Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Long and the Short of It

First, two updates…

1.  I thought the weird activity was over, but this evening a bag of trash (closed, thankfully) got tossed across my kitchen.

Yes, it’s trash night.  No, I don’t need reminding.

Nagging?  I was so happy I had gotten rid of nagging people when I became happily single for good a few years back.  Ugh.

I will have to smudge the apartment next week.  Scaring is bad, nagging is much worse.

2.  Healthwise, I have hit a rough patch and really do not feel well.  Probably partly due to lack of sleep from the noises.  Gotta rest up and get better because tomorrow night is Trick or Treat Night!

For whatever reason, Blair County never has trick or treating on Oct. 31, even when (as in this case) it falls on a Friday.  No one seems to know why this is.  Just more central PA weirdness, I guess.

If I feel better, I might post something tomorrow or on Samhain.  But for now, here is something I wrote a couple of weeks back.  It’s a bit short, and the subject is kinda “long”, hence the title…

Last month I “cut the cord” and chose not to renew my DirecTv subscription. I saved $50/month, and I am able to watch some shows I like on HuluPlus. I figured between that, Netflix, and the new CBS All Access, I would pretty much be able to watch what I normally used to on satellite – for a fraction of the cost.

This has worked out pretty well for me, so far. I’m still learning how to find shows I like on which websites. So tonight I went looking for one of my favorite shows, to see when Season 4 starts.


It’s an awesome show starring Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Katee Sackhoff, plus some terrific native actors we see far too little of such as Zahn McClarnon and David Midthunder.  Oh, and while you’re at IMDb, check out Angelique Midthunder, David’s wife and a casting director in her own right.

Basically, it’s a mystery set in a western town. And of course, Season 3 ended with a cliffhanger…

…and A&E cancelled it

“Well, it probably got poor ratings,” you might be thinking.  Nope.

“Longmire”, according to Deadline Hollywood, was A&E’s “most watched original scripted series of all time”, averaging an audience of 5.6 million viewers (“Warner Bros TV Preps ‘Longmire’ Pitch to Digital & Cable Outlets”, Deadline Hollywood, 9/10/2014).

Why, then, did they cancel it? Simply put, it’s the average “Longmire” viewer’s age!

The Wall Street Journal reports that A&E cancelled “Longmire” because the average age of the program’s viewer is 60 (“Why TV Hit ‘Longmire’ Got Cancelled: Fans Too Old”, Wall Street Journal website, 9/11/2014).

And because A&E doesn’t have any ownership of the show: A&E is owned by Disney and Hearst, and “Longmire” is owned by Time-Warner (Ibid).

So, basically, A&E wants to own their own content, and wants that content to appeal to a young demographic – because that’s what their advertisers want.

“We sell the shows to advertisers based on the demographics of 18-49 and 25-54, and the audience just wasn’t there,” said A&E Senior Vice President Dan Silberman of the decision to cancel “Longmire.” (Ibid)

Side Note: Dan Silberman was hired at A&E after he left Bravo, the channel that brought us such refined, well-written programs as the “Real Housewives” franchise, “Married to Medicine”, “Being Bobby Brown, and “Storage Wars”. I can’t find his age listed anywhere, but from the looks of him I would guess he’s in his 40s.

Mr. Silberman goes on to explain that, since A&E has no financial stake in the show, they won’t get any money from the sale of reruns to companies like Netflix.

Boo hoo. Poor A&E.

Greed and age discrimination. That’s what cancelled a well-written, wonderfully-directed, brilliantly-acted show. Time-Warner even lowered A&E’s fee for the show, and cut the number of episodes for Season 3, so that poor, struggling, “Duck-Dynasty-is-our-flagship-program” A&E could continue to air “Longmire”.

But A&E contends that even those concessions were not enough for it to make the kind of money they expect from a series. They continue to blame the lack of revenue mostly on the people who watch the show – people over 54.

People in my age bracket – I hate the term “baby boomers”, but that’s how most people think of us – have, on average, a decent amount of disposable income. And there are a lot of us!

In fact, along with people older than we are, we will comprise 45% of the US population by 2015 (“50+ Fact & Fiction”, Immersion Active website, 2014).  We already account for 55% of packaged goods sales, and we “outspend the average American consumer in nearly every category” (Ibid).

