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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fringeville Edition #31, August 31 2011

We’ve plummeted through the 200lb barrier. I can see my toes!  We’re at 198.2 this week. Again, the super secret technique (keep it to yourselves until I patent it): Eat less, exercise more.

* * *
Along those lines:  Had a long-overdue cardiac stress test last Friday. The doctor hasn’t called to schedule any Roto-Rooter work on my coronary arteries, so the chicken wings aren’t killing me yet.

* * *
One of my fiction pieces, an excerpt from my first novella, earned an honorable mention in the June 2011 Glimmer Train Fiction Open. It’s a big deal to me. It validates the time I spend writing (and I really don’t have a lot of time with my schedule). Not counting newspaper work years ago, I’ve made $11.75 writing. You don’t do this for love, kids. It’s brutal work. You do it because it’s as necessary as breathing.

* * *
I’ve made decisions about my political campaign. More to come on that soon.
* * *

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fringeville Edition #30, August 28 2011

I put in a full Saturday at the office doing equipment maintenance and related chores. We were also doing electrical work elsewhere in the building that required a planned power outage, so I found myself in the dark swapping out big-ass UPS batteries by the glow of a flashlight.

Most of the time, I was laying on my side on the floor and at my age you want to spend as little time on the floor as possible (it’s just too hard getting back up). It’s also fun for me to work in the data center because the equipment racks are metal. Every minute or so one of my cochlear implant processors, which are held to my head by powerful magnets, would leap off my noggin and attach itself to an equipment rack, causing me to go instantly deaf on that side.

In the course of a work week my bionics might leap off my head a couple of times, usually when I’m bending over and changing paper in a printer. I go deaf on one side, glance up, and there’s my bionic ear sticking to the printer. 

It scares the bejesus out of people who see it happen for the first time, because they think the implants were ripped out of my head and I’m going to hemorrhage to death in front of them. 

Sorry, kids, no such entertainment (but sometimes I fall to the ground and twitch and thrash a moment, just to mess with them …I don’t do that often because, as I said, it’s just too hard to get back up).

The processors leap off my head at home, too. 

I can’t walk too close to corners in my house. Corners have metal reinforcement under the plaster, and if I pass too close: whoosh! …there goes a processor, flying off my head and attaching itself to the wall like one of those ridiculous and pathetic dust people in the Swiffer commercials. ear is stuck to the mop frame...

So between rolling around on the floor and pulling my bionics off equipment racks every other minute, I wasn’t having a helluva lot of fun. Worse, I began to suspect the data center was haunted. Every once in a while I’d roll onto my right side and hear someone talking. I’d roll back to look, but no one was there. 

This happened about a dozen times. It started to spook me, frankly. I couldn’t quite make out the voice or the words because there was still some equipment running on backup battery and half the time I had one ear deaf because my bionics went airborne.

When the maintenance was finished and power restored, I went out to a cubicle in the office to plug something back into a wall outlet. As I lay on my right side on the floor I once again heard the ghostly mystery voice: SAY CHEESE!

Turns out my cell phone took a dozen photos of the inside of my pants while I was working. Let’s be merciful with the lens-size jokes, please.


* * *

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fringeville Edition #29, August 25 2011

The vacation weight damage has been undone. I’m at 201.8 pounds. No fad diet at work here. I eat a little less. I exercise a helluva lot more. It’s not glamorous but so far it works.

* * *

So far this week we’ve had an earthquake. (I didn’t feel it, but our phones cut out at work for about a minute.)

Next up: A hurricane, and the media is already building us up to a frenzy. I’m sure there will be lines at Wal Marts from here to Nantucket for everything from bottled water to heavy weapons for the post-Apocalypse world the storm leaves in its wake.

About all we need now is an announcement from NASA that a giant asteroid is on a collision course with Al Gore’s house. Or maybe a gamma ray burst will emanate from some part of the sky and give us all permanent sunburn.

Actually, I don’t like to jest about hurricanes. They're scary as hell.

