Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Backing off, again

Well, after a month with an almost-perfect daily record of blog posting, I think I'm going to be backing off again.

I've got some stuff going on.  Most immediately is the notice that arrived the other day informing me that my homeowner's insurance was being cancelled.  This came with a little notice that I could appeal this cancellation by asking for a review by the state, but the request had to be made within ten days.  Within ten days of what, I'm not sure.  The notice was issued and mailed last Tuesday, which would reasonably have had it delivered by last Thursday - which just happened to be Thanksgiving, a day without mail delivery.  So we lose one day there.  Lose more days for holiday visiting with family and friends, so I didn't even see the notice until Sunday.  Filled out the appeal form yesterday and mailed it this morning.

I've called the insurer to see if we can get this reversed.  I spoke to someone in their President's office, who told me I would have to take it up with my agent; I contacted the agent, who told me I would have to follow the instructions from the President's office.  Typical runaround.  The agent told me to get back to them on Wednesday, which happens to be a work day.  I work all night and sleep during the day.  I'll have very limited windows in the morning and the afternoon in which I can get this taken care of, if I can get it taken care of at all.  If not, then I get to use more of these very limited windows to try to secure other insurance before December 27, which is when my insurance is due to be cancelled.  If I don't get homeowner's insurance before then, I suppose I'll be getting contacted by my mortgage holder...which is, coincidentally, an insurance company.  I wonder if I can get insurance through them?

Let's review:  In August, while I was off donating blood and making chicken soup for my sick, elderly mother, someone broke into the side of my double-block house that I use for storage and cut out all the copper pipes.  I quickly replaced the window they broke to gain entrance, then reinforced all the entrances with alarms and locks and other means.  After a visit from an insurance adjuster to assess the damage, I had a monitored security system installed on both sides of the house at considerable expense.  My current plans include tying the electrical and water utilities on both sides of the house together, which will cost rather a lot of money. 

And now I've been informed that my homeowner's insurance is being cancelled.

The estimated recycling value of the stolen copper pipe is about $60.  It's like being victimized over and over again by the same crime...most recently by my insurance provider.

And that's just one of the things I've got going on right now.  So, please excuse me if I miss a day of blogging here and there.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

A.G.A. Correa, I'll miss you most

I've decided to let most of my magazine subscriptions expire as a way of saving a few dollars every month.  No more Sky & Telescope.  No more Astronomy.  No more Wizard, though I will keep up some of my comic book subscriptions through my local comic book store.  No more Newsweek when it finally does expire, sometime in October of 2012.  (MAD I'm keeping.)

The world has changed since I first started subscribing to most of these magazines.  A lot.  Way back then, the only reliable way to get easily-accessible information about what was current in the world of astronomy was to check out Sky & Telescope or Astronomy magazine.  But then the Internet came along, and everything changed.  Now, instead of getting the latest news two months after it breaks, I can learn about things online as the news comes out.  Instead of getting a guide to next month's sky last month, I can just get a copy of Guy Ottwell's Astronomical Calendar (which has actually been around since 1974) and have a year's worth of star charts and detailed information for a fraction of the annual subscription rate to either magazine.  And I don't really need rehashed articles on elementary astrophysics or yet another guide to equipment I'll never be able to afford.

In that vein, there is one thing that I will miss more than everything else:  the annual inclusion of the A.G.A. Correa & Son catalog in the January issue of Sky & Telescope.

Because the Sky & Telescope demographic demands a $2350 pin of the Big Dipper (including Alcor.)
I have no idea how or when this association started, or how profitable it is for A.G.A. Correa & Son, a jewelry manufacturer specializing in nautical themes.  Whether it's a sterling silver Compass Rose Pendant with Working Compass for $375, or a Tinned Copper Captain's Kettle for only $325, or a 14k Diamond Empowered Four Strand Turk's-head Bracelet for $12,000, A.G.A. Correa and son have you covered.  If you, like most Sky & Telescope readers, are of a more astronomical bent, they have you covered too - with their "Diamond Astrological Jewelry" (Astronomy, Astrology, what's the difference anyway?) and "Diamond Constellation Jewelry." A fan of the Southern Cross?  $2300 will get you a five-diamond pin or pendant.  Fond of Lyra, the Lyre?  A pin will set you back a mere $3775.  Want to go all-out?  An Orion pin can be yours for $13,100.  On a budget?  The least expensive piece is a pin of the constellation Cancer for only $1400.

I've come to look forward to this annual celebration of wealth.  It's something of a Christmas tradition that reminds me of how ridiculously wealthy some people are.  People who can drop $3300 on 18k Monkey's Fist cuff links.  Unfortunately, the $37.95 renewal subscription rate for Sky & Telescope is a little too rich for my blood.  I guess I'll just have to remember to visit the A.G.A. Correa & Son website every year at this time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Adding injury to injury

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I've been sick lately.  And working, a lot.  Working especially a lot since my house was robbed a few months ago.  Because my house was robbed, since I need the extra money now for specific things like the insurance deductible and the security system I had installed.  Which is particularly ironic, since all the extra time I'm working means that I'm able to spend even less time at my house now than I could before the robbery.

Today I stopped over the house to change the decorations from Autumn to Christmas, and to plug in the Christmas tree.  The tree is on a timer, so the lights turn on each afternoon, off each night, and then on again for a brief period in the morning.  I like coming home to find the Christmas lights on, and I do stop over the house for a few hours every morning after work.

I also checked the mail, and found a cancellation notice for my homeowner's insurance.  Effective December 27th.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Things not to do when you're feeling sick-ish

11/17:  Go to work anyway.

11/18:  After working all night, go to a veterinarian in Allentown.  (My mom was driving for this.)

11/19:   Six-hour driving marathon with mom, stopping at several places twice.  (I was driving for this part, gradually getting sicker the whole while.)

11/20:  Spend day being sick.  (OK, that's something you should do when feeling sick-ish.)  Talk with several friends on the phone for the first time in months; end every conversation with "It hurts to talk."

11/21:  Go to church.  Infect entire congregation.

11/22:  Stay home from work.  (Again, this is something you should do, and I did.)

11/23:  Go to work, against everyone's advice.  Slip on the health-o-meter from 95% to 80% or lower.

11/24:  Go to work again.  Spend entire night feeling like crap.  Realize that the last two nights of work have undone any recuperation and have basically put you back where you were on 11/17.

11/25:  Thanksgiving dinner with family; infect them all.  (Actually, I didn't do this.  I stayed at home and slept, then ate my dinner while watching the Kung-Fu Panda marathon.)

