Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Arts On Fire Festival this weekend in Scranton!

The Arts On Fire Festival in Scranton will be going on this weekend! Festivities kick off Friday, June 1. You can read all about it on their blog and their website.

Next weekend is the Scranton Zine Festival! Stay tuned for more details!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I think Anonymous founded a religion or something

Another member of my writing group, Leslee Clapp, pointed this out a few weeks ago. Inscribed on a wall near the Scranton Courthouse as part of a tribute to our armed forces is this quote: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he should lay down his life for a friend." It's attributed to "Anonymous," but it sounds suspiciously like this wandering Jewish fellow I read about in a book somewhere. Specifically, it sounds like Jesus, as quoted in John 15:3. Was it too much trouble to look up the source of the quote? Or was attribution avoided for some other reason?

If we're putting up anonymous quotes around a courthouse, maybe they should consider this one: "Do what thou wilt; that is the whole of the law."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective

This Saturday marked the final gathering of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective at the 119 Penn Avenue location of the Vintage Theater.  Since long before I joined, the members of the NEPWC have been the "writers in residence" at the Vintage Theater. But with the Vintage Theater moving from the 119 Penn Avenue location and relocating to an address yet to be determined, the NEPWC will be holding its meetings in a new - temporary - location, the upper room of the Northern Light Espresso Bar at 536 Spruce Street, Scranton, every Saturday from noon to 2:00 PM.

We are a very diverse group, with a wide range of experiences and influences. Today's meeting, our largest in a long time, featured several poems, two totally unconnected science fiction pieces, a monologue on the private life of Ben Cartwright, the latest chapter in a continuing story, two rousing prose pieces, and the first act of a play written by someone who's never written a play before. In this final meeting at this location we also welcomed two new members, both of whom read for the group.

As I have stated before, the Vintage Theater isn't really closing - it's just going away for a little while, and will come back in another location sometime soon. In the meantime, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective will also go on - at Northern Light.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Next steps for the Vintage Theater

While it may sound dramatic to declare that "the Vintage Theater in Scranton is closing" (as I did) and to refer to the final First Friday celebration on June 1 as "the Last First Friday" (as I do), the truth, as always, is somewhat more nuanced.

The Vintage Theater is moving out of its current location at 119 Penn Avenue. (This isn't even the original location of the Vintage Theater. I discovered last night that I was correct in believing that it was originally housed in the old Ritz Theater where I used to see dollar movies when I was in college.) But that doesn't mean that the Vintage Theater is going away.

The idea of the Vintage Theater is what's important. It has been a multi-purpose art space where specific events - concerts, art exhibits, poetry readings, plays - brought the people in, and the synergies between the various art forms sharing the same space brought people back. That idea will be maintained, regardless of where the next incarnation of the Vintage Theater sets up shop.

The proprietors of the Vintage Theater are looking for a new home. Something affordable, something within the footprint of Scranton's First Friday celebrations, something accessible, something that is capable of serving the needs of all the different artists who present their creative works within the theater. They have made a list of seventeen different possibilities, and last night an eighteenth was presented - one that no one realized was even on the market.

But they're not rushing into this. They want to do this right. So during the transitional period, we will all have to be patient.

In the meantime, they have needs. Immediate, medium-term, and long-term needs. In the immediate future: they will need to be out of the 119 Penn Avenue location after the June 1 First Friday celebrations. That means that by June 1 they need to be 99% moved out. So in addition to being patient, anyone who really cares about the Vintage Theater should be prepared to lend a hand in some way - now, tomorrow, during the transition period, or in perpetuity.

The immediate needs:

- A plumber capable of doing the disconnection work on a very expensive and delicate European espresso/latte machine. I doubt that my own ham-fisted plumbing skills are up to the task.

- A carpenter with a portable saw to disassemble the very large and heavy countertops.

- An electrician to help with removal of light fixtures.

- General moving help to get stuff off the premises. This includes vehicles for hauling things away.

