and the "Coal Miner Mentality." For now all I could summon up the energy to write about were BEUs themselves.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fifty pounds of candy and no dial tone

Early yesterday evening I was steeling myself for the reality of going back to work for the next four days. I had not driven my car very much during my four days off - I was chauffeuring my mom around each day, shopping and to a doctor's appointment and to my brother's house and out shopping again and to my brother's house again, and she prefers us to take her car - so I never had an opportunity to fill my tank up. My Tercel holds a little more than 330 miles worth of fuel, though I can push this to nearly 400 miles with the fuel economy benefits realized on long-haul non-stop trips. My commute is almost exactly 66.6 miles each day, so in a four-day rotation I rack up 266.4 miles. I was actually at the 271 mile mark last night and needed to refill, so I took my car out to a local gas station.

Before I left I put on some eggs to boil and asked my mom to keep an eye on them. She reminded me that I had wanted to haul my black and orange Rubbermaid storage container full of candy over to my house during these days off, since come Halloween I will have a hole in my arm from a 12:00 blood donation and will be restricted as to heavy lifting.

Dang, heavy was right. How much candy is in here?, I wondered. Fortunately there was a scale nearby which I had last used to weigh my luggage before my last trip to Ireland. I made a little platform out of a bundle of rolls of duct tape, subtracted out a tare amount of three pounds for the duct tape and the case itself, and rounded out an answer.

Fifty pounds.

Of candy.

For Halloween.

And still I'm worried that I might run short again.

I got the gas without incident, though I'm always expecting an incident at that gas station. Last week I was getting gas under the same circumstances there when a large rental truck rolled up to one of those donation dumpsters where people collect your donations of clothing and toys and then sell them for a profit. Two guys got out, one of them in sweat pants with one leg down and one leg up. Most people just look at someone like this and think "Idiot", but I look at them and think "He's carrying drugs." I read somewhere that that's what the one leg up, one leg down is supposed to indicate: carrying drugs, looking to sell. So if a schmuck like me knows that, then I sure hope that people whose business it is to spot drug dealers know that, too. In which case, we can again look at a person engaging in such obvious, flagrant dumbassery and say, "Idiot."

Anyhoo, I got my gas and rolled up the long hill to my house. I was able to snag a parking place out front - hooray, hooray - and I hauled the fifty pound box of candy up onto the porch and through the front door.

While I was there I decided to water my plants and check my Caller ID to see who had called. There was a "Private Name, Private Number", and for a moment my heart thrilled that it might be my friend calling to tell me that she had finally realized what a huge mistake she had made ten years ago, and maybe it would be fun to get together and go driving around looking at the leaves and maybe come back to my house later for a private viewing of my paintings. I switched on the phone to call the answering service to check for messages, and I heard...

Nothing.

My phones were dead. Well, not dead, exactly; they still have their Intercom function working, so the phones are still operating. There was just no longer any dial tone.

Why? I don't know. I paid my bill on time - I pay all of my bills on time, except on those occasions when I don't. I didn't notice any wires dangling outside my house, nor any intruders lurking within who had cut the phone lines moments before I had arrived. I tried to call Verizon's customer service number on my cell phone, despite the fact that it was over two hours since the end of their scheduled hours, but the strain consumed the last drops of juice from my phone, which I hadn't charged in over four days. So once I got back here, I went on Verizon's website and filed a complaint - well, a "repair request." I was advised that they would get to it promptly, and the earliest they would be able to get to it would be October 31.

A friend who has worked in the telecommunications field tells me that this is B.S. - for No Dial Tone issues the response time is supposed to be within 24 hours, due to 911 considerations. I checked my phone remotely today - I called it from my car - and the fact that I was immediately kicked over to the answering service tells me that I still don't have dial tone.

So, anyway. I'd really like to have dial tone back. I plan to make some long-distance calls Halloween night, and I can't do that without dial tone. I'm paying nearly $1.70 a day for the privilege of having a phone and unlimited national long distance, and I'd like to be able to take advantage of this whenever I get the opportunity. We'll see how long this takes, and how much of a refund I'm going to be requesting.

And if you're looking for some candy on Halloween, I've got fifty pounds of it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rainy days in Autumn

Near Hunlock's Creek, PA, facing South, 10/25/2007, 5:29 PM

Near Hunlock's Creek, PA, facing East, 10/25/2007, 5:30 PM

The rain let up these last four days just long enough for me to mow the lawn yesterday. By the time I took a shower and headed out into the surrounding countryside to run some errands, the sky had already grayed over again. So colors that would have been bright and spectacular in full sunlight are dark and muted. But by the time I get a chance to take photos in daylight again - next Wednesday, October 31, Halloween - there is a good chance that many of these leaves will have fallen. So I grabbed what pictures I could.

Back again I go, to lead the life of a factory laborer for four days. Some opportunities for networking may be presenting themselves in the next few weeks. I think I'll take advantage of them.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Bloody Valentine has a MySpace page!

I was doing one of my regular Internet sweeps for information about My Bloody Valentine when I found out - there is news! Sort of. My Bloody Valentine now has a MySpace page!

http://www.myspace.com/mybloodyvalentine

This appears to be legit. Maybe. Possibly. The MySpace page also points to http://www.mybloodyvalentine.co.uk/, which is "under construction" and in turn points back to the MySpace page. There is no guarantee that this is not just a fan-created page, but we can hope...

Kevin...Bilinda...Debbie...Colm...come back! Please?!?!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Office Covention in Scranton this weekend - October 26-28!

I first heard that the American version of The Office would be set in Scranton about a year before the program debuted. I was kind of excited by this news, even though I had never watched the British version. (I saw the beginning of one episode on the in-flight entertainment on a flight back from Ireland in 2003, but quickly became annoyed and changed to another channel.) I e-mailed a friend of mine who is a huge fan of the British version, and he e-mailed back some bad news.

The problem is, the British version of the show is set in a place called Slough, which is supposed to be a miserable, dreary, dreadful, hopeless, no-fun place to live and work, a literal Slough of Despond. In reality, it's not supposed to be that bad, but the show exaggerated things a bit. Would the American version do the same thing for Scranton?

It did not.

The show is set in Scranton, and some external shots were done in Scranton, but for the most part the cast and crew have not spent any significant time in Scranton. The writers and prop people have gone into overdrive with local references, however, and each episode is liberally salted with them.* A growing sentiment among some fans of the show was that Scranton must be a cool place to live and work, and an even cooler place to visit.

They will get a chance to see for themselves this weekend when The Office Convention takes place in Scranton. It runs October 26-28 and kicks off with Al Roker broadcasting live from the University of Scranton (my Alma Mater) on Friday morning. For more details, see the official website, or go to this entry from NEPA Blogs and follow the links to two Office fansites, each of which has more information and additional links. Also see John Webster's blog (he's half of the Daniels & Webster morning team from Rock 107, itself a frequent reference on the show), particularly this entry.

