From Rebecca: The Ides of April

Last Wednesday Joe wrote about events he liked in April, mentioning warmer weather and the start of baseball season. My post is about April too; we thought it would be interesting for us to both write about the month in one week. To me, April is a mixed bag of bad and good.

The saying goes that April showers bring May flowers and every year it is borne out that it rains a lot in April. The weather alternates between cold, warm, hot, and cold again. Last week we had a few days where it was warm enough not to need a coat, and then this week it went below freezing again. It is the true transition from winter to spring.

It is also the month when taxes are due in the United States, usually on April 15th. This is a good day if you filed before that date or if you receive a refund, but it is a bad day if you owe money to either the federal government, your state, or your local area.

To me, this month also means the Ides of April, a term I started using in the 1990s. I know that traditionally it is the Ides of March, which was the day Julius Caesar was killed, and was used in a Shakespeare play. I know that it was a bad omen; a cursed time. And that is April. A lot of bad events have happened in this month.

In 1912, the Titanic sank, as most of the world knows. It hit an iceberg on April 14 and finished sinking early in the morning of April 15. Over 1,500 people died in the freezing water or trapped on board, and we still remember the day over a hundred years later.

On April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was bombed, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and injured many others. On the site of the building is now standing the memorial to all those killed and all the survivors. The murderer said that he did it in revenge for the deaths on April 19, 1993 in Waco, Texas. On that day, agents of the F.B.I. sent tear gas into the home of a religious group in an attempt to force them out, after a long stand-off. At some point after that a fire started, and the house burned down, killing 76 people, including children.

On April 20, 1999, the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado killed 13 people and injured 23 more. The murderers said in materials before that day that they chose the date because it was Hitler’s birthday. There were a lot of school shootings around the country in that ten-year period, but this was the worst one. Until on April 16, 2007, at Virginia Tech University, when 32 people were killed by a student.

Now, we have the Boston Marathon bombing last year, on April 15, where 3 people were killed and hundreds were injured. Many of the injured are missing limbs because of the metal put into the two bombs.

An example of the Ides of April from central Pennsylvania is the mysterious disappearance of District Attorney Ray Gricar on April 15, 2005. He took a personal day, talked to a couple of people by phone, and then never returned home. His car was found parked by some shops in a nearby town, and pieces of his laptop were later found in a river. The police followed up on a few sightings and tips, but no one knows what happened to him. He was declared legally dead on July 25, 2011. Was he killed? Did he leave his family, job and former life on purpose? Did he commit suicide? Your guess is as good as mine.

Beware the Ides of April.

It is easy to find disasters through history in this month. What I want to remember is that I would find a lot of disasters in any month, if I looked. I just keep track of the ones in April, because I feel some interest in them, some emotional stake. I remember in 1993 watching a soap opera with my mom, when the network broke in with the news of the fire at Waco. We watched on live TV as the huge house burned to the ground, and we were horrified. In 1995, my father and I were traveling back from Kansas when the Oklahoma City bombing happened, and we didn’t learn about the attack until we got to a motel for the night. Maybe that is what got me fixated on April.

I also know that good things happen in this month. I always think of Easter as being an April holiday. It was April of 2002 that I met Darren, who is now my husband, and we first exchanged phone numbers. And one of my relatives who lives in this area has a birthday in this month, which makes April glorious. I am so blessed to have both of these people in my life, and they have always outshone any tragedy the month carries.

Long live April.

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One of my favorite months, April

Greetings, readers. Although April is not my favorite month of the year, it is my second. The dead of winter is over and already I can see a few trees beginning to bud. It was gorgeously warm the other day, so I know the sun is on the way back towards this hemisphere. Today, however, it is sunny but cold.

In April, we have the beginning of baseball season, my favorite sport. Trees and flowers come back to life. And people made grumpy by the long winter seem to become cheerful again. Also, days are longer and temperatures are on the rise. After this extremely cold winter, I doubt I will be complaining much this summer, unless it gets up into the triple digits. Heck, it is human nature to complain. If it is cold we want it hot and visa versa.

