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My thoughts on everything from albacore tuna to zebras
OK, so I've finally been convinced (read that strong armed) into doing a blog. Frankly I hate the name...

Just another day at the Supermarket

It's simply amazing the things you can buy at the grocery store these days.

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#1054725 by Not Available.

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February 16, 2007 at 7:43pm
February 16, 2007 at 7:43pm
The Curtain. The cold has caused his brain to freeze.

         Snow is snow, and rain is rain, and the combination of the two and plummeting temperatures make for a mess like you couldn’t believe. As I write this I sit comfortable in my warm home, belly full from a most excellent meal (my compliments to the chef – me!), not concerned in the least what tomorrow will bring. Granted, I should be on the road right now heading to visit my parents for the weekend, but all the major interstates that could get me there are closed.

         They have been closed for the past two days. And if the news media is accurate they will be closed again tomorrow. These are the major arteries for the eastern half of the state. People were stranded in their cars and trucks overnight in bitter cold temperatures. We’re not talking four or five people here; we are talking hundreds, if not thousands; little children, diabetics, senior citizens (in one case a busload of senior citizens). There were acts of kindness by complete strangers. There was frustration. There was anger. Their stories will emerge over the next few days. The National Guard was mobilized. Emergency workers worked around the clock. Transportation employees worked around the clock (and still are). The roads are still not open.

         “How could this happen?” That is the question on everyone’s mind. The Governor says, “This is unacceptable.” Mild words for such a drastic situation in my opinion. He says he accepts full responsibility; as well he should. He promises an investigation and I’m sure there will be one. In the end, some poor sap will get the boot. Whether it is the right poor sap, remains to be seen.

         So who is to blame?

         Well, we could blame:

         *Snow2*That danged groundhog that said winter was over on February 2nd

         *Snow2*Somebody at the Department of Transportation who didn’t get the trucks out early enough – the too little too late syndrome

         *Snow2*Mother Nature – The tenacity and the ferocity of the storm surprised many

         *Snow2*The drivers who didn’t research their trips well enough before leaving. Even today, people were arriving from New Jersey, unaware that the Interstates were shut down

         *Snow2*The State Police for not shutting the highways down quick enough

         *Snow2*The people on the road with no particular reason to be there – you know who you are

         *Snow2*Global warming – hey, why not?

         *Snow2*The politicians. – The State House of Representatives closed for two days. (They were the smart ones.) The State Government in Harrisburg closed for one day. Should have been two but no politician wants to explain why he gave all the civil service employees two paid days off. (disclaimer: I am a civil servant)

         But does it really matter who we blame?

         Bottom line is, this was a situation that never should have happened. Was it preventable? Don’t know. Maybe, Maybe not. You sure couldn’t prevent the storm but you could have lessened the impact it had on people. The Government is the custodian of the state. It is their responsibility to take care of the populace…even the ones visiting from New Jersey. (You have no idea how much it pains me to say that last part.). When the government fails in its duties it’s time for the populace to take a long hard look at its government and make the changes that need to be made. It’s time for the government to listen to its citizens and respond with changes of its own.

         Will anything change? I hope so, because right now Pennsylvania’s reputation isn’t fairing so well. The Governor is right. It is unacceptable to leave people stranded on the highways of Pennsylvania for over twenty-four hours especially when it occurs within 25 miles of the Capitol.

         It is unacceptable for people in decision-making positions to not make decisions.

         It is unacceptable for individuals to not accept responsibility for their actions or inactions.

         We have, as individuals, become blameless. It is far too easy to point the finger elsewhere. It is far too easy to blame our individual shortcomings, our individual errors on someone else or on the ethereal “they”. Buck up. Tighten your belt. Pull up your shorts and if you screwed up, admit it.

         It is unacceptable to leave hundreds of motorists stranded on the highways of Pennsylvania.

         The Pennsylvanians I know simply will not accept that.

February 10, 2007 at 8:44pm
February 10, 2007 at 8:44pm
          In Pennsylvania we use salt to keep the ice off of our roads in the winter. There are huge piles of it strategically placed across the state just waiting for ice and snow to attack our roads. There are an equally large number of salt truck drivers eagerly anticipating the first snowstorm, hoping it’s at night or on the weekend so they can clock a little overtime. When a winter like this comes along (or doesn’t come along), the people in charge of the salt become nervous.

          “We bought all this salt and it’s almost the end of January and we haven’t spread any of it because we’ve gotten no snow or ice!”

         Enter Harrisburg’s first major snowfall. One inch. Out comes the salt. Load after load is liberally applied, so much so, that eight hours later, when the snow has melted and gone, the roads are still white…with salt. And so is my car. I suspect, knowing government thinking as well as I do, there’s a bit of the…”if we don’t use up the salt we bought for this year we won’t be able to buy as much next year and besides we’ll have these huge piles of salt in our way all summer” thinking involved.

         I drive a Ford Escape. Small compact SUV with decent milage. So today I went to the carwash to remove the quarter inch thick crust of salt from my car. I’ve never been to this carwash before. In fact I never used a carwash in Harrisburg before…well, that’s not quite true, there is the one that does our state vehicles at $18.00 a crack. Hey, they towel dry and vacuum the interior!

         Anyway, since it was about 10 degrees this morning I opted for the drive thru carwash instead of standing there spraying half frozen water from a half frozen hose, held in my completely frozen hand.

          There were several cars ahead of me. Evidently they also had experienced the attack of the salt monster. That gave me time to read the sign. I had three choices:

                   No. 1 $5.95 is “we spray water on your car from the sides and these long flat Rastafarian dreadlocks rub across your car and you’re done.”

                   No. 2 $7.95 is “we spray water on your car from the sides and bottom and these long flat Rastafarian dreadlocks rub across your car and you’re done.”

                   No. 3 $9.95 is “we spray water on your car from the sides and bottom and these long flat Rastafarian dreadlocks rub across your car and we give you three, count’m, three coats, of super silly silicone and you’re done.”

         I opted for # 2. So I get my money together, proud of myself for having gotten together the right amount. I power down (can’t roll down anymore) the window and hand the lady my money only to be told it’s not $7.95. It’s actually $9.54.

         “Why?” I ask.

