Shocking Surrealistic Snow Storm Shots (13 iPad Images)

Dan Antion:

I know that a lot of you already follow Amy. Normally, she is sharing beautiful photographs and equally beautiful words. These past few days, she has been sharing photos from her home near Buffalo, NY where they have been hit with the worst snow storm in the area’s history. The pictures are stunning, but there’s a slight fee – Amy is asking for kind thoughts and prayers for the people affected by this unprecedented storm. I know that she has mine.

Originally posted on Petals Unfolding:

This is my third and final post of the day. The snow has finally stopped coming down, to which I think now the total snow fall in Lancaster, NY is a whopping 90″. You know, I write these numbers and it just is not going into my head, that we really have this much snow on the ground, falling in a matter of 3 days. Now that I have seen what I have, I can honestly say nothing is impossible!

I do not know where this storm is going. The “experts” say that the winds will pick up tomorrow, making visibility near zero. They also said we were in for an additional 2-3 feet of snow, which turned out to be only a few inches. I don’t think anyone knows quite what to expect. The last I heard, the officials want this area declared a National Disaster Area, and I…

View original 171 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Good Limits Bad Limits and Word Limits

imageSpeed limits – Good but we should build in some slack for people driving convertibles and people listening to country music.

Credit limits – Good but consideration needs to be given to people who have recently broken up with a girl/boyfriend and need some self-indulgent shopping.

Coverage limits – Good for insurance companies.

Term limits – Good, but we need them for every political office unless a super-duper majority votes otherwise.

Power limits – Bad, unless you’re battling Godzilla because I think he can absorb electricity and it makes him stronger. Otherwise “more power” is the way to go.

Word limits –???

A couple of weeks ago, I was busy adding someimage drama to this blog by asking you to help me figure out what to do with the Stream of Consciousness Saturday (SoCS) Challenge. In retrospect, I knew should have known the answer, but it felt good to read some of your comments. It was also the only time I’ve ever used a poll on this blog and the only time anybody filled out a poll on any of my blogs. The votes have been counted. The people have spoken.

Write whatever you like Dan but no more than two posts per week and don’t try making them longer.”

I added the last bit but it is fully supported by my editor. Actually, my editor didn’t even like my adding a potential third post as an option. Fortunately, the poll was added after the fact in WordPress so she didn’t have a chance to veto that. Then again, you ALL did, and my editor thanks you all.

I mentioned my word limit for this blog in a post about my daughter’s and my visit to an abandoned and demolished state psychiatric hospital. In response to that post, someone mentioned not knowing much about switchboards. I replied with a link to a video showing a switchboard in action. I mentioned that I had planned on including some information about switchboards in the post it but that it would have put me beyond my self-imposed word limit. She added that while people have mixed feelings about word limits, she thinks they are a good idea. So do I.

When I first started blogging, I was working under a imagelimit of 400 words. Anybody who really knows me knows that I can hardly order a beer in less than 400 words.

So, what do you have on tap? … Hmm I’m not familiar with that, I like Yuengling, I see you don’t have that but are any of these nice lagers? What about…”

Seriously, what was I thinking? While 400 words isn’t nearly enough for the topics I’ve talked about here, it remains a point where I start to pay attention to the word count. If I haven’t begun to zero in on my point, I know that it’s time.

I upped the limit to 800, a limit that I still use for my technical blogs. Technical blogs can be tiring, so if I can’t spit those thoughts out in under 800 words, I feel like I must have two thoughts jammed together.

Here, the limit is 1,000 words but I start to seriously fidget when I hit 800.

Does a word count cause me to leave important stuff out of the story? Maybe, maybe not. Besides, if it is revealed that I left something out that would have been useful, like the switchboard information, I can add it back in a comment.

In general, I think a word limit is a good thing. Operating under one forces me to do a kind of Content Editing, if I’m adapting Michelle Mueller’s lessons on fiction editing correctly to a completely different type of writing.

BTW, if you enjoy writing and haven’t yet discovered The Sarcastic Muse, check, it, out, now. I have bookmarked so many posts from the fantastic ensemble cast over there that I’m starting to organize them into my own reference book.

Michelle was talking about hiring editors. I press my wife into service for editing, and she does a pretty good job, but I don’t pay her. I find editing my own to be hard, because I know exactly what I’m talking about. It all makes sense to me. I once complained about editing my own work to an editor friend of mine and he said: “editing is easy Dan. Just remove every word that doesn’t matter.”

That’s kind of like the old joke about carving an elephant – “First, get a block of wood and then remove everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.

