Extraordinary Stories

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Friday, February 28, 2014

The "Lunchtime Memories" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got my latest edition of the Millersville University Magazine titled "review".  Features a photo of the new president of the University John Anderson and his wife Vivien on the cover of the 52 page newsletter.  Read all about the past 13 past presidents of the school from which I graduated 47 years ago.  When I was a student it was referred to as Millersville State Teacher's College after being known first as Lancaster County Normal School and then as Millersville State Normal School.  This dates the whole way back back to 1855 when the school was founded in Lancaster County, PA.  
The Sugar Bowl, 9 Normal Ave. in Millersville, PA.
But, as I continued to leaf through the publication, I came to an article titled 

"The Sugar Bowl" and boy did that bring back the memories from an era long, long ago.  The Sugar Bowl was one of the two places that I spent lunch for the better part of four years of my life.  Don't let the name of the place lead you astray, for the corner restaurant near the part of the college where most of my classes were held, is not known for anything sweet.  To this day, the place still looks as it did when I had classes at nearby Osborn Hall which is the main building for those majoring in Industrial Arts. Many days I grabbed a table with a friend or two after our 10:00-Noon shop class and ordered a cheeseburger and vanilla milkshake.  Some times I was able to find space around the table where my childhood friend was stationed with his friends.  Bill lived about a block from me until third grade when his mother moved her family to another town.  We kept in touch and when we both came to Millersville it was great to be able to have lunch with him when I could.  
The owners of the Sugar Bowl, Pat and Edith Rylee.  
Back then the burgers were 30 cents and shakes were 15 cents.  And, I know you won't believe this, but it wasn't that long ago, at least to me.  There was also a jukebox to take your money as well as a couple of pinball machines.  On days that I didn't eat at the Sugar Bowl I would have my lunch at the "Joint" which was located farther west of the Sugar Bowl, but closer to some of my academic courses that I would have in the afternoon.  It was here that I met Bobby, Bill and Sue who all were students at Millersville.  The three of them had graduated from high school together, but they made me a part of their lunchtime table on many occasions.  After eating lunch we would either play a game of pool or play a game of darts before heading to my afternoon classes.  Memories abound from my college days when lunch time with friends was a big part of the college experience.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The "A Half Century of Anniversaries" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Saw somewhere that not only is this the 50th anniversary year of the arrival of the Beatles in the United States, it is also the 50th anniversary of G.I. Joe.  It was at the New York Toy Fair in March of 1964 that G.I. Joe was introduced to the public by Hasbro.  The 11 1/2 inch toy was decked out in uniforms of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force with guns, helmets and vehicles as accessories for the movable-part toy.  Ever wonder what G.I. stood for?  Had to Google it myself to find out it was Government Issue.  Duh, should have figured that out myself.  Joe stood for everything that was meant to be good such as fighting evil and doing what's right.  Happened to come out shortly before the United States plunged into the Vietnam War.  The toy came about as a tribute to honor veterans, but with the start of the war, parents started to shy away from military-related toys.  The toy weathered the war storm and became one of the most popular toys in history.  In the 1980s Hasbro reduced the size of the toy to 3 1/2 inches to match the size of the popular Star Wars figures.  Eventually comic books, cartoons and two movies followed.  In 2004 G.I. Joe was elected into the Toy Hall of Fame.  Funny thing about all this is that I never owned one and I don't remember every buying one for any of my children.  Star Wars was all the rage in our household.  After reading about this toy celebrating it's 50th year, I decided to check on other things that will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014.  The results are as follows: 

It was 50 years ago that the Ford Mustang was introduced.  The car was introduced at the 1964 World's Fair in New York and has sold more than 9 million of the cars since then.  Since the introduction the Mustang, it has had more than 3,000 appearances in film and television plus hundreds of musical references.
Mopar is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic 426 HEMI engine which was such a vital part of the heritage that made Mopar what it is today.  Chrysler and Mopar are synonymous and led the way 50 years ago in the muscle car market.