- Storage space for stuff that's been removed from the premises.

To reduce the tonnage of stuff that needs to be moved there will be a rummage sale on Monday, May 28th starting at noon. Books, chairs, art materials - almost anything that's still around on Monday will be up for sale. (So, FYI, if you're reading this and happen to have stuff that you kind-of left sitting around the Vintage Theater, you might want to reclaim it before Monday.)

After the hard (and frankly, heartbreaking) work of vacating the 119 Penn Avenue location is over, then the next stages will continue in earnest: identifying the needs of the next incarnation of the Vintage Theater, and making it a reality. And after that happens will come the really hard point: doing what needs to be done to keep the theater going.

The Vintage Theater is closing. The Vintage Theater will be back.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

End of an era: The Vintage Theater in Scranton is closing

(Note: I originally intended to use this title on a post about the end of my run of weekly appearances on WBRE's PA Live!, presenting the NEPA Blogs Blog of the Week every Tuesday. But that ship sailed long ago, and I haven't gotten around to writing that post yet. So this post gets to claim the title.)

The Vintage Theater in Scranton will be closing after the upcoming First Friday event on Friday, June 1, 2012.

I first heard about the Vintage Theater (I think) shortly after it opened, in an article in the Scranton Times. I skimmed it, and somehow managed to convince myself that the theater that had been rehabbed and refurbished and reopened was the old Ritz Theater, where my friends and I used to catch dollar third-run showings of films like Out of Africa and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? back in college. But I was wrong.

I found out how wrong I was the first time I went to the Vintage Theater. It wasn't that long ago - just last September 15th. I had been invited to take part in a Bloggers' Roundtable being held at the Vintage Theater. It was a Thursday night, which seemed like an odd time. I went into the event knowing very little about what I was getting into and prepared for anything. Well, almost anything. After actually locating the venue, I met with the three other bloggers who would be taking part, and then we sat in a line across a stage (no table involved, round or otherwise) and discussed blogging.

Towards the end of the night I noticed a trickle of people coming into the theater and looking at us on the stage with some surprise. They didn't seem to be there for the Bloggers' Roundtable, but migrated to a smaller room in the back of the theater. Some of them did take seats in the audience, and one even asked a question or two.

As the event came to a close I discovered that we were sharing the Vintage that evening with a poetry reading. I hadn't been to a poetry reading in many years, and decided to stick around and take it in. The group was called the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective, and they presented a wide range of poems and even some prose pieces every third Thursday of the month. I found out that they were a writing group that met every Saturday at the Vintage. I was about to start working again on a very irregular schedule, so I wasn't sure when I'd be able to meet with them, but I was definitely interested.

One person stepped up to do a "commercial" - her name was Kait Burrier, and she would be presenting dramatic readings of her work that coming Sunday at the Vintage. I saw this as an opportunity to get a taste of the cultural offerings of Scranton, a place that was at once familiar and brand-new to me.

Before the Bloggers' Roundtable broke up I was approached by the people who had arranged for it to take place, and I discovered that this was the opening shot of the Scranton Pages & Places Book Festival, which would take place Saturday, October 1 at various locations throughout Scranton - including the Vintage Theater. I was presented with a pass to the festival. It would be my first full day off after working my first rotation of night shift, but I was determined to make it there.

And I did. I took in the workshops on Non-Fiction Writing and Fiction Writing being presented at the Vintage. In between the two, I became re-acquainted with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective, who were having their weekly meeting in the back of the Vintage. I also met a writer and blogger whose posts I'd been following for several months - a startling and seemingly improbable encounter for both of us, though in retrospect it seems perfectly reasonable that I would encounter her as a part of a writing group.

I began going to the weekly meetings of the writing group at the Vintage just as soon as I could - which, from my old work calendar, looks like it would have been sometime in November. It was around this time that I was asked to take part in another event taking place at the Vintage Theater - the Scranton Bluekey Tweetup, an event designed to raise awareness of the plight of refugees. This event was organized by blogger Mandy Boyle, who I had first met in person at one of the Pages & Places writing workshops at the Vintage! Michelle, my co-administrator at NEPA Blogs, was also there (and had persuaded me to go in the first place), as were other local bloggers.

