Monday, May 31, 2010

Honoring our war dead

I think the best way to honor our war dead is to stop making so many of them.

Not just the dead. How about those who, as my father put it, "left their marbles on the battlefield"? Those who will spend the rest of their days - if they're lucky - in and out of the underfunded and over-capacity VA medical system? Those who will spend the rest of their days on the streets? Those who have been turned into machines designed for combat, who find it impossible to fit back into a society of mattress tags and leash laws and the billion mundane details of non-combat life?

Even on this day, as we Americans remember our war dead by swilling beer and gorging on hamburgers and hot dogs, forces on the other side of the world are engaging in actions that will have consequences far beyond their pathetic little backwater. Actions that have resulted in deaths. Consequences that will eventually result in many more deaths.

War isn't going to end anytime soon.

But in the meantime, maybe we can honor America's war dead by being the country that these people fought and died for: the United States of America.

UPDATE: Link added to Surviving Peace Is the Real Challenge: Junger - Newsweek, an excerpt from Sebastian Junger's book "War"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

If only I knew someone who could do something about this

I was at a party at a friend's house today. His kids are getting older, and there were fewer other kids at the party than in previous years, so my services as a Catcher in the Rye / lifeguard were not really needed, or at least not needed as badly. So I was able to actually relax, dim my hypersenses a bit, amp down, and just hang out. It was nice.

My friend likes to talk. He likes to tell stories. He knows lots of things, some of which are not known to the general public, most of which are things people are happier not knowing. Things I'd be happier not knowing. And in fact, I was able to detune my hearing enough that I came out of some of his monologues not knowing what he had really just said, not the details of it, anyway.

But maybe I should care. Maybe my election as a member of the Luzerne County Democratic Committee representing Nanticoke City Ward 04 was a bit of a joke. But years ago, when I bought my grandmother's house, I decided that this was the place where I would be for a while - "Here I am, and here I remain". If I'm going to be sticking around here, maybe I should get involved in making this place into something better than it is. Maybe, despite my documented loathing of local politics, getting involved in local politics might be one way of making this happen.

Still. What the hell can I do about the stuff my friend was talking about? He might just be talking out his ass, or he might truly have information that will blow the roof off this sucker. If only I knew someone who could take this information and run with it...

Oh, wait. I do. My blogging has brought me in touch with several people from the local television and newspaper industries. Maybe next time I am going to one of these parties, I should arrange for one of these people to come along with me. Maybe they can judge whether my friend is just talking moonshine, or whether he has information that could lead to one or more Pulitzer-worthy exposés. Though I'll have to warn them: my friend likes to talk, and they might want to bring a few extra notebooks...and pens...and batteries...and whatever is being used as recording media these days...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's All in the Game

The number of #1 pop hits co-written by Vice-Presidents of the United States is currently exactly one.

From Wikipedia:

"It's All in the Game" was a 1958 hit for Tommy Edwards. Carl Sigman composed the lyrics in 1951 to a wordless 1911 composition entitled "Melody in A Major," written by Charles Dawes, later Vice President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge.
In addition to scoring a popular hit - something he never lived to see, though the melody was a popular violin piece in his day, which eventually came to annoy him greatly - Charles Dawes also was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Al Gore has some catching up to do.

In researching this, I also found that Tommy Edwards was responsible for popularising a song my grandmother was fond of singing:

I know my grandmother was canny enough to get the meaning of "I Really Don't Want to Know," which could be politely retitled "I Know You're a Floozy, but Let's Pretend You're Not."

When I was a kid I always liked this Tommy Edwards song, which was frequently played on WNAK:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Notes for a future post

One day after I found out that I will be losing my job in six months, I also found out I've been elected to public office.

We are all bound by webs of obligation. Some of us more so that others. Some people find it easy to walk away from everything and follow their own path. For others, such a thing would be unconscionable.

My life might be much easier if I could simply pick up and move on to someplace else, someplace where there are jobs that fit my skills and aptitudes. Somewhere with more possibilities for relationships. Lots of people do just that, and think themselves more free than the people who are bound by ties of family, or home ownership, or jobs - the serfs. But are these peripatetics any more free? Or they just slaves who cannot see their own chains?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

No post today

Sorry. Things to talk about. Just don't feel like talking about some, and can't do justice to others tonight.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Last night of work

Tonight is the last night of my rotation, and it's a short night anyway - only four hours.

These next few days would have been a four-day off-shift, but thanks to the Memorial Day holiday, we actually get five days off. At least.

Thing is, at this point almost every minute of those days off is spoken for. Yayyyy.

Here's the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald with a beautiful rendition of one of the most sinister-sounding songs I know:

Your daddy's rich
And your momma's good-lookin',
So hush now, pretty darlin',
Don't you cry...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HFStival 2010

I just learned (via The Comics Curmudgeon's Josh Fruhlinger on Facebook) that the HFStival is coming back this year - as an oldies show.

Midnight Sun: Third Eye Blind, Billy Idol to headline HFStival -

This is depressing, though not really unexpected. I took part in several HFStivals over the years, thanks to my sister. My first was in 1994, at RFK Stadium, and my last was in 2005, also at RFK. In-between we went to two or three others, mostly at RFK, at least once at PSINet stadium. Back in those days, at least the early days, the featured bands were mostly cutting-edge alternative, some people who had made it big and some who were just on their way up. But at the 2005 show, at least two of the acts could be considered somewhat more established - the New York Dolls and Billy Idol. By then the station that had been WHFS was no longer broadcasting alternative music - its format had been changed to what the Wikipedia article "WHFS (historic)" refers to as "Tropical Latin." WHFS eventually found a new home online, playing a sort of "classical alternative" format - a playlist essentially frozen in time.

And that, I guess, is what this new HFStival is. An oldies show, a nostalgia act, a chance for a bunch of thirty- and forty-somethings to get together and reminisce about how great music used to be, before they started playing that new-fangled stuff on the radio - why, that isn't music, that's noise - and what is it with the kids these days, with those clothes, and that hair...

Some posts about the 2005 HFStival:

Another Monkey: Musical unanswerables
Another Monkey: HFStival 2005 summary
Another Monkey: HFStival 2005 photos

Monday, May 24, 2010


OK, I saw the final episode of "Lost." This was also the first episode of "Lost " that I've ever seen. I have stumbled across it from time to time, in first-run and re-run, and watched for about five minutes, and realized I had no idea what the hell was going on, and moved on.

So why wasn't I totally confused last night? Well, mostly thanks to this timeline that one of my friends on Facebook linked to. I think maybe I also had an advantage since I was going in with no expectations, so I wasn't disappointed by anything that wasn't fully explained.