         “You’re driving an oversized vehicle” is the reply. I fumble to get the extra money. I attempt to argue with her. My vehicle is midsized not oversized. The manufacturer says so. All the while my car, which is now captive of the carwash conveyor is getting sucked deeper and deeper into the abyss. The noise is deafening. I cannot hear what she says. I shout, “YOU SHOULD PUT THAT ON THE SIGN!”.

         She shouts, “IT IS!”

         I look at the sign, and there, in small print too fine to read from 50 ft back, are the words, oversized vehicles will be charged 94 cents more plus tax.

         The water starts to spray across my hood. It is only then that I realize my window is still “powered down.” I attempt to quickly “power” it up.

         It moves ever so slow. Just as the water begins to hit the windshield it finally assumes the upright position. I look puzzlingly at my wife. She looks back and shrugs her shoulders and just like that, in a matter of mere moments, we are spit out the other side. Wham. Bam. Thank you, mam.

         I felt dirty. (The car was clean) I felt used.

         But most of all, I felt ten dollars poorer. Dang those salt monsters.

February 2, 2007 at 8:31pm
February 2, 2007 at 8:31pm
         It was a chilly morning. A heavy frost hung on the switchgrass and caused my breath to form small puffs of moisture. It was the kind of cold that spoke of winter but whispered of spring. In the distance two crows carried on a lively conversation interrupted occasionally by the song of a returning redwing blackbird. The smell of late winter hung in the air. Here and there, small patches of snow faded in and out of view as an early morning fog swirled above the water. Across the open water and the several marshy islands the first glimmer of morning started to appear as the sun slowly peeked over the far ridge.

         I sat on my metal five gallon bucket, shivering, and took it all in. The steaming thermos of hot tea was my only defense against the invading cold. The coldest part of the day is always the hour before sunrise. Impatiently, I watched as the sun advanced across the marsh, wishing it would hurry to bathe me in its warmth.

         Seelyville dam wasn't much to look at. It was an old millrace dam located in the upper reaches of the West Branch of the Lackawaxen River. The mill had long ago ceased to exist, but the dam remained. It had silted in quite a bit over the years and the silt had formed large marshy areas in the upper reaches of the dam. A lone dead tree, which served as a perch for the crows, marked the boundary between dry ground and the dam.

         There were fish in Seelyville Dam. At least that's what I was always told. Big trout, swimming around, just waiting to be caught. I never caught any. Still, I sat there on the cold metal bucket and intently watched the line at the end of my fishing pole. My dad had cut a Y shaped stick and put it in the soft ground at the waters edge. After I cast the worm laden line into the murky depths I reeled in the slack and placed the rod in the Y with the butt resting on the ground. Another smaller piece of wood was hung from the line to act as a bobber of sorts signaling when I had a bite. It very seldom moved and when it did it was usually the wind.

         If I grew restless I would wander along the shore seeing what I could see, glancing back occasionally to make sure my fishing rod was still there, making sure some monster fish hadn’t hauled it into the deep. It hadn’t.

         There were always sandwiches, Lebanon bologna and swiss cheese with horseradish mustard. There were cookies, sometimes fig newtons, sometimes chocolate chip. And when the sun finally got around to our solitary encampment there was warmth and a tendency to snooze. But there were no fish. Every year we would make the pilgrimage to Seelyville dam and every year the results were the same. Even later, when I was older, I made the pilgrimage on my own. Mostly just to smell the early spring smell and see the redwing blackbirds and to watch the occasional duck that had gotten confused and landed on this forsaken piece of water instead of the larger Prompton Dam a few miles to the north.

         I never caught a single solitary fish from Seelyville Dam and I probably never will, yet, it is one of my favorite fishing memories.


         It was not a particularly scenic place. It had no special meaning. It was just a place to spend an early spring/late winter morning drowning some worms, waiting for the sun to grace you with its warmth. And that, I believe is exactly why. There were no expectations, no anticipation, no disappointment when at the end of the day you came home fishless. That was understood. It was a given. There were plenty of places I could have gone to catch fish. I went to Seelyville Dam not to catch fish.

         And you know what?

         I was darn good at it.

Falls at Seelyville Dam

The Falls at Seelyville Dam
February 1, 2007 at 6:39pm
February 1, 2007 at 6:39pm

I promised you a follow up to Flummoxed. Here it is.

My wife uses oxygen at night to sleep. The machine that provides it is leased from a medical supply place and paid for by our insurance. When we moved, the medical supply place came and got the machine and we were instructed to contact our new medical equipment supplier upon our arrival in Harrisburg. Enter Praxair again. My wife called and was told that in order to get a new machine she would have to go for another sleep study because that’s the only way the insurance would cover it. That was in November! She just now got the appointment with the neurologist and because I’ll be out of town she has to reschedule.

What has gone wrong here?

The insurance company has actually and effectively stopped her treatment. What gives an insurance company the right to do that? What gives them the right to overrule a physician?

We complain about rising health costs and often we blame the doctors and the hospitals. In both my case and my wife’s, our doctors back in Ebensburg have been extremely cooperative in trying to get our needs met. It is the insurance company that has thrown up the roadblocks… and in so doing will actually be spending more money for doctors appointments and sleep studies that are not needed. My wife has had several studies over the last two years and while it has been awhile since I’ve had one, my apnea is doing just fine with my current cpap machine and setting.

So Like I said in my last entry I am completely and utterly flummoxed. By giving control of our health care to non-medical professionals we are actually increasing our insurance costs. This has got to change. Healthcare in this country has become a complete and total disaster. Sad but true.

January 30, 2007 at 9:22pm
January 30, 2007 at 9:22pm

Hah! Bet you didn’t even know it was a real word.

Anyway I am completely and utterly flummoxed. You see I have Sleep Apnea, Diagnosed and treated these past twelve years or so. I use a CPAP machine at night when I sleep. Problem solved. At least I thought it was.

When we moved to Harrisburg back in November, my wife, bless her heart, shouldered the majority of the burden of updating addresses etc. To her also fell the duty of arranging for medical care. Since I work for the state I am part of PEBTF – Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund. I won’t go into details about whom I think the fund is benefiting but lets just say they haven’t been my favorite people lately. You would think that since the PEBTF represents state employees statewide that you could move one hundred fifty miles with relatively little interruption of ones medical needs. Apparently not.