Of course he and I were working on a newsletter and we were using Adobe InDesign (page layout software). InDesign is brutal. You are writing inside a “bounding box” and if you write too much, it just doesn’t appear on the page.

Just so you know, in an earlier draft, I had 220 words about InDesign. I attribute that to the influence of writing technical blogs for 5 years. They didn’t add anything to this story so they’re gone. In fact, I don’t think I have any more words that will add to this story, so you get a break today – 864 well under the limit.

Pictures – We saw that sign on our way through Pennsylvania last month. I think the guy ahead of us was speeding. Yuengling has only recently made the trip from Pennsylvania to Connecticut. It’s always been a favorite of mine.

Posted in Learning, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Sixty Ain’t No Big Thing

imageSixty had been coming for a long time, but along the way it went through a few transitions. Growing up in the ’60s, the thought of being sixty seemed impossible. We were convinced that if our parents didn’t blow the world up, they would surely poison us. I guess our generation lost that hotshot save-the-planet attitude somewhere along the way. Looking back, it seems that the changes those old folks made like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Keep America Beautiful campaign actually helped. Looking around, it seems like we are willing to turn the clock back on the environment. But this isn’t about environmental policy; this is about my recent birthday.

Thirty. Thirty was the much hyped dangerous milestone for our generation. That barrier was hard enough to imagine but when I crossed it I quickly learned that there was nothing inherently untrustworthy about me. Then again, maybe that’s when my generation started sliding into a “what’s in it for me?” mentality – an unfortunate tag that seems to characterize us even more than rock and roll. Maybe that was what we were afraid of, what we would become.

At thirty, getting to sixty still seemed an unbearable imagejourney, but it wasn’t scary. I was half way there and the world hadn’t blown up, the air and the water were getting cleaner and I had a job. From pollution to nuclear weapons to unemployment to a Prime Rate of 21.5% (Dec 19, 1980); we had stepped away from the brink of danger.

Like many in my generation, my 30′s involved becoming a parent. It also involved understanding that my parents hadn’t been stupid. Unfortunately, I was still in my twenties when I lost my father to an untimely death. Coming to terms with his passing was made a little easier by realizing that he had accomplished most of the things he wanted to do. I just wish that he had had more time, time to enjoy himself after a life of hard work, time to meet his 2nd granddaughter and time to pass along more of his wisdom. I have had to glean that wisdom from his early lessons and from conversations with my brother.

I think the combination of events surrounding my 30th year also imagetaught me that life can’t be measured in decades. Life is about moments, not years and certainly not clumps of years. If I measured my life in decades, they would be filed under the headings of “meh” “stuff happened” “we survived” or “bad decisions made” “good decisions made.” Those terms would be meaningless averages at best and mere metadata at worst. To say that I remember being a parent in my 30’s overlooks the big picture – that I am still a parent and that I’m still someone’s child. It also overlooks a thousand little pictures – my daughter learning to ride a bike – building a treehouse – my wife baking bread and cookies – decorating our house for the holidays – owning a pickup truck. Technically, I owned two trucks for almost a decade apiece, but they were each a rolling collection of moments.

The summary of my 20’s would simply read: “it ended well” giving no clue to the myriad stories trapped between “what have I done?” and “so much better now.” My 20’s included two college educations, two cross-country relocations, four (almost five) jobs, a failed marriage and a true love found. There is no way to blend those ingredients; they all need their own space. They are individual stories. Some may never be told, but none will be forgotten.

In addition, each story is a thread in the sorry, that was heading toward a cliché, not a bad one, but a cliché none the less. Those stories deserve better. Those stories are unique. Individually, some of the stories are funny. Some are sad. Some are life lessons (that’s become a cliché, but it’s still in my tag line so it’s OK) and some, well I haven’t figured out what some of them mean. Some are still too painful to think about for very long and I glossed over others when I tucked them away, unaware of the lesson or the meaning they hold.

Turning sixty is was no big deal. As they say, “it beats the imagealternative” but in many ways, it’s just another marker. My mother will be 90 in April, which seems like an impossible feat to accomplish. Here we go again.

Pictures – During my 60th (and her 30th) year on earth, my daughter and I attempted a photo-a-day project. Ironically, the event began and ended at a Chili Cook-off at the company where Faith works. The top picture is the final picture in my set. The middle picture is Faith standing at the shore of Lake Erie. I watched that lake become polluted to the point of us not being able to enter the water due to the mass of dead fish. Today, it is cleaner than I remember it ever being. The next photo is Faith supervising the building of a “tree house” playscape. I think she was saying “build it higher please!” The final picture is the sign at the church where my mother was a member for 75 years until she moved to Iowa.

