Monday, August 31, 2009


One of the ironies of the current overtime situation is that people are earning much more money, but they're forgetting to pay their bills.

I maintain a home-made ledger book that lists each of my recurring bills in approximately the order they are due. As bills come in I will note the actual due date in the column for that month. When I pay each bill I record the date and the check number. All very neat, and very easy to review in future months.

(And why don't I use a computer to do this? Because a) I don't trust computers, b) I like my information easily accessible, and c) my way is cheaper.)

I came home today intending to pay at least two bills. But I found that only one of them is due this week. The next group starts coming due in thirteen days, by which time I will have two more paychecks in my account. So I will hold off on those until at least after my next paycheck deposit on Wednesday.

Sigh. This is what my life has come to. But at least I have a job, and at least I am able to pay my bills.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back to work, again

Bah. Even though I was at the bottom of the overtime list, they still need everyone. So I'm going in.

I'll admit I'm getting worn out. We're supposed to keep at this pace for a few months still. Then there will likely be rolling (temporary) layoffs again. I'm actually looking forward to that.

Never did get my lawn mowed. So I'll probably try to squeeze that in in the morning sometime after work. That's going to be fun.

The weather was mixed sunny and rainy yesterday, with the heaviest rain coming in the late afternoon when I was supposed to be mowing my lawn. (I mowed my mom's lawn in the early afternoon, after watching Ted Kennedy's funeral on CNN.) The weather for the rest of the week is supposed to be sunny and beautiful. Perfect lawn mowing weather. Perfect lawn growing weather, too.

I had a lousy night last night. Nightmares, dreams of personal conflict, personal stress. Woke up trying to figure out when I will be back on three-day weeks, during which time I will have to work overtime just to make up for the smaller paychecks. The 4x4 schedule works out, mathematically, to four four-day weeks followed by four three-day weeks. Any additional day in a four-day week is worth eighteen hours; the first additional day in a three-day week is worth only sixteen hours. So overtime during a four-day week is more valuable, but paychecks during a three-day week are - naturally - smaller.

Better start making my lunch.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cell Phone Sky Photos

My two-year-old Samsung phone from Verizon (don't ask me what the model is, but it might be an A930) takes surprisingly good photos with its built-in camera. Most of what I take are cloud and landscape photos. It's nice to have a camera on hand when I don't happen to have my Nikon with me.

A purplish glow appears in the sky after sunset, 8:56 PM on June 26, 2009.

The sun through a broken cloud layer, July 3, 2009.

Clouds in the northern sky viewed from the steps of St. Mary's church in Nanticoke, looking across the roof of the parish school after morning Mass on Sunday, July 5, 2009.

Sunbeams and Venus in the pre-sunrise sky on the morning of August 27, 2009.

A detail from the previous image with the location of Venus circled.

The Moon over Main Street in Nanticoke, August 29, 2009.

The Moon nestled in wires, August 29, 2009.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Forced vacation

As I came home from work and Cracker Barrel and shopping this morning, the rain made it pretty obvious that I wouldn't be mowing the lawn today.

So I slept.

I woke up at 7:20 to see dim light coming through the window. But which 7:20? I turned on the TV to get a clue. Several movies and baseball games made it seem more likely that it was 7:20 in the evening than 7:20 in the morning. Also, the light was getting progressively dimmer outside.

So: weather permitting, I will have to mow both lawns tomorrow. I go back to work on Sunday, unless my overtime is cancelled, and that will begin a string of five, or six, or maybe seven consecutive work days. (Five days = 70 hours of pay for 60 hours of work; Six days = 88 hours of pay for 72 hours of work; Seven days = 106 hours of pay for 84 hours of work.)

If I don't get both lawns mowed tomorrow due to rain, I will have to pray for rain for the entire week. Otherwise I will have to use some of my hard-earned cash to hire someone to mow one or both lawns.

My brother's dog has gone home, so at least I'm getting to see the cats a bit on my days off - they mostly hid while Trixie was here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Five down, one to go

I started this string of workdays with overtime on Saturday, and I'll finish it with overtime tonight. Then I have Friday and Saturday off to mow the lawns and get my oil changed and maybe even get my tires rotated, and then it's back again for overtime on Sunday - assuming it isn't cancelled.

I am scheduled to work next Monday through Thursday. I may put in for overtime next Friday and Saturday. Seven-in-a-row is something I haven't done before, and the financial rewards would be significant - almost significant enough to pay off my school taxes.

(For the record, this would be 84 hours worked, with everything after the first 40 paid at time-and-a-half. So it would be 40 hours + 44 hours + 22 hours = 106 hours of pay.)

I am currently somewhat tired.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In the zoo

The story so far: In this house we have the cats Nicky (or Nikki), Joey, Scooter, and Babusz. We then had Bowie fall into our cellar through a basement window that had had a hole torn in the screen. We caught her brother Thor a week or two later, and caught BlueBear using a Havahart trap. I used the same trap to capture Rachel and her late sister Gretchen, the two survivors of their litter, a few days after their Mother Socks disappeared. My mom caught Peaches, the sole survivor of Tortoise's litter, a week later.

The idea was that we would sort-of "foster" the kittens here, and then as they reached young adulthood I would transfer Bowie, Thor, BlueBear, Rachel, and Gretchen to my house across town. Peaches would stay here. So my mom and I would each have five cats in our respective houses.

Then Gretchen died.

Now Rachel and Peaches have become fast friends, and it seems wrong to split them up. So they both will be staying here.

My brother's dog Trixie is also staying here while he and his family are at the shore for the next few days. You can imagine how that is going.