A little more than a month after the Tweetup Michelle and I were heading back to the Vintage for Pecha Kucha Night, another event that Mandy Boyle helped bring into being. This event was huge. The Vintage was crowded, more crowded than I had ever seen it before. But that would change.

My involvement with the writing group ramped up as the year went on. I had managed to miss all of their Open Mic Poetry Nights since my first chance encounter in September. The March one was going to be something special, focusing on just one of our writers for the second half of the show. I nominated myself to serve as group photographer, and manged to take some halfway decent images. A month later the spotlight turned on another of our writers, and I improved upon my technique somewhat - taking pictures indoors in a low-light situation with a tiny snapshot camera and not using a flash. (A tripod and an understanding of how your camera's Sports mode works are essential for this.)

But before the April Open Mic Night there would be one other event at the Vintage: the Scranton StorySlam.

I hadn't planned to go. It was right after Blog Fest, and the same day as the birthday party of the daughter of some of my friends, and I would be starting out more than eighty miles away. Michelle would be going as one of the judges, so I felt that her presence kept NEPA Blogs involved. Surely we didn't both have to be there! But the organizer had made a point of coming out to Blog Fest. And in a strange, freak coincidence, as soon as I began following the StorySlam on Twitter I found that I was the hundredth (or was it the thousandth?) Twitter follower and had won free admission. So now fate had decreed that I had to go, whether I wanted to or not.

That event was the most crowded I have ever seen the Vintage. It became standing room only long before the start of the show, and at halftime I had to retreat to the safety of the little room in the back where the writing group routinely met just so I could breathe. But overall, the StorySlam was a resounding success.

So we had the April Open Mic, and began making plans for the May one. This was a big one. It once again featured one member of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective - but it was Jennifer Diskin, a member who had passed away in December, after a long and epic battle with cancer. I had never met her; I had only just started coming to meetings when I learned that she was very ill, and then that she had died. I didn't know her, but I knew that this was going to be an event not to be missed.

It was beautiful. The Vintage was crowded again - not like it was for the StorySlam, but in a manner appropriate for a memorial poetry reading. Friends read poems by her, or about her, or inspired by her, or even works that had been her favorites.  Through it all I clicked away with my camera, capturing some of my best pictures yet.

That was Thursday. Today Conor, the proprietor of the Vintage Theater, sat down with our writing group (after a particularly raucous session) and let us know that he would be vacating the premises following the upcoming First Friday event on June 1. He's planning to re-establish himself somewhere else in Scranton, using lessons learned from this venture, re-imagining the venue with a focus on art space and performing space.

We support him in this, of course. But it will take time. And in the meantime, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective needs to find a new - temporary - home. We appear to have found one, though I'll hold off making the announcement until it's official.

The Vintage Theater. I've had a lot of history with it in just the last eight months. It was a good place, and it served us well. I will be forever grateful to Conor for all the good times we had there.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Unillustrated Instructional 2: How to boil an egg

OK, first a clarification: this isn't really about how to boil an egg. You'll find plenty of advice on that elsewhere. Someone came up with a clever new way of doing this a while ago - bring the eggs to a boil in a pot, then shut off the heat and leave them, covered, for fifteen minutes - and I found that this resulted in an egg with a mostly-uncooked yolk. That's fine if you're into that sort of thing, I suppose. My advice there: cook the eggs long enough to be hard-boiled, but not so long that you start to remove the water from the egg white, resulting in a tough egg white with a waffle-textured surface.

Also, start by gently heating the water with the eggs already in it. Heating the water too quickly, or adding the eggs to already-boiling water, may make the shells crack.

But enough of that. This instructional is meant to address a more serious issue: distinguishing hard-boiled eggs from uncooked eggs.

