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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fringeville Edition #54, December 31 2011

The Hermit Judge

"...court's in session, your Honor!"

When I first read that Judge William Amesbury was going to let an attorney charged with child corruption charges zip off to Africa to coach a youth soccer team I have to admit I got pretty hot.

“Where has this guy been the last few years?” I thought to myself. The “kids for cash” scandal, after all, got NEPA headlines across the world. 

If that wasn’t enough, the scandal rocking Penn State should surely have made him realize that letting an accused corruptor of minors go to Africa to coach youths would be like letting a rabid fox loose in a henhouse. 

So yes, I was upset. 

Then I read the judicial code of conduct and found the explanation in a note under Canon 5. It’s a little blurb that states the following:

“…Complete separation of judges from extra-judicial activities is neither possible nor wise; they should not become isolated from the society in which they live.”

Well there you have it! The only possible explanation for this ghastly judicial decision? Judge Amesbury, when not on the bench, lives the life of a hermit.

He is the Hermit Judge.

Obviously he has isolated himself to avoid any possibility popular culture or the media might influence his decisions. I’m sure he has a TV, but he probably has it locked on the Judge’s Home Shopping Network (Gowns starting at $75. Gavels: three models, starting at $21.95)

Newspaper subscriptions? Oh, I doubt it. They might affect his ability to adjudicate. He probably just reads musty old law books to pass the time.

But surely he must have some diversions?

Well, he’s not watching college football. He’d have heard about the pesky little child molestation scandal that boiled over down in State College. If he knew about that he’d no doubt have ruled differently in this case.

A college basketball fan?? Ditto. Molestation charges lurk there, too.

He can’t be watching any pro baseball (steroid scandals) or pro football either (drug-dealing wide receivers).

After extensive research I can find only two sports Judge Amesbury might follow which would allow him to unwind with a cold one without fear that his judgment might be impaired: Smeagle Throwing and Caber Tossing. 

I’ve ruled out Smeagle Throwing, which involves tossing dwarves against velcro-covered walls. While there have been no real scandals (steroid use by a Smeagler for example, or super glue on a Smeaglee’s padded costume so they stick to the wall when tossed) the sport is illegal in at least two states: Florida and New York. It’s hard to imagine Judge Amesbury watching dwarf tossing knowing it is against the law in some parts of the country.

This leaves Caber Tossing. It’s an exciting, manly sport that as far as I can tell has never faced a scandal. (There were rumors that in 1984 a contestant used a caber made of balsa instead of the traditional wood of the larch. The caber was confiscated and stored in a shed, but was destroyed when the peat moss on which the structure was standing mysteriously caught fire).

Clearly, my initial anger was misguided. Judge Amesbury’s ruling simply reflects that by being a hermit judge, by isolating himself so completely from reality, he is simply out of touch with our society.

My bad.

* * *


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fringeville Edition #53, December 25 2011

Merry Christmas from Fringeville!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fringeville Edition #52, December 24 2011


Today I went to my Facebook profile and tried to do a status update. It acted like it was posting, then it hung.

I waited a few minutes and tried again, several times.

No Go.

I waited an hour, rebooted (god knows why, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt).

I tried again. Nope. Another status-post failure. So I clicked the “Post” button. Again. And Again. A bunch of times.

Facebook suddenly logged me off and informed me I was "possibly infected with Malware" (which is actually not a possibility). I was warned not to post updates for 24 hours. I was told I had “limited access” but there were no details regarding exactly what I could or couldn’t do.

When I logged back in, I had to swear my PC was clean before Facebook let me proceed to my account.

Hoping I was just dealing with heavy server traffic because of the holidays, I tried one last time to post something.

Stupid, stupid!

I really ticked off Facebook at that point. I was informed I couldn’t post for “a couple of days.” Honest to gosh, that's the phrase. "A couple of days." Could be two. Could be more. You have to be keen to guess as to when you get full functionality back.