Today I have spent much of my allotted time online today checking out reactions from friends. I suppose I'll be able to see lots more of that in the coming months and years.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

St. Mary's in Nanticoke officially closes today

Today is the official closing of St. Mary's Church in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. It is more a technical and semantic act than an actual closing; while the parish will cease to exist - now officially folded into the newly-formed parish of St. Faustina, which will eventually incorporate all of the previously-existing Roman Catholic parishes in Nanticoke - the building will continue to function as the "secondary worship site" for the new parish. Given the number of people who belong to the current parishes, and the number of masses being held, and the limited parking and lack of air conditioning at the "primary worship site" currently known as Holy Trinity, I expect that the number of Masses being held at the church formerly known as St. Mary's may actually increase.

The official closing Mass for St. Mary's will be this afternoon at 3:00.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


(I may have posted this before, but if I did, I can't find it.)

There's a reverie/meditation I sometimes do, a mind-stretching exercise to keep me from getting too locked-in to my immediate surroundings. It usually starts off with

Somewhere Bono is eating a sandwich.

...and then goes on to list other celebrities, icons, rich and famous and powerful people from all over the world engaged in mundane tasks. It actually had its start with Douglas Adams, who used to play a big role in the litany: in The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, there is a patient in a hospital who is involuntarily vocalizing the internal narrative of Dustin Hoffmann, with a time delay of about twenty-four hours. What could be a fascinating or reality-shattering phenomenon is written off because this delay introduces the possibility of a clever hoax, and besides, it's not like having Dustin Hoffman read stock prices or sports results from more than a day ago is very useful. (Besides, there was a very large one-eyed old man who had been admitted to the hospital who was occupying everyone's attention.)

For much of the 1990s I wondered what Douglas Adams was up to. I hadn't heard much of him since Last Chance to See except for Mostly Harmless, which felt like a slap in the face to Hitchhiker's Guide fans. ("Oh you like this character? Zap, she's gone forever. In fact, let me see if I can just dispose of all of these damned characters, once and for all.") After I got the Internet in 2000 I was able to pick up bits and pieces of what he was up to. It seemed like he was mostly touring and giving lectures. I wondered if he would ever do a follow-up regarding the endangered animals he had seen in Last Chance to See.

And then he died.

Douglas Adams died nine years and eleven days ago of heart failure after a workout at a gym. He had been stressing himself relentlessly over his frustrations at getting a big-time Hollywood version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into production. Had he lived, I wonder if he would have been at all pleased with the motion picture that was the result of all this effort.

Bono just had emergency back surgery for injuries sustained in a fall during practice for a show. Ronnie James Dio died of cancer at 67. Michael Jackson died of an inappropriately administered

Somewhere, famous people are eating sandwiches and watching TV and going to the bathroom and driving to the supermarket. Just like you and me.

Somewhere, famous people are getting old and dying, too. Just like you and me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

All this useless beauty

So what do you do when you have a gigantic rosebush and two of its daughters, all of which have set a combined total of approximately a gazillion rosebuds?

Well, you could go out and get yourself some gen-u-ine Anchor-Hocking glass jars with included lids (they might have originally been for, I don't know, candy or scent crystals or something?) from the dollar section of the supermarket, clip about three dozen of the buds, and make three little bud vases for three of your friends. (The buds will open over the next few days as though they were still on the rosebush.)

I clipped these rosebuds from low on the rosebushes or on the sides that no one can see, so their absence has no effect on the overall appearance of the bushes - and it will mean fewer rose hips for me to worry about pruning off next Winter.

I'm estimating that the highest buds on this rosebush reach at least nine feet high. That's pretty tall, but it has a way to go before it's a record. The official Guinness World Record for tallest self-supported rosebush is thirteen feet three inches, set by a rosebush belonging to Paul and Sharon Palumbo of San Diego, California in 2005. The non-Guinness record is eighteen feet six inches and was set by a bush belonging to Robert Bendel of Morristown, New Jersey in 2009, as reported by the World Records Academy.

I just went through my archives to look for pictures of this rosebush through the years. What I got was also a version of my recent life history, as seen through rosebush-colored glasses. (It didn't help that I played this song while I was doing the search.)

2004: Just starting out on the blog. Still using my old camera, and the old picture-posting function. Look how tiny the rosebush was! Isn't it a cute little thing!

2005: My uncle was dying. My dog was dying. My father would be dead in a few months. This picture wasn't of the rosebush - it was of me and Haley, the only photo I have of the two of us together. But you can see how the rosebush measures up to the swing behind it.

2006: I had just bought my grandmother's house, and I was still a little exuberant over that. The rosebush is definitely starting to sprawl compared to the previous two years. Interesting note: The roses and the strawberries used to ripen at the same time - a bush full of roses meant it was time to pick the strawberries. Now the rosebush is in full bloom, and the strawberries are nowhere near ripe.

2007: I can't find any pictures of the rosebush in bloom in 2007. I had just lost my job at the end of February, and that Spring I was throwing myself entirely at home improvement projects at my house across town, as well as taking classes at the Unemployment Office (whatever name it was going by at the time) in Scranton. I do, however, have these pictures of the dormant rosebush from March of 2007.

2008: I can't find anything, and I have no idea why not.

2009: The rosebush is now clearly taller than the top of the swing, though nowhere near as tall as it is this year. I would say that the uppermost reaches of the rosebush have increased by nearly two feet since last year!

Title Reference: "All This Useless Beauty" by Elvis Costello.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tom Corbett vs. the First Amendment

Just read about this on a post on Gort's Gort42: Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett is trying to unmask the individual (or individuals) who has been posting nasty things about Republican Gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett. From the blog CasablancaPA:

CasablancaPA today received notice that Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett has subpoenaed Twitter for identifying information about our Twitter account.

It is unknown whether Blogger has received a similar subpoena; we have received no such notice.

The subpoena for Twitter can be found here.
On the surface this looks bad. This looks like a petty and unlawful abuse of power by someone who is simultaneously serving as Attorney General and running for Governor, an attempt to make an example of an online critic and have a chilling effect on anyone else who may want to use freedom of the virtual printing press to criticize him. And below the surface, that may be exactly what this is.

If that is so, Tom Corbett is finished. As a politician, and probably as Pennsylvania Attorney General.

Some of the coverage of this issue:

Corbett assailed over Twitter subpoena

Pennsylvania AG Tom Corbett Can't Take Anonymous Twitter Criticism ...