The weather this weekend may be typical Scranton weather - cold, wet, and dreary - but with the Flaming Foliage at or near peak, here's hoping that many of the convention-goers will come away with a positive impression of the area!

*Sometimes these references are other-than-accurate. In one episode a character laments that she wants a house with a veranda, but there are none in the area; in reality, many of the old coal baron mansions that fill Scranton's Hill Section feature verandas, second-(and third-) story porches, and other architectural highlights not found in newer construction. Also, the characters apparently frequently go to Chili's for lunch. The closest Chili's is near Wilkes-Barre, just outside the Wyoming Valley Mall, some 20 miles away from downtown Scranton.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gray day

Today I had planned to mow the lawn here. It hasn't been mowed in nearly two weeks, but it isn't too tall yet.

Two things got in the way of this plan. First, today is the day I take my mom grocery shopping, at least whenever I'm off. She gets a kick out of her 5% Senior Citizen's discount, which is only offered on Tuesdays. But I got off to such a slow start getting ready today, checking the morning blogs and whatnot, that we actually stuck around to see the 11:38 AM launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

When we left the house I discovered the second reason for not mowing the lawn today: it was raining.

It was still spritzing on and off when we got home from shopping and a quick side trip to my house a few hours later. I settled in for more time on the computer and some IM chats. Along the way I also made some lamb and barley soup, which was (and still is) delicious.

A Plan B (or maybe Plan C) for today involved going out to photograph the brightly-colored Autumn leaves before they fall off the trees. Unfortunately, the weather was not particularly cooperative here, either.

Tomorrow my mom has a nerve block scheduled, which means I'll have about two hours to kill between the time I drop her off and the time I pick her up and take her to our traditional breakfast at Cracker Barrel. (She needs to fast starting at midnight tonight, and probably won't get done with her treatment until after noon.) Maybe if the weather is as sunny and clear as it was during my four days on-shift I will wander around the area for two hours taking pictures of the flaming foliage.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Reading

I got home to find that my copy of DC Archive Editions Kamandi Archives Volume 2 had arrived from Amazon. It's been nearly two years since I bought Volume 1 - well, I ordered it in September 2005, but it didn't arrive until the day before Thanksgiving.

So I've been reading that since I got home. And surfing the Internet. Too tired to write more. Tomorrow, for sure.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The dream of the three beds

I woke up this morning and wanted to check my press. My DVD press, that is. But which one?, I thought. See, I have three DVD presses at work. Therefore, I must sleep in three beds, one next to each of the three presses. Or so goes the logic of the hypnopompic state.

I've had dreams like this before. Once my bedroom was transformed into a chunk of a factory, with the corner dresser and the TV on top of it turned into an production line. (I believe the dream-factory was more like the TV faceplate factory where I used to work in the Summer during college, but I had this dream shortly after I started working in the CD Plating department fifteen and a half years ago.) Once I had a very long and complicated dream that involved my mother, my aunt, a bus trip to Wilmington, Delaware - which was also New York City and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania - , overlooked magazine stores scattered throughout Nanticoke (I could take you to the locations if you'd like), and a series of CD Plating tanks set up in my aunt's garage (which, as far as I know, has never housed a car, or a CD Plating line for that matter.)

I'm sleeping better lately, falling asleep more easily, waking up less often in the middle of the night, waking up at 3:00 sharp on the first beats of Lauren's song "45". I think I'm managing my exhaustion better and regimenting my limited after-work time in a more efficient and less-stimulating way. I still get only about five and a half hours of sleep on any given workday.

Tomorrow is my last day for this shift. After that there's some lawn mowing to be done, some motor oil that needs changing, and a growing list of major appliances that need to be purchased. Oh, I should pay a bill before I go to bed tonight - otherwise it might get there late. Can't have that.

Anyway. Hope all is well with you. I'm spiraling in.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Private Name, Private Number

I have a friend with whom I used to be close about ten years ago. Closer that we are now, anyway. She has an unlisted phone number. Those times when she used to call me the Caller ID would indicate "PRIVATE NAME, PRIVATE NUMBER."

We've kept in touch off and on through the years. Mostly this consists of me leaving a message on her phone, and her returning a message to my phone some time later. We've actually talked directly a time or two recently, mostly in the context of my job situation. (From her recent messages, I gather that her job situation isn't all that different.)

The phone at my house is very nice. It's one of those where you have a single base station and up to eight cordless receivers. Very convenient for when you have a house with a limited number of modular outlets and you don't feel like rewiring everything.

The big drawback of this phone is a fluke in the caller ID system: it only maintains the record of the most recent call from any given number. So a crazy person could be calling your house morning and night every 7.42 minutes, and you wouldn't know about it if you weren't there to get the calls - all the caller ID would indicate would be the most recent call.

My most recent call from my friend was shortly after I got my job at the plant. At least, that's the last time she left a message. There have been a few other "PRIVATE NAME, PRIVATE NUMBER" calls since then - which I noticed one at a time, of course - but no additional messages. Assuming these were from her, I've returned calls and left messages on her phone, trying to find out what the calls were about. No luck yet.

The other day I was at the house and the phone rang. I checked the caller ID and saw the message "PRIVATE NAME, PRIVATE NUMBER". I quickly picked up, hoping it was her.

There was a pause at the other end. Then a click, a whirr, and a voice spoke out: "This is an important message for Senior Citizens. If you are age 65 or older, you may be eligible for insurance at reduced rates..."

I hung up.

I signed up for both the state and national "DO NOT CALL" lists over a month ago. While I am not supposed to see the registry take full effect until sometime in November, I have noticed a dropoff in solicitor calls, both in terms of messages left and calls indicated on the caller ID. I know there are certain exceptions, but I don't think this call fell under these categories. So can phone solicitors do an end-run around the DO NOT CALL list by making their calls from unlisted numbers?

I don't know. I hope not. Because if they do, I might just assume that every one of those calls is a call from my friend, my friend with a Private Name, Private Number.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Change of seasons at NEPA Blogs

Even though it will continue to feel like Summer for at least part of the next week, I've decided it's time to drape NEPA Blogs in a new Autumn wardrobe. No more Greater Nanticoke Area School District electronic sign announcing that the temperature is 98 degrees! Check it out and see for yourselves. Be sure to check out the largest image, located at the bottom of the page, which is courtesy of QAZSE.com.

If you're a blogger who lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania, or is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania, or blogs about Northeastern Pennsylvania, or if you just want to hang with the cool kids from Northeastern Pennsylvania, send me an e-mail or leave a comment and we'll list your blog...eventually.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hot when it should be cool

I went over to my house to spend the night last night. I feel like I'm living in one of those ghost stories where you have to spend the night in a house for it to belong to you. In this case, I try to spend at least one or two nights a week there, just so I can sort-of leave a psychic imprint on the house. Give it a history with me, to add to the history of all the other people who have lived - and died - there.