In Ebensburg, I was covered under PEBTF by one branch of Blue Cross Blue Shield called; I believe, Keystone Select or something like it. They in turn contracted with a place called Dick’s Home Care to provide me with all my CPAP needs, filters, hoses, masks etc. They did a fine job.

Moving to Harrisburg we had to change to something called Capitol Blue Cross Blue Shield and they contracted with a place called Praxair to provide all my cpap needs. Heh, yeah, right. My wife called Praxair last week to order new filters for my machine. She was told I need a doctor’s prescription before they could send them to me. Called my old doctor in Johnstown and he faxed down a prescription. Waited. Nothing. Called again and was told: “Nope, sorry, we don’t carry those filters; your machine is too old.” A quick google search revealed a half dozen sites where I could still buy the filters. So I called. Sorry, no can do. “Well, what do you suggest” I asked. “You need a new machine,” was the reply.

Now, I’m from the old school. You know the one. “Waste not, want not. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I had a perfectly functional machine and they’re telling I’ve got to get a new one because they can’t get me a lousy two dollar filter. I pondered.

The new machines are much nicer. More user friendly. Smaller. Easier for traveling. So I knuckled under called my doctor in Johnstown. He faxed another prescription down for a new machine. I waited. Nothing. Called Praxair and was told, “Your insurance won’t pay for a new machine until you go to see a neurologist and have a sleep study done. Here’s the name of a good neurologist.” I’ve had several sleep studies done over the years. They all come back the same. I’ve got sleep apnea and need to use a cpap at night to sleep. Same machine setting every time.

Today my wife called the neurologist to make the appointment so that she could order the sleep study so I can get a new cpap machine to replace the perfectly functional cpap machine that needs a two dollar filter that I can order over the internet and was told,

“Sorry, only your primary care physician can make an appointment with a specialist.” (This was a change from our last plan also).

Luckily, my wife did manage to make an appt for us with a primary care physician a couple of months back, it’s coming up in about three weeks.


Where’s my Visa?

Think this was bad? Tomorrow I’ll tell you my wife’s story.

January 29, 2007 at 12:36pm
January 29, 2007 at 12:36pm
         The hand shaking me awake belonged to my Dad. Three AM comes early, especially when you were out the night before until midnight. I resisted the momentary urge to roll over and drift back to sleep and muttered an “Okay” in response to my Dad’s softly spoken “Let’s go, boy.”

         I sat up and swung my legs out of bed. The windows were wide open on this hot August night and the light breeze that moved the curtains did nothing to cool down my room or wake me up. Hurriedly, I put on my clothes and headed down the stairs. Pop was already making the lunches and together we shoveled down a couple of bowls of cereal and headed out the door. Here, closer to the ground, the breeze was a little cooler.

          There’s something about the dead of night, halfway between the sunset and the sunrise. The heavy dew had already fallen and when you inhaled the air, there was freshness, newness to it. It filled your lungs and invigorated you with the promise of the coming day. The sky was clear and the stars shown brightly and all was quiet except for the experienced movements of a father and son, as they got ready to go fishing.

         In the quiet the dog stirred to life wondering who was disturbing his sleep. His ID tags jingled on his collar as he repositioned himself in his pen. Soon, I thought, soon the weather will turn cooler and we will go hunting, the three of us, but for now he will be left behind to wait for our return.

         The large brown Ford station wagon had been loaded the night before when we had returned from gathering bait. All that remained was to load the bait and leave. Together, flashlights and buckets in hand we headed across the street through the neighbors yard to the old hand dug well where we had put the bait. With the buckets we dipped cool water and then drew up the large basket that held our reward from last nights bait gathering. Under the yellowish glow of the flashlights we counted forty stonecats, a small member of the catfish family, as they slid into our waiting bucket. Silently we closed the well and headed back across the neighbor’s dew covered lawn. Wedging the bucket in the back of the car so it wouldn’t tip we pulled out of the driveway and headed for the river.

         Pop drove. It would take an hour or so for us to get there. Along the way the headlights picked up the occasional deer, possum or fox. Rarely, another auto approached from the opposite direction, both cars dimming their lights as if to say hello. Sometimes, if it had rained the night before there would be wisps of fog. And once, traveling down along the Lackawaxen River there was an invasion of frogs. They, and the darkness conjured up visions of theTwilight Zone. Sometimes we talked, sometimes, we rode in silence. Often as we got closer to the river we would discuss where to go. Should we try the chicken farm? How about Ten Mile, below the railroad trestle. Maybe we should give Zane Grey a try, or down at the Kittatinny canoe launch.

         We got the first look at the river as we crossed the bridge at Narrowsburg, Though it was still mostly dark, it was a lightening dark and in the shadows you could make out the riffles and the eddies below the bridge. On the far shore, the New York shore, a streetlight or two reflected from the flowing water and life was beginning to stir in the small river community.

         It was south we usually ran from there. South across the edges of the Catskills, through stands of aromatic white pine, climbing across the ridge losing sight of the river, yet knowing it was there, always there, just to the right, beyond the hills. Finally we dropped down from the ridge, watching trucks towing trailers full of canoes back up the river. Canoes that in a few hours would be floating lazily back down the river.

         At the base of the hill the river met the road once more and it was there that we often pulled over, just upriver from the stone bridge, Roebling’s bridge. The bridge that would take you back across the river into Pennsylvania. You couldn’t see it yet. It was hidden in the dark and the fog rising from the river, but it was there.

         Car doors opened and closed. Fishing rods, waders, landing nets and bait were assembled in the proper order, all in the approaching semi light of dawn. The flashlight would pick out a narrow path leading down to the water’s edge. It was here that you first smelled the river smell. A smell like no other, it was made up of a myriad of other smells, making it unique. It wasn’t unpleasant. It was the smell you expected, like the smell of fresh baked bread when you walked past the bakery. It was here that you first heard the water speak, listened to it murmur, listened to it laugh, giggle and guffaw.

         If we had timed it right it was just breaking day and we could see well enough to wade out into the river, each searching for that perfect spot to make the first cast. Sometimes we would fish down, sometimes, we would fish up. Sometimes we would lose sight of each other in the swirling morning fog, only to reappear almost as if we were apparitions.

