Friday, May 27, 2022

It’s a News Zoo Revue… coming right at you

Yesterday (Thursday) morning, I awoke feeling a lot more refreshed than usual.  I rolled over on my right and looked at my alarm clock.  Wow!  It was still early, 6:15am and I was fully awake.  It occurred to me I hadn’t woken up even once to go to the bathroom during the night.  When has that happened last?  I honestly can’t remember.

Feeling revved up, I thought “You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to put on my baggy Champion shorts and dead man’s walking shoes.  I’ll take a brisk, one mile walk then come home and watch the next episode of Westworld on HBO Max while eating my Wheaties with a sliced banana.” 

After I brushed my teeth and put my shorts on, I brought my shoes into the livingroom to lace up while watching the local news.  After turning on my tv, I heard this.

Yesterday afternoon, 52 year old Bryce Tacy of Washington County walked outside and shot his neighbor in the back of the head, 44 year old Jerry Anderson who was mowing his lawn on his riding lawnmower.  Tacy then went back into his house and refused to come out when the police showed up.  A SWAT team was called, and talked Mr. Tacy outside after 30 minutes. 

Do you know what Tacy did next?  He begged the police not to take him to jail, because he was too small to go to prison.  Shouldn’t you have thought of that before gunning down your neighbor in cold blood, Mr. Tacy?  Where do you expect them to take you, Candyland?

Jerry Anderson leaves behind a wife and 2 teenaged twin boys.  As for Bryce Tacy, he has a 28 year old son who doesn’t live at home anymore—but a wife who will probably have to sell their nice home to pay for a defense attorney.  His life, for the most part is over.

Just another day in gun-happy USA. 

I wish there was something happier to watch in the morning, before guns took over.  Back in my grade school days, I was always the first one out of bed on school mornings.  Dad was usually gone at the crack of dawn (coal mining construction) and us kids let Mom sleep, as she often worked nights at Fisher’s Big Wheel (a local department store).  I would come downstairs, turn on the tv and while the Farm Report droned on I’d take my navy shower and get dressed for school.

My youngest sister Courtney wasn’t born yet, and the next-to-youngest sibs Steve & Donda were too young to go to school, but I’d wake up my older brother Duke next and sister Shawn.  Then, bowl of Post Toasties in hand, I’d sit down in front of the TV to watch New Zoo Revue.

I loved New Zoo Revue—actually, I loved Emmy Jo, in her smart miniskirts and white go-go boots.  And of course, Doug because he could play the guitar (and his name was Doug).  Here’s the show’s opener, it’s goofy as hell and still great. 

That’s it, I’m done.  Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

After twenty odd years, I’m embracing my inner geek—and my secret starship of shame

This is the bookcase in my bedroom.  It has items on it that connect to the kid still inside me, from the Indian drum on the first shelf, to my collection of horror & sci-fi comic book reprints from the 1950s on the bottom one.

There’s been a recent addition to this collection, on the very top of the bookcase on the left hand side.  That is a model of the Starship Voyager, from the Star Trek tv show of the same name that aired 1995-2001.

For over twenty years, that spaceship has been hidden away in my bedroom closet, with an old t-shirt draped over it.  (There’s a reason it’s been hidden, I’ll get to that in a minute.)  Anyway, around a month ago I was cleaning out my bedroom closet, saw it in the far back and thought “I should just throw that away.”

But when I fished it out and removed the t-shirt… why have I kept it hidden?  And up on top of the bookcase it finally went.

Here’s why it was squirreled away so long ago:  back in 1999-2000, when the internet was here but people still shopped in stores & the like, I’d spend my lunch hours downtown browsing various shops.  There was one store I was particularly fond of, that sold sci-fi collectibles.  And one day I saw this model ship on display and was amazed; for a model kit the attention to detail was startling. 

When I asked the salesman what I was looking at, he said “Oh that’s from Bandai, a Japanese company that makes high-end model kits.  They’re expensive, but have great resell value.”   When I asked how much the kit was, he said $76.00.   WHAT!

(Maybe that doesn’t sound so high today, but 25 years ago, the typical Star Trek model was $12-15.00.)   He told me that while the one on display wasn’t wired, the kits did come with wiring & lighting.

I didn’t buy it the first day, but returned a couple times to look at it.  Finally on the third or fourth day, the salesman told me “You should know I only have one of those left.”

I bought it.

You can still buy one today, but the price has gone up significantly

For the next couple of weeks, I’d come home from work and get busy with this model kit, in a thousand pieces on my dining table.  While I had experience modeling, I’d never worked with electrical wiring before and it was extremely daunting.  But eventually I finished, loaded it with batteries and turned it on.

Only some lights on top of the saucer came on, but they were yellowish and flickered, and made a buzzing sound.  After a few minutes, I smelled wires burning and those few lights blinked out.  It wouldn’t light again.