The classic 110 Folding Hunter Knife is also celebrating it's 50th anniversiary in 2014.  It was first introduced by Al Buck and revolutionized the industry with it's locking system.  I had one years ago, but somehow misplaced it.
It was 50 years ago that the dashing Scottish actor Sean Connery declared that he was "Bond, James Bond."   There have been 23 Bond movies and 6 actors who have played the fictional character during the last 50 years.
Mary Poppins also gained fame 50 years ago.  Dick Van Dyke as Bert, Julie Andrews as  Mary, Karen Dotrice was Jane Banks and Matthew Garber was Michael Banks in Walt Disney's musical Mary Poppins was directed by Robert Stevenson.
Actor Sidney Poitier won an Academy Award for "Lilies Of The Field" at the 36th Academy Awards ceremony making him the first black person to win the Oscar for Best Actor.  
Remember these two?  It was 50 years ago that actors Robert Vaughn stared as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum stared as Illya Kuryakin in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."  Don't I see Robert doing commercials on TV?
You certainly can't forget Ann-Margaret and Elvis in the movie "Viva Las Vegas" that came out in 1964.
I can remember watching Art Fleming host the new TV quiz show called "Jeopardy" back in 1964.   The only other host the show ever had is current host Alex Trebek.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Rankin-Bass classic began it's run during the Christmas season in 1964.  Originally was a black and white production, but was later colorized.  My kids watched this every year and now watch it with their kids.
It was also in 1964 that Sean Connery smelled liquor in a carafe while sitting at a dining room table in "Goldfinger."  You have to remember that golden lady laying across the bed.  
In sports Joe Frazier won an Olympic Gold Medal in the Super Heavyweight Boxing Final at the Korakuen Ice Palace during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics on October 21, 1964.
Another boxer by the name of Cassius Clay won the Professional World Heavyweight Title on February 25, 1964 in the 6th round when he knocked out Sonny Liston at Convention Hall in Miami Beach, Florida.  He later changed his name to Muhammad Ali and became famous for his "Fly like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee." 
In politics President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964 in Washington, DC.  This photo shows him shaking the hand of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after the signing.
The Food Stamp Act of 1964 was the country's first permanent food stamp program.  The photo shows food stamps in 1976.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony in Oslo on December 10, 1964.

Fifty years ago the 24th Amendment abolished poll taxes. Tough to imagine having to pay a tax to vote.  This poll tax is very similar to the new laws that many states are attempting to enact that makes you have a specific ID to be able to vote.  My home state of Pennsylvania tried to enact such a law, but it was ruled unconstitutional.  This photo shows people paying poll taxes.

And, finally!  The 50th anniversary of Sports Illustrated features three models in swimsuits for their swimsuit issue.  That is, half of a bathing suit.  Forbes says that the swimsuit issue has made more than $1 billion for Time Inc. since it became a stand alone issue in 1997.  The company relies on the income from the swimsuit issue, since it generates 7% of SI's annual revenue.  I haven't been one of those buyers, since I'm not allowed to view this stuff, at least in print.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The "A Stinging Experience" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Sitting in my beach chair hoping the pain in my foot will subside sooner rather than later.  Carol and I were snorkeling off the coast of Pinel Island when I inadvertently tramped on a sea urchin.  You know, the round black thing with all the sharp spines that stick out all around it.  Hurt?  Felt like someone had stuck hundreds of needles in my foot at the same time, only this pain didn't let up after a few seconds.  The only lucky part of the experience was that none of the spines had stuck in my foot.  
Some of the sea urchins we have collected.
The smallest one is about the size of a quarter.
I hobbled out of the water and headed towards a couple of guys that ran the snorkeling station.  They saw me coming and knew exactly what I had done.  And their response was to go sit in my beach chair for about an hour or two until the pain went away.  So, that's why I'm sitting in my chair at present.  For years, Carol and I have seen these prickly creatures on the ocean bottom and often wondered what good they did and what it would feel like if you touched one.  I now know!  The sea urchin, also known as an echinoderm, appeared on the earth around 500 million years ago.  When you see it on the ocean bottom it looks menacing and you can't see movement, but the spines attach to ball-and-socket joints on the shell and can point in any direction.  When I tramped on it I elicited a prompt reaction from the spines which converged toward the place that I touched so more than one spine probably got me.  
The sea urchin as seen from the bottom.
The urchin has no visible eyes, legs or means of propulsion, but can move freely over the bottom using adhesive tube feet that work in conjunction with the spines.  They feed mainly on algae, but can feed on sea cucumbers, a wide variety of invertebrates such as mussels and the occasional swimmer.  More are found in shallow areas than on the deep ocean floor.  Their mouth is made up of five calcium carbonate teeth or jaws with a fleshy tongue-like structure within.  The entire chewing organ is known as Aristotle's lantern derived from Aristotle's description in his History of Animals. The teeth are self-sharpening and can chew through stone.  
The teeth structure is shown next to the shell.
The sea urchin has five pairs of external gills, located around their mouth which is on the bottom of the urchin.  They are sensitive to light, touch and chemicals even though they have no eyes.  For those of you who have collected a sand dollar or sea biscuit, they too are members of the echinoderm family.  When the sea urchin dies and all the spines have been removed from the shell, it is a beautiful specimen.  
Other varieties of the echinoderm family.  On the
left is the sea biscuit while on the right is the sand dollar
Carol and I have a special location on St. Martin where we go every vacation to see if we can find any dead echino- derms.  Over the years we have collected a couple dozen of the urchin, star fish and sea biscuit varieties.  Hardest part of the collection process of the sea urchin is removing the spines, if they haven't already fallen off the shell and the transportation of our find to Lancaster.  They are so brittle and the shell is so thin that we have broken over half of our finds.  But, I keep telling her that the end result isn't half as much fun as the search.  After all, we have to be on an ocean beach in order to find them in the first place.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The "Caramel Reimagined" Story