11/26:  Travel to Allentown to meet someone you're hoping to impress while the act of talking proves physically exhausting.  Make a side-trip to the Poconos to infect various friends and their children.  Nearly run out of gas on the way home.

11/27:  Yard work.  Rake leaves and shovel acorns in sub-40 temperatures with a stiff breeze.  Spend first half-hour after coming back inside coughing.    Realize that you are again back to where you were on 11/17.

And next...who knows?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holiday reruns: The Littlest Turkey

Yes, it's that time of the year again! Time to do the repost of the complete version of The Littlest Turkey. Enjoy!

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

D.B. Echo

Once upon a time there was a farm where turkeys lived. All of them were young and plump, big and strong and proud. All of them except one. He was smaller than all the other turkeys. He was called the Littlest Turkey.

The Littlest Turkey wanted to run and play with the other turkeys, but they didn't want to play with him. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," they would say. "Come back when you've gotten bigger."

But the Littlest Turkey was sure he was as big as he was going to get. He tried to eat as much as he could, but he never seemed to get as big and plump as the other turkeys. And he knew that unless he got big and plump like the other turkeys, he would never get to go to the Laughter House.

The Laughter House was a wonderful place. The Littlest Turkey had never been in there. He knew that only the big and plump turkeys would get to go inside the Laughter House. He had seen them go in once, and had heard their squawks and gobbles of laughter for a little while. It must be wonderful in there, the Littlest Turkey thought. All those turkeys go in to laugh, and none of them had ever come out again. How much fun they must be having!

The Littlest Turkey decided that, big and plump or not, he would get into the Laughter House the next time they let the turkeys in.



Part 2
D.B. Echo

The weather started getting cooler, and the leaves on the trees started to change colors. All the turkeys knew that soon it would be time for the biggest holiday of the year, Turkey Day.
"Just before Turkey Day is when they take the big and plump turkeys into the Laughter House," thought the Littlest Turkey. "But this time I'm going to get in there, too!"

It wasn't long before the big day came. All of the big and plump turkeys lined up to go into the Laughter House. The Littlest Turkey waited near the entrance of the Laughter House, then squeezed in between two very big and plump turkeys. No one noticed him because he was so little.

The Laughter House was dark inside, and there was a sort of moving sidewalk there that was taking turkeys into another room, where he could hear gobbles and squawks of laughter. One by one the turkeys hopped up to ride the sidewalk. The Littlest Turkey hopped up, too.
The turkey in front of him, whose name was Tom, turned around. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," he said. "Come back when you are bigger."

"Yes, go away," said the turkey behind him, whose name was also Tom. "They do not want little turkeys at the Market. Only big and plump ones."

"No," said the Littlest Turkey. "I want to go to the Market with you." He had never heard of the Market, but he realized that it must be even better than the Laughter House.

A Man spotted the Littlest Turkey. "Go away, Littlest Turkey," he said. "Come back when you are bigger."

"Oh, please, Mr. Man," said the Littlest Turkey. "I do so want to go to the Market with the other turkeys."

"Very well," said the Man. "We've got a quota to meet, anyway."

The Littlest Turkey rode the sidewalk into the other room. He wondered what things would be like at the Market.


D.B. Echo

The Littlest Turkey was cold. He was colder than he ever remembered being before. But then again, it was hard to remember much since they had chopped his head off.

He was in a case with the other turkeys, the big and plump turkeys. Turkey Day was coming soon, and people were coming to the Market to pick turkeys to take home.

They always seemed to want the big and plump turkeys. One time a little girl had seen him in the case. "Mommy, mommy, look at the little turkey," she said. "I want to take home the littlest turkey."

"No, dear," her mother said. "We are having many people over for Thanksgiving. We need a big, plump turkey."

One by one the other turkeys left the Market to go home with people. Turkey Day was coming soon, and people were taking away more and more of the big and plump turkeys. But no one wanted the Littlest Turkey.
Finally, the day before Turkey Day came, and the Littlest Turkey found himself all alone in the case.

"How sad," he thought. "No one wants to take me home."

It was late in the day, and the Manager was about to close down the Market for the night. Suddenly a Man came into the store.

"I have a coupon," he said, "for a free turkey. Do you have any left?"

"You're in luck," said the Manager. "I have one left." He showed the Man the Littlest Turkey, all alone in the case.

"It's a little small," the Man said. "But I guess beggars can't be choosers. Besides, it's just me and my wife this year. A little turkey might be just what we need."

The Manager took the Littlest Turkey out of the case and traded him to the Man for the coupon he was holding. "Happy Thanksgiving!", he said to the Man.

"I'm not going to be left behind for Turkey Day," thought the Littlest Turkey happily as the Man put him in the trunk of his car. "I'm so happy. But I'm so cold." He rolled around a little as the car pulled out of the parking lot. "I sure hope I'm going someplace warm."


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bad traffic day

Going in to work last night was a mistake.  I may have started out at around 95% energy and health, but I ended the night at about 80%.  Maybe less.  And I'm still there.

Tonight I have to go in or I will lose my eight hours of pay for the holiday.  (Ditto for next Tuesday, or Monday if they need me for overtime.)  But tonight the typically insane highway traffic will be even worse due to additional holiday travelers.  I need to leave at 4:30 at the latest to be sure to complete the 36-mile trip by 6:00.  Crap, I'm already behind schedule.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back to work day

Well, my fun is over.  I'm feeling well enough to go back to work tonight.  Still not 100%, but close enough to 95% to head in.

...wow.  Glad I just checked the layoff message.  No, I'm not laid off, but several other people are.

This was quite an eye-opening experience.  The first time I've been sick like this in a while, and as far as I can tell, it was just a cold.  Judging by my entry from last Wednesday, I first started to show signs of this last Tuesday.  I wasn't able to head it off by taking my home remedy at the first appearance of symptoms because I wasn't about to slug back some alcohol on a work day.  My trip to Allentown on Thursday and my all-day adventure with my mom on Friday didn't help matters.  By Friday afternoon I was completely sick, and by Saturday I felt like utter crap, complete with the worst sore throat I can ever remember having.

Sunday I felt a little bit better, enough to get out and about - to church (I lurked in the back to avoid close contact with others), a bookstore, a home improvement store, and an arts & crafts store to buy a model Allosaurus.  (Hey, some things in life are important.)

All this may have made things worse, and by Sunday evening I was feeling lousy again.  I pre-emptively called off for Monday night.  (I had been scheduled for overtime for Sunday, but that was cancelled.)

Today I feel better.  Maybe I'll change my mind in the next few hours, but I think I'll be going to work tonight. Then there's just Wednesday night, and then five days off, barring any overtime for which I may have been mandated.