Facebook never said I couldn’t message folks, however, so I tried to message a friend to let her know I wouldn't be posting for "a couple of days."

Stupid! Stupid! Double-damned STUPID!

Facebook got really pissed at that point. I think they added “a couple of days” to my original “couple of days.”

There is no apparent right or method of appeal. You can’t write Facebook. You can’t easily get to a real live human being. I've been renditioned to Facebook's digital Guantanamo.

Facebook is a social network where the so-called "support" is totally bereft of any living, breathing human infestation.

When I think of Facebook now, I am reminded of the ants in one of those plastic ant colonies we give kids. You remember those: it teaches our young how to behave when they join corporate America. Pick up that crumb. Walk it over there. Drop that crumb. Do it again and again and again and again ...then die.

Suffice it to say, for Christmas Facebook can sink their teeth into my posterior.

A wise woman wrote me a while back that she won’t use social media because she doesn’t trust it. She relies on e-mail and face-to-face. She’s making a lot of sense to me today.

Merry Christmas, Facebook. Bah. Humbug. Bite Me. And keep biting me ...for "a couple of days."

* * *


Fringeville Edition #51, December 24 2011

I'm waiting up tonight for the Christmas Chicken, who brings dozens of wings and perhaps a frosty, frothy beverage to those who have been at least moderately good throughout the year.

Last year I was bad, and got a can of Spam (I ate it fried with a little wing sauce and it was edible).

Maybe this year, Santa Chicken will leave me a Hooter’s gift certificate along with the wings and suds. (Missus Chicken probably wouldn’t approve. Missus Jimbo won’t either.)

* * *


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fringeville Edition #50, December 22 2011

...but on the upside...Old Man Winter's days are numbered. Yes, he'll throw us some nasty weather before he dies but from this point on the days start getting longer.

I'll be grilling wings on the back porch before you know it!

* * *


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fringeville Edition #49, December 18 2011

Keep the cheese...

I’ve been officially out of the rat race for a month.

While I’ve been popping out the resumes and researching ‘day’ jobs, I’ve pretty much decided I don’t want to be a rat anymore. How does the saying go? Even if you win, you’re still vermin.

That’s not saying I won’t work hard at whatever my next job is. I will. If I’m true to form, I’ll work too hard. But chasing the elusive cheese in a rat race is not how I want to spend the rest of my days on the third rock.

There’s more to life.

One benefit: After an initial dry spell (caused as best as I can tell by the upheaval in my life) I’m writing a lot. One of my long-range goals is to make a living wage writing fiction. When the time comes, traditional ‘retirement’ would likely put me in the ground in six months or less. I need something to pour myself into. That “reason to get out of bed.” Fiction does that.

Keep the cheese, please …the rat days are over.

* * *


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fringeville Edition #48, December 17 2011

Chili Time!

There are so many subjects I could blog about today…

Corruption:  Nope. Bunch o’folks doing that already.
Politics: Ditto
The Penn State Fiasco: Double Ditto
The Economy:  Too depressing…
Sex: Sorry, I only write about things I still remember how to do

So, instead, I’m surrendering today’s blog to someone who calls himself “Lazy Man.


* * *

Welcome, readers. Today’s topic is chili. Specifically my own Sumbitch That’s Good: Lazy Man’s Chili

I’m sharing the recipe with you. There’s some work involved, despite the recipe name, but it’s worth every spoonful.

Now, I’ve read enough recipes to know I have to start with ingredients. This ultimately involves a ‘trip to the store.’ Married men know that phrase, used freely by our wives, is a code for ‘a brief journey into the bowels of hell.’

A trip to any store that doesn’t sell power tools is about as much fun as a root canal for most men. If the wives go with us, it becomes a form of torture that should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

When men shop alone, we’re in and out. It’s a combat mission. Sure, we come home with the wrong stuff, but dammit we’re done, and here’s the buttermilk you didn’t ask for, and I’m sure the kids will learn to love limburger cheese.

