Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Fiction: Keeping Christ in Christmas

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

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

Keeping Christ in Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I'm Caspar!" came a voice.

"I'm Melchior!" said another.

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

"The THREE KINGS!" they announced in unison.

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

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

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

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

"I beg your pardon?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

The van stopped at the main entrance to the store.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, please!" piped Sister Ruth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"See, that one is..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 19, 2019

Little Girl, 2010 - July 19, 2019

Little Girl died tonight at about 8:00 PM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Another job done

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

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

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

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

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

Now on to the next adventure.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Daffodils up, March 31, 2019

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


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

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

Monday, February 25, 2019


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

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

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

Back to work

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

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Storm have mercy

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what's next?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Snow today, ice tonight

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

This guy again

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

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 16, 2019

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

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

Mission semi-accomplished

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

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

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

Seriously, fuck that guy.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


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

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A song of snow and ice

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

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

St. Joseph's: demolished

St. Joseph's, October 18, 2018

St. Joseph's church was demolished today.

Demolition photos courtesy of Ann Emelett.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2019

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

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

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Here we go

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

Friday, February 08, 2019


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

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

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

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Grim anniversary

In a week it will be Valentine's Day.

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

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

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

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

We'll find out.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Third day

Wednesday. Once upon a time, this would have been "humpday," but today it's just day three of ten. Two more days of training, and then we hit the floor for another five.

As a bonus, right after we began training, payday was moved to Wednesday. Today's pay is already in my account. Time to spend it. Most of it, anyway.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Rescheduled Writers' Showcase, Saturday, February 9

REMINDER: The rescheduled Winter 2019 edition of the Writers' Showcase will be held this Saturday, February 9, 2019, from 7:00 - 9:00 PM at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 West Market Street, Scranton, PA. Admission is just $4.00 for an evening of poetry and storytelling from Kimberly Boland, Aurora Bonner, Rachael Hughes, Laurel Radzieski, and Alyssa Waugh, hosted by Brian Fanelli and Dawn Leas.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to make this one - my new schedule has me working every Saturday evening, and I'm not yet in a position to schedule time off. But if you can make it, you should definitely check out the Writers' Showcase!

 You can find the event page on Facebook here.

Monday, February 04, 2019

So it begins

The new shift started today. My "before work" hours rapidly filled up with things that needed to be done. Traffic was lighter going to work, but the parking lot was more full. I left work in the dark for the first time in a while - though when my old place closed at the end of September, it was already getting pretty dark at the end of the work day.

The new training class started today, and there are at least two people in it who used to work at my old place. I keep telling my co-workers that if they ever need travel advice, there are over a dozen of us there with experience in the travel industry.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Lunch time

I'm about to start a run of ten consecutive workdays. The first five will be my last week of training, while the next five will be the first week of my regular shift, which will run Saturday through Wednesday. Today, for the first time since leaving my old job, I made up a supply of lunches for the week. Just five, because I only had five chicken thighs set aside in the freezer. I'm all out of cracker crumbs, so I made a modified version of my oven-fried chicken. I incorporated some stuff from a recipe I found online, which suggested initially frying the chicken in an iron frying pan on the stovetop until it is brown on both sides, and then throwing it into the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for fifteen minutes. We'll see how it turned out.

What I'm going to do for lunch the last five days of this run, I'm not sure. I may stop and pick something up sometime before I switch to the later shift. There are very few places - possibly no places - around here that are open past midnight where I can buy lunch ingredients. This was always a problem when I last worked this shift, nearly six years ago. We'll see how long I stay on this shift.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Adezzo, one last time

I went to the Be Daring Open Mic at Adezzo in Scranton this past Wednesday, possibly for the last time for quite a long time. My new shift has me working late every Wednesday night, so unless I take time off, I won't be able to make any more until my shift changes. Hare are thumbnail-sized versions of the photos I uploaded to Facebook.


The Be Daring Open Mic is held the last Wednesday of every month at 6:30 PM (signups begin at 6:00) at Adezzo in Scranton, PA. Check it out if you can!

