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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fringeville #125, October 23 2014

Have a beer and some wings. Save some for me.

I am deep in the heart of election season. While I am not running, I am still very much in the thick of things and as I usually do around this time I've taken a mini-hiatus while I work with committees and candidates.

I will pop off a few quick notes:

1)  My last post was about Ebola way back on September 30 before the whole nation went bat-shit crazy over the disease. I have read some of the most bizarre things on social media about the disease. Full panic mode with some folks. It reminds me of the people who called the police because a mysterious white powder was on the hood or roof of their cars during the anthrax mania. It was, of course, bird poop. Or maybe the aforementioned bat-shit.

Ebola has, of course, become a big political football. Early on I asked if Ebola might be the current President's Katrina. I criticized the response, particularly not blocking access to travelers to the U.S. from West Africa. Local radio host Sue Henry has said repeatedly that Ebola shouldn't be politicized. I mostly agree with her. But unfortunately the only way that you can get the current guy in the White House to do anything seems to be by applying enormous political pressure. Which often doesn't work anyway. He golfs to a different putter.

But when I start reading bizarre theories that this or that Party or President did this on purpose, or that some off the wall "cure" exists using common household cleaning items, well enough is enough.

So no more Ebola posts from me. As I said earlier, some folks have gone bat-shit crazy and at that point I exit, stage right.

2) Once this election season is over, I am making some very big life decisions. It has been an extraordinarily challenging and difficult year. I am ending it in far worse shape than I started it on just about every level. (Yes, my health is holding. But the old me is way back there in the rear-view in a heap in the ditch).  I will probably be stepping away from a lot of things. I will probably be working a whole lot more because I need the moolah.

So that is it for now. Consider this one of my occasional "I'm still alive, gang" posts. 

Look for a return to Fringeville in early November, after the dust at the polls settles.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fringeville #124, September 30 2014

The Ebola Virus

I was working in a local hospital when AIDS became a huge story in this country. My job was carting people around in wheelchairs or on litters to and from tests, etc. There was always the chance of contact with blood or body fluid. Because of that, we received instruction on Universal Precautions.

Because there was so much fear of this disease, and so many myths and misconceptions about how it was spread, we were given some training that was specific to HIV. The training was straightforward. I recall the doctor doing the training telling us that the HIV virus needed a human host to survive. It would die quickly in most situations outside the body. It was also not spread casually. You weren't going to get it from shaking hands, picking up patient dinner trays, or breathing the air in a patient's room.

Then he asked if there were any questions. And immediately I saw how poorly humans handle the unknown when it comes in the form of disease.

Time and time again the doctor had to explain to folks that casual contact wasn't going to do it. It just wasn't sinking in. The anxiety in the room was palpable.

People, you see, are not at their best when a plague comes to town.

I recall this today because we now have the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States. As the virus exists today, it isn't spread by the air or through casual contact. It is, however, a remarkably vicious disease, and there is no shame in being afraid of it.

But I have already read a post on social media blaming the disaster-that-is-our-southern-border for this first case. (Which is absolutely not true. According to news reports, the person diagnosed flew here from Liberia.)

When I read the post, it made me think of the early days of AIDS, when that disease was tagged by some as "the gay disease." It was an uncomfortable parallel. HIV: Blame the gays. Ebola: Blame illegal immigrants. Or Obama. Or both.

I don't expect Ebola, as it exists today, to explode in the United States as it has in Africa. We are much better poised to isolate and halt the disease. I am crossing my fingers that cooler heads will prevail and folks will realize the odds of getting Ebola in the U.S. are going to be very, very small indeed.

But notice I've twice used the phrase "as it exists today" about the Ebola virus. Should it mutate and become hardy enough to be transmitted through the air, all bets are off. This is a very, very unlikely scenario. But not impossible. Every time a virus replicates, there is a chance of a mutation. Stop an outbreak, and you stop the mutations.

If, however, the unthinkable occurs, I am confident of one thing: It will not be a shining moment in humanity's history. We fear the unknown, for the most part. And when the unknown is also unseen until it strikes, it is a recipe ripe for panic and paranoia.

* * *

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fringeville #123, September 28 2014

...I just needed eight more kicks to bring this baby home.

The Lions got punched in the face yesterday by a 1-2 Northwestern squad. 29-6. In Beaver Stadium. And who (of course) provided the points? Fricken Ficken. God Bless him.

To quote both Hans Solo and Darth Vader, I had a bad feeling about this one. So I took the wife on a foliage ride.

And a splendid time was had.

In two weeks we'll see how they respond to their first pounding. Welcome to the meat of your season, men. time, use the damned Force!

* * *

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fringeville #122, September 21 2014

Churchill knew this. It is a bit of wisdom we need to put in practice in this country at all levels of government before it is too late.

Winston Churchill also suffered from bouts of depression, and they may have been a major factor in how he led Britain through the dark and dangerous years of World War II, when many were ready to write off his island nation to the Nazis.

He called these fits of depression his "Black Dog."  And yet, as debilitating as depression can be, he managed to rise above it at a time when lesser men would have thrown in the towel.

These days, I think a lot about Winston's Black Dog. I haven't had to wrestle much with this beast for a long time, but this year is different. Every time I think I've got the little sumbitch penned up, he breaks free and snaps at my heals.

I wish I could cattle-prod the little peckerwood. I'll have to settle for the palliative effects of wings and java.

* * *

Frickin' Ficken. I love this guy.