I also went over there to make a phone call. I can rarely use the phone to make uninterrupted calls here, since someone is always calling my mom, or she is always making calls out. Naturally, my phone call was interrupted over there - once before I even got to make it - but I mostly got to have an uninterrupted, pleasant conversation with my friend.

I slept late, got up, and went back to sleep. It's nice to do that sometimes, and it's something I can do in that house. I didn't pack much when I went over there, just some sweats to wear during today's yard work. (I also brought over some tropical plants that look like little palm trees to scatter about the bathroom, adding to the Polynesian decor there.) I planned to mow the lawn, mulch the blueberries, and get the last few Hostas and other assorted unwanted plants from my cousin's house into the ground. But the first thing I wanted to do when I got up was go outside and enjoy some nice, cold grapes, fresh off the vine.

I got up. The day looked beautiful, brisk, maybe a little chilly. I went downstairs, exchanged my slippers for an old pair of New Balance 657's, and stepped outside into the midsummer heat.

OK, it wasn't that hot. But I was expecting seasonal temperatures in the low 60's or high 50's, No. Instead the temperature was something like 72 degrees with high humidity. Cool for the Summer, but hot for the Autumn.

More bad news: most of the grapes were now shriveled. Not the Black Rot, I think, since grapes are supposed to be immune after a certain stage in their development. More likely just the natural progression of the fruit. I don't know; it's been years since I've had a chance to follow a crop of grapes through every stage. Some of the purple grapes in back were still unshrivelled, but not many. I did find some white grapes still in good condition near the house, but these were jealously guarded by an alliance of Bumblebees (or possibly Carpenter Bees, based on their size), Yellowjackets, and Hornets, all probably eager to suck the sweet juice from the grapes.

Despite the uncomfortable weather, I was able to get all the yard work done. I also did my weekly furnace dump (draining the rusty water out of the steam circulation system) and topping-off, and was able to get most of my new curtains hung. They're not perfect, but they keep the light from shining through the house and will keep heat from bleeding directly out the windows in the Winter.

Tomorrow is work. I am not looking forward to it. I need to find something else, something that is local and pays well and makes good use of my education and experience. Yeah, good luck with that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We missed you hissed the LOLCats

I'm a little behind the curve when it comes to Internet fads. Well, what do you expect? I'm an old man. I'll be 40 in a few months. Now, you kids get outta my yard! Why, if my lumbago wasn't actin' up...

Anyhoo, I've been coming across cute little pictures of cats with funny little sayings written across them. They're funny and weird, and seemed to be from a world I wasn't a part of. I occasionally heard the name "LOLCats" associated with them. So yesterday I did some digging.

Somehow, my first stop along the was was this five-part article from mentalfloss.com. It's a pretty thorough exploration of the phenomenon and gives lots of links and jumping-off points. It also reproduces some images I haven't seen elsewhere in my research, possibly because I haven't looked too hard. (The last page also explains where the "DO NOT WANT" tag came from.)

One of the first places I jumped off to was ihasabucket.com. If this doesn't make you laugh, you may not get the rest of the LOLCats stuff. Note that while the creature pictured is usually referred to as a walrus, some have identified it as a female elephant seal. The bucket appears repeatedly in other LOLCats images.

There are many sites that carry LOLCats-style images, but two sites stand out. One is lolcats.com, and the other is icanhascheezburger.com. The latter is named after an often repeated phrase and theme in LOLCats images, and has the more user-friendsly interface.

Here are my own attempts at LOLCats-style images, aping what I've seen on the sites. The originals for both of these images, which feature my cat Nicki, are from November 2005.



Title reference: Paraphrase of "Lovecats" by The Cure.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Personal Ad: Still looking for my other half...

I was just talking with a friend who recently created a MySpace page. He told me that he decided to do it after another friend had created a MySpace page simply by copying the text of his Match.com personal ad profile. It seemed to work - he immediately started getting hits and responses, and from real flesh-and-blood people, not just the sort of predatory phonies who plague every MySpace user.

I decided that's a great idea, and I could go it one better. I've mentioned my Match.com ad here before, but now I'm going to reprint much of my profile information, both here and on my MySpace site. (I actually just revised and updated my profile yesterday!) For more details, visit my Match.com ad (username is databoyechom).

About me and who I'm looking for:

Over the years I've learned something about myself: I socialize better with children and animals than I do with "adults." At parties I tend to drift away from "grown-up" conversations and begin playing with the hosts' pets. Kids find me fascinating in the way drivers find a car wreck fascinating. I appreciate kids for their innocence - well, I've known a few malicious kids, and I try to steer them in the right direction if I can - and for their enormous potential. And kids appreciate me because I do something most other adults can't be bothered to do: I pay attention to them.

This stuff carries over into romantic relationships. I'm looking for someone who, in the immortal words of Dee-light's song "Groove Is In The Heart", is "not vicious or malicious, just de-lovely and de-licious." I'm looking for someone who is still in a state of becoming - who isn't set in her ways, refusing to explore new places or ideas, but has an adventurous streak, and a desire for personal growth. Being willing and able to give good backrubs is a big plus, too!

And what can I bring to the party? Other than a ridiculously broad trivial knowledge, I can bring one important thing: I will pay attention to you. I hope you will do the same.

My ideal house - well, I've found it, I've bought it, and I'm rehabbing it, making it suitable for the 21st century while retaining the character of the early 20th when it was built. "Casual" best describes my clothing, though I tend more towards "nice" jeans, henleys, and Oxford shoes than khakis and "tennis shoes" (we call them "sneakers" 'round these parts, ma'am.) And my sense of humor could best be described as "wry", but more often is described as "twisted"...a consequence of being raised on Monty Python and MAD Magazine. So, there. That's for starters. I can tell you more; all you have to do is ask.

I'm looking for someone who is gentle, kind, adventurous, daring, naive, intellectual, honest, thoughtful, happy, yet at the same time incomplete (because if your life is already complete, what possible role can I play in it?). Someone who has a child-like sense of wonder about the world but the worldly wisdom that comes only from hard experience. Someone who wants to have adventures and do things, but isn't maniacal about taking risks for risk's sake alone. (In my first personal ad I said something like "somewhat young, somewhat pretty and somewhat sane." I think it was somewhat more clever than that, though.)

I've also come to realize that I'm most attracted to artists, musicians, and writers. If you're not one of these, don't worry; but if you are, you may be in a better position to understand and relate to me.

I'd rather be able to meet someone who is at most only a few hours' drive away from me, which opens up half of Pennsylvania, all of New Jersey, much of New York, most of Delaware, and parts of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. (all places that I visit from time to time.)