And now Bowie has gone missing. I saw her yesterday morning, but neither of us have seen her since before I left for work yesterday. She's probably hiding downstairs.

I hope.

UPDATE, 3:30: Found Bowie hiding downstairs, safe and sound, right before I went to bed. She's currently hanging out with Rachel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So much to write...

...but too tired to even remember what I had to say. Some bits:

I'll probably be working Thursday and Sunday nights. That gives me Friday and Saturday to do everything else I need to do.

Is Michael Jackson's personal physician in deep doo-doo? Not necessarily. Off-label prescribing of medications that have been approved for other uses is fairly common. But it will be nice if this is the beginning of the end of the "Dr. Feelgood" era of celebrity personal physicians.

Bloggers are crazysexycool. By posting their thoughts in public, they are not only risking attacks from random trolls but also face retaliation from their employers.

Anyway. I'm sure there's more. But I must get to sleep now.

UPDATE, 3:00 PM: The British Texting-While-Driving PSA. Effective? Overkill? Too Graphic? Too tedious? Overlong? And what does it tell us about the tiny tin cans that are being driven in this ad? I drive a 1996 Toyota Tercel, a subcompact, one of the smallest cars in the U.S. this side of a SMART Car. When I went to Ireland, I noticed that a) my car would not be considered a small car over there, and b) even though the cars I was in were smaller than my Tercel, they also had a lot more room inside - we were able to easily fit my luggage where it was a hassle in my Tercel. Why? Where did that extra room come from? Is there less safety structure built into these cars?

Anyone who texts while driving should have their license taken away. And their car. And their phone. And their hands. But I doubt anyone stupid enough to do this will really have an epiphany after seeing this ad.

Monday, August 24, 2009

YouTube Monday: Yacht, "Psychic City"

Well, it's not my weekend, and it's probably not your weekend, but here's a song I first heard on a weekend, on the morning of Saturday, August 15 as I pulled into the parking lot of the Wilkes-Barre Township Walmart. It was on one of the local college radio stations - probably VMFM out of Marywood. The song is "Psychic City", by (as I learned just a little while ago) the duo Yacht.

YACHT - Psychic City (Voodoo City)

Yacht has more information about this song on their website. They also have an entry that links to a video for this song, which you should watch at your own risk.

When I first heard this song I thought it had a very punkish, rough, DIY feel to it that made me think it was an artifact from decades past. (It turns out it is - the precursor song was written in 1987.) Having seen the video I now can't shake the notion that this is hipster art-school Talking Heads-wannabee stuff.

Whatever. It's a strange, catchy song. Give it a listen and see what you think.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Passing the time

One thing I can say about last night's work: the time sure flew by. Oucchhh. That was exhausting, and frustrating, and maddening - I spent a lot of time trying to identify the source of a problem, and then a lot more time trying to work around it.

Tonight I begin my regular four-night rotation. And then, who knows?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back to work

Back again, one day early. Overtime today, then four scheduled days, then probably one or more days of overtime after that.

I feel like I didn't get much accomplished these three days off. I did some heavy-duty shopping on Wednesday morning on the way home from work, but slept most of the rest of the day. Thursday I mowed my mom's lawn and got in some more shopping - I even got a color ink cartridge that is allowing me to print in color for the first time in...a while.* Yesterday I took Rachel and Bowie to the vet's - both got a clean bill of health, though I got more eye drops for the thing that the cats are all passing around. Then I (finally) replaced the screen on the basement window through which Bowie originally fell. Then I took advantage of a break in the rain to go across town and mow my lawn. Then I took my second shower of the day and was off to meet some other local bloggers at a small bar/restaurant about fifteen miles from here.

I slept like a rock last night. I've been sleeping like that a lot lately, judging by my lack of dreams. Thursday night I had one dream that I recall, about hanging out at what appeared to be the college apartment of a girl I used to know. I woke up thinking about her, and then I remembered that she left this area six years ago, got married, and has had at least one kid. Her life...I've wondered if it would have turned out better or worse if things had gone differently between us. I haven't been in touch with her for more than a few minutes at a time in the past year, so I really can't say for sure. I hope she's doing well.

Anyway. Better make my lunch now.

*I got it at Staples, which has the best selection of ink cartridges. Neither Sam's Club, Walmart, nor Best Buy had the HP17 on their shelves. And Cartridge World, which does ink refills, apparently does most of its business with the unemployed, based on their business hours.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Still not there yet

I'm getting better, but I won't say I'm OK. I'm still not over what happened with Gretchen. What I did to Gretchen.

I know. People keep telling me not to beat myself up over this, not to blame myself for what happened. But you know what? It was my fault. As far as I know.

But there are some things that don't add up.

What was she doing there? Her presence under the chair isn't completely bewildering; after all, these kittens spent their first few weeks under an overturned wheelbarrow, and probably associated hidden cavities with safety. But what was she doing so close to me? Truth be told, she didn't even like me. She would always run away when she saw me, and never let me get close, unless she was asleep.

And she was asleep most of the time. Or hiding. That's why she was able to go more than thirty-six hours without us being certain she was missing.

That's the other thing. Mostly Gretchen hid, or lounged. My mom has quite a few pictures of her lounging around, usually with Rachel and sometimes one or more of the other kittens by her side. Never running, or jumping, or playing. I remember her playing in the early days, but not lately.

In fact, the first time I can recall seeing her in a long time was when I pulled her lifeless body out from under the lift chair. My, she's gotten big, I thought.

