Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Fiction: Keeping Christ in Christmas

Every year, we hear about some imagined "War on Christmas." The biggest offenders, we are told, are the people who make Christmas all about Santa and gift-buying. "Keep Christ in Christmas!" we are commanded. Here's a story of a retailer who decides to capitalize on this idea.

First written December 29, 2012, published to my private writing blog March 21, 2013.

Keeping Christ in Christmas

A satire I've been mulling over for years. Finally written out December 29, 2012.

"Esther, why are we here?" Ruth was a plump, grandmotherly woman in a gray blouse and black skirt. She wore a brown shawl against the evening's chill, though November in Louisiana was a bit warmer than she had anticipated. She was one of three women seated at the small conference table. Ruth and Martha had barely had time to drop their suitcases in their rooms and refresh themselves from the long bus ride before Elder Esther had summoned them to the hotel's first floor meeting room.

"I no longer need to keep this a secret from the two of you," the tiny woman in the big chair said. She was dressed in a simple blue dress and a green sweater buttoned at the throat.  Her silver-white hair was freshly permed, and every rhinestone in her glasses shone like a diamond. Even as she sat, she leaned heavily on her jade-handled cane. "We are here to meet Mr. Max Lawtram, the founder of the Lawtram's chain of department stores."

Martha, a tall, humorless-looking sort in a lavender pant suit, gasped. "Max Lawtram himself? Why would he want to meet with us?"

Elder Esther opened her mouth to speak, but suddenly the door to the conference room swung open. A burly, balding man in his early seventies dressed in a business suit entered. The three women stood up.

"Sister Ruth, Sister Martha, Elder Esther, welcome. I have read so much about you and all of your good works. It is so wonderful to finally meet you in person. Please be seated."

He smiled and shook each of their hands, thanking them by name. After some pleasantries regarding their twelve-hour bus ride and the quality of their accommodations, he got down to business.

"Sisters, Elder Esther, as you no doubt know Lawtram's is the number one retailer in the United States. For the last three years our nearest competitor has realized less than half of our annual profits.  And we have done it all while remaining a Godly and righteous company, refusing to cater to consumers of smutty entertainment and other negative elements of our society.

"Yet I have come to realize that we have fallen short in our faithfulness every year. You of the South Central Evangelical Church have been quite active on God's side in the War on Christmas, and your campaign to Keep Christ in Christmas has been far more effective than any other. Your call to action made clear that we at Lawtram's have failed in this regard. We, like every other retailer, have embraced the Godless commercial aspects of the season, with Santa and reindeer and 'Happy Holidays.' So beginning this year, beginning this weekend, we will be making a major change. We will be keeping Christ in Christmas as no other retailer has done.

"I apologize for the secrecy in this matter. We have taken the steps necessary to keep this campaign under wraps until we are ready to unveil it this Friday, on the traditional start of the Christmas season. A media embargo has been declared until that date so none of our competitors might know what we are up to. I have not even disclosed to Esther all that I might have, and I have asked her to keep what she knows secret until tonight. But soon, all will be revealed. Come with me to the Flagship Lawtram's in Bayouville!"

Max Lawtram escorted them out of the room and down the hall into the lobby. Just outside the doors a van from Lawtram Limo Services was waiting.

Once they were on the road Max asked the three ladies about their trip and about their ministry with the South Central Evangelical Church. Ruth and Martha eagerly shared their stories of mission trips into the Godless areas of the east and west coasts. Elder Esther sat straight and silent in her seat, her eyes hidden behind the glare of the dashboard lights on her glasses.

Soon Max Lawtram directed the driver to turn on the radio. "As we approach the store, you will notice the first of our innovations. You will hear it before you see it!"

The radio filled the van with the baby-baby-baby-ooh of the latest pop pap that was filling the airways this week. But soon the song faded and was gradually replaced by Christmas music.

"Not just any music, mind you," Max Lawtram pointed out. "So many popular Christmas songs make no mention of Jesus, or even Christmas. All of these songs, which are being broadcast from short-range towers along the highway, have been specially selected and approved."

The song came to an end, and Arabic-sounding music picked up.

"I'm Caspar!" came a voice.

"I'm Melchior!" said another.

"And I'm Balthazar!" declared a third. "And we are..."

"The THREE KINGS!" they announced in unison.

"We're following the star to savings at Lawtram's!" Caspar announced. "Won't you join us to see what you might discover there?"