Friday, February 01, 2019


This work week is finally over. After this weekend we move on to a five-day transitional week, followed directly by a five-day work week on my 3:30-to-midnight shift. I need to get a lot of things done this weekend that I won't otherwise be able to do until Valentine's Day and the day after.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Poem: A poem of Los Angeles

I went to the Be Daring Open Mic at Adezzo in Scranton last night, mainly  to see a friend I haven't seen in over a year. I'm starting a new schedule in just over a week, and I don't know when I'll get to be there again. I decided I wanted to read, and scrambled to find something I hadn't read before. I found the rough version of a poem that I had put together a few weeks ago. Reading it over, I decided it was in good enough shape to present. So I did.

This poem was originally written Friday, January 11, 2019, and first read Wednesday, January 30, 2019.

A poem of Los Angeles

Almost wrote a poem of Los Angeles today
I was reading a story by Harlan Ellison
written the year I was born
a few pages in, it's a love letter to a Los Angeles that
isn't anymore
and probably wasn't even when he wrote it
like Ocean's 11
(the original, with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin)
when Danny Ocean rolls out a map
hidden in a magic cane
that shows the five main casinos in a Las Vegas that
isn't anymore
and probably wasn't even then

I was there over two decades ago
for a week
(in Los Angeles, not Las Vegas, I've never been there)
the Los Angeles I saw then is gone
Madonna doesn't live in a candy-striped house anymore
the division of our company we were there to work with
closed just a few years later
a train ran behind it, in the industrial area known as Commerce
the people there got a kick out of seeing our eyes get wide
when the rumble of it shook the building

I learned there that all it took to make any food
was to put a slice of avocado on it

While I was there the rings of Chicxulub crater were discerned
the long-hidden footprint of the ripples
left by the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs

I got soaked on Hermosa Beach
we were on a tear as our time ran out
we had installed our database
taught them how to use the programs
and realized we had seen nothing of Los Angeles

so in one stretch we drove as much of the Pacific Coast Highway as we could
Hermosa had a steep beach
I stood well back on the shore, watching the waves roll in
not far enough back once they hit and climbed
and wrapped around my knees

The smog wasn't so bad on Monday
a little worse on Tuesday
horrible by Friday
and only gradually cleared over the weekend

that Los Angeles is gone
and I almost wrote a poem about it

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Snowy birthday

The weather forecast for the first day of my fifty-first year (or is it the first day of my fifty-second year? I can never remember) called for snow today, and it wasn't wrong. The snow was supposed to start overnight, begin in earnest around 8:00 AM, carry on through the afternoon, and stop in the early evening - and darned if that wasn't what happened.

When I looked outside early this morning I thought the snow had stopped already, leaving us with just a dusting. But when I listened closely, I could hear the sizzling hiss that indicated that a fine snow was falling. The ride in to work wasn't particularly bad, but the snow continued to fall throughout the day, and the ride back home was much more challenging. This was for the most part a "sweepable" snow, provided you had a strong enough broom. In the end, the total snowfall in Nanticoke was somewhere between four and five inches.

Now comes the next phase of the storm: extreme cold. We'll see how these next few days go.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Half a century gone

Tonight marks the end of my first half-century on Earth. It's been quite a ride. I've met many interesting people, been lots of places, had many adventures, and done a few things. I still don't feel "old" in any sense that I once imagined it, though the white hairs on my chin and above my lip mark me as such. Just a few years ago I was keeping pace with someone a quarter-century younger than me, during what could best be described as my "midlife crisis." Granted, I was generally getting three to four hours of sleep at that time, and was gradually dying from the strain, but I think it was worth it in the end. At least, I enjoyed our time together, and I think I made her life better in important ways. I've hinted at bits of that story before. Maybe someday I'll tell the whole thing.

So: off to sleep. When I wake five and a half hours from now, I will be another year older. And the next chapter will have begun.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Schedule changes coming

My training period at work is ending soon. After that I'll be moving to a new schedule.

This week will be my tenth week of training, and my last week of working Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. The following week, February 4 through February 8, will be the final week of training, still Monday through Friday but on a transitional schedule of 11:00 AM to 7:30 PM. After that, my regular schedule will begin: Saturday through Wednesday, 3:30 PM through 12:00 AM. This means that I will be working ten consecutive days, February 4 through February 13.