I remember feeling both angry & embarrassed, spending so much money on such a thing.  I was going to throw it away, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.  So up in the closet it went, where it remained for 22 years.

That is, until recently when I thought “Even if it is broken, it’s still a beautiful model and deserves to be seen.”  And for a couple weeks, I’ve been admiring it greatly.

But that isn’t the end of the story. 

A couple weeks ago, I reached out to an old friend of mine, Tom from Tom’s Sci-Fi Modeling and asked if he remembered me.  (We used to hang out on a science fiction message board in the early 2000s.)  He said he sure did, and we caught up on things since we last spoke in 2004.

I told him about my Bandai Voyager model, and sent him the photo above.  He said “It looks brand new.  Those are worth a few bucks.”  I said I thought so, but had no intention of selling it.  Further, I wanted to make it work like it was supposed to 20 years ago.

He told me I’d have to scout around for a .PDF of the assembly manual if I wasn’t comfortable opening it without one, but the good news was I wouldn’t have to break any cement seals.  He offered to sell me a small bundle of model wire and pack of microbulbs for $11.00 total.   I got them in 3 days.

I did write Bandai (for a copy of the manual) and left messages on a couple of sci-fi sites, but got no responses.  I wound up spending most of one evening figuring out how to open the model without breaking it, but found the issue right away; one of the main wires had been looped around a cluster of bulbs and melted through.  I replaced a couple sections of the wire and all of the bulbs coated in black, and made buffers using old corks.  

After I closed it up, I installed fresh batteries and said a silent prayer to Gene Roddenberry.  “Oh Great Bird of the Galaxy, make this damn model ship work again!”

I flipped the switch and light POURED from the model like I’d never seen.

(I’m sorry for the grainy photo, but I have an old camera and took this with no flash and all the lights out.)

Well, on the tv show it took Voyager 7 years to make it back home from the Delta Quadrant; as for my own starship, it took 3 times that long to be seen again.

But I’d say it was worth the wait!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Meanwhile at the Tiffany Apartments… can I be mental here?

Can I be honest here?  Well, I’m always honest here—but there’s a lot I don’t share, because I don’t want people to think I’m not right in the head.  For one thing, I’m what you call an ‘extroverted introvert’.  If you plop me in the middle of a social gathering, I have no problem talking to anybody & everybody.  I’m no shrinking violet.

Of course, the moment I leave said event and am back in the confines of my own apartment, I think “Thank God that’s over” collapse on the sofa and sleep for a couple hours.  People drain me of my superpowers.

And speaking of my apartment, I have always seen it as my Batcave, my Fortress of Solitude.  I’m a loner, I don’t entertain.  Wait, that’s not true.  If I can have one guest, super—I’ll serve up refreshments and make them feel at home.  If it’s two guests?  Thanks for stopping by, sorry you can only stay a few minutes.

Three or more?  Nope.  I can’t do it and at my age, I’m tired of feeling guilty about it.

I admire the ones who do.  My sister Shawn loves having people in her home, the more the merrier. I remember on Halloween 2018, it was my birthday and I was sitting alone on my sofa trying to eat a scrambled egg, but was unable to because of pancreatitis.  Feeling sorry for myself, I called my sister to see what they were up to. 

“Hi Doug, Happy Birthday!  JIM—SET OUT THAT FOURTH TRAY OF CHICKEN, WE HAVE TEN MORE COMING!  Sorry Doug I can’t talk, we’re having an Open House, why should trick-or-treaters have all the fun?  Sophia, come and say hello to your Uncle Doug!”

The reason I share this is because I invited someone here for dinner the other night, but she wouldn’t let me take her photo.  The night before, around 10:30, it occurred to me I’d never checked my mail.  Slipped on my shoes, went down to the lobby.  There was my friend Opal, who I have not seen since Christmas.  She was sitting on the settee (which has been in storage 2 years because of the pandemic), paperback in hand.  I said hi, asked how she was doing, was she happy to have her throne back.

Opal threw her head back and laughed (she laughs at everything I say) and asked me to please sit down for a few minutes and talk.  So I did, but after 10 minutes I said my tv and laptop were both on upstairs, I should head back up.  She said “But I need to discuss current events!  Why do you think I sit down here like some prostitute!”

She is very funny—I said I was sorry, would she like to come by my place tomorrow for dinner?  I like to eat early, I know she does too.  Opal said “Are you serious?  Do I have to dress up?”  I said no, come as you are.  (She wears a lot of housecoats.)   She said “Are you really cooking?”  I said yes.  She said “Can it be anything besides chicken?  Or pizza or hamburgers?”  I said I’d come up with something. 