The Lawtram's jingle played, followed by another selected and approved Christmas song.

"And now, if you look out of the window towards the glow in the distance..." Max Lawtram began.

"The names are non-canonical," Elder Esther stated sternly.

"I beg your pardon?"

She tapped her cane on the floor of the van for emphasis. "The names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar do not appear in scripture, nor are they ever stated to be kings. Matthew only refers to them as Magi, wise men from the East."

Max Lawtram pressed a button on his wristwatch. "You hear that, J.F.? Names non-canonical. No three kings, either. Fix it."

"You got it, boss," crackled a voice from the watch.

"Thank you so much for sharing you knowledge and correcting our error, Elder Esther," Max said sweetly.  "Now, if you look ahead, you'll notice a representation of the Star of Bethlehem rising over the Flagship Lawtram's. One will shine over every Lawtram's across the nation this weekend."

The van turned into the parking lot of the Flagship Lawtram's, past the oversized inflated figures of three men in Persian garb riding camels.

"This is called a 'soft opening'," Max said. "Family, friends, and invited guests only. No media, no corporate spies. Oh, the media knows all about this already, but they also know that if anyone says anything without authorization they'll be punished severely. No more exclusives, no more packages, no more official leaks. And the competition knows about it, too, I'm sure, but they don't know what to make of it."

The van stopped at the main entrance to the store.

"This is where we get off, ladies!" Max Lawtram stepped out of the van and helped each of the women out. He was older than any of them by about ten years - well, probably older than Elder Esther, it was hard to say - but he had the physique of a man twenty years his junior.

They entered through the automatic doors and immediately heard the strains of a country song, as a man sang about a little boy trying to buy shoes for his momma for Christmas, so she would have something nice to wear when she went to meet Jesus. Sister Martha nodded approvingly.

"Thank you for coming to celebrate my son's birthday!" boomed a large man dressed in white robes at the front of the store.

"This is Chuck," Max said in an aside to his three companions. "He was our Santa Claus last year. As you can see, we found a new role for him this season."

Chuck stood over six and a half feet tall and had long, white flowing hair and a full white beard and moustache.  He wore long white robes, sandals on his feet, and what appeared to be a triangular halo on his head.  He was holding about a dozen balloons that said "KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS".

"Would you young ladies care for a balloon?" he asked.

"Yes, please!" piped Sister Ruth.

Elder Esther remained stern-faced and silent as they passed through the store. Max was speaking enthusiastically as they walked along.

"The problem with the secular commercialization of Christmas - well, one of the problems with it - is that it has become so deeply entangled with the idea of Christmas that it is nearly impossible to cut out he secular commercial aspects of it without removing, in the view of the public, the very 'specialness' of Christmas itself. Santa and reindeer and elves are not truly part of the Christmas story - not as you and I know it - but if you remove them you leave a gaping hole in the public perception of Christmas. So the trick is - the thing that makes the most business sense - is to substitute religious elements for the secular elements that are being removed, secular elements which, in fact, replaced the religious elements in the first place!"

Arabic-sounding music played over the PA system. "Attention Lawtram's shoppers," came a female voice. "The Star of Bethlehem is now shining in our sporting goods department! Follow it for extra-special savings on all rifles and handguns, and ammunition of all sorts, too! Remember, there's no waiting period for Lawtram's Club Card holders, so be sure to stock up and save on all your Christmas guns and ammo today!  But hurry - the Star will be shining in sporting goods for only the next ten minutes!"

Max looked up. "Ah, that reminds me, I'll have to pick up some .22 long rifle rounds for my grandson Bobby! He's only five and he's getting to be a crack shot!" He spoke into his watch again. "J.F., see to it."

"Got it, boss. Five hundred box or the thousand?"

"You have to ask? And better hurry, the sale ends in less than eight minutes."

They continued through the store. Ruth noticed signs over the security cameras that said GOD IS WATCHING YOU. Martha was the first to spot ground level signs that stated SHOPLIFTERS MAKE THE BABY JESUS CRY.

"The centerpiece of many traditional retail Christmas displays is the department store Santa," Max continued. "Santa in his workshop, aided by his elves. Santa on a throne, listening to the wish lists of children sitting on his lap. Parents paying twenty bucks a pop for photos with Santa. These are all things people have come to expect. Removing them would be...disorienting." The moved toward a crowd of people near the back of the store. "This is where we have had our most effective substitution."

