Old journal entries, April/May 2002
January - March 2002
July - December 2001
FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2002 - Get you kicks
What's the biggest news story in the world right now? This War on Terrorism? Ha! Try the World Cup. If you visit FIFA's official English-language web site, you'll find no reference to the word "soccer." No way buddy, this is football. The rest of the world is taking part in something amazing and wonderful that the United States simply doesn't get. And we have the gall to name our baseball championship the World Series.
THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2002 - This place is a fort
I was on assignment today at the Army's Fort Meade in Maryland. A Carlisle Barracks officer accused of murdering his wife was having a court hearing there, and I went to cover it for the paper. Pick up Friday afternoon's Sentinel for the story.
This was an interesting assignment for several reasons. First, it was cool to hang around with other reporters, to hear the TV folks whine about not getting any good B-roll and to watch the AP photographer file his shots via cell phone. Second, I learned a lot about the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is similar to the civilian criminal justice system, but tailored to military personnel.
And finally, it was a rare close-up look at an apparent a case of domestic violence taken to its horrible extreme. It was moving and sad to hear a neighbor talk about listening through the wall as the couple argued the night the woman died. How often do we hear similar arguments do nothing about them? How many women are stuck in similar spots -- especially in the military? This is the kind of story that I write with the hope that it will inspire someone in a violent situation to seek a way out. Spousal violence problems are tough to talk about and even tougher to solve. Writing about them is a small job, but maybe it helps a little.
If you're looking for a recent posting, click here.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2002 - Hitchin' a ride
I was pulling onto the Turnpike at the Bedford exit Monday and saw a guy hitchhiking. He looked about my age, was clean shaven, wearing sensible traveling clothes and carrying a duffle bag. I sized him up as an adventurer, traveling America and living off anyone who would lend him a hand in exchange for a good story. I tapped the brake pedal. Then I changed my mind and put my foot back on the gas. What if he was a carjacker? What if he would start off talking nice and then ask me to hang on to his heroin stash until he came back for it in a few weeks? What if he was on the run from the law, fleeing child support or a parole violation or a murder charge? Maybe he would smell bad and screw with the levels on my car stereo. It's too bad we can't trust strangers. In many countries, hitchhiking is a common way of life. It makes sense, doesn't it? Why drive around a 4/5 empty car when somebody else is going the same place as you? But in America, not owning a car is too often linked to desperate circumstances. I had a friend in New Hampshire last summer who stopped to pick up two guys on the side of the highway on a rainy night near Laconia. It was the first time he'd ever stopped for hitchhikers. They pulled out a gun and took the car, which was later recovered in Louisiana. Way to spoil the fun for everybody, guys.
If you're looking for an older posting, click here.
TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2002 - Islamorada, Centralia, Pittsburgh
This sailboat picture is from my brother, Gerritt, who is in Islamorada Key in Florida, working at the Boy Scouts' Sea Base camp. He's spending his summer riding a sailboat between the camp and Key West, acting as a guide to scouts on a trip. What a sweet deal. Click on the sailboat to download a big picture suitable for wallpaper.
You might remember an item on this web site about Centralia, the town on fire. The Patriot-News in Harrisburg published two stories Monday about this sad place. You can read the stories here and here.
For everyone looking for those the snapshots from Lori and Dave's wedding in Pittsburgh: Click here for some wholesome and pleasant pictures from Saturday and Sunday. Click here for the embarassing stuff from Friday.
MONDAY, MAY 27, 2002 - All the best to Lori and Dave
First, for everyone looking for those the snapshots from Lori and Dave's wedding in Pittsburgh: Click here for some wholesome and pleasant pictures from Saturday and Sunday. Click here for the embarassing stuff from Friday. For the record, it was a beautiful wedding. These guys are a class act.
The same thing can't be said of we who went out in Pittsburgh very early this morning, following the reception. I guess there's not much I can write about this, other than that we ended the night at the South Side Hospital emergency room while one of our party (NOT me) got six stitches in his face. He somehow slammed his head into a pillar while he was dancing at club Matrix. Heck, if you can't have a good time, have a good story. I didn't take my camera on this excursion because I was afraid it might get damaged. Wise move. - Daryl
SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2002 - Mawaige
PITTSBURGH - For those here at Dave and Lori's wedding: Click here for the pictures from Friday. For those readers who don't know Dave and Lori: I should point out that these pictures are not a fair introduction to these two upstanding young people of high integrity. Hear hear.
On with the day's journal. There's so much to see in Pittsburgh. Stadiums. Tunnels. Ketchup. Clark bars. Four of us went out for a drive last night, in search of nothing specific, and cruised the town. It's a city that has adapted gracefully to it's lousy geography, wedged between rivers and mountains. There are at least three highway tunnels which burrow through mountainsides into and out of the city. The most spectacular is the Fort Pitt tunnel, which right now is closed outbound for repairs and is causing snarles all over the place. There are also a few lively strips of bars, though we were so tired last night that we were content to just drive by most of them.
