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Archive for March, 2011

It is the end of March and what we have here is a winter wonderland.  Stepping outside it is like entering a different planet. 

 This one is at the end of the driveway heading into the woods.

 This was taken a few days ago.  On our property there was very little ice except for the very tops of the trees.  This picture is taken of the property across the road and leading up higher onto the mountain.  The white is the ice encrusted branches on the trees.

Another night shot.

Winter Wonder Land.

Snowing through the night.

Two of the possums we released this past summer. Why post them here? Because they are so freaking cute.

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Imagine one hundred thousand plus people yelling “We Are Penn State!” at the tops of their collective lungs. Imagine each word being punctuated by the stomping of two hundred thousand feet on the stadium floor! Imagine an additional 60 or 70 thousand tailgaters’ outside the stadium doing the exact same thing. In a word it is, surreal.  In three words it is; Penn State football!

I’ve never been a fan of football I’m not really a sports fan at all.  But here I am in State College home of the Penn State Nittany Lions.  And lets not forget that State College is deeply ensconced in the Steeler Nation!  The only entity more important than football is hunting (something else I don’t partake in) and the two entities run a pretty close race.

To add to the fun, it seems that all the Penn State sports teams are called the Nittany Lions unless they are the Nittany Lady Lions.  Which means you have to know which sports season you are in to know if people are talking about basketball, football, volley ball or wrestling.

Every now and again our marketing manager manages to get extra tickets to sporting events.  To be fair she holds a draw for the extra tickets.  Two years ago I won four tickets to a Penn State game.  My wife who has been here since 1986 had also never been to a game.  We figured what the heck?  The stadium holds over one hundred thousand people and is only used for Penn State football home games which are held roughly six times a year.  The stadium has bench seating and they cram as many people onto those benches as possible.  So we decided to be greedy and hold onto the extra two tickets to give us a little more breathing room butt space. 

Before this tale even begins I’m giving away the ending.  Not only was this my first game, it was also my last.  Yes, I had that much fun.

First was the parking.  We didn’t get to park near the stadium, season ticket holders who pay thousands of dollars don’t get to park next to the stadium.  We didn’t even get to park in the fields across from the stadium (that is where season ticket holders get to park if the ‘donation’ they made to become season ticket holders was large enough) suffice it to say that after the fields there are more fields, to the left of those fields there is a little dirt road. At the end of the dirt road there are more fields, we got to park in those fields. And we had the privilege of paying twenty dollars to park in that field.  Many of the people parked in our field didn’t even go to the game, they were tailgaters.  In our field the tailgaters had lawn chairs and coolers full of beer and the occasional radio.  As we walked the 2 miles to the stadium the class of tailgaters got a little higher.  Some of these tailgaters were parked in campers that were more expensive then our house, they featured outdoor kitchens and 42 inch plasma TV’s which slid out from the side of the RV for outdoor watching.  Some had custom paint jobs in blue and white (Penn State Colour’s) and bumper stickers with witty sayings proving that God loves Penn State, the proof being that God made the sky blue and the clouds white.

Click for pick of Stadium

Finally we made it to the game.  We actually had pretty good seats the problem was getting to them. The two miles to the stadium wasn’t punishment enough, now we had to fight our way up miles of ramps and stairs.  There was a time or two I didn’t think I was going to make it.  I’m not sure how my wife survived.  Our seats were not really seats nor were they benches.  It was more like sitting on a railroad tie only not as comfortable.  The good news is you don’t get to sit on them very often, every time something exciting happened everyone stood up so you couldn’t see anything anyway.  Good thing for us we had the bees keeping us busy so we were not too concerned about what was happening on the field. 

We did have fun shouting, “We Are…Penn State!” We had fun doing the wave, first at normal speed, then at super fast speed, then in slow motion and my wife enjoyed the occasional “Whooo Hooo” She didn’t know what it was all about but every now again, on the big screen the words, “Whoooo Hoooo popped up and everyone yelled them at the same time in perfect karaoke style.    But even that didn’t hold our attention very long.  At half time we called it a day and made the long trek back to the car.