Bag of Vanilla and Caramel Soft Cremes
It was an ordinary day.  Pushing the shopping cart in the Giant Supermarket while my wife is filling it with stuff for our meals next week.  As we reached the end of the first aisle I noticed a new cardboard display that featured small packages of Lancaster Caramel Creams.  Looks like they were packaged in either 4 oz. bags or 8 oz. bags and came in three different flavors; caramel, vanilla and caramel and vanilla and raspberry .  I told Carol I bet they're trying to bring back the candy that was once made famous by Milton S. Hershey when he founded the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1887.  It was then that he moved to Lancaster, penniless from a few failed tries at starting a candy business, and with the help of his Aunt, developed a candy he called "Crystal A" caramels which he made during the day and then sold from a pushcart in the evening on the streets of Lancaster, PA.  Eventually he got an order from an English candy importer for 500 pounds sterling worth of caramels and he began Lancaster Caramel Company in the 300 block of Church Street in downtown Lancaster.  
The Lancaster Caramel Company on the 300 block of
Church Street in the city of Lancaster, PA.

 In 1893 Mr. Hershey attended the World's Colombian Expo in Chicago and became fascinated with the art of chocolate making.  In 1894 he founded Hershey Chocolate Company as a subsidiary of Lancaster Caramel Co. and started producing chocolate coated caramels.  The following year the Hershey Bar was born and you kind of know the success of Milton Hershey after that.  In 1900 he sold the Lancaster Caramel Co. for $1 million to the American Caramel Company, but retained the rights to the Hershey Chocolate Company.  The American Caramel Company was incorporated in 1898 in Philadelphia, PA.  
An ad for the Lancaster Caramel Co. which
 appeared in the Confectioner's Journal 1895.
With the acquisition of Lancaster Caramel the company began making caramel related candies and was also a major maker of baseball cards that were given along with its candy.  American Caramel became the victim of strong competition in the caramel-making industry and closed in 1927.   Well, the Hershey Co. has decided to bring back Lancaster Soft Cremes.  I'm assuming that The Hershey Co. is part of Milton S. Hershey's ventures, but saw on the package that they are made in Canada.  Then I saw an article about the caramels and noticed that the product was launched in China earlier this year.  Then, to top all that off, Carol and I saw for the first time last evening on TV an ad for the product that featured their new slogan, "New Lancaster Soft Cremes.  Caramel
Reimagined."  Any guesses as to whether I bought a package?  OK, so you saw the photo above, but what flavor?  Yeah, that's in the photo also.  I'll tell you, they really do melt in your mouth!  Worth the $2.49 for the small bag?  You bet I'll buy another bag soon.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

