Monday, December 10, 2018

NASA's Dial-A-Moon

It's difficult to get a good photo of the Moon at a small crescent phase. The illuminated area of the Moon - 12% in the photo below, according to a resource from NASA - is small enough that a camera in automatic mode will need to hold its shutter open for a relatively long time, long enough so the image becomes overexposed.

Waxing crescent around 5:10 PM on Monday, December 10, 2018 from Nanticoke
NASA has an amazing resource on its Moon Phase and Libration page called "Dial-A-Moon." This page is year-specific, so the current page is for 2018 only. With Dial-A-Moon, you can specify a date and a time (in UTC time, five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, four hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time) or just let the system default to the current date and time (to the nearest hour.) Here is the Dial-A-Moon visualization for December 10, 2018 at 2200 UTC (5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time):

Visualization from NASA's Dial-A-Moon

Comparing the two images above, you can see that my photograph is "overexposed" relative to the visualization. I had actually cranked the exposure all the way down, and I am very happy with some of the details I was able to capture. But in an effort to make my image more closely match the Dial-A-Moon visualization, I reduced the brightness nearly 50% using Pixlr Editor.

Top image, brightness reduced by about 50%
Now my image more closely matches the Dial-A-Moon visualization. The Moon never presents exactly the same face twice, and when the weather is not favorable, it doesn't present any face at all. Dial-A-Moon lets you see what parts of the Moon are illuminated at any given time. The current version was released on December 18, 2017, so we may be seeing a version for 2019 any day now.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Miracle of Bethlehem 2018

Tonight I caught the final performance of this year's presentation of "The Miracle of Bethlehem." It featured a cast of sixty-five (including the tallest version of Jesus I've ever seen), elaborate costumes, lighting, and set design, original music and lyrics, and a variety of animals including a donkey, an alpaca, sheep, chickens, and numerous young goats. It was held at the Saint Faustina Cultural Center, formerly Saint Stanislaus Church.

The venue was packed - overpacked, really, to the point of being standing room only. To see a show of this quality, and a turnout of this magnitude, in a little parish like Saint Faustina in a small city like Nanticoke is really quite impressive. The performance was different from last year, with one song ("This Little Town") and character added, as well as a scene-stealing, apple-munching (and dropping) donkey accompanying Mary and Joseph when they discover there is no room at the inn. (The donkey took a strong liking to me after the performance, ramming his head into my chest repeatedly, possibly so I would scratch his neck - although he may just have been trying to eat my camera bag.)

This was the third consecutive year I saw this play. I'm hoping I get to see it again in coming years.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

For the record: Christmas fish and the 2024 Eclipse

Every year around this time, my mom starts trying to remember how much fish she ordered for the previous year's Vigil Supper - a Polish tradition of a meatless feast on the evening of Christmas Eve, the start of which is signaled by the sighting of the first star in the sky. (Or planet, particularly when Venus shines bright in the Western sky after sunset.) It's a feast filled with wonderful traditions, including the ceremonial breaking and sharing of special blessed wafers called oplatki (pronounced oh-PWOT-key), which look like thin, embossed sheets of styrofoam and taste like the casings of U.F.O. (or Satellite, or Flying Saucer) candies. Some of the traditions have fallen by the wayside - the herring, the fish soup, the extra space left at the table for the stranger-who-might-be-Jesus who might show up at the door, the singing of Polish Christmas carols - but the feast still retains some of the traditional aspects, including fish (usually cod) and pierogies (potato, farmer's cheese, and cabbage. Our old fish source used to be bar / restaurant / catering service called The Alden Manor on Middle Road in Nanticoke. (Mostly. I remember one year we couldn't get it and had to fall back on Arthur Treacher's. That was probably some twenty years ago.) Unfortunately, The Alden Manor went out of business a few years ago, and since that time we have had to find other fish suppliers. Our primary source of late has been Gerrity's, a local supermarket chain.

Anyway: for the record, in 2017, our fish order was forty-five pieces, approximately eight pounds. The exact amount may vary from year to year, depending on how many people will be at the Vigil Supper, and whether leftovers are desired.