Monday, November 22, 2010


On Monday, November 22, 2010, at approximately 1:51 AM, Another Monkey received its 200,000th counted visitor.

Now, some caveats:  I did not place a counter on my site until several weeks after I had started it.  (This probably resulted in an undercount of half a dozen people or so.)  Also, it took me a while to figure out how to not count my own visits.  Additionally, more than a few of these counted visitors are actually visits from the GoogleBot, the friendly bot who stops by to see what you've posted and how it should be indexed for searches.  And there have been a few periods where I had to turn off the counter, or where it stopped working altogether - most notably the "Sitemeter Crashes the Internet" incident of August 2008.

Another Monkey was created on May 14, 2005.  I installed my SiteMeter a few weeks later.  I reached 15,000 visits on June 20, 2006, 20,000 visits on September 12, 2006, 30,000 visits on February 15, 2007, 75,000 visits on February 17, 2008, 100,000 visits on August 26, 2008, and 150,000 on October 19, 2009.

To visitor #200,000, who came from somewhere in Texas (allegedly Austin) to look at my latest post on the Sideshow Gathering, and to every single visitor who has stopped by before and since, I say:  thank you.  You make this all worthwhile.  Without you, I would just be talking to myself!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Even more from the 2010 Sideshow Gathering

I had originally planned to repost all of YouTube user hotrodchrissy1968's videos from this year's Sideshow Gathering here.  But there are just so many of them - I think she's up to at least seventeen of them at the moment.  Click here to see all the videos she has uploaded so far.

One great video isn't, for the most part, a performance.  It's "the fully functional Danny Borneo"'s rant during the Olde City Sideshow's performance on the third day, in which he recaps (in his own special way) "all of our opening acts", including performances by Harley Newman and The Magic of Steve Hyde and Melanie.  Also featuring Reggie Bügmuncher and the first (and last) on-stage appearance of Thrill Kill Gill!

Another must-see is the performance of the Cheeky Monkey Sideshow's resident conjoined twins, the Darwin Sisters!  See as they persevere like the troupers they are in the face of digital audio glitches!  Watch as they perform the dreaded double balloon swallow!

Be sure to check out all of hotodchrissy1968's videos!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

And still more

I saw a sign in a hospital once that said something like "Your cold will be gone within seven days if you get prompt medical attention, but may last up to a week if left untreated."  In other words:  Please don't go to the Emergency Room with every cough, sniffle, or sore throat.

Then again, I once had a cough that didn't get better in that time, and in fact got worse, until it developed into full-fledged bronchitis.  That wasn't fun, and needed some pretty powerful antibiotics.

Still not better.  The NyQuil helped me sleep, though it gave me odd dreams, or more specifically, odd dreamscapes - a starkly lit version of the Wyoming Valley, but all black and white and gray, with clouds of steam rolling off the mountains.  But I woke up in the morning with a throat that felt worse than ever.  My nose is still running, and I continued with the productive cough (i.e. hacking up gobs of phlegm) from time to time.

Chloraseptic lozenges seem to help the most, more than Cepacol.  Just a note for the future.  I wonder how long these things will keep?

I had plans for today.  Rake the leaves, prune my grapevines, do stuff with my furnace and chimney, go to the comic book store, maybe meet someone n person for the first time. 

None of that happened.  Instead I slept from about 2:30 to about 8:00, got up. went back to bed until 11:00, got up, went back to bed until 2:00.  I've actually talked to several friends today, friends I haven't talked to in months, though talking was very painful.  I didn't do much else of consequence, other than upload some more photos from the 2010 Ssideshow Gathering to Facebook.  They'll eventually find their way here, too.

Tomorrow night I am third on the list for overtime.  If I get it, I think I'll have to call off.  I'm scheduled back to work on Monday night and I might just call off then.  We'll see.

I hope I get over this soon, and it doesn't develop into something worse.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rocketing through

I should be keeping an hour-by-hour diary of symptoms.  This morning I had chills, even though the thermometer said it was a balmy 75 degrees in that room.  My throat was horrible, to the point that I bought two boxes of Cepacol and one of Chloraseptic, neither of which I have ever used before.  (I also bought NyQuil, which is also something I've never used before.)  My nose started running about two hours into the five six-hour odyssey I took with my mom, going from Nanticoke to Scranton to Dickson City (got my free turkey from work and the cough drops) to Moosic to Wilkes-Barre back to Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Nanticoke again.  My cough became "productive" shortly after we got home.  And now my ability to spell is going away.

Confession:  I have not yet seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  I have honestly not liked the movies a fraction as much as the books - I have found them dreary and dull at times when they should have been madcap and fast-paced.  (Compare the Ollivander's scene in the first movie, with John Hurt as an almost comatose Mr. Ollivander, to the Cat in the Hat-level of frenzy in the book's original of that scene.)  But I have owned the DVD of that movie for some time, and would like to see the new film in a theater.  Maybe I'll pop it in and watch it soon.

I'm falling behind on some personal stuff.  I'll have to try to get to it soon.  I had hoped to get together with someone tomorrow, but the way I feel coupled with a high likelihood of infection makes that unlikely.

My beard and moustache trimmer broke some time ago.  It hasn't worked in a while, and I tried replacing the batteries yesterday, and still nothing.  Today I bought a trimmer with multiple heads for under twenty dollars.  Unfortunately it's a rechargeable, and probably needs to charge all night.  Maybe as of tomorrow I can stop looking like an extra from Gettysburg.

Encana Oil & Gas, one of the gas companies seeking to extract natural gas from Luzerne County, has pulled up stakes and left, declaring that gas could not be extracted in sufficient quantities to be commercially viable.  I think WBRE went above and beyond with their report, or at least with the folks interviewed for the report.  (This would be more obvious if the video in the linked article were larger than a postage stamp.)

(Oh, sheesh.  WNEP interviewed the same couple.)

YouTube Weekend: Speaking of videos, someone on another Blogspot blog commented that they were no longer able to post videos to their blog.  Let's see if I can.  I heard this song while grocery shopping the other day, and I remembered how cool it was - and still is:  "Driver's Seat" by Sniff 'n' the Tears:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sick and sicker

Things haven't gone exactly as expected.  I am sicker than I thought.  My "Barry White" voice stage lasted for only a few hours - by the time I was on my way to work my voice was a hoarse whisper.  The usual isolation of my work station, which I used to justify going in to work at all, was disrupted by staffing issues:  we had a call-off, and the mix or regular and overtime personnel we had available to cover all the things that needed to be done had a mix of skills that required some shuffling of where people were working - placing me right in the thick of things.  While I may have infected everyone I came in contact with, they at least had the benefit of not hearing me scream and shout at my machines all night as I usually do,

After work I got together with my mom to take Homer back down to Allentown for an eight-week follow-up visit.  She drove; I had a breakfast of a mug of Throat Coat tea, made from a packet that had been kicking around for nearly four years, ever since I closed down the Tea Shop in my office when I lost my job in February 2007.  I had a huge collection of teas, and everyone knew to stop over if they needed a Throat Coat or a Breathe Easy or a Gypsy Cold Care (like chicken soup in tea form) just a St. John's Wort.  (St. John's Wort was very popular.)  It took us about an hour to get to within two miles of the vet's, and then over a half hour to go the rest of the way - more infinitely prolonged construction projects being financed by the taxpayers and milked by contractors for as long as they can.