The "Sweet-Shot Caden" Story

Caden dribbles down the floor.  A look at the gym and all the players.
It was an ordinary day.  Just congratu- 
lated my grandson Caden on a great game.  He is covered from head
Jump shot from the corner.
to toe in sweat and his face is about the shade of the red pinnes that the other team just removed.  Must have scored at least half a dozen baskets, but who's keeping count …. besides me.  The Hempfield School District in Lancaster County, PA  sponsors a youth basketball program and this is Caden's first year in the program.  He is 8 years old and close to 6 inches taller and 25 pounds larger than most of the other boys and girls he is playing against today.  Some are so excited to be there and compete, while others you can see are doing it because they are made to participate.  The court is much smaller than a regular basketball court and the baskets have been lowered to  match the size of the players.  There are no officials, but the coaches from both of the teams watch over and instruct the boys and girls as they play.  
Dribbling without looking at the ball is tough at 8 years old.
They play four on four rather than the usual five on five because of the floor size.  Each team today has a few extra players who will take turns on the floor after every five minutes of game time.  After about 15 minutes of drills in passing and shooting the teams line up at half-court to receive their defensive assignment.  The game is played with a man-to-man defense (I know its boys and girls playing, but there isn't a defense called that) and the game clock is started with 20 minutes on it.  The clock is only stopped after every 5 minutes or close to that if the official on the clock happens to be texting or talking on their phone at the time.  
Another shot from the corner.
Surprisingly many went in the basket.
Sides change and new assignments are made and the clock begins again.  There is no scoreboard and the rules are rather vague, at least they are to me.  Double-dribbling and even dribbling with both hands at the same time is allowed and passing isn't the fad in this game.  There are no boundaries and the game stops only when the ball bounces off the wall or into the spectators along the sideline.  Some players make a casual attempt to take the ball from one another, but most times the players don't violate another player's space.  At times some just stop, hold the ball and look around to make sure they are going in the correct direction.  Minor injuries are cause for a halt in play as is trying to figure if you are going towards the correct basket.  
And, again.  I'm sure the one-on-one with his dad in the
driveway might be a factor in his athletic appearance.
All the time the clock is running.  Well, the 20 minutes has expired and I look at the tired faces and sweaty bodies, but it looks as if everyone had a good time.  But, wait!  It's only halftime!!  Oh my gosh, they have to do this for 20 more minutes.  These metal bleachers are murder!!  During this half a few participants decide to sit in the stands with family while injuries take their toll on others.  The game did finish with four against four, but you could tell they weren't ready for anymore running and jumping.  Great physical activity and a good way to learn how to compete against one another in a somewhat disciplined atmosphere.  But not the type of atmosphere that will discourage them from wanting to try it again sometime.  As for my grandson, he thoroughly enjoyed the game and the fact that he is taller and carries more weight than most made it somewhat easier.  He was one of the few who enjoyed finding the open player and passing to them as well as not shooting every single time he had the ball.  But, that's his Tampah speaking!  And, you know how Tampah's are.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The "Sniffer" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just opened the front door for the repairman from my heating/cooling company.  Seems I was smelling this funny odor throughout the house.  I had my wife convinced that natural gas was the culprit, but she said it smelled more like ….. well, she wasn't sure.  "You did close the bathroom door after you were in there," she said with a smile. For the last few months I have complained to her that when I sit in my lounge chair to read the morning paper I can smell gas.  Our gas fireplace is right next to the chair, so that may be a reason for that.  And, every time I turn on the gas fireplace, it lights instead of blowing the house to smithereens.  But, today is different.  A different type of odor and it seems to permeate throughout the house.  None of our alarms have been activated, but I'm still not satisfied.  "Just call Worley what's their name and have them come and check it out," she said.  So I did!  Took him maybe 15 minutes to arrive.  I opened the door for him and in pops two repairmen.  Must be important for them to send two guys for my odor.  They smelled the odor immediately, but had no clue what it could be.  They asked about the gas fireplace so I had them walk with me to the family room.  Carol was sitting on the sofa reading as we walked through the house and as we arrived in the family room I introduced the first repairman to her.  Then she saw the second guy, a young fellow who I assume was in training, and said, "And, who are you?  The sniffer?"  Put a smile on his face as he said, "Yeah, I'm the sniffer."  Well they checked out the gas burner in the basement which they had installed a few years ago and said everything was in working order.  Then they walked outside to check out the exhaust vents on the side of the house.  We have had quite a few snow storms in the past few weeks that has piled the snow high around the house.  I try to keep the exhaust pipes free of snow, but maybe I missed something.  They determined that the pipe may have a clog in it.  I asked how anything could get in the pipe and they assured me any type of rodent that may have found its way into the pipe.  They would have to call another guy who had a camera at the end of a wire that could see into the entire length of the pipe.  I could see my vacation money slowly slipping away.  But after an hour of testing everything, they pronounced the unit fit and told me something other than the burner was the problem.  Then I thought some more and remembered that I had just used my snowblower for an hour or so with the garage door opened.  Asked them if that may have been the reason.  They looked at each other and said, "Duh!"  No, they really didn't do that, because I beat them to it.  Seems I could have saved myself a whole bunch of work and a lot of money had I let my young snow plow driver plow the drive and left the snow blower in the garage untouched.  But then again, I wouldn't have given "the sniffer" a chance to use his expertise in my house.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The "Bucket List Caribbean Islands" Story

