Dying snow persons of Morgantown

This December has been an unusual mix of weathers. We had more flurries yesterday, but the snows of the big blizzard of two weeks ago had mostly melted away. For a brief while, things warmed up in Morgantown.

That might seem like a good thing, but it neglects to consider the individual cost to Snowmankind. While you rest in your cozy homes, countless Iced Americans are left to face the elements without adequate shelter.

Witness the horror as, emaciated and starving, they waste away.

Some barely possess enough scraps of fabric to protect them from the elements.

Others are scarcely recognizable, mere shades of what they once were.

Even those who had once gotten fat off the land now wallow in filth and squalor.

And the women … well, as is so often the case, the women put on a brave face through it all.

Please, the next time it warms up … think of the snowchildren.

Getting carded

We haven’t done Christmas cards in a while. I’m not against the practice, and have even engaged in it in the past, but being a student and living in an apartment can leave you feeling less-than-settled. The sending of festive holiday cards, by contrast, is more that tends to be done by people with a firmer handle on their affairs.

(I say this by way of generalization. I am sure there are many absolute basket cases who send Christmas cards. I mean no offense by my stereotyping.)

Anyway, it’s been a while. But this year I came across some good ones, so they’re goin’ out.

The one on the right depicts the Krampus, the Austrian spirit that torments naughty children. The card itself ($11 for 12, but possibly sold out by now) was designed by Melita “Miss Monster” Curphy, whose site I was pointed to by Krampus Kards – apparently there are people who put together these cards every year, which is FANTASTIC.

On the left is a local product, a blood-spatter analysis card designed and sold by the WVU Forensic Science Club. You can get 5 for $10, which goes toward the club. It’s on nice paper too. Here’s the inside.

They also include a logo inside for the people on your Christmas card list who are wondering just what in the hell you’ve sent them.

Mergy Krampus and a Killer New Year!

Morgantown photo dump

Morgantown is a weird place. This is not a criticism of the city, but rather an observation. Jess and I like Morgantown, but there is the occasional strangeness. One of my favorite things about having a phone is being able to capture these images. Call ’em documentation, call ’em evidence, but here are a few scenes from the week that was.

After Jess’ weekly pregnancy checkup, we headed back to the car. Pictured is the car parked next to us. May I draw your attention to the vicinity of the front tire:

Behold the wonder of Street Pie.

On closer inspection, the pie appeared to be pumpkin. Why does one leave a pie on the ground in a parking lot? This is one of the mysteries even a Ph.D. does not prepare one to answer.

Here is a book I was not aware existed. I present it here without editorial content:

I choose not to speculate about the length of this book. It does bear mentioning, however, that this is the book immediately below it on the shelf:

Good to know there’s a backup plan.

Finally, here’s an odd choice of trend to seize upon:

Surely there is a reason for this, one other than being an epidemic enthusiast, but I’m at a loss.

Why does Farmville hate Christmas?

Hope I’m not stirring up the wingnuts with this, but it got my attention. Farmville players recently received a tree from the game. The tree is initially bare, but you can load it with gifts from friends, which you open on Dec. 24 (me, I’m hoping for chickens).

Due to my compulsion to collect worthless (but visually mesmerizing) strings of 1’s and 0’s, I am thrilled by any new opportunity to gather the meaningless in service of the pointless. Farmville, as always, is only too happy to oblige, and so I’ve been trimming this virtual tree with virtual gifts from my virtual friends. But as I scrolled over the tree today, I noticed this:

While I applaud your bravery in going with the “Holiday Tree” label, Farmville, I’d be curious to hear some of the no doubt calm, rational, and not-at-all-hyperventilated comments you’ve received about this.

For too long, an age-old tradition has been sullied by those who would hide its true name out of some loyalty to what’s popular, or “correct.” Rather than embrace what countless others have found meaningful – the gifts we give, the tree we harvest and decorate, the hams we eat – these individuals have chosen to know the season by a name other than its true one, seeking to hide the true celebration behind it all.

I am referring, of course, to Saturnalia.

Every year, the wife and I travel into the wilderness of Kroger to select the finest $30 Frasier Fir in all the land. We cutteth that tree out of the store, the work of the hands of the workman, with the debit card. We deck it with silver and with gold; we fasten it with nails and with hammers, and one of those green plastic bases, that it move not.

For this day, we allow our slaves to treat us with disrespect.

Come the eve of December 24, the real excitement begins. In the tradition of my Druidic ancestors (on my father’s side), we do then observe the winter solstice with the hanging of our socks (the better to catch falling coins) and lie in eager wait for the coming of Odin All-father astride his great steed Sleipnir. Gifts and punishments are doled out as befit our comportment in the year that was. It is a magickal time for all.