It doesn’t make sense to me, the explanation A&E gives for cancelling “Longmire”. Honestly, I think it’s a function of our youth-oriented culture, which places no value on people when they get past a certain age.

This decision to cancel “Longmire” probably won’t affect me much. I think Time-Warner will successfully pitch it somewhere else. And unless they sell it to a channel I can’t access in any way, shape, or form, there’s always YouTube. People there have a knack for airing episodes of shows you won’t find elsewhere on the internet.

But it just pisses me off that A&E openly declared our generation “personae non grata”.

By the way, if you want to do something to support this wonderful show, go to the People’s Choice Award site and write “Longmire” in (as it was not nominated in any category).  Even if you just write “Longmire” in for favorite drama, and favorite crime drama, it will send a message. Because it might drive home the point that this is a popular show.

Here is a good site to keep up on “Longmire” news: The Longmire Posse.

And you can catch the first 2 seasons on Netflix.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. The outstanding direction itself is worth a look.

Weird news time…

It’s hard for me to find anything weirder than the happenings in my apartment lately.  But…this is weird more for the totally over-the-top reaction to it…

From the BBC: “Portsmouth Mystery Clown ‘Disturbing’ People in Streets”

Some teenager has a clown mask and a balloon, and…gasp…just stands there.  This is scary why?  And why doesn’t someone just reach over and tickle him?  (Full disclosure: I have never been afraid of clowns and I don’t understand people who are.  I think clowns are sweet and funny.)

And in a related story, from France….

“Fear of ‘Armed Clowns’ Grips Northern France”

An unnamed police officer says, “It’s difficult to fight against something that maybe doesn’t exist.”  Indeed it is, sir, indeed it is.

Movie recommendation for this week: The Ring,1998.  No, not the stupid one, the original Japanese one called “Ringu”.   I don’t have it on HuluPlus so maybe you have to go out and rent it or something…though, like Nosferatu, if you know where to get it, please let me know.


The Ebola Outbreak of 2014, Part 3

Well, got some good news…

“Obama Hugs Nina Pham, Nurse Who is Now Ebola-Free” (Washington Post, 10/24/2014).  So glad she has recovered.  And nurse Amber Vinson has recovered, too (“Nurse Amber Vinson Free of Ebola, Released from Hospital”, NBC Dallas-Ft. Worth website, 10/28/2014).  Wonderful news for both women and their families.

And some troubling news…

Meanwhile, in NYC, a doctor has gone into hospital because he had been overseas treating people with Ebola, and has now come down with symptoms.  Authorities are trying to track down anyone that may have had contact with him (“Doctor in New York City is Sick with Ebola”, New York Times, 10/23/2014).

What they know so far is the doctor traveled by subway, went bowling, then took a taxi home.  He went to the hospital the next day because he had a 100.3 degree fever. His fiancee has been quarantined, and a couple of his friends have been asked to stay in their homes.

Health officials have been seen at the doctor’s apartment, which has been sealed off, and at the bowling alley and subway cars/stops (“For Crew in New York, Ebola Virus is Fought with Scrub Brushes and Cleanser”, New York Times, 10/27/2014).

I’m not sure if sealing off places reassures the public.  I think it just scares them more.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie challenged a nurse to sue him over that nurse being quarantined last weekend.  She had just returned from west Africa after working with Ebola patients and was taken from the airport to a Newark hospital, where she spent the weekend in an isolation tent.

She was released after she threatened to sue (“NY Gov Chris Christie to Ebola Quarantine Nurse: Go Ahead, Sue Me”, NBC News website, 10/28/2014).

Speaking of lawsuits, Amber Vinson has hired an attorney (“Family of Ebola Patient Seeks Out Legal Counsel”, CBS News website, 10/19/2014.).

We Americans are a litigious bunch.

And more quarantine news…

In New York, Florida, and Illinois, Ebola quarantines have been implemented (“Ebola Quarantines in N.Y., N.J., Ill., Fla.: What’s Required?”  FindLaw website, 10/28/2014).

In N.Y. and N.J., anyone who is screened at airports and found to have been in direct contact with a person infected with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea will be quarantined for 21 days; and anyone found to have traveled from those regions (not necessarily having been in contact with an infected person) is to be monitored by public health officials and, “if necessary, quarantined” (“Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Chris Christie Announce Additional Screening Protocols for Ebola at JFK and Newark Liberty International Airports”, NY Governor’s Press Office, 10/24/2014).