That wasn't my first thought. As I raised the chair I thought Please let me be wrong. As I spotted her and pulled her out I thought Oh no oh no oh no oh no. And as I held her cold, lifeless body, stiff but already loosening up as the rigor mortis was leaving her, I thought She looks like a dead frog.

She didn't look dead, exactly. I watched Rachel as she napped today, and first she had the classic curled-into-a-ball pose, and then she had the classic just-got-hit-by-a-bus pose. Gretchen's body was in a "Sphinx" pose, all four legs tucked neatly at her sides. Her head was not crushed, and her neck did not appear broken, as far as I could tell. But I didn't look too long. She had been dead for quite a while.

You may be wondering why we didn't notice she was missing right away. Remember that last Tuesday I had just come back from working night shift, and immediately prepared to take my mom for a medical procedure that would leave her mostly incapacitated for the rest of the day. We came back some six hours after we had left, and both of us immediately took naps. Mine was only two hours long, because that afternoon I was going out to meet some friends.

The next morning I discovered I had locked Peaches and Rachel in this room overnight. At some point someone had pooped on a protective plastic sheet. It took a while to clean up that mess, and the smell.

The rest of the day I spent mowing two lawns. It was only late that evening after I had gotten everything accomplished for the day that my mom expressed a concern that she still hadn't seen Gretchen....coupled with a concern about the increasingly bad odor in the parlor, which we assumed had been the result of me not thoroughly cleaning up some poop someone had made behind the couch the day before.

It wasn't.

Things are different without Gretchen. All of the kittens seem friskier, more playful. Rarely do any of them lounge or hide for extended periods. Even Rachel will come and watch me at the computer.

Was something wrong with Gretchen the whole while?

Could Gretchen have been hiding under the chair because it is a natural instinct for animals to hide when they are dying?

Could Gretchen have been dead before the chair came down?

Could Gretchen's time and place of her death have been in no way the result of the time and place of her death?

I said I shooed away the cats before I lowered the chair. I believe it was Rachel I shooed away. Rachel and Gretchen were often together. I have wondered why Rachel wasn't with Gretchen under the chair. Maybe she was? Maybe they were both there, and only Rachel got out and ran away? Even if she had just shifted her position back by a few inches she would have been in a wide open space under the chair. It's not like the chair came down in any hurry, and it's not like it doesn't make a huge racket of hums and creaks and groans as it moves. Maybe Gretchen couldn't shift her position and couldn't run away at that point because she was already dead?

I don't know. I'll never know. There was no post-mortem on Gretchen's body, which is now buried nearly three feet down near the wheelbarrow where she was born.

Tomorrow - well, later today - I was to take Gretchen and Rachel to the vet's for a follow-up visit. Maybe we would have discussed Gretchen's lethargy, her anti-social behavior. Maybe some condition, some disease, some something could have been diagnosed and dealt with.

We'll never know. Tomorrow Rachel will go the the vet's, and Bowie will take Gretchen's place. And, God willing, we will see how healthy they are.

I am so sorry for what happened, Gretchen. Even if I didn't cause you to die, I'm sorry I wasn't able to save you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lazy, or just succinct?

The latest "Nigerian / 419" scam to arrive in my inbox:
Dear Beloved , It is by the grace of God that I write you,. I am Mrs. Leena El Amin,i have a project worth 7.5 Million me (email address deleted)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Belling the cats

Last night was my last night of work in a string of six. Now I'm off for three, and then back to work on Saturday for at least five and probably six nights.

On the way home I stopped at Walmart. I had a list of things I wanted to buy that I had made up throughout the night.

The most important things: collars for all the cats. Collars with bells attached. The collars are a little too big for Bowie, Thor, BlueBear, and Rachel, and Peaches is too small to wear one at all. Rachel took hers off at least once already, and Thor has lost his somewhere.

I was planning on getting these collars in a few weeks, when the kittens had entered into the young adult stage of their development. But after what happened with Gretchen, I decided it's too important to be able to hear as well as see the kittens, wherever they may be. If Gretchen had been wearing one of these collars last Tuesday, she might still be alive today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A cryptogram of sorts

Easy to solve online. A lot harder on paper.

(If you're reading this in Firefox, I don't think it presents the Wingdings. Oh, well.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Writing exercises

Still can't get back into blogging just yet. The thing with Gretchen, and the fact that I'm on night four of a six-, or seven-, or even eight-night string of work, and I'm just not up to it. Then factor in that I've committed myself to writing a letter a day to a friend who will be offline for the next twenty-two days, and that I've decided that each day's letter will be in a slightly different format. Plus I still need to sleep for five hours each day.

How many different ways can you write a letter? So far I've done five things:

1. Printed text on card stock, with illustrations
2. Longhand on printer paper
3. Typed in WordPad and printed out
4. Notes written in a pocket-sized notebook during breaks at work
5. Home-made card with black-and-white illustration (by Tenniel, from Alice in Wonderland) and matching quote

Today I'm going to get fancy and turn the letter into a puzzle. I may eventually do a Jumble or a cryptogram. And once I get a new HP 17 toner cartridge for my DeskJet 842c printer, I may make cards out of some of my paintings. Maybe even use one of the postcards I bought from Whim's store!

I fear I will run out of ideas before I run out of days. Any suggestions?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Can't stay away

Well, so much for being offline.

I have written several times that blogging for me is primarily a writing exercise, and my daily blog posts are following the Gene Wolfe / Harlan Ellison rule of writing: If you want to be a writer, write something every day - even if it's just a shopping list (that's the Gene Wolfe part, from The Castle of Days); and a writer is someone who cannot not write (that's from one of the introductory notes to Dangerous Visions.) But for the past few days I have been, and for then next three-and-a-half weeks I will be, writing daily missives to a friend who is offline and will continue to be offline until (I think) September 7. These count as writing as well.