On occasion, store sidewalk sales crop up, becoming more prevalent until the end of summer. Also what happens in April and May, are young college kids seemingly dressing for 10 degrees warmer than it really is. I know when you have a winter full of 10s and 20s and all of a sudden it hits 55, you might want to wear shorts and a tee-shirt. The truth is you just can’t. The cold bug will get you every time. Within a few weeks, however, it will be sufficiently warm that even I will venture outside without my hooded sweatshirts. Speaking of those, at the end of this winter season I’m throwing them all away. Next year I get new. Yesterday I went to put on my lightweight hoodie, pulled it down to adjust it, and the bottom hem seam ripped badly. I heard the rip and said out loud to myself, “Oops, that’s not good.” My three hoodies have had a long life and have kept me warm when I needed them to.

Another thing that is going to happen this spring, probably next month, is that I’m going to go visit my friend Dave. With him being a postal worker, he has one weekend a month that his days off are on Saturday and Sunday. So either in May or June I will be bopping down to New Jersey for a long weekend. He and his family have a pool; I might just take a little dip this time around. Usually I will only go swimming in the lake in Maine, I just don’t want to go swimming anywhere else, but this time I think I will take him up on his frequent invitation.

Lastly, the annual Blue and White football scrimmage was last weekend. Penn State won, ha ha. Seriously though, it was the blue squad versus the white squad. The final score was 37 – 0, Blue squad. In my lifetime I have only gone to one Blue and White scrimmage and found it quite dull. But for a true die-hard Penn State fan, a football weekend, complete with tailgating, is indeed a Penn State football weekend. Activities go in this order; park, lots of tailgating, and oh, by the way, there is a football game.

I am planning for the next blog entry on Friday to be a From Rebecca. As usual, take care, happy reading, and see you next time.

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Top ten list of great M*A*S*H episodes

Greetings, readers. Here is a list of really great M*A*S*H episodes. We’ll have ten of them plus one honorable mention to complete the list. Enjoy.

#10. Dear Dad # 1, season one. [The first letter home to Hawkeye's dad. There were several of these letter home episodes over the years by various characters.]

#9. Out of Gas, season seven. [Father Mulcahy must deal with black marketeers to obtain sodium pentothal, a much needed anesthesia.]

#8. Period of Adjustment, season eight. [Klinger must deal with everybody comparing him to Radar, and B.J. must deal with his little girl calling Radar daddy when he is met at the airport by B.J.'s wife and daughter. This episode has very touching scenes and is quite well acted.]

#7. Hawk’s Nightmare, season five. [Hawkeye all of a sudden, over several nights, wakes up screaming, claiming to see his childhood friends having dreadful accidents. Dr. Sydney Freedman saves the day.]

#6. Fallen Idol, season six. [One of my personal favorites. When Hawkeye insists that Radar goes into Seoul for R&R, Radar comes back injured. When Hawkeye must operate, though he is intoxicated due to guilt, and must leave the O.R. to be sick, Radar loses respect temporarily for Hawkeye.]

#5. 5 o’Clock Charlie, season two. [Hawkeye, Trapper, and crew place bets and make a day of it when a nearsighted Korean in an airplane tries to bomb the camp ammo dump everyday at the same time.]

#4. Letters, season nine. [School children from Hawkeye's town write letters to the folks at M*A*S*H 4077. Everyone gets a handful to answer. A very touching scene near the end is when Charles receives a leaf from a tree that reminds him of home; Charles takes special care to answer that young one's letter on paper, not by tape recorder.]

#3. Comrades in Arms, season six. [Probably one of the most well-done episodes. It is a two-parter, where Hawkeye and Margaret are sent to another M*A*S*H unit to demonstrate a technique. When they arrive, the camp has bugged out. As they hide in a nearby village hut, a romance kindled by fear develops.]

#2. The Interview, season four finale. [Clete Roberts, a real life war correspondent, does serious interviews to show the folks back home just how bad war can be. This episode did not have a laugh track.]