When we were kids my mom would mark hard-boiled eggs by drawing smiley faces on them. The problem was, if she did this using a marker, the marker ink would bleed through the shell and get onto the egg white. If she did it with a pencil, the markings would be so light that it would be possible to mistake a hard-boiled egg for a raw one - and sometimes the mistake would go the other way.

A few years ago I remembered something I had heard from the nuns back when I was in grade school, about how in the days of the Great Depression people would dye their Easter Eggs with things like coffee grounds or onion skins. It hit me that adding a piece of onion skin to the pot while boiling eggs might cause some of the color to leak onto the shells. And whaddya know, it worked!

(I recently learned that there's a term for these eggs - pace eggs, though these are associated with the Easter season, and appear to be much more darkly dyed than the eggs I make.)

To boil an egg so that it can be easily distinguished from raw eggs in the refrigerator, add a small bit of onion skin to the pot. That's it. I use roughly a 3/4" x 3/4" bit of onion skin, though whatever size you grab will probably be fine. You're looking for the dry outer skin of the onion, the stuff that ends up left over in the bag. The larger the piece the darker the color of the boiled eggs. A small piece will cause them to turn beige, a moderate piece will give a buff color like those fancy expensive eggs at the supermarket (so this is an inexpensive way to fool any snoopy friends who might judge you by the color of your eggs), and a lot of skin will turn the eggs a mottled brown.

One note: this doesn't seem to work with the purple outer skins of red onions. If you're feeling adventurous and want to experiment with marking your eggs red, you might want to add some beet juice to the water when you boil the eggs. This might (or might not) change the taste of the eggs - I have no idea.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Unillustrated Instructional 1: How to use a notebook

For years I've wanted to share some of the hard-learned lessons in my life with my blog readers. I figured I would write up a series of simple instructional posts to cover hints, tips, and solutions to everyday annoyances. Why, I could even illustrate them with photos! All I had to do was get around to taking the photos.

And so I waited...and waited...and waited...

...and finally I thought, Fine, I'll go without the photos!

Which brings us to here.

My first instructional is on something most of us have probably been doing, off and on, since first grade: How to use a notebook. I've spent the last few weeks in a training course for a new job (yes, amazingly enough, some employers are still willing to train new employees for their jobs - and pay them during the training, too!) and have filled several notebooks with notes. That's a lot of notes, covering a lot of subjects, taken over a lot of days. By observing how other people have been taking notes. I've developed some new notebook management skills that have been very useful.

1. Put the date on every page. In grade school I got into the habit of putting the date at the beginning of each day's notes. This made it easy to flip back and see what information was covered on which day, and to review information from a specific day. But after observing a fellow trainee putting the date on the upper outside top line of each page, I realized how much easier it would be to locate a specific day's notes, or to tell which day each page of notes was from, if the date was included on every page.

2. Use the top margin space on every page for broad subject headers. As in a textbook, this makes it easy to flip through the notebook and find which topic was being covered on each day.

3. Use the outer margin areas on every page for specific topic guides. This is the left-hand margin on the left pages, and the right-hand margin on the right pages. You could also use this space for the broad subject headers, but that might be redundant. Instead, focus on what's specifically being covered on that page. Write this information however it works for you. I find it most effective to write it so it can be read when the book is held sideways. I write the words so they are all properly aligned, regardless of what page they are on, when the notebook is held sideways with the spine at the top.

4. Leave plenty of room for future notes. I used to like to fill in notebooks very neatly, or cram them full of information. But you should allow for the possibility that you will be adding notes to your notes somewhere down the line. Maybe this will be an expansion of the notes you have taken, maybe a clarification, or maybe just notes about the notes. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself adding notes to your notes.

And that's that. Whether you're filling a notebook with information for a class, or are just writing poems and stories for your own amusement, following these steps may help make your notebook more useful to you.

Do you have any hints and tips on using a notebook? Let me know in the comments, and maybe I'll add them to this post!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Blog of the Week!

