Monthly Archives: June 2014

Thanks for reading my blog, now and in the future

Greetings, readers. Slowly but surely I am inching closer to my 300th blog entry. Wow! Who’d have thought I’d have that much to say. Today I want to take a moment to thank you, my readers, for your continued support. Two entries that are always on the statistics list are the Air Crash Investigation entry, and the entry about my father, which is currently sitting in second for all time views.

I must admit, when I wrote Remembering my father, Professor Joseph J. Kockelmans, I thought that it was going to be popular, but I never dreamt just how popular. As of today, there are 641 views and lots of positive comments. Thank you all. I am especially touched by the warm comments left by his former students and colleagues who took the time to reach out to me. That means so much. Most of the comments I get are on this entry, but I don’t want to leave out the people who have left comments on other entries. I am honored by all the comments I get from readers and wish to thank them too.

Dad’s blog post was number one for the longest time. When Malaysia Flight 370 vanished, there was a lot of world interest which had people searching on Google for information. I was following this story too. I have a fascination for air safety and when it goes wrong. I did write an entry about the missing plane and the search for it, but I also did an entry on a TV series that is one of my favorites, Air Crash Investigation. That entry, Top ten list of Air Crash Investigation stories, became popular. Even after the news frenzy has ended and the search has grinded to a halt, I still get views of the entry. As of today, that entry has been viewed 1, 490 times, though most of the views are from the time the search was at its height. Rebecca and I do know from looking at the search tags that lots of you are looking for references to the actual TV series. I wrote a follow-up entry about one of the episodes, titled The Air Crash Investigation episode on The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team crash, thinking the same people might be interested in it, but so far not many of you have viewed it directly.

There are a few posts that keep coming up in the statistics, and though pleased, we are not quite certain what is the spark of so much interest. We still have views of Top Ten List of Modern Conveniences; as of today 291. The entry From Rebecca: A little bit in a hurry, about my coming back soon from Maine and my cat Keekee shedding, still shows up and sits at 53 views. We may never know the real reason someone views an entry, but we are grateful for each and every read we get.

I will continue in the months and years to come to write about topic that not only interest me but that I think is hot news in the world.

After I come back from Maine this August, I will have some pictures that I will put in the gallery.

Until next time, again thank you for your reading support, have a great weekend, and happy reading.

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My therapy is going well

Greetings, readers. After many years of trying to deal with my life’s issues, which include depression, I finally gave in a few weeks ago and found a rather good psychologist. I’ve only met with her three times but already I know that it’s going to be a huge success. Just having someone to talk to is a tremendous help. And being a trained professional, she knows the right things to suggest and say.

I must admit, the first week I went there I was nervous. I wasn’t sure it I wanted to go, so I called my friend Dave and posed this question to him: “With my mom being a psychologist, Dave, do you think she would have been proud of me or not?” He told me that in his opinion he was certain that if I was getting the help that I needed that she would be all for that. I tend to agree with his assessment. Although Mom always was a very proud person, she always did look out for her only son and what was best for him.

So, to therapy I go once a week. I already am feeling very much improved as far as my depression goes. I seem happier, I’m telling more jokes, and believe me it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this happy. Was I depressed to the point where I was wearing black clothing and black nail polish? No. But depressed I was. I know that in my life I have done some things that might not have been the best choices for me, especially in money management, but what I have to do from this day on is concentrate on making different choices.

I am extremely pumped that summertime is here. Yes, the humidity can be a bit oppressive from time to time. But I like warm temperatures, as you know, and green leaves on the tress. This past winter there were days where I stayed inside about 98% of the day. Now, I’ll walk from a bus stop and take a listen to the birds. It’s is so enjoyable to do so without having to bundle up like a polar bear and still freeze. But, like I said in my last post, here we are already in late June. Someone once told me the theory for the reason why time seems to be going more quickly, and that is: If you have already lived more than half your life there is less ahead of you, and somehow that alters how you perceive time. I don’t know if I buy in to that, because the last time I checked there were still 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. But something sure happened, because I remember being 20 years old, blinking, and here in two weeks I’ll be 49. Arg.

Please readers send good wishes for me with my therapy. I have a good doctor and I like her. Until next time, take care, stay well, and happy reading.