I'm in an awkward position, though. The thing with Gretchen took the wind out of my sails. I don't feel like being clever or funny or scintillating or whatever the hell I usually try to be, not right now. But I also don't want to be morose and relive the horror of this past week over and over again. And I don't feel like participating in the bickering that passes for Internet discourse - in that sense, the bastards have ground me down, which I think was one of the primary goals of this Summer of manufactured rage.*

So I don't feel much like blogging at the moment. Yet at the same time, I can't cover these topics in my messages to my friend. That would be counter-productive, at least.

I'm trying to write these letters in the morning hours, in between when I come home and when I go to sleep, so I can address them and put a stamp on them and get them in the mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up at mid-day. But I am at my least coherent in the morning when I write them.

Today was especially difficult, as I had to make a grocery store stop to pick up supplies for the next five (or six) nights of work. This threw my schedule off by nearly an hour, so I was extra-tired when I sat down to write my daily letter. (On the computer; I think at this point even my printing would be incomprehensible.) Tomorrow I may stop at Walmart on the way home to get a new color toner cartridge (HP #17 for my ancient DeskJet 842c) so I can print up cards featuring my paintings and maybe some photos. I may also stop for gas, and at a different grocery store for more kitten milk - not that we've burned through the forty-five containers I bought at the end of last month, but we always need more, even with one less mouth to feed.

So tomorrow I may be even less coherent when I write my daily letter. And I may get to bed even later, and sleep even later, and not feel like doing a blog post or hanging out on Facebook. We'll see how it goes.

*The stuff we are seeing at these town hall meetings is analogous to screaming crowds of kids at a Jonas Brothers concert. It's just as authentic, and just as inauthentic. Are those kids screaming because they are legitimately enthralled with this group, or are they screaming because that's what they've been programmed to do by the Disney marketing department?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Going offline for a while, maybe

I barely slept at all last night, tormented by thoughts of poor Gretchen. At one point I woke up to the sound of a cat's yowls. I got out of bed and began to head for the back porch to see if Gretchen was clawing at the plastic I had wrapped her in, injured but alive. But then I She was dead. Definitely dead.

I woke up this morning many times. 5:00. 5:30. I knew that the overtime message would not be final until 8:00, so I forced myself to stay in bed until then. I called, and my name was listed. So I would need to get more sleep for the long night ahead.

But not yet. First I had to bury Gretchen.

I found a spade in the garden shed and picked a spot near the wheelbarrow where Socks had kept Gretchen and Rachel when they were kittens. I would need the wheelbarrow to hold the dirt - but first I had to shoo away the skunk that was under the wheelbarrow. Skunk. Need to surround the body with stones to keep the skunk away.

I began digging. The ground was soft from all the rain, but I had to contend with stones and roots from the nearby lilac and arbor vitae. Some of the stones were larger than a softball. One was the size of a small pillow. That's the headstone.

I dug deep. As deep as I could, though probably not as deep as I should have. I gently placed her carefully-wrapped body in the hole, apologizing to her a thousand times as I did. I then surrounded the body with stones and began slowly shoveling dirt around her. When I had covered the body with an even layer of soil a few inches deep I placed a large rectangular paver on top of it, and then continued to fill the hole with soil and stones. When all the soil was in the hole I tamped it down as best I could with the shovel. Then I placed the headstone on top of where Gretchen's body is, and another stone just below.

And that was that.

My mom and I picked roses and put them on the grave. I took pictures. Came in. Changed out of my dirt-covered clothes. Sat down to write a post.

I don't know if I'll be posting as regularly as I have been. This has knocked me for a loop. I've also got a friend who I can only communicate with offline, through letters, for the next three-and-a-half weeks. I plan on writing a lot of letters, though I will have to choose my topics carefully. I don't think I should tell her about Gretchen. But those letters will consume a lot of my time. And I'm working overtime, today and probably tomorrow. Maybe August 19th as well.

On August 20th I have a vet's appointment scheduled. A follow-up for Gretchen and Rachel. I guess I'll have to let them know that Gretchen won't be coming.

So, anyway. I don't know if I feel up to keeping up the post-a-day pace of this blog, and Facebook, and everything else. Maybe I need to step back for a while. I don't know.

What I do know is I have to try to get a little more sleep right now.

Gretchen's Grave

Behind the shed
Behind the swing
Behind the lilac bush
Near the rosebush
Next to the wheelbarrow where she and her sister were born
and spent the first weeks of their lives
Under the grass where she and her sister would play
Under the stones that I removed with so much effort
And maybe, somewhere with her mother
That's where Gretchen is

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gretchen is dead

I killed her.

I don't know that I killed her for sure, but it seems likely.

I came home from yesterday tired, tired in advance for the day ahead. I knew I couldn't go to bed, because I had to take my mom for a procedure that morning. So I went on the computer for a little bit. Then I decided to have a light breakfast - a cheese danish with butter. I went into the parlor to eat it and sit on the lift chair.

The lift chair is something we got back when my grandmother was with us. It's a recliner, but it has a motor that operates the recline function. It's primary purpose is to lift up, to stand the user up to get out of the chair more easily.

I decided I wanted to sit there, put my feet up, enjoy my danish, maybe watch some TV, maybe have a cat on my lap. I selected BlueBear. He didn't really want to go along with the plan, so he jumped off.