It was an ordinary day.  My wife forwarded me a link to the Huffington Post Travel Section which featured a story they just published titled "11 Caribbean Beaches you Should See Before You Die."  She included a small note telling me we need to get hopping in order to see the beaches we haven't seen already that are included on the list.  And, as we fight to keep our sanity in this ferocious winter of 2014, I'm ready for some travel.  Most every publication features travel rates or ranks beaches.  Some lists include beaches from all over the world while other lists stick to specific areas of the world such as the Pacific or the Caribbean.  A synopsis of their article goes like this:  The Caribbean might not be on the top of your bucket list, but that doesn't mean there aren't some heart-stopping pretty places you might want to see and if the idea of a beach makes you want to cry with happiness, here are 11 you'll do anything to get to soon.  I started to look at the accompanying photos and found that we had been on, or at least near, quite a few of the beaches and islands.  The photos weren't ranked or numbered, but just listed to suggest that all are equally impressive.  Here are the photos with a brief description and my impression of the beaches that we have visited in the past.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - click on any photo to enlarge.

Flamands, St. Barts - On one of our trips to St. Martin we took a day trip to the nearby island of French St. Barts (St. Barths).  We stopped a few times for snorkeling, but not on any of the beaches.  We never got to see Flamands which is a long, walkable beach with some shade and fine sand with crisp blue water.  The only beach we stepped onto was Shell Beach which was at the end of the harbor where we docked.
Carol and I, along with our friends Jerry and just Sue, visited this beach known as Trunk Bay Beach a couple of times.  It is on the island of St. John and is part of the Virgin Island National Park.  We explored their 225-yard-long snorkeling trail.  Was interesting, but certainly not the best snorkeling I have ever done.  The beach was beautiful and the water is crystal clear.  One of the few beaches we have ever been on where we had to pay to visit the beach.  As I was leaving this beach I attempted to take a fallen palm frond with me, but was warned I wasn't allowed to remove anything from a US National Park.  
Crane Beach is located on the island of Barbados.  It is located next to the world renouned Crane Resort on the Atlantic side of the island.  The water on the Atlantic side is more suitable for surfing than for swimming.  The beach was beautiful with a pinkish hue.  It is a rather large beach with chair and umbrella rentals.  It has been named as one of the best beaches in the world by many publications.  Carol and I made a visit a few years ago and weren't disappointed.  Only disappointment for us was the overcast skies the day we were there. 
This is The Baths located on the island of Virgin Gorda.  Just loved the place!  The huge granite boulders, that were said to have been unearthed by an earthquake years ago, are remarkable.  Some of the best snorkeling I have done.  We arrived at the island with our friends Jerry and Just Sue on an excursion boat, but many sailboats were moored directly off the rocks.  It was at this beach that we were walking throughout the boulders when Carol struck her head on one.  Everyone could hear the noise of her cracking her skull on the rock, since we were surrounded by the rocks and the crack reverberated off the rocks.
Been here twice.  Grace Bay has the softest, whitest and finest sand I have ever seen or walked on.  Just beautiful!  We made our second visit to the island a year ago with our friends and stayed at Ocean Club Resort.  It was close to the end of Grace Bay on the island of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.  The beach is extremely long.  Even thought the sun was hot, the sand is cool to the touch.  I would rate this beach the best in the Caribbean, tied with Shoal Bay East in Anguilla.
Anguilla is the home to one of my favorite beaches, Shoal Bay East.  But, Huffington Post travel editor added Maundays Bay Beach as one of the 11 not to be missed.  We have never been to this beach which is a mile long with dazzling platinum-white sand.  The mile-long Maundays Beach is great for walking as well as swimming and lounging.  It is the home to Cap Jeluca, one of Anguilla's premier resorts.  
Lighthouse Bay Beach, Barbuda.  We have traveled to Antigua which is the sister island to Barbuda, but never to Barbuda proper.  It is a relatively undiscovered island, but has beaches with gorgeously smooth sand.  After this posting in the Huffington Post, it may no longer be undiscovered.  Will have to be put on our list.
Frenchman's Cove, Jamaica is considered to be a beach and a river all in one.  Jamaica is perhaps my least favorite island in the Caribbean.  I did have fun climbing the Dunn's River Falls and rafting down the Martha Brae River, but the armed guards standing on most street corners and at most tourist locations was a turn-off.  If you are ever on this island, make a visit to this beach for me, but remember, there is a charge to get on it.
Another beach we traveled to with our friends Jerry and Just Sue.  This is Long Bay Beach on the island of Tortola.  It is said to have good surf and good walking.  I remember it as being beautiful with soft white sand, but rather buggy.  It was also the beach where I forgot to set the car in park and it rolled forward into an embankment.  At least I think I remember it!
Playa Flamenco, Culebra is another must see beach I haven't seen.  This island is off the coast of Puerto Rico and was used as a gunnery island by the United States Navy until 1975.  Now it is home to this half-mile long beach great for swimmers and snorkelers.
We have never traveled to St. Lucia, since it better known for its foilage and hills rather than its beaches.  I was surprised to see any beach on this island listed as one of the top 11.  Anse Chastanet Beach has jade Mountain in the background of this beach.  It is said to have some of the best scuba diving in the Caribbean.  Since we don't scuba dive, at least yet, we have never considered this island for our list.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The "Uninvited Guest" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at "Annie's Mailbox", one of my daily chores when I read the morning paper, and read the first letter addressed to "Dear Annie."  It was a letter asking if the new advice columnists could reprint an essay that Ann Landers had printed years ago titled "The Stranger in My House."  As I read it I thought with a few changes it could be adapted to me.  Really makes you think and at times gets scary, because it actually may be happening to me and I don't realize it.  As a matter of fact, it could be happening to many of you who read this blog.  So, read my version, but put yourself into my place and see how you might respond to the essay.  The original essay was copyrighted in 1999 and therefore I am writing my own with the same idea in mind that the author, Rose Mula captured when she wrote her essay.  