There is a bright side to going to the store for the chili fixings. You can pick up some adult beverages (for the recipe, of course). We’ll start the ingredients off with those:

Beer. (Good stuff. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. You’re going to need ½ can. You won’t need this until it’s time to cook the meat, so if you already popped one open, just drink the damned thing with my apologies.)

1 cup of sherry, divided. (This means you put half in one glass, half in another. Why sherry? Beats the hell out of me. It’s what was on the door of the fridge when I made this the first time and it worked out just fine).

1 tablespoon meat tenderizer

8oz dried kidney beans. (That’s half a small bag. I used a whole 16 ounce bag, and that’s a helluva lot of beans. I loved them. The rest of the family told me to cut back next time. They didn’t walk behind me for a couple of days, either. And I slept on the couch until Thursday).

1 pound boneless beef short ribs, cut into small cubes, no bigger than your fingernail. If you’re not cussing and saying, “…this will take forever” then the cubes are too big and they’ll cook up tough. (I recommend passing time while you cube the beef by swigging down a can of beer.)

1½ pounds of 80/20 ground beef.

1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided. (Yeah that divided thing again. And it’s a PIA to mince the stuff. You know what works just as well? “Spice World” makes a squeezable container of minced garlic. Just squeeze a shot when you need it. If it’s a little more than what you need, so what. You can’t have too much garlic, in my opinion though the missus disagrees.)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

One stalk of celery, chopped very small. (Hints: One STALK not one bunch. Trim each end off so you’ve got the best of it work with. If you’re a cheap S.O.B go to a wing joint for lunch and pocket the celery other folks leave on the table. A half-dozen pieces will do the trick.)

One medium onion. Peel the sumbitch and chop the bejesus out of that, too.

Two tomatillos, peeled and diced. (These puppies look like little green tomatoes, and they’re covered with a husk. If you can’t find them, do without. Some stores don’t know what they are. If you ask for tomatillos and they tell you it’s next to the foot powder, get the hell out there.)

1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped, depending on how much fire you want in your chili. (It’s the pulp and seeds that give these their punch. I clean all of these out of mine because the missus doesn’t like nuclear chili. And wear rubber gloves when you cut jalapenos. Why? If you don’t and you touch your eye later, even if you’ve washed your hands, you’re doing a hot-pepper tango to your sink to flush your eye with water.)

4-5 tablespoons of chili seasoning. (I used a chili mix by Tempo. It’s a 2-ounce envelope. Worked just dandy.)

One 28oz can of choice diced tomatoes

One 14.5 oz can of petite diced tomatoes (This can is optional. If you’re not crazy about tomatoes, skip this one.)

Two 10oz cans of Rotel Mild Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies. (This is good stuff. Trust me on that)

One 6oz can of tomato paste.

Beantime (Prep the beans ahead of time…see below)

The beans are where you start.

Step One: Sort’em. Basically, you pick through the sumbitches looking for non-bean foreign objects. Might be a twig. Maybe a bit of dirt. Maybe it’s something you can’t and don’t want to identify.

Step Two: Rinse’em. Put’em in a colander. Rinse them. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

Step Three: Soak’em. Put the beans in a big-ass pot. Cover them with about 3 inches of water and walk away for four hours (or leave them out to soak overnight). Have a beer, you’ve earned it.

Step Four: Drain’em & Rinse’em.  Back in the colander for these bad boys. Rinse them again.

Step Five: Cook’em. Put the beans back in the pot and cover them with water again. Heat at medium until the beans are almost ready to boil, and turn the heat down to where they barely simmer. Walk away for a 1½ - 2 hours. (This is a good time to catch a game on TV and grab another beer.)

Step Six: Drain’em & Rinse’em one last time.  One last time in the colander. Rinse them under cold water and set aside until needed. Clean and dry your pot… you’ going to need it for the chili!

Chili Time

You’ve been waiting for this! Celebrate with a beer and then you’re ready to roll!