Lo, Saturnalia! And a mergy Krampus to all!

Luke Ravenstahl may not be winning hearts and minds

I like Mayor Luke (okay, he’s not MY mayor, but I’m in Pittsburgh pretty regularly). He’s the youngest mayor in Pittsburgh history, and for a brief stint he essentially changed his name to “Screw the Baltimore Ravens.” He also spent some time at Mercyhurst, and, as everyone knows, people from Erie County love politicians who’ve lived in Erie.

Apparently, though, he’s a little shove-y. And might have borrowed a city SUV to go see Toby Keith – but ya gotta love his defense: “That’s what 27-year-olds do and I shouldn’t be any different.” The guy can’t even go to Steelers games anymore, which is a blessing or a curse depending on your geographical inclination.

So there’s some stuff, sure. But on a recent trip to Craig Street I certainly wasn’t expecting anything like this:

Biting critique, or just a catchy portmanteau? You be the judge.

There is no Mars info here

I had resigned myself to not posting today – there’s just too much going on in the real world this week – but this cracked me up. I just logged into the site a few minutes ago. Not having posted or promoted today, I didn’t expect any activity, so I was surprised to see 30 hits (that’s a lot for me), nearly all going to my post of ultrasound pics from a few weeks back.

“Did mom send the baby picture link to her friends?” I wondered.

Then I noticed the “Top Searches” listing. This is a cut-and-paste of what appears there:

face on mars,  face on mars picture,  mars face,  mars picture of face,  face of mars

I feel I owe you an apology, Mars enthusiasts. You have surely come here seeking info about the mysterious face on the red planet, and instead you are subjected to, well, this:

Whereas traditional ultrasounds roughly resemble an image of the face on Mars … these new techniques look more like the face on Mars if it had jaundice and was in slightly better focus.

I apologize if you feel your trip has been wasted, but I do admire your enthusiasm for search string permutations. Thank you for using the Internet.

Bat!!!

On this, the last day of National Blog Posting Month, I bring you this cautionary tale of sheer terror from deep in the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism. Take a moment to dim the lights in order to set the mood.

I was given cause to enter the vacant building on Wednesday the last, the day before Thanksgiving when all souls are occupied elsewhere with their preparations nefarious. As I climb’d the stair to the floor second, my footfalls did echo about me in the eerie quiet.

Twas then did I look, as though somehow beckoned, to the high wall. Perhaps some slight motion did catch my eye? I know not. But there, nestled in that lofty corner, lurked … a BAT. Leathery wings masked the beast’s slavering jaws, and it was only by God’s grace that it had turned its countenance away from me, that I might not be struck afeared by its glowering crimson gaze.

Providence smiled upon me, tho, and so I crept past with a shudder. That day was I spared. But humans do poorly not to remain vigilant, dear reader.

Entering stately Martin Hall once more this Monday morn, I trod thoughtlessly up-stairs to mine office, when what did I encounter? I tell you, reader, THE BEAST HAD RETURNED! Clinging to its same location, the most foul and unholy abomination did lurk in wait for some idle journalism student to happen past.

Twas only by my wits that I survived to pass along the tale, but I tell you this: I must still pass the creature once more today, and my God’s mercy be upon me!

So: Bat in the building. That’s it in the top right – the little black dot. I don’t know if it’s moved since Wednesday, or even if it’s alive (can they hang on if they’re dead?). No guano on the floor. Do they fly around inside the building at night? Has anyone seen it?

BEWARE!!!!!!!

Christmas village groundbreaking

Around the top of my list of things I never thought I’d do is make a Christmas village. You know, with the little ceramic buildings that light up? Dickensian moppets* wandering about the streets in holiday cheer (and not their usual crippling hunger, presumably)? I’m not against them or anything, but, much like glaucoma, it never really struck me as something that would happen to me.

My friend Dan’s dad did a really elaborate one every year. Dan always warned that it was best not to ask him about it unless you had at least a half hour free. I did anyway, one time, and he was right, but it was still neat to hear the depth of thought he’d put into it. That kind of devotion to a hobby is rare, maybe a little weird, but still kind of impressive.

A few years back Jess and I started to receive Christmas village houses as gifts. I’m not sure what brought it on. As apartment dwellers, we never seriously considered doing anything with the things, but now, with a home of our own, the little houses started to beckon. Here’s the result so far …

The village by night (and with snow). You’ll notice Mount Lamp in the distance.

Central Station security is always tight this time of year, but as long as you can answer the three questions you shouldn’t have any trouble.