#1. Abyssinia, Henry, season three finale. [My personal favorite episode, though I cry every time I watch it. When Colonel Blake gets his discharge orders, everybody is thrilled. Hours after he leaves, though, joy turns to sadness when it is learned that his plane spun into the sea of Japan. No survivors.]

Honorable Mention: Who Knew?, season eleven. [After Hawkeye has a date with a shy new nurse, she is killed in an accident. When he offers to do the eulogy, because no one else really knew her, he is faced with how fleeting life can be. He tells the people in his life how much they mean to him.]

Hope you have enjoyed this top ten list dealing with this classic TV show.

As usual, have a great weekend, take care, and happy reading.

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Pride goeth before a fall

Greetings, readers. What a beautiful day it is in State College. I’m enjoying the sunshine and was out and about early, before a 10:30 meeting. It was with a social worker who is extremely caring and took plenty of time to answer all of my questions. It must be made plain right now, I am a proud man. But as I said in my play Kimberly, the time to be proud is over. I need help.

I’m dealing with quite a few things that have been snowballing over the last few years. The two biggest are my monetary status change and the recent loss of family members. Having lost my Godmother last month, I am now on my own in State College, except for good friends. My family is with the angels.

For years I tried to help myself, deluded into thinking things will turn out okay. I ignored most of my problems by watching Netflix or playing PS3 games. After talking with Jan, I’ve set some goals for the next few months and will be taking the appropriate steps to meet those goals. I’m not afraid to ask for help anymore. As a matter of fact, I might go overboard the other way for a while. I am certain though, as I get more confident, I will be able to do the things I need to do and ask for help when I need it. Being proud at this time, for me anyway, is silly.

Two major changes in my daily routine will affect my mental status right away. As of tomorrow, I shall be waking up early and having coffee at home. The other major change will be doing my writing from approximately 8 or 9 until almost noon. Rebecca’s husband has told me that even if you write crap every day, go ahead and write everyday. I am going to heed that advice.

Now that I am open to assistance and suggestions, please feel free to drop a reply if you have any helpful tips about depression or general well-being. This ends this rare Thursday blog entry. Take care and happy reading.

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MLB14 The Show … finally

Greetings, readers. Today’s going to be an initial review on this game. It came out a week ago yesterday and I spent the majority of that week trying to download it from the PlayStation store. I had no success whatsoever. When I finally tried to call the help number, it became clear that I was not the only one having a problem. My guess is that the master file was somehow flawed and that nobody could download it. Finally I had to order a copy from Best Buy.

Here are some initial thoughts. The PlayStation 4 version due out next month has much more to offer in the way of graphics. The PS3 version is pretty much the same game, only peaked and tweaked to complete the atmosphere of the game. I think the PS3 version is already maxed out on game play enhancements.

I was most impressed with all the new true-to-life stadium Jumbotrons. They were improved in last year’s version as well; this year even more so. Also, many more batting stances, and pitching motions were added. San Diego Studio, the maker of the game, strive to have the most complete and correct baseball game experience possible. And Andrew McCutchen is going to look like Andrew McCutchen.

The three broadcasters have even added more lines of text to make that broadcast of a ballgame feel even more true. Very well done, guys. Is there still repetition? Of course, it is a video game. The one thing that I still think needs work, and has been changed in the PS4 version, are the stadium crowds. PS3 offers slightly less than 400 animated people to be placed around a stadium that holds between 35,000 to 50,000 fans. The PS4 version will offer over 1,000 animations. It will even include children to the crowd mix. Stadium crowds will finally look more realistic.

The road to the show feature is my favorite this year, where a created player can be taken through a three-game Topps Amateur Showcase to show the scouts what he has to offer. Your performance actually determines which round your player is drafted in. Love it, love it, love it. I create first basemen and pitchers because they are the only positions I know how to play.

My biggest like is that you can control one player on a team in any mode and only play his plays with a camera view from that player’s eyes. My biggest dislike is the juke box music selections. Usually I will know at least one or two of the songs they have chosen; this year I don’t know any. And I am sorry, but all rap songs were turned off.