Children and their parents were lined up in front of a young, bearded man in robes and sandals who sat on a gilded throne. A banner stretched over him that said SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME.

Sister Martha stopped abruptly. "You have replaced Santa with...Jesus?"

"Not just replaced Santa with Jesus," Max said, beaming. "We've replaced the elves with Apostles!"

And sure enough, several other men in robes and sandals moved around the crowd, each one wearing a name tag. The one who stood next to Jesus and introduced each child had a tag that said PETER. Another walked by, loudly conversing with a fellow Apostle. "You might be able to find better prices somewhere else this Christmas, but I DOUBT it!"

"See, that one is..."

"...Thomas," Ruth stated. "We noticed."

"And, see, Jesus was a carpenter," Max continued. "So Santa's Workshop has become Jesus's Woodshop. Each kid gets a little wooden toy to take home, very traditional, and we've tested this latest batch right off the boat to be sure they weren't loaded with arsenic." He grinned. "All of Jesus's Apostles help him in the Woodshop, which has the latest power tools and workstations for kids and dads alike, and..."

"Jesus was a carpenter," Martha said coldly, "but the Apostles were not. Many of them were fishermen."

Max's eyes bugged slightly. "Fishermen?" He turned purple for a moment, then repeated "Fishermen?" He pulled up his watch again. "J.F., did you get that? The Apostles weren't carpenters! They were fishermen! Why the hell do we have them in a wood shop? Why the hell aren't they pushing fishing gear? Whose idea was this?"

"Well, boss..." the voice over the watch paused. "It was Johnson. Johnson had the idea for the Apostles in the Woodshop. Said it would move the power tools."

"It was a crap idea! Have Johnson fired. And pull our fishing stuff out of the warehouse! I want boats! Motors! Clothing and gear! I want every one of these Apostles in hip waders and a hat covered with lures for Black Friday!"

Max lowered his wristwatch and took a few deep breaths. Regaining his composure, he turned back to his three guests.

"You see now why I wanted, why I need you here?" he said. "We have a lot of the broad outlines taken care of. We've done a lot of the basic work for our Keep Christ in Christmas campaign. But, as they say, God is in the details, and you ladies are the experts in these details. That's why I want to sign you on as consultants to Lawtram's. With your assistance, we can be certain that Keep Christ in Christmas isn't just successful from a retail point of view, but is also theologically correct. In exchange, or course, each of you ladies will receive a generous stipend, and the South Central Evangelical Church will receive funds that will help it to spread the word about the importance of this campaign. What do you say?"

Sister Ruth and Sister Martha had brightened considerably as Max Lawtram made his final pitch. But they turned deferentially to Elder Esther, who stood off to one side, stern-faced and silent, leaning on her jade-handled cane.

"Well, Elder Esther," said Max. "What do you think?"

The little old lady considered her words carefully, then looked up at the multi-billionare across from her. "What do I think, Mr. Lawtram?" she said. "What do I think of removing the secular commercial elements of Christmas from your store and replacing them with religious commercial elements? What do I think of removing Santa and reindeer and elves and replacing them with Jesus and camels and Apostles? And what do I think of your very generous offer to take the three of us on as consultants and to provide funding to the South Central Evangelical Church, in exchange for our support of your efforts? Is that what you are asking me, Mr. Lawtram?"

"Well..." he said, fighting an urge to tug at his collar,"...well, yes."

One corner of her mouth turned up slightly. "I think it's a good start, Mr. Lawtram. Where do we draw up the agreements?"

"We have a room in the back," he said, escorting the three women past the line of children waiting to sit on Jesus's lap. "And once we're done, I'll be happy to outline for you Phase II of our plan, addressing the issue of the weekly competition between Sunday religious services and the attraction of retail outlets. Now, see, if we were to incorporate religious services directly into the retail experience..."

Friday, July 19, 2019

Little Girl, 2010 - July 19, 2019

Little Girl died tonight at about 8:00 PM.

Little Girl was part of the last litter of cats born in our neighborhood, a litter that also included Homer. Unlike Homer, neither Little Girl nor any of her brothers showed any interest in coming into our house.

About six months after she was born, we caught Little Girl to have her spayed. While I was trying to transfer her from the Havahart trap to a cat carrier she squirmed loose. When I tried to catch her, she bit my hand numerous times and escaped into the house. She managed to elude capture in the house for several days, during which time my right hand swelled up like a balloon. In the end, we caught her, had her spayed, and released her.