Here’s what I made the following day:  English sausages with roasted red peppers, and jalapeno rice.  I also had Italian rolls, fresh lemonade, and served chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Opal arrived on time and said “Oh boy, it smells good in here!”  I told her everything was ready, let’s get to eating.  After she sat down at my dining table, I said “Hey… can I ask you a favor?  Could I take a photo of you with your food?”

She said “Why?  To put me on the dark web?”  I laughed and said she was close, I thought I’d share it on my blog.  Or, show a friend I had company for dinner and wasn’t a total social misfit.  Opal said “I don’t want my photo taken, but go ahead and tell everyone I was here!  Who’s this friend of yours?”  I said “Oh, someone who suspects everything I tell her—forget the photo, I’ll collect some DNA evidence before you go”  and we both laughed. 

We got to talking about things like the Supreme Court (who I refer to as SCOTUS and she calls SCROTUM) and antidepressants & blood pressure meds we were both on, and we compared the edema in our feet & ankles.

The next day, my friend Danielle emailed me and asked how my date went.  I replied “It wasn’t a date, she is a friend & neighbor only.  No romantic interest on either side.”  She asked what Opal looked like.  I said “Well, she’s in her sixties, has shoulder length blondish gray hair, crinkly eyes.”

Danielle said “I want a pic.”  I said “There is no pic!  And she doesn’t have a smartphone or a computer, and she’s not on social media!  What would you have me do??”  Danielle said “I still want a pic.”

An hour later I sent Danielle this photo and said “Here!  She won’t let me take her picture, but this is from Opal’s Employee ID badge from 2019, when she worked for Anderson Insurance!  I hope you’re satisfied!”

A short while later Danielle replied “She looks nice!”

I said “This isn’t really Opal, it’s a random woman I found on the internet that had shoulder length blondish hair and crinkly eyes!”

Danielle said “I totally fell for this!  I believed you!”

I said “Well, that’s what you get for pestering me for a photo!  I told you, Opal’s not on social media, she isn’t part of the internet.  She’s a 69 year old woman who had a bunch of kids, they’re all grown up and moved away except for one daughter who’s 34 and lives with her.  After her husband died, Opal sold their old house and the two moved in here.  All she’s looking for is a friend!”

Danielle replied “What’s her last name?  I’m gonna need a last name.”

Friday, May 13, 2022

A stir-fry on the stir-fly, thanks to grub on hand & Rice-A-Roni

Early yesterday morning I went to the market (reserved for seniors only until 9am, but I get in with my white hair) and saw a stockboy setting up a large red display case of RICE-A-RONI at the end of one aisle. 

Two things came to mind:

1) My blogger friend Bonnie uses Rice-a-Roni when she makes stuffed peppers.

2) I’m 60 years old and have never—NOT EVER—eaten a morsel of Rice-a-Roni.

How could that be?  If you were around in the 1960s & 1970s, their commercials aired nonstop and still play in my brain:

Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat!  Rice-a-Roni, the flavor can’t be beat!

I decided to throw a couple boxes in my cart, the Chicken Flavor & ‘Stir-Fry with Asian Seasonings’.

After I got home I thawed two skinless, boneless chicken breast halves—sprinkled ‘em with kosher salt and ground pepper and put them in a pan with 2 tablespoons of canola oil.I cooked on medium heat for 6-7 minutes, then flipped both pieces and cooked another 5-6 minutes.  Done!Okay, how do I make this Rice-a-Roni… it says to saute the rice & vermicelli in 2 tablespoons of butter until golden brown.Add the Asian seasonings and 2 cups of cold water.  I’ve never seen so much steam in my life!  “美国电机及电子工程师协会!”   (That’s “aieeee!” in Chinese)I reduced the heat, covered & let simmer for 10 minutes.  I than added my cooked chicken breast (sliced), 1 chopped onion and 1 cup frozen broccoli florets.  Put the lid back on and let it simmer another 10 minutes.  Here’s the finished product and it smells incredible.  There must be 5 lbs of food here!  

I think the next time I make this, which will be VERY SOON, I’ll add some sliced red pepper in the final 5 minutes for some color & sweet heat.  But this turned out delicious, thanks Rice-a-Roni.  Also, there was enough here to feed at least 3 adults and the total cost was under $5.00. 

That made it even tastier.   Nerd smile 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Odds n’ Ends: Time for another music video roundup, Vol.4

I have 6 folders on Youtube:  YT movies, TMJ Exercises, Videos to Watch Later, Food Vids, ASMR Vids (designed to help you sleep) and finally ODDS N’ ENDS.

Those are videos (mostly music videos) I like to watch more than once for all sorts of odd reasons.  

I like to share them here when I collect ten or more, but I’m going with a smaller number now.  Do you collect Youtube videos? 

Danny & Armi, pop star royalty in 1970s Finland made famous on Youtube with “I Wanna Love You Tender”

Anyway, enough with the jibber-jabber; time to watch some music videos!