I can’t believe it’s only a month and a half until vacation

Greetings, readers. Yes, the first week of August is quickly approaching. Before I know it, it will be the 4th of July, and that won’t leave me much time to prepare to leave at end of the month. This year I cannot wait; more so than in years past. Lots of plans are going to be made for this summer. Some plans for here in State College, including preparing for a performance in September, while other plans are for camp.

While at camp, my friend Dave and I are going to sit down and have one of our usual evening chats. Usually we just shoot the bull and it’s laughs galore. This time, however, I will have a serious topic for him. During the year, something has happened that I want to get his view on and we always have our best heart to heart talks face to face. The other evenings I am sure will be filled with story time for the kids and campfires. I’m not sure how many years I’ll still be going to Bear Spring Camps, so I am going to make a point to enjoy each second as much as possible. I remember when I returned to camp in 2009 after a hiatus, that I paid extra special attention to how beautiful the trees and lake looked and how soothing the birds and crickets sounded. I plan to have that same appreciation this year just in case it’s my last.

But getting back to this summer. I waited all winter for it, and here we are approaching late June already. As Norman Thayer, Jr. from On Golden Pond would say, “Good God.” Now some of you might correct me that summer hasn’t even officially started yet. For me, once the Indianapolis 500 has taken place, it’s the summer season. I go by my own calendar.

The biggest thing I’m going to do at camp this year will be the taking of detailed notes, because this is the final year that I will let pass without working on a book. Whether that is camp book 3, blog book 2 or other, that remains to be seen. When Rebecca and I begin work again on August 13th, we’re going to cook and book, no pun intended.

Enjoy the pretty weather if you have it, stay safe if you don’t, have a great weekend and happy reading.

Hope your day is better than mine

Greetings, readers. It has been one of those so-many-things-going-wrong-days. I tried to relax at Panera cafe before work, and had a friend need a favor that I tried to help her with but could not figure out. That took time and got me a little rattled. Then I had a problem with my weekly meeting with my accountant, and we had to have our meeting in the parking lot because the parking pass turned out to be unusable. Do not get me started on tow truck drivers and them blocking the legal spots!

Now I am getting ready to go to a doctor’s appointment during work hours, while Rebecca types this entry, and I try to move around bags of recycling that I keep tripping on. I just hope I calm down enough to drive to my appointment.

I also hope that the Zipcar I booked for my appointment today has enough gas in it. The last one I used was low and the gas card was expired. That was inconvenient. I had to use my own money and then send in the receipt to be reimbursed. Zipcar makes the process as easy as possible, but it is still effort on my part. On a more positive note, up until this point I have had very few problems with Zipcar, so I still love the service in general.

So I hope that your day is better than mine. At least I got some work done and a blog post up. My day could get better any time now, and I hope it does. In the meantime, here’s to a fresh start tomorrow.

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

The Air Crash Investigation episode on The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team crash

Greetings, readers. As you know, I love aircraft, flight simulation, as well as the TV series Air Crash Investigation. I like to see what went wrong and how the investigators come to their conclusions. A couple of stories really get under my thumbnails. This is one those stories. I got my information from the show, and from an entry of Wikipedia.

Late in the afternoon of September 7, 2011, a tragedy rocked one of Russia’s top hockey teams. The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team was about to fly from Yaroslavl Russia to the city of Minsk in Belarus for their season opening game. The plane crashed shortly after take-off on the bank of the Volga river, killing all but one of the forty-five people on board. The airplane was a Yak-42 and the airline was Yak Services. As flight #9633 roared down the runway, the three-engine airplane would not lift off. It had more than enough runway and the investigation concluded that the flaps and slats were configured correctly. What could have happened? As with the story of Air Florida Palm 90, the answer makes me furious.

One of the pilots on the three-pilot crew was the vice president of operations, who “pulled some strings,” as the episode phrased, to be able to fly his hockey heroes to their season-opening game. I’m not going to mention names because that is not important, but he had a health condition which turned out to be part of the cause of why the plane crashed. He should not have been flying.