A few minutes later I had had enough. I used the control to lower the foot rest, first shooing away any cats in the area. Cats like to play under the chair, and that's a dangerous place to be when the motor is engaged.

Last night I needed to give Bowie and Rachel some eye drops. It was easy to find Bowie - she was curled up under my feet at he computer - but I couldn't find Rachel. Or Peaches. Or Gretchen. I looked around for a while, and then gave up. I had had only two hours of sleep in the previous thirty-four, and it was time for me to go to bed.

This morning I didn't see any of the kittens. Not right away, anyway. I found Bowie, but I was a little surprised that no one else came out when I set out food and milk.

Soon I solved part of the mystery. Rachel and Peaches had hidden themselves in the room with the computer, and had spent the night locked in there. BlueBear eventually showed himself, too. Everyone was accounted for but Gretchen.

She'll show up eventually, I thought. She's probably just annoyed at having not spent the night with her sister Rachel.

My mom expressed a concern tonight that she had not seen Gretchen all day.

I began a search. A logical search. Assumption: Gretchen is dead. Question: How could she have died?

Well, the answer is, lots of ways. I decided to start with the easiest to check first.

I went to the lift chair and put it in "lift" mode, so that it would raise the chair in such a way that it would tip the occupant forward, eventually lifting the chair several feet off the floor.

My mom watched as the chair rose. At first she saw nothing. But then - yes, a kitten. Gretchen. Cold. Stiff. Dead.

She looked like she was sleeping. Strangled or crushed, I do not know. I do not know for a fact that I killed her. Maybe - maybe seeing me on the chair stirred her curiosity, and she found a way to secrete herself in the chair after we had left for the day. Maybe she got herself tangled in the crossbars, strangled, and died, all while no one was around to hear her.


I see these kittens as a test, a test I have failed. The world wants to kill these kittens. Disease. Predators. Cars. The weather. Can I keep them alive?

For a while I thought I had failed on the first day, when Bowie disappeared. But she showed up, safe and sound. It was OK.

But now Gretchen is dead. Dead for sure. No coming back. No miraculous recovery. Dead.

I have failed. I have failed the universe. I have failed Socks, Gretchen's mother - I promised her, after she disappeared, that I would take care of her kittens. I have failed Gretchen, who I hope died quickly and without pain. I have failed Rachel, depriving her of a sister and best friend. I have failed all the other cats, depriving them of a playmate.

I have failed myself.

I will try not to fail again.

Tomorrow I may or may not have work. Regardless, tomorrow I must go outside, dig a tiny grave, and place the plastic-wrapped body of a kitten in it.

Goodbye, Gretchen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Allergy season begins, 8/11/09

Yep, my allergies kicked in today. Just for the record.


1. I found out at the end of my work night that twenty of my co-workers (including old friends and at least one former boss) were having their jobs eliminated.

2. Came home at 7:00 AM and dozed lightly because I had to take my mom for a procedure at 11:00 AM (leaving the house around 10:15 AM.)

3. Saw, live on CNN as it happened. some of the raving lunatics verbally assaulting Arlen Specter, President Obama (who wasn't there) and anyone who would dare characterize them as a "mob" at the shouting contest that these mobs turned Specter's Town Hall Meeting (and every other Town Hall Meeting) into. Let's hope people are smart enough to see this as what it is: an orchestrated campaign of manufactured rage and fear fueled by endless repetitions of lies by individuals and groups dedicated to maintaining the status quo. Many of these people are very close to engaging in physical violence and/or having strokes. Let's hope that doesn't happen - and if it does, let's hope it can be dealt with quickly.

4. After several more adventures came back with my mom sometime around 3:00.

5. Slept until 5:30 PM.

6. Got up to meet some friends at an Indian restaurant at 6:30 PM.

7. Got home sometime after 9:00 PM.

8. Need to mow both lawns tomorrow, then may or may not have to work overtime Thursday and Friday.

Monday, August 10, 2009

One day week

I'm only working one day this "week." Sorta. Kinda.

My last rotation was a string of six days following a string of five days, with two days off in between. I had worked a regular four-day rotation, followed by a day of overtime, then two days off, then one day of overtime, then another rotation, then another day of overtime on Monday. I had also signed up for overtime on Thursday, but I was pretty low on the list for that day and wasn't needed. Then I had a wedding to go to in New Jersey on Saturday, so I had to take Friday night and Saturday night off. I also took Sunday night off, just in case I decided to stay in New Jersey after the reception. I didn't, so I took yesterday as a play day. (Sort of. I went out shopping for stuff that I needed and blew a ton of cash.)

Tonight is technically the last day of my rotation. I called in on Saturday night (actually, 3:00 AM Sunday morning - once on night shift, your body tends to stay on night shift) to get on the overtime lists for this coming Friday (first choice) and Thursday (second choice) - both if possible. I did this because otherwise I might get mandated for any of the four nights from Tuesday through Friday - and I have to take my mom for a procedure Tuesday morning, and I prefer to work consecutive nights.

I don't know if I'll get these overtime nights. Right now our overtime needs are pretty heavy, but that can change in a minute. I still have a few days off - I may start to combine these with overtime days to maximize the size of my weekly paychecks. These adopted stray cats aren't free, you know. And maybe, just maybe, if I keep up this pace I'll be able to get all my credit card balances back to zero in time for Christmas shopping!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Unforgettable Fire

Sixty-four years ago today, the last wartime use of nuclear weapons took place - three days after the first.