Back in 2005, I downloaded section 3 of a draft of New York City’s Comprehensive Mitigation Plan. I did this after hurricane Katrina, because I was curious about the impact of a major hurricane on New York City.

It ain’t pretty, kids.

Here’s a snippet from page 24:

“…While heavy rainfall, powerful winds, and tornados pose serious dangers, storm surge is the greatest hurricane-related hazard. Historically, storm surge is responsible for causing nine out of ten hurricane-related deaths. In New York – which is particularly susceptible to storm surge – a Category 4 hurricane could produce a 30-foot storm surge in certain areas. In this worst-case scenario, storm surge may reach five miles into Brooklyn.”

And for you financial Apocalypse fans, here’s another snippet from page 32:

“…During a hurricane, financial services may shut down in the event of heavy winds, power outages, or flooding. The Financial District, located in Downtown Manhattan, is particularly susceptible to the dangers of storm surge. Even though many financial institutions have their own back-up generators in the event of a power disruption, the potential flooding in lower Manhattan could make these businesses inoperable.”

Again, that was from the 2005 draft. I thought I’d check out a more current version, so I found the 2009 plan.

There's some scary stuff in here, too. There are also some snazzy charts and tables. Here’s a lovely little snippet from the 2009 document:

“…A Category 2 storm would completely inundate the Rockaway Peninsula and a Category 3 storm could put Coney Island under 21 feet of water. With more than 21 square miles of land within a Category 4 surge zone, a significant hurricane would affect millions of New Yorkers and compromise the City’s aging infrastructure.”

Well, that settles it.

If things go just wrong enough, it’s the end of the world as we know it.

‘Scuse me, I’m off to Wal Mart for an AK-47, sandbags for the gun emplacements, and some claymore mines. And mutant repellant, just in case a reactor melts down.

See you after the Apocalypse...

 "...every damned chicken wing joint is gone!"

* * *


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fringeville Edition #28, August 23 2011

It's eight days until Glimmer Train announces the winners of their June 2011 fiction open. I've got two stories in this one, and they're both still alive. Once stories are reviewed and passed over (a nice way of saying rejected), they are flagged as "complete." But these are both still flagged "In Process."  I don't know if that means they haven't been read yet, or if they've been read a couple times and keep making the cut.

Glimmer Train is a first-rate publication. The stories are superb. I've had a couple pieces finish as finalists in their competitions (in the top 5% or better). Considering the sheer volume of contest entrants they get each year (40,000, according to their website) I think I am entitled to a legitimate case of nerves. One of the stories still alive is a re-write of one that finished very, very well once before but didn't quiet get over the hump. That just adds to that little case of nerves.

Yup, I'm living on the edge of my seat.

If either one of these makes the top 25 or better, you'll hear shouts of joy coming from Plains. And if they don't... well, I've got two novels to finish!

* * *


Monday, August 22, 2011

Fringeville Edition #27, August 22 2011

Last week was pivotal week for me. Faced with uncertainties about my future and problems that offer no easy solutions, I did what I always do at times like these: I took long walks and threw myself into some physical labor.

There is something about putting the body into higher gear that starts to clear the cobwebs from the brain. Maybe it’s all the extra oxygen creeping into sleeping corners of my noggin.

Whatever it is, it works.

Time and again, long walks have done it for me. They’ve been lacking in my life because all the walking I did last year screwed up my knee. I've only been able to tackle flat ground, and there's not a lot of that around here. It’s taken a year for me to resume my walks, and you just might see me out and about with my new walking stick. That’s likely to become my trademark.

Throw some physical labor into the mix and my brain really kicks into high gear. I cut the grass twice and moved a crapload of equipment around at the office, and suddenly my head was brimming with ideas. It's no coincidence that I published my first e-book last week, or that I'm working hard on re-launching my campaign website right now. It's the magic of long walks and hard work. Works every time.

* * *

All the aforementioned physical labor was a good thing: I picked up about a half-pound on my Maine vacation. I weighed in last Wednesday at 204.2 pounds. Let’s see how much damage I undo by this week.