***
Much of the stuff above was written quite a while ago and is still valid. But I guess there are a few things I should add, now that I have the space:

I'm looking to date. To go out, have a good time, meet someone that I can connect with on any number of levels, maybe even consider going further to something more serious. But first I'd like to date. I'm not looking to become an instant father. I'm not here to make up for the sins and failings of those who have come before me, and I'm not here to try to fill the shoes of someone who's moved on. I'm me. I hope you get to know who that person is.

Well, I hope that gives you a sense of who I am. There's a lot more about me on my blog, which is a sort of autobiography in a million parts. If you're interested, I'll point you there, and you can learn much, much more.

I hope this has caught your attention. If you've made it this far, you may very well be the sort of woman I'm looking for. Get in touch, and we'll talk!


In my own words
for fun:
I enjoy traveling with good friends, gardening, stargazing, nature-watching, dancing, carousing, reading, cooking, and blogging. Give me a wink or an e-mail and I'll send you a link to my blog!

my job:
I work in a DVD Manufacturing facility. I used to have a management position in our DVD Authoring department, but corporate changes pushed many of us in different directions. Looking to make better use of my Physics degree and 17 years in industry.

my ethnicity:
I'm actually more pinkish-tan than "white".

my religion:
My stock answer is "Jesuit-trained semi-agnostic lapsed Catholic." I'm not as lapsed as some of my friends, but I still feel that the Church has some issues it's gotta work out someday. Ask, and I'll tell more.

my education:
I double majored in Physics and Philosophy. Isn't that weird? But If you knew me, it would make perfect sense. I also did one semester of graduate school in Physics - the most horrible and humiliating six months of my life.

favorite hot spots:
It's been waaay too long since I've been to Tink's in Scranton...and the Amber Indian restaurant in Moosic is one of this area's best-kept secrets! Just tried Kildare's for the first time and liked it, and I love the BIG Margaritas at Don Pablo's!

favorite things:
Working compost into the soil in spring...wandering blindly through my back yard with my eyes aimed at the stars...finding a book I've always wanted to buy in the bargain section of a bookstore...and good conversation that makes the world go away!

last read:
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Damn, that woman can write! I'm currently reading "American Sideshow", a series of vignettes and mini-biographies of sideshow performers from the last 200 years or so. Also New Scientist, Newsweek, MAD...

So. Whaddya think?

Monday, October 15, 2007

2007 Sideshow Gathering, November 2nd-4th, The Woodlands, Wilkes-Barre PA

When I was young there was a department store in Wilkes-Barre that went by the unwieldy name of "Fowler, Dick, and Walker, The Boston Store." (It was later purchased by local merchant Al Boscov as one of the first of his chain of Boscov's department stores.) On the first floor of The Boston Store there was a book department, and my brother and I would hang out there while our mother and sister went shopping for clothes. (This was in the mid-1970s, when unattended children in a department store would not be an immediate cause for the parents being arrested.) In the book department there was a well-worn paperback book filled with pictures of freaks, sideshow performers, and human oddities; no one ever bought it, but obviously many people flipped through it while they were shopping. (Eventually it fell apart at the spine, but was still tucked back onto the shelf for the next reader.) To me this was a sort of forbidden fruit, something bordering on pornography, something to be looked at in secret, on the sly. (In reality it was vaguely pornographic, as the traditional pictures of "half-and-halfs" - half-men, half-women, divided down the middle in an anatomically impossible way - always featured bared breasts, one male and one female, to "prove" the authenticity of the act.)

I've always had a thing for carnival sideshows. Human oddities. Freak shows. Freaks. And Freaks. I recently bought a copy of Marc Hartzman's American Sideshow, which relates the history of sideshow acts in America through biographical sketches of dozens of performers, from the earliest days to the modern era. Sadly, it turns out that I already knew much of the information in the book - History is a finite resource, and through my wanderings on the Internet I had apparently already mined much of this information. Still, one thing did surprise me. In the section on the Modern Era, Hartzman notes that an annual Sideshow Gathering has been held for the past few years - in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania!

I was blown away. How could I have missed this? Wilkes-Barre is just a few miles away from Nanticoke, and is the largest city around for thirty miles. A little digging revealed that I had simply been ignoring this event, which was primarily advertised locally as the "Inkin' the Valley" tattoo show and convention. In fact, the two shows are a double bill. When I had heard the commercials for the tattoo convention I had just thought of the Sideshow Gathering as...well, a side act.

Up until this year the convention had been held in downtown Wilkes-Barre, at the Ramada, and always on the Labor Day weekend. But this year, student housing issues brought on by the condemnation of several Wilkes-Barre apartment buildings have forced King's College to enter into a long-term agreement with the Ramada to provide student housing. So the convention couldn't get booked there.

But all was not lost. The convention organizers were able to secure another Wilkes-Barre venue - and at a time of year that might be far more appropiate. The 2007 Inkin' the Valley / Sideshow Gathering will be held November 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at The Woodlands Inn and Resort on Route 315 in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Imagine! The sideshow folk should start showing up right around Halloween! The Wyoming Valley Mall will be full of sword swallowers and fire breathers, blockheads and human pincushions. Little people and tattoo enthusiasts will be playing the slots at the Mohegan Sun casino. And perhaps Gentleman's Club 10 will feature limited engagements by some very special performers - and very special customers!

Best of all, I'm off for most of those days. Halloween is my first day off that rotation, and I'm also off November 1st, 2nd, and 3rd (though I'm meeting some friends for dinner on the 2nd.)

I may have missed these gatherings for the past few years, but this time I think I might make it there. Maybe I'll run off and join the circus! Anybody want to come along?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rest

This was not much of a day of rest.

Rough day at work today. Two rough days, today and our first day. Yesterday was weird and unproductive. The second day was pretty easy.

I think I should start thinking about looking for a real job. This isn't anything close to what I ever had in mind.

I'm hoping these will be four relaxing days off.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October's brisk chill

Temperatures have dropped about twenty-five or thirty degrees since Thursday. Some people are complaining about the cold, but this weather is actually much more appropriate for the time of the year.

I have a few Halloween decorations up at the house, but I was really waiting for temperatures to drop before putting everything out. There seemed to be something wrong about putting out little ghost lawn decorations while temperatures were in the high eighties and early nineties like they were on Monday. Now that things have cooled off a bit I can put everything out on my next rotation off - which should be Monday through Thursday.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Congratulations, Mr. President

Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today.