To make tings even more complicated, on the morning of February 13 we will be having an "all hands" meeting: upper management will be hosting a breakfast, pep rally, and meeting with all employees. Attendance is not mandatory, but is strongly encouraged. So on the morning of the last day of this ten day stretch, sleep cycles will be disrupted by this early morning get-together. In the past when I have worked shifts ending around this time, I often wouldn't get to sleep until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. In the early morning hours of February 13, I will have to get to bed as soon as I get home, then wake up around 5:00 AM, head up to the breakfast around 8:00 AM, then be back by 11:00 AM and be ready to head out to work prior to 3:00 PM. That will be a bit of a trick.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Random TV watching

Working where I do, I'm in touch with people who take their television a lot more seriously than I do: Netflix, TiVo, premium channels... I usually don't watch television, but sometimes I just watch whatever catches my eye when I happen to be doing something else that allows me to keep half an eye on the TV. The random nature of occasionally finding something on TV that interests me is kind of amusing. Case in point: As I write this, I'm currently watching Saturday Night Live, for the first time in a long time. (I love James McAvoy, but did they just get lazy and decide to put him in every sketch?) In recent weeks I've seen a bunch of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, including The Avengers, Captain America: Civil War, and Doctor Strange. (Three times I've surfed to Doctor Strange, each time at exactly the same scene - when he unwisely begins to manipulate time with a spell from the Book of Cagliostro, without realizing that the warnings are written after the spell.)

Tonight I saw most of Rogue One, for the second time ever. It's a hell of a ride, and probably my favorite Star Wars movie. It's most effective when seen immediately before the original Star Wars (a.k.a. A New Hope.) Suddenly Luke and the gang seem like a bunch of bumbling bumpkins who got off a lucky shot and were awarded participation trophies for their accomplishment, while the heroes of Rogue One - all of them - made incredible sacrifices that made the destruction of the Death Star possible and were promptly forgotten, relegated to a footnote.

When I was a kid I would study TV Guide each week to see what was coming on, what might interest me. Now I just watch the news, Chris Hayes on MSNBC, and the occasional random movie that happens to be on when I have time to watch. In a few years, with current trends, who knows what television will be like? Maybe this form of watching TV will seem as quaint as the TV Guide era does today.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Sleep now

Mom is home. Still much work to do. But for now, I need to turn off my alarm and go to bed.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


The house is as ready as it's going to be for my mom's return and recuperation from knee surgery. Maybe I can do a few more things in the morning. But I have to go to bed now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Final push

My mom is coming home on Friday, after being in the hospital for a week and a physical rehabilitation facility for two weeks. She still has a long way to go with recovering from knee replacement surgery, but I'm hoping she'll have a lot less pain than she did before.

I've been spending the last few days cleaning and rearranging the house for her. It should all be ready for Friday. I've managed to keep all of the cats alive for her, too, even the elderly one we didn't expect to make it to the Christmas before last, or the newly-sick one we didn't think would survive past this last Christmas.

The snow that fell Saturday night and turned to ice on Sunday could have posed a problem for her return, but rain and above-freezing temperatures may melt away most of it by Friday. Note to self: no ice melt outperforms calcium chloride pellets. Be sure to get a supply of that ASAP.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Monday, January 21, 2019

The coldest day

It's cold today. It was about two degrees Fahrenheit this morning, much colder than it was yesterday. But it's nowhere near as cold as it was on this date twenty-five years ago, on January 21, 1994, when temperatures dropped to the lowest ever seen in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  WNEP posted a video from 2004 that commemorated the ten-year anniversary of the event here:
Video Vault: Coldest Day (

For more information, see here:
1994 North American cold wave (Wikipedia)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Total lunar eclipse, January 20 - 21, 2019

The SUPER BLOOD WOLF MOON! I'll be adding photos as I get them.

Here's the first, a few minutes after the start of the partial eclipse:

10:34 PM
10:53 PM

11:13 PM

11:36 PM

11:58 PM

12:20 AM

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Back off man, I work for a telecom

My career path has been an odd one.

I started with a B.S. in Physics and moved on to graduate school, planning to get my Master's and a Ph.D. in short order. That plan was quickly derailed. I then moved into industry, starting out at a small solar cell manufacturer connected to my (now former) graduate school.

After a year and a half of this, I returned to Northeastern Pennsylvania and began working for a record, cassette, VHS, LaserDisk, and compact disc manufacturer. Starting out as a CD plater, making the stampers from which compact discs were pressed, this turned into a long and lucrative series of positions: a Statistical Process Control Coordinator in the CD Pre-production department, a data analyst for all of CD manufacturing, and at the turn of the century, the Asset Manager for the newly-created DVD Compression, Encoding, and Authoring department. Even after this all began to fall apart in 2007, I still stayed on for several more years as a DVD Mold/Bond operator.