Florida “requires anyone returning from an area designated by the CDC as ‘Ebola-affected’ to undergo twice-daily health monitoring for 21 days.”  “High-risk” travelers can be quarantined by the Florida Health Dept, also. (FindLaw website article previously mentioned)

And in Illinois, anyone who has returned from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea and who has had contact with an Ebola-infected person, must be quarantined for 21 days (Ibid).

Since Thomas Duncan – the man who died in Texas from Ebola – didn’t fly there straight from Liberia (his trip was as follows: Liberia – Brussels – Washngton, DC – Dallas), Pennsylvania is taking precautions to monitor people coming into PA from west Africa by relying on a CDC list of people arriving at 5 airports from that area of the world.

The article didn’t name the airports, except it did say that none were in PA (no airports here fly to west Africa).  My guess would be they are Dulles International,  Reagan National, Baltimore-Washington International, Newark Liberty, and JFK.

The article stated that PA officials are going to check a list compiled by the CDC of at-risk travelers – all of whom are apparently given a CDC CARE kit comprised of a thermometer, fact sheets, a log to record temperatures and symptoms, and a list of health department 24 hour phone numbers.  They are “asked” to report twice a day in some manner (in person, by video chat, or phone) for 3 weeks (“Pa Using CDC Data to Track West African Travelers”, CBSPhilly website, 10/24/2014).

How are PA officials going to check the list? Are they going to monitor AMTRAK, which has trains coming to PA from those areas?

One AMTRAK line goes right from the BMI Airport to the 30th St Station in Philadelphia (which someone can then take directly to Altoona, by the way), and other AMTRAK lines go indirectly (via city train systems and buses) to and from NY, NJ, and Philadelphia all day long.

What about buses?  Cars?  Even taxis?  What’s to stop someone from flying into Pittsburgh Int’l or Philadelphia Int’l from some other airport that carries international flights but is not on this list (like Atlanta or Chicago, for example)?

It’s not like we microchip people when they get the kit from the CDC – how are we supposed to keep track of them?

Additionally, anyone who has worked for any length of time in the healthcare profession knows that it is very unlikely people will monitor their symptoms and temperature, let alone log them. I have tried for years to get patients to just make a simple check-mark on a calendar on any days when they felt depressed.

Not one has ever done it.  Even when I gave them the calendars and pencils.

The most often used excuse for why they didn’t?  “I forgot.”

So I have no faith that this ‘honor system’ is going to work.

And how, exactly, are county health departments going to check on people once they leave public transportation? How will they know where they live?  The answer to both these questions is “who knows?”

Pennsylvania is unprepared to handle all this, I think.

Bedlam Over Halloween

Before I start ranting, I have an update on the strange occurrences in my apartment.

After the box-tossing incident in the hall, I had another experience later on that night. My cats, who were on the bed, suddenly both turned, froze, and stared at the bathroom. I thought, “Oh no what now??”

The toilet flushed.

By itself.

Both cats, being brave little kitties, once again dove under the bed.  Times like these, I wish I had a dog.

Oh sure, it’s funny NOW, but think how you would feel when it’s late at night, you’re already tired and still a bit freaked out due to the weirdness of the past 2 days, and suddenly this happens!

It’s creepy from the get-go, seeing both cats freeze and stare like that. Because I know they are looking at something I can’t see.

I really hope it stays quiet now. But since I don’t know what it is or why it’s doing things, I am still somewhat unnerved. And while flushing a toilet is hardly menacing, it’s still weird.

This is not helping my health, either, as I am now having trouble sleeping (well, wouldn’t you??). My low-grade fever continues, though the stomach issues seem to have resolved for now. But I am glad that my doctor’s appointment is rapidly approaching. Maybe I can get some answers.

Feeling like crap AND feeling scared is not a good combination.

Anyway, on to the article…

bedlam: noun:  1.  (obsolete) Madman, lunatic  2. Popular name for the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem, London, circa 1529   3. A place, scene, or state of uproar and confusion
(Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

This article is not going to be amusing or funny, until the weird news part at the end.  But I hope it at least makes some people think.

I chose the word “bedlam” instead of “confusion”, “uproar”, or any other synonym, because this article is about the portrayal of people with mental illness (or developmental delays) through Halloween scenes and costumes.