Attorney General Tom Corbett subpoenaes Twitter account ...

Tom Corbett subpoenas Twitter for names of critics WHYY News and ...

Attorney General Tom Corbett subpoenas Twitter to identify ...

CL&P Blog: Tom Corbett -- The Hypocrisy of Some Who Sue to Keep ...

Tom Corbett for Governor? :

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett Sends Subpoena To Twitter

Phawker » Blog Archive » TWITCH HUNT: Is PA Attorney General Tom ...

Instapundit » Blog Archive » ABUSE OF POWER? Pennsylvania Attorney ...

Pa. Attorney General Tom Corbett Taking On Twitter

Twitter Fighting Order to Reveal Names of 2 Users -

Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate takes on Twitter - On Politics: Covering the US Congress, Governors, and the 2010 Election -

...and many more. Blogs, regional news organizations, national news organizations. If Corbett was seeking attention, he's got it.

UPDATE: Well, maybe Tom Corbett doesn't really need a subpoena, since he's already decided that the anonymous blogger is actually a defendant in a case Corbett was pursuing - a defendant whose sentence Corbett is now trying to have extended, based on the nasty things the anonymous person said about Tom Corbett. No explanation is given as to what proof Corbett has that the blogger and the defendant are the same person:

State recommends more than 3 years in prison for Veon co-defendant

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Songs for Synesthetes

All songs are essentially songs for synesthetes, people whose sensory perceptions are crosswired in one way or another. (A popular book on the topic is called "The Man Who Tasted Shapes.") One form of this cross-wiring is the visualization of music - not necessarily in a manner that would be comparable to a music video, but something more akin to the alien data representation in the movie Predator. For me, this effect often presents itself during the hypnagogic and hypnopompic states, the transitional periods where one is "going into" or "pulling out of" sleep.*

Two songs for which this effect is most pronounced were covered in a single post a little more than two years ago: "Clocks" by Coldplay and "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But thanks to the vicissitudes of the Internet and the predations of lawyers, the videos to which I originally linked are no longer available. Here are new versions which I hope will stick around for a while:

...OK, this first one isn't embeddable. Right-click on the image below to go to the video, or click here. You'll probably have to sit through an annoying commercial.

I first heard "Clocks" when I was in a friend's car in Ireland. The imagery the song first evoked was a dust storm on the far horizon of a broad, gray plain. Since then it has changed, and I now perceive the song as a sort of horizontal wheel, something like a Ferris Wheel on its side. The rotational period of the wheel corresponds to the time it takes to repeat the opening piano notes.

I'm not sure where or when I first heard "Maps", but I know where I was when it first hit me: I was driving my car along East Lackawanna Avenue in Olyphant, not far from where I work. When this song came on the radio it was like being hit in the head by a low-speed high-torque 3/4" auger bit that managed to penetrate my skull and then jammed, causing my entire body to rotate along with the bit lodged in my skull.

Interesting that both songs conjure up sensory information that corresponds to rotation. I wonder how common that is with musical / visual cross-wiring?

*This is the mnemonic I use to remember which state is which. Similarly, stalactites grow from the ceiling, and stalagmites are attached to the ground.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Roses in bloom, May 18, 2010

Back in the Summer of 2001, I enlisted the aid of my only nephew at the time to help me plant a rosebush. It was a little thing I had bought cheaply at a home improvement store a few years earlier - a Royal Highness, I believe - and had kept in an oversized pot since that time. In the past decade this little rosebush has grown to an enormous size, and has produced several offspring that show every sign of matching the parent plant in growth.

Every year, like clockwork, this bush has had its first flush of roses in the last week of May or first week of June. And here we are, two weeks ahead of schedule.

I will have to consult past blog posts to see if I have any records of such early blooms in previous years. It will be interesting to see how the bush has grown over the years.

The roses hung in for a very long time last year, too. This photo was taken on November 13, 2009. The next photos on the memory card are from December 5, 2009 and show the rosebush completely covered in snow!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ed Ames: My Cup Runneth Over

UPDATE, 3/11/2011: I was contacted by someone who found this post and directed me to this great Ed Ames fansite:

If you're at all interested in Ed Ames, check it out!

Sometimes at work, when things momentarily align and the franticness fades briefly, I find myself doing little more than pacing around my machines looking for little problems that might be about to turn into big problems. At times like this, sometimes I whistle up memories of songs, or even let my brain randomly select songs for me to remember.

One of those songs the past few weeks was one from my ancient past, something that I would have heard played on WNAK when I was but a wee child. The song was "My Cup Runneth Over", but I couldn't remember who sang it. Maybe Jim Nabors? Robert Goulet? Perhaps Leonard Nimoy, even?

Nope. It was Ed Ames.


That took me some reading. Ed Ames has a decent Wikipedia entry. He had a long career as a musician and an actor, co-starring with the late Fess Parker in the TV show Daniel Boone. And it was this role that led to one of the things for which Ames is most famous - even if people don't realize it's him.

From Wikipedia:
Although Ames is Jewish, his dark complexion led to his being cast regularly as an American Indian. His greatest success as a stage actor came when he played Chief Bromden in the Broadway production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, opposite Kirk Douglas.

Talent scouts at 20th Century Fox saw Ed in the production and invited him to play the Native American Mingo on the television show
Daniel Boone, with Fess Parker, Patricia Blair, Darby Hinton and Veronica Cartwright.

While playing Mingo on television, Ames developed some skill in throwing a tomahawk. This led to one of the most memorable moments of his career, when he appeared on
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on April 29, 1965.
That moment is preserved in this video clip:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nanticoke church closings and consolidation

Today is the official closing of St. Joseph's church in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. It is a beautiful church, not quite a century old. For the past few years it has provided an official gathering spot for the congregation from nearby St. Francis, which was closed due to structural concerns.

Next week will be the official closing of St. Mary's church. This is the church I grew up in, and the church I still attend. This closing will be more of a formality; the building will continue to function as a "secondary worship site" for the consolidated parish that will be known as St. Faustina. From a practical point of view, I expect the number of services being held there to increase, to accommodate people who belonged to St. Francis, St. Joseph, and the other parishes that have yet to be closed. (Of course, they may also go to the "primary worship site", currently know as Holy Trinity - a large church, but lacking modern amenities such as air conditioning or a parking lot that fits more than two dozen cars.)

The consolidated parish is creating a book of memories of St. Mary's and has asked for the loan of any materials that people may want to share. I burned a CD-R of all of my photos of the church, including all of my pictures of the stained glass windows - nearly four hundred pictures in all. We'll see if any of them are selected for the book!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Back to work

And now, to celebrate the beginning of my seventh year of blogging, another post whining about how I'm going back to work.