*     *     *     *     *

I was reminded today that there is a total solar eclipse that will take place throughout North America in the near future. There was some excited talk about this during the eclipse of 2017, but things have changed quite a bit since then. The eclipse will take place on April 8, 2024, and be visible along a diagonal swath of the eastern half of the United States.

Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC Emeritus. Go here and here for more information.
Assuming I am still in Northeastern Pennsylvania in five years and five months, the closest location along the path of totality will be in the Buffalo / Niagara Falls area. It looks like totality will happen there around 19:25 UTC. Assuming Daylight Saving Time is in effect,this should be 15:25 EDT, or 3:25 in the afternoon - I expect the exact times will be published as the event draws nearer. A friend made a striking video of the eclipse of 2017, not by aiming her camera at the eclipsed Sun, which is tricky at best and dangerous at worst, but by capturing the surrounding landscape as the shadow bands rolled in and out. I have never actually witnessed a total solar eclipse from along the path of totality. Will I have such an opportunity on Monday, April 8, 2024?

SIDE NOTE: When trying to get more information about this event from a site belonging to the U.S. Navy, I am confronted with this message:

Has the U.S. Navy allowed its certificates to expire?

Friday, December 07, 2018

First hydration done

Tonight I gave Thor his first at-home hydration treatment.

While generally successful, this first time wasn't entirely not a disaster. It took me a minute to figure out how to attach the needle to the line leading to the bag. It took another minute to work out how to move the flow control to a position that worked well for me. I didn't poke the needle in one side of Thor's scruff and out the other, but I did initially insert the needle so shallowly that it popped out and sprayed Ringer's Lactate all over the place. My second attempt stayed in place. The hydration went relatively quickly, but when it was done I realized I had no idea how to get the needle off the line. I struggled for a bit and managed to put the needle through my thumb, but after I wiped up the blood I was eventually able to remove the needle. A small soda bottle has now been designated a sharps container.

The plan is to give Thor a unit of Ringer's Lactate every Friday night, but the vet said treatments could be moved to twice a week as needed. We'll see how things progress.

SIDE NOTE: The Vice President in charge of my department suggested I look into a poet he had quoted in his most recent monthly memo. ("It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.") Her name is Sarah Kay, and her website has lots of information about her, her work, and groups she's working with. I started to wonder if I might have seen her at Twentyfive Eight Studios in Scranton as part of a program associated with the Breaking Ground Poets. Then I realized that I could not remember what that program was, exactly, or even what year it had taken place. It took some searching through my Facebook timeline, but eventually I found this:

OK, that looked familiar. I took a closer look:

Yes, that was it. Friday, May 15, 2015. Carlos Andres Gomez, Lauren Whitehead, Jon Sands, and Adam Falkner. No Sarah Fry or Project VOICE.

I wish I had been blogging more in 2015, but that was an exceptionally hard year. At least Facebook supplied a trail for me to follow.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Shopping during the holiday season

Someday I will write a post about how a corporate Diwali greeting at my last job smacked all the Christmas spirit right out of me and made me see the holiday in a much harsher, more cynical, materialistic, and exploitative light - and how a personal email advertising outdoor furniture on sale for Ramadan damn near finished me off. But today is not that day.
True story. Ramadan is getting so commercialized these days.
Today I did some holiday shopping for my training class's Secret Santa thing. The person whose name I pulled listed their preferences in order, but as a final item suggested gift cards from specific stores. I interpreted this as an ordered list of place I should shop for the first two items on the list. Which would have been great if I knew where the stores on the list were located.

First I drove to the Wyoming Valley Mall. Forty-five years ago this was the place to shop: a shiny new mall well above the flood plain, full of stores, fountains, benches, and, most importantly, shoppers. Today it is a shadow of its former self. Two of its longtime anchors, Sears and The Bon-Ton, both closed recently and are now vacant. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a distinct lack of traffic and cars in general. A quick scan of the signs on and around "The Mall" told me that I should be looking elsewhere for these stores.