In the end it was a good day.  The Nittany Lions won, we know this because we did watch the last quarter of the game, at home, in the air conditioning, with beer in hand, sitting on our recliners half asleep in front of our 42 inch flat screen TV.  And while we didn’t have the bees to entertain us, the six cats did an excellent job.

In writing this blog I started to wonder how Penn State got its simple slogan.  And simple though it may be, the story is why everyone involved in Penn State should be proud.

Wally Triplett an African-American halfback played for Penn State in the 1940’s when much of varsity football was still segrated.  In 1948, Penn State was invited to play at the Cotton Bowl, and there were rumblings of having meetings to discuss if Penn State should send their African American players to the game. Steve Suhey the team captain put an end to any meetings before they could start. “We are Penn State” he said, “There will be no meetings”. The full team traveled to Texas, and Triplett scored the game tying touchdown.

For those of you locals that read this blog, next time you are at a game, or tailgating or enjoying the game from home and everyone starts screaming WE ARE…PENN STATE!  Remember Wally Triplett and Steve Suhey, stand up stomp your feet and yell at the top of your lungs with all the pride you can muster, because WE ARE!…PENN STATE!

EDIT: After posting this I found this video on youtube.  A two minute ‘documentary‘ on a typical gameday in State College. (note the stairs, those are only some of them).

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A recent post on Facebook from my friend Penney:

“I would like a few minutes alone with whatever sick freak of a toy manufacturer came up with the idea of noisy toys with no OFF SWITCH! What, did they cut a secret deal with Duracel? I’m so tired of hearing these things go off when I clean the kids’ rooms.”

Seeing that I’m having trouble coming up with things to write about I figured this would make a great theme for a blog post.  What other rat bastard’s are out there?

How about…

The idiot’s who made the decision to keep manufacturing one-ply toilet paper after two-ply hit the market?  Rat Bastard!

The guy who invented the alarm clock?

The guy who came up with perforations on packaging to make it easier to open packages?  For the most part I think the perforations are re-enforced.

The person who came up with the idea of daylight savings?

The guy who came up with that stupid baby on board sign?  Do you honestly believe I am going to change my driving habits because you have a baby on board?  A co-worker once told me that she has one so that other drivers will understand if she suddenly slows down because she has to attend to the baby in the back seat!  Excuse me people but if that is your thinking then might I suggest that having a baby in your car does not entitle you to become a moving hazard.  Pull off the road and deal with the child, or how about this, let the kid cry!  It won’t kill anybody.

Joggers who jog on the street? Do people honestly think that is healthy? Pounding your knees, feet and hips on that pavement?  Breathing in those fresh car fumes? How about the ones who jog in 90 degree heat, or when it is 10 below zero? And a note to those who jog three and four abreast so they are halfway into the road, my car trumps your bones.   

The person who is undoubtedly going to come up with something better than blue-ray? I don’t want to buy a new piece of equipment and I don’t want to buy my movies…again.

Those that win big in the lottery only to end up in debt three years later?  For crying out loud just give me the money.

I’m sure this list will grow as time goes by.  Feel free to add your own in the comment section.

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Twenty minutes from our home sits Way Fruit Farm which has been owned by the same family for six generations. As the name suggests they grow fruit, but they are so much more. They carry vegetables and meat from local growers and farmers plus ciders and baked goods. They also have a sandwich shop and a gift type store that is always fun to peruse filled with teas, coffees, farmhouse furniture and crafts by local artisans.

In the fall they set up wagon rides for the kids, a trebuchet for the annual pumpkin toss. During the different growing seasons you can either go into the field and for a few cents less a bushel you can pick your own fruit or you can spend the extra few cents and purchase the stuff already picked. Can you guess which I choose?