Not whining too much. I need the money, and I'm happy to have a job. I might be able to find another job that involves less of a commute, or is a better fit to my skills and education. But it probably wouldn't pay as well, or have even as little job security as I currently have. I think things will change, soon, but until then I'm holding tight.

Spring and Summer are busy times, what with mowing and weedwhacking and other yard work, and other household maintenance work. Even with the "bonus day" yesterday, I still feel like I never stopped moving on my days off.

And now I remember that there are some bills due at the end of next week. So I'd better check my credit union balance and write out some checks. Then I have to get ready for three and a third days of work.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The work of six years

A standard question in job interviews - or so I have been told, as I have not had that many job interviews in my life - is "Where do you see yourself in five years?" For anyone over the age of, say, five, this is a patently absurd question: life is too vastly unpredictable to be able to even begin to guess about where it will take any of us in five years. If someone had asked you this question five years ago, would your response have in any way resembled where you are today? Perhaps the response to this question is less relevant than the approach the respondent uses to formulate the response.

If you had asked me five years ago where I thought I would be today, I certainly would not have described anything resembling my current circumstances. But things have changed, and I have had to adapt to those changes. Bend with the wind, roll with the punches, get back on the horse.

But if you had asked me then if I would still be blogging five years in the future, I would have most likely responded "I dunno. Probably."

Six years ago today I sat down before going to work and created the very first post for my blog. It was a placeholder, actually, just something to establish my ownership of the blog name. It consisted of the title "Another monkey with a blog!" and the text "Coming soon..." That evening I erased that text and replaced it with what now is displayed in this post.

Since then I've been blogging. Through thick and thin, success and failure, heartache and...well, whatever, I've been blogging. A few years ago I made the decision to do at least one blog post a day if at all possible, and damned if I haven't kept to that pace...mostly.

The question is, why?

Not why a post a day. I've addressed that before. But why blog at all?

I've given reasons in the past. Lots of reasons, starting from the very earliest posts. But here's one I don't think I have. At least, I don't remember giving it. Heh.

My posts tend to be, as I state in the subtitle of my blog, narcissistic and at least semi-autobiographical. If there's one subject I know pretty well, it's me. Usually.

But it's not vanity that drives this. These things that I write down here...these are my memories. Memories of who I was when I was young. Memories of my grandmother, my family, the animals who have been my friends. Things I have done, things I have seen, things I have felt. Opinions I have held, positions I have taken. Music that I have loved, books that I have read. Memories of the church I have gone to most of my life, and the schools I have attended, and the places I have lived and worked. And the people - well, I have left the people out, mostly, out of respect for their privacy.* Their stories are not mine to tell, and there are big blank spots in my stories where they belong.

But these are my memories, externalized. An autobiography in a million parts, shared with anyone who cares to read.

I watched my grandmother, my mother's mother, slip away into the Great Forgetting of Alzheimer's. This woman who I had known and loved all of my life, who had a million stories and songs and recipes, gradually faded - well, not exactly away, more sort of back in time. She never forgot who we were, not entirely, though she did occasionally do substitutions - my uncle for her husband, my mother for her sister. Sometimes it was a gift. Sometimes she didn't think she was sitting in a nursing home, but instead was in her own home.

And after a few years she died, and all that was gone, except for the things she had written down. Notes and recipes and shopping lists and letters, all priceless artifacts.

The same thing happened to my father. A stroke felled him, as it did my grandmother. Only it was in the other hemisphere of his brain, so instead of causing paralysis as it did in her, it resulted in a loss of mental abilities, aphasia, and generalized weakness. It took him months to learn to talk again, and months to be able to get around by himself. Eventually the Alzheimer's came, as it did for my grandmother, and it gradually took away his memories. Not all at once, and not entirely. At times he would remember a name from his past, a person he had worked with at the glass factory, and he would have my mom make phone calls to the factory trying to get in touch with them. But in the end he became worse and worse, until it was no longer possible for my elderly mother to maintain him on her own while I was at work. And he went into a nursing home, and sustained a traumatic brain injury, and died.

In those last days at the hospital after his fall his aphasia returned, robbing him of the ability to speak coherently. And he rambled and ranted and called me by his brother's name and mentioned names I had never heard before and have not been able to track down. And then he died.

He had long wanted to be a writer. He took classes on writing, studied writing techniques, bought copies of the Writer's Market, even bought a little word processor, a sort of primitive laptop capable of running a text editor and nothing else. He did everything a writer needed to do except write.

Someday, I think, the same will happen to me. Someday all the things I know, all the memories of the things and people and places and everything that has made up my life, will fade away and be gone. Sixty, seventy years from now, tops. Maybe sooner.

Until then, I'm going to keep jotting it down, for as long as I can. Here. In my blog.

Thanks for reading.

*There's an exception for active bloggers, people who have chosen and are choosing to live their lives in public, though this exception is rescinded going forward if and when these people choose to exit the blogosphere, as a few have done.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bonus day

Tomorrow I am getting an unexpected day off. It was only going to be a four hour day anyway, so it's only a 10% loss on total earnings for the week. (Which is still pretty large.) But I am exhausted, and I never got my lawn across town mowed, so I should be able to get it taken care of.

Tomorrow marks the six year anniversary of this little endeavor. Maybe I can use the extra time to write a fitting post.

Fun fact: Coney Island is only a little more than two hours and forty-five minutes from Nanticoke. Maybe someday I'll make a pilgrimage there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rain and water

Weather is not climate. Climate is not weather. You know that. I know that.

For as much as climate change will dictate changes in the structure of human civilization (as it always has - and if you don't believe that it is, why not make some inquiries about the new shipping routes that are being planned through what used to be the North Polar Ice Cap?), weather still dictates numerous daily events, big and little. Whether you can paint your porch or mow your lawn. Whether airplanes are grounded or forests burn. Whether crops rot on the vine or whither in the field.

The schedule I currently work is designed to give four different groups of people forty hours of work in a Sunday-through-Saturday schedule with minimal downtime for systems and no built-in requirements of overtime. It is maddeningly complex and does not display any repeatable patterns that I can discern. The upshot is that some rotations we work three twelve-hour days and a partial, some rotations we work four twelve-hour days and a partial (when the workweek stretches across a weekend), and some rotations we work a partial, three twelve-hour days, and a partial.

But the kicker is that when we are working only four-day rotations, we (usually) get four full days off. But when we are working five-day rotations, we only get three days off. It's just the way the math works out.