I drove across the street from the Wyoming Valley Mall to the Arena Hub Plaza, still recovering from the tornado that hit it in mid-July. Two of the three stores I was looking for were there. I parked and walked into T.J. Maxx, a store I haven't been in since I was there to buy luggage in 2006 for my trip to Ireland. I found what I was looking for there. I was surprised that the place was relatively uncrowded, and most of my time was spent selecting the Christmas gifts while staying under the agreed-upon $15.00 limit. (The total before tax came to $14.98.)

One potentially important observation: twice in T.J. Maxx I was nearly run over by two different little old ladies walking backwards. Not sure why this was, if this is something that happens frequently in this location or may be connected in some way to the holiday season. I don't know if I'll set foot in this store again this year, or if it will be another twelve years. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Long day, clear night

Today wasn't a bad day of training. During my last break I saw the end of of George W. Bush's eulogy at his father's funeral, and I was fairly impressed. He also did something at the end that I often do at poetry readings - he closed the book on his prepared notes as he was about to deliver his last line.

Donald Trump looked like he couldn't wait to get the hell out of there. In the clips I've seen tonight, I got the impression that Trump wasn't particularly interested in being somewhere where he wasn't the center of attention.

We've had two clear, sunny days in a row, I actually saw the Moon this morning - a thin, waning crescent, just about to vanish entirely into the "New" phase. Tonight was garbage night, which is always a hassle. But the sky is still clear, so I got to see Orion, the Pleiades, and quite a few other stars, constellations, and asterisms. (Also Mars, I think,low in the west around 10:00.)

Tomorrow is supposed to be another cold morning. I'm going to let the car warm up a bit more before I head out - the frost cover kept the windshield from frosting over, but the cold meant that frost started to form as soon as I pulled it off. Tomorrow night I'll do some "Secret Santa" shopping. I also promised to bring in some pies and cookies for our Christmas party. I think I'll try out the Eggnog Pie recipe.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The blank page

There are so many things I want to say. So much I want to write about, so much I want to preserve. But it seems that when I finally get the chance to blag each day, the time and the energy have slipped away. Even now, I have to get to bed in just a few minutes.

Thor is eating, and eating a lot. But his body is absorbing very little nutrition from the food he's taking in, and he's still losing weight. I will perform his first at-home hydration session on Friday.

My mom's chronic pain is getting worse and worse. She moans and groans with each step. I feel guilty about doing anything at all that isn't directly related to helping her, but there is almost nothing I can do that can help her. She is scheduled for knee replacement surgery in five weeks. I am hoping that does more good than harm.

Temperatures are supposed to slip well below freezing for the next few nights. I have a frost cover on the windshield. At least no snow or ice is expected - bad weather can easily double my commute. I still haven't pulled the tomato stakes out of my garden. Maybe this weekend.

Last week's Poems at the Pub was inspiring. Of all the poetry readings and open mics I've known and loved, this one is the most relaxing. The setting is beautiful and photographs very well. I don't know if I'll be able to make it to the next one in January, at least not for the whole reading, but I will try.

Time for bed.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Blogging and the weather

I use my blog for a lot of reasons. As an external memory storage. As a place to share stories, poems, and photographs. As a personal diary. As an almanac to keep track of the rhythms of the year.

I'm in training for my new job right now. One was this place differs from my old employer is the fact that, in the event of a major snowstorm, they will put employees up in a nearby hotel. They often speak about how this was done just this past year. Only I have no recollection of a major snowstorm this past year.

Scratch that. I just remembered a major snowstorm that never materialized. Our call center was actually closed as a result. People showed up for work that day, only to find the doors locked. It seemed like a waste since the snow never came to us.

My new job is about nine miles east and slightly north of my old workplace, and at a higher elevation. On Friday we had snow at work, a beautiful, light, fluffy snowstorm that didn't amount to anything. Nanticoke, at the same time, had nothing, not even a flurry. Is it possible that the same snowstorm - most likely the "Bomb Cyclone of January 2018" - that seemed so overhyped in Nanticoke was devastatingly crippling in Wilkes-Barre? I don't know. Maybe there was some other major snow storm that I'm forgetting?