I've often wondered, as I'm sure many other people have, what might have happened if Preident-elect Al Gore had been the sitting President on September 11, 2001, rather than President-appointee George W. Bush.* I think if all of the other variables were kept the same - and I seriously doubt they would be, since at the very least a President Gore would not have shown such a cavalier disregard of the warnings of Richard Clarke, among others, the way President Bush did - but the same attack, the same Congress, maybe even the same copy of My Pet Goat...well, I think on September 12, 2001 we would have seen President Gore removed from office by force at the direction of the Republican-controlled Congress. Don't think that's possible? Pick up a copy of Rise of the Vulcans and do a little reading on "Continuity of Government" exercises and how little regard there is in certain quarters for little things like the Presidential chain of succession. In a crisis, who knows what might have been declared justifiable by certain people?

So perhaps we dodged that bullet, at the expense of thousands of others. George W. Bush should not have been sworn in as President in January 2001, nor should he have been elected president in November 2004. We as a nation have paid dearly for these mistakes, in terms of blood and treasure - especially the most precious treasure of fundamental (yet, tragically, alienable) rights and liberties.

Congratulations on your Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Gore. May you continue to do good works for years to come.

*In an argument I once had with a gimme-my-$300-and-you-can-have-my-vote Bush supporter, he opened a response with, "You know, if Bush had been President on September 11...", as if the greatest national defense failure in U.S. history had happened on somebody else's watch.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm so much cooler online

I'm not a huge fan of country music. I don't hate it, mostly, but it's not something that would be heavily represented on my iPod playlist...if I had an iPod, which I don't.

Anyway. I've heard this song a few times, I've seen snippets of the video, and I've come across a few references to it here and there on the internet. But yesterday was the first time I saw almost the entire video. It's "Online" by Brad Paisley, and the video is directed by and stars Jason Alexander (of Duckman fame, and that goofy Seinfeld show). It also features William Shatner and Estelle Harris (who played George Costanza's mother on Seinfeld) as the main character's parents, and the ever-gorgeous Maureen McCormick as the girl next door. It's hysterically funny while not being abusive or deragatory, which is quite a trick, given its subject matter.

If you haven't seen it, here is a link to a posting of the video on YouTube. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Quality and its discontents

Yesterday I put on a brand-new black Henley shirt to take my mom out shopping. It looked nice, it smelled nice, and it was comfortable as anything.

Today I wore that same shirt as a junk shirt while mowing two lawns.

When we went out shopping my mom had a stack of coupons for items that she or I might find useful. I sorted through them and pulled out a few that were for products we would probably be buying. Pillsbury Toaster Pastries. Paper towels. Air freshener. Bathroon cleaner.

The bathroom cleaner was a Comet product, the new Mildew Stain Removal Gel. Good, I thought, I can use that. I pulled a bottle off the shelf and put it in the front bottom part of the cart so it wouldn't come in contact with other items.

We bought quite a few things. My mom can always get a lot more stuff when I go with her, simply because there are then no real weight limits on the total purchase - when she's buy herself she can only purchase what she can carry from the car to the house by herself. (Most of the time; sometimes she will just leave heavier non-perishables in her car and let me know that they are there when I get home.) Unloading the cart onto the conveyor belt at the checkout was a trick: usually I just unload things in order from heavy to light, so we're not bagging jars of pickles on top of loaves of bread or dozens of eggs. This time I started with the large, bulky, lightweight paper towels, then moved on to the bottles of soda, some heavy canned goods, and then the air fresheners and cleaning products.

I pulled out the bottle of Mildew Stain Removal Gel and moved to put it on the conveyor and felt something wet. I looked at the bottle. It was leaking along the seam in the plastic along the neck. I had gel - with bleach - on my hands.

I cursed a bit. I had really wanted that stuff. I handed the broken bottle to the cashier, warned her to be careful handling it because it was leaking and needed to be discarded, and stepped out of line to get another one.

I looked down at my chest and saw a wet streak there, about two inches long and a quarter inch wide. As I watched it began to turn deep purple, then red, then pink. My shirt was ruined.

None of the other groceries got gel on them except, somehow, the cans of cat food, which we washed off when we got home.

I was pissed. I had bought two of these black Henleys a few weeks ago, the only ones in the store in my size. They weren't on sale, so I paid full price for them. They're a Fall item, so given that this is October the store has probably pulled all of their old inventory and begun stocking Spring and Summer clothing already. (WTF is up with that, anyway?)

All that happened is my shirt got ruined and some cans of cat food got splashed with bleach. What if there had been a child riding in that cart? What if the gel had gotten on some other food and had gone undetected? (We specifically checked each bag when we got home for any traces of bleach smell.)

Companies are saving money any way they can in response to price pressures from the market. Consumers shop based on convenience, quality, and price - and of the three, price vastly dominates the decision-making equation. While the issue of convenience (or, at least, perceived convenience) is a complex one (customers will buy an inconveniently large or small package of a product if they perceive a cost savings), quality is often the one area where producers find some flexibility. Not always with the products per se - sometimes with other aspects of the product delivery.

Packaging is a big one. If a company is paying five cents per item for a given packaging method and someone comes along with a packaging system that will cost four cents per item, the producer may jump at the nominal 20% savings in packaging and adopt the new method. (When you are moving millions of units each week or each day, a penny savings per unit will quickly add up.) If it later turns out that the new packages have a 25% failure rate - well, those costs can be hidden in a way that upfront costs cannot. Quality, in this case the quality of the product packaging, suffers, but the end result is a less expensive product.

That's what I think happened here. A friend argued that the responsibility for the damaged product - and hence the damaged shit - resided with the supermarket. Either the damage occurred in shipping, in which case it should have been caught while being stocked on the shelves (note: often, supermarket shelf stocking is done by corporate reps for the product, not by store employees!), or the damage occurred after stocking but while it was on the supermarket's shelves. I disagree. Any packaging system should be designed to take into account the hazards associated with shipping, handling, stocking, and rough treatment by shoppers. No product should be packaged in such a way that a breach of the packaging is possible under normal circumstances - more so when something as hazardous as a cleaning product is involved in an environment that includes both food and children.

So I'm going to complain to the manufacturer. Tell them what happened. Send them photos of my shirt. Maybe send them photos of the price tag I just took off yesterday, so they know what the minimum price of my satisfaction is. Complain to them about the race to the bottom when it comes to cutting corners on quality in favor of price. We'll see what they have to say.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mary of Minersville revisited

Well, better late than never. Phil Plait has finally done a post on the Mary of Minersville apparition on his Bad Astronomy website.

Interestingly, I still get the occasional hit for my August 30 post on this topic, even though I think it's safe to assume that this reflection wandered off several weeks ago. The changing elevation of the sun in its daily path across the sky causes the location of any shadows and reflections cast to vary from day to day and week to week throughout the seasons. A particular reflection will only appear in the same general location for a few weeks at the most.

(For an excellent and beautiful discussion of reflections off of windows, see M.G.J. Minnaert's masterpiece Light and Color in the Outdoors, section 12, "Freak reflections".)

Police action

My mom got pulled over on the way home from visiting my brother and his family today.