So why, might you ask, am I sharing all this information with you? I know what you are thinking. An earlier post of mine managed to snag me a free meal at Denny’s because of the wonderful stuff I said about them, and perhaps now I am going to try for free fruit. While that would be nice and we really do like Way Fruit Farm this post is about to take a turn for the worse.

The good folks at the Farm happen to have a Facebook page. Who doesn’t? The other day I came across the following post from our friendly farmers:

Way Fruit Farm: “Apple Tree trimming Demo: Sat., March 26, 10:30am. Free! Bring your own hand trimmers to practice on our trees. Meet in lobby @ farm store and head to orchard across the road. Dress for cold & mud as both are a possibility. Bring anyone else not interested in trimming too! Our café is open for breakfast & lunch. Browse craft & home decor area, newly decorated for spring! Kids enjoy “Corn Bin” play area.”

Now you may be thinking, ‘that sounds like it could be fun’ and you may be right. I, however am a little more cynical I didn’t read fun into the above post, here is what I imagine went down in the Way household the other morning:

Way Fruit Farm Employee:

“Man! Time to prune and trim up those cursed apple trees, wouldn’t be bad if there were just a handful but there are so many. Up at the crack of dawn and not coming in from the fields till it is too dark to see, it is going to take weeks to prune the blasted trees.’

Reluctantly the faithful employee bends down to put on his old boots, he sighs as he pulls tightly on the laces and then it strikes him, strikes him like a bolt of lightning.

‘I know, we can teach other people how to trim apple trees, not only that we can have them bring their own equipment, not only that we can have them practice trim our trees cutting the time it usually would take in half.’

He grins to himself and knows his employers the Way’s will simply love the idea. Perhaps, he thinks to himself, it is going to be a great day after all. Then another though strikes him. This thought strikes him so hard he has to sit and laugh.

‘And then when it is time for the harvest, we can let them pick their own apples and charge them for the pleasure!”

As my friend Murray Sawchuck likes to say, “livin’ the dream…livin’ the dream.

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I’m not a fan of bowling.  When I was just a wee boy my friend had a bowling birthday party.  I cannot remember if it was Brahm or Robert, what I do remember is that two prizes were awarded, one for the best score and one for the worst.  I did win a prize that day.  

The last time I was bowling was in Vancouver with my friends Tony and Penney and the reasons why I don’t like bowling came flooding back.  In no particular order:

1)      I don’t like having to rent shoes, especially clown shoes to play a sport. 

2)      I worry my fingers are going to get stuck in the ball.

3)      Just like I can’t stop worrying about the person who wore the clown shoes before me, I can’t stop worrying about the person’s fingers that were in the ball before me.

4)       When I get to the foul line I find that either my foot placement is wrong or I’m not ready to release the ball. 

5)      The scores are automatically calculated and appear on the wall where everyone can see.  I really do not need to have to pay to be humiliated.  My crappy scores are private thank you very much.

6)      Bowling, like most sports goes against my basic credo:  Sitting is better than standing, lying down is better than sitting.

7)      Did I mention the clown shoes?

One summer in the late 1990’s in Vancouver Tony called me up and asks if I want to go rollerblading with him and his wife Penney.

Me:  I’ve never been on roller blades, have you?

Tony: No.

Me: Has Penney

Tony: No

Me: Sure

Tony: How about we meet at your place in about half an hour.

I learned a life lesson that day.  Being able to stop is almost, if not even more important than learning how to go.  Now I work in a warehouse and that lesson still holds true, before you pick up a box you had better know where you are going to put it down.  In short, you always need an exit strategy.

We got to Stanley Park, found a place to rent the blades and once again I had to deal with renting ‘shoes’ it took all my strength but I managed to ignore the imaginary legionares disease crawling up my legs.  in very short order we were able to stand and move forward providing we stayed on level ground. The issue of stopping would soon rear its ugly head.