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Thor photoshoot, December 2, 2018

Thor on black velvet
I realized today that I happened to have my camera near at hand while Thor lounged on some cushions near me. He held still long enough for me to take pictures with a variety of settings. "Sports" mode didn't work out as well as I hoped, but the other shots came out nicely.

Taken in "Sports" mode - sometimes good for low-light situations. Not amazingly great in this case.

Thor in black & white
I don't know how long I'll have to take pictures of him. My goal is to keep him happy and comfortable for the rest of his life - however long that turns out to be.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Big Saturday

Thor had an appointment at the vet today. I'd been careful not to mention it around him, and have kept the cat carrier in a spot where the cats have turned it into a sort of clubhouse. But he knew. Instead of coming to greet me in the morning, he hid. He didn't come out when I called him to breakfast. I found him, eventually, and managed to corral him in a room while I took a shower.

Thor has been eating like mad since his last visit, but has barely put on any weight. That's troubling. He isn't vomiting everything up, so it's possible a lot of this food is not getting absorbed as it passes through his digestive system. We will continue to monitor, and I will take him back in two weeks. In the meantime I was sent home with a hydration kit - an intravenous drip of Ringer's Lactate (an item I became familiar with from watching Emergency! as a child), which I will administer once a week, as well as a different dose of an anti-nausea drug.

Thor seemed very traumatized after his last visit to the vet, which was just a rehydration appointment. He hid the rest of that day and the next. Today, after I brought him back home from the vet, gave him his pill, and released him from the carrier, he seemed totally unfazed, and went back to his usual daily routine of asking to be fed his special mix of foods.

I did a lot of laundry today, which I had to haul to the laundromat to dry. I also set up the antique ceramic Christmas Tree, with a low-wattage, high brightness, safe-for-enclosed-fixtures LED bulb taking the place of the antique I'll-burn-your-house-down tube bulb that was originally used with it fifty years ago - and is still packed in the box with the tree.

I ran my mom out on an errand just before sunset. I was hoping to see some municipal holiday decorations in Plymouth and Edwardsville during our trip, but there were none - at least, none lit up. I'll have to come back by way of this particular area some night next week to see what's actually there.

(My commute in to work takes fifteen minutes, door-to-door. But the return commute has consistently taken a half hour regardless of the route I've tried. Some routes this is because of bottlenecks, choke points, and rush hour traffic. Others it's because of traffic lights. I can sidestep this issue by stopping in one of the many stores on my way home - my commute takes me right through the retail heart of Wilkes-Barre - but that could get expensive over time. Eventually I'll be working on a different schedule which should make the return trip faster, but may lengthen the inbound.)

I realized I haven't sat with Joey for nearly a week. I took his still-warm blanket out of the clothesbasket when I came home from the laundromat, wrapped him in it, and sat down so he could take a nap. We both wound up napping for well over an hour. I think we both needed it.

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Lent. Then the countdown to Christmas really begins.

Friday, November 30, 2018

First week done

My first week at the new job is over. Really, this was just the first week of training. There will be nine more.

Now on to the weekend, which will be exhausting, as usual.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Photos from Poems at the Pub featuring Craig Czury, November 27, 2018

The second edition of Poems at the Pub was held on the second floor of Dugan's Pub in Luzerne, PA. Craig Czury was the featured reader, but his set was followed by an open mic in which nine more poets read. David Bauman and Erin Delaney organized and hosted the event.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Long night

It's garbage night. That's always a long, drawn-out process.

I downloaded my photos from last night. Just the best ones. I have sixty-three of them that made the cut. I don't think I'll be posting all of them here.

Some of the photos from last night

Can't find Temptations Milk Treats. That used to be the favorite flavor for the cats, though now they prefer chicken. But Thor enjoyed some of our remaining supply of the milk flavor. I hope it hasn't been discontinued.