I’ll have my mini-report and final grade in a couple of weeks. I’m still testing. Until Friday, take care, good health, and happy reading.

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From Rebecca: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight

Yesterday I watched the third in a series of films that started eighteen years ago.

In 1995 a film came out called Before Sunrise, written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan. It starred Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as two people in their early 20s who meet on a train to Vienna and begin talking. Over the course of that day, evening, and overnight the two characters, Jesse and Celine, talk about life, what they want to do, how they view the world, and get to know each other as they wander through Vienna. Jesse has to leave early in the morning, so that is all the time they have. It was a film of young love in Europe.

Some years after the film came out, the two stars and one of the writers, Richard Linklater, started talking about writing a follow-up film with the two characters. The three artists wrote scenes, emailed each other, and got together to slowly produce the next chapter for Jesse and Celine.

That film, called Before Sunset, came out in 2004. Set in Paris, again starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the story caught up to the characters nine years later. A little older and a little less innocent, they have each had other relationships and some success in their careers. Jesse needs to get on a plane that evening, so they only have the afternoon together. So they spend it talking as they walk through streets, sit at a cafe, take a boat ride, and ride in a hired car. I like the choice they made in just this film to be running in real-time; the camera seems to be following them with no breaks. I know that they shot it over several days, instead of one long take, but the film has the feeling of a long conversation in an afternoon in Paris.

After that film, some time passed and then the three writers (Linklater, Delpy and Hawke) began to work on a third one.

Before Midnight came out last year, in 2013, and again picked up our couple nine years later. In a relationship with each other, 41 years old, they are on vacation in Greece. They have two daughters now, and when they are given a chance to spend time in a hotel room without the children, they end up spending that time examining their relationship, disappointments, and responsibilities. Should they stay together, should they part?

I don’t remember which film I heard of first, but the first two have been on my to-watch list for years. When the third one came out, I bumped them closer to the top. I watched all three films, with some time in between each one, for the first time within the last year. I enjoyed them all very much. After so much manufactured romance from Hollywood (as much as I enjoy romantic comedies), it was a refreshing change to watch romance set in the real world.

Each film finds this woman and man at different times of their lives – in their 20s, 30s, and 40s – and each age they need something different from their encounters. Seeing the actors mature and change with the characters adds to the experience. They don’t fall head over heels in love and live happily ever after. They connect to each other, connect to each other again, and then have a grown up relationship that includes hope, disappointments, dishes, an ex-wife, being tired, helping with the children, sex, and commitment.

And talking. In each film, there is a lot of sharing of ideas, philosophy, life views, dreams, and intentions. In the third film, there is a wonderful scene where a group of people are eating a meal together. They talk about men and woman, romance, relationships, and the changes in the world as it relates to couples (the young couple at the table stay in their long distance relationship with the use of Skype). The people at the meal represent all stages of love and ages; a young couple, an old married couple, a widow. Their conversation is lively and interesting.

I also liked the three locations used in the films; Vienna, Paris, and Greece. They were filmed on location, so we see architecture, landscapes, cafes, rivers, and art. Each place added to the mood and feeling of the films.

Will there be a fourth film? Time will tell. Nine years later would be 2022. I intend to see it, if that film is made.

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The ultimate test of my patience: PlayStation network

Greetings, readers. My second Christmas, i.e. the release date for the video game MLB14 The Show, is a day late. Let me explain. For only the second time ever, I decided to purchase the game from the PlayStation store on-line instead of buying the game on disc at the store. No big deal, right? When I purchased it two days before its release date, I was told I would have to wait until after midnight on April 1st to begin the actual download. I had no problem with that. What I did have a problem with is the PlayStation network going down for maintenance on a day when millions of baseball fans are more than likely trying to download this game. OMG!