The people who adhere to the concept that most people with mental illness or developmental delays are dangerous and scary are, to put it mildly, confused.

And I am in a uproar about it.

Yes, people who are mass murderers and serial killers are frightening – of course they are. No one disputes that. Someone in a haunted house attraction chasing people with a fake chainsaw is not offensive to me. But I am not writing about that.

According to “Serial Murder: Multidisciplinary Perspectives for Investigators” (U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, published results of symposium in San Antonio, Texas, August 29 – September 5, 2005), “as a group, serial killers suffer from a variety of personality disorders, including psychopathy, anti-social personality, and others.”

Personality disorders are mental illnesses, to be sure, but psychosis is not necessarily a part of their symptomology.

The report also states that serial killers do not meet the legal requirement for insanity, which is

“Mental illness of such a severe nature that the person cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality, cannot conduct his/her affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable compulsive behavior.” (The People’s Law Dictionary, Gerald and Kathleen Hill, 2002, as incorporated into the website)

So, it seems, clinically and legally, serial killers are not, on the whole, psychotic.  Consequently, to lump people with mental illnesses that feature psychosis (schizophrenia, for example) in the same group as serial killers is not accurate.

Yet this is exactly what is being done every time someone puts out a prop or dons a costume portraying a “crazy person”.

Part of the reason there is a perception amongst the public that serial killers are psychotic, in my opinion, is because people do not understand the difference between personality disorders and illnesses that feature hallucinations and delusions (like schizophrenia).  Another reason is the very human trait of trying to make sense out of nearly incomprehensible acts of horror, and…

~ We don’t understand why someone would do these horrible things, so it’s easier to just say “they’re crazy”.

~ We want to be able to identify someone who could do these horrible things, in order to arrest them or keep them from committing crimes in the first place.

Additonally, it makes for a more interesting news story or book if the killer did what he did because voices told him to or because he thought he was battling aliens.

Extra Bonus Weird-But-True Story Redux


You know, these weird things in my apartment have always been far apart in time…maybe once every year or so.  So today I had banished “the case of the mysterious dresser” from my mind for that reason.  That, and since I do not understand it, have no pictures or witnesses to the event, and don’t know why it happened, no point in dwelling on it.

Next event, if there is one, won’t be for a long time, right?

How wrong I was.

This afternoon I was reading an e-book (“Love All the People” by Bill Hicks) and pondering whether the cronut is a blessing or a curse (both, I decided), when…


Noises – very loud ones – coming from the hall right outside my apartment door.  So I got up, opened the door, and there right up against my door was a very large box of last year’s Halloween decorations.  On its side, as if thrown (and that’s certainly what it sounded like).

The Halloween decorations that I was going to get down from the attic tomorrow.

The attic that has a locked door and can only be accessed by someone already in the house, who then has to go up 2 sets of stairs and right past my apartment to get to it.

No one was home but me.

I moved the box out of the way and (warily) went up the stairs to the attic door.


I kind of knew it would be, because had someone been in the attic, I would have heard them walking around (as the attic is directly above my apartment).

After a few frantic conversations with a friend who I knew would believe me, I have calmed down considerably.  But if this keeps up much longer I think I am going to move.

It’s nerve-wracking enough to think that your apartment is haunted, and obviously I don’t mind that much because I have lived here for awhile.  No, the thing that really gets to me is the sudden noises.  As anyone with PTSD will tell you, that malady carries with it an exaggerated startle reflex, so loud noises can easily unnerve me.

“Ok, you have my attention, can you please stop throwing things?” I said to..whomever.  Fortunately (I realized later), no one actually answered.  I honestly don’t know what I would have done, had someone replied.

But it gave me an idea.  Not a great idea, but something to try, anyway.

I think I will get a small digital recorder and see if it actually does say anything, in the form of an evp (electronic voice phenomena).  My opinion on evps are mixed, and quite frankly I think most of them are fake, or the result of suggestion (“We think it’s saying ‘get out’!” someone tells us, so that’s what we think we hear).  But I’m open to trying.

And not at 3 AM, either.  Those of you who think haunted weird things only happen at night, well here’s ‘proof’ that they do not necessarily – as this happened at around 4 PM.  The whole night thing is just for effect, for TV/movie dramatic purposes.

Plus, I am not about to creep myself out by sitting in my attic at night.  I have an active imagination and I would rather keep it out of any investigating I might do.