         The spot chosen, the bait was placed on the hook. The long graceful cast was made towards an unseen rock where only a small change in the current gave away its location. Silently the bait drifted past the rock…and stopped. Several seconds later it would begin to move upstream, the line slicing through the water, becoming increasingly tighter. Pop would lean into the rod, pointing it in the direction of the moving line, until he was sure, sure that the fish had the bait in the proper position. Then, with a hard and fast jerk on the rod, the hook would be driven home into the fishes jaw. Some dove for the bottom, some tried to race farther upstream and some would dance. You would know when that was going to happen by watching the line. Up, the fish would come, dragging the line with it.

         There, in the swirling fog standing waist deep in the cool murmuring river with Roebling’s bridge drifting in and out of view, with a smallmouth bass leaping at the end of his line is how I always see my Dad. It is how I will always see him. And as the fish clears the water and dances for him he turns toward me for one brief second and smiles.

January 28, 2007 at 7:41pm
January 28, 2007 at 7:41pm

Is it just me or what? I know, probably the “or what”.

Anyway, while driving, something I do quite a bit of, I am prone to just simply start laughing, for what, to the other people in the car feel, is apparently no reason at all. Today was one such trip.

There’s a restaurant not to far from where we live called the El Rodeo. I’m not sure what kind of food they serve but it’s obvious to me that they like rodeos, so they can’t be a bad bunch of guys. As Linda and I drove past this afternoon on our way to purchase one of those new fangled LBJ...LSD…LCD…DH…HP…HD TV’s that seem to be all the rage, I read the sign in front of the El Rodeo and laughed out loud.

“Okay, what is it, this time?”

“Look at the sign,” I replied.

“Yeah, what about it?” she sighed.

“Isn’t it funny?” I asked.

“No,” was her response.

You see, the sign said, “LIVE MARIACHI BAND! FEBRUARY 19TH”, and my mind went immediately to:

“Man, I’m glad they got a “live” mariachi band this time, because the last month they had a “Dead Mariachi band” and boy did they…stink.

Reminded me of the sign on Rt. 22 not too far out of Pittsburgh advertising “Live Nude Dancers!” No thanks let me know when you’ve got some dead ones dancing. That will really be something to see.

Okay, so I’m weird that way. Signs have always intrigued me. In New York, there’s a Interstate Exit that says “Mexico, New York”

So which is it, Mexico or New York?

In PA, in the middle of the state on RT 80 is an exit for “Jersey Shore”. The Jersey shore has to be a good 400 miles from that exit.

And if that didn’t confuse you enough a few miles down the road is a sign that says “Mile Run – 2 Miles” Man, no wonder I’m tired.

Stopped for gas once at a service station in Frackville, Pa. The sign above the outside spigot said “Portable Water” Portable my Aunt Fanny. Its portable only if you have a bucket.

Goose, Skitch, Little Jim and I left to go bear hunting early one morning. Now, I know you’re thinking okay, so here comes the joke about “bare” hunting. That’s pretty lame if you ask me. Nope, we left one morning drove to the mountains, stopped at an intersection and there it was… a sign.

And the sign said, “bear left”, so we came home. Figured no sense in hunting for bear if he was no longer there.

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.” You just have to train (or untrain) your mind to look at things just a half bubble off of plumb. Try it. It’s fun.

Oh. And the title of this entry? Well one of my all time favorite cartoons is of Moses standing on top of the mountain saying, “Lord, give us a sign” In the next frame there’s a bolt of lightning and a puff of smoke. In the third frame the smoke clears and there stands a sign

And it says

“No U Turn”

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?”
- Five Man Electrical Band “Signs”

January 27, 2007 at 6:49pm
January 27, 2007 at 6:49pm
Well after another week or so, everything I stated in my last blog is still holding true so apparently a more hardcore erotica story doesn’t make a difference in the readership. Women read more erotica than men, at least here.. Hmmmm. Which poses another question. When does erotica become pornography and when does pornography become erotica?

Webster defines erotica as “books, pictures, etc. having to do with or intended to arouse sexual feelings or desires.”

Webster defines pornography as “ 1. writings, pictures, etc. intended primarily to arouse sexual desire. 2. The production of such writings, pictures, etc.”

They sound pretty similar to me. The biggest difference is the definition of erotica specifically mentions “books”, while pornography encompasses all “writings.”

So having written two stories in the erotica genre am I now a pornographer? Ouch this is making my head hurt.

Well, to date my erotica - pornographic story titled Harrigan’s has had 43 views and only one rating/review.

Conclusion: erotica is still taboo and people don’t like to admit that they’ve read it, even when they can review anonymously.

My hat is off to amaris, who not only reviewed Harrigan’s but also reviewed A Penny For Your Thoughts and left public comments for both. Now there’s someone who’s not afraid to walk on the wild side here at WC. Check out her port, I know I will.

Well that’s all for now. Experiment is concluded. I shall now return to the regularly scheduled broadcast.

January 20, 2007 at 8:33pm
January 20, 2007 at 8:33pm
         Okay, I’ll admit it. Ever since Tor introduced me to the My Summary Statistics page at Writingdotcom I’ve been fascinated with it and hardly a day goes by that I don’t check it at least once to see what stories of mine are being read and from where the hits are coming. The demographics are interesting, and it’s fun to see what type of audience is attracted to what type of story.

         Over time I’ve noticed a thing or two that caused me to wonder. There is, or rather was one story in my port that had a XGC rating. Way back when someone challenged me to write an erotic story. Since this was an area I had never explored before and since I remembered someone on this site telling me you should always challenge yourself and write in the genre’s you are not comfortable with I took the challenge.. The result was my story, “A Penny For Your Thoughts”. No, I’m not going to link to it. If you want to read it, you’ll have to go to my port and find it.

         I wrote “Penny on Dec 13th, 2005. Since then it has had 188 hits, 5 ratings and 4 reviews. Not bad I guess. It has an average 4.5 rating. At the time I thought, boy, wouldn’t it be neat to write a short novella around Penny? So I set out to do just that. Only, I was never able to come up with “Chapter 2”, so Penny languished, my only erotica type story.

         When I looked at the stats for the story, I became intrigued. 39 unique members had read the story, or at least clicked on it. The average unique member was between the ages of 18 –24. No surprise there, huh? Horny young men reading erotica, right? Wrong. Horny young women it seems. That’s right I said women. 27 of the readers were female, only 12 were male. 16 of the 39 were between the age of 18 and 24 and, 12 were between the ages of 13 and 17!

         Where are the dirty old men reading porno in the bathroom?