* * *


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fringeville Edition #26, August 17 2011

My head is in the clouds. Data clouds, that is.

I’m working with my son on redesigning my campaign webpage, and he hooked me up with a neat tool called Dropbox.

Dropbox lets you access or share your files wherever you are. Your data is in “the cloud” and you simply plop it into a folder on your PC. If you use multiple computers, you just add Dropbox to each and your files are shared and synchronized. Sure beats e-mailing files back and forth.

I know "the cloud" thing sounds spooky and mysterious... but think of it the way you think of your household's water supply: Do you really care how it got from wherever it was as long as it comes blasting out of your shower nozzle? All you really care about is getting wet. And praying no one flushes a toilet and gets you scalded.

I love cool software.

* * *

I’m Kindled.

I’ve published my first E-book at Amazon. It’s a single short story, and I’m selling it for a buck.

The E-book is called “July 27” and it’s one of my early (and well-received) short stories. It was accepted by Byline magazine, but that magazine went belly-up before my story was published.

I will, of course, shamelessly plug July 27 here. Again, it’s a buck. Have a million or so of your friends download a copy into their Kindles and keep me in chicken wings for the rest of my life.

* * *


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fringeville Edition #25, August 16 2011

Vacation Over...

We’re back. The resort was great. The wedding was terrific. There was the small problem of the room nearly catching fire, but no one was barbecued and it got us a free breakfast the next day.

I got a kick out of the comment I got comparing the resort to the one in The Shining.

There’s no resemblance at all between this place and the joint where Jack Nicholson ran amok.

Lastly, here’s a shot down the long, long hallway outside our room. Beautiful carpet, isn’t it?


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fringeville Edition #23, August 13 2011

Vacation, Day Three

When I was a kid my dad, Wally, bitched about gas prices every time he filled up the car.

"Twenty-seven cents a gallon! I remember when it was nineteen! If this keeps up, the price of gas will double. No one can afford to drive at forty-cents a gallon!"

I found this old pump on Sunday River Road in Newry, Maine. The last sale was at 36.9 cents a gallon. Wally would've been apoplectic if he saw that pump back in the day.

Prices now are eleven times or more what they were on this old pump. If Wally was still around, we'd have to dress him like Hannibal Lecter to keep him from gnawing the arms off gas pumps.

Hey, Wally: Four #$%% dollars a gallon!

* * *

In case anyone wonders why someone writes or blogs on vacation, here's my answer:  Writing is breathing to me. Can't stop breathing. It's bad for the skin color.

* * *

This vacation we were booked in two different areas of the resort: The first two nights in a traditional hotel, the rest of the time in a ski lodge open only to guests of my nephew's wedding. Everyone and anyone on hand is here for the nuptials, so we can all comfortably let down our hair a bit. It's all family or family-to-be.

When we checked in at the ski lodge, we were given a lovely room at the end of the hall. We were supposed to be on the 2nd floor, but the missus has a gimpy foot, so we asked for something on ground level. We got a nice big room with a little nook where I could write while the womenfolk slept. The bathroom was spacious, with plenty of room to store the all-important coolers.

We loved it, right up to the moment when the air conditioning unit nearly caught fire.

At first, it was fine. But after an hour or so, we smelled something.

"It's probably just musty inside," I said. "It hasn't been run in a while. It'll be fine in an hour or so."

But a couple hours later, I went to fetch the manager. The oddly electrical odor had crept halfway up the hall. While I was talking to the manager, the missus was in the room. The air conditioner made a series of pops and then smoke came out of the side, scaring the bejesus out her. I walked into the room just as the unit threatened to burst into flames and unplugged it.

A half hour later, we were in a tiny new room. But at least we weren't going to roast alive.

I went to bed at that point. Nearly burning down a resort just wears one out.

"Set the air conditioner to incinerate, Spock!"

* * *

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fringeville Edition #22, August 12 2011

Vacation, Day Two:
The GPS doesn't lie. It just doesn't tell the whole truth. I'll get to that shortly, but first...