At least, this is true in the sense of fusion or fission weapons used in time of war. Lots of other nuclear weapons have been detonated in "tests", many of which were primarily demonstrations of power, but these were never used as part of an actual shooting war. Depleted-uranium shells are radioactive, but their primary use is as a very dense, massive projectile. The radioactivity of depleted uranium shells will be an ongoing problem at least as deadly as the problems of unexploded land mines and other unexploded ordnance.

We have never seen nuclear weapons used in war since an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, three days after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. We have come close, closer than anyone would like to realize. Nuclear weapons advanced from using fission to release energy through the breakdown of unstable elements to using much more powerful atomic fusion to merge hydrogen into helium, releasing vast quantities of energy as a side effect. More horrifying weapons were conceived and designed - Cobalt bombs, which could salt the entire biosphere with enough radioactive material for a long enough time to essentially wipe out all life on Earth; Neutron bombs, which would release a pulse of neutrons capable of killing vast numbers of people while doing only Hiroshima-sized damage; bombs that could fit in a suitcase, bombs that could pollute a relatively small, targeted area. Heck, a Boy Scout once built his own nuclear reactor using material from smoke detectors and luminescent clocks - effectively building a "dirty bomb" in his mother's garden shed.

I grew up during the Cold War. From my earliest childhood through relatively recent times, the greatest threat to the United States was - or was perceived to be - the use of tactical nuclear weapons by hostile powers, meaning the Soviet Union or China. Any day the birds could have been flying, and we as individuals wouldn't have been able to do very much about it but die.

Rightly or wrongly, that fear has faded. Many of the nuclear weapons are still out there, and not all of their whereabouts are known. I still believe that the long-range goal of the attacks on September 11, 2001 was to draw Pakistan as America's nominal ally into a conflict that would result in the destabilization and overthrow of the nation's secular government by forces more sympathetic to Al Qaeda's goal - an overthrow that would result in Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terroristic Muslim extremists.

That hasn't happened. Yet.

Nuclear weapons are still out there. They are still a threat, though the nature of that threat has changed. But I believe that the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the people who died immediately and over the next few days and weeks and months and those who carried lingering effects for years, were martyrs whose deaths presented the world with the horrific consequences of the use of these terrible new weapons, martyrs whose deaths may have helped forestall the later use of nuclear weapons.

Remember them.

The title of U2's 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire was a reference to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Here is the video for the song of the same title. It's a non-embeddable video, so right-click the image to open the video in a new window or tab.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Anne is back! ANNE IS BACK!!!

Anne from Almost Quintessence just posted her first new blog entry in over nine months!

If you have never read Anne's stuff - well, I damned well recommend that you do. She's funny, intelligent, eloquent, a damn fine writer, and has a set of life experiences that are almost certainly completely similar to yours in some respects, and completely different in others.

I first met her through a comment she left on my blog as Pope John Paul II was dying - and that was only a few months after she started blogging, so I've been there from almost the beginning! My recommendation is that you start reading her blog from the beginning and work your way through it - some of the posts are sequential, so it's fun to see how situations develop and worsen or get resolved. (Fun for us as readers.) If you need a post to get you started, one of my favorites is "Gather 'Round All You Home Renovators" - it's funny, it's true, and it's specifically relevant to my life!

Bloggers come and bloggers go. I am so happy to see that Anne has come back.

Anne is back! ANNE IS BACK!!!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Is Google under attack now?

Tried to view my blog through a comment notification, and I got this error message:

Google Sorry...

We're sorry...
... but your computer or network may be sending automated queries. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.

See Google Help for more information.
So is Google having a DDOS attack today? Or is this just me? I've never seen this message before.

Update, 5:56 PM: Yep, it's not just me.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Anybody else having problems with Facebook this morning?

If I try to update my status, I get this:

Transport error (#12031) while retrieving data from endpoint `/ajax/updatestatus.php': Unknown HTTP error #12031
Hmmmm...some of the stuff I'm seeing suggests this is a Firewall / Windows XP problem.

Update, 11:23 AM: Ummmm, can these stories be related?:
Facebook Experiencing Serious Downtime Issues
Posted by
Nick O'Neill on August 6th, 2009 10:18 AM

Want to browse Facebook to see what your friends are doing or to catch up on to harvest your farms on FarmVille? Good luck! Over the past 24 hours I’ve been receiving numerous emails from users reporting that many features on Facebook have been unavailable. I’ve also been experiencing problems. This morning I tried to load my friend requests page and it just failed. On the
AllFacebook page I tried viewing comments and likes of one of the posts and an AJAX error popped up.

Facebook doesn’t appear to be the only site having issues however. Twitter has been down for the past 15 minutes and users are going crazy! One anonymous blogger told us “I can’t retweet my own articles so how the hell am I going to get readers to my site?” Woe is me my dear friend! Talk about problems going on in the world: Facebook can’t be accessed by a large portion of its users. The site is known for having great uptime but more recently as the site has surged past 250 million users, the company is facing new issues.,2817,2351283,00.asp
Twitter's Site Goes Down
Mark Hachman and Brian Heater
The popular microblogging site Twitter went down early Thursday morning, with the site's operators confirming the outage on a status blog

Twitter offered no explanation for the outage, adding a characteristically pithy post on its Status blog titled, simply, "Site is Down". "We are determining the cause and will provide an update shortly," the post read. staffers also noted problems with Facebook
at about the same time, with the site failing to load briefly. The status site "" also reported both Twitter and Facebook being down at about 9:45 AM Eastern time. Facebook was accessible shortly thereafter, although staffers reported a few glitches, such as problems with posting status updates and internal links.
Does a DOD ban on social media makes sense?
John S. Monroe
Aug 05, 2009FCW readers are evenly split — and passionately so — about the prospects of a Defense Department ban on social media.