The veterinary technician who took care of us has also lost her voice, though she is not exhibiting any other symptoms.  The doctor gave Homer a clean bill of health, but I am not sure of that.  (We finally finished his antibiotics yesterday, and the doctor assured us that no infection is currently present.  But when I just checked on Homer a few minutes ago, he had thick mucus coming out of both nostrils for the first time in a month.

I came home full of plans but decided to do nothing.  I barely ate anything - some peanuts, a concoction made of equal parts lemon, honey, boiling water, and ginger flavored brandy, and some ice cream to soothe my throat a few hours later.  I turned on the TV and caught a bit of Tosh.0 - enough to determine that he, too, was sick, with what he described as a yeast infection of the throat, which caused him to be quieter and more subdued than usual.  I managed to talk to one of the people I wanted to call, but with my throat and the fact that I haven't slept for more than a few minutes at a time in the car (as my mom was driving) since early Wednesday afternoon, I wasn't exactly the most scintillating conversationalist.

Sword swallower news today that I won't convey in full right now.  Some bad - a death in the family, the husband/manager of someone I saw perform a few years ago - and some good - an article focusing on a dear friend I've never met, which reminded my of why I've been hostile toward the Ig Nobel Prizes for the past few years. 

Maybe I'll explain in more detail sometime.  But now, I have plans for tomorrow morning, and miles to go before I sleep.  I'd better get started getting ready for bed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sick, November 2010 edition

I'm sick.  I think.  It's been so long since I've been sick, I'm not really sure.

Yesterday I felt pretty awful.  Worn out.  Light-headed.  Woozy.  Thought that was all just normal stuff, especially after the big huge grocery shopping trip yesterday morning.

But then the specific symptoms started while I was at work.  Burning eyes.  Itching sinuses.  Running nose.  Coughing.  Increased skin sensitivity.  And a sore throat that started at the base of my sinuses and gradually worked its way down my throat.

Now I have the Barry White voice and a sore throat.  I don't feel especially rotten.  I probably shouldn't go in to work tonight, but if I take a sick day instead of working, I'll lose four hours of overtime pay.  Four hours of pay.  I can't afford that.

I'm isolated enough that I probably shouldn't expose too many other people to whatever this is.  And we'll see how I feel for the trip down to the vet's in Allentown tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Burning out

Even though I'm scheduled to lose my job in a month or so, and even though I'm supposed to be maintaining a blog that reposts all sorts of information for those of us who have lost or will be losing our jibs, I'm feeling remarkably unprepared for what's coming.

Much of that has to do with the work schedule.  Almost since the day my house was robbed, I've been putting in overtime.  One or two days a week, leaving me with, at most, two or three days off at a time.  One of these days immediately follows a night of work, so it's really a "recovery day" - I spend most of it sleeping.  (If my days of overtime are not contiguous with my work days, I may actually have more that one "recovery day" to deal with in and period of days scheduled off.)

This makes it difficult to do anything productive on your days off, in addition to doing all the normal chores that most people who don't work twelve-hour schedules take for granted and do on their afternoons and evenings.  Overtime demands also make it difficult to schedule things (like, say, job interviews) on your off days - how can you commit to a date if you don't know whether or not you'll be required to work on that day?  Add on top of that the fact that every once in a while I just want to do absolutely nothing on my day off.

In a few weeks, I'll have all the time in the world to conduct a job search, and schedule interviews, and do all sorts of stuff.  Heck, I'll even have time to paint and mow my lawn and do yard work and all those concrete projects that I've neglected for so long.

Too bad by then it will be the dead of Winter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Power shopping

Our local supermarket has been running a promotion:  spend so much over a certain period of time, and get such-and-such a discount on one shopping trip in the weeks before Thanksgiving.  My mom and I managed to structure our shopping so she will get the maximum discount, 20%.  If she makes her purchases on a Tuesday, she will get an additional 5% off. 

To make the most of these savings, she will need me to come along as assistant shopper and heavy-load lifter.  Unfortunately, Tuesday is tomorrow, and I'm working.

We've come up with a work-around.

It takes me about forty-five minutes to get from work to home.  Factoring in the time it takes me to get to my car and get on the road, I'm usually home at 7:00 or just before.  If I call my mom as I'm leaving work, she should be up and ready to head out by the time I get home.  Then we will probably take two cars and head straight down to the grocery store.  Armed with two carts and two lists, I will get the heavy items and she will get the lighter things.  The lists include staples and necessities and things that will be needed for Thanksgiving (like cranberries) and Christmas (like chocolate chips), but I intend to also pick up a few things that we don't need right away, but that we will be using eventually.  Hey, 25% off is 25% off.

I've allocated two hours for this expedition.  I want to be checked out, loaded, and on the way home by 9:00 in the morning.  Bulky freezables that we won't need right away (like cod) I will take to my house for storage.  Perishables and immediate-use things we will unload into my mom's house.  Everything else can sit in her car until I damned well get to it.  I do need to get a few hours of sleep each day, after all.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back to life, back to unreality

The 2010 Sideshow Gathering is fading in the rearview mirror.  There will continue to be pictures and videos posted, and maybe a few more articles to be written, and my friends and I will continue to bounce around stories (or "cut up jackpots," in the carny vernacular) for the rest of the year.  But almost as soon as the event was over it was time to get back to other things.

I took two days off from work for the Gathering - the only other time off I had taken this year was for my nephew/godson's First Holy Communion, so that should tell you something - and I had to head back to work the next night, Monday.  I called in to work early Sunday morning to have myself put on the overtime schedule for our first two days, but with erratic workloads it wasn't clear if I would or would not be working those days.  Road conditions were also very erratic, so I left for work twenty minutes earlier than usual on Monday afternoon - and got to work more than twenty minutes earlier than usual, too.  I checked the overtime list and saw that I was third on the schedule for each of our first two days off, meaning I would only be going in if at least three people were needed for that day.