As far as weddings go, this is sure to be a good one. I have the relatively easy role of reading Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. At the moment, I'm reading it over in the Gideons Bible in our hotel nightstand. We went out for a wedding party dinner last night at a big-box restaurant-arcade called Dave & Busters and heard some pretty good toasts from the dads, and from friends. I played a lot of ski ball.
Tomorrow: Out of Pittsburgh.
SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2002 - Dude, where's my roommate?
PITTSBURGH - Today's posting is for the benefit of those attending the David-Lori wedding this weekend. Click here for the pictures from Friday. Right now, it's 9 a.m. in a Holiday Inn somewhere between Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh airport (ie. 35 minutes from anything). I remember around 2:30 this morning we actually boarded something called a "Happy Bus," which went about 2 blocks before the driver sternly told us to get out. Somehow we made it here. Pittsburgh is a cool town (more on that later), and seems we're all happy to be here for Dave and Lori. A little too happy? Nah.
FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2002 - The steel city
The home page goes on location this weekend in Pittsburgh. My friends Dave and Lori are getting married Sunday, and I'll be in and around the 'burgh all weekend. Cheers to them! I can't say for certain what (if anything) may be posted on this site between now and Monday, so in case I don't see you, have a memorable Memorial Day.
THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2002 - Slipped disc
It didn't take long for those crazy Internet kids to figure out how to crack the new copy protection on audio CDs. Did you hear about how it was done? It doesn't involve any sophisticated software work-arounds or special stunts with your computer. All it takes is some black magic... marker. That's the kind of thinking I like. Read about it here. On another musical note, I wonder whatever happened to the 2000 government lawsuit against the big record companies for price-fixing music CDs. You know, how they all arrived at the mysterious price of $15 or so for something that only costs $1 to manufacture? I wonder if that story will ever re-surface.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2002 - Poll position
I was counting votes in Perry County last night, a rural valley where the big story was that voters rejected a library tax. Nobody likes taxes. Nobody likes counting votes, either. I mention this because it seems like many counties in Pennsylvania and around the country have a similar old and inefficient system of counting votes. Here's how it works. Poll workers drive the ballots from the polling places to the county offices. Volunteers then feed stacks of ballots into counting machines. The machine spits out the totals for each precinct onto a wide spool of green paper fed through a dot-matrix printer. A volunteer then carries those pieces of paper across the street to the main courtroom, where reporters and party people copy the numbers from those printouts and add up the numbers ourselves. That's how we get the unofficial results. At the end of the night, the computer spits out a summary sheet that's supposed to include the final preliminary totals. In Perry County, that didn't work, and the computer spit out two sheets which we had to add together. It takes weeks for the official count to be certified. It's amazing that this relic of a system still works. My opinion: all counties should use Internet-based computers to count the votes, the same way we use computers to pay our taxes and renew our driver's licenses. People could vote either at the polling places or from their home computers. This would cost money, of course, but it would be well worth it in the name of making democracy work better. Why do our leaders avoid making this investment, even as they spend tax money to bring technology for many other government services? Maybe it's because this system got them where they are now. - Daryl
TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2002 - Food for thought
I updated my recipes page today with two new recipes. I hope to add a cheesecake recipe soon, depending on how well it turns out. (At the moment, it's chillin' in my fridge.)
Tomorrow I hope to post a message about what it's like to cover a primary election in Perry County, Pennsylvania. Don't touch that dial.
MONDAY, MAY 20, 2002 - Primarily negative
If you've watched any Pennsylvania TV stations lately, you've seen the campaign ads for Bob Casey and Ed Rendell, the two Democrats running for the nomination for governor. These ads are clearly targeted at a very specific and important voter bloc -- people who are both angry and gullible. I suspect these candidates figure that's where their advertising dollars will get the most bang for their buck. Such a shame, because it means the rest of us must suffer through nasty campaign ads filled with bad facts. These ads pollute local TV and insult both the candidates and the voters. (Or, in my case, they insult a random observer who can't vote in the primary because he's registered as an independent.) The primary is Tuesday, so after that, at least one of these candidates (I suspect Casey) will stop running these terrible ads. The other one will start slinging mud at Mike Fisher.
SUNDAY, MAY 19, 2002 - Summertime blues
A few blocks from here, students were graduating from Dickinson College today. It was confirmation day in church this morning. Penn State was practically empty this weekend. Carlisle prom was this weekend and there are only a few weeks of school left. As the education world goes into summer hibernation, I'm coming to grips with the fact that I simply don't get a summer break this year. Man! This work thing can drag you down.
SATURDAY, MAY 18, 2002 - Boy Scout on the wrong side of the law
It's a weekend in which I hop all over the map and wear several different hats. I like that. Friday night I was at the Pennsylvania Press Conference in State College to claim an award I won (value: $200) and party with some stereotypically hard-drinking newspaper reporters. Coming back Saturday, I lost half my award to the North Middleton Township Police Department, who caught me doing 61 in a 45 zone (value: $95). Then this evening, I met up with my old Boy Scout troop from Maryland, who are camping in a state park not far from Carlisle. The adult leaders who remembered me had already bought today's paper and saw I had a story on the front about a guy struck by lightning. We all spent a lot of time laughing about small town Pennsylvania, and it got pretty harsh. But coming back home, the sky lit itself up in an interesting way and I took this picture of a farm and the sunset. The picture is nothing special other than a peaceful piece of desktop wallpaper to remind me of at least one upshot to this area -- scenery (value: priceless).
FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2002 - Press conference
I'm in State College tonight for a newspaper reporters convention. Insert sarcastic comment here. Back Saturday.
THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2002 - Bubblicious
Central Pennsylvania is filled with weird stuff. One of my favorite weird spots around Harrisburg is the Bubble in Boiling Springs. I'm no historian, but I read somewhere that rich folks from Carlisle built a resort here years ago and a quaint little town sprang up around it. The village of Boiling Springs now boasts a corner gas station, a post office and a school district ("Home of the Bubblers"). In the middle it all, surrounded by a small fence and a walkway, cool clear water bubbles out of a big ol' rock. Folks call it the Bubble. The water flows from an underground cave into a rather pleasant little lake filled with lazy fish and ravenous ducks. I recently met two people who actually dive into the Bubble and explore the cave with SCUBA gear modified for tight spaces. (Fine for them, but killer-dangerous stuff for people without cave dive training!) People adore the Bubble as a local landmark, but nobody seems to think of it as much of an attraction. There are no signs or historical markers around, and you can't buy a Map To The Bubble or anything like that.
So here are the secret directions: Take I-81 to Route 74 South, then immediately bear right onto Forge Road to Boiling Springs. About four miles later, once you're in Boiling Springs, the Bubble will be on your left near the stop sign, between a pizza shop and a tavern.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2002 - Product review
And now for something you really care about: a new cola drink. I grabbed the last Vanilla Coke out of the Giant cooler today. At the conveyor belt, the girl behind the register gave it a second look. "Can you get that vanilla cola in the cooler?" she asked. (Was she checking me out?) "I think I got the last one," I said. Two grocery baggers came over to look at the bottle. "It's new," I continued. "Just came out this week." They asked what it tastes like. I told them I didn't know. How exciting! A mysterious new soft drink! Back home, after downing half the bottle, I can report that this is a fine product. It's not as good as classic Coca-Cola (can't beat the real thing) or even as good as Cherry Coke (which is like Coke Classic hepped up on sugar) but it has a richer, more complex flavor than either of those colas. It's on the same level as Pepsi Twist. I'll buy it again. You know, to impress people.
Tomorrow: What the heck is The Bubble? A report from Boiling Springs.
TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2002 - Handwriting
Why do I still write on my hand? Maybe it's a rebellion against the professional life of memo pads and sensible shoes. It's certainly not because I don't have paper available, since I seem to have a pad with me at all times. Today I wrote an important reminder on my hand -- while I was walking, without stopping -- and it turned out so sloppy I couldn't tell what it said. Looks like "CAMARO". What could that mean? Or "LAMFRD"? Or "(AMERI)"? Huh? Look hard, Jumble players. Oh, there it is: "CAMERA". Now what did I need to remember about a camera?
MONDAY, MAY 13, 2002 - Seconds count
When shopping for my next apartment, I will give preference to places on the second floor. See, here on the second floor, I don't have problems with ants, mice or other ground critters. And I don't have to answer the door for the FedEx guy or the gas meter man. Along with those benefits, I don't have to climb multiple flights of stairs or sweat in the sweltering top-floor heat. This is practically the lap of luxury.
SUNDAY, MAY 12, 2002 - Word to your mother
Here are some fun words (and their dictionary definitions). Feel free to use them the next time you confabulate.
Quaff - To drink heartily.
Coif - (Short for coiffure) A hairstyle.
Roadhouse - A restaurant, night club or inn located on a road outside a town or city.
Dastard - A sneaking, malicious coward.
Nefarious - Infamous by way of being extremely wicked.
Fox trot - 1. A ballroom dance encompassing a variety of slow and fast steps. 2. A slow broken gait of a horse, between a trot and a walk.
Rigmarole - 1. Confused, rambling or incoherent discourse. 2. A complicated, petty set of procedures.
SATURDAY, MAY 11, 2002 - Pleasant living
Today: In Maryland to visit family.
FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2002 - Just ducky
So you need a Mother's Day card? Gotcha covered. I rode my bike to Boiling Springs today and shot some ducks at Children's Lake. (Pictures, I mean.) What could make a better card for mom than an adorable pictures of mama duck and her ducklings? Click here or on the picture at the right and you'll download the card I made. Just hit print, cut it out, stick it on a blank card and you're set. No schmaltzy Hallmark poem, just your own personal message to mom. She'll thank you. - Daryl
THURSDAY, MAY 9, 2002 - Potpourri
On the radar: "Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones" opens next Thursday. Vanilla Coke should hit stores sometime next week. Which will be the better sequel? Having no real information about either, my vote goes for Coke.
Thought: Murphy beds make good sense. Why aren't they more popular?
Best song on the radio right now: "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World.