Posted in Family, History, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 66 Comments

Yo Greta


“Your destination you have reached, on the right. Nothing more will I teach you today”

Before leaving on our road trip to Pittsburgh, I had to buy a new GPS. I’ve had a GPS since they just barely became affordable, so this is the third incarnation of Greta. I named her Greta after Greta Garbo. I admit that the name play is a stretch; my GPS is a Garmin and, you know: Greta Garmin – Greta Garbo. Like I said, it’s a stretch. There is one other similarity, or one similarity for those of you who don’t count the name thing, Greta Garbo is one of the actresses who successfully moved from silent pictures to talkies. My first GPS couldn’t talk but now Greta yacks up a storm.

Apparently, I’m not the only person naming his GPS. Once when my first GPS developed a problem, I called Garmin Tech support and after I described the problem, the guy said:

OK, I think I can help you with this over the phone. What’s her name?


Cool, I need you to connect Greta to your computer…”

For those who wonder why anyone would buy a stand-alone GPS today, what with smartphone GPS aps and GPSs built into cars, here’s why: 1) as I’ve said before, I don’t like combo devices when more than one of the devices is critical. 2) I keep my cars for a long time. Car dealers want money to upgrade maps which (updates) are included free for life from Garmin. Also, GPS manufacturers add new features that my in-car version wouldn’t have. In fact, an in-car version from 2012 might be obsolete by now.

I visited the Garmin website and I quickly found the unit that would become Greta III but there were none in stock. After a little poking around, I was able to determine that a local Best Buy had several Garmin Nuvi 2597s in stock. I drove to the store on my way home the following day (the day before we were to leave for Pittsburgh) and I immediately became concerned. There were no 2597s in the secure bin under the GPS display but the saleswoman said they might have more in the back.

While I was waiting for her to return, a man who had been studying the devices on display approached me and suggested that I might not be happy with the traffic notification. He recounted his experience, but it sounded like it was mostly on local roads. I think the traffic notification works best on highways, not local roads. You’d have to have a pretty major backup in a sleepy little New England town before enough devices could report to Garmin HQ that something was wrong. Still, when you hear something bad about an item you’re buying, you always get that thought…what if he’s right?

The saleswoman returned with Greta III. She was kind enough to let me open it up and see if the new unit fit on Greta II’s dashboard weighted base. She did! Once I was home, I transferred my saved places from Greta II to Greta III. Finally, the last last-minute task was complete; I was ready to hit the road.

Traffic Jam

Greta predicted the 6-mile long traffic jam with precision.

On our way to Pittsburgh, we noticed two things: 1) the traffic notification system worked quite well; the picture to the right shows us in a perfectly predicted 6-mile backup. And 2) we needed a better voice. The best female voice available was a sharp-tongued vixen that seemed to add a nasty intonation when we chose to ignore her directions – “we need to pee Greta!

My daughter talked me into purchasing a premium voice. We bought Yoda, who says things like:

Your destination you have reached, on the right. Nothing more will I teach you today.”

Driven well you have. In one quarter mile, to the right you should turn,{cough} yes.”

Turn left, but not to the dark side,” and

Satellite reception we have lost. Feel you the disturbance in the force, ahem?

And, every now and then he says random stuff like:

When 800 years old you are, you will a good driver be

Actually, I’m not sure that that’s completely accurate but the meaning is clear – I’m not a good driver yet.

Also, Obi-Wan Kenobi makes a guest appearance to remind you that: “A Jedi can feel the Force flowing through his body.” Got it Obi-Wan but I’m taking a left exit, not trying to bulls-eye womp rats from my Jeep.

XWing Fighter Turning

I love how the fighter avatar banks as it makes sharp turns.

The premium package also includes an X-Wing fighter avatar. This little guy is very cool. The normal car avatar kind of swerves as it adjusts itself to a curving road, almost like it’s going to crash, while the X-Wing banks as it’s making those turns.

Um, dad, you should really be looking out the windshield.”

The coolest thing about Greta III is that she is voice activated. The default verbal prompt is: “voice commands” but you can edit that. I changed it to “Yo Greta” and it works perfectly:

Long Journey

390 miles to go. At least we have coffee.

Yo Greta

“Saved locations”

Neville Island


The only thing better would be if I could get Captain Picard as the voice, The Enterprise D as an avatar and if instead of saying “Navigate” I could say “Engage!