As that job became increasingly unreliable, I moved into a totally different industry: travel. This was a bit of an adjustment after over twenty years in the manufacturing industry. But, after six years in the travel business, I finally felt completely comfortable in the role - which was a signal to the universe to pull the rug out from under me, again. Within a few months our office shut down, and I was looking to start over, again.

And now, I work for...well, most people think of it as a cable company, which would be a terrible industry to stake one's future on. But in fact it is a cable, phone, and internet provider, so there is a level of robustness. Many of the people I am working with have been with the company twenty years or more, which I find surprising and reassuring.

There is a rub, however.

The "phone" part makes us a telecom, a telecommunications provider. This makes us an essential service, part of the communications infrastructure that keeps the country informed in good times and in bad. The practical upshot of this is: we never close due to weather. In extremely inclement weather like we are expected to experience in the coming days - snow followed by ice followed by days of subfreezing temperatures - we are expected to be at work, on time and ready to save the day. Even if the state declares an emergency and closes the highways, we are authorized to be on them, by virtue of the fact that we work for a telecom. If we get pulled over, we are to show our badges and advise that, as telecom workers, we are an essential service. Which is simultaneously cool and crappy.

We'll see if I have to use this awesome power on Monday.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Super Blood Wolf Moon

Sunday, January 20 will mark the second anniversary of the start of the Trump occupation of the White House - which, thanks to the historically tacky banquet served there earlier this week, will have a lingering stench of Big Macs and Filets-O-Fish for years to come.

Coincidentally, that evening everyone in the United States (and all of the Americas, as well as Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, England, Norway, and other parts of Europe and Africa) will have an opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse. (See here for details and timings.) Like all lunar eclipses, it takes place during a Full Moon, and like all Full Moons, this one bears a special name bequeathed upon it by folk tradition - the "Full Wolf Moon." Because it is happening at a time when the Moon is close to its closest approach to Earth in its monthly orbit, it will appear larger than most Full Moons - hence the unofficial designation as a "Super Moon." And because it is a total lunar eclipse, the Moon will move through the central part of the Earth's shadow, vanishing more and more into darkness, until, at the point of totality, it will be bathed the light of every sunrise and sunset taking place during the eclipse, causing it to brighten into a color that can range from rosy pink to brick red to deep purple - though in the popular imagination (and sometimes in reality) it takes on the color of blood, which is why total lunar eclipses are sometimes called "Blood Moons." Put them all together and you get a Super Wolf Blood Moon.

Which sounds pretty damned ominous for someone.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Barnes & Noble to reopen January 30!

The Barnes & Noble at the Arena Hub Plaza in Wilkes-Barre Township, damaged in the tornado that tore through the plaza on June 13, 2018, is scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, January 30. A special sneak preview is planned for Tuesday, January 29 at 6:00 PM.

I may not be able to make it to the January 30 re-opening as I am planning to go to the Be Daring Open Mic in Scranton that evening, which will feature the triumphant (but temporary) return of a soldier/poet who has been stationed in South Korea for what seems like forever. I may be able to make it out to the sneak preview on January 29, if I don't have anything else going on that day...

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Make straight the path

My mom should be coming home from the physical rehab center sometime next week. Between now and then, I'm trying to get the house in shape for her return. She'll be using a walker for a few weeks while she recovers from her knee surgery, so I have to make sure that all walkways through the house have adequate clearance for her to move with a walker. For the most part this involves some temporary furniture relocation, but some areas will require a more radical approach. I think I can manage to get all this done in the next week. Maybe.

Monday, January 14, 2019

So much winning

Click to enlarge.

Note for future historians: This is during the longest shutdown of the Federal government in U.S. history, a shutdown being forced by Donald Trump, who refuses to end it until congress agrees to provide more than five billion dollars in funding for a little more than two hundred miles of border wall. This is also shortly after news broke that Trump had, to no one's surprise,been under FBI investigation for potentially being a Russian "asset." Trump is now serving fast food in the White House.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Kai-Fu Lee, thirty-five years later

My grandmother used to love the news magazine program 60 Minutes. I found it mostly uninteresting, but sometimes I would watch it with her. Decades later I sometimes watch it on my own and think of her. Sometimes I find some of the segments interesting.