Put the cubed short ribs, ½ tablespoon of minced garlic, the meat tenderizer, ½ a can of beer and ½ cup of sherry in a bowl and mix it together well. Let it marinate for 30-60 minutes. (You can polish off the other half can of beer while catching an episode of Gilligan’s Island. How ‘bout that Ginger? Nearly fifty years, and that’s still a lovely bunch of coconuts!)

Drain the liquid from the short ribs.

Put the vegetable oil, onion and celery in your pot and cook over medium-high heat until they soften up. Add the cubed short ribs. Cook until no longer pink on outside, then remove the meat and set aside. (Don’t worry about the onion or celery you leave behind. It will be fine and it won’t be lonely for long.)

Without adding more oil, put the ground beef in the pot and cook until browned. Be sure to break up any big chunks of ground beef. Skim off any fat and discard or put in the dog’s dish. Dogs will lap up anything and Rover will love you for it. (Just don’t let the missus catch you doing this.) Add the chopped tomatillos, if you found them, and the chopped jalepenos. Give it a good stirring.

Add the cubed beef back to the pot. Stir in the big 28 oz can of diced tomatoes and 1/3 of the chili seasoning.

Add half the cooked beans. Stir.

Add the tomato paste, the other ½ cup of sherry, another 1/3 of the chili seasoning and stir. If it looks dry, add a half-can of beer. Drink the other half. NEVER THROW AWAY UNUSED BEER.

Add the rest of the beans, the last of the chili seasoning, all the other canned tomatoes. Stir.

Reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and go watch an hour of Star Trek: Voyager, preferably one featuring Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine. Talk about twin moons! If the missus walks in, switch to the Weather Channel before she gets wise.

If you have a box of Jiffy cornbread mix stashed in your cupboard, you can make some cornbread on the cheap while you wait for the chili. Directions are on the box. If you can read this recipe, you can read that, too. I’m not doing all the work for you.

After an hour, the chili should be ready. Get a bowl. Dig in. You should still have a beer or two left… pop a can and enjoy!

* * *


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fringeville Edition #47, December 14 2011

...Whoopsie Daisy!

So long, 121st District!

After nearly 8 years of hard work as a GOP committee person in Pennsylvania’s 121st District (including a run for State Representative) thanks to redistricting I’m now going to be living in the 118th.

I’m likely saying goodbye to Lou Barletta as my Congressman as well. Lou’s name came up an awful lot while I was pounding the pavement door-to-door in 2010 trying to make a dent against Eddie Day Pashinski in the State Representative race. I got my tush kicked but I also think my door-to-door campaign got Lou some votes. I know I convinced some folks to come out on Election Day who wouldn’t have if I hadn’t knocked on their doors.

As for Eddie Day Pashinski, I only had the pleasure of meeting him once, near the end of the campaign. We had a cordial discussion at an NAACP event where we both spoke. On Election Day he also chatted with my wife a moment outside a poll in Plains. We both ran clean campaigns, and I take a little pride in that.

So what does redistricting mean for my future political plans?

It’s way, way, way too early to tell. I will continue to become more involved in Plains, where I live. Beyond Plains I know an awful lot of people in Laflin, but I’m pretty much an unknown in the rest of my new stomping grounds, the 118th. I’m not sure staying involved in Wilkes-Barre area politics makes sense any more, and I’m not sure I want to start all over, either. I’m going through a bit of a political Whoopsie Daisy and I need time to reflect and regroup.

* * * 


Monday, December 12, 2011

Fringeville Edition #46, December 12 2011

Mike McQueary: In the eye of the storm

Another name has surfaced in the Penn State debacle: Dr. Jonathan Dranov.

Be sure to remember that name.

A Patriot-News/PennLive story reports that Dr. Dranov also testified in front of the Grand Jury. What he had to say is in marked contrast to what McQueary told the Grand Jury. It seems clear McQueary saw something disturbing. But McQueary has not been consistent in his multiple accounts of the infamous shower incident, and that lack of consistency may eventually doom the perjury charges against two Penn State Administrators. It will no doubt be useful to Jerry Sandusky's defense attorney, as well.

Let’s return to Dr. Dranov.

Dranov was at the home of Mike McQueary’s father John McQueary and heard the first version of what Mike McQueary saw, shortly after McQueary saw it.

According to the Patriot-News/PennLivereport, an unnamed source says Dranov told the Grand Jury he asked Mike McQueary three times …three times …if he saw anything sexual.

The answers? NO. NO. NO.

Based on that, Dranov recommended that McQueary speak to Joe Paterno instead of the police. That recommendation may have ultimately been Paterno’s undoing.

The Patriot-News/PennLive story also quotes McQueary’s hand-written note to police: "I did not see insertion. I am certain that sexual acts/the young boy being sodomized was occurring."

That something horrifying took place at Penn State also seems certain.

A total housecleaning at the University is inevitable and warranted.

But if what Joe Paterno was told by Mike McQueary is anything like what McQueary told Dr. Dranov the night of the shower incident, then we all need to take a step back and wait for the legal process to play out.

Other interesting notes from the Patriot-News/PennLive story:

1)  Dr. Dranov and John McQueary had an unrelated meeting with PSU Administrator Gary Schultz a couple of months after the shower incident. Dranov wanted to know what had been done about Jerry Sandusky. Schultz said Sandusky met with now-dethroned PSU President Grant Spanier. Which is likely exactly what Joe Paterno would have been told if he asked Schultz the same question.

2)  Sandusky's defense attorney claims his client gave the telephone number of the boy in the shower to Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley a few days after the incident was brought to Curley's attention. Yet the Grand Jury report says no effort was made to contact the boy.

And Paterno?

Today the legendary and all-too-human former coach, currently undergoing radiation and chemotherapy for “treatable lung cancer”, is in the hospital with a broken pelvis after a fall at home. While his reputation may seem irretrievably sullied today, it is probably wise to step back and wait a while before closing the book on Joseph Vincent Paterno. Mike McQueary simply has too many stories out there. A jury needs to sort through it all before we rush to final judgment.

In the meantime, pray for the kids.

* * *


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fringeville Edition #45, December 08 2011

December 08, 1980.
The Dream Was Over...

Some of my favorite Lennon music...

Stand by Me
From his 1975 "Rock and Roll" Album

Just Gimme Some Truth
From the 1971 "Imagine" Album

Watching the Wheels
From "Double Fantasy"

Free As A Bird
There is, of course a treasure trove of Beatles tunes to pick from. I chose this one because it still feels unfinished, and is yet quite a powerful tune. Yes, it "sounds" like a Beatles song, not something they slapped together in the studio. 

Have I picked his best stuff? Probably not. But these are the songs that came to mind when I realized what day it was; that it's been 31 years since I arrived home one evening to hear  Howard Cosell break the news to a stunned nation.

* * *

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fringeville Edition #44, December 04 2011

Random Fringebits

I’m going to do this every once in a while. I’m just going to post a bunch of blurbs, little snippets of things that have crossed my mind. Most, but not all, are recent trains of thought. (Recent might mean yesterday, twenty minutes ago or at some time since my last post). But occasionally there will be something that’s been floating around in my head for months which I just haven’t had time to do anything with. We’ll start with one of those…

My brother Bill lives in New Hampshire. He’s hard to define, politically, but he’s a hell of a lot of fun to argue politics with. Sometimes it gets so intense that people who don’t know us will think we’re on the verge of blows. They rush up to us to calm us down, and we just laugh at them.

Bill says a lot of wild things, but occasionally he nails something dead on.

He told me a few months back about a conversation with a friend of his who is a full-fledged, drinking-the-coolaide, questions-nothing-the-Democrat-leadership-says liberal. His friend was railing about how the rich need to be hammered with taxes.

“Look,” Bill told his friend, “I’m never going to be rich. Neither are you. But you know what the rich have, other than money, that you and I will never have?”

“What?” came the reply.

Mobility. Tax them and they’ll leave.”