Quote: "The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom." - H. L. Mencken
WEDNESDAY, MAY 8, 2002 - Bravo Oscar Romeo Echo Delta
Okay word people. I bet you wish you knew the phonetic alphabet. Or maybe you do. For your enjoyment, here's the one used in aviation:
Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta Echo Foxtrot Golf Hotel India Juliet Kilo Lima Mike November Oscar Papa Quebec Romeo Sierra Tango Uniform Victor Whiskey Xray Yankee Zulu
How did they come up with these crazy words? The idea is that none of the letters in the phoneic alphabet rhyme. You're less likely to confuse "Delta" and "Victor" than you are "D" and "V". There are plenty of variations -- sometimes I here Edwards and Nancys thrown around on the police radio. If you want to know more (and of course you do), you can satisfy your curiosity on this web site. I read a little bit and realized that "AbleBaker.com" would be an awesome domain name. Sadly, it's taken. Hmm... there's always TangoUniform.com...
TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2002 - Appreciation
In case you didn't hear, Earl Shaffer is dead. Passed away Sunday. Back in 1948, he was the first person to hike the 2,000-some mile Appalachian Trail end-to-end in one stretch. He did it lugging an army rucksack. Then he hiked it again in 1965, in the other direction. And then a third time, at age 79, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first hike. By that time, 1998, hiking the trail was high-fashion. But Shaffer walked on some higher plane than hikers like me with our Gore-Tex and our Therm-a-rests. He wore a pith helmet and carried no tent, just a tarp. He was a pioneer, a guy who could get by with what he had, who did what worked. He was also a steward to the trail, opening doors for other thru hikers and serving the Appalachian Trail Conference and other organizations. He lived in York Springs, not far from Carlisle and not far from the AT, on a farm without running water. Around here, he was a local legend. I regret I missed my chance to meet him. He'd been scheduled to make a rare appearance at one of our local middle schools soon, and I'd planned to be there. I'll think of him when I'm out on the trail. Shaffer was 83. - Daryl
MONDAY, MAY 6, 2002 - An outtake from my news notebook
It was an awkward moment for the clown. "I, uh, just came by for my check," he said shyly. The clow had interrupted a conversation I was having with the organizer of a street festival Saturday. It was late, he'd run out of balloons and he was getting ready to leave town. One of the volunteers brought the clow into the event tent. "How much?" she asked as she got out the checkbook. "We'd talked about a hundred," the clown said. The volunteer stepped aside for a brief conference with the organizer. She returned and cut the clown a check for $125. He went away smiling. - Daryl
SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2002 - Checking through customs
Oh no, he's not writing about cars again, is he? It's Carlisle -- yes I am. Okay, both the cars in the picture above are Subaru Imprezas. The one on the left is mine. The one on the right is on display Carlisle Custom Compact Nationals, which I covered this weekend. This is a huge show where kids these days take cheap grocery-getter hatchbacks and turn them into phat street racers. These cars ride as low to the ground as a skateboard, sound like out-of-repair lawnmowers and have sound systems that punch like a blow to the stomach. The people who work on these cars -- the good ones, at least -- tend to be real clever kids. Take a look at the Subaru on the right. You can't see it in this picture, but it has a stack of bass speakers mounted vertically between the front seats that actually pulse with the music. This is supercool. Now take a look at the car on the left. I love my car, but I wish I had the know-how and motivation to repurpose it into something screamin' unique. Then I could park it next to all the souped-up Civics in town this weekend. - Daryl
SATURDAY, MAY 4, 2002 - Shifting gears
1:30 p.m. - Visit the office of a state representative and interview her about the Republican primary. Discuss congestion, health care, employment, and her run for reelection.
3 p.m. - Put on a racing helmet and sit in the passenger seat of a Honda stock car as a professional driver barrels around a track at the Carlisle Fairgrounds. Discuss car modifications such as steering, tires and exhaust.
5 p.m. - Sit at a desk and telephone the public affairs at Ft. Meade, Maryland. Discuss the schedule for the court martial of an Army officer accused of murdering his wife.
This was actually part of my day Friday, and an example of why reporting is interesting work.
FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2002 - Mall that you can't leave behind
The saddest place around is our local mall. Especially around mid-morning. I park in front of the main door, which is labeled "mall" in all-lowercase block letters. It leads to a narrow brick hallway lined with gumball machines. I walk past the one remaining anchor store, then down a row of storefronts that alternates between dark, empty holes and florescent bazaars where it looks like some of the shelves have simply collapsed and nobody has bothered to pick them up. Kay-Bee. Jo-Ann. Fashion Bug. The dollar store. Old folks pass time with the sports page sitting on the white ceramic tile benches, which are also planters. A few of them are ordering pretzels. From the ceiling, Ricky Martin belts out some slow song. "It's the way she makes me feel/ she's the only thing that's real." Finally I get to Radio Shack. "I need an RCA connector cable, male to male," I say. The guy at the counter cheerfully obliges. I'm the only customer in sight. I hand over $6 and pace back to the parking lot. It seems like there are malls just like this one in every city. And like old malls everywhere, there's a plan to rip half of this one down and build a Lowe's over it. - Daryl
THURSDAY, MAY 2, 2002 - Yours truly, Evil
It feels like I've written too many stories about bizarre appearances of anonymous, threatening, hate notes at schools. In the past week alone, such notes have surfaced at Penn State and at a high school in Carlisle.