"The Uninvited Guest who frequents my Home"
Something strange is happening and I'm not sure I like it.  A guest is making frequent visits to my home and I have no idea who he may be.  Not sure how he got in and where he stays while in my house.  All I know is this uninvited stranger happened to appear one day and hasn't left.  He's a cleaver old devil, so he is.  He hides throughout the house and at times, as I pass the mirror, I catch sight of him.  When I look in the mirror while brushing my teeth or shaving, he's staring back at me.  Completely gets in my way.  I have yelled at him to leave, but he just yells back at me.  Now I don't mind guests in the house, but if this fellow wants to stay longer, the least he can do is help with the bills.  Every now and then I do find a folded bill or a handful of change in my pocket or a quarter between the cushions in the family room, but it's not enough for as long as he has stayed.  The other day I went to the bank and deposited a few checks and withdrew some money, but he must be taking it, since there is no way I could have spent the money myself.  And, the ice cream, cookies and donuts are disappearing and I know I couldn't have eaten all those by myself.  He really enjoys the sweets and he better watch it or he'll put on a few pounds.  And, I've noticed that he must be doing something to my wash such as putting my pants and shirts in the dryer on high heat which is making them harder to button and zip.  I am extremely neat and he's driving me nuts at times by hiding things around the house such as my hat, car keys or glasses.  I never had trouble with that until he arrived.  And boy, is he annoying.  Opens my mail, magazines and even lets my newspaper lay around the family room before I have had a chance to look at it.  The other day he smudged the ink on the entire front page of the paper to make it harder to read.  Then he hides my glasses from me.  Some other things that he has done include putting added weights in the vacuum so that it is harder to carry up the steps, gluing the lids on the pickle and ketchup jars so I can't open them and lowering the volume on my cell phone and ringer on my house phone so I can barely hear them.  You'd think if he wanted to be a good friend, he's stop doing those things.  And when I get dressed, he pops up from behind me so I can't see myself.  If only he knew how stupid he looked in some of those shirts and pants he wears.  And, boy could he use some wrinkle cream to get rid of the droopy skin under his neck and the spots under his eyes.  And the hair, he seems to have lost all of his.  But, one of the things he does that annoys me the most is jump in front of me when I go to have my photo taken for things such as my passport, driver's license or Costco card.  How inconsiderate can one be.  No one will ever believe that is me when they look at my card! 