Finally, at 4:30 yesterday afternoon, I was able to start what I thought would be a three to four-hour download process. Nearly 24 hours later, the download reads 98% done. I will be livid if this game really isn’t downloading at all. Usually I don’t leave my modem and other equipment on overnight but I had to or the process would have been interrupted. Perhaps someone can tell me: do downloads take longer if more people are trying to do the same thing at the same time? All I know is, the money has been taken out of my bank account and I’m just anxious to get what I paid for.

Today’s blog entry was going to be about how great this game is. Unfortunately that is going to have to be done on Friday. So, let’s get you up to date on other things.

Although I don’t sit down for hours and watch news, I have been trying to keep tabs on Malaysia Airlines flight 370, praying that someday very soon searchers will find something. Obviously that aircraft or bits thereof is somewhere. With all the high-tech satellite and other gadgetry, I am shocked that this plane has not been found yet. Granted, parts of the Indian Ocean are quite deep, but I must have missed my guess because I thought we had technology to pinpoint anything anywhere if we wanted to. Time will tell and I will keep my fingers crossed for closure for their loved ones.

Closer to home, yesterday was our first truly beautiful warm spring day. Almost 60 degrees, light wind, and abundant sunshine. I will happily take many more of those kinds of days. Rain, however, is in our forecast tomorrow. According to my friend Jim, the water table is down, so I guess we do need it after all.

Lastly, Keekee is being such a good girl. She has quickly learned when it is her feeding time, so as not to bother daddy during work hours. Also, the phrases she has learned, such as treats and milk, show that I am the proud papa of one very smart cat. I often wondered what would happen if I tried to bring a second animal into the apartment. On many occasions, Keekee has reminded me in her own way that this is her house and I am just allowed to live here. Somehow I don’t think Keekee would be too happy with another four-pawed animal running around the place. This is her apartment. All hail Queen Keekee.

On Friday, I will report on MLB14 The Show … I hope. And soon it will be time for another top ten list. Until Friday, have a great day, enjoy springtime, take care and happy reading.

UPDATE: Finally after twenty-one and a half hours, I thought MLB14 The Show had successfully downloaded, but when I tried the install process an error message came on the screen saying that the data may be corrupt. I’m currently re-trying the install process in the hopes that I get lucky, but I fear I will have to do one of two things. One, uninstall the game and begin the download process all over again. Or two, call the Sony 800 number, ask for a refund, and when the money is redeposited in my bank account, go to Best Buy and buy a copy of the game on disc. Blog post on Friday on the game is now pending.

SECOND UPDATE: 4/4/14: Sorry to have to inform you that the download of MLB14 The Show from the PlayStation store turned out to be a permanently corrupt file. After talking with a tech person, we agreed the best thing to do was to cancel my order and either try again at a later date or buy a physical copy. So, expect my yearly review on the MLB baseball series ASAP.

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Boy, do I have spring fever

Greetings, readers. First off, good job to Rebecca for the great blog entry from the other day. It got lots of hits, as hers tend to do. Two thumbs up.

Now, oh boy, am I waiting for spring time. To put it politely, I am tired of freezing a certain section of my body off every time I walk across the street for a cup of coffee. I don’t know if I have hyperactivity or not, but when I am at home, I want to go for coffee, and twenty minutes after I get there, I’m thinking about all the reasons why I want to hurry and get back home. Welcome to my world.

Going to and from my various local errands this past winter was very uncomfortable for me. I have made my broken-down coat last as many years as I can. It is going to be tossed away when spring time hits. Next winter I will go to the Goodwill store and purchase its replacement.

I have already decided what I am going to do this spring and summer. First, I’m going to do a lot more walking. I no longer have my massage therapist who kept me healthy and feeling good. So every warm sunny morning, before it gets too hot in the day, I will devise a route and walk it – say four times a week. I would also like to think that I could partake of some kind of sporting activity. That may have to end up being bowling, because after all these years, if I would try softball or basketball I think I would fall on my face and pass out.