For a while on Saturday, it looked like another day where the unsung hero for Penn State was going to be Sam Ficken. Penn State is 4-0, but Ficken's foot is why the Lion's weren't 1-2 heading into the game Saturday with Massachusetts. When Christian Hackenberg got off to an agonizingly ssslllooowww start, reliable #97 (or, as I like to call  him, Frickin' Ficken) put a pair of field goals on the board to get the Lions some points that salvaged two drives.

This time out, however, the Lions finally got their running game going. (Truth is, I thought it started to improve in the second half of the Rutgers game). Frickin' Ficken was pretty busy the rest of the day, but this time he was sending thundering kicks through the end zone on kickoffs and kicking a mess of extra points.

But I love this kid. He's a great story. After a very shaky start at Penn State, he has become Mr. Reliable.

Nah...I don't like the sound of that.

Frickin' Ficken. That's the ticket.

* * *

...another day, another shooting in Wilkes-Barre

There was a shooting this past week in Wilkes-Barre. Not exactly earth shaking news these days. This time out, a 23-year old man died of multiple gunshot wounds. According to the Times Leader, the victim was facing drug charges filed by police in Hanover Township.

There were the usual and predictable comments posted at local news sites. Honestly, I've gotten to where I almost never read the comments anymore. You can just cut and paste them from story to story and probably never notice the difference.

As I have so many times, I digested the story and put it down as another case of the drug-related violence that has turned parts of Wilkes-Barre into a combat zone. A place where gunshots are just part of the normal background noise once darkness falls. I figured it was simply one less member of our local criminal element out of the picture. One who would not have the opportunity to shoot someone else one day.

But a funny thing happened along the way to my quick rush to judgement: I read a Facebook post by someone I respect who knew the person who was shot. Someone who was absolutely heartbroken. Someone who had worked to salvage this person's life.

At that point, I realized this was not a story about yet another faceless gangster/drug dealer/thug the world was better off without. There is a bigger picture here: we are losing far too many of our young people to drugs and the violence that often comes with it.

It is easy to frown at the newspaper and dismiss a homicide victim as one less drug dealer. It's a helluva lot harder to look in the mirror and admit to ourselves that as a society we have failed.

Which takes us back to Churchill. And courage. Are we strong enough to admit we have failed? And are we courageous enough to do anything about it?

* * *

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fringeville #121, September 14 2014

SAY OUR NAME time, Kyle, none of this TTFP crap. It just pisses them off...

I think we got us a big, fat, new-old rivalry.

...sometimes, you just gotta say the name...
 * * *

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fringeville #120, September 12 2014

Pilot to Bombardier...Fire at Will!

Due to basic anatomy, guys learn as kids that there are some things they can do that the girls just can't. One of the first things we learn is that males can gain remarkable control of their urinary streams. This seems to be a skill reserved for humans. Dogs, for instance, just raise their legs and fire.

Not so, males of the human species. Early on, we get coached on how to make sure we're not missing our target: the toilet bowl. The coaching goes (with variation) something like this:

Dad: C'mon son. Time to pee.
Son: Oh, boy! Cheerios!
Dad: We're not eating these.
Dad: Aim at the hole.
Son: Cheerios in the toilet!
Dad: Yes. Aim. Sink one.
Son: Really???
Dad: Mom doesn't want to mop the floor every time you have to pee.
Son: Are we still gonna eat it?
Dad: No! Just sink the damned thing.
Mom: (from the other side of the door): What the hell is going on? Do I need the mop again?
Dad:  We're playing sink the Bismark. Aim son!
Son: I missed!
Dad: Yeah, you did. Next time, I'm not wearing sandals. Try again!
Son: I did it! I did it!
Dad: Great job. Go tell Mom. She's in the kitchen.
Dad washes feet. Mom enters the room.
Mom: What did you do in here?
Dad: You didn't want him peeing on the floor. I had him sink some Cheerios.
Mom: That explains it.
Dad: Explains what?
Mom: He just tried to pee in a box of Krispy Kremes.

After fits and starts, guys get pretty good at fire control. By elementary school, they can write their names in the snow. The skill remains pretty much intact until they hit college age and discover fraternities and/or alcohol, when the skill degrades temporarily.

And then there's prostate cancer, which plays all kinds of havoc on the male urinary system. If you get that bad boy removed, you find yourself relearning all the basic skills, including dancing the Watusi when you have to absolutely go the bathroom this very second.

But one day, if you are patient and the gods of healing are friendly to you, it all comes back. Cheerio Mojo. But I will not, under any circumstances, relive grade school and write my name.

And your Krispy Kremes are safe.

* * * 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fringeville #119, September 08 2014

Saturday: a really, really, REALLY, bad day for the B1G

Crash. Burn.

Buckeyes: Bombed.
Wolverines: Whipped
Spartans: Speared.
Boilermakers: Boiled alive.

And the rest of the B1G: Many of the wins were not pretty, and some could have/should have been losses. I mean... Nebraska nearly losing to McNeese State? I remember when they'd hang 50 on a team like that before halftime.

Hey, but Penn State beat Akron so I had a good weekend. Rutgers won, too. So come Saturday, an undefeated B1G team will win.

Put the wings on!

* * *

Suddenly, that upcoming Rutgers game takes on all kinds of significance.  With the Big Ten already written off by some folks, the NCAA (in their own inimitable style) just turned everything on its head: they immediately revoked Penn State's bowl ban and restored its football scholarships.

Penn State could conceivably win the Big Ten crown. Realistically, that would be a stretch as they are still very, very thin due to the scholarship reductions placed on them.

But with much of the conference having apparently degenerated to turtle-poop, this season instantly became a helluva lot more interesting.

I gotta go dig out my buffalo dip recipe. I might have me a bowl game to watch this year!

* * *