For our second day in Maine, we went on a day trip in the trusty Dodge Neon. We were looking for moose. Our first stop was at Coos Canyon. Lots of rushing water, but no Bullwinkle.

Mooseless swimming hole

Next stop on the Bullwinkle-spotting mission was high up on the mountain overlooking the lake near Rangeley, Maine. We spotted a wild dog, but no Bullwinkle. The scenery was breathtaking (and I'm sorry I'm a crappy photographer, a sin made all the worse by my pictures being taken by my phone).

Not even a moose-pie to be found

Up to this point, we'd pretty much kept to the directions we had for the driving tour. But we realized there wasn't time to finish the whole drive, and we still hadn't seen a moose.

I had a brainstorm.

"Hey, how about we go back a different way? I'll find an alternate route in the GPS."

The plan got a thumbs-up from my wife and daugher. Off we went looking for "Crosstown Road", which promised to cut across the countryside through sparsely inhabited country.

We left asphalt and started down a dirt road bordering a lake. Crosstown Road was just a short drive further, and it was yet another dirt road. We took the turn.

The road was a little rough. There were ruts and rocks that we had to dodge. After several bone-and-kidney-jarring minutes, the missus asked: "How much longer are we on this *&^% road?"

"GPS says another 6.5 miles. Hopefully it doesn't get worse than this."

In the woods nearby, the moose were snickering.

The road, as it turns out, is a logging road. After we nudged the Neon up a difficult hill, wheels spinning in loose gravel, I realized we were committed. I'd been lucky to get up the hill. I didn't want to try going back down.

It took an hour to creep all the way down Crosstown Road. There were holes and ruts. There was an area where half the road was washed away. There were makeshift bridges, one consisting of parallel slabs of concrete that were almost too far apart for the Neon's wheelbase.

I had white knuckles most of the time. My heart was pounding. One wrong move, and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere, surrounded, no doubt, by herds of moose enjoying our misadventure. Sure, we could get help. But we'd need a Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter to get the Neon out.

Finally ...miraculously ...we found ourselves back on paved road. We passed the same wild dog. He'd made his way nearly 2 miles west since we'd last seen him. But no moose (or evidence of moose, unless I count the moose antlers I saw on occasional mailboxes).

The GPS lesson? Absolutely accurate. But it needs a feature that flashes logging roads bright red, and a voice that says: "Don't be an idiot, Jimbo."  A number for the local Skycrane operator would be a plus, too.

Here we come, nimrod...
* * *

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fringeville Edition #21, August 11 2011

Vacation, Day One:
11:15PM and down for the count
The driving started in the wee hours. 475 miles later, we arrived. The wise ones (wife and daughter) took a nap. I drove to Mexico, Maine. So when everyone else in the family was in my sister's room having fun, I was in my obligatory post-drive coma.

* * *

Ciavarella got 28 years. Another judge down, one more to go. These guys left nothing but damage in their wake. But you know these boys will be heavily in demand in prison. They'll be the ultimate jailhouse lawyers.

* * *

They don't believe in street lights in this part of Maine. When you're driving a dark road on a cloudy night, it's plain spooky. I think I understand why Stephen King gets so much inspiration from Maine. Driving home in the dark from Mexico, I half-expected Tim Curry in a clown suit to wave at me from behind one of the creepy, twisted pine trees bordering the road.

...I've got a balloon for you, fat wait, a chicken wing...

* * *

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fringeville Edition #20, August 09 2011

This young lady was NEVER the cause of all my gray hair

It’s my daughter Courtney’s 21st birthday. I have officially raised my quota of adults. I suppose I have to grow up myself now …then again, no I’ll get around to that later.

We will be going across the street to Dan’s Keystone Grille tonight for dinner and to celebrate.

Twenty-one years… zip, just like that, they’re in the rearview. Happy birthday, Popki…

* * *

Yesterday I knew the market would get pummeled. Sure enough, by the time I got home from work another big chunk of my retirement savings vanished into the cosmos.