I'm really excited - I feel a little silly at how excited I am! - to have been the NEPA Blogs Blog of the Week on WBRE's PA Live! this afternoon. I knew that it was coming, but I didn't know when. The original plan was for a hand-off between me and Michelle: I would end my time as host of the Blog of the Week segment by featuring her blog, and she would begin hers by featuring mine. But things became complicated when Michelle found herself unable to take over the segment, and our Plans B and C fell through. When blogger Shannon Nelson (who was already doing a spot on PA Live!) came forward and was willing to take over the segment for us, Michelle and I (mostly Michelle) went into overdrive getting Blogs of the Week ready ahead of time. (Shannon is not able to come in every week, so she tapes several segments ahead of time.)

Still, I didn't know when my blog might be featured, and I was super excited when I found out it would be this week! The timing was perfect, since I've just begun my ninth year of blogging. That's close to a record for this area - Mark Cour has been at it longer, first on the various incarnations of Wilkes-Barre Online, and then on his (relatively) new Circumlocution for Dummies.

Click here to see Michelle's Blog of the Week post on NEPA Blogs. And click here to see Shannon presenting Another Monkey as the Blog of the Week on WBRE's PA Live!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Eight years

As of today, I've been blogging for eight years. My first post came out on May 14, 2004, and I've been at it ever since.

Eight years ago I could not have imagined all the changes that would be documented in my blog. I bought a house. My father died. I lost my job. I made weekly appearances on television for seven months. I joined a writers' group. I became involved with a community I never even knew existed before.

My output has dropped a lot in recent months, but that may change. I'm still trying to reorient myself to the reality of having a job once again, and trying to give other projects the attention they deserve.

Most of the bloggers I was reading back in 2004 have closed up their blogs and moved on. A few I keep in touch with. Some have intentionally put themselves out of reach. I have no plans to shut down Another Monkey. I certainly haven't said all I have to say, and I know that there are many more things to blog about just over the horizon.

Coincidentally - at least I think this was a coincidence - my ninth year of blogging will start off with my blog being spotlighted as the NEPA Blogs Blog of the Week on PA Live! tomorrow! Tune in tomorrow to WBRE between 4:00 and 5:00 to see, or watch the segment online once they post it!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Encounter in Scranton

This is a work of fiction, a response to a perversely difficult writing prompt. As it is my custom to insert writing prompts verbatim into my works, the perversity of this prompt was especially herd to work around. But I did it. More commentary after the break.

"What are you reading, a book?"

It was an idiot's question, asked by an idiot, and I was already having a hard enough time with one of those. I looked up from my reading at my uninvited inquisitor. He had the appearance of a frat boy, a pampered rich kid, spiked dyed hair and popped collar, glassy fish-eyes and a softness from too much beer and not enough labor. His pink shirt and mint green jacket would have looked ridiculous in any other era, but were the height of fashion for 1987.

"Yes. Yes, it's a book," I replied, looking at him coldly over the top of my glasses.

He chuckled, shaking his head. "That's one hobby I could never get into," he said, and shuffled away towards the doors that led to the platform where the buses arrived and departed. I watched him go with a mixture of loathing and gratitude. Then I returned to my book.

"The last time I read a book," came an accented voice from nearby, "my family was destroyed. By an asteroid."

I looked up again. Obviously a bus depot in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania was a poor choice of location for reading Dostoevsky. This particular voice belonged to a man so ancient and withered I could have mistaken him for a desiccated corpse. He was sitting in the row of molded plastic seats opposite me, maybe ten feet away. I hadn't noticed him before.

"We lived in a village along the Podkamennaya Tunguska, the Stony Tunguska River," he continued without any encouragement from me. "Early one morning fire came from the sky and left destruction in its wake. Our village was reduced to ashes, the people burned to cinders. I was not there when this happened, of course." No, of course not, I thought, staring at him over my book. His watery blue eyes seemed fixed on a point ten feet past my right shoulder.