Today I heard a familiar name mentioned in the opening, just before I had a chance to change the channel: Kai-Fu Lee. Kai-Fu Lee, they said, is currently the biggest name in artificial intelligence, and they would be interviewing him at length.

Kai-Fu Lee? My computer science professor from Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences?

In the summer of 1984 I was one of eighty students from across Pennsylvania - one from each Intermediate Unit - selected to participate in the annual program known as Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences, held at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. I've written about it before. For five weeks we took intensive courses in Discrete Mathematics, Computer Science, Organic Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and Physics. Our computer science class focused on a programming language called LISP, and was taught by a young professor named Kai-Fu Lee.

I really haven't thought about him much in the intervening thirty-five years. My main interest turned out to be in Physics. I double-majored in Physics and Philosophy from 1985 through 1989, and briefly pursued graduate studies in Physics after getting my bachelor's degree. I haven't kept in touch with many of my PGSS classmates, but I do reminisce about my time there every once in a while.

Kai-Fu Lee has been busy those past thirty-five years.

Here's his Wikipedia page:

Hereis his Twitter page, currently with 1.61 million followers:

And here is tonight's 60 Minutes segment on Kai-Fu Lee:

Like I said, he's been busy.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Undecorating Weekend

I'm finally removing the last of the Christmas decorations from the house. Monday I took down the stuff that was outside. Today I finally had a chance to put away the tree. (The ornaments were mostly removed a week ago.) Tomorrow I will box up the antique ceramic tree and put away the assorted wreaths and knick-knacks from around the house. I'll also remove the cemetery decorations, before the groundskeepers toss them at the end of the month.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Almost wrote a poem tonight

What came out doesn't count as a poem
a collection of memories vomited onto the electronic page
waiting to be chopped and shuffled,
edited and expanded

My favorite poem was started on a scrap of paper
a smattering of thoughts and phrases
gradually tied together
written and rewritten
gutted and expanded
written in blood and soul-stuff
edited again
then read in public

This one is far from any of that

But I almost wrote a poem tonight

I got soaked on Hermosa Beach
we were on a tear as our time ran out
we had installed our database
taught them how to use the programs
and realized we had seen nothing of Los Angeles

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Potato leek soup

My mom was served potato leek soup in the hospital yesterday and really liked it. She remembered that she has had it before at Pasquale's, a favorite local restaurant. I decided to try to learn how to make it for her eventual return home.

I found four different recipes. At least, I think they're different.* I haven't compared the ingredient lists to see if they might be almost exactly the same, or if one is just a plagiarized version of another. In the manner of food blogs, at least one of them starts off with a rambling story, then describes the making of the soup, and only later gets to listing the ingredients. Each version calls for eight cups of chicken stock, except one that goes rogue and calls for seven cups of low-sodium chicken stock. I've never used pre-made chicken stock, but if it's good enough for Ratatouille the Rat, I guess I can use it. I might consider cutting the recipe that I use in half. The soup, once made, only keeps for a day or two.

Food Network: Potato Leek Soup (Robert Irvine)

Once Upon a Chef: Potato Leek Soup (Jenn Segal)

Food and Wine: Potato and Leek Soup (Andrew Zimmern)

MyRecipes: Potato Leek Soup (Sunset)

*Turns out I opened the Food and Wine recipe twice. I added a fourth from MyRecipes, which looks pretty easy.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Changes coming, maybe

I've maintained a post-a-day schedule since sometime last March. I wanted to see if I could get back into the habit, which I had fallen away from for several years. The experiment has had mixed results. Some of the posts have the feel of filler posts, though those may turn out to be significant to reconstructing this part of my life someday. Some posts were image-heavy, which felt great, until it turned out that I had uploaded the images in an unstable way, and now have a lot of broken images that need to be replaced.

My mom is recovering from knee surgery this week. The hospital she's in is half a mile from where I work, which is convenient for me. But my visits with her mean that I'm getting home hours later than usual. And there's still plenty to do with the house, and the cats. Tonight is garbage night, which means cleaning out the litterboxes completely (not just removing used litter) and hauling everything out. Today also saw me making an emergency trip to the grocery store, since I managed to simultaneously run out of every type of canned cat food. I'm only halfway through the garbage, and I should be getting to bed soon. I'll be lucky to get five hours of sleep tonight.