         24 of the 39 had either some college or a college degree. No surprise there.

         But, I was completely amazed by the number of female readers. I know the majority of the members here at WDC are female so that may be part of the reason but I don’t think it’s the whole story. After all, the story is rated XGC, it is clearly marked erotica, and the majority of the hits were from people actually searching WDC for the erotic genre. These folks knew what they wanted to read before they read it. Of course, maybe this was all a fluke. Maybe the story was too “soft” (no pun intended) in its content to attract the hard-core male porno reader. So I decided on a little experiment.

         I wrote a story called Harrigan’s; Chapter 2 of Penny, if you will. It also is rated XGC and plainly labeled erotica. Only this one is a little more hardcore. I posted it 4 days ago on the 16th. And I waited. In four days 30 unique writingdotcom members have read the story. It has received zero reviews and zero ratings. That’s the other thing I noticed. People who read erotica don’t rate and don’t review, even anonymously. The breakdown? 21 women. 9 men. The average age? You guessed it, 18 – 24 with 13. The next largest group was 25 – 39 with 9 and those pesky teenagers 13 –17 are still hanging in there with 5. Where are their parents? My average reader is 18-24, single and female. Again most of the hits were from people actually searching for erotica.

         In contrast, at the same time I posted Harrigan’s I wrote a quick story for the Writer’s Cramp called Carbonella’s. E rating. Comedy. I posted it on the 18th. To date it has had 15 views from 11 unique members. It has received 3 reviews and 3 ratings. My average reader is 25 – 39, single and female. There were only 2 in the 18 – 24 range and 2 in the 13 – 17 range.

         What does this all mean? Well if you’re trying to pick up a girl between the ages of 18 and 24 and have any skill with the written word, I’d write her an erotic story. But remember those 13 – 17 yr olds and ask her for ID before you give it to her. If you don’t want to or can’t write erotica, wait a few years and write a funny story. Seems their tastes change as they get older. Maybe they finally see the humorous side of sex. If you’re waiting for Chapter 3 of the Penny story, maybe I will, maybe I won’t. We shall see.

         And if you read one of my two attempts at erotica, at least leave me a review and a rating. I really do want to know if it’s any good…then again, please don’t go into too much detail. *Blush*
January 15, 2007 at 2:58pm
January 15, 2007 at 2:58pm

I’ve been a member of Writing dot com for…let’s see… carry the two, divide by four…yep, I’ve been a member of Writing dot com for at least 100 years or so and in all that time I’ve been unable to attend a single convention. I’ve read about them, even seen pictures. They looked like keen fun and it’s always good to get to know your fellow writers up close and personal.

I never attended for the usual reasons, didn’t have the money, and didn’t have the time. And then it happened. I moved to Harrisburg, and I thought, you know, I could actually just drive back and forth and save the motel cost. Even if I only went for a day, it would be better than nothing, so today I sat down and searched for information on the 2007 convention and that’s when I uttered those words:

Oh Phooey!

It seems that the 2006 convention was the last convention and I didn’t even know it. Having organized a meeting or two I can understand the amount of time and energy that goes into setting up the convention so I appreciate why it is no more. Still, I’m sad knowing my one opportunity to meet you folks in person has come and gone.

I sit here soaking my pretzels in my beer, hopeful that maybe one day, the convention, will return. Maybe not on an annual basis, maybe every other year or even every five years. Maybe not for a long weekend, maybe just a day…or two, sigh.

Hindsight is always 20-20. Maybe I should’ve used the kids college fund and went last year.
January 10, 2007 at 7:34pm
January 10, 2007 at 7:34pm
I would like to meet the person who invented round shoelaces. They keep coming undone. Flat ones work much better.

I would like to meet the person who invented double knotting shoelaces to keep them from coming undone.

Complaining is a waste of energy. There are really only two things people complain about, those they can change and those they can't. In the case of the former, if you can change something then why are you complaining? Just change it. In the case of the latter, if you can't change it, why waste your energy complaining about it. Move on to something you can change.

I'm getting ready to interview candidates for my old position and I'm worried. They say you should always hire people that are smarter than you are. And I'm afraid, in my case, that's going to be very difficult to do. *Smile*
January 2, 2007 at 8:13pm
January 2, 2007 at 8:13pm
I'm not one to go around reading the online news and entertainment sites very often, but sometimes, just sometimes, mind you it is unavoidable and today, apparently is just one of those days. I've gleaned the following tidbits from noteworthy news sites on the web.

          1. Prostitutes are advertising on Craigslist. This earth shattering piece of news has resurfaced for the third time in the last two months. Now aside from the fact that the news isn't earth shattering and isn't new, I think a more appropriate title should be, In Case You Don't Know Where To Look You Can Find Prostitutes On Craigslist...and by-the-way here's the web address. I'm sure you will receive many letters of thanks...from the prostitutes and maybe a little something extra in your...hmmm...Christmas Stocking...yeah, that's it... Christmas stocking.

          2. Scientists Announce Mad Cow Breakthrough. Through the miracle of modern genetic science the cows are no longer mad! Although several appear to still be slightly irritated.

          3. We found the plane, we didn't find the plane, we found the plane, we didn't... Why do I see two Indonesian reporters plucking petals from a daisy?

          4. Kate Moss has married Shannon Doherty in Thailand.

         5. Kate Moss didn't marry Shannon Doherty in Thailand.

          6. Two Thailand reporters plucking...awww, you know the rest. (What'ya mean I got the wrong Doherty?)

          7. Cheaper Laptops could transform learning. Never mind laptops, what about lap dances? Now there's a learning experience

          8. Some deranged individual is selling Denver Colorado snow on Ebay. It comes in a twelve oz bottle marked Dasani.

          9. In China, it's the year of the fluorescent green pig. In Chicago, it's the day of the spud stud. (Use your imagination)

          10. Britney Spears falls asleep in Las Vegas nightclub

          11. Britney Spears denies being drunk in Las Vegas nightclub

          12. Britney Spears falls drunkenly asleep during Lindsay Lohan Pole Dance in Nightclub. "I guess she got tired of waiting for the lap dance" said Paris Hilton.

          13. Men in India get the, ahem, short end of the stick when it comes to condoms. Apparently most condoms sold there are at least an inch too long.