Sound like someone living with you?  Made me think!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The "Have I Got Some Software For You" Story

Foreword:  Funny thing happened to me as I was writing this story.  The phone rang and I noticed it said UNKNOWN CALLER.  I answered it hoping I would get to share a few choice words with them and boy did I get that chance.  I could hear others in the background talking as the caller with a foreign accent told me he was calling from Microsoft and it seems that the security program on my computer has a problem.  I asked him if it was my laptop, or desktop.  He wasn't sure.  Then I asked him if it was my Toshiba or Dell.  "Says here it's your Dell," he told me.  It was at this time that I told him to wait a second while I get the police station on my other line so they can listen in on our conversation.  Instant dial tone!  I have no Dell!!

It was an ordinary day.  Hearing the account from my wife how the husband of one of her friends was the victim of an Internet scam.  Seems he was working on the family computer when a pop-up window told him that the security of his computer was breached.  It could be fixed online and all he had to do was dial the telephone number on the screen which he immediately did.  The problem was rather extensive and would take some time so he needed to send them $300 immediately.  He gave them his credit card number for the $300 charge to correct the problem.
Never mentioned it to his wife.  Not long after he got a second phone call from the same person telling him it was  more involved that they originally thought and they were working with Microsoft to correct the problem, but would cost an additional $500.  He was supposed to send a $500 Money Order to solve the problem or all his online banking and credit card accounts would be compromised.  Fearing the worst he hustled to the nearby CVS and got a $500 Money Order and sent it to the address he was told.  He felt relieved and then mentioned it to his wife.  She immediately thought something was fishy and told him so.  He became angry with her for not trusting people.  No one would try to cheat you he surmised.  Then, a day later, another contact was made by phone and he was asked to send an additional $2,000 Money Order to finish the payment.  His wife was listening to him talking on the phone and placed the call on speaker mode.  She listened for a short time with him and then told the caller he was scamming her husband and was calling the police.  Her husband was furious with her. The caller told them he was not trying to scam them or he could have put extra charges on the credit card.  She didn't bite like her husband and convinced him to go to the police station.  After looking a the phone number he had called, the police  explained to them that the phone number he was connected to was more than likely from another country and the strange accent he was hearing should have been a clue that it was a scam.  Well, he now realizes that he was taken.  They have had to change all their bank account numbers, their credit card numbers and email addresses.  He will probably not have to pay the initial credit card charge, but the Money Order will be a loss.  His trusting nature has been bridged and he now feels so embarrassed that anyone could do this to him. He's convinced that he was targeted because of his age, but his wife reasoned with him that they couldn't tell how old he was.  This is a true story and I have posted it as a reminder to everyone that Internet fraud and scams are rampant and no matter what your age, you must always be aware of what you do on your computer.  Don’t be afraid to share what you have done if you realize that you may have been scammed.  If you choose to keep it to yourself, you may cause someone else to be the subject of the same type of scam as you were.  Still OK to trust people, but make it a cautious trusting!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The "AMBER Alert" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Went to bed after House Hunters International ended at 11:00 PM last evening.  Was just about asleep when Carol shook my shoulder and said, "What's that noise?"  "I have no idea.  Never heard that one before."  I, at times, can't hear certain high-pitched sounds, but I could hear this one.  Beep, Beep!  Must have gone on for six or seven times before it stopped.  We have a house-wired smoke detector right outside our bedroom and a CO2 detector plugged into a wall outlet right outside our bedroom and it wasn't either one of them, since they both have gone off before and it didn't sound like the noise we were now hearing.  We also have a house security alarm system with a glass break alarm in the hall and it wasn't that, since that's real loud.  Ah Ha!  I jumped out of bed and grabbed my cell phone from my jeans pocket which was in the closet and opened the top.  The phone glowed "AMBER Alert".  Wow!  The message read .... Lancaster City, PA AMBER Alert: LIC/JJG-8170 (Pa) Black Nissan Altima.  Thu. Feb 6, 11:39pm.  I don't ever remember seeing an alert such as this on my cell phone.  Spooky!  Especially late at night.  I know that an Amber Alert means that a child or children have been kidnapped so I suspected the black Nissan car was the car used in the crime.  Nothing that I could do so I went back to bed.
This photo of the two children that were abducted appeared
in a New York Newspaper.
 This morning on the TV they announced that shortly after 7:00 PM last evening two males, the father and grandfather of the abducted children, entered a home in the south end of the city of Lancaster, PA and after threatening the occupants with a gun and beating the lone male occupant with a wrench, the duo took the younger intruder's son and daughter from the house.  City police believed the black Nissan might be headed to Boston where the kidnappers had relatives so they notified the State Police.  About an hour later the AMBER Alert was sounded.  
The same newspaper posted this photo of the capture.
At 5:19 AM this morning a tip came in that the car was spotted in Vineland, NJ.  Then at 7:30 AM, a PA State Trooper saw the car turn off Route 1 onto eastbound I-76 near Philadelphia.  That Trooper, assisted by Philadelphia police, stopped the car and took the two passengers into custody.  The two children were found sleeping on the back seat.  The two children as well as the kidnappers were returned to Lancaster.  The abductors were charged with kidnapping, burglary, robbery, simple assault and criminal conspiracy and committed to jail.  The Lancaster Police Chief said that the AMBER Alert System is used when people under the age of 18 are abducted.  It certainly worked well in this case.  I will never forget the piercing sound that came from my tiny cell phone that night.  Evidently many others were alerted which lead to the safe recovery of the two children.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The "The Night The Screen Went Black" Story