It was on a lonely stretch of road, in a dark, secluded no passing zone on Route 11 between Shickshinny and Nanticoke. My mom was already pretty rattled by having some idiot in an SUV tailgate her for miles from just a little past my brother's house. But after the tailgater finally got bored and wandered off, my mom spotted a pair of vehicles pulled off the road in the distance. One was pulled off all the way, and appeared to be a yellow Hummer; the other was a police car, and was parked partly in the driving lane, so that vehicles had to swerve around him to continue down the road. She gingerly steered around the pair and continued on her way home to Nanticoke, carefully keeping to the speed limit.

A few miles dow the road she saw flashing lights far in the distance behind her. What's this?, she thought. Maybe something was going on with the yellow Hummer. As the car approached her, she pulled partly onto the shoulder to let it pass - but it didn't. Instead it pulled up behind her, lights flashing but with no sirens.

Does he want me to pull over?, she wondered. If so, there was really nowhere to do it safely, aside from the narrow shoulder. Besides, this was the middle of nowhere, a dark, secluded stretch of road with a forest on one side and a river on the other. Fake flashers are easy enough to get, and there are plenty of psycho predators out there who like to pose as cops and pull lone female drivers over in secluded spots. This was exactly the sort of place and exactly the sort of situation where police advise you should never pull over, at least not until you can get to a safer, more heavily populated location.

Which is what she did. He did not turn on his siren until she was already pulling over, and he stopped his vehicle a considerable distance from hers.

Eventually a flashlight shone through her window. She opened it a crack, as police recommend in situations like this.

I won't recount everything that transpired. The cop accused my mother of driving erratically, and asked her if she was on drugs. He said that she had swerved while he was following her, and she pointed out that she had done this because she thought he was trying to pass her.

Then the backup arrived.

Every once in a while you will see a car pulled off the side of the road completely boxed in by four or five police cars. Usually I assume this is a person who was found with a car filled with hundreds of pounds of pure, high-grade heroin, or with a dead underage hooker in the back seat, or just an escaped criminal who is known to be armed and dangerous.

Not necessarily. Sometimes this is just a 74-year-old grandmother on her way home from visiting her family.

The cops questioned her in turn. They huddled and had conferences. One of them said to her, "Do you know how much commotion you've caused?"

In the end they decided to let her go with a citation to arrive in the mail detailing whatever the hell sort of charges they decide to make. She has no intention of caving in, of course, and will challenge whatever they choose to throw at her. But she has been deeply shaken by the incident.

Almost exactly the same thing happened to me over five years ago, after the second 3 Brix Shy show. I had been there to play photographer, and had had very little to drink - two beers immediately upon arriving, more than four hours before the time I was heading home. It was about 2:30 in the morning and I was supposed to be meeting some friends in Bryn Mawr* early the next day, so I was looking forward to getting home to bed.

I was about two miles from my house (on Route 29, a completely different road than the one where my mom's incident happened, though the two roads do in fact meet a few miles away from where both of these incidents took place) when I noticed a car pull off an on-ramp behind me (Exit 2, for those of you familiar with the road) and enter the highway. It pulled up rapidly behind me, and I could tell from its size and shape that it was an SUV of some sort. Quickly it was on my tail, and then just a few inches behind my tail, so close that his headlights were at the upper edges of my rear wimdow. I could see nothing else.

Pull around, asshole, I thought, but he didn't. Instead he stayed on my tail, and now he had his high beams on, blinding me. His lights seemed to be loose, because they were vibrating brighter and dimmer, brighter and dimmer. Great, I thought, a drunk asshole in a big badly-maintained SUV at 2:30 on a Saturday morning riding my ass a mile and a half from my house. I twisted my rear-view mirror to get the blinding glare out of my eyes, and started to curse and pray at the same time.

Then I passed a sign on the side of the road, and noticed that its outer edge was flickering blue and red.

Flashers? Where? I had to twist my side mirrors up to see that these flashers were coming from high above the top of my car, from the roof of the tailgating SUV.

I pulled over, for the first (and, so far, only) time in my life.

The cop was young and didn't seem to be full of the arrogant cockiness that a gun, a badge, and a big SUV with a light bar will give some people. He asked for my license and registration. I handed him my license and, I think, my insurance card.

He came back a minute later, and he sounded scared. "I pulled you over 'cause you were swervin' and drivin' reckless," he said, in an accent that suggested he wasn't from around these parts. (For the record, I had been neither "swervin'" nor "drivin' reckless", but I chose not to argue the point. Nor was I going to correct his atrocious grammar.) "I'm gonna let you off with a warning. Drive more careful."

I thanked him politely and went on my way. It's always important to be polite when dealing with people with badges and guns and big SUVs with light bars on top.

So what's the deal? We all know that cops have quotas. But why are so many dangerous drivers allowed free reign on the highways and byways, while innocent band photographers and grandmothers are pulled over for no reason at all?

Has anybody else had this sort of experience, especially on Route 11 between Shickshinny and Nanticoke? I'd love to know if there's a pattern here.

*Not King of Prussia, as I originally stated. Though we did stop over at the King of Prussia Mall to do some shopping.

Monday, October 08, 2007

My Big Hot Columbus Day

There is no way in Hell that the thermometer in front of the local schools should read 90 degrees on October 8. That's just ridiculous.

Today was Columbus Day, but I wouldn't have known it except for the large number of people who were wandering the streets of Wilkes-Barre. I was there to buy some curtains, and I also picked up two pillows in a "buy one get a second for a dollar" sale. The curtains look nice: a rich burgundy for the front room, light emerald for the three windows in the middle room, and a darkish beige for the kitchen. I also got another beige set for the kitchen windows on the other side of the house, and some sheers for the windows on the doors. In another store I got some mini-blinds for the attic windows. I'll start the installation process sometime tomorrow. One of the pillows will get a field test tonight.

I met with some friends this afternoon at a fairly authentic Irish pub/restaurant called Kildare's. Sadly, the sign for Paddy Whiskey on the wall was just for show; it is still unavailable for sale in the United States. The food was good, better prepared than anything I had while I was over there, and I am sure some of the spiciness of the foods would have knocked a few authentic Irishmen on their arses. Next time I go there I may try the Irish Stew.

Afterwards we went to Cold Stone Creamery. The ice cream there is good, but definitely overpriced. I think there is some sort of lifestyle surcharge that is included in the price. You're not just buying ice cream - over $5 for two large scoops, when you can get a half-gallon (well, slightly less than a half-gallon) for $1.99 at Wegman's. For a few dollars more you get to briefly partake in the community of people who go to a Cold Stone Creamery. Is it worth it? Eh. If you're the sort of person who will stand in a long line at a Starbuck's for vastly overpriced coffee that smells like it was left on the burner too long, I suppose you might think so. Still, the ice cream is pretty good.