Penn State students take these threats seriously. Last year, a rash of threatening letters to black students sparked a sit-in against the university that lasted for days and made CNN. Most recently, four nasty e-mails were sent to gay and black students at the university. In response, the students threw a press conference and everybody came. I know some of these students, and know they are committed to fighting this anger. It troubles me that they have to. Here in Carlisle, somebody at the high school found a letter Monday which threatened minorities (though the cops won't say which minorities it mentioned). One fourth of the high school students used the threat as an excuse to stay home Tuesday. These notes are all a little different, but tend to drip with profanity, contain a few threats specific to the school, and be unsigned. Mass e-mailings of similar character appear at colleges all over, and usually get a brief mention in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Other racist materials, like pamphlets from hate groups, show up in school bathrooms or on bulletin boards once in a while.
There are many mysteries here. We don't know how genuine the threats are. The people responsible could be anyone from truly violent racists to loose-screw activists trying to draw attention to hatred by any means necessary. It doesn't seem far-fetched to connect the notes to the highly visible white supremacist groups that hold rallies here in Pennsyltucky every few months. Whatever the case, schools need to develop a preferred way to respond to these notes and to protect students from them. I've seen each case handled with a hop-scotch aproach, with police, school administrators and angry victims often giving out completely different information. Compare that to the routine way in which schools handle bomb threats and you'll see how some standard practices would help. One harder question is what to do when the victims try to make good out of bad, and turn their hate notes into a political lever. At Penn State, receiving a threat is practically a badge that says you've made enough of an impact to become a target of racism. As someone who received one such note a year ago, I can tell you my status as a reporter rose as a result. It shouldn't have. - Daryl
WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 2002 - Gin and crayons
Five years ago this month I graduated from Centennial High School. What happened to the people I knew then? I've lost touch with most of them, but four of us got together Saturday for the first time since senior English. That would be Doug, Tiffany, Alexis and I. We were at a restaurant with paper on the tables. Tiffany found some crayons. Doug drew cartoons like the ones he used to draw. Tiffany made them dirty. Alexis laughed. It could have been 1996 and it would have been no different, except we would have been drinking Cokes (and I would have been wearing glasses). Does this mean we haven't changed? Hmm... Brace yourself, I'm about to get vague. I think since we haven't seen each other in so long, we're still relating as the four people we were in high school... as if our personalities were locked in time. Around folks we've met more recently, I imagine we're all a little different. Maybe not, but surely we're different people at work than we are at play, or at school. It fascinates me how we adapt our personalities to different situations. And when our surroundings change, do they change us, or do we change ourselves?
TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 2002 - On sail
Annapolis is one of my favorite towns. It would be a great place to conduct a study of ice cream, or crab cakes. It's the home of Gov. Paris Glendenning (for whom I have a soft spot, since I met him once), The Capital newspaper (where I spent a summer working a few years ago), WRNR radio (cool) and John Paul Jones' crypt (spooky). Not to mention the Naval Academy, the Chesapeake Bay, more sailboats than you can count, and a good balance of hip and dorky places to eat and drink. I was there Saturday and saw the Volvo Ocean Race boats (pictured at left). They were stopping in Annapolis on part of their tour around the world. I doubt I'll ever spend a year sailing around the world (I get seasick). But given the money, the time, the muscles and the know-how, that would be one sweet deal. Being at sea for weeks at a time might grow old, but you'd always have some Annapolis-like desitination to anticipate.
Tomorrow: High school, five years removed.
MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2002 - My friends the sharks
I got a free admission to the National Aquarium in Baltimore today by flashing an Arthur Andersen corporate VIP card -- thanks to a friend of a friend who just got laid off. Going to school in Maryland, I visited the aquarium often and I always enjoyed seeing the sharks. Since I hadn't been in several years, it was comforting to see these creatures again. My high-speed tour through Maryland took me to Annapolis, Ellicott City, Columbia, Catonsville and Baltimore. Over three and a half days, I ate out, biked with my dad and his fiancée, drank with some friends from high school (I'll write on that later this week, but you can read one account at Tiffany's site), ate dinner my mom and her boyfriend, and visited my roommate Tim from college. Why do I mention all this? My long weekend reminded me of how lucky I am to have such kind friends and family. I can't see all of them as often as I'd like, but they're always there -- like the sharks.
Tomorrow: Pictures of sailboats in Annapolis.
FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2002 - The King lives
Just heard the new Eminem song on the radio. Practically everything in it rhymes with "me", which is fitting for a guy who only raps about himself. The most teeth-gritting "me" rhyme is "Elvis Pres-ley," to whom Eminem compares himself. No, sorry. Could Eminem ever get away with singing a mellow song about lost love? Or about dancing in prison? Of course not. That's not macho enough. Eminem has to sing about how he beat his lover and she left him and filed a lawsuit and now that he's singing about her the entertainment business has hatched a conspiracy against him. Evil genius gangsta geek vs. soulful blue-eyed hip-gyrator. If Elvis were alive, he'd -- wait, what am I saying?