I’ll keep you updated.

Extra Bonus Weird-But-True Story…

Normally I would not put in an extra post, but seeing as it’s October and that I had the weirdest experience early this morning…well, I just had to share.

Most of you who know me, know I believe in ghosts.  And not just because I am Wiccan, but because I have seen or experienced them, all my life.  Since childhood, I have seen some extremely odd things in the various houses I grew up in, and to my parents’ credit I was never pooh-poohed when I reported these things to them.

Why no one else saw these things, I have no idea.  And only one of my children has experienced activity, and I know this because we were together at the time (along with my downstairs neighbor).  That incident happened where I am living now, about 2 years ago.

I’m going to tell it just so you know that other people can vouch for this particular instance, so maybe you will believe what happened to me this morning.

I was watching TV with one of my (adult) kids, about 3 am, when we both heard footsteps on the stairs.  My house is laid out in such a way that, in order to get to my apartment upstairs, you have to get in the front door downstairs, which is always locked.

The only other person in the house was my downstairs neighbor, who was in her apartment, also watching something on TV.

Anyway, I looked over at my kid and said, “Do you hear that?”  And he acknowledged that he, indeed, heard footsteps on the stairs.  His reaction was someone had broken in or used a key somehow, and was coming to our apartment.

I waited until I heard the footsteps stop, near my apartment door, and flung the door open….

…yep, no one there.  I went downstairs.  No one.  I checked the front door.  Still locked.

The next day, my neighbor wanted to know why my kid had been “stomping up the stairs” in the middle of the night.  To her credit, she didn’t even bat an eye when I told her what I had experienced.  She’s pretty unflappable, which is one reason I like her.

I have also had a door close and latch on me, in my bedroom; heard footsteps in the attic (cats also heard them, as they were looking upwards as if they did); heard crashing in the kitchen when no one was in there, and found nothing amiss; have had a locked door fly open; and other miscellaneous stunts.

It seems to have a thing for doors, and for being generally annoying.

That brings us to this morning, around 5 am.  I was up because my cats were badgering me for treats, which I am out of until Thursday.  Besides meowing, pawing at boxes (makes noise, I guess), and jumping on the bed to stare in my face, one of them decided to get on top of my dresser and push things off.

I ignored it the first time.  The second time it happened, I banished both cats to the livingroom, and closed the bedroom door.

I was just getting to sleep when…CRASH!

I jumped out of bed, turned on the light, and there were the contents of the top of my dresser, all over the floor!  Some were way under the bed, and some were pretty far from the dresser – indicating some amount of force required.

Sleepily I thought, “Well, clearly I didn’t get both cats out of the bedroom.”  So I went over to my door, which was closed and latched, and opened it.  There, on the other side of the door, just sitting…

…were my two cats.  Clearly, whatever sent my things flying wasn’t a feline.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think when these things happen.  I mean, what’s the point, other than annoying the heck out of me?  So I said out loud, “If you are so intent on moving things, why don’t you make yourself useful and clean the kitchen?”

That would be so cool, having a ghost for a housekeeper.  Too bad it doesn’t work that way, as my kitchen still needed tidying up when I woke up later in the morning.  Lazy ghost!

So, take it as you see it, but if I was going to write a fictitious ghost story, I would have made it a lot scarier, and a lot longer.  These incidents happen few and far between, and, as most ghost hunters will tell you, they do not happen on command.  And they do not happen often enough to drive me out of my apartment.

They are startling, yes, but not scary.

Life is strange, oh yes it is.

Don’t Slouch, and Have Another Brownie!

Science Notes for October 2014:

Science Daily (“Change Your Walking Style, Change Your Mood”, 10/15/2014) reports that The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research conducted a study on mood and walking style and found that how you walk affects your mood.

We all know that when we’re sad, for example, we tend to walk a little slumped-over, but this study found that the opposite applies also. If you deliberately walk as if you were sad, you actually begin to feel that way.

This is something therapists have known for awhile, otherwise known as “fake it ’til you make it”. Often when treating someone with depression, it’s not a matter of waiting until the person feels better to assign them a task of some kind (like get out of bed), it’s really effective to encourage them to do something – anything – in order for them to start feeling better.