To some readers, it’s a “no duh” decision. DOD, an anonymous reader writes, “is not a social experiment.”

Other readers acknowledge the security risks associated with social media, but say such risks can and should be addressed.

Further, a ban comes with risks of its own.

“If [the social-media applications] are blocked, we potentially face losing good employees and soldiers/marines/airmen/sailors, but will be completely unprepared for future technology,” writes Phil.

For more background, check out the following stories:
DOD may ban Twitter, Facebook, other social media
Marines: Facebook is not for the few good men

Update, 2:18 PM, courtesy of Michelle: Facebook and Twitter are under attack.

Twitter, Facebook, and LiveJournal Down at the Same Time!(Update)
Written by Sarah Perez / August 6, 2009 7:32 AM/

For those of you addicted to social networking, Thursday morning is starting out pretty rough. The two biggest sites for updating your status - Twitter and Facebook - are both experiencing issues this morning. Twitter's outage started around 9 AM EST today and while Facebook is up (somewhat), posting updates and wall comments is currently very flaky. And you can't even go vent about how this makes you feel over on your LiveJournal blog because - guess what? - it's down too.

Update: Twitter says they're fighting off a DDOS attack right now but the site is back up. LJ also says they're experiencing a DDOS attack.

According to the Twitter status blog, a posting around 10 AM EST simply reads: "Site is down. We are determining the cause and will provide an update shortly." However, Twitter Search appears to be functional and is somehow pulling in recent tweets, so obviously Twitter has not completely "failwhaled" for everyone.

To make matters worse, Facebook is also experiencing issues this morning as many rebuffed Twitter users are now finding out when they go to post their status on the social networking site instead. The Facebook outage appears to be intermittent, though, and isn't affecting everyone. If you notice anything at all, it may be only that posting status updates and comments display an error message. But simply clicking the post button again may be able to force them through (at least that was my experience.) The site also loads slowly at times and is displaying occasional "transport" errors.

So, who to suspect in this Distributed Denial of Service attack on social media?

1. "White-hat" hackers making the DoD's point for them.
2. Wingnuts upset that people are expressing gratitude that Bill Clinton and/or the Obama Administration were able to get Laura Ling and Euna Lee freed from North Korea.
3. The same people behind the Astroturfing Teabaggers who are trying to Swift Boat health care reform. (And are there no cops armed with Tasers at these meetings?)
4. North Koreans upset that Americans are not bowing down in gratitude to the Great Leader for his mangnanimity.
5. The Iranian government because...just because.

This is happening just a little more than a year after SiteMeter crashed the Internet.

Update, 7:38 PM: Michelle has pointed out that there is a major hackers' conference going on, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to suspect some connection.

But this from a friend on Facebook: "Andy Borowitz just announced 'One Billionth Click on Nude Vanessa Hudgens Link Causes Twitter Outage.'"

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The very last St. Mary's Church Bazaar, ever

The Parish Festival for Our Lady of Czestochowa, Nanticoke, a.k.a. Saint Mary's, will be held this Friday and Saturday, August 7 and 8, 2009, at the Holy Child Grove in Sheatown (directions, sort of; these are to Guardian Elder Care, a nursing home located in front of the grove.)

I could really just repost my entry about this from last year. Here is an excerpt:

Saint Mary's Parish Festival, or Church Bazaar, or "Picnic" (to use the more genteel term) used to be a thing of legend. For years these were held in the parking lot behind the church and school and were three-day events, starting Friday night and wrapping up Sunday night. Sounds of polkas could be heard for blocks around, and the smell of frying food permeated the area for days. Beer flowed like water, parked cars clogged the streets in the neighborhood, and young punks rubbed elbows with the elderly. Yet somehow, I never remember any fights or other disturbances.
This will be the very last St. Mary's Church Bazaar. ever. St. Mary's Church will be closing in a few months...technically. It will continue to function as a "secondary worship site" for as long as it so pleases His Excellency Bishop Martino of Scranton, with whom all ultimate authority for the direction of the Roman Catholic Church in the Diocese of Scranton rests. The primary worship site will be the building currently known as Holy Trinity Church, which features inadequate ventilation, inadequate handicapped access, and a parking lot which can comfortably fit about twenty cars - twice that many if the cars are parked so the ones that are parked in marked spaces are blocked in by the ones that are parked on every other square inch of asphalt.

I don't know when the technical "closing" of Holy Trinity will be held. Nor do I know when the actual closings of St. Joseph's, St. Stanislaus, and Holy Family will take place. (The parishioners of Holy Family, located several miles from Holy Trinity, have formally appealed their closure to the Vatican. ) Once upon a time, not long ago, each of these parishes as well as all the already-closed parishes in Nanticoke held individual church bazaars. Some were larger, some were smaller, but all were well-attended by people from throughout the city regardless of parish affiliation, and all turned a profit (as far as I know.) With all of these parishes consolidated into one, how many church bazaars will have to be held to equal the combined revenue of all of the consolidated parishes' bazaars? And if there is to be only one, how long will it have to run to bring in that sort of money?

And how will His Excellency the Bishop of Scranton react when he sees that the money coming in to his office from his cut of the church bazaars in Nanticoke has dropped drastically since consolidation?