New topic: I'm going to be in Maryland until Monday evening. Watch for some pictures from Baltimore when I return.
THURSDAY, APRIL 25, 2002 - Riddle me this
It's frightening how many important decisions are made based on bad information. What brings this up? It's budget season for school districts. Pennsylvania's 501 local school districts are heavily dependent on budget choices made by the state. But the state usually doesn't finish its budget until after the school districts must have their budgets finished. Moreover, the cycle for local property taxes, which make up most of the schools' income, is based on a totally different formula set by the counties. And some big expenses, such as health insurance, are on a separate cycle, too. Confusing, yes, but what does it all mean? When a school district prepares its budget, it just flat-out guesses on some very important pieces of information... such as how much income it will get. Sure, a private business or organization has to make similar guesses, but on the other hand, a school district is a steward of tax money. When I ask questions like "What's the county's property assessment?" and nobody knows the right answer, that's bad news for our schools. These irritating details get overlooked because there's no easy way to fix them and they don't directly impact students and teachers. But in the long run, it's time wasted and can lead to some truly misinformed decisions. When I'm elected governor, things will change.
THURSDAY, APRIL 25, 2002 - Clause of death
How quickly tides change. Consider the following two sentences from actual news stories. The first sentence was the lead to an AP wire story that moved at 6:28 a.m. on April 12. The second sentence was the lead on the same story, updated at 8:28 a.m. the same day. (Emphasis is mine.)
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez, the former army paratrooper
who vowed to dismantle a corrupt democracy and improve the lot of Venezuela's
poor, resigned under military pressure Friday after a massive opposition
demonstration against his government ended in a bloodbath.
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez, the former army paratrooper
who polarized Venezuela with his strongarm rule and whose friendship with Cuba
and Iraq irritated the United States, resigned under military pressure Friday
after a massive opposition demonstration ended in a bloodbath.
TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 2002 - Potpourri
Today I interviewed an unapologetically rich couple who spend their money traveling the world. I also interviewed a novelist who has to teach creative writing to college students to make a living. Both good lives, in my opinion.
"The Fast and the Furious" is a great mindless car movie -- but no Subarus?!
I haven't watched "The Scorpion King", but I'm happy to see The Rock is now a big-time movie star. I remember taunting The Rock years ago at a WWF event in State College. We knew him when...
Thank goodness people don't give off pollen.
Being an aide to the president must be an interesting life. Now if only one of my friends were president... You hear that, friends?
MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2002 - Blogged down
I've never applied the words "weblog" or "blog" to my web site. See, "weblog" is a phony made-up word for something we already have a word for -- journal. You can read a little more about weblogs in a recent Washington Post article, signaling that online journals have broken big-time. Nowadays, everybody's gotta have one. Always the trendsetter, I added a daily journal to my site in 1998, but later gave it up. Last year, having graduated from college, I had more free time and a need to keep people updated with my current address and phone number. Now I try to post something short almost every day. It's fun. No too-personal, self-indulgent, standard-issue weblog stuff. see, most weblogs seem to be published in all lower case letters, which i refuse to do. and many weblogs rant and wail about lost loves and how fashionable their writer is, though i do neither of those things, despite my unrequited romanticism and bleeding-edge trendiness. and on a weblog, there's often a shameless attempt to rack up hits, such as from random people who might search for the word "weblog" or "web log" and some random city, like new york city or baltimore or houston or butte or ellicott city or carlisle and see who's keeping a weblog in their area. it's all driven by a thirst for more hits... a sexy, all-nude, barely-legal, uncensored celebrities kind of thirst for more hits.
SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2002 - The N crowd
Penn State is my alma mater, but sometimes it's more like my middle school. After a State College Saturday night out with friends, I needed to get to my friend Mike's place for the night. I walked to my car to grab my sleeping bag from the trunk, then walked to Allen Road to catch the 11:47 N bus. When the bus came and I got on, I made eye contact with a pack of big guys with short hair seated in the back. They saw the sleeping bag and began a chant. "Sleep o-ver! Sleep o-ver!" Then, "Ea-gle scout!" and "Be pre-pared!" Could these guys have known I was an Eagle scout? Impossible. Better diffuse the situation. I pointed to my sleeping bag, put on a big smile and announced the wittiest thing I could muddle out: "Hey, the bus runs all night, doesn't it?" Ouch. The big guys with short hair chanted for three more stops, then staggered out into the street. I rode on to Mike's, and at some point -- I'm not sure why -- took out my camera and shot this picture under the blue bus lights.
FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2002 - Car Isle
Spring Carlisle means about a billion car collectors are suddenly camped in our town. This is the first of 10 car shows we get during the warm months. I can see why some people in my neighborhood get irked at these three-day non-stop traffic jams on all the roads between here and the interstates. Other local folks work it for a profit, selling parking on their lawns for 5 or 10 bucks a space. Personally, I just get a kick out of hearing the word "Carlisle" spoken on the radio, even if it's during the traffic report. I live seven blocks from the fairgrounds, too far away to sell anything from my front sidewalk, but close enough to walk over. The show is huge, bringing together an interesting mix of beautiful classic convertibles, quirky cars like the Gremlin, junk parts, fat old men without shirts, and boring 1970s sedans. You're just as likely to see a De Soto (middle photo) as you are to see a Mercury Zypher similar to the one my parents used to drive (bottom photo; click for larger images). Thursday, I wrote an article for the paper about how collectors seek out low-mileage 1970s cars and hope they'll be worth something in ten years. I also wrote about a guy who sleeps in a hearse, but that's a different story.
FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2002 - Driven crazy
Traffic is backed up all over town right now as people go to and from the Spring Carlisle car show. I'm out wandering with my camera, so check back in a few hours for a brief write-up and some pictures.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2002 - A summer place
If you go out my front door and walk past the tire factory, over the railroad tracks, through Dickinson College and to the edge of the borough, and you'll find Massey's. Even if you miss the blinking neon ice cream cone on the roof, you can still tell Massey's is a custard stand by the crowd. On hot nights like tonight, folks line up out both doors to jam into a tiny lobby and order soft-serve. There are students, old timers, families, punk kids, hillbillies. And there are lots of tight-fitting tank tops, including on people who have no business wearing tank tops (or eating ice cream). The custard is as smooth as silk and tastes faintly like honey. As their cones start to drip, people wander home and others take their place in line. Overhead, the stars shine, the neon cone blinks, and the whole damn world, at least from this vantage point, is a-okay. If you must live in a small town, at least enjoy the ice cream.
TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2002 - Fat chance
I won six bucks with a three-dollar scratch-off ticket today in Maryland. Bummer. That means I wasted my precious little supply of luck on small fish. Now my mom and I have no chance of winning with the $300-something-million Big Game numbers we picked. Well, at least it was my mom's money, not mine. I usually refuse to play lottery on principle. The tickets I buy are not going to win; they're just going to fund stadiums to make rich people richer. Seems easier just to waste my money on Doublemint and Yoo-hoo than waste it losing a game of chance. If I'm going to be a loser, I might as well do it right.
MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2002 - Better left unsolved
It was a bumper sticker I couldn't ignore: "Mystery Hole - Hawk's Nest, WV". What could it mean? I asked my brother in Virginia. He didn't know, but introduced me to one of his friends from West Virginia. "Where is Hawk's Nest?" we asked. "About two hours from here. Oh yeah, that's where the Mystery Hole is," the friend said. "You've heard of Mystery Hole? What is it?" we asked. "I don't know," he said.
At this point, we nearly pulled out the atlas and drove to Hawk's Nest, so we could see the hole and get the bumper sticker. Would it be something kitsch-chic, like Wall Drug or South of the Border? Some geological wonder? A coal mine? A sink-hole? It would surely be an adventure. Instead, my brother punched Hawk's Nest into the computer and found, much to our disappointment, that the Mystery Hole was a building built on a tilt, with some story to go along with it. Seen that, thank you very much. Might be weird, but probably not worth four hours in the car. Too bad. I preferred the Mystery Hole when it was a mystery.
SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 2002 - The bridge club
My brother Gerritt drove us from Blackburg to see the Natural Bridge on Saturday. It's a good hour from Virginia Tech, which itself is an outpost in the mountains of southern Virginia. The big rock is not so remote, however, that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson didn't seek to survey and claim it. (T.J. called it "sublime".) There was some kind of American Indian camp there, but now U.S. 11 actually runs over the bridge, shielded on both sides by a tall fence. Apart from the highway, the land around the bridge is privately owned. To even see this natural wonder, you have to wander through a trash-'n'-trinkets shop and shell out $10 for a ticket. It's worth it. Of course, you can see it for free on this web page -- click on the small photo here to download it in wallpaper size.
FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2002 - Virginia is for brothers
Today I'm taking I-81 southbound to Blacksburg, VA, to visit my brother, Gerritt. I'll be in scenic Virginia all weekend, and hope to post some pictures from my trip in this space when I return Sunday.
THURSDAY, APRIL 11, 2002 - Seasoned to perfection
You'll notice on these warm spring afternoons, people start to open the side windows in the back of their minivans. You know, those windows that open only an inch or two, with the little plastic levers that pinch your fingers if you try to close them too fast. On a hot day in the back of a van, you can't imagine that opening those windows will do much good. But you open them anyway, and as soon as the van starts moving, you can hear the tires on the road and feel a smooth stream of fresh air that blows through. A ride in a minivan during the summer means going to camp, or to the pool, or on vacation, and that perfect back seat breeze is just a preview. Much the way this afternoon is a preview for a long, green summer.
Today: My new Resume page incorporates the new design and updates it with current information.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10, 2002 - Danger Will Robinson!