For example, if someone is in the hospital for depression, it’s helpful for the therapist to ask the patient to “just get out of bed for 5 minutes” the following day. That’s it, just 5 minutes “then you can go back to bed”. That next day, the patient is instructed to “just get out of bed and take a shower, then you can go back to bed” and so on, each day, adding more tasks each day, one by one, until the patient is up and about and interacting.

It works. They start to feel better.

This article seems to back that up, though it deals with walking styles. It can be used therapeutically, I would think, perhaps maybe in a group exercise (so the patients won’t feel silly doing this on their own). “Everyone get up and let’s go!” the therapist could say, then lead the group, encouraging them to walk as if they were actually in a good mood.

I bet that would work.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article, so check it out.

And, from the “too much information, just pass me the cookies” file…

“Buzz Feed:The Science of the Munchies”, (Scientific American, 10/22/2014) is an article about an experiment in France where scientists studied stoned mice in order to see what sets off the munchies…

It’s smell. That’s right, the olfactory bulb, which is responsible for smell and appetite, is the culprit that makes those cookies smell-amazing-lets-eat-2-dozen! Pot heightens sense of smell, big time, which can lead to an increase in appetite.

One scientist, Dr. Obvious, stated “It’s not like we found a new effect of marijuana.”

I love the French and their understated humor.

Bigfoot and Plato and Witches, Oh My!

Note: I have added 2 more weekly sub-categories of “2014 News”, and those are “Science” and “Everything Else”. I felt I had to call it “Everything Else”, or I would have gone super-organized and made a LOT of other sub-categories like “Marijuana”, “Pennsylvania News”, “War”, “Terrorism”, “Freedom of Speech” and on and on and on.

And then Wednesday would come and I would either have too much to write (because I would have felt the need to write something in ALL sub-categories), or would have written so much that no one (myself included) would want to read it.

But, considering that this blog is supposed to not just be about me, but also about life in 2014 and beyond, I want to include stuff I think is important about the world-at-large. Thankfully for you, this will not include things like celebrity gossip or other vacuous subjects, unless:

Something has annoyed me and I can make fun of it, or…
Something has pissed me off and I can rant about it.

Because sometimes “vacuous” is also really irritating.

So, at the mention of “irritating”, here we go!

You recall BettyLou from last week’s entry called “Just Bring Cups”, that example of pettiness I have encountered way too many times in my life? Well, BettyLou has a daughter, whose name is probably something with the “ee” sound at the end (Tiffany, Bethany, Brittany, Destiny, Chasity – somehow I think people are spelling this wrong, Brandy, you get the idea).

Let me be clear. I know people who have (some of) these names, and I do not dislike them – ok, I might dislike some of them, but not because of their names. And, by the way, BettyLou is just a name I made up, as I can’t recall what the actual name was of the “Halloween Carnival Nemesis”. It’s just that, for some reason, these “ee” sounding names were very popular with parents of those born in the late 70s, early 80s.

Anyway…BettyLou’s little sweetheart has moved on from “just being a room mother” to “super-fantastic-is-my-hair-perfect-in-this-picture-BLOGGER”.

“Annoying” has gone viral.

Nothing spectacular in reporting that some people on the internet are annoying, as we all know that’s common. The thing that blows me away is how easily this particular type of annoying translates from your typical middle-class venues to the internet.

The “About Me” portions of the blogs are always the same:

“I am the proud wife of a very successful, handsome man who puts up with my nightly blogging (after everyone is bathed and tucked into bed, of course!) and loves me even when I spend a little too much at the grocery store (oops!). I also have 3 beautiful, talented children who, in addition to excelling at piano, ballet, and football, spend their winter vacations collecting canned food for the less fortunate (during our yearly Christmas treks to Aspen, after their junior championship ski competition).

I am also an avid coupon-clipper, president of the local chapter of “Craft-y Women” (our little craft group that makes AWESOME centerpieces for city council luncheons!), and organizer of the “Trunk or Treat” night every October 31 (All Hallow’s Eve is a Christian holiday, and we need to take it back!). The reason I am writing this blog, though, is because I love to cook! So many people have suggested that I write a recipe blog so, here it is!”

If the above (fictitious) example doesn’t make you ill, or make you shudder, or make you smirk, then why are you continuing to read this? You know where it’s going.

“Why are you picking on these people? Is it because of the ‘Halloween Carnival Incident’?”