Tuesday I left the house five minutes later than I had the day before.  I ran into a traffic jam right at a badly-engineered merge point, and watched in growing anger as fifty or sixty cars came off the exit and forced their way into the front of the jam.  This told me that traffic was moving, at least, though the police car and tow truck that passed me on the shoulder told me that there might be a real issue ahead.  I called in to work and advised them of the situation.  Minutes ticked by as we crawled along at just over zero miles per hour, thanks mostly to the merging vehicles coming off the exit - and the rubberneckers at the very minor accident in the construction zone.  Once I was past the accident, it was like I had the highway to myself.  I accelerated to ludicrous speed and got to work five minutes late.

Wednesday morning I called in to find out that, yes indeedy, I would be working overtime that night.  Ditto on Thursday night.

(I have to squeeze in as much overtime as I can while I'm still working.  In a month or so, I will be losing my job.)

Friday was mostly a recovery day, but I did take my mom out to run some errands.  Saturday I raked leaves, for the first time in over a week.  I gathered two bags from our front yard, two bags from the neighbor's tree lawn, two bags from a pile on her front lawn, and filled four bags from the cans she had filled the day before.  Both her tree and ours have quite a few leaves left, and I haven't even touched the side yard or the other neighbor's yard.

After church yesterday I headed out to my comic book store, which is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  I got there too late, unfortunately, and backtracked to do a shopping run to Sam's Club and Barnes & Noble.

Now it's time to go back to work.

TITLE REFERENCE:  Soul II Soul, "Back to Life"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Sideshow Gathering 2010: Video compilation

Here are four videos from the 2010 Inkin' the Valley Tattoo Convention and Sideshow Gathering, posted by YouTube user hotrodchrissy1968.

The first video is of the good folks from Freakshow Deluxe, featuring the world's youngest sideshow performer!

Next up is the Olde City Sideshow, featuring Danny Borneo and Reggie Bugmúncher:

Finally, two from the Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow.  First, Tyler Fyre throws knives at his lovely and charming wife, Thrill Kill Jill:

And then, Jill does a solo act - with two friends!

More videos will be added as they become available...

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Sideshow Gathering 2010: Media compilation

One of the major drawbacks of Facebook - aside from the restricted-access cocktail-party format - is the strictly linear nature of its structure:  what you posted today gets buried beneath what you post tomorrow, and as the days, weeks, months, and years roll by, things get buried deeper and deeper with no real hope of finding them, and no easy way to search for them.

There was lots of great media coverage at the 2010 Inkin' the Valley Tattoo Convention and Sideshow Gathering.  Everyone's been sharing it back and forth.  But my concern is that in time this stuff will get buried and lost, if it doesn't get outright deleted by the content suppliers themselves.  So, in an effort to preserve these things for future reference, I will use this post to collect all past, current, and future media pieces on this year's event.

James Mundie's official press release contains excellent background material on many of the acts, as well as tons of valuable links:

The Weekender had a great article ahead of the show.  As part of what was apparently a running gag, Magic Brian was featured prominently in photos throughout, but was never mentioned by name:
Inkin' the Valley and Sideshow Gathering a perfect pairing The Weekender, Northeast PA

The Sunday Times Leader (November 7, 2010) had another great article featuring photos and interviews from the event itself.  And this time Magic Brian (who again was prominently featured in the main photo) was identified...as "the Blockhead":
More than ogling at oddities The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA

AOL News was the first national media outlet to put out a story on this year's event.  This story focuses on the record-breaking Mass Human Blockhead event, but includes footage and interviews from throughout the weekend.  I didn't realize when I first saw it that the person reporting is Mark Hartzman, the author of the excellent book American Sideshow (which has significant material contributions by James Mundie!):
AOL News: Human Blockheads Nail World Record

The Associated Press followed up with this article, locally carried in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader:
Sideshow performers unite at weird Pa. convention - Associated Press - The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA

Yahoo! News has also done a video post, featuring interviews with the Reverend Tommy Gunn of Freakshow Deluxe, Martin Ling of the Olde City Sideshow, and Della Deadgirl, among others.  (The link may be a little wonky - it has a habit of going to another entry entirely, called "Robot Actor", but the entry I'm talking about is called "Sideshow performers bring wackiness to light"):
Yahoo News: Sideshow performers bring wackiness to light

Coverage from Philadelphia's WPHL, channel 17:
The Sideshow Gathering Pictures from Wilkes Barre, PA - WPHL

A pre-show article on the570.com:
Tattoos, piercings and wild sideshow acts - Features - the570

John Robinson's Sideshow World continues to give excellent coverage to this event.  Here are the postings so far:

Walt Hudson's review: http://www.sideshowworld.com/review-WH-2010-SSG.html

If you have any photos from the event, please post them to the official Inkin' the Valley Tattoo Convention and Sideshow Gathering Flickr page (or post a link to one of the sites below):

And, of course, there are the official sites for Inkin' the Valley Tattoo Convention and Sideshow Gathering:

Dates for 2011 have just been announced!

The eighteenth annual Inkin' the Valley Tattoo Convention and TENTH ANNUAL Sideshow Gathering will be held November 4th, 5th, and 6th, 2011!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Once upon a time this day used to be a holiday, a day set aside - in the United States, at least - to recognize and honor our veterans.  In theory, anyway.

But that was long ago.  Gradually Veterans Day fell off the holiday calendars of most businesses until now it is strictly a Federal holiday - a day that employees of the federal government observe, but pretty much no one else.

I got to thinking about Veterans Day parades.  On or around this day, and on or around Memorial Day, some communities still have parades in which veterans squeeze into dress uniforms and march through town.  I remember a vet I knew years back who complained about what a pain in the butt this was:  he was old, he was tired, he was sore, and the last thing he felt like doing on a day intended to honor his years of service was go on a forced march.

So wouldn't it make sense to turn this around?  Maybe set up a grandstand where veterans can sit in warmth and comfort, while all the people of the town march past them and show them some appreciation?

For everyone who has made a promise to serve their country, and kept it, and for everyone who found himself drafted into service, and served honorably:  Thank you. 

And more than just thanks.  Let's make sure even in these tough economic times, our nation keeps its promise to them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

AOL News: Mass Human Blockhead record!

Thanks to the publicity efforts of James Mundie there was plenty of news coverage at the Sideshow Gathering this past weekend.  Here is an excellent piece from AOL News on the record-breaking Mass Human Blockhead - thirty-six people on stage at once with various objects jammed up their noses.  (The previous record of twenty people at once was set at last year's Gathering!)

This was the ninth annual Sideshow Gathering, held in conjunction with the seventeenth annual Inkin' the Valley Tattoo Convention.  If you missed it this year, plans are already underway for next year's tenth annual Gathering.  Don't miss it!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Overheard at the Sideshow Gathering 2010

As Steve Hyde and Melanie did their death-defying Bag of Death escape on day 3 of the Sideshow Gathering, I overheard a conversation between a woman and a man sitting behind me.

Person 1:  "...and so I ordered ten pizzas for the party and...oh my gosh, that guy is totally trapped in that plastic bag, he's gonna suffocate.  I would never want to suffocate.  Or drown.  I don't want to drown.  Anything that involves not breathing.  I would rather be hit by a car.  Or shot.  Or beaten to death.  Anything but suffocating, or drowning."

Person 2:  "If you get beaten to death, you might drown in your own blood."

Person 1:  "Oh my gosh, no, I wouldn't want that.  I would want them to beat me in the head so I was unconscious when I died.  Anything but suffocating or drowning."

(For the record, Steve Hyde did not die during this escape.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

In the afterglow

The 2010 Sideshow Gathering is over.  But in a sense it's not over, for me at least:  it will provide me with a Happy Place to go to mentally from now until I get recharged by the next one.

I'm a terrible consumer, really.  I consider myself a bibliophile, but I buy many of my books from clearance racks and from remaindered book stores.  In the same sense I consider myself a Johnny-come-lately fan of the Sideshow, but in the past year all I've invested in it financially is $10 for a ticket to this year's Gathering.  (And $5 for a bag of Doc Wilson's Prize Candy, which came with a $1 bill tucked inside...and a dollar for a peep at Thrill Kill Jill in her blade box, and another dollar for the blow-off Cyndora, the half-dog, half-spider, and $20 for a copy of Volume 9 of Shocked and Amazed...but you get my point.)  I've never actually been to a sideshow.  The closest I got was listening to Ward Hall's bally outside of the World of Wonders tent at the Bloomsburg Fair a few years ago.  (It went on and on, and eventually my friends decided to move on.  I have no idea how long he had been going on before we got there, or how long he went after we walked away.)  Someday I will get out and see the Cheeky Monkey Sideshow or the Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow in its natural habitat, in person, for money.  Someday.

Someday I'll also sort through all of my photos from this weekend and distill out the best ones.  For now, check out John Robinson's Sideshow World entry.  He did such a great job punching up (and in one case, animating!) the photos that I had a hard time believing they were actually the ones I took!

I mentioned earlier that there were more cameras going this year than I have ever seen before.  I'm just hoping that some of these photographers post these photos to a place where they can be seen by everyone!  James Mundie pointed out to me that there is a Flickr page for uploading pictures from the Sideshow Gathering - but I don't have a Flickr account and can't get around to making one just now.

One of the people taking pictures asked about how he could share photos with others, and I mentioned the Inkin' the Valley and Sideshow Gathering Facebook page.  I also suggested that he could post them to a Flickr account or something like that with a Sideshow Gathering tag and we would eventually find them through Googling.  I forgot another, obvious route:  Google "sideshow gathering" and contact someone at one of the sites that pop up.  If you do that now you will come across these sites, in this order:


...which is pretty awesome.  The official site, the official MySpace page, me, and the official press release!

If you have photos and come across my page, follow these links or just get in touch with me and I'll put you in touch with the relevant parties.  And thank you for sharing!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sideshow Gathering 2010: Awesomeness overload

So.  A few weeks ago I plunked down $10 for an advance ticket to the Sideshow Gathering.  In return for that money I was given three days of the most absolutely amazing live-and-in-person entertainment you can get anywhere.  Ten bucks!  How far will that get you at the movies?  At the ballpark?  (That might get you into the parking lot!)  At pretty much anywhere that isn't the Sideshow Gathering?  The answer is, not very!

This was the ninth annual Sideshow Gathering, held in conjunction with the seventeenth annual Inkin' the Valley Tattoo Convention.  I have only been going for the past four years, but this was by far the biggest and possibly the best Gathering I have been to so far!  Just measured in terms of cameras alone, both professional (thanks to the publicity efforts of James Mundie) and amateur, this may have also been the best-documented Gathering ever!

So much happened, I don't know if I'll be able to tell it all.  I may have gone a bit overboard with my 1,894 photos, though to be fair a few of those are probably imperfect in one way or another.

Everything was amazing and wonderful.  Even the bugs and glitches simply added to the authenticity of the overall experience.  But two individuals stood out and made the weekend that much more perfect.

I had never heard of Freakshow Deluxe before, but was delighted to see the leaders of the troupe, the Reverend Tommy Gunn and Miss Malice Aforethought, make their debut at the Sideshow Gathering as one of the first acts this weekend.  They were accompanied by their two young children, the four (or is he five?) year old Green Monster and his two-year old sister, both of whom got in on the act.

These two stole the show the entire weekend:  watching Thrill Kill Jill fuss over them, watching them interact with Lil' Miss Firefly, and especially watching them watch all the acts in wide-eyed fascination from just offstage or from the floor in front of the stage.

The Reverend Tommy Gunn and Miss Malice Aforethought's two-year-old daughter watches from the floor in front of the stage as Martin Ling the Suicide King of the Olde City Sideshow prepares to lift an iron with hooks jammed into his eye sockets. Coolest. Childhood. Ever.

When living legend Harley Newman took the stage he immediately ordered the assembled audience to move their chairs into a circle with an opening in the middle of the room.  He then selected seven volunteers from the audience to wrap him in Saran Wrap so that his only source of air was a snorkel held in his mouth - and then had a cork placed in the snorkel, cutting off his air until he could free himself from the hundreds of yards of polyethelene wrap.

One of those volunteers was the Reverend Tommy Gunn, in civilian clothes and enjoying the Gathering along with the rest of us.  As chance would have it, his son The Green Monster wound up sitting next to me.  As Harley struggled with the airtight cocoon well beyond the point that brain damage should have set in, I leaned over to the little boy and said, "Your daddy helped kill that man."  He looked up at me, beaming, and said "I know!  I saw!"

If only we all could have had such a childhood!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Carl Sagan Day 2010

Today is the second day of the 2010 Sideshow Gathering, but also the second annual Carl Sagan Day.

I found my entry from last year and, with minor edits, I think it's still appropriate


Carl Sagan was a Professor of Astronomy and Space Science and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He served as an advisor and consultant to NASA, and played a major role in the establishment of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). He was a Pulitzer Prize winning author and most familiar to the public through his COSMOS series on PBS. In addition to numerous awards, recognitions and honorary degrees for his outstanding contributions, he is acknowledged as one of the most effective public faces of astronomy and space science throughout the world. Sagan died in December 1996.
It hasn't been that long since this made the rounds the first time, but it's worth watching again and again. A Glorious Dawn: Carl Sagan featuring Stephen Hawking, by melodysheep.