I'm on one of those three-days-off periods in between two five-day rotations. For two of those three days, it has been raining. And I still need to mow two lawns.

Last year my grape crops were a total loss due to Black Rot, as opposed to the merely near-total losses of previous years. Perhaps I had not pruned enough, or had not cleared the fallen infected "mummies" completely, or perhaps I had had not properly applied the spray that should have provided some protection. But I think the main culprit was the warm, wet weather which persisted for most of last Summer, which provides ideal conditions for the spread of Black Rot.

My porch and steps are a mess. The paint that I applied so carefully four years ago is cracked and peeling in some places, and in others has fallen off completely. Old, weathered wood, soot from a neighbor's chimney down the street, and the ravages of the intervening four years have all taken tolls. I planned to repaint the porch and steps last year, but the weather combined with insane amounts of overtime meant that I never had a long enough stretch of dry, non-working days when I could get the job done.

It's been quite a few years since we last had a regional drought, and I almost find myself wishing for one. But such a thing would raise an issue which didn't exist all those years ago.

A year ago - even a few months ago - the people speaking out about the impending Marcellus Shale drilling and its effects on Northeastern Pennsylvania were just voices crying out in the wilderness, speaking out about something most people had never heard of and didn't care about. Now those voices are crying out in the face of a tidal wave that has already come ashore: the things that they have warned about have happened, are happening, and will continue to be happening, so long as groups like EnCana and Chesapeake Energy continue to flash wads of cash wrapped in American flags in the faces of people who could really use a little extra money right now. People are signing leases, permits are being granted, and money is flowing to citizens, politicians, and the state government.

The method used to extract natural gas from shale deposits is called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" for short - vast quantities of water and top-secret proprietary chemical mixes are pumped down holes drilled in previously "impermeable" layers of rock (which, in the process, become permeable, at least by way of the drill-hole) to liberate the natural gas trapped below. The now-contaminated water is pumped below ground, into the previously "impermeable" layer, where EnCana and Chesapeake and their ilk assure us it will remain, safely sealed off, incapable of presenting a hazard to groundwater or surface water or nearby reservoirs. At least as safe as, say, a deep-sea oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, what with its multiple safety systems and its blowout preventers and the like.

OK. Let's take them at their word. Let's say that these tens of millions of gallons of water that will be removed from nearby creeks and streams and are then turned into toxic waste and pumped underground - let's accept that that toxic chemical mixture is locked away forever, or at least until some future species evolves to the point that it finds a use for this toxic chemical mess.

The question is, will EnCana and Chesapeake and all the other gas-drilling companies continue to be allowed to remove tens of millions of gallons of water from the local creeks and streams for the purposes of hydraulic fracturing in the event of a drought? When people are not allowed to water their lawns or gardens or wash their cars, when even more serious water use restrictions are placed on local residents, will the gas-drilling concerns continue to be allowed to permanently remove tens of millions of gallons of water from the system, to be locked up underground for (according to them) all eternity?

I guess the state of Pennsylvania had better take a good look at the rights it just granted to these companies. You never know what sort of language can find its way into the fine print.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Attractive ghouls

I ended another rotation of work this morning. I came home by way of the Krispy Kreme in Scranton and picked up a late Mother's Day gift for my mom. I then did a bit of a tour of downtown Scranton while trying to get back to the highway, and drove past what I have always imagined to be the site of The Office's Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company - 600 Linden Street. (It actually houses offices for several Certified Public Accountants.) Got home, and after dealing with a surprisingly powerful nosebleed (no idea where that came from) got to work weedwhacking at about 7:45 in the morning. After a bit of time trying to catch up on Facebook and my list of daily blog reads, I went to bed and slept like I was dead for a solid six hours.

After waking, eating, and showering, it was time to take my mom grocery shopping one last time until late June, unless I am laid off for any of the intervening Tuesdays. By the time we wrapped things up the drizzle had turned into a pouring rain, which made bringing the groceries back into the house that much more fun.

I fired up the computer and went online. After scanning my inbox, checking Facebook updates and reviewing any new blog posts, I decided to do something I haven't done in a while: check my Sitemeter page ranking to see what was leading people to my blog, at least for the last 100 visits.

I'm always glad to see visitors coming in by way of the main page, because this usually means that there was some intentionality to their visit - they weren't just arriving because they were following a link to a specific post, or coming by way of a search engine, but were just coming to my blog. Twelve out of the most recent hundred were like that.

The next three most popular entry pages weren't a surprise. Eleven visitors for Cathy Baker and/or Hee Haw, six for The Strange Case of the Headless Rabbit, four for the perennial Firefox js3250.dll glitch. And in the fifth position* was this post:

Another Monkey: Pareidolia: Ghouls in the Carina Nebula

Why? I went though the details of Sitemeter to find out.

The earliest visit was #176,449 and was from Bourges, France at 8:26 this morning. It came in on an image search. The image was this one, the first one in the post.

The next visit was #176,464 from Stevens Point, Wisconsin at 12:15 this afternoon. It was also an image search, for the same image as the previous one.

Then there came visit #176,470 from Adelphia, Italy at 1:13 P.M. Image search, same image. Hmmm...

The fourth and, so far, final visit to this post was #176,484 from Clermont, Florida at 4:10 PM. This time the search was not an image search, but a text search that was worded in a way that would be more appropriate for an Artificial Intelligence search engine than a text/image-based search engine like Google. The search was "do any one see a face in the carina nebula" - and I guess the answer, based on the results of this search, is "yes, quite a few people!"

*Actually this is a four-way tie with the Firefox entry, this one on Marcellus Shale, and for some reason the January 2009 archive page.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Where there are trains, there will be train wrecks

I first heard that piece of wisdom about ten years ago. I was the DVD Asset Manager for our DVD Compression, Encoding, and Authoring facility. I was responsible for finding out every item of video, audio, and everything else that would be going onto a client's DVD, extracting those assets from the client, then figuring out the best way to digitally compress those assets to fit the available space, maximizing quality and minimizing wasted space. Once I had the "bit budget" worked out, I would turn it and the assets over to our video compression and audio encoding groups, and they would transform the video and audio into a form that our Authoring group could assemble onto what would become the DVD Master. All very complex and sophisticated and time-consuming. All being done on complex and sophisticated and expensive and sensitive computer systems.

And the power in our building had just gone out for the third time in two weeks.