This wasn't my idea. Well yeah, it was my idea to sign up for a night class about how to build a Battlebot (which is basically a radio-controlled car with weapons). Why not? It was a fun class. My newspaper thought it would be great for me to write about this. So there it is, on the front page of today's Sentinel, a picture of me and the mess of a robot I built. The headline: "Writer hot, robot not." (Referring to the fact that I got burned by an overheated battery.) The paper ran two A1 stories about this, including one I wrote about the competition in general. You can read that article here. My first-person account of the robot battle is not posted on the paper's web site, but here's the bottom line: My robot was cheap and fun to build, but a real loser in the competition.
TUESDAY, APRIL 9, 2002 - Stamp of approval
The cost of a stamp is going up. Could this be good news? Yes! Along with the request for the price hike, the U.S. Postal Service says it won't start closing its smaller, rural post offices. "Big deal," you're saying, "I live in a major-league sports market, and they'll never close my post office, because it's massive and important." Okay. Let's pretend you live in a smaller town, like, say, just picking one totally at random, Carlisle. It would save the postal service money if they expanded the Carlisle office and closed all the mini-micro post offices in the stagnant little towns that surround it. But that would be a shame. All the good people in Newville or Boiling Springs would have to drive 15 or 20 minutes to send a letter, and would loose the pride that comes from having a local post office causing longer lines in Carlisle and generally ripping up the fabric that the small-town post office is woven into. I say, I'd rather shell out the extra three cents than see these small post offices die.
MONDAY, APRIL 8, 2002 - I want my hour back
So which is right: "Daylight Savings Time" or "Daylight Saving Time"? That's right, "saving" is correct style. The best compromise -- to avoid sounding ignorant, or worse, like some kind of DST geek -- is to say "Daylight Time." Why do most people wrongly pluralize "saving"? We may never know. It is one of many incredible mysteries of the time switch, which is surely one of the worst ideas to ever gain widespread acceptance. Doesn't seem to hurt anybody, but how did we wind up with this crazy system? And what can we do about it? Nothing!
SUNDAY, APRIL 7, 2002 - New York state of mind
So this isn't the best photo ever made of the "Tribute in Light" memorial in New York, but it is mine, taken last night when I was in the city. You can see the lights glowing in the background, marking where the World Trade Center towers used to stand. The lights are supposed to be on every night until April 13. (You can download wallpaper of this photo by clicking on the small picture here.)
Another Saturday spent wandering around New York, this time with a friend who also wants to move there. We checked out neighborhoods, including some in Hoboken, Brooklyn and Queens. Not bad. After a few visits to New York, the novelty of the Subway has is gone. It smells, it's noisy, it's confusing, and it's the only efficient way to get around.
FRIDAY, APRIL 5, 2002 - A lone woof
This is a picture of Apollo, who lives with my mom. I think it's swell that other people have dogs. Some of my friends have been suggesting I get a puppy for myself, but I just can't right now. (No yard! And no pets allowed in my building.) I might move when my lease is up, perhaps to a nicer apartment, perhaps to a nicer state. That could give me a reason to get a pet... such as a dog, or a mild-mannered cat, or maybe just a goldfish. Just as I'm thinking about how temporary my living situation seems, the new phone book hits the streets. And guess what? I'm in it!
Check back later this weekend for some pictures from New York City, where I will be Saturday.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3, 2002 - Thoughts, assorted
Speeders and slammers are in, no minis, cherries or giants. Do you remember how to play four-square? Children in elementary school still play the game with passion. I think I used to know all the rules, but I don't any more. Of course, I always enjoyed tether ball. Now that's a manly sport.
Best song on the radio right now: "Fell in Love With a Girl" by the White Stripes.
Our newspaper has been getting dozens of calls from people complaining about the new design of our Sunday TV book. This is an important lesson: don't mess with the people's TV book.
Two-headed snake! Check it out.
TUESDAY, APRIL 2, 2002 - How do I look in blue?
Something is different, isn't it? That's right, I'm phasing in a new design for this web site, and I decided to start with the front page. Trust me, I'm not finished yet. I've been amazed at how much the web has changed since my last redesign. Those flip-out pull-down menus are pretty cool, but I don't have much use for them here. I wish I could have tried some Flash animation here, but, alas, I don't have $499 to burn (that all went into the brakes on my Subaru). And I realize I violated a rule by using white type on a dark background, but just try to stop me. I again decided not to post my photo on this page. You know what I look like. And if you don't, you can find my picture around here someplace if you're determined to dig for it. Messy hair and all.
For web-heads: This page makes liberal use of the amazing "blockquote" tag. The subheads are in Blue Highway Bold. Yes, they're done as a background image in a table cell. Yes, they still have alt tags. (Come on, you can figure it out.) The main title logo is a crazy hybrid between the sign for Weirs Beach, N.H. and the sign for Hardees in Carlisle. The logo is superimposed over a picture of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, heading east between exits 16 and 17. It's all done in Photoshop and BBEdit on an iBook.
Why do this? Because site traffic is soaring through the roof, and I owe it to you, my readers, to produce the highest-quality web site I can. That and I'm just bored. Let me know what you think. - Daryl