The sky calls to us
if we do not destroy ourselves
we will, one day, venture to the stars

Keep the dream and the good works alive.
Sadly, something I've written more recently is also appropriate.  This was written after the death of Jack Horkheimer:

When Carl Sagan's Cosmos premiered in 1980, TIME magazine ran a cover story featuring Sagan in his "On the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean" pose.  Inside many pages were dedicated to the making of the show, the goals of the series, and the audacity of creating and marketing an expensive TV program that amounted to a lengthy science lesson.  Sagan was a celebrity, and was duly celebrated.

When Sagan died in 1996, TIME barely took note.   His obituary was only a few sentences long, and accompanied by a thumbnail version of the cover image from sixteen years earlier.

It seemed back then when Cosmos first aired that we were standing not just on the shores of the cosmic ocean, but at the beginning of a new era where technology was advancing at a remarkable rate and could be used to advance our intellects at a similarly remarkable rate.  By merging technology with the human quest for knowledge, it seemed like there was no limit to where we could go and what we would learn.

That didn't happen.

Instead one of the greatest achievements in technology, a seemingly limitless tool for communication and information sharing, has been perverted into a way for communicating disinformation, for launching vicious attacks, and for keeping the masses slack-jawed with an infinite array of pornography and time-killing diversions.  Intelligence is seen as something to be ridiculed, and science as a waste of money or, better yet, a fraudulent scheme designed to enrich the few while spreading lies and fear.  And after the recent elections things are only going to get worse, while the anti-intellectual, anti-science forces gain strength and numbers.

I wish Carl Sagan were still around to help us to figure out what to do to get out of this mess.  But sometimes I'm glad he didn't live to see where we've gotten to.

See also: Another Monkey: Carl Sagan

Friday, November 05, 2010

At the Sideshow Gathering

If anyone is wondering, this is where I'll be this weekend:

I'll be doing image dumps to my Facebook account, and trying to write things up as quickly as I can.  I still haven't written about Day 3 from the last Sideshow Gathering, so be patient.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A visitor's guide for people attending the Sideshow Gathering

Please note that this is in no way officially connected to the Sideshow Gathering or its sponsors, or to any of the businesses mentioned herein.  I'm just this guy, you know?

I'm trying to think of things that could be of value to people coming to the Sideshow Gathering.  The Woodlands, while a fine multi-purpose facility that houses a hotel, restaurants, clubs, and (of course) convention facilities, can feel like it's in the middle of nowhere.  Actually, there's quite a bit of stuff just over the next hill...

First things first:  You're not in Wilkes-Barre anymore.  Seriously.  You're in Plains Township.  You may need to know that at some point.

Route 315 is your friend.  It runs parallel to Interstate 81 for several miles.  You can use 315 to pick up 81 in either direction - there is one interchange at Wilkes-Barre to the southwest and another near Pittston to the northeast.  You can also pick up the Pennsylvania Turnpike in either direction:  if you are heading north on the Turnpike, pick it up at Pittston, and if you are heading south, pick up 115 south at Wilkes-Barre and follow it to the Turnpike.  Following 315 south will also take you to Business Route 309, which has some places of interest on it.  Taking 315 north will get you to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport at Avoca, which you can also get to on 81 north.

Starbucks:  We actually have a Starbucks!  It's located at the Wilkes-Barre Township Marketplace, which houses several other places of interest, including a Wal-Mart, a Cracker Barrel, a Liquor Store, and the Super Kings Chinese Buffet.

To get there from the Woodlands:
- Turn left (south/west) on 315
- Take 315 about one mile until it becomes Business 309
- Take Business 309 about one mile
- Make a left on Mundy Street and follow for about a half mile (this is actually the second intersection with Mundy Street; you can actually get there by following the first, but then you will make a left in the next instruction)
- Make a right on Highland Park Boulevard and follow for about half a mile
- Wilkes-Barre Township Marketplace and Starbucks will be on your right

Google Maps address: 2030 wilkes barre twp mkt Place, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702 (Starbucks)

Barnes & Noble:  Sadly, this is the only bookstore left in the area.  Oh, and it also has Starbucks coffee.  This is located at the Arena Hub Plaza, which also houses a Lowes, an Olive Garden, an Outback Steakhouse, a Best Buy, and several other retail stores (including clothing stores - no sales tax on clothing in Pennsylvania!)

To get there from the Woodlands:
- Turn left (south/west) on 315

- Take 315 about one mile until it becomes Business 309
- Take a left at the first intersection with Mundy Street and follow for about half a mile  (stay in leftmost lane)
- Take a left at the traffic light (actually your second or third traffic light) onto Tambur Boulevard into the Arena Hub Plaza
- Barnes & Noble will be on the right

Google Maps address: 421 Arena Hub Plaza, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702 (Barnes & Noble Booksellers Wilkes-Barre)

Note:  When you make the turn onto Highland Park Boulevard or Tambur Boulevard, you will be turning directly opposite an entrance to the Wyoming Valley Mall, which may have some stores of interest.

Hospital: Now, let's say that the light bulb you ate yesterday doesn't agree with you today, or that angle grinder burn is really starting to feel funny, or you've accidentally sawed something off.  There are several hospitals in the area, but the closest is definitely Geisinger Wyoming Valley hospital.

To get there from the Woodlands:
- Turn right (northeast) on 315 about one mile
- Turn right at Jumper Road 0.2 mi
- Take the first right onto East Mountain Drive 0.5 mi
- Turn left

Let's say you're in the mood for unlimited food cheap, but you don't want Chinese for some reason.  There's also the Old Country Buffet in the East End Shopping Center.

 To get there from the Woodlands:

- Turn left (south/west) on 315
- Take 315 about one mile until it becomes Business 309
- Continue along 309 for a few hundred more feet until you see the East End Shopping Center on your left

This shopping center also houses a Red Lobster.

If gambling is your thing, you're in luck!  The Woodlands is a stone's throw from the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, one of Pennsylvania's first casinos, now featuring table games as well as slot machines, dining and shopping.
To get there from the Woodlands:

- Turn right (northeast) on 315 about 1.3 miles
...and you're there!

These are just some of places along routes 315 and 309.  If you drive around the area, you'll see the place is loaded with shops, restaurants, and little holes-in-the-wall.  I've just listed a few.