She was a particularly brave cat, often standing guard while her brothers ate. Over the years her brothers vanished one by one, save Homer, who came into our house a few months after the incident with Little Girl getting loose in our house. One was hit by a car one Winter afternoon several years ago - I buried him behind the garden shed. Eventually only a single brother remained, who we dubbed Big Boy. He, too, vanished about a year ago.

Little Girl never wanted for companionship. Even before Big Boy vanished, several other males came along to court her. Two of the most persistent were Mr. Black, a black cat, and Mr. Orange, an orange one. Mr. Orange disappeared earlier this year. Mr. Black continued to keep Little Girl company until about a month ago, when a new female moved into the area along with her kittens. I had actually noticed her in the neighborhood in the late Spring, dashing inadvisably across a busy street. I spotted her kittens in my garden shed when I pulled out the lawnmower for the first time in early May. But only in the last few weeks has this new cat been bringing her three kittens onto the porch to eat. I expected that Mr. Black would take up with her, abandoning Little Girl. Instead it was Mr. Black who became the odd cat out. In late June he disappeared. He made a special appearance on July 3, looking thinner. He stopped by again a week later, and then again last night. He didn't seem to be there to eat. Last night he just seemed to be staring at Little Girl. I don't know if Little Girl acknowledged him, or even noticed his presence.

Aside from a few territorial face-offs, I never saw Little Girl and the new cat fight. The kittens took to her right away, treating her like a second mommy. But Little Girl definitely showed signs of a decline over the past month. She was losing weight. Fur seemed to be coming off in patches. The pads on her front paws puffed up. She would sometimes hunker down in the street, or on the curb across the street, rather than staying on our lawn and porch. As time went on she took less and less interest in food. In the past week or so she was generally less inclined to move around, apparently leaving the porch only to pee and poop. We were often forced us to step around or over her while leaving the house. As a bonus, we were able to pet her for the first time ever, and I was even able to apply some flea treatment.

Yesterday we reached a crisis point. She had been missing most of the day, a very hot and rainy day. I suspected she had gone off somewhere to die. When I came home from work I found her sitting on the back steps, looking up onto the porch. She was wet and bedraggled and seemed to be speckled with yellowish mud. I brought her onto the porch and got her food. Only then did I notice that her fur was full of flies, and the "mud" I had seen speckling her fur was actually clumps and masses of fly eggs.

I resolved to give her a bath. No way was I going to allow her to be literally eaten alive by maggots. I found an appropriately-sized basin, filled it with warmish water with a dash of flea and tick shampoo, and painstakingly washed her and washed away as many egg clusters as I could. Twice the bathwater turned a deep brown. She fought for a while, but then I noticed she was mostly just stretching her neck and twisting her head - a movement I call "questing" that I have observed in cats who are dying. As I finished drying her, she became very still, save for some gasping, spasmodic breaths. I set her down in a cardboard box on some paper towels. Her eyes were fixed and unresponsive, and her breathing was reduced to shallow gulps. I decided I had just killed her while trying to help her.

Three minutes later, she was up and looking around, and chomping away at the food we offered her. As a bonus, the flies were apparently repelled by her new clean scent.

Overnight she got out of that box and got herself into an old covered litter box that we had cleaned out and converted into a shelter. The hay that I put there in the winter was still there. She had been using this shelter in recent weeks as a place of refuge from the rain. Last night I think she just wanted it as a place of comfort, a place that offered some shelter from the flies. I closed off the opening a bit with a paper towel, making it slightly harder for flies to get in.

My mom checked on her throughout the day. She was breathing.

11:30 OK - Breathing
2:05 PM - Still breathing
3:40 - Heavy breathing, put water on face
7:26 - Still breathing, not as heavy as before

She had eaten the treats I gave her in a clean can from cat food this morning. She didn't seem interested in water. The freezer pack my mom had put in the shelter seemed to help a bit.

When I came home from work today, Little Girl was still breathing. I changed out the freezer pack. I planned to give her another bath to remove any new or leftover egg clusters and bring her temperature down, and maybe put her in a carrier so she could spend the night in the house. Anything to get her away from the rising heat.

My mom checked on her at 7:30  and she was still alive.

I tried to get myself ready for the task ahead. I gathered together some jugs of water, some clean towels, some old washcloths. I planned to go out right around sunset, so the flies would be less active.

I set out the jugs. Propped the basin on a bucket from cat litter that is currently being used to hold dry cat food. Put the washcloths here, the towels there. Pulled Little Girl out of her shelter.

She was limp and didn't appear to be breathing.

I wrapped her in a towel and held her on my lap. I looked at her closely. I couldn't see any squirming maggots. There were still some egg masses here and there, especially on her chest. The matted fur I had felt there as I washed her was apparently a major wound. I did see some tiny black bugs walking through her fur, though if they were fleas, they had survived both a dose of Frontline and a bath with flea shampoo. Her eyes were half-closed, and she had a nugget of food stuck to the side of her lips - maybe one of the treats I had set out for her this morning. Her limbs and tail were all limp.

I held her for a while. Eventually I decided she was dead. But, just on the off chance she was going to pull another resurrection trick like she did last night, I laid her out in the same cardboard box we had put her in last night. I covered her with paper towels to keep the flies from finding her too easily.

I checked her again a while later. She hadn't moved. Rigor mortis had set in.

In the morning I will bury her in the garden next to the house, in a favorite spot where she liked to  sleep. When I see that spot I will think of her, and will know that she is there.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Another job done

After nearly seven months, my most recent job ended yesterday, June 19, 2019.

Oh, I'm starting a new job Monday, June 24. But it's important to keep a running track of when jobs begin and end. For the record, I started my last job Monday, November 26, 2018. At that time I was convinced that Joey or Thor would be dying in the weeks that followed. They are both still alive, and Thor's condition seems to have improved a bit. Friday I will find out how Thor is really doing.

My hours at this job were from 3:30 PM to midnight, though we were allowed to clock in up to 15 minutes early or late and clock out a corresponding number of minutes early or late. Most of us chose to start at 3:15  and leave at 11:45, last call permitting.

Today my last call came through at about 11:44:59.

Fortunately it was a quick one, and I had things wrapped up in about five minutes. But by then most of my co-workers had headed home.

Now on to the next adventure.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Daffodils up, March 31, 2019

I haven't blogged in a while. For...reasons. But I just stepped outside and remembered that I used this blog as a gardening almanac last year. The daffodils on the side of the house are up. They probably came up sometime in the last week. Maybe I'll get photos sometime soon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


Today is my Friday, and I'm working my first scheduled overtime. Just two hours - 1:00 to 3:00. My normal shift starts at 3:30, but I have the option of starting at 3:15 and leaving at 11:45. So there's a possibility I can squeeze in a fifteen minute break and still get out at 11:45 PM. There's also a possibility I'll be stuck on a call from 3:00 to 3:30 and not get that break at all.

If this works out, I'll do it again on Saturday.

Monday, February 25, 2019


In Frank Herbert's original Dune books, Kralizek was the "typhoon struggle at the end of the universe." That's the word that always comes to mind on days like today.

Others may consider it "very blustery," but to me these winds seem unnatural. In the past we would have a wind event once every few years, and its effects would be talked about for years. Last year we had several wind events, including one that put a shingle torn off a roof across the street through our front window, and another that spawned a tornado that destroyed or damaged businesses in and around the Arena Hub Plaza in Wilkes-Barre Township.

I don't know if these wind events have grown stringer and more common, or if we're just more sensitive to them now. I'm just hoping this one ends without causing too much damage.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Back to work

Well, this was a quick and not particularly brutal weekend. Again, I didn't accomplish some major goals, and some of those really can't be put off much longer.

Our era of easily-available overtime, which lasted through our training and into our first week of being on the floor, ended just after Valentine's Day. We can manage to rack up unscheduled overtime  anytime a call runs past the scheduled end of our shift. Still, I hope additional overtime becomes available soon.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Storm have mercy

So, the storm last night - err, this morning, was....not good.

I put the frost cover on my windshield when I got to work, anticipating some ice. Because so many people had bugged out early, I found a parking spot not too far from the entrance, meaning I would have fewer opportunities to fall and crack my skull when I got out around or after midnight.

I finally left about ten minutes after midnight. The walk to the car wasn't bad, but the car itself was coated in a thick layer of snow and frozen slush. I pried off the frost cover, leaving a clear windshield surrounded by a thick layer of wintry mix. After a few minutes of warming up, I was able to clear off the other windows, and remove as much ice as possible from the rest of the car. Satisfied I was as cleaned-up as I was going to get, I rolled out of the parking lot and onto the access road that leads to the road that goes to the exit that takes me to the road (the same road as the second one on this list, but going in the other direction) that takes me to the highway.