"I was in Irkutsk," he offered in response to absolutely no prodding. "I had already set out upon my quest, the quest which had been laid upon my shoulders by another who had grown too old to continue. I did not seek it, nor did I even believe I was the one truly intended to take up the burden. But once I had taken it up, it was impossible to put down."

Why me?, I thought. He went on.

"I was there in Irkutsk to sift through the ashes of the great library, destroyed in a fire nearly thirty years before. But there were precious few ashes to sift. So I allowed myself the pleasure of a book - one written by the very man whose words you are reading now."

I closed my book. The adventures of Prince Myshkin and company would have to wait until later. I glanced at my watch. My bus should be here soon.

"The universe permitted me to finish my reading, to enjoy my moment of truancy. When I had completed the book, I received word of the great disaster that had befallen everyone I had ever known, the great rock from the sky that had blasted away all traces of my past. I took this as a sign that I was to keep my feet upon the path, to be steadfast in the performance of my duty. To continue my quest without diversion or distraction."

He stopped talking. I thought maybe he was done. Or maybe he had simply died. As far as I could tell, he hadn't blinked during his entire monologue. But then he continued.

"The quest has led me across five continents, over mountains and across deserts and through jungles. Now, after more than eight decades, it has led me here. My journey is nearly at an end. But the quest is far from over." Finally, a blink - I was starting to wonder if he was blind or something. But now his eyes were fixed directly on mine.

"The time has come to pass on the quest. I bid you farewell." There was an odd note of finality to these last words.

The man at the counter loudly shouted out the arrival of the 4:17 from New York City, continuing on to Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, and points south. I was still looking at the old man across from me when a crowd of passengers swarmed in, eager to use the facilities, buy some snacks from the vending machines, or get on with whatever business had brought them to Scranton. In a few minutes the bus would be ready to depart, and I would be on it. I hoped the crazy old man from Tunguska would not.

A dozen or so passengers trampled noisily through the depot directly between me and the old man, dragging their luggage behind them. When they had moved on, the row of seats opposite me was empty.

There was a matchbook on the floor under where the old man had been sitting.

OK, I thought. I've seen this a thousand times. Jim Rockford finds a matchbook with the name of a bar printed on the cover, and a phone number written inside. He pieces together the clues and solves the crime. So I was going to go and pick up the matchbook and look in it and find something, some message or code or secret symbol, some clue that would indelibly mark me as the next bearer of the old man's quest. And I would be stuck, and my life forever changed, and I would find myself wandering over mountains and across deserts and through jungles in pursuit of some something the old man had never gotten around to mentioning.

Or maybe I would draw "Tippy" and be well on my way to becoming a professional artist.

Screw that. I just wanted to get back to Wilkes-Barre, maybe finish my book. I gathered together my things and tucked them into my backpack. I put on my coat. Those buses were usually cold.

I slung my backpack over one shoulder. Then I walked over, picked up the matchbook, and pocketed it. Just for the heck of it.

I stepped out of the depot and onto the platform, closing my coat against the cold Fall air. The driver was just scrolling the destination sign on the front of the bus from "Scranton" to "Wilkes-Barre." I reached into my pocket for my ticket.

"Yo, chief," came an all-too-familiar voice, "you got a light?" I turned to look at the speaker. The glassy-eyed frat boy had a hand-rolled cigarette dangling from his mouth. He was holding a small paper-wrapped package he hadn't been holding before.

I reached into my pocket, pulled out the matchbook, and handed it to him.

"Keep it," I said.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jen Diskin Memorial Poetry Reading

This Thursday, May 17, the Vintage Theater in Scranton (119 Penn Avenue) will be hosting an evening of poetry by, about, and inspired by the late Jennifer Diskin. I never had the opportunity to meet her, but she was a much-beloved member of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective, and I know from the memorial posts at the time of her passing that she had touched the lives of many of my friends.