I think it’s because I’m leaving tomorrow for my second vacation in five years. Every time I take a vacation I take a separate massive financial hit. It’s like my not working throws the Universe out of whack.

* * *

JoePa got tackled again.

This time around, Devon Smith plowed Joe over. Apparently Joe is fine, just a little sore. He’s still probably faster than half his team. (If you think I’m kidding, watch him chasing down officials later this year).


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fringeville Edition #19, August 07 2011


That’s the milestone the LuLac Political Letter hit on August 02: 1700 editions of the LuLac blog. I’m at a whopping nineteen. Quite a high-water mark you’re setting there, Yonk!

* * *

Speaking of bloggers... GORT42 is back, and was kind enough to link this blog at his site. It's great to see he's returned in full form. Keep at it, my friend!

* * *
I’ve survived the annual church festival last weekend without whaling out. In fact, I continued to lose tonnage. This week I weighed in at 203.8

* * *

Finally, Saturday was the 6th District Summer Shindig. We had a good turnout, and a number of GOP candidates were there: Stefanie Salavantis (Running for District Attorney), Harry Haas, Stephen J. Urban, Rick Morelli, Kathy Dobash, Blythe Evans and Bill James (Luzerne County Council Candidates), Virgil Argenta (WB City Council District E), Kathy Grinaway (WB Area School Board) and yours truly (Plains Township Commissioner). Cross-filed Judicial candidate Lesa Gelb was also on hand, and we had a nice chat shortly before she left.

It was fun, there was a ton of food, and we’ll see next week whether that 203.8 nudges up after all I ate today.

(And special thanks to Harry Haas, who braved yet another monsoon grilling food for the event.)


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fringeville Edition #18, August 04 2011

All of a sudden, everyone in Washington is talking about what I’ve been talking about since Thanksgiving “Black Friday” way back in 2008: Jobs

I am increasingly convinced that government can’t create private sector jobs. The fact that Washington has diddled around for years, fighting every conceivable battle but the jobs battle, convinces me Washington knows that too.
Washington also knows this is no ordinary recession. It is something else. Maybe it is a “super-Recession.” Perhaps it is a “baby Depression.”

Call it what you will, but the damage is reshaping our nation.
Me, I’ve never been shy about calling this some type of Depression. Many would prefer I didn’t call it that. The word, as it applies to an economy, is pretty damned scary.

If it is a frightening word, so be it. These are frightening times in an increasingly dangerous world.

I am not alone in viewing this meltdown as something extraordinary.

When I spoke at a campaign event last year during my unsuccessful run for State Representative, I mentioned that a number of the folks I’d met door-to-door also didn’t believe what we were going through was a recession.

Many were fearful for the future.

Some used the dreaded ‘D’ word.

Some simply said they weren’t sure what it was, but it wasn’t going away.

One person even told me we needed to learn truly useful skills for the days ahead, such as how to make our own soap.

Former Congressman Kanjorski was at that same campaign event. He spoke after I did. He said he wasn’t sure what we were going through either. He was still in office at the time, and I thought that was an extraordinary thing to say (even though he was on friendly turf at the time).

I take the somewhat radical view that we’ve never been in a recovery. Washington has pumped all kinds of sugar into the economy, like feeding a tired two-year old a dozen candy bars, and with the same result: when the sugar wears off, the economy, like the child, crashes. We’ve fed the economy a ton of candy, and the jobs still aren’t there.

Still, I refuse to despair. Why? Because I believe the American people can overcome any obstacle, despite poor leadership in Washington. We will survive this crisis because Americans, at their core, are fighters.

We will have to fight hard, perhaps harder than we should because we are so poorly served by our leaders. The good jobs are vanishing. So, too, is our middle class. Our children and grandchildren face an uncertain future. The America that comes out of the other side of this isn’t going to be the one that went into it.

A reckoning is underway.

We’re going to get our noses bloodied and perhaps get knocked to the ground. Our choices: stay on the ground or stand back up and keep fighting.

I’m going to keep fighting. I hope you will, too.