I was furious. We were in a separate building from our main facility. It was actually the ancient, original home of our company, a place with some significance in the history of the place. But I believe it also had the ancient, original wiring in the building, despite our massive power requirements. Thunderstorms could easily knock the power out, as could the wind, and possibly a little old lady turning on the air conditioning in the house next door. But each time it happened, we lost all of the work that was in progress on that project, and would have to start the process over again. It would throw the schedule off by hours, sometimes a day or more, and might cause other projects for other customers to be bumped.

Our Facilities Maintenance people came down and did whatever it is they did in situations like that. For all I know they jammed pennies into fuses, tied broken wires together with bits of twine, and laid out rat poison to try to avoid a repeat of the problem. I stopped the head of Facilities Maintenance and asked him why this was happening and what could be done to avoid it in the future. And he just grinned at me in his condescending way and said "Where there are trains, there'll be train wrecks."

I pointed out to him that there was a train that ran less that twenty feet from the front of the building, and that this was hardly a comforting or reassuring thought.

Where there are coal mines, there will be coal mining accidents - and there are twenty-nine dead in West Virginia. Where there are gigantic oil drilling platforms there will be oil drilling accidents - and millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Where there is hydrologic fracturing of deep, "impermeable" deposits of natural gas trapped within the Marcellus Shale, using a mixture of water taken from local streams and rivers and proprietary chemicals whose identities are kept secret from state and local governments and the individuals on whose land the "hydrologic fracturing" is taking place, there will inevitably be a migration of these secret chemicals and now-contaminated water back into the groundwater, potentially turning Northeastern Pennsylvania into one big Superfund site. Yes, yes, and yes.

Part of most energy strategies for the future involves a dramatic increase in the number of nuclear power plants in the United States.

Where there are trains, there will be train wrecks.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Wow. For the first time in a long time, I came home from work this morning and went straight to bed.

I didn't feel very good last night. Not the usual thirdday stuff, even though it was really two-and-a-thirdday. I kinda had that wrapped-in-cotton feeling. My eyes, when I looked at them, were swollen and pink. But, overall, it was a good night, as far as I recall.

I'm wondering what brought that on. I ate well yesterday before work. Very well. One of the steaks we bought on Tuesday in preparation for my blood donation this coming Wednesday, plus a baked potato and a salad. I don't usually eat red meat - not out of any philosophical objection to it, just because I don't like it very much. I am wondering if maybe I had some sort of reaction to this meal.

Two more nights to go. Then Election / shopping / lawnmowing Tuesday, then blood donation / comic book store / maybe dinner with a friend / garbage Wednesday, then other lawnmowing / everything else Thursday. Then back to work on Friday. I hope.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Leonard Cohen: Suzanne

I took my mom grocery shopping this past Tuesday, as is our custom on Tuesdays that I am not working. Tuesday is Senior Citizen Day at the local grocery store, so she is able to get a 5% discount on all her purchases. (Well, my purchases, since I'm the one who foots the bill at the checkout.)

Tuesdays are busy days at the grocery store. Nanticoke has lots of senior citizens, and everybody wants their 5% discount. Shopping can be quite a prolonged event as my mom stops to talk to friends and neighbors and people she hasn't seen in years. It was while she was having a conversation with someone from the neighborhood that I heard a song come over the sound system in the store, a song with a hauntingly soft guitar and a hauntingly soft male voice singing words that hovered just on the edge of hearability.

Try as I might, I couldn't pluck out any single lyric that I could wrap my ears around. But I did hear one phrase repeated over and over: "And you want to..." Was this some odd, slow, acoustic version of "Tales of Brave Ulysses"?

I forgot about the song for a while after we got back. But eventually I remembered it, and decided to try my luck with Google. I typed "and you want to" into my search box and was immediately given a list of options for completing the phase - including "and you want to travel with her and you want to travel blind". Yes! That sounded right! I clicked through to see that these were words to the song "Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen.

After posting this on Facebook, I learned many fascinating things about the song from my friends there. The song was first recorded and made famous by Judy Collins in 1966 - Leonard Cohen's version of his own song didn't come out until a year later. It broke the top 40 (or 50, according to the singer) in a version by Noel Harrison, son of Rex Harrison of My Fair Lady and Doctor Dolittle fame. To date, there have been thirty-five versions of this song recorded.

I seem to recall hearing someone once say that Leonard Cohen is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.* Well, maybe not happy, as such. Maybe spiritually enlightened. Maybe...well, whatever you feel after hearing Leonard Cohen is what you feel after hearing Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen was interviewed on Fresh Air a few years ago. If you haven't heard that interview yet, or even if you have, it's definitely worth a listen.

Leonard Cohen's 'Book of Longing' : NPR

More of Leonard Cohen on NPR can be found here.

And, of course, there's this.

*You may think that this is a paraphrase of something Ben Franklin said about beer, but in fact he said no such thing. His actual quote was more complicated and expressed wonderment that rain falls from the sky and causes grapes to grow and their juice, in turn, becomes wine.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The day after the National Day of Prayer

Well, the "National Day of Prayer" has come and gone, and I didn't hear a peep about it online, in the blogosphere or on Facebook. Maybe I just wasn't listening closely enough. Still, for all the scuttlebutt about it in these last few weeks, and for all the people on Facebook who have been "Like"-ing the prayer for President Obama's death*, I thought there would be a little more action out there.

I had a prayer that I'd been saying for the past few years, since shortly after Joseph Martino's installation as Bishop of the Scranton Diocese:
Lord, grant our Bishop wisdom, understanding, and compassion;
or, failing that, grant us a new Bishop.
Martino never did develop wisdom, understanding, or compassion. Instead he earned the "odium populi", the "hatred of the people", and was removed from office / resigned after a mere six years. After a lapse of nearly eight months, Joseph Bambera was installed as the new Bishop of Scranton.

And how is he doing? Well, considering that with a single act he managed to piss off both an outspoken local atheist and an outspoken local "traditionalist" (who wants to see a return to pre-Vatican II conditions in the Catholic Church), I have to say that on balance he's probably doing pretty well, so far.

Now, let me work on a prayer for all those people who "liked" the prayer for President Obama's death.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Marcellus Shale news: Times Leader redeems itself

After putting a puff piece on the front page the same day that their competitor newspaper the Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice ran an article about Marcellus Shale preliminary drill work being done in close proximity to regional reservoirs and watersheds, the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader has made up for it a bit with an excellent article detailing how, quietly, without any fanfare, Whitmar Exploration Co. of Denver, Colorado, in conjunction with EnCana Oil & Gas, has been signing leases with property owners throughout the Back Mountain area of Northeastern Pennsylvania - amounting to more than 25,000 acres of leased land bordering the regional reservoirs, as described in the Citizens' Voice article.