UPDATE, 11/29/18: Found two 16 ounce boxes of Temptations Milk Treats at Pet Supplies Plus and one at Price Chopper. Walmart claims online that I can order a bunch at an excellent price, but if I did that now some would go moldy before the cats got a chance to eat them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Poems at the Pub featuring Craig Czury, November 27, 2018

Craig Czury
Another amazing night at the second edition of Poems at the Pub. Craig Czury was the feature, but nine other poets shared pieces in the open mic that followed. The night didn't end until nearly 10:00. If you missed it, there will be another in January!

(More pictures to follow.)

UPDATE, 11/29/2018: Additional photos are now included in this post:

Monday, November 26, 2018

St. Joseph's: Another church is coming down

After having stood empty for over eight years without attracting a buyer, St. Joseph's Church in Nanticoke is now slated for demolition.

Here it is in better days, two years before it closed:
St. Joseph's Church, Nanticoke, October 18, 2008. The church would be closed two years later.

The stained glass windows were removed and sold several years ago, and since then the church has stood with simple clear glass in their place. But as of this past week, even that was gone.

St. Joseph's Church, November 25, 2018. The stained glass windows were removed and sold some time ago, and now even the plate-glass replacement windows have been removed.

I wanted to try to get photos some late afternoon on a sunny day, when the sun would shine through the empty window frames and fill the church with light. But it may be that such a sunny day may never happen in the time that that remains.

Soon another piece of Nanticoke's history will be nothing but photographs, memories, and rubble.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Back to work, again

Today is the last day of my eight weeks of unemployment.

I suppose I could have brought this to an end sooner if I had been willing to settle for far less than what I was making at my old job. Places everywhere are hiring, warehouses and call centers and retail stores. All the jobs they were offering would have paid up to 25% less than what I had been making. The job I am starting is paying an hourly wage almost identical to my previous wage, though the bonus structure - or in this case, commission structure - will be quite different. (To be fair, in the first nine months of 2018 I made more money than I had in any of at least the previous six full years of employment, so that's a hard mark to reach.)

I'm starting over again. What worries me is that I'm starting over doing customer service for a tech company. That sounds great, but technology has a way of becoming antiquated and obsolete. I say that as someone who once thought he had a career in the CD and DVD industry. At my age, I'm looking for a job that will keep me employed for the next fifteen to seventeen years. If this job goes away in, say, six and a half years, I'll find myself back on the job market at age fifty-seven.

I met with some friends for dinner this afternoon. I had some plans for when I got home, but instead wound up sitting with Joey, our oldest cat. He likes to be wrapped in a blanket and held, and when he is adequately comfortable his purrs will turn to snores and then silence as he falls asleep. Thor napped nearby, just out of arm's reach. One or both of these cats may very well die in the coming weeks, and will probably die while I am at work. I wanted to get in as much time as I could with them now.

Now it's time for bed. Five o'clock will come around soon.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Stray thoughts: A roundup

1. I had a nightmare last night within 45 minutes of falling asleep. Don't remember much of it. I know I had to walk across town at night in bad weather. I took a shortcut that should have gone through an alley, but in fact took me through someone's house. When the occupant noticed, I apologized and explained that I was lost. She was very understanding. I eventually came out the other side, and then had to walk past the quarter mile of graveyards along the south central edge of Nanticoke. As I began this walk, I spotted something crouching in the graveyard that I simultaneously identified as ghoul and crackhead. I decided not to run - running would only make me more vulnerable, and would be worse than dealing with it head on. It charged at me in full gallop, running on all fours, using its hands to push itself forward. I think around this time I woke up and checked the clock to see how long I had been asleep. It was about an hour since I had gone to bed, and I knew it had taken a while for me to fall asleep.