          14. In San Francisco, a cartoon penis is used to preach about the dangers of syphilis. Wonder if they hand out coloring books and crayons?

          15. And last, but certainly not least, a thirsty German beer drinker sold his dog so he could buy more beer. Guess we all know who man's best friend is now, don't we?

Welcome 2007, green pig and all! Where's Fido? I need more beer.

December 28, 2006 at 1:56pm
December 28, 2006 at 1:56pm
Apparently on, New Years Eve, people drop things around here for amusement. Now I know all about the ball dropping in Time Square. Even old enough to recall a couple of Guy Lombardo concerts, but people around here have taken things a bit farther than a ball of bright white…”Walk towards the light, walk towards the light…Luke, you are my son…Shane! Come back, Shane…

Oh sorry, the medication was wearing off. Now where was I? Yes, extremes. There’s a town not too far from here that drops a pickle. Yep, that’s right, a pickle. In case you’d like to witness this, the town is called…Dillsburg. What else would a pickle dropping community be called?

Not to be outdone another local community drops a lollipop. I haven’t seen this lollipop but I wonder, is it an all day sucker? Do they have singing munchkins from the Wizard of OZ? Is there a little girl in curls singing, “On the Good Ship, Lollipop…”And if you’re going to take in the Lollipop drop, which is in Hummelstown, you should hurry down the road to Hershey, where they drop, what else, a Hershey kiss. Mechanicsburg drops a wrench of course. (Done that many times myself). If you ask me it would be more fun to drop a wench. (Done that many times also. The real fun is in catching them) And Harrisburg? Why they drop a huge red strawberry. At least I think they drop it, since I watched them hoisting it skyward yesterday.

Now, I can understand all this need to celebrate New Years. And I can understand the fascination with dropping things. We did something similar where I grew up. Of course we rarely dropped the same thing twice, except for maybe the wrench…or our pants (can anyone say “group moon”?), and it wasn’t often on New Year’s, though occasionally, by pure accident, was. But drop, nonetheless, we did. We dropped:

          1.A WWII message canister, complete with parachute from the breast of an Army Corp of Engineer’s dam. It was the highest point around at the moment. It still wasn’t high enough for the ‘chute to open and it took a nice chip out of the concrete in the spillway.

          2.We dropped M-80’s off of the bridge above the Susquehanna River at Falls, PA. Mostly because we could. (And they made a big bang!)

          3.We dropped/threw homemade explosives into local abandoned mine ponds to see if there was anything living in them. Duh.

          4.We dropped off the sides of buildings and local rock formations on ropes. Note: do not use clothesline. Mom gets real mad.

          5.We even dropped a deer or two when the opportunity arose…but never at midnight. Well, almost never.

So you see I’m well schooled in this dropping thing Why’ there’s even been a time or two when I attempted to drop off the planet, but I could never seem to figure that one out. (Gravity sucks). But right now I’m trying to figure out how to be in two places at once, because you see, Pottsville drops a beer and Red Lion drops a cigar. Now if only someone would drop a TV with a football game playing I’d have it made.

Happy New Year, Everyone! Have a safe and healthy one.

December 21, 2006 at 8:30pm
December 21, 2006 at 8:30pm
Coming down here to the flatlands from the ridges of Pennsylvania I was prepared for weird happenings. I had heard of people jogging along the river in January…in bikinis; crowds of placard carrying people in front of the Governor’s mansion proclaiming the end is near; (Government workers nearing retirement, no doubt) and my personal favorite a giant inflatable pink pig that appears periodically in front of the capitol, an appropriate attack on government pork.

But I was not prepared for the antler people. Sure I’ve seen one or two over the years. We treated them as an oddity, a spike (no pun intended) in the normally gently curving graph of ridge runner life. We’d giggle and point and maybe not see another for several years after that.

True, Antler people are not anything new. An anthropologist friend of mine, in a study of cave drawings in South Philadelphia, (I think it was actually a subway tunnel) swears antler people have been around since…well…caveman days. He says a caveman named Ooog was the first of the documented antler people. After killing a prehistoric deer with a spear and graciously sharing it with his caveman friends, Ooog got the bright idea of taking the antlers from the deer and dancing around the firelight to amuse his friends. His friends, on the other hand, aided by full bellies, flickering firelight, shadows and a generous helping of fermented huckleberry juice took Ooog for another prehistoric deer and promptly speared him. Antler people were not heard of again for many, many years, until well after the invention of streetlights and the confiscation of spears. The fermented huckleberry juice lived on.

It was somewhere before the middle ages, which I guess would be the beginning ages, when men took to wearing antler adorned helmets into battle. While not true Antler people, (history has shown that for the most part Antler people are a fun loving if slightly obnoxious group), this did serve to maintain the visual concept of people wearing antlers. Antlers, being in short supply and a hot commodity for the aspiring village pillager, began to take on a value of their own. Soon they were traded for all sorts of items not the least of which was more fermented huckleberry juice.

In time Antler people seemed to fade into the veiled shrouds of history. Oh, an occasional sighting was written down, usually told by a newly rescued shipwrecked sailor or a scientist gone mad from one too many electric shocks, but for the most part they faded into the pages of history. But they did survive…and they multiplied. They became a secret society steeped in mysticism and fermented huckleberry juice.. The evidence has become all too…ah…ah…evident to me this week.

Apparently, once a year, the Antler people display their antlers in pride and they have chosen the week of the winter solstice to do it. Wherever I have traveled this week, I have been beset by people wearing antlers. The antlers themselves are a sight to behold. There is, no doubt a hierarchy to the antlers and what antlers you wear must signify your station in the hidden cult like world of the Antler people. Some light up, some have little bells on them, and some are made of paper and droop sadly on the wearer’s head. Some Antler people even wear brightly colored clothing and one; I kid you not, wore a blinking red nose! I have observed groups, no, herds of these antler people riding the bus and walking the streets of Harrisburg. They run cash registers at local stores. They…Aggggghhhhh!!! sit in the cubicle in front of my office proudly displaying their antlers for all antlerdom to see.

Today, as I waited for the bus, a gentleman next to me must have noticed my observation of the antler people. As if to put my mind at ease he leaned over and said, “Don’t worry buddy, by Tuesday they’ll be all gone.”

“They will?” I answered.

“Yep, they will. They’ll be replaced by people wearing conical party hats and throwing confetti.”