Well, kind of. Although I did mention at the end of that article that, quite often, this holier-than-thou, snotty attitude that is all too common amongst certain types of people causes massive problems for them at some point. Sometimes they are so busy sticking it to “the Joneses” that their own life goes to hell in a handcart, and they end up seeing a therapist – like me.

And the minute they walk into my office, they become human. A human who is hurting gets help from me no matter what the reason is. So I don’t, as a rule, hate people like this.

Sometimes their kids learn by observing the detrimental effect this attitude has on others, and really make an effort to be “not-perfect” people like the rest of us slobs.

But more often than not they don’t have their world come crashing down on them, or have an epiphany – they just keep repeating the same patterns. Because not everyone falls off their high horses. It’s just a fact of life.

The Ebola Outbreak of 2014, Part 2

…and possibly the last of it.

According to the October 19 online issue of Time (“Nigeria is Ebola-Free: Here’s What They Did Right” ), Nigeria has had no cases of Ebola for 42 days. That time limit is important because 42 days is twice as long as the normal incubation period. Everyone who had contracted Ebola is either recovered, or dead. Of course, this doesn’t mean there can’t be another outbreak, as the disease is still active in neighboring places like Sierra Leone.

To put things in perspective, Nigeria has only had 20 cases of Ebola, and 8 deaths (Ibid). Contrast that with 4500 total deaths in west Africa, and it’s clear that Nigeria was able to contain and deal with the outbreak pretty quickly.

As soon as gov’t officials became aware of the outbreak in Guinea, they began training healthcare workers; declared a state of emergency, screened all travelers coming into or leaving Nigeria by land, sea, and air; had their doctors trained by Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization; and even went door-to-door to educate people about the disease.

What they didn’t do, interestingly enough, was close their borders, because, according to Dr. Faisal Shuaib of the Emergency Ebola Operation Center

“Closing borders tends to reinforce panic and the notion of helplessness. When you close the legal points of entry, then you potentially drive people to use illegal passages, thus compounding the problem.” (Ibid)

Now I am seeing a few articles online basically saying things like “Nigeria got it right, US got it wrong”, but that’s not really fair. Yes, Nigeria acted quickly, but they had a head’s-up because of the cases in nearby countries, and Nigeria is small – only twice the size of California. So when Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American who landed in Lagos, collapsed in the Lagos Airport, the gov’t responded quickly and quarantined him.

His wife stated he had been caring for his sister, who later died from Ebola. He didn’t know what she was sick from at the time, according to his wife (“Ebola Fears Hit Close to Home”, CNN Online, 7/29/2014). So the Nigerians got lucky, in a way, because this man very well could have still had mild symptoms and gone on to attend a conference there. And then infected a lot of people.

Just Bring Cups…

Health update: My fever now is during the day and evening.  Otherwise, feeling no better or worse.

It’s rainy and grey here in Central PA today.  I have just finished filling 60 treat bags to give out on Halloween, but haven’t gotten around to decorating the porch yet.  I have a cute little ghost that appears to peek out from behind a tree/post/what-have-you, but when I got it in the mail I realized it needed screws to install – which is a huge no-no when you are renting someone’s house.   So my neighbor and I are going to have to find another way to attach it – it’s so cute!

(Here is a pic)

I don’t even have a jack-o-lantern to set out!  Though, to be honest, I kind of hate carving pumpkins, as it is so messy and for some reason causes a rash on my hands and arms.  So I am still looking for a fake jack-o-lantern that I can just stick a battery-operated candle in, set the timer and forget it.  There are a few on the net but wow so expensive!  Every year I tell myself I need to buy these things AFTER Halloween, when they are on sale, but every year I find my budget will not allow it.

Why not make some decorations?  Hey, there’s an idea and NO, it’s not a good one.

I’ve never been good at arts and crafts.  I would dread it when teachers would send home supply lists for making things in class, because I knew whatever project my teacher had in mind, I would inevitably botch it.

As I grew up and had kids, I tried to do Martha Stewart kinds of things, but could never pull it off (except for making and decorating cakes, I was pretty good at that).  I was NEVER the mom who showed everyone how to make oh, I dunno, say…hats out of bits of material scraps, buttons, and glitter – I was the mom who would do/teach puppet shows, dress up like a giant bunny and show up at my kids’ school near Easter, make balloon animals, and for awhile could actually juggle.

I was never the “room mother” – that person who the teacher designates each year to organize school parties and so on.  I was always the mom who was told to “just bring cups”.