2. When I was in high school and college in the 1980s, in what was effectively the pre-Internet era (an early version of the Internet existed then, but not for us, mostly), we had to generally rely on liner notes and close listening to decipher the lyrics of songs. (Some fan clubs would send you "official" copies of song lyrics, but you had to join, and there was always a fee involved.) R.E.M. was a band legendary for its often-incomprehensible lyrics. U2 also had several songs with lyrics that were only semi-coherent, most notably "Elvis Presley and America" from "The Unforgettable Fire." (The legend was that Bono drunkenly mumbled things into a microphone in a single take, and even if that is not true, the lyrics really have nothing resembling narrative coherence.) When "The Joshua Tree" came out while I was in college, we listened intently to each song as it came out on the radio. I remember a friend stopping me in the cafeteria to hand my the lyrics she had transcribed from her first hearing of "With or Without You." These days, of course, you can just Google these songs and pull up what are allegedly the "official" lyrics to almost any song. For some bands, like My Bloody Valentine, this has become a bit of a game; their lyrics intentionally hover on the edge of comprehensibility, no "official" versions exist, and the band will privately rate posted versions on the degree to which they correspond to what they recall actually singing.

3. Ricky Jay died today. He was so many things: a magician, an actor, a historian, a writer - his book "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women" re-introduced me to the world of strange and unusual performers that I had once learned of through furtive glimpses at the pages of a paperback in the book department of the 1970s-era department store Fowler, Dick, and Walker: The Boston Store (now Boscov's in Wilkes-Barre, a store which, like so many others, no longer has a book department.) I am constantly surprised whenever he pops up in a random movie or TV series - his acting credits are extensive.

4. On Monday I will be heading back to work. These last few days I've been spending as much time as possible with two of our cats who will most likely be the next to die. In both cases we're forestalling the inevitable by identifying and providing foods that the individual cat is most likely to eat in quantity. Foe one cat, Joey, that means Friskies Beef with Extra Gravy and Fancy Feast Beef Pate mixed with extra virgin olive oil. For Thor, it means Fancy Feast Grilled Beef and Fancy Feast Beef and Liver Pate, as well as chicken, turkey, and thinly sliced ham. Joey also is fond of taking naps, especially if he is first wrapped in a blanket and held against your chest. Thor prefers to be scritched and scratched and massaged all over. I'm sorry I won't be able to do these things once I head back to work - at least during the nine hours or so I'll be out of the house.

So, one more sleep. Church in the morning. I'll be meeting some friends for dinner in the afternoon. And then - back to work I go!

Friday, November 23, 2018

A most American shooting

Shooting incidents in America are happening so frequently that those that do make it into news reports tend to blend together after a while. Last week, there was a mass shooting at a hospital at about the same time another incident was happening somewhere else - I forget where. A few weeks earlier, the shooting of two random people in a Kroger supermarket was almost completely ignored when a gunman engaged in a premeditated mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. (Both of these stories managed to displace the story of the MAGAbomber, who sent out pipe bombs - none of which went off - to various critics of Donald Trump.)

This Thanksgiving, something different happened.

Thanksgiving was traditionally a holiday for getting together with family for a big feast. The next morning, fanatical shoppers would head out on "Black Friday" to score deep discounts on all sorts of stuff. Some stores remained open on Thanksgiving night, usually convenience stores and the like, and everyone felt bad for the poor slobs who had to work while everyone else was sitting down to the big meal.

Then some retailers had the bright idea to get a head start on Black Friday sales by having them on Thursday. Suddenly, lots of people, employees who were forced to work and shoppers looking to jump the line for bargains, were missing their Thanksgiving dinners.

Which is how we wound up with a crowd of shoppers at a mall in Alabama. (According to CNN, the Riverchase Galleria in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover.) Two people - a 21-year-old male and an 18-year-old male - got into an argument. What was it about? Who was in the right, and who was in the wrong? We don't know -  specifically, I don't know as I write this. What we do know - what has been reported, what I have read - is that the 21-year-old pulled a gun and shot the 18-year-old.

Now, you may be wondering: Who takes a gun to the mall on Thanksgiving? The mayor of the city where the shooting took place said "You just don’t bring guns to a crowded mall and that’s what happened tonight." Yet the same article notes "Several shoppers were seen with their guns drawn." So the answer is: several people, at least. In this particular mall, at least.