Another thing I want to do this spring and summer on Fridays here in State College is go to the local farmer’s market and purchase healthier, fresh food and have a better diet. I will have more energy and my risk for diseases later in life will be less. I am going to now share with you, my readers, my basic diet. Tortilla chips, ice cream, marshmallows, occasionally a tall cup of grape juice, and my only real nutritious food of the day, a real fruit wild blueberry muffin with my morning coffee. Yes, indeed, I do need to eat better and soon.

Lastly, while the weather is going to be better this summer, I hope to visit family members. That is always achieved more easily when the weather makes traveling safer, with no snow or ice. There are a number of people who I would like to visit and get caught up with, and I really can’t wait to do it. I have been sitting in this small apartment way too long. One of these years I still hope to move to either the Carolinas or Florida. Whether that will really happen or not is debatable.

Until next time, have a great weekend, take care, think spring, and happy reading.

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From Rebecca: Birthdays

Birthdays are on my mind lately. My family has a few birthdays in March, including my husband Darren, and including someone yesterday. I wished the woman with this milestone a happy birthday, and she expressed regret that she was getting older. I think a lot of people feel that way; that we love the special day but don’t like seeing our age number go up. I know most of us don’t feel like our age. I am almost 50 years old, and most days I feel so much younger. I still want so much in my life, can it really be  half over? And then my body aches or my feet hurt, and I feel way older.

When the month of someone’s birthday is here, the next time I see him or her, I say, “Happy birthday month!” I wish people a happy birthday week, too. I like the extra time to celebrate people I love, especially if I can’t be with them on the actual day. Birthdays represent the day we came into this world and that is awesome. And we all deserve a day to feel special, if only to ourselves. We all have an impact on the world, we all change things big and small in the world around us, just by interacting with others. We touch so many lives. On our birthday, we celebrate another year down, and another year ahead. We celebrate being alive.

Though part of that is also seeing so much change: where we live, where we work, where we shop, what we buy. Familiar businesses go away, new buildings go up, streets get new names. We see changes in music, film, and technology. I have two nephews and a niece all under 20 years old. When I was their age, my sisters and I were still playing albums on the turntable and just getting into cassette tapes to listen to music. My teenage and pre-teen relatives listen to music on their electronic devices. Thankfully there are still radio stations, so I can keep up with the new music. As an old-fashioned, getting older person, I wrote the first draft of this blog post in longhand on paper before typing it out on the computer screen; if I were younger I might have an electronic tablet for that. New technology is fun, but the old stuff is good too. Getting older means balancing all the technology and choosing what works for us from what is available.

I have a blessing that I usually use for birthday cards, to reflect that birthdays are the start of a new year. I bless you all with it now: May you be surrounded by joy, love, light, strength, comfort, laughter, and peace.

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My initial thoughts on Malaysia flight 370

Greetings, readers. I am treading lightly on today’s subject. As with many people in the world I’m sure, Malaysia airlines flight 370 is on my mind. Something doesn’t quite seem right. There are enough satellites circling Earth to pinpoint nearly anything, yet it has taken nearly two weeks to find the remains of this Boeing 777; if it indeed crashed.

As I understand it, the plane was taken off-course on purpose and could be anywhere within the large plane’s fuel load capacity. I totally get that. That bird can fly many, many hours. This does put the searching teams at a great disadvantage. Start from the runway and search each of the 360 degrees in the full circle and then fly the flight’s fuel capacity. Am I saying they should have found it after two days? No. But to me it is smelling more and more like a possible, if not probable, cover-up.

I saw on the news that the pilot had a home version of a flight simulator and part of the flight plan of MA 370 was deleted. Was this to see if he could get away with something and not have it detected? There is a red flag for ya. And what about the co-pilot? He was either in on it, knocked unconscious, or killed. It’s looking like it is going to take months, if not years, to unravel this mystery. I was going to do some speculation of my own, but I have decided to wait for more facts.

To conclude, again many thoughts and prayers to the friends and families of those on the flight. I can only imagine the horror you are going through. Good news or bad, may there be some form of closure soonest.

Until next week, have a good weekend, take care, and happy reading.

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