Also of interest:

Giant Cow (Three-O-Nina)
As featured on RoadsideAmerica.com
Located along route 309 (hence the name) near the Georgetown Deli and Four Keys Plaza, 720 Wilkes-Barre Township Boulevard.
(For being a giant cow it's surprisingly easy to miss.  It's right behind the STIHL sign  If you find yourself looking at a McDonald's, a Kmart, and a sign for CINEMA 309 XXX, you've gone too far.)

Gallery of Sound
One of a dying breed:  an independent record store.  Stop in and see what they might have that you might need!  Located at 186 Mundy Street.

Gertrude Hawk Chocolates
The finest chocolates around!  Right next to the Gallery of Sound at 174 Mundy Street.

Houdini Museum
A bit farther afield, located in Scranton, PA.

From their site:
1433 N. Main, Scranton, PA 18508. Tel. (570) 342-5555

GPS Latitude: 41.432156 Longitude: -75.663338
Take I-81 to Exit 190 the Main Ave Exit, LEFT onto Main exactly 2 miles to 1433 N. Main Ave. Scranton, PA. Free Parking. Enter front or back.

Knotty Pine restaurant
And one last thing, a vanishing bit of Americana.  An old-fashioned diner/restaurant located in Hazleton, PA at 26 North Church Street just off route 309.  It was announced earlier this week that this place will be closing as of November 13.  This place is easy to get to for those traveling south on 81, 309, or picking up Interstate 80 - all of these highways converge at Hazleton.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The liberating sensation of losing

Well.  Yesterday was election day, and a lot of the horses I was betting on lost.

Democrat Paul Kanjorski lost to Republican Lou Barletta to be our Congressional Representative.  More accurately, Paul Kanjorski lost to the wave of anti-incumbent fervor that has gripped the nation and infected this area as well.  After all, Barletta ran against Kanjorski two years ago, and locally things haven't changed that much.  Our economy and employment rates sucked back then, and they suck now.  Barletta hasn't scored any major political victories in that time.  But two years ago Kanjorski beat Barletta fairly easily.  This time Barletta beat Kanjorski.

What does that mean for the area?  In the short term, probably not that much.  Representatives have two-year terms, and if Barletta doesn't do something stunning in those two years, he'll probably be washed away by the next wave of anti-incumbency.  But with all his years in office, Kanjorski did wield a lot of seniority.  Of course, as a member of the new House minority, that might not mean all that much.  With Barletta a member of the new majority party in the House, maybe he'll be given some position that he will be able to use to benefit the area.  Although as a freshman member of the House, I seriously doubt that.

In the Senate race, Republican Pat Toomey beat Democrat Joe Sestak to win the seat currently held by Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter.  This may be a wash, since in any event this area was losing the benefits of Specter's seniority.   But I would have much preferred seeing Sestak in this position.  I believe he was the better candidate.

The biggest loss to me is the one that will affect the state the most:  Republican Tom Corbett defeated Democrat Dan Onorato to become the next governor of Pennsylvania.  I see this as an unmitigated environmental disaster for this state.  Corbett adheres to the Republican party line of less regulation and no new taxes, and extends the benefit of these positions to drillers extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation if Pennsylvania.  The severance tax, which is opposed by the Republicans in the Pennsylvania congress and only stayed in play because of Democratic governor Ed Rendell, isn't a mechanism designed to discourage gas drillers from coming to Pennsylvania; rather, it was designed to generate funds to be used to repair the structural and environmental damage done by gas extraction activities.  Without it, the likelihood is that this damage will simply go unrepaired, much like the scars and damage of Pennsylvania's coal mining past remain long after the industry pulled out of the area.

Corbett was opposed by a broad coalition of people who gave a damn about the environment, including several staunch Republicans of my acquaintance.  Things were already pretty bad here environmentally, and the promise of revenue resulting from Marcellus Shale drilling made opposition based on the fact that, say, drilling activity has poisoned drinking water wells in Dimock and caused the Susquehanna to begin bubbling with methane in Sugar Run made fighting for a responsible approach to natural gas extraction an uphill battle - and one that may have already landed some activists on terrorist watch lists.  With Corbett in the governor's mansion, things are going to get much, much worse.

And you know what?

It's not my fault.

I opposed these guys.  All of them.  Now they've won their elections, and come January, they'll be in office.

Barletta I almost think I can work with.  I'll send him the same message I sent to Specter and Kanjorski, probably with the same results.  (Though now I know enough to use the catchphrase "green jobs.")

Toomey I know little about.  A Senator is almost an abstraction, more involved with events on a national level than with anything on a state level.  We'll see how things go there.

Corbett...well, as I said, this is a disaster.  If you voted for him, or if you failed to vote for Onorato, the blame is as much on your head as it is on his.  For the rest of us, or for anyone wishing to make atonement, there's a long, hard battle ahead.  Most likely a losing battle, too.  But perhaps our efforts will help slow down how quickly we, and the environment, lose.

For now, for the next few days, I will put politics aside.  There's something else that is coming up soon, something that requires my attention, something to which I've made a commitment I have yet to fulfill.  I'm going to get started on that now.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010




Oh, and you Democrats?  I hear you're a bunch of spineless yellow-bellied lily-livered fair-weather voters who have given up on the mid-term elections and are content to sit at home and cry into your venti  half-skim soy lattes.  Have I heard that right? Maybe you want to prove to me that that's a load of hogwash?

Monday, November 01, 2010


I should be asleep right now.  I'd like to make a persuasive argument for getting everyone out there to vote tomorrow, but honestly, I don't have time.

I will say this:  If you are disappointed with the pace at which things have been taking place in the past twenty months, well...so am I.  So is everyone, I think.  Well, almost everyone.

The thing that you have to ask is:  who is responsible for the sluggish pace?  The answer is:  Congressional Republicans.  They have acted as the agents of the party of delay and deny, the party of "No."  They have set out to make every step of President Obama's plans as slow and difficult as possible, and they have succeeded spectacularly - much to the detriment of our nation.

We haven't seen economic recovery, not at the rate we would like.  But who would that benefit, anyway?  Besides you and me, I mean.  Who would economic recovery benefit politically?  The answer to that is:  the incumbents, the Democrats, and the Obama administration.  So, naturally, Congressional Republicans have done everything possible to keep this from happening.

They are the ones responsible for the sluggish pace at which things have been happening.  And if they win big tomorrow, their plans are clear:  the intend to push the big lever from "SLOW" to "STOP," shutting down the government in a state of gridlock - and then pushing it to "REVERSE."  Rolling back everything that has been accomplished in the last twenty months.  Undoing everything that we elected Barack Obama to get done.

And that's just what they'll do, if you let them.

Vote tomorrow.  It's more important than you realize.