“Really?” I asked amazed.

“Yep, they’re called coneheads . They've been around a long time. It seems there’s these cave drawings in Southern France…”

I can’t wait.

December 18, 2006 at 2:34pm
December 18, 2006 at 2:34pm

“Yes, ummm, Hello. My name is Joe and I was wondering if you could give me some information. I noticed that on Union Deposit Road, at the entrance to the Twelve Trees Housing complex, there is a bus stop sign. Could you tell me which bus stops there and at what time?”

“No bus stops at Twelve Trees.”

“I see, but there’s a sign.”

“Doesn’t matter. No bus stops there.”

“Did a bus ever stop there?”

“Don’t know. Is there anything else?”

“Yes, where is the closest bus stop to Twelve Trees?”

“That would be the stop on Four Seasons Dr. The #14 bus stops there at 7:15 AM. “

“I looked for that stop but I couldn’t find it.”

“That’s because there’s no sign.”

“O-Kaaay. The bus stops on Four Seasons Drive where there is no sign but the bus doesn’t stop at Twelve Trees where there is a sign?”


“Don’t you think somebody should move the sign from Twelve Trees to Four Seasons Drive.”


“Why not?”

“Because Twelve Trees is an official bus stop.”

“But the bus doesn’t stop there!”

“Might in the future.”


“Can’t say.”

“Just out of curiosity, do you ride the bus to work?”

“Are you kidding?”
December 17, 2006 at 7:10pm
December 17, 2006 at 7:10pm
Kranich’s Jewelers
Logan Valley Mall
Altoona, PA 16602

Attn: Michael Kranich Sr.
Charles Kranich
Michael Kranich, Jr.


         On December 13th, our son, Michael Segal was getting ready to go to work. He slipped on the bathroom floor and fell, knocking himself unconscious for what we believe was at least several hours. Michael lives alone. He is an employee of your company and works at your Johnstown Galleria Mall store. When Michael didn’t show up for work, his fellow employees became concerned. They knew that he was always punctual and if he were going to be late he would have called. After repeated attempts to contact him on his phone failed, (Michael later said there were 23 missed calls on his cell phone) they phoned the Ebensburg Borough police who immediately dispatched an officer to check on him. Finding the doors locked and getting no response, the officer called Michael’s mom in Harrisburg to find out if there was another way inside the house. I was out of town so my wife phoned me. While the police were attempting to gain access, Michael’s mom continued to call his cell phone. Finally a very confused and shaken Michael answered and his mom told him to let the police in. After striking his head in the fall Michael had passed out on the floor. He had two cuts on his head that required stitches. The local ambulance transported him to the hospital, where again his fellow employees made sure he had someone with him and a ride home. My wife and I arrived the next morning.

         We are extremely grateful that your employees took the time to help Michael when he needed help. Their concern, and willingness to act on that concern, set in to motion the help that Michael needed. Michael is lucky that his fall did not result in any more serious injury than what it did. The outcome could have been much worse. He is also lucky to work with caring people who took the time to make sure he was all right.

         It is all too easy in today’s society to get wrapped up in living our own lives and not take the time to reach out a hand to someone in need. During this holiday season your employee’s concern and ultimately their actions go a long way to reinforcing a basic premise of humanity. We should all take the time to help each other and watch out for each other..

          As an employer you should be very proud of your Johnstown store staff. Their actions reflect positively on themselves as well as on you and set an example we would all do well to follow. My wife and I are extremely thankful they took the time to help Michael. We hope that all the employees of Kranich’s have a safe and joyous holiday season. We will have an especially happy one having Michael here to share it with us.


Joseph R. & Linda A. Umholtz
December 6, 2006 at 8:38pm
December 6, 2006 at 8:38pm
Greetings from Marienville, PA. In case you are wondering, Marienville is located in Forest County, which has the distinction of being the only county in Pennsylvania without a traffic light. It also has only one modern hotel, which in itself is amazing, as Marienville can’t have more than three to four hundred people living here. It’s a nice little town, and the Microtel Inn/Suites, that is the modern hotel and the one I’m staying at, is quite nice, even if at the moment I don’t seem to be able to connect to the internet. Then again, that’s as it should be in a county with no traffic light and a town with under five hundred people.

In Marienville, you basically have two options for dinner and your decision is ruled by whether you want alcohol with your meal or not. If you do, you go to the Kelly Hotel, which I believe is a hotel in name only, a remnant from days gone by. If you don’t want alcohol then your other option is the Bucktail. Things could get slightly confusing in the near future as the Bucktail Hotel and restaurant, which is where I chose to eat tonight’s meal, as they told me they should have their liquor license by the end of the year. It’s a shame as I have a feeling that could spell the end of a well-kept secret.

At 6PM on a Wednesday night Marienville is not a hopping town as evidenced by the fact that I was the only customer in the restaurant. The Kelly, which is just across the street, I’m sure, had a few more, at least as evidenced by the cars in the parking lot. Still… the Bucktail had several cars also. Of course that could have had something to do with the five people who tended to my every need from the moment I walked in the door until I left.

If you stop at the Bucktail, I recommend the French Onion soup and the roast beef dinner. I suspect you could choose from any of the other meals or soups and be equally pleased. They had what looked like a killer German Chocolate cake but I opted for the coconut cream pie, a traditional favorite. In the world of CC pie I would give it a C+. Of course, I’m pretty hard to please in this department.

Being the only person in an unfamiliar restaurant can give you pause. What does everyone else know, that you don’t? If you’re lucky, when you get to the Bucktail and find you are the only one there, another patron will arrive shortly. In my case this was a gentlemen named Jeff, who from his distinct southern accent I deduced was not a local. Jim was an engineer from Lou’ville, Kentucky. If you say it any other way, you’re not from Lou’ville. At least that’s what Jeff told me. Across the aisle we had a wonderful conversation during which we solved all the worlds woes from economics all the way through meteorological events such as tornados and blizzards.

So here’s my recommendation if you find yourself in Marienville on a cold December night. Stop by the Bucktail. Don’t worry if you’re the only one there, the ladies will make you feel right at home. Order a bowl of French Onion soup and whatever else you like to eat. Ask if Jeff’s coming in tonight as you have some thoughts on Global warming and cheap Mexican labor you’d like to discuss. If he’s not there, sit back, relax, and enjoy the meal and the company of the fine ladies that run the place. Oh, and try the German Chocolate cake. Let me know how it is.

PS Have patience. The internet connection came through.
November 28, 2006 at 12:25pm
November 28, 2006 at 12:25pm

Well folks, it looks like this Coal Crackin’ Ridge Runner is going to survive the month of November. There were some minor and major glitches along the way, but Linda and I are now safely ensconced in Harrisburg. There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that real estate values have gone down in the Union Deposit area, but one might expect to see a reduction in the gray squirrel population soon. (Yum, tasty)

I know I have often referred to this area as the Land of the Flatlanders but I have since changed its moniker. In the past, those of us in government employ elsewhere in the state would refer to Harrisburg as “The Emerald City” or “Disneyland on the Susquehanna” because it was generally felt that the people who mold shape and guide our regulatory world were out of touch with reality…and now I’m here. Hmmmm…

So you see Harrisburg has many names. Right now my favorite is the “Land of the Slow Bump” Down here they actually call them speed bumps, which probably gets back to that out of touch with reality thing. Quite frankly I’ve driven over a quadrillion of them since moving here and not one of them speeded things up. No temporal shift, no G force change, no acceleration at all. In fact they all very consistently slowed me down. Hence the name, Slow Bump.

Now when I mentioned this to one of the local Flatlanders as we were riding the bus to work, he looked at me like I was from Mars...or from “up thar on da ridge” He said, “they’re called speed bumps because they’re suppose to slow down your speed.”

I smiled contentedly, and said, “Thanks for making my point.”

Exasperated, he grimaced, and asked, “Don’t you have anything like that back up on the ridge?”

Certainly,” I replied. “We got a couple of things. We got “Thank you mam’s” and deer.”

I could tell by the puzzled look on his face that I would have to explain.

“You know that da-thump you feel every time you go over a slow bump?” I asked.

“Yeah” he responded cautiously.

“Well back up on the ridge we call that a Thank you, Mam.”


“Because we ain’t hicks you know. We got manners and we always thank our women folk.”

“Thank them for what?”

“For the good time, of course.” You flatlanders don’t know much, do you?”

He couldn’t give up there, so he just groaned and asked about the deer.

“They give you the same feeling.” I replied. “Every time you hit a deer with your pickup you get the same “da-thump” when your rear wheels bounce up over the carcass.

And they all moved away from me on the bus.
November 8, 2006 at 8:56am
November 8, 2006 at 8:56am
This is an automated response from the Desk of Joe Umholtz. Joe is no longer capable of replying because almost all of his mental capabilities, (few, at best, to start with) have disintegrated into a oozy mess somewhat resembling reconstituted Kool-Aid. Therefore, I (his desk) have deemed it necessary to take over. I suggest if you wish to communicate directly with Joe, that you contact him at the Home For The Not So Mildly Bewildered (HFTNSB). Joe is very comfortable in his residence there and may never leave as long as they let him play with the rubber bands. (no paper clips, you could poke an eye out with those things.) The staff of HFTNSB feels that in time Joe's drooling and constant scratching may actually cease but they are not so sure about his eyes rolling back into place. I must ask you, that if you intend to communicate with Joe (aka his desk) by email that you please proofread each piece of correspondence for any obvious connection to the space-time continuum or the theory of relativity. These particular topics are very difficult for Joe to handle at the moment and are thought to be one of the reasons behind the eye rolling. An example is listed below:

"Although the CBTS Stormwater Workgroup has been meeting periodically since February 2007"

This obvious reference to time travel has caused HFTNSB to up Joe's medication and most of the glazed donuts at the nursing station to disappear. Those in the know feel it was some sort of time wave that caught the donuts, despite the glazed sugar in Joe's beard.

If you wish to directly contact Joe, please be aware that he has taken to speaking in tongues, none of which appear to be any known language. He keeps muttering something that sounds like "5 acres" and "beam me up". The most often uttered intelligible phrase involves something he refers to as "my precious".

If you intend to visit I suggest bringing copious amounts of Yoo-Hoo and donuts as it appears these offerings please Joe and have a calming and sedative like affect.

We thank you for your interest in Joe's health and rest assured that in no time at all Joe will be as good as he was in August of 2012.
October 27, 2006 at 7:59am
October 27, 2006 at 7:59am
In case you’re wondering why you don’t see me around here much here’s an example of my life.

Joe’s November 2006 schedule:

Nov 1st thru 3rd – Continue packing worldly possessions for move to Harrisburg (Continuing process begun several weeks earlier.
Nov. 4th & 5th – Pack father-in-law’s belongings for move to assisted living facility.
Nov. 6 – move father-in-law into assisted living facility
Nov 7 – attend meeting in Allegheny National Forest
Nov 8th & 9th – move furniture from house to carport in anticipation of moving van.
Nov. 10th – rent moving van and load
Nov. 11th – move worldly possessions and wife to townhouse in Harrisburg and unload moving van.
Nov. 12th – begin unpacking
Nov. 13th - continue unpacking…and pack suitcase. Leave Harrisburg for Ebensburg (Leave wife in new home, new town, surrounded by a sea of boxes.)
Nov. 14 - attend meeting in Ebensburg. Leave Ebensburg for Meadville
Nov 15 thru 17 - attend various meetings and provide training.
Nov 17th - leave Meadville for Harrisburg
Nov 18 ,19 - visit father-in-law in Johnstown
Nov 20 thru 21 - continue unpacking, continue unpacking
Nov. 22 & 23 - Prepare Thanksgiving meal for 6 (so far) in our new home.
Nov. 23 – Thanksgiving (mainly I’m going to be thankful I survived the first 22 days of the month)
Nov 24th thru 26 - Rest? Nope, continue unpacking. Visit father-in-law in Johnstown. Visit my folks in C’dale. (I hope)
Nov. 27th - Set foot in my new office for the first time.

Oh, did I mention I got the Harrisburg job? Stay tuned for the December schedule. I already know Dec 1st.

Dec. 1st- Check into the Home for the mildly bewildered.

That’s it for today.

PS Some of you may notice that during the month of November, which is prime hunting season here in PA I don’t have a single day set aside for hunting. The wisdom of those close to me felt that putting a weapon in my hands during this particular November (with it’s ever so fun agenda) may not be such a good idea.. Sigh…there’s always next year.

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