7.  “They Don’t Know” by Tracey Ullman, 1983

This past season on Curb Your Enthusiasm, I watched with unbridled glee as 60something Tracey Ullman played a somewhat gross, pap smeary councilwoman who Larry David seduces to get the law changed about a fence surrounding his pool.  Brilliant as ever, and I can’t believe she’s only 2 years older than me!

It took me back to the first time I saw her, on MTV and her hit single below.  It was love at first sight 40 years ago, and it is again today. 

6.  “Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan, 1972 

When you look up and smile, I don't care what people say, To me you're more than a child… oh Clair

This is a curious song, a medley of sweet & strange.  I’m sure in 1972 it was charming and innocent, but watching this 50 years later while listening to those lyrics… I feel uneasy.  I can’t imagine someone attempting this today.

Clair (in her 50s now) defends Gilbert’s song, insisting he was a friend of her family and the caring was (and still is) genuine.  Got it, Clair!


5.  “Can’t Cry Hard Enough” by Andy & David Williams, 1992

If you grew up in the late 60s/early 70s, you might remember this pair.  They were twin nephews of Andy Williams and had a hit song “Say It Again” which they sang on The Partridge Family.  But for all their talent and teen magazine Tiger Beat’s efforts, they never found real success.

Twenty years later, they hit the charts again with this song.  It’s wonderful.  I heard it shortly after my mom passed in 2004 and it still makes me cry today.

4.  “Here, There & Everywhere” by Claudine Longet, 1967 

Speaking of Andy Williams, remember his teen bride Claudine Longet?  (He was in his thirties when they wed, she was only 18.)  Then she divorced him, manslaughtered her ski instructor/lover in 1976 and Andy came to her rescue!

Anyway, while this is NOT an ASMR video (designed to make you sleep) it should be.  It’s the last thing I’ve been listening to every night for a couple weeks now, and it knocks me right out.


3.  “Remember Me” by The Osmonds, 2012

I know, I know—I can’t seem to do one of these music video blogs without the Osmonds.  Well I can’t help it, I love these guys—and while this one’s on the sappier side, I like how it manages to give each brother a brief solo. 

2.  “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” featuring the North Korean Military, 2022 

The only thing I love more than North Korean propaganda is North Korean SATIRE, and this video steals the show.  If you can only watch one of these, watch this one—it’s fabulous.  Move over Monty Python!


1.  “Run to You” Whitney Houston cover by Lucy Thomas, 2022

I included Lucy in my last video roundup, I like her that much.  You wouldn’t know she’s British by listening to her rendition of this Whitney Houston song, but if you wait to the end she’ll say a brief, thoughtful thank you which gives her accent away. 

There is just something “old school” about this young lady, and I hope she doesn’t change her tune anytime soon.



Friday, May 6, 2022

My niece Sophia, 2022 Junior Prom Edition


Since my sister Shawn doesn’t belong to any social media, and I’ve posted enough blogs about Sophia here to give my niece her own blog category, I thought I’d share this recent one of her Junior Prom.

The kid is no longer a kid, she’s 17 1/2 years old!  So I made sure to get her permission first before sharing these.  (I didn’t even give my sister a say in the matter.)  Here’s Sophia with her handsome escort Nathan and don’t the two make a nice looking couple? 

I know, Sophia—you’re just friends.  Nerd smile

Anyway, their prom was held last Friday (April 30) at Julian’s, a grand banquet hall in Washington, Pa.  “And a historical landmark” says my sister.  They feasted on chicken, pasta & cupcakes and the tickets were $45.00 a person—NOT COUPLE—PER PERSON.

(For the record, my own junior prom in 1978 was $10.00 a couple.  Not person—couple.  And we had the option of chicken –or- roast beef!)

Anyway, not much else to share except this lovely photo of Sophia from the back, showing her beautiful hair & figure.  It’s a little too femme fatale for me, but what do I know?   I’m behind the times and always will be!  Love you, Sophia!

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

I believe a mea culpa is in order…

In case you haven’t noticed, the blog I posted yesterday has been taken down.  (I actually wanted to remove it several hours after I put it online, but was unable to as we had a big storm here in Pittsburgh and lost our power for 8-10 hours.)

It involved the recent obituary of an unpleasant teacher I had 50 years ago (and all the unpleasant memories I had of said person).  

I didn’t mean for it to become such a negative piece.  I included another (male) teacher I liked very much, along with an example of my mom’s awesomeness back then—but it ultimately became too much a “poison pen” post.  

This IS a personal blog, and while I don’t think every post I write needs to be filled with sunshine & lollipops, I’d rather save all that bad energy for more constructive purposes.

To my friends out there who took the time to read my blog and leave those wonderful comments, and my sister Shawn who sent me a really terrific email about it, thanks so much.  I’m a lucky guy to know all of you.