The 21-year-old fled the scene. He was approached by armed police responding to the incident, because of course there were armed police at a shopping mall on Thanksgiving, and he was shot and killed.*

The 18-year-old who was shot did not die, at least not yet. Neither did the 12-year-old girl who was shot in the back as all this was happening. No one is saying for sure who shot her - the original gunman, the responding police, or someone else.

The mayor also said "This was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, it happens all of the country." I think when something happens all over the country, it isn't an isolated incident.

This is America, and a 12-year-old girl was hit by a stray bullet during a shooting that followed an argument at a pre-Black Friday sale on Thanksgiving at a shopping mall.

Happy Thanksgiving, from One Nation Under the Gun.

*UPDATE, 11/25/2018:
Oh, it gets even MORE American. Police shot and killed the wrong guy.

From CNN:
(CNN) An armed 21-year-old man killed by an officer at a mall in Alabama on Thanksgiving night "likely did not fire" the shots that wounded two people and sent terrified shoppers running for cover, police said Friday. 
The shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, about 10 miles south of Birmingham, happened Thursday, one of the year's busiest shopping days. 
Authorities mistakenly thought Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. fired the rounds that left an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old hospitalized, Hoover police spokesman Capt. Gregg Rector said in a statement. 
Police initially said Bradford opened fire after an altercation with the 18-year-old and an officer fatally shot him as he fled the scene. But late Friday, police changed that story, saying that while Bradford was involved in "some aspect of the altercation" and was armed with a handgun, he likely did not fire the rounds that injured the two others. 
"We regret that our initial media release was not totally accurate, but new evidence indicates that it was not," Rector said. 
The error came to light after Jefferson County Sheriff's Office investigators and crime scene experts spoke to witnesses and examined evidence, police said. 
"Investigators now believe that more than two individuals were involved in the initial altercation," Rector said. "This information indicates that there is at least one gunman still at large." 
The officer involved in the shooting is on administrative leave pending an investigation, police said 
The Jefferson County district attorney informed Hoover police Friday that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will take over the lead role in the shooting investigation from the county sheriff's office, Rector said. Hoover police will "assist and cooperate fully" in that inquiry and will "conduct an internal but separate investigation" of the officer-involved shooting, he said.

From Facebook:

American police just killed another "good guy with a gun."

Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., better known as EJ, the son of a police officer, was an active duty officer for the Army, home for Thanksgiving.

Murdered by police yesterday in a mall shooting in Alabama.

Not only did police in Hoover, Alabama murder EJ, for 24 hours they plastered his face all over the news saying he was the mass shooter.

They did a press conference saying they killed the shooter, showed his picture, then said the community was safe.


EJ's family and friends reached out to me this morning. They are not just devastated, they are furious.

Police publicly and local media both publicly blamed him for the mall shooting.

He never fired a single shot.

After police shot EJ, he was still alive, struggling.

Family and friends just sent me a horrendous video of police not only refusing to provide EJ first aid as he fought for his life, but literally abusing him on the ground thinking he was the mall shooter.

It was heartless.

EJ Bradford, Jr. was beloved all over Birmingham. This morning I have heard from neighbors, friends, even teachers from elementary to high school - who LOVED this man.

Served safely in the Army, then shot & killed by American police in Alabama while home for Thanksgiving. #JusticeForEJ

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving reruns: The Littlest Turkey!

A holiday tradition returns...which may be complicated by an HTML message I just received regarding the security setting of the images. Sigh. I may need to reload them all.

...anyway, happy Thanksgiving! Gather around the children and prepare to give them lasting psychological trauma as you tell them the story of The Littlest Turkey!

What's more traditional during the holidays than reruns of your favorite holiday specials? In that spirit, and the spirit of not having very much time this year, I present to you The Littlest Turkey complete in one post!
The Littlest Turkey was originally posted November 16 (Part 1) and 17 (Part 2 and Conclusion), 2005, and was originally posted complete in one post on November 24, 2005.

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.



Part 2
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.


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."


What I did the day before Thanksgiving

I missed yesterday's post. Here's why.