I like to think there is a special “life review” for those mothers who essentially bullied the teacher into room mother status, and then subsequently ran around telling everyone how hard it is to be so busy (“I just CAN’T say no to Little Tiffany’s teacher – but with me teaching Sunday school,  running Boy and Girl Scout troops, heading up the Neighborhood Garden Committee, and organizing the school carnival/reading program/lunchroom aides I just don’t have time for myself!”).

I am still mad just thinking about it!!  And this was easily 25 years ago!!

This season brings to mind my foray into room mother territory, and the subsequent minor disaster that is my life.

The upshot: I got pulled aside and asked to never volunteer for the Halloween carnival again (held at my kids’ school, Farmington Elementary in Germantown, TN).  Even though I raised quite a bit of money for them.

My crime?  Not understanding what they wanted and assuming that they had a lot more tolerance than they actually had (which is to say, “none”).  They wanted people to act as “gypsy fortune-tellers”.  I swear, that’s ALL they told me.  “Just show up at the school half an hour early and we’ll show you where to set up.”

So I did – with my tarot cards.  In a long skirt with a bandana.  Ok so what if it wasn’t really a costume, but actually the way I liked to normally dress??  I looked the part, didn’t I?

The lady in charge told me I was to go into one of the classrooms with my tent and…”Oh, you don’t HAVE a tent? But I’m SURE BettyLou TOLD you to bring one…why look how she’s set up, with a tent and a candle and everything…you sure she didn’t tell you?”

BettyLou had no intention of telling me any damn thing.  Yes, elementary-school mothers really CAN be that petty.

So, having no tent or anything, I pulled a table over and sat down near the entrance to the room.  Ms. Lady-in-Charge gives me a little fish.  Yes, like this one:


Fortune Teller Miracle Fish


Now, I actually think these are really cute, and hey they would make really great Halloween treats to give out, so I have included the link.  No, I don’t work for them or anything, I just like novelties like this.

The Ebola Outbreak of 2014, Part 1

For those of you reading this in the future (refer to my “about” page for an explanation), there are a few key issues going on here in the US and the world. I will put these posts in a category called “2014 News”, so people can skip over it if they like. Here is the first story I will be following:

There’s an ongoing outbreak of the Ebola virus in Africa, and one person in the US has died from it. According to the Guardian (UK newspaper, not the SWP paper), here’s the timeline of the outbreak:

12/2013: A 2-yr-old child and his mother, sister, and grandmother pass from Ebola in Guinea. It’s reported that funeral mourners then unknowingly carried the virus to neighboring villages.

3/2014: The gov’t. of Guinea reports 59 deaths from Ebola, confirmed. There are concerns that it could already have spread to Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, Liberia reports 2 cases of Ebola in people who have traveled to and from Guinea.

5/2014: The World Health Organization confirms Ebola has reached Sierra Leone.

7/2014: A Liberian gov’t. employee arrives in Lagos, Nigeria, from Liberia and Togo, and collapses. He passes away 5 days later from Ebola. Liberia then shuts down its border crossings. A leading Ebola doctor passes away from the virus in Sierra Leone.

8/2014: Ebola is declared an “international health emergency” (“WHO Declares Escalating Ebola Outbreak an International Emergency”, Science, 8/8/2014). The death toll surpasses 1000. A doctor in Nigeria dies from Ebola, their second death in that country. A British volunteer nurse is flown back to the UK for treatment, having contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone. He recovers. Two health care workers are flown back to Atlanta for treatment after contracting Ebola – both recover.

A different strain of Ebola is reported to the WHO by the gov’t. of Congo (“Ebola Virus Disease – Democratic Republic of Congo”, World Health Organization, 8/27/2014).

Senegal reports cases of Ebola.

People riot in Guinea in response to a rumor that health care workers are infecting people deliberately (“Riots in Guinea After Rumours of ‘Deliberate Infection’ “,ITV, 8/29/2014).

The WHO reports over 4000 cases of infection, with 2100 people dying (“Ebola Death Toll in West Africa Almost 2,100: WHO”, Press TV, 9/5/2014).

President Obama states he will send 3000 American troops to west Africa in order to build treatment centers and set up a “military coordination centre” (“Ebola Epidemic: Timeline”, Guardian newspaper online, 10/15/2014).