Photo of Channel 8 WGAL-TV in Lancaster, PA.  Notice
all the flat roofs that are part of the building.
It was an ordinary day.  Judge Judy had just ended so I grabbed the remote to turn the TV to our local NBC station, WGAL Channel 8.  The screen was black!  "Don't tell me something happened to our cable again," I said to Carol.  Wasn't more than a couple of weeks ago that we had to have the DVR box replaced, new connectors put in place in our cable box in the basement, a new wall outlet receptacle and a new cable line run from the street to the side of our house.  
This shows the part of the building where the weight
of the snow and ice caused it to start to collapse. 
I hit the "Last" button on the remote and there was the ABC News out of Phila- delphia.  Uh Oh!  Hit the "Last" again and the screen went black.  "Channel 8 is off the air," I said to her.  Carol was sitting on the sofa across from me and she was busy typing something on her iPad when she said, "The roof of the station fell in!" She read the story to me as it appeared on her screen.  Seems that the snow that has accumulated on the flat roof of  the station on Columbia Ave. in the west end of Lancaster City forced evacuation of the building at about 3:30 PM.  The general manager of the station said he heard a loud noise near the second floor newsroom and went to investigate.  
Photo from the Lancaster Newspaper showing the newscasters
standing in the parking lot doing their broadcast in the cold.
He saw that the ceiling had shifted in the  the part of the building that used to be the newsroom.  It was no longer in use, but not wanting to take chances ordered the evacuation of the building, then called the local fire company.  They had no ability to air their news at 5:00 PM so the screen was black.  Their news team of Kim Lemon, Ron Martin, Janelle Stelson and meteorologist Joe Calhoun tried to do a live newscast from the parking lot located along Columbia Ave.    By now I had grabbed my laptop and was watching the event on their website.  
Inspectors travel by bucket which is attached to a crane
in order to check to see if the roof is stable or not.
They were all bundled in heavy coats with a TV truck next to them sending the signal.  WGAL had to piggy-back on Baltimore's WBAL signal in order to broadcast the evening Olympics. .......   Well, that part of my story was last Friday evening. The following morning they brought in a crane with a bucket and pumped accumulated water off the roof.  They placed an 8" x 8' steel I-Beam inside the studio to support the roof.  Then they were able to shovel the accumulated snow and ice from the roof.  That night our TV screen came to life again and the newsroom was back in business again.  Parts of the building are still off-limits until permanent repairs can be made to the structure.  Inspectors made the decision after inspecting the roof from a cage on the crane and making internal inspections.  What could have been a catastrophe remains a problem, but WGAL will still be on the air.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.