1. Had to take one of our cats (Thor) to the vet's for a quick procedure at 8:00. This involved actually getting him in the carrier to take him to the vet's - no easy feat. After I gave him breakfast, I was able to grab him and lock him in a room. Then I ate my breakfast, took a shower, extracted him from the room, stuffed him in the carrier, and ran him to the vet's.

2. When I got back I uncrated Thor, got back in the car, and ran across town to drop the car off for inspection. The inspection isn't due until January, but this was my last easy opportunity to get it done. After dropping off the car,I walked back across town.

3. I planned to get started on the pies - coconut cream and lemon meringue - while the car was being inspected. But it got done faster than I expected, so I found myself walking back across town to pick it up.

4. The inspection and associated maintenance came out to less than I had budgeted for, so I set out on a quest. My search for My-T-Fine lemon pudding and pie filling revealed that it should have been available at multiple stores in my area. Most of them had come up empty, but there was one chain I had yet to check out - Price Chopper, and the related Market 32. But first, I needed to get gas.

5. I was $18 in grocery purchases short of getting fifty cents a gallon off on gas. So first I hit my regular grocery store and...overshot. I bought $27 in stuff, bringing my points total to 508.

6. From the grocery store I headed for what I thought was the location of the nearest Market 32 at the Narrows Shopping Center in Edwardsville. But along the way I watched the fuel gauge drop, and drop, until I realized I'd better fill up before doing anything else. So I replotted my course to hit the gas station first.

7. After getting gas at the Sheetz in Wilkes-Barre, I headed for the nearby Price Chopper. But first I decided to stop at the Wegman's next door. (We have a lot of grocery stores in Northeastern Pennsylvania.) Wegman's didn't have any Mu-T-Fine, and according to the woman stocking the pudding shelves, didn't carry it. I bought a much more expensive substitute. (My-T-Fine at Weis used to be 50 cents a box. This substitute was $2.99 for enough to make a single pie.)

8. I went to the Price Chopper next door (actually, on the next hill over) and realized I had never been there before. I entered, a stranger in a strange land. I found the pudding aisle quickly and joined the crowd of people scanning the shelves. Suddenly I saw it - My-T-Fine lemon pudding and pie filling! Eight boxes! I snatched them all, thought about it, and put two back for anyone else who might be looking for it. The shelf indicated it was normally 99 cents a box, but was on sale for 69 cents for anyone with a member card. I didn't have a member card. I told this to the girl at the checkout. She gave them to me at the member price and told me I could get a card at customer service. So I did.

9. Since I was already out and about, I figured I may as well head out to the comic book store in West Pittston.

10. On the way back from the comic book store I spotted another Price Chopper at the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming. Armed with my shiny new member card, I headed for the pudding aisle and once again found My-T-Fine - dozens of boxes! I bought another six to bring my total haul to twelve.

11. I continued down the road I was on to get back to the Market 32 I was going to make my first stop. Market 32 is an upscale rebranding of the Price Chopper stores. But it had the same general layout as the two Price Choppers I had just been to - and their pudding aisle was also spilling over with My-T-Fine! But this time I was just here on a reconnaissance mission. I walked out empty-handed.

12. I came home to find my mom was still working on her cranberry relish. I helped her out as best I could, mostly with the heavy lifting - the Oster blender I bought years ago to replace our old dead Waring blender is an excellent piece of equipment, but heavy as anything. While we were doing this, an old friend I haven't talked to in a long while called. We talked while I shuffled back and forth, emptying the blender after my mom filled and ran it.

13. When she was done, my mom advised me that there was now not enough sugar left to make the pies. So, back out to the grocery store - my fifth grocery store of the day.

14. Back home, and decided to check my emails before I got started on the pies. And there was a long-awaited, life-complicating email I had been hoping to see. But nothing to be done about it on a national holiday. Follow-up would have to wait until Friday.

15. Pies at last. Lemon meringue and coconut cream. I didn't undercook or burn either of the fillings. I didn't bleed yolk into the whites and toughen the meringue. Everything came out exactly as it should have. But Thanksgiving dinner will be the real test.

...And after Thanksgiving, we'll see what happens.