Much of Back Mt. leased The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA

These leases are binding legal agreements. Have the people who have leased their lands read all the fine print and understood all of the legal ramifications? If they haven't - well, it's too late now. They will have to live with their decisions - as will their neighbors, and everyone else in the region.

In an economically distressed region like Northeastern Pennsylvania, where neither politicians nor private individuals seem to be particularly interested in bringing in industry or employment, it is very tempting to say "yes" to someone promising quick, ready cash with no real effort on your part. But the consequences of that "yes" will linger long after that money has been spent.

Meanwhile, in today's Citizens' Voice, more on the residents of Dimock and their fight for a real solution to their methane-contaminated wellwater. The drilling company in Dimock, Cabot Oil & Gas, "maintains that the methane in the water is naturally occurring and was present in Susquehanna County water wells long before any drilling began. " Let's hope those folks in the Back Mountain are getting their wellwater tested to establish pre-drilling levels of methane and other contaminants - if their leases allow for such a thing.

DEP secretary, Dimock Twp. families discuss water solution - News - Citizens Voice

And don't think it's just here, or just a Marcellus Shale thing. There are other shale formations that may contain trapped natural gas that companies are eager to extract using the environmentally destructive fracking process. From a comment on the Facebook version of my "Front-page news: Marcellus Shale vs. Farmville" post:

"We're in the Barnett shale so we've seen this before. In this area the best bet for effective regulation seems to be local ordinance since petro lobbyists tend to 'help' write the state laws. You should be seeing lots of advertising touting the good citizenship of the drilling companies. You might regulate them but you probably can't stop them. If you own property , don't let them screw you on your mineral rights."

(FYI, here in the former coal regions of Northeastern PA, a lot of people already don't own mineral rights. Some of us have been through this before, but with coal mining.)

Doing some reading on the Barnett shale will give you a sense of things to come for this area. And looking at the devastation left by the coal mining industry will give you a longer-term sense of where things are going.

See also:
Susquehanna River Sentinel: EnCana: Serwquacksi
time to join the fight « FRACK MOUNTAIN

Educate yourself:
GDAC – Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition
un-natural-gas (blog)
Susquehanna River Sentinel

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Treasure trove in the shed

I mowed the lawn at my house today. And today I decided to remove something from my shed and share it with you, and attempt to preserve it, and in preserving it, hasten its destruction.

Inside the shed are various items. Old tools. Old electrical projects that probably belonged to my uncle who tinkered with that sort of thing. An old DeSoto - missing, among other things, the engine. My garden tools and cement mixing stuff. And a few old papers serving as drop cloths for everything else.

One of those old papers was the New York Sunday News (20 cents, Country Edition) comics section from August 8, 1971.

The Sunday News was the Sunday version of the New York Daily News. Part of our Sunday ritual was for most of the members of the family who lived in Nanticoke - my mom, my brother and sister, me, my aunt and her six children, my uncle and his wife and (eventually) their two children - to gather at the house of my grandmother and grandfather after 9:00 Mass for a breakfast of sausage and bread and coffee. How we were able to fit so many people into what seems now like such a small kitchen is beyond me. My uncle, the organist at our church, would detour on his way from church and stop a McDonald's Newsstand to pick up copies of the Sunday News and the Wilkes-Barre Sunday Independent, and we would divvy up the various sections among the gathered family and read and eat and drink coffee and talk and talk. Eventually the kids would move into the next room to watch TV or play Lava Land (the floor is LAVA! Jump from chair to chair to couch, touching only the pillow boulders floating in the lava, or die!) while the adults discussed work or politics or the news or whatever it was that adults discussed.

Gradually things drifted apart. My grandfather died of a heart attack at the top of the steps to the second floor one morning while my grandmother was at church. The kids grew up. The weekly gatherings dwindled away and eventually stopped.

One of those Sunday funny papers found its way into the shed.

It's from August 8, 1971. I was about three and a half, probably not quite old enough to be reading the Sunday funnies, I'm not sure. Maybe I did look this one over. Maybe my grandfather put it in the shed, or maybe my uncle. I don't know, and I don't know what the purpose was - other than the effects of being printed on acidic newsprint, the paper is in good shape, free of grease or paint stains.

It has been in that shed for nearly thirty-nine years. I have debated for nearly four years whether I should leave it in place, or remove it and do what I have done today. By removing it from that environment and exposing it to levels of ultraviolet radiation it hasn't seen in nearly four decades, I'm afraid I have hastened its decomposition. Already it seems that there are more tears in the edges than there were a few hours ago.

I tried to do a simple photographic capture, placing the newspaper on a flat surface and taking photos of each page, with mixed results. As a test I tried to do a scan of one comic, Dick Tracy. The comics were so enormous back in those days that it took two separate scans to capture the whole thing.

Here is the list of the comics that appeared in this paper.

Page 1: Dick Tracy. Also, a promise of a Peter Max Gemini Zodiac Poster (in color), which appears to be missing.
Page 2: Little Orphan Annie
Page 3: Terry and the Pirates
Page 4: Brenda Starr - Reporter
Page 5: Louie (a pantomime strip), Junior Jumble, and a Wrigley's Spearmint Gum ad that doubles as "Fun Facts - Fun Things to Know and Tell"
Page 6: Broom-Hilda and Gasoline Alley
Page 7: Dark Shadows and Rex Morgan, M.D.
Page 8: Friday Foster and Coloring College, a color-by-numbers feature
Page 9: Li'l Abner
Page 10: Smokey Stover and "Super" Duper
Page 11: Laugh-In's Mod Mod World and Winnie Winkle
Page 12: Blondie
Page 13: Mary Perkins On Stage
Page 14: Moon Mullins and Teen-Wise!
Page 15: True Classroom Flubs & Fluffs and Beetle Bailey
Page 16: Dondi

Yep. Sixteen pages of comics. Twenty-four comics in all, counting Coloring College and Junior Jumble, not counting the "Fun Facts" - which was in fact the only ad, and occupied only about one-fourth of one page. Eight of these strips each covered most or all of the fifteen inch tall by eleven inch wide page. (Dick Tracy shared the cover with the masthead and the Zodiac poster announcement.) Fourteen others had half a page each, and two shared part of the page with an ad. Of those twenty-four, at least eight are still running.

I don't know how many more times I will be able to handle this paper before it crumbles into fibers. When that time comes, I may return it to the shed, where perhaps it will heal, drinking in the balance of temperature and humidity to which it has become accustomed.