So, as this goes on, I may need to dial back the daily posting, We'll see.

Oh, before I forget: Yesterday I began the process of undecorating the outside of my house and my mom's house. Everything is down at my house, which is now set up for Valentine's Day, and everything is off the front of my mom's house. Shortly after I finished, a line of thunderstorms blew through the area. In their wake came much colder temperatures. We shouldn't get above freezing until sometime next week.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Of surgery and weird dreams

First and foremost, my mom had her knee surgery today, and it went well. She's in recovery now. She may be home very soon, or may go to a physical rehabilitation center for a bit to learn how to walk again.

I set my alarm for 3:30 this morning so I could make sure everyone else got up on time. (They did.) I went to bed just after 9:00 PM. I woke up at 10:30, just after midnight, sometime around 1:00, sometime around 2:00, just after 3:00, and then with the alarm at 3:30.

You only remember dreams if you wake during them. With all that waking, it was almost inevitable that I would remember one.

In this dream I was doing something similar to what I am currently doing in my new job.  People were calling me about subscription services they had purchased. Their rates had gone up, and they were calling me to see what could be done to lower their monthly bills. Only, instead of cable, internet, and telephone packages, these were Dungeons & Dragons packages, including character profiles (race, class, alignment, statistics, skills, gear, and weapons), as well as guaranteed access to upcoming adventures. Oh, and instead of people, the customers calling me were my cats. I was doing my best to come to amicable solutions that would last them for twelve months. I woke up to my oldest cat sleeping on my pillow next to me, and I felt glad that I had worked out a solution that would keep him as a customer through at least next January 6.

And then I woke up. It was time to see my mom off to her surgery.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Early to bed, early to rise

My mom is going in for knee replacement surgery in the morning. I won't be going with her - my brother and sister will be taking her in the morning. She has to go in very early, and be there by 5:00 AM. I get to be everyone's wake-up call. Time to set the alarm for 3:00 in the morning...

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Dial-A-Moon 2019

I wrote about NASA's Dial-A-Moon a while back. It's a very useful site for knowing the phase of the Moon at any hour of any day. The site is only set to cover a single calendar year, and a new version is released every year. I knew that the waning crescent Moon had vanished in the morning sky a few days ago, and wanted to see if I might have a chance of seeing a thin sliver of the very young Moon in this evening's clear sky. I peeked out the front door and saw nothing. So I went to the site - the new, 2019 Dial-A-Moon site - and saw this:

...the hell? Has the Trump Shutdown (the third one of his time of occupying the White House, and the third one that he entered into with Republican control of Congress) extended even here? Will there be no Dial-A-Moon as long as Trump continues to hold the Federal government hostage over his wall fetish?

No. I just happened to hit the site when the Moon was at 0.0% illumination. New Moon = "no Moon." Some parts of the world actually experienced a partial solar eclipse today, the first of the new year. And because of the way these things work, this will be followed by a lunar eclipse in just over two weeks, the evening of January 20 and morning of January 21. This will be a total lunar eclipse, and will be visible from all of North and South America. I hope I can get pictures like I did in September 2015!

Friday, January 04, 2019


I passed out for several hours after getting home today. We are still in training, but this was our second week of taking calls. We were scheduled to go back into class next week for two weeks to learn another facet of the job, then spend another two weeks on the floor, and in the second week we would be transitioning to an afternoon shift, and the week after that we would switch to our night shift positions in production. But as this is the busy season - a very busy busy season - we are being kept on the phones an extra week, extending our training by a week.

The practical upshot of this for me is that I will be able to go to an open mic the last week of January and see a friend who is currently serving with the Army in South Korea. Yay me!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Writers' Showcase: Winter 2019 Edition

UPDATE: Due to severe weather expected on the original date, the Writers' Showcase Winter Edition has been rescheduled to February 9, 2019.

The Winter 2019 edition of the Writers' Showcase will be held Saturday, January 19 February 9 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 West Market Street in Scranton. Admission is just $4.00 for an evening of stories and poems by Kimberly Boland, Aurora Bonner, Rachael Hughes, Laurel Radzieski, and Alyssa Waugh, hosted by Brian Fanelli and Dawn Leas.

Go here for the event's Facebook page.