See the Facebook page for this event here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Back from the (almost) dead

Friday night I went out to see a friend's band in Scranton. To hear them, too, though I wish I had followed my own advice and taken earplugs with me - they were good, but loud, and standing directly in front of one of the speakers didn't help.

Within an hour of getting home from the event I managed to unleash a virus onto my computer.

In retrospect I think I know what happened. A pop-up window appeared while I was bumbling around the internet and asked me if I wanted to install a certain program. I was given options of "Install" and "Cancel" - and like an idiot, I clicked on the one marked "Cancel", instead of x-ing or Ctrl-Alt-Deleting the browser out of existence. As I have just learned, when these pop-ups pop up, often the entire thing is one big button, and clicking anywhere in it will install the program.

The first sign something was wrong was when I was attempting to open some trusted sites in Chrome and was informed that the sites - like Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and even Google - had suspicious-looking authentication certificates. I decided something was wrong with Chrome, and had to open IE to get to Google so I could research the problem. The official Chrome support sites were less than helpful, consisting mostly of people posting precisely the same problem I was having, followed by requests for more details from the Google techs. It took a lot of digging and a lot of false leads, but I finally came across one explanation that should have occurred to me from the start: malware.

Not to worry. I had Malwarebytes, and I had (had being the functional word; I don't see either of these now!) Spybot Search and Destroy (I think that's what it was called), and I had a top-notch antivirus program...which should have protected me in the first place.  Malwarebytes revealed a collection of suspicious-looking things that I removed. Spybot spotted a few others. My AV was able to target one program as the source of the problem, but couldn't remove it.

Fine. Screw it. I had a virus problem almost exactly a year ago, and took my computer to one of those big box electronics stores to have it deloused, and while I was electronically pouring money into their pockets,  I decided to spend a little more for the extended protection program. So I knew I was covered. Unfortunately, I didn't haul my computer up there until Sunday afternoon, and they told me that turnaround time would be about 48 hours, as I expected. But they didn't actually get things wrapped up until late Tuesday night, so Wednesday was the earliest I could pick it up.

In the meantime I had online obligations I was shirking. I should have written up the NEPA Blogs Blog of the Week for Tuesday, but I didn't, and dumped it in Michelle's lap. I also should have changed the NEPA Blogs header image on Wednesday, but I had had the foresight to send a bunch of header images to Michelle a few weeks ago, so she was also able to take care of that - and get the story behind the image from the person who submitted it.

Meanwhile, the weather conspired against me. We have had copious rain the past few days, but Wednesday started off sunny and clear - perfect grass-growing weather. I was in work during the day and couldn't do anything about it, and the forecast had suggested that rain would be coming later in the day. But it stayed dry into the afternoon, and conditions were perfect after work for mowing the lawn. So I did. By the time I was done, I really didn't feel much like taking a trip to pick up my computer. So I let it go until today.

Now here I am. Hundreds of emails behind, dozens of Facebook updates and tweets and blog post updates to catch up with. Several deaths have passed without my comment - George "Goober" Lindsey (whose hat on Hee Haw was a prime example of the lost art of repurposing a used-up fedora - and a real-world version of the "crown" worn by Archie's friend Jughead), Maurice Sendak (who was haunted all his life by the fact that he accidentally brought about the death of one of his friends as a child during a simple game of catch, when the friend ran into the street to retrieve a ball Sendak had thrown too far - and was hit by a car), and Vidal Sassoon (who had the most amazingly kickass biography you could imagine - how many people were both anti-Nazi street fighters and revolutionized women's hair fashion?) I also failed to commemorate the anniversary of the passing of Franco Kossa, the founder of the Sideshow Gathering. My own blogiversary is in here somewhere - either I have just missed it, or it's just about to happen.

So now I'm back. It will take some time for me to catch up. I've just re-installed Malwarebytes on my system, and a scan came up clean. Spybot Search & Destroy is installing as I type these words. This post is (almost) my first signal to the world that I'm back online. We'll see what I missed in the past few days!