There was a ‘medic/security/park employee standing at the top of a short, steep, sudden downward slope.  As other rollerblader’s approached this spot he would ask them if they needed help getting down this ‘obstacle’.  I really wanted to say yes.  But nobody else took him up on his offer.  Penney who became our leader declined his help as did Tony, like a sheep to the slaughter I followed the crowd.  We all made it and agreed a short break was in order.

Well rested and back on our wheels we pressed on.  We came to another steep downward slope, not as bad as the previous one but it kept going for some time before it leveled out. I tried to warn Tony not to stop by rolling onto the grass as was his habit.  I knew at speed that the ‘sudden grass stop’ could be a bone breaker.  Penney went first, in seconds she was flying and seemed to be having a good time.  I jumped next I wasn’t having such a great time, I am not an adrenaline junky I didn’t like my lack of control and for the life of me I didn’t know how I was going to stop if I needed too.  Tony was right on my heels.  We were moving pretty quick, Penney was almost at the bottom of the slope, I turned my head to check on Tony, he was heading for the grass, I heard his yelp the last I saw of Tony were the wheels of his roller blades partially hidden by a bush. 

Despite my concern for him I started to laugh.   Through the tears of my hysterical laughter I saw Penney sitting on the grass waiting for us. Finally I was moving slowly enough I could use the ‘sudden grass stop’ method.  I ended up beside Penney, I was laughing so hard I couldn’t stop.  To my defense the laughter was not all about Tony most of it was tension release, flying Tony was just the trigger.

“Where is my husband?” Penney asked.  All I could do was point to the bush.  Penny while clearly worried also started to laugh, only she was laughing because I was hysterical, she was looking at the direction I was pointing but didn’t see Tony.  “Brian, where is Tony” at which point Tony crawled out from behind the bush and started to remove his roller blades which of course started another wave of laughter from both Penney and myself. 

To this day I can still hear the noise Tony made as he flew into the bushes, I can still see Penney as a blurry form in front of me as I found here through my tears of laughter.  And since that day I have not participated in an activity where I’ve had to rent shoes.

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One would think that having Crohn’s disease I would not have so many issues with bathrooms.  I envy people who can just walk into a public bathroom do their business and move on.  I’ve talked with other Crohn’s sufferers and they don’t seem to care too much about bathrooms.  Sure they can tell you where each public bathroom is in a 50 mile radius of where they live but at the end of the day they all say the same thing, ‘when you gotta go, you gotta go’ and let us not forget, ‘better out than in’.

Me?  I have rules!  The door must have a working lock.  Preferably the room must be clean.  There should be nobody else in there when I enter, and yes I wait in the safety of the stall till the room is clear before I leave.  It is a real bonus if it is one of those rare bathrooms where only one person can use it at a time.  If the bathroom doesn’t pass my inspection, I live with the pain.

Many moons ago I was in a restaurant with my brother.  He went to the bathroom a few moments passed and some guy came out rather hurriedly cradling his arm.  Sure enough when my brother got back to the table he told me he was sitting there when a hand came in under the stall, naturally he gave the hand a good kick.  I would have done the same.

In Vancouver they have a wonderful bathroom, (sarcasm) the nearest I can figure is that they had to make it wheelchair accessible, they did this by making a really large door in the stall.  So big that when you opened the door it hit the toilet seat, in order to use the toilet you had to squeeze between the wall and the toilet, then straddle the toilet and only then could you close the door, to leave the stall you had to do everything in reverse and believe me it is more complicated than it sounds.  Wheelchair accessible my arse.

I’ll end this post with a suggestion to those who maintain public toilets.  If you think you are going to save money by finding the thinnest, roughest one ply paper that can possibly be made you will fail.  I am on a personal mission to use at least 8 times as much toilet paper and then when I’m satisfied and the toilet is flushed I’ll pull a few more squares off the roll and toss them in the trash just to make a point.  So go ahead purchase that cheapo toilet paper but its going to cost you in the end.

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