A message to Wal-Mart corporate

Dear whoever:

I know your company makes a lot of money, even when other retailers are losing money, so you must know a little bit about business. But perhaps you would consider some humble suggestions from a mere customer:

1. I understand that you find it important to keep things fresh by periodically remodeling and rearranging the store, moving nearly every item to a location where a shopper would least expect it based on past experience. And I appreciate the maps of the store that you provide on little pieces of paper, like the one that I found tossed in my cart as garbage (a cart which I selected because it had less garbage in it than any of the other carts available.) Would it perhaps be possible to post store maps throughout the store, so the hopelessly lost customers looking for...well, pretty much anything could consult these maps rather than trying to accost sales associates for directions to office supplies and light bulbs?

2. Perhaps there is a reason why you removed price scanners from the floor. Or perhaps you moved them to a location where they weren't visible to an already frustrated customer within a reasonable amount of time. Either way, I would appreciate if you put them back on the floor, especially if you're not going to post prices near products anymore.

3. This has been an ongoing problem since our new local store was built several years ago: would it be possible to put shopping cart returns in every aisle, or at least those aisles that are separated from other aisles by curbs and tree lawns? There is a reason why there are so many shopping carts littering some parts of your lot.

I would make these suggestions to the management of my local store, but I realize that they have very little control over such matters. You do.

- A frustrated customer

Thank you, President Clinton!

I don't know if it was a done deal before he set foot in North Korea, or if he turned his legendary personal charm up to eleven, or if he (as a private citizen) made promises and gave assurances that may mean complications for the United States down the road. But whatever happened, Bill Clinton was the man on the ground, and Bill Clinton came back to America with the two kidnapped American reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Congratulations, and thank you!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I survived

Six twelve-hour nights in a row. I made it.

Now comes the hard part.

(Update, 11:15 PM: I survived that too. But now I need to get to sleep.)

(Oh, and where was I and what was I doing? here's a hint:)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Rain, rain, stay away

I've only watered my gardens two or three times since I planted them. For the most part, natural rainfall has been more than sufficient to provide my tomatoes, carrots, radishes, sunflowers, and blueberries all the water that they need.

Of course, it rained yesterday for the Pennsylvania 500. It's not a NASCAR race at Pocono Raceway without torrential rains. Like the Bloomsburg Fair, this event should be rescheduled to a time of the year when there's traditionally a drought. This way, either it won't rain, and the event can be held as planned, or it will rain, and the Pennsylvania farmers and others who depend of the rain for their livelihoods will get the rain they need.

The race (and I only mention this because of the connection to the weather, and not because I am a fan of NASCAR, which I am not) has been rescheduled to today, and the weather looks absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, I am scheduled to work my sixth and last consecutive night tonight, so I need to get to bed soon. Sometime tomorrow I am supposed to meet a friend and her daughter for lunch and perhaps a trip to the zoo or a movie. Let's hope the weather holds!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

For down, two to go

(And once again, I typoed a title due to exhaustion. That should have read "Four down, two to go".)

It's starting to take its toll. I need to get to bed soon. Four-and-a-half hours of sleep each day just isn't enough.

Two more nights - though the second is not guaranteed. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


I first found out about the local musician who goes by the name of "k8" back in 2003 or 2004. A co-worker who is also a musician had printed out some posters for an upcoming show where both he and k8 would be performing. But he lives in Carbondale, and she lived in Nanticoke - the two extreme ends of the Wilkes-Barre - Scranton Corridor. How could he possibly get them to her without making the fifty-mile jaunt? Well, he and I happened to be working together at the time, so I was able to deliver them to her - at a conveniently-scheduled gig that Friday not far from my house.

Even if you've never heard of k8, you've very likely heard her. That was her singing "Keep On The Sunny Side" in the Days Inn commercials that started a few years ago and were still airing quite recently.

I really enjoyed k8's music at that first gig, even though I spent much of the show playing Scrabble with the extremely cute mother of k8's best friend. k8 has a sound reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge and Indigo Girls, though her sound is also very much her own.

I only saw k8 perform one other time, a few weeks later at the show advertised in the posters I had delivered to her. But I purchased he CD Something Out Of Nothing (referenced in this post) back in 2004, and have really, really meant to see her again sometime. Haley and I used to walk past k8's house all the time, back when she lived in Nanticoke. Back before Haley died.

k8 has several websites. Her official one is, and has a list of upcoming shows, some videos, and other information. She also has pages on MySpace and Facebook, both of which contain embedded audio players, though I can't make the one on Facebook work right. She also has a YouTube page that currently features videos of k8 and her band The Borrowed (be sure to check out the rockin' "Merry Christmas, Baby"), as well as the Days Inn commercial and a video of her cat peeing while sitting on the toilet.

Only a few shows are scheduled for the immediate future. If you're anywhere near any of these venues, go check k8 out!

Saturday, August 01, 2009
k8 @ Pinnak's Bar and Grill
199 Division Street
Kingston, PA 18704
(570) 714-7466
Music starts @ 10PM!

Saturday, August 08, 2009
k8 featuring Dustin Drevitch (of the borrowed and Lemongelli) @ Outsiders
650 South Main Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701
Music starts @ 10:30PM!

Friday, August 14, 2009
k8 @ Pinnak's Bar and Grill (HAPPY HOUR!!)
199 Division Street
Kingston, PA 18704
(570) 714-7466
Music starts @ 6PM-- ON THE DECK!!

Friday, August 21, 2009
k8 @ Pinnak's Bar and Grill
Kingston, PA 10:00 PM
199 Division Street
Kingston, PA 18704
(570) 714-7466

Sunday, September 06, 2009
k8 and the borrowed @ The Wyoming County Fair
Meshoppen, PA 3:00 PM
RT. 6 Meshoppen, Pa.
General Info. - 570-836-7287