Up the airy mountain, down the rushy glen, we daren’t go a-Christmas shopping, for fear of little men.

Drive! Drive! LEAVE THE PRESENTS!!!

Mr. Wulfgar wishes passers-by a merry Christmas as he brandishes the Ceremonial Warhammer of Kringus.

Enjoy your holiday, and be thankful it’s not me decorating your home.

*I just realized this is the second time I’ve referred to Dickensian orphans/moppets this week. I’ll try not to make it a thing.

Signs of the times

So now there’s a pumpkin pie shortage? And on the heels of the waffle shortage, no less? Truly, we are living in the end times:

Nestle is the largest national brand for canned pumpkin products, with 80 to 90 percent of the market, the company said.

(snip)

“There are a lot of beautiful pumpkins out there that we just can’t rescue,” said Nestle spokeswoman Roz O’Hearn.

It sounds kinda heartbreaking when they put it like that, doesn’t it? Like they should have one of those ASPCA commercials where Sarah McLachlan shows me a bunch of pictures of sad-eyed gourds that’ll make me want to jump off a damn bridge.

Three signs to talk about today, two questionable, one admirable. The first from Cracker Barrel, which came along with my blueberry pancakes:

Hey, 100% pure natural syrup! That sounds terrific! Well yeah, but notice the fine print:

That’s 55% pure maple syrup, 45% cane syrup. So yeah, it’s all syrup, but it ain’t all maple. I’m sure it’s fine, but it feels a little sleazy. They could have 25% baby syrup in there, but as long as it was pure and natural (none of that synthetic baby extender in there) the label would still be accurate. I am not amused by your wordplay, Maple Grove Farms.

There’s also this from Patteson Drive, the main restaurant drag here in Morgantown:

I find your pumpkin pie prices entirely within the realm of credibility, Eat ‘n’ Park.

On the more impressive side, however, was another Patteson Drive denizen: Taco Bell. A number of restaurants in town have been advertising on their signs for people to follow them on Twitter. Taco Bell, ever the iconoclast, was having none of it.

I respect the crotchetiness inherent in this sign. “Dammit,” says Taco Bell, “we’re here sell pseudo-Mexican delicacies, not to make friends!” As Mitch Hedberg put it, “It’s as though if I was a cook, and I worked my ass off to become a really good cook, and they said, ‘Alright, you’re a cook. Can you FARM?'” Well played, Taco Bell.

Finally, and for no reason other than that I can, here are some pictures of Bear in the Cone of Shame, which we tried on him at Petco.

Look at the goofy bastard. He loves it!

YOU ARE DISGRACING THE CONE OF SHAME, BEAR.

Have a super weekend!

What I know about blogging (so far)

hurf hurf hurfWith this post, I am halfway through National Blog Posting Month. That’s 15 posts for November and 21 since starting the thing. So far I’ve got a pageview high of 59, and 38 comments (although that counts my own replies to others) – hardly anything big, but way more than the 1-2 I started with. But the real measure of success is lacking: Only 4 deleted spam comments so far. What’s the matter, robots? I’m not good enough for you?

Some other weird things WordPress tells me:

Top three posts: Adopt a damn dog! (58), Detrolling anonymity (43), It’s a baby (picture)! (24)

Top tags: Bloggery, Drinkin’, I have a theory, Yup (4 each)

Top searches: “astro city,” garth brooks, pregnancy comics, beer comics, skaar hulk, comic beer label, beer in comics, “and don’t even start with.” (I think these are a riot)

 

halfway

Making days orange is hard work.

Some things I’ve learned:

 

  • It’s easy to outgrow a specific blog title.
  • The difference between tags and categories needs to be learned but can’t be explained. I’m still getting there.
  • Don’t hotlink.
  • Regular departments make thinking of things to write easier, but they also create looming deadlines. At best, this keeps me writing; at worst, it approaches feeling like work.
  • People using social media seem to enjoy talking about social media. Fridays have unintentionally become “Bob yells at the Internet” day, and the comments have been the most robust for these.
  • Blogging is a conversation, not a place where people come just to hear you sound off. The most rewarding posts have been those that start something, and the best conversations are those that progress across multiple blogs. A blogroll isn’t just a list, it’s a directory of participants in that conversation. As I’ve “matured” (if it’s not too early to use that word), I’ve learned that leaving my own URL to interact with others makes blogging a lot satisfying.
  • Integrating with other platforms (Facebook, Twitter) furthers that conversation.
  • Writing every day is something I’ve missed since working in journalism. I’m glad I can still do it.
  • Dogs and babies get more attention than comics and beer. Maybe I’ll change that title after all.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Fifteen to go!