The first thing I saw was a smashed-up guardrail on the side of the road that had been intact earlier. Forewarned, I took it slow and steady the rest of the way. Speed limits on the highway had been reduced to 45 mph, and I did a comfortable 40 mph several car lengths behind a tractor-trailer. No one passed us the whole way to my exit. My exit took me onto a road that might have been plowed at some point during the storm, though it was hard to tell.Eventually I was driving in wheel ruts that straddled the center of the two-lane road. The parkway that leads to Nanticoke was in better shape, and I was able to make the uphill left turn towards home without fishtailing or crashing into any utility poles.

Finally I was home. I parked the car, caught my breath, and stepped out to put the frost cover on again - and nearly fell right on my ass. The street I was parked on was covered in a thick white layer of ice.

This morning I awoke to bright sunshine and the sound of melting snow dripping off the roof. Temperatures were in the high 40s by late morning. By the afternoon the sidewalks were mostly covered in slush that was easily shoveled up before it could get a chance to refreeze.

So what's next?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Snow today, ice tonight

We're expecting one to three inches of snow through this afternoon, followed by a brief pause, followed by ice tonight. So when I come out of work sometime after midnight, it will be to a car that is encased in ice, and fifteen miles of ice-covered roads between me and home. Lovely.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

This guy again

So, non-Democrat Bernie Sanders has once again decided he wants to be the Democratic nominee for President. Last time he and his fanatical followers just had one woman to push out of the way. He failed, but the Busters made it their mission in life to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House, regardless of the consequences - and they achieved their goal.

This time, with numerous highly-qualified women vying for the nomination, he's got more more work ahead of him. But with enough effort, he'll be able to pull off the same thing he did in 2016 - and help put Donald Trump in the White House again.

Sunday, February 17, 2019


I'm fortunate enough to live in an area that has not one, but two local newspapers. The Times Leader is the older of the two. The Citizens' Voice was born out of a strike in 1978 against the Times Leader in the wake of its purchase by a national newspaper conglomerate and subsequent anti-union activity.

I subscribe to both of them. I get the Citizens' Voice seven days a week, while I have a Friday-Saturday-Sunday subscription to the Times Leader. I pay for these subscriptions on a month-to-month basis. A charge is placed on my credit card on the same day each month to cover the next month's papers.

And every once in a while the papers don't show up. I'm sure there are reasons. Delivery people come and go. Delivering newspapers is a low-paying pain in the ass. Weather and other factors interfere with regular delivery.

Still, I'm paying for these papers. This is a dying industry. I'm supporting it. In exchange for my money, I'd like to get the product I've paid for. Sometimes when I call I am told a replacement paper will be on its way. Other times I am told I will get a "credit."

This weekend the Times Leader was delivered on Friday, but not on Saturday, and not today. Yesterday I called the "missed paper" number and spoke to a human who told me that re-deliveries are not done on weekends and I would get a "credit." I asked her what this "credit" meant and she told me that it meant that it would push out the expiration date of my subscription by a day. I pointed out that my subscription renews each month and my renewal date has never changed. This can therefore only mean that all the "credits" I've earned will pay off at the end of my subscription - that is, after I have said I no longer wish to receive the newspaper, I will continue to receive the newspaper until the "credits" are all used up.

I wonder if there's a tally of how many "credits" I've earned over the years? It must be several dozen, at least. I should be able to cancel my subscription and continue to get the paper for several months, assuming it is still delivered on a Friday-Saturday-Sunday basis. But I really don't think there is any such tally being kept. I really don't think if I cancel my subscription I will continue to receive a newspaper. And eventually, this paper will fold, and all my accumulated credits will fold with it.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Here we go, here we go, here we go again

So here we are at the start of another work week. Just five days this tie. Doesn't seem so bad compared to last week's ten-day marathon. The weather is much nicer, so the commute should be a bit easier.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Mission semi-accomplished

Today I got done most of the things I meant to get done yesterday. I picked up a new hydration kit for Thor, consisting of a bag of Lactated Ringer's Solution, an I.V. drip line, and some needle tips. I also picked up three and a half months of comic books from Rubber Mallet Comics in West Pittston - the last time I was there was the day before Thanksgiving. I bought a variety of cat food from Pet Supplies Plus using a 10% off coupon. I bought mostly non-essentials from Walmart and paid for them with a $25 gift card my sister gave me for Christmas, plus a dollar and some change.  I did a grocery run and kept the bill to just over $105.00. I bought some half-price day-after-Valentine's Day chocolate. I changed my door decorations from hearts to shamrocks. I made this week's oven-fried chicken lunches and did several loads of laundry. And I read a bunch of my comic books.