Posted in Humor, Technology, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

‘Up at the Legion’

Dan Antion:

I’ve already passed this onto a few people so I thought I might as well just reblog it. I know that Sammy and I have a lot of overlap in our readers, but I really enjoyed this post and it’s a timely read.

Originally posted on bemuzin:

Today, November 10, 2014 we celebrate the United States Marine Corps’ 239th birthday.

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day when the United States honors all who have served in the US Armed Forces.

Below is a photo of my grandmother who bore twelve children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood and some of whom she watched with her steadfast fortitude and optimism as they left town on their way to distant battlefields.

Grandma and Marine Recruiter

Grandma and Marine Recruiter

During World War II, four sons enlisted in the Marines and were deployed to the Pacific Islands while one daughter enlisted and was stationed as a Marine recruiter in Chicago. Grandma also had two sons-in-law deployed in the Marines and Air Force, and a younger son who later joined the Marines.

Aunt Dot, Dad, Uncle Chuck, Uncle Art, Uncle Pep, Uncle Walt

Aunt Dot, Dad, Uncle Chuck, Uncle Art, Uncle Pep, Uncle Walt

During her sons’ deployments, Grandma – along with so many other women on the…

View original 694 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Bat, Bet, Bit, Bot, But

imageOnce again, I am trying my hand head at the Stream of Consciousness Saturday challenge. The title is this week’s prompt. Kind of random, but as you can see in the tag line, I like random. I decided to just think about all of these.

Bat – Bats have been in the news in recent years around New England because of the white nose syndrome that has been killing lots of them. I’ve always liked bats, and it turns out that bats are pretty good for us, in that they eat a gijillion bugs each night. Bat droppings (Guano) is also good for us. Guano is a good fertilizer. You know you’re good for things when people give an official nice sounding name to your excrement. On the less nice side of Guano is an expression I have heard recently: Batsh*t-crazy. Think about that. It doesn’t really make any sense, but there’s no doubt as to how crazy someone is if they’re batsh*t-crazy. Guano-crazy just wouldn’t work.

My favorite bat story stars a woman that worked for me a long time ago and a coworker of hers who made a suggestive comment to her. She complained. The complaint went through the normal process. Misunderstandings were acknowledged and apologies were offered. The woman was a Met’s fan. There aren’t many of those around here, so a few weeks later, when I was in New York, I bought her a souvenir Met’s mini-bat. Her male coworker came to work with her at her desk, and he asked about the bat, which she had laying on her keyboard. Without a moment’s hesitation, she said:

Dan bought it for me. He says I can hit you with it if you bother me again.”

Bet – I don’t bet on my favorite teams. I don’t bet on them because when I do, they lose. That might sound like a paradox, but it’s true. I know because every now and then I get stupid and take a bet. My boss offered to bet me beers for several people on the outcome of the 3-game series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the NY Yankees. I took the bet and the Yankees won 2 out of 3. My boss actually offered me the chance to go double or nothing in game three but I turned him down because they always lose if I bet on them. Come to think of it, I still owe him those beers.

I remember being angry once with my father for betting against Pittsburgh Steelers. I asked him why he would bet against our team and he said “they’re going to lose. If you want to win money, you bet with your head not your heart.” When he realized I wasn’t getting it, he just told me not to bet on sports.

Bit – I love “bit” I use it a lot. “Little bit(s)” is an expression I like to use to imagedescribe, well little bits of stuff. I searched my blog and at least 10 posts include the phrase “little bit” my favorite it this one about doodling. Doodling is a kind of stream of consciousness activity, so I think it fits here.

Bot – Bots are bad, at least in my work-a-day life. Bots are associated with botnets and malware and phishing schemes and evil ne’er-do-wells like Boris and Natasha. I have a friend who uses Boris as his twitter avatar and his wife uses Natasha. There’s a story about one of them working for a guy they called Fearless Leader but, as Boris would say, “Don’t be a blabbermouth you blabbermouth.”

But – I wasn’t going to talk about but. I mean, what can you say about but? But, I can say that I have recently learned that you can begin a sentence with but. I just did. I never knew if it was grammatically OK to begin a sentence with but, or, or and, but it is. The amazing this is that I looked this up one day and I found the website quick and dirty which is or is somehow associated with the persona ‘Grammar Girl’. I figure that Grammar Girl knows more about grammar than I do, who doesn’t? And, if she says I can do something then I can do it without fear.

Note: The SoCS challenge has created a bit of a backlog in the No Facilities schedule. Yes, there is a schedule. I’d like you opinion on how to proceed.