His friend had nothing to say.

But I remembered Bill's story when I read this story recently about a tax exodus in New Jersey.  And this story.  And this one, as well, in case anyone things I’m making this stuff up.

I’m reminded of George Harrison’s lyrics:

If five percent appears too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me…

The song was written after George Harrison discovered a 95% supertax was sucking away most of his earnings.

There was an exodus of talent and wealth from United Kingdom back in the 1960’s. When the taxman squeezed too hard, those affected used the one tool in their arsenal that most of us don’t have, and that my brother nailed with one word: Mobility.

* * *

I went to Church today. Why is that a big deal? Because I love Church. It starts me off on a positive note. But I haven’t gone in weeks.

Tracing it back, I stopped going shortly before my job went over the side.

I went today because I was part of the Mass; otherwise I probably would have bagged it again. That’s a pretty crappy reason to go to Church: Simply out of a sense of obligation.

But going today was the best thing I could have done.

During Mass, I realized that I stopped going because I felt somehow that I didn’t deserve to be there. As if God would look down disapprovingly and smite me because I was out of a job. As if Jesus would turn his back on me because I was piking it. Not pulling my weight. Turning into a layabout.

And then it struck me: God doesn’t care about any of that. He was just disappointed I hadn’t been by to visit in a while.

So I think the answer is MORE Church. Not less. I think it’s time to start hitting those weekday morning Masses.

* * *

I’ve lost much of my enthusiasm for college football.  It’s not because of the Penn State scandal: My interest has been waning for years. The mess in State College just brought things to a head.

My disaffection began with the advent of the BCS. They call it a Bowl Championship Series. Which is, of course, an outright lie. It is neither a series nor a championship. It is the anointing of a champion by computers which put two teams in a game. Winner takes all! Let's call this steaming pile what it is: A Bogus Championship Swindle.

Years ago I stopped paying attention to college football after Penn State's season ended. Why? The BCS killed the massive New Year’s Day bowl-fest I grew up with.

Remember those days?

Remember waiting till all the bowls were played to learn what team was really number one? 

And who really knew after the dust settled? After all, there often wasn't a clear-cut champion.

But those New Year's games meant many good-spirited arguments back and forth over frothy beverages at corner bars all across America. Those verbal tussles lasted until at least spring football practice.

Now crowning a "champion" involves a string of unrelated bowls across several days, culminating in a dubious championship game.

I've pretty much stopped caring altogether.

Yes, I'll watch a game if there' s nothing better to do. But these days there usually is something better to do. Case in point: last night was the inaugural Big Ten championship game. You’d think I’d be at least marginally interested.

Instead, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life. And then I played the Game of Life boardgame (remember that one?) until nearly 1AM with my family. 

You know what?  It was the most relaxing evening I’ve had in years.

* * *

My weight’s creeping up. Moving in exactly the wrong direction. I’ve been trying to figure out why. I really haven’t been eating any more. That 175 goal by Christmas is a pipedream. I’m at 195.

The culprit?

I’m not walking enough. I realize now just how much walking I did at work. It’s a warehouse, and that means walking a lot. It also meant climbing the #$%^ stairs to the mezzanine or Transportation offices. I hated those stairs (my knees are shot). I love walking UPHILL when I’m outdoors. But I hate steps.

I’ll modify the goal: 190 pounds of Jimbo by Santa’s visit.

Treadmill: Get ready for some abuse.

* * *

The Yonk is offline for a bit. Here’s his note from LuLac

Dear LuLac Readers:
I will be away for a few days getting some medical attention. Hopefully this procedure will fix some long standing health issues. We’ll be back as soon as I am cleared by my medical team or when the nurses get tired of my lame presence.
Wish me luck and if you are so inclined, say a prayer or two.

Get back to work soon, Yonk. The Blogosphere ain’t the same without you!

"Yes Doctor Jimbo. A dozen wings, two Abe's dogs and a can of Tab nightly for Mr. Yonki. Got it!"

* * *