I didn't get an overdue oil change, nor did I return the empty bottle from eggnog I purchased during my eggnog shake quest to Hillside Farms. Those can both wait until next weekend.

And today Donald Trump declared a NATIONAL EMERGENCY because he didn't get his way. Fuck that guy.

Seriously, fuck that guy.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


Ten consecutive days of work - well, the last five days of training, on the 11:00 AM - 7:30 PM shift, followed immediately by my first five days of actual work, from 3:30 PM to midnight - have left me exhausted. It didn't help that the last two nights - err, early mornings - had me driving back in snowy, icy conditions, puttering along at 40 miles per hour for much of my nearly 15 mile commute home, or that I didn't get out of work until 12:49 this morning because of the complexity of my last call. But the alternative was to take one day off, work five days, take another day off, and work another five days. I think it's better this way.

I had plans for today. I didn't get most of them done. We'll see how things go tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A song of snow and ice

That's pretty much what we had Tuesday into Wednesday: light snow, coated with sleet, sealed in with freezing rain. Fun times.

The all-hands meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning is postponed, so I can sleep in a bit. Then I have to haul out the garbage, shovel, and head in for day ten of ten.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

St. Joseph's: demolished

St. Joseph's, October 18, 2018

St. Joseph's church was demolished today.

Demolition photos courtesy of Ann Emelett.

See also: St. Joseph's: Another church is coming down

Sunday, February 10, 2019

February 26, 2019: Poems at the Pub featuring Laurel Radzieski

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 will see the return of Poems at the Pub at Dugan's Pub, 385 Main Street, Luzerne, PA. The readings are held in the upper room and begin at 7:00 PM, and the feature will be Laurel Radzieski, author of Red Mother!

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Here we go

I'll be leaving for work in a little bit. Won't be back until at least 12:30 in the morning. First time I've done a shift like this in over five years. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, February 08, 2019


I worked from 11:00 AM to 7:30 PM today. Tomorrow, and for four more days after that, I will work 3:30 PM to 12:00 AM. I will have Thursday and Friday off, and then continue on the 3:30 PM to midnight shift.

I went grocery shopping after work. I had a fairly huge list, and added on a few things. As I packed my purchases into the car, I realized I had forgotten something. I went back in and bought it, and more than twenty dollars of additional groceries.

This shopping trip has to cover the rest of the week and beyond. I've gotten used to being able to pick stuff up as needed when I'm on my way home from work. But there are no longer any stores between work and here that stay open past midnight. The Walmart in Pittston is open twenty-four hours, but going there would involve a ten mile detour. Until I can come up with a better plan, I'll need to get any shopping done on Thursdays and Fridays.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Grim anniversary

In a week it will be Valentine's Day.

A year ago, a bunch of high school kids were looking forward to the day, doing whatever it is that is done by high schoolers for Valentine's Day these days. But someone else had other plans. And Valentine's Day was changed into something else entirely for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

You could fill a calendar with commemorations for the victims of mass shootings in America.  Virginia Tech, April 16. Columbine, April 20. Santa Fe High School, May 18. Pulse, June 12. Aurora, July 20. Tree of Life, October 27. Borderline Bar and Grill, November 7. Sandy Hook, December 14. Some of the days would commemorate multiple mass shootings.

And the hits just keep on coming. We thought after a white male U.S. citizen walked into and elementary school and shot a bunch of children, that would be it. Nope. When a white male U.S. citizen opened fire with a weapon converted to semi-automatic mode with an inexpensive plastic accessory opened fore on the crowd at a country music festival, surely that would move people to action? LOL, no. What would it take for Congress to act, someone directly opening fire on a bunch of members of Congress? It happened, June 14, 2017. (The shooter was once again a white male U.S. citizen.) And still the puppets of the N.R.A. in Congress did nothing.

There's a new Congress in town. A House of Representatives dominated by Democrats. more diverse and less beholden to the deep-pocketed gun lobby than ever before. Will things be different now?

We'll find out.