After that I got home and my mom told me a story that will form the basis of my next post.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sick-ish

Well, yesterday I was officially approved to run a DVD press on my own. I was actually running my three presses by myself most of the day, with the exception of when I had to go to the assessment meeting.

The day before we had a little incident. A motor on a machine about thirty feet from me started to overheat and burn out its bearing oil. It wasn't dangerous, exactly, and the techs didn't seem to think it presented an immediate threat to safety or production. At first we were treated to the smell of frying pancakes, and after a while the smell changed to something reminiscent of the time (several times, really) when someone overcooked their popcorn in our old office microwave by several minutes, reducing it to a collapsed, reeking, smoking ball of carbon. (This was around lunchtime, so this might have very well happened in a nearby office area.) There was no obvious source of the smell, but it quickly filled our entire production area. We began joking that we would find ourselves in a Star Trek scenario, with a general evacution declared, alarms blaring, and fire doors rolling down before we could reach the exits; somber-faced people staring at our collapsed bodies through windows of safety glass and declaring "They are the real heroes."

It passed fairly soon, but the smell lingered in my nostrils for the rest of the day. Perhaps by coincidence I soon developed a low-level itch and pain in my nose, my sinuses, and the back of my throat. This irritation developed throughout the day and into yesterday. On the way home yesterday I...well, let's just say I obtained evidence that led me to believe I have an actual sinus infection. Coupled with warm, puffy eyelids, a persistent, shallow cough, and a voice dropping into Barry White territory, I think I am truly sick.

Could it be allergies? I usually get allergies in early August, but this has been an extremely unusual Summer, and is shaping up to be an unusually hot October. So this could very well be a delayed Summer allergy. Or maybe an early cold, or a reaction to something in the ventilation system at work, or in my car. I dunno. We'll see how this progresses. I do hope it doesn't stick around long.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's curtains for me

I need to buy some insulated curtains for the "storage" side of my house. This is the unoccupied, unheated half of my double-block house - actually, an entire house in itself, one which until early last year had a family of three adults and two late teenagers, plus three dogs. They all smoked - well, not the dogs, they did other things which left stains and odors throughout the house almost as offensive as their humans' smoking habits. I've gotten rid of many of the odors, but the house is still mostly stripped bare - no window treatments of any sort in most rooms, except for the thick plastic film I taped over them at the beginning of last Winter.

One of the nice things about having a job is having discretionary income once again. I can see an ad for curtains, or for clear window insulation, or for other things that would be good to have but which would not be absolutely necessary to have, and I can say, Yeah, I think I'll get that. So when I got a flyer from a local department store and saw that they are having a sale on curtains, it seemed that maybe now would be a good time to get them. And so on these four days off, I think I will.

Odd title note: The title is based on a line from a TV pilot I saw back in the late 70's. I believe it was called "A Dog's Life" and one of the stars was Joe Piscopo. Everybody wore dog costumes with exposed faces and painted-on noses, and the only "humans" were off-screen voices. The sets were big and cartoony, as was the acting. The entire pilot was built around the overheard phrase "It's curtains for Rover" (or Fido, or whoever), and for the rest of the half-hour show the other dogs thought that this dog was going to be put to sleep. In the end it turned out that the humans were putting curtains in the dog's doghouse. Yay. It was as stupid as it sounds, but it must have traumatized me very deeply. I remember seeing it on the IMDb a few years ago, but it seems to be gone now. Anybody else remember it?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Goodbye wallflower.nu, hello violentheart.net!

Camilla Henrikke's wallflower.nu was the first blog I ever read on a regular basis. I found it in a strange way, sometime in mid-to-late 2002. Back then Camilla was still posting photos of herself regularly, photos that she named with semi-descriptive captions. The range of captions she used covered so much territory that for a while it was difficult to do a Google image search on any term without finding one or more images of her. After coming across image after image featuring the same pretty, dark-haired girl, I decided to take a chance and follow one of them back to its source. The source was wallflower.nu.

I was a little confused the next time I visited the site. It looked completely different just a few days after my initial visit. I quickly learned that in addition to being a blogger, Camilla was also an extremely talented and creative graphic artist who redesigned her website with dizzying frequency. (Go here for a gallery of her designs for the site. I believe I came in at version 57. Version 60 is my all-time favorite.) This, coupled with her pictures and her writing, had me hooked. I became a regular visitor and, very soon, a regular commentor.

Five years later I still visit every day, at least every day that I'm near a computer. Even with the limited time available to me on work nights (I get home around 7:00 and need to be in bed around 9:00), wallflower.nu is part of my nightly ritual.

So I was a little concerned when I stopped in yesterday and saw this:

WALLFLOWER.NU
DIES
NOVEMBER 16, 2007

Then I scrolled down to the bottom of the page and saw this:

VISIT MY NEWBORN BABY:
VIOLENTHEART.NET

Things change. Sometimes they change for the better. I'm looking forward to seeing what Camilla will be doing with her new site. At some point I'll have to revise my sidebar links to point to violentheart.net. Be sure to check it out for yourself!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

News from Nanticoke

This is pretty funny. I'm reading one of the two local papers, the Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice, and Nanticoke seems to be dominating the news.

Page 2: PennDOT misspells new Nanticoke street signs. This is funny and sad. The intersection of Kosciuszko and Main has been going through renovations for the last...well, at least six to eight months. And during that time there has been no sign letting people know where Kosciuszko Street is, or the fact that if you turn right instead of left at the traffic light, you will be on Jefkin Street instead of Kosciuszko.

The new signs are spelled "Koscliuszko" and "Jifkin".

Most people are woefully ignorant of American history and thus have no idea who Thaddaeus Kosciuszko, hero of the American Revolution, was. Still, if you're the person making the street sign, don't you think you want to double-check the spelling. It's being fixed.

But Jifkin isn't. 'Cause it turns out that's the right spelling. Apparently "Jefkin" was spelled wrong all along.

Page 12: Nanticoke plans second citywide yard sale for Saturday. But you already knew that!

Page 13: Nanticoke council urges restoration of funds. It's a big revitalization hokey-pokey here in Nanticoke, involving funding for a multi-story parkade that is planned for the downtown. Some politician keeps pulling the federal funds that have been designated for the project and reassigning them to other projects in communities outside of Nanticoke, even after they were restored to the Nanticoke project. Turns out this politician is Paul Kanjorski, a native son of Nanticoke. Why he's doing it is the subject of some speculation, but it may boil down to one word: politics.

Page 14 is a Nanticoke-fest in itself: Pamela Urbanski's Nanticoke Area Notes. Half the column is dedicated to the crowning of the Homecoming Queen, including biographies of her court. There's a Fall festival being held Saturday from 10 to 4 at Holy Child Grove in Sheatown. The City-Wide Yard Sale gets another mention. There's a Chinese Auction at St. Stan's on Sunday - doors open at 11 and auction begins at 1. And Holy Child Parish is holding its annual chicken barbecue Sunday from noon to 3.