Posted in Humor, Prompt, SoCS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

X-Files Photo Shoot

imageOur daughter Faith was a big fan of the X-Files when the show was on in Primetime, so the conversation we had while driving in Bridgeville, PA didn’t come as a surprise. As were leaving a Mediterranean Food Festival at my father’s old church, I was feeling a bit nostalgic. I hadn’t been in that church since my grandmother’s funeral in 1972. Faith asked if there was anything else in my old home town I wanted to see. I didn’t really want to see anything but I wasn’t quite ready to leave.

“Well, we aren’t very far from Mayview.”


“The state hospital where my mom worked. My dad delivered mail there. I used to deliver mail there. I worked on the farm one summer and Barb (my sister-in-law) worked there. In fact, I think my brother met her there (while visiting, none of us were residents).”

“A mental hospital?”

“Well, it’s been closed for years. They tore the buildings down but they haven’t decided what to do with the property yet.”

“Ooh, let’s go!”

Yes, let’s go. Let’s go walk around the grounds of a long since abandoned mental psychiatric (1) hospital, crawl around on the rubble and reminisce about the good old days when the state saw fit to care for mentally ill people(1), albeit often in questionable fashion. Let’s do that.


That’s the only way to describe the feeling as we walked past dead and dying trees, on a road that was being reclaimed by nature, prompting me to say:

This is like a scene from Life After People

To which Faith replied: “Ooh, I love that show!

The trees, the brush and the meandering nature of the entrance road quickly removed our car from view. Silent, alone (at least we hoped we were alone) under rather ominous skies, we walked toward the old Administration Building. That’s where my mom worked. I think that’s where Barb worked and it’s where I delivered the mail and collected the outgoing mail. It’s also where I had an accident while driving a mail truck. More about that later.

We passed the remnants of a building I didn’t remember. In imageScully-like fashion, Faith began climbing over the broken bits of brick and concrete – always in search of that perfect photograph.

We were still about 100 yards from the admin building, as the road curved further around to a larger scene of destruction. We were entering the part of the hospital grounds where most of the “modern” buildings had stood. All gone. Destroyed. All memories buried in the rubble. Well, maybe not all memories.

My mother had been a switchboard operator at the hospital. imageOver time, she became the switchboard supervisor.

For younger readers, the switchboard was where incoming calls were received and routed to their destination by connecting plug-wires to the destination’s corresponding socket. Mayview’s switchboard was a bit larger than the one shown here.

As we tromped around the rubble of the admin building, it occurred to me that we should be able to locate the conduit and phone wires that were concentrated at the switchboard. Every phone on the grounds was terminated that that nexus. I thought that if I could find that spot, I’d feel that something had survived. I’d feel connected. I’m just not sure why that mattered. Check out the pictures for the rest of that story.

About that accident: When I was delivering mail, I sometimes came in the back gate and turned left into the admin building crossing a wide tree-lined median as I did. Those trees and the cars parked along the side blocked my view of oncoming traffic.

Mail trucks are right-hand drive vehicles so you are closer to the parked cars on your right. Turning left was dangerous. It was one of the things they taught us in the one-day driving course we had to take.

Anyway, not being able to see well, I pulled out a little into the travel portion of the lane and immediately got smacked by a woman’s car. She was driving pretty fast, probably above the posted limit, yeah, I’m sure she was speeding. Since Mayview was a state hospital, the State Police came to the scene. When asked for my license, I presented my Federal Driver’s License – that was something else they taught us in that class:

In the event of an accident, only give the police your Federal Driver’s License.”

When asked for insurance information, I just stood there with a dumb look on my face. The officer called the Post Office. The supervisor on duty drove out. A lengthy argument ensued. My supervisor got all the information from the woman. The woman, got, nothing, from us. Well, she got something a little later.

One of my jobs that summer was to deliver Special Delivery and Certified mail, the stuff that needed a signature. When I got out of my truck at the woman’s house a few weeks after the accident, I could see her still damaged car in the driveway. I recognized the item I was about to deliver; it was a citation from a Pennsylvania Court. When a young girl answered the door, I handed her the letter:

This is for my mom; do you want me to get her?

No, honey, that’s OK, you can give it to her. Have a nice day!

(1) No offense intended. The way we have referred to such institutions and the people therein has changed over time. Since most of them are gone, I’m not sure what the proper terms are today.

Pictures – The upper photo is the entrance to the hospital grounds. The center one is Faith, on the run to a photo-shoot. The photo of the switchboard operators is courtesy of Boston Public Library on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Posted in Family, History, Nostalgia, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments