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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Local Blogging Events

In NEPA we have Blogfest and BlogCon.  I know some folks who work hard on both events, and I've actually attended Blogfest a time or two.

(Blogfest 2010:  One of Mary Borthwick's sons, me, and a former Congressman; photo credit to Joe Valenti)

I've never been to BlogCon though, despite the fact that I actually think I write more than most other bloggers in NEPA.  A notable exception would be that over-achiever Andy Palumbo, but in all fairness, I think his postings that just have train pictures shouldn't count.

Anyway, and in complete honesty, I feel like I'm too old for BlogCon.  That's not a knock against the event, as I know that the topics are well thought-out.  However, I'm not interested in monetizing my blog and I don't really care about SEO (I barely know what SEO actually is*).  Should, by the way, I actually care about SEO?  It certainly sounds like very serious stuff, the kind of thing that younger types ponder as the sit and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon while simultaneously listening to Arcade Fire.

The above is actually far more about my insecurities as an audience member than anything else.  Words can not describe how incredibly uncomfortable I would feel sitting in a classroom during a blogging event surrounded by people younger than my oldest daughter.  My thought bubble imagines someone sitting next to me thinking "why's the old guy here?  At his age shouldn't he already know about SEO?".

Anyway, you can link to BlogCon HERE.  Note that the proceeds from BlogCon go to help fund a very worthy endeavor for local girls, SO PLEASE DO SUPPORT IT.
A close second on the uncomfortable scale for me is usually my attendance at Blogfest.  I don't mingle well, that is unless I'm doing it professionally (I stink at it then too, but at least I know I'm getting paid...).  Then there are the politicians, most of whom I don't really know.  That leads to the inevitable awkward conversation about me and my blog, where the politician tries to figure out if I'm worth spending time with; the answer is, by the way, NO.  Granted (and as previously noted), I have actually attended Blogfest though, which at least shows that I'm willing to try and engage in cross-human interactions every once in a while.  As for Blogfest 2017, well, I'm not sure.

I'd link to Blogfest as well, but there isn't a page for it yet.

(*) Search Engine Optimization

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Scranton, circa 1968

I saw this photograph online somewhere and immediately had to grab it.  It was, shall we say, evocative.

One of the few memories I have of spending time with my father as a young child was at a bar.  I don't know the year, but 1968 will do just fine.  The bar itself was in downtown Scranton, maybe on Adams Avenue.  I don't remember too many other specifics, but one thing has stuck with me nearly a half a century later:  The smell.

The smell was of beer, and cigarettes, and maybe some urine thrown in for good measure.  It was a stale, almost heavy smell.  Like an invisible fog of stink.

Fast forward almost 50 years and I readily confess to not liking bars, as manifest by the fact that I've been to them recreationally (that is not for a specific event or gathering) less than a dozen times as an adult.

In retrospect, it just seemed all wrong.  Not the trip to the bar itself all those years ago, but more so the totality of the whole thing.  That memory has a kind of despair associated with it.  Related to that, I could never understand my late brother's consumption of alcohol, but maybe that's because he didn't have that experience back all those years ago.  Granted, I will confess to periods of time in my life when I did drink, but for the most part, I have abstained.  The short and easy answer to the question of "why" is that I don't like how it (booze) makes me feel; the better answer is that the thought of drinking (especially beer) mentally brings me down a path that seems to always land back at that bar circa 1968, back to that smell.  Back to a kind of despair that I can't quite describe, but yet somehow understand never the less.

Sunday, August 13, 2017



That's the approximate number of American casualties in the European Theatre of Operations during World War II*.

This is an important number to remember, especially in light of recent events in Virginia, where NAZIs and other assorted racists clashed with counter-protesters.  Now some on the fringe-right are going to call those counter-protestors "Anti-Fa" or "AntiFa" or some derivation therein, and use their presence and tactics at NAZI rallies to somehow deflect from the fact that, well, NAZIs are actually protesting in the United States.  In 2017.  It's all smoke and mirrors, a kind of nuevo way to make NAZIs and their NAZI tactics seem somehow reasonable in comparison.  It's a 12-year-old boy named Johnny trying to excuse his bad behavior by saying "yeah, but look at what Timmy did!", except for the fact that Johnny happens to be a NAZI.

Just remember the 182,893.

Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were among those 182,893 who crossed the Atlantic Ocean to crush fascism, that soft political veneer intended to hide true monstrous nature of NAZI ideology.  This, lest we forget, is the ideology that created the Holocaust.

These NAZI and NAZI-minded marchers in Virginia (and elsewhere) aren't just a collection of nuts with guns that should be ignored.  They are moral descendants of the monsters who killed nearly 6 million Jews during World War II.  Looking the other way, ignoring their actions, somehow trying to explain away their presence is morally bankrupt.  It also denies the sacrifice of 182,893 Americans.

Twice in my life, I've been blessed to hear first-hand accounts from NAZI concentration camp survivors.  These individuals shared their stories of inhuman actions on the part of NAZIs in the hope that it would never happen again.  Yet here we are, and unless good people act, it will, in fact, happen again.

I have one request, one ask if you will, one purpose for this posting:  Don't forget the 182,893 and what they fought (and some died) for; don't allow discussions about what happened in Virginia to devolve into ridiculous squabbles about statues, the "Antifa", "Black Lives Matter", or any number of other distractions.  Don't take the bait.  This is about NAZIs and NAZI ideology.  It's about "people" (and I almost don't want to use that word in this context) walking around wearing tee shirts actually quoting Adolf Hitler as if he were some kind of Emo poet instead of a mass-murdering monster.

For the record, I doubt I'll follow-up this posting.  Why?  It simply took too much energy on my part, and I am already saddened at the prospect that I know people who will read this and somehow feel compelled to deflect and change the story related to Virginia, away from NAZI ideology and towards some other detail, all the while providing air-cover for monsters.

Finally, what happened in Virginia is a red-line kind of event:  You stand on the side of NAZIs or you stand on the side that included the 182,893.  There is no in-between, no neutral zone.  If you choose to stand for defend, deflect, or enable provide air cover for monsters...just know that YOU OWN EVERYTHING that goes with NAZI ideology.  EVERYTHING.  May God have mercy on your soul.

- Steve

* * * * * *

(*) This is a harder number to determine than one might think it should be.  Citation HERE.  The number includes MIA, KIA, POWs and injuries.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Vermontesque #2 - You're My Best Friend

Friday morning and I'm typing this while Ms. Rivers is still sound asleep.  She firmly believes in the "you can catch up on sleep" myth, mainly because she goes to bed late during the week and gets up early to get some professional work done before the crack of dawn.  Me?  I mostly just hate sleeping.  Anyway, after our long bike trek yesterday, along with plenty of walking, she's entitled.

Thinking about Thursday, one odd thing stuck in my head:  We were taking a break from our bike ride, sitting in a nice lake-side park, watching water and people walking/biking by.  A rather scruffy young man was biking by, complete with scraggly hair, no shirt, ratty shorts, etc.  He was blasting music as he peddled along.  What was he playing?  Nine Inch Nails (make that "Noine Inch Nails" for all you Howard Stern fans out there)?  Rage Against the Machine?  Arcade Fire (just one really listens to Arcade Fire)?  Nope; it was "You're My Best Friend" by Queen.  I kid you not.

That's probably the most Vermont thing I've seen/heard so far.

* * * * * *

Saturday morning and it's just about time for packing up and shipping out.  I had every intention of finishing this posting last night, but I was simply too tired.  Speaking of yesterday, the day was spent at the Ben & Jerry's ice cream plant, wandering around an outdoor mall in Burlington, and a sunset (make that "cloudset" in our case) sailing cruise on Lake Champlain.  A splendid time was guaranteed for all, and by and large, it delivered.

Anyway, here are yesterday's Vermont observations:
  • Solar is a really big deal around these parts, which is interesting, given the fact that Burlington seems to get fewer sunny days than average (reference HERE).  
  • Burlington itself isn't all that large of a town, think Wilkes-Boro in size.  Yet the downtown was pretty vibrant, by and large (see below).  Then again, as a local explained it, this is a "six months of outdoor activity" kind of town, so maybe it's a year's worth of activity packed into half a year.
  • I discovered that there are, in fact, at least one or two flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream that I will eat.  Oh, and by the way, the hippies no longer own the business.
  • By and large, we saw a lot of younger families.  That was interesting in that the economy in Vermont apparently isn't all that great (according to our sailing ship captain, who was a great guy), and traditionally....well ever since they finished clear-cutting the forests back in the 1800...has never been all that great to begin with.  
  • The world's tallest filing cabinet is stupid.  Take our word for it.
  • Burlington as a downtown mall (indoor) mall that is struggling.  Something of a not-Scranton surprise in that regard, although there are plans afoot, apparently, to remedy the situation.  Ms. Rivers and I did enjoy the outdoor shopping area though.

Lastly, if you're in the Burlington area, you should check out the Whistling Man Schooner Company, which was the boat we sailed on Friday evening.  Beautiful boat, a nice cruise, and an informative captain.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Vermontesque #1 - Whiter Than Sour Cream

Greetings from Vermont, which, I am told, is actually one of the least diverse states in the Union.  So far I've seen little evidence to refute that idea.

At the moment I'm sitting in a Courtyard by Marriott hotel room, waiting for the day's events to begin.  Those events include a maritime museum and bike riding along Lake Champlain.  Getting here yesterday was on the long side...something like six hours of highway and country road driving...but that's the cost of admission whenever you want to go some place and you have the attention span of a gnat.

Speaking of yesterday, it was another day for me of feeling exhausted.  This at least partially relates back to my case of "Chicken Pops, Part Deux", with the added self-inflicted wound of my having stayed up very late the night before working on something.  Late, as in 1:30 am.  Not sure if that was worth the effort, but we shall see.  Anyway, I know I wasn't the greatest of company, but fortunately, Ms. Rivers is understanding (in addition to being smart and beautiful).

* * * * * *

Fast forward to 9:30 pm, and it's been a busy day.  Like most Albert-Rivers vacation days, it's been pretty busy.  Among other things, we logged about 15 miles of bike riding along Lake Champlain.  Dinner was some wonderful Asian bistro...whatever that actually means, other than Mongolian beef I had and the curry shrimp that Ms. River had (which apparently was pretty spicy).  One would think that by now I'd be tired, but for whatever reason, it's now "second wind" time.

Anyway, here are a few Vermont observations:

  • It really is pretty damn white here.  According to one website, Vermont is second only to West Virginia in terms of absolute white-ness.  I can understand the West Virginia part by the way.
  • People look pretty healthy in these parts.  Seriously, pretty healthy, as in the average NEPA resident looks like a slug in comparison.  And we're definitely not talking about a place where, by the way, folks engage in running all year round.  With over 70 inches of snow in the Burlington area, I would think that the outdoors kind of shut down for several months at a time.
  • You don't see a ton of out-of-state license plates around, which is understandable, given the fact that it's not the easiest state in the union to get to via car.
  • Biking is a big deal in Burlington.  Many of the roads have a dedicated bike lane.
(Defacing public property, Vermont style)

If it weren't for the 10-degree average low in January and the previously mentioned 70+ inches of snow this might a great place to retire.

As for tomorrow, well we have some wandering around time planned in Burlington, the Ben and Jerry's ice cream tour, and a twilight cruise on Lake Champlain.  A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Ten years ago I couldn't have imagined being where I am now, namely thinking back over a day of detachment and relaxation in Vermont.  I suspect there's a larger lesson in that last statement, some ground that I've already covered here before:  Each of us, all of us, have a shot at redemption.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Andy Palumbo's 08.09.2017 Blog Posting

You can read it HERE.

In this particular posting, Mr. Palumbo (Side note:  I'm 53 years old, so at what point can I stop calling other men "Mister"?  Still, "Andy" sounds so familiar...but so I digress.) shares another blog posting that talks about, well, blogs and blog posting from the perspective of another reporter.  So what's so special from my perspective?  Well, here's one of the several points made in the posting that I wholeheartedly agree with:

"So like I said, my blog is more for me than it is for my readers. Because, to be honest, I don't know if I actually have any in the first place."

In fact, here's a portion of my very first posting on (dated October 27, 2008):

"So there you go. Now whether sixty people read this or six, it doesn't matter a bit to me. I don't generally write for anyone but myself. Now that might sound selfish, but so be it. As someone who at least tries to do for others (as a husband, father, friend, etc.), I think I'm entitled to at least this much of a selfish indulgence."

A bit of affirmation is good for the soul.

Speaking of goodness and affirmation, in about an hour or so a three or so day vacation to Vermont is about to commence.  I'm looking forward to it, if for no other reason than the fact that I can use a bit of rest.  Camera and laptop will be in tow, along with a new book on the Protestant Reformation (a bit of "light" reading).

Sunday, August 6, 2017

10 Things I Have Learned from the Mediatakeout Facebook Feed

Mediatakeout is an urban culture Facebook feed that you can experience for yourself HERE.  Be forewarned:  It's not always G-rated.  Well, it's actually never G-rated.

1.  Always take out your weave before getting into a fight.  Seriously, it looks like a dead animal once it's laying there on the ground, post being ripped off of one's head.

2.  BAE is good.  THOT is bad.  INSTA-THOT is even worse.

3.  "Got hands" means that one is skilled at fighting.

4.  No matter how cruel or dire the situation, you can rest easy knowing that someone will be there...not to help...but to capture the agony on a cell phone video.

5.  Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj used to like each other, but now they don't.  They really don't.

6.  Drake may or may not be gay, but his father certainly isn't.  #mackdaddyforreal

7.  Some rappers, especially if they come from Philadelphia, apparently have their own personal gangs, known as "Goons".  This reminds me of the Elvis Costello song Good Squad.

Note that I am likely the only person receiving the Mediatakeout feed who has ever actually heard of Elvis Costello.

8.  The Kardashians have a dark secret, and it has nothing to do with a social disease or their choice in boyfriends/partners/etc.:  It's their brother Rob.

9.  No one actually likes Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, who apparently now is, shockingly, dating white guys.  Yes, welcome to 2017 where such things actually are considered news...for the Internet...on Mediatakeout.

10. No need to worry:  TI and Tiny apparently are NOT getting a divorce.  The world can now rest easy.