Oooh, on Page 15 Nanticoke has two items in "Community Notes": The Women's Group of St. Jon's Lutheran Church is holding a rummage sale on Friday, October 12 from 4 to 8 and Saturday, October 13 from 9-3 with a bake sale on Saturday. And the First English Baptist Church will hold a spaghetti supper and bake sale an Saturday, October 13 from 4-7 (takeouts 4-5). (Two bake sales on the same day! Lutherans vs. Baptists! Fight! FIGHT!)

On page 18 an editorial entitled "Get LCCC's $5.6M" again covers the scuttlebut about the parkade funding, and how it may derail Luzerne County Community College's plans to build a health sciences center. (Or is it a Culinary Arts Center? Or both?)

...and that looks like that's it. But that's plenty. I've never noticed so much Nanticoke coverage before!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ron vs. Sean Paul

I'm ashamed to admit it, but every time I hear the name of aspiring presidential candidate Ron Paul, I automatically think of unintelligible Jamaican rapper Sean Paul.

If you're not familiar with the music of Sean Paul, here's Carlos Mencia doing a hilarious parody of him. Watch it...and join me in my confusion!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Updates

Aaaagh. Tomorrow my binary life switches over to "work" for the next four days. I will return to "off" on Sunday - really, at 6:01 PM on Saturday.

Rather than actually write an honest-to-goodness post for this blog, I will toot my horn about the fact that I finally posted new entries to two of my other blogs.

Check out A Blog of Nanticoke for information about Nanticoke's Citywide Yard Sale Part 2, taking place this Saturday, October 6 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Unfortunately, I will be working that day, so some other enterprising soul will have to take the initiative to sell soda and water to thirsty yard sale shoppers!

Meanwhile on NEPA Blogs I have finally added a new blog that was submitted nearly a month ago. Check out The Nittany Blog for all your Penn State sports needs!

Well, that's it for now. Time to make lunch for tomorrow, and maybe the next day, too!

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Ethics of Work

Not so long ago I was unemployed. For several months I found myself looking at company after company, doing research, sending out resumés, putting in applications. In each case I tried to envision what life would be like in the new job at the new company. How well would I fit them? How well would they fit me? Could we make a go of it?

There were several things to take into account. What kind of company was it? What kind of product did they make, or service did they provide? How did they treat their current employees? What was their philosophy of work?

I found these questions weighing on my mind a lot. When I was in college pursuing a degree in Physics, people wondered what sort of work I would seek after graduation. I really had no idea. I decided in the end that my goal would be to get a Ph.D. by age 27 and begin publishing books about science targeted towards non-scientific readers. I would manage to stay out of the obvious employment options for people with Physics degrees - nuclear power plants and the weapons industry. No death rays for me, baby.

Things didn't work out that way.

I dropped out of graduate school after one semester and found myself in need of work. Some kindly professors steered me towards a local solar cell manufacturer. That was interesting, but didn't pay much - at all. Still, it was fun to be a part of an emerging technology (this was 1990-1991) and know that the things we were making could very well be helping to make a difference in the world.

The solar cell manufacturer wasn't my first job. Technically, my first job was dogsitting for a neighborhood family while they were off on a Summer vacation. The dog was the best part of that job. A few months later they moved out of the neighborhood, and the dog was hit by a car and killed.

My next job was as a stockboy at a women's clothing store. That only lasted a few weeks. I did meet some interesting "older women" there - they were all, like, in their twenties.

In college I had a summer job working at the TV faceplate factory where my father worked. That was an interesting job. One day one of the other summer employees and I were heading off on a break when we had to wait for a train of faceplates to drive by. We watched them go by, first hundreds, then thousands of them.

"If all goes well," I said, "every one of these will become a television."

We goggled at the thought. We were surrounded by hundreds of thousands of future televisions. Tomorrow there would be hundreds of thousands more. How many brain cells were we responsible for destroying?

Solar cells were another thing, though. Our company specialized in solar cells for water pumps that were going to third-world countries. In the middle of the desert, somewhere, the light of the sun would help to bring water to a thirsty land, courtesy of our solar cells.

The next company I worked for was a CD, record, and tape manufacturer. It had once been a locally-owned company, and the son of the man who had founded it was still the CEO, and his son was being groomed to take his place. But it was now a division of that most evil of all businesses - the music industry. Actually, through a recent merger the parent company was now a media conglomerate, combining publishing, movies, and music into one corporate entity. Still, very, very evil.

But the product was good. CDs! Music! We brought music to the people!

And then..DVDs.

Even better. Much better. While CDs generally carried either ephemeral music from the passing parade of soon-to-be-forgotten top-40 stars or moldy oldies from well-established stars, DVDs carried - everything. Movies. TV programs. Biographies. Documentaries. Concerts. Everything. And it was good.

Eventually there was another merger. The multimedia conglomerate was "purchased" by an internet service provider in what later came to be seen as a "Joe Millionaire" marriage: while it appeared that this was a case of successful new tech acquiring established old tech, in time it became obvious that this was a case of a company that was wealthy on paper buying a company that had actual wealth tied up in its physical assets.

Things went sour. The tech company was quickly relegated to the Junior partner in the deal, but the old, established media conglomerate needed to find a way to stop the hemorrhaging that was resulting from wounds sustained in the merger. So it began selling off bits of itself. Including us.

Our company was purchased by a foreign CD manufacturer that was looking to get into the DVD business. We were no longer the manufacturing arm of a media conglomerate. Now we were just another business unit of a media manufacturer.

But still our product was sound. We were still making DVDs. As was I, until I lost my job at the end of February.

People sometimes asked me what the hell I was doing working for a DVD manufacturer when I had a degree in Physics. "Having the time of my life," I would say. "Making money. Not making anything that hurts people. Not making bigger and better bombs."

Some of the companies I looked at while I was looking for work made junk food. Some made plastics. Several made Department of Defense-related products. Helmets. Jet engine parts. Optical systems. Artillery. Bombs.

So what are the ethical considerations here? Is it OK to help a company that makes bombs or frozen ice-cream novelties operate at maximum efficiency, despite its current best efforts to the contrary?

I don't know. I started working for the DVD manufacturer again at the beginning of August, in a more literal DVD manufacturing role. It was a bit of a shock to realize that my former and current employer was the least ethically objectionable company I could locate in the area. But should such things even be taken into account?

Some people say no, emphatically no. Others say absolutely yes. I have discovered that some ethical considerations go out the window in the face of real-world pressures. If it comes down to it, under what circumstances would you work for a company that does something that you find objectionable? What would influence your decision? Money? If so, how much money?