And now I present to you Dick Tracy from Sunday, August 8, 1971. In this episode, a character has met a gruesome end at the hands of a grotesque, deformed villain. Some things never change.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Fields of Light coming to Luzerne County

Assuming this isn't all some big, typical Northeastern Pennsylvania political boondoggle, with graft and corruption and kickbacks and cost overruns and all the stuff that folks in these parts have come to expect, this is actually very good news:

Chamber seeks proposals for solar energy at industrial parks - News - Citizens Voice

From the article:
The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry is bringing solar power to two area industrial parks.

The chamber is seeking proposals to develop solar photovoltaic generation systems on vacant property in Hanover Industrial Estates and the Crestwood Industrial Park.

Tom Williams, director of real estate development, said the chamber wants to bring green energy technology to the industrial parks and find ways to make excess land productive. The chamber is searching for a vendor to engineer, design and maintain a grid-connected system maximizing the power generated at two sites totalling 250 acres, according to the request for proposals.
I see this as a creative solution to a distressing problem: what to do with excess space in local industrial parks that lack tenants? Tom Williams is quoted in the article describing the areas under consideration for this project "not viable for industrial development," though I'm not sure how that is determined.

How common is this practice? I have never heard of this being done before. Is this an original idea, or something that has been done before a hundred times?

And where will the solar panels that will be installed be constructed? From my discussions with various solar energy vendors a few months ago, I know that all of the solar panels currently being installed in this area are being manufactured in Delaware or in China. What would it take to get them manufactured in Northeastern Pennsylvania?

I look forward to seeing this product come to fruition. And I hope to one day be able to walk among Luzerne County's own fields of light.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Front-page news: Marcellus Shale vs. Farmville

I still get and read print editions of our local newspapers. Both of them. I make no apologies for this; in fact, it is a point of pride with me, as is the fact that we actually have two local newspapers. And by "local" I mean local, as in based out of the nearest larger city (Wilkes-Barre) and covering much of the surrounding area, not simply a version of USA Today or some other feed-based phony "local" with one or two token articles tossed in to make it look like they're actually covering local news.

I looked at the cover of The Citizens' Voice and saw a story of immediate interest to me - Marcellus Shale drilling will soon be coming to the vicinity of the reservoirs that supply water to tens of thousands of people in Northeastern Pennsylvania, including the City of Nanticoke.

Drilling companies eye sites near water sources - News - Citizens Voice

This is a big story. An important story. News that people need to know. The story has useful information like this tucked away in it:

To inspect the sites, DEP is increasing its oversight staff from 88 people to 193, and is opening new offices in Williamsport and Scranton, Hanger said. The department wanted to move staff closer to parts of the state where natural gas drilling is new and occurring for the first time, he said.

"If people see anything that concerns them, we have a Web presence as well as a hot line established with staff to take calls, even on the weekends. We are eager to hear form the public if they see anything that concerns them, and we will check on those concerns," Hanger said.

Drilling permits for the Lake Township site are expected to be discussed at the Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the commissioners' room in the county courthouse.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has an oil and gas resource page at, including contact information and reports on permits issued and wells drilled.
So, hooray for The Citizens' Voice, and hooray for Elizabeth Skrapits, who wrote the article. I thumbed through the rest of the paper, noted an article on solar power that I would get back to later, stopped briefly at the editorial page to read a letter-to-the-editor that made me realize how important the upcoming elections are, and hit the funny pages. Then I turned to the other newspaper, The Times Leader, to see what stories they were leading with. Hmmm, a few national feeds on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Times Square semibombing incident, a new Federal study into the incidents of cancers as they relate to proximity to nuclear power plants, and..oh, here in the center, there's a local story...

A virtual harvest: ‘Farmville’ aficionado is outstanding in her online field - The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA


I did a double-take. I had to check to make sure I wasn't reading a print edition of The Onion, with an article like "Local Woman Enjoys Playing Farmville."*

I couldn't believe it. I had to read the article. Partly for information - I'm on Facebook but I have avoided learning anything about Farmville, so my primary exposure to it is from the South Park episode "You Have 0 Friends." But also to see...OK, harmless, harmless, harmless. A nice little slice of life story about some lady who has found a way to pass the time. Yay for her.

But...Good Lord, to make this front-page news? That's just...just...

I skipped forward temporally. I would soon be flipping the paper over, opening up the sections to get to the important part, the funnies. Usually the back page of the third section. In color, the whole page. Just like that ad last week, the ad that I momentarily mistook for the funnies, placed on the back page of the first or second section.** A full-page, full-color ad. Expensive.

An expensive, full-page, full-color ad from

Ad that appeared on the back page of section C of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Monday, April 26, 2010. 160,000 Pennsylvania jobs! $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue! But only if you don't stand in our way!

You know who is. They're the folks who are buying lots of TV ad time - locally, maybe nationally, I don't know - to tell us how wonderful it is to see more domestic oil and natural gas drilling. Telling us to disregard those unpatriotic doom-and-gloom naysayers who warn about potential hazards. Telling us that natural gas is a clean energy source, never mind the processes involved in getting it out of the ground, or the consequences of those processes., the propaganda arm of the American Petroleum Institute.

Who recently did a major ad buy in the Times Leader.

Which ran a front-page story on a local woman who enjoys playing Farmville.

While their competitor, the Citizens' Voice, ran a front-page story on potential risks to local reservoirs from the expansion of Marcellus Shale drilling.

IRONIC UPDATE, 5/4/2010: This morning's Citizens' Voice included this cover blurb:

$1.3 billion budget gap?

Whopping $1 billion-plus deficit puts state in bind - News - Citizens Voice

"Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, predicted the revenue shortfall will reach $1.3 billion by the end of the fiscal year on June 30."
But...wherever will we find a sudden influx of cash in such a specific amount?

Oh, right.

*I just checked. The Onion doesn't have any articles like that. Apparently that's too banal for them to even see the humor in it.

**Turns out it was actually section C.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Blog notes

I may miss a post or two in the coming days. Right now I'm recovering from a night at work, breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and a quick stop at my comic book store (in its new location) for Free Comic Book Day. I picked up about a dozen free comics, four or five regular-priced ones (that is, at 25% off the cover price), and won a raffle for a $5 store credit. Now I'm off to sleep, and then a brief appearance at the bloggers' gathering this afternoon.

Tomorrow is my younger nephew's First Holy Communion, so I'll be involved with that.

Wednesday and Thursday I'm signed up for overtime, which may or may not happen. This leaves Monday and Tuesday for yard work. Yayyyy.

So if you notice I miss a post over the next few days, that's why.