The Yak-42 had enough speed to take off, but mysteriously remained on the ground. Faster and faster it went. The pilots must have thought any second they would take off. Then they ran out of runway and only got airborne momentarily when the plane began bouncing off the grass. It was too late. A wing struck a small tower and veered out of control. It slammed into the ground at the edge of the river, killing all but one. The city and the Kontinental Hockey League were in shock.

The Russian president at the time demanded answers, according to the show. At that time, Russia was not known for its aviation safety. The president wanted better and demanded it. Hockey in Russia was more of a religion, even more than football and baseball is to us. Lots of the players were from the town of Yaroslavl. Not only did they lose their hockey team, but some of them lost good friends as well.

In aviation, I despise it when seemly easy to avoid accidents occur. The pilot responsible not only falsified his health documentation, he falsified his training on the airplane. He had his foot on the brake pedal instead of on a safe foot rest. On the Yak-40, a slightly smaller version, the foot rest area is different in that his foot would not have been touching the brake. In the United States, pilots are not allowed to fly more than one aircraft type at a time. I believe it is to avoid just such mistakes. Russia’s president did make Russian aviation clean up its act, but not in time to save Yak Services charter company. They closed soon after.

To the families of the players, my sympathy. If this blog entry brings up any bad memories, I apologize. My condolences to you.

Until next week, stay cool if you are in the heat wave. Take care and happy reading.

From Rebecca: Top ten list of my favorite authors and series’

I spent all week trying to write a blog entry different than this in my head, but it just did not come together correctly. So I decided to take a page out of Joe’s book and do a top ten list. I wrote a list of some of my favorite authors and picked ten to share with you. All have a book series that I enjoy a lot, and most are mysteries. I don’t have them in any particular order, but I will stick with Joe’s format and give them numbers. Here we go.

#10. Agatha Christie. Main characters in two of her series’ are the spinster named Miss Jane Marple from a small town in England, and the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot living in London. Agatha Christie was the first adult mystery writer I remember reading.

#9. Sue Grafton. Her main character is private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Her books are titled alphabetically, starting in 1982 with “A” is for Alibi, and so far, as of last year, she has reached “W” is for Wasted. I am rereading her series this year and it is like catching up with an old friend. The first few books in the series are a bit dry, but they loosen up as the series goes on.

#8. Dick Francis. Most of his books were not in a series per se, but all of his main characters felt like the same bloke. Dick Francis was a former jockey, and all of his books dealt in the world of horse racing in some way or another. He did have two characters who returned in other books, Sid Halley and Kit Fielding, but most of his characters found themselves in unfamiliar territory and had to fight their way through trouble by their wits and guts. In the last years of his life, he had help from his son Felix in writing his books, and since Dick Francis’ death, Felix has published a few books in the same line as his dad.

#7. Charlaine Harris. She has several series’, most of which I have read. Her most famous series featured Sookie Stackhouse, and was made into a television show called True Blood. I also enjoyed her two series’ that featured the main characters housecleaner with a troubled past Lily Bard, and lightening strike survivor Harper Connelly with her half-brother Tolliver.

#6. Jacqueline Winspear. Her main character is Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist and investigator in London, who was a nurse during World War I and now helps people in the years afterward. The author wrote that she got a lot of inspiration from the experiences of her own family members, who lived through WWI and gave her information about that time. The series does deal a lot with the aftermath of war, and especially the circumstances in this war, and the struggles everyone had in order to recover. A few of the books in the middle of the series do get a bit dark in tone, as Maisie Dobbs drops down in depression and post traumatic stress syndrome. But she gets professional help, and the books gradually get lighter as she recovers. They are written very well, and give a view of a time period that we don’t usually dwell in.

#5. Carrie Vaughn. Her main character is Kitty Norville, who is a werewolf. She has a weekly radio show where she talks about the supernatural, and tries to satisfy her deep curiosity about the unknown life she entered when she became a supernatural creature herself.

#4. C.J. Box. His main character is Joe Pickett, a game warden in Wyoming. Joe is a straight shooter, an honest government agent, who has had to bend the rules on occasion to see justice done. This is also one of the series that both my father and I read, so I feel a special connection to it for that.

#3. Elizabeth Peters. Her main characters are Amelia Peabody and (Radcliff – he hates his first name) Emerson. They are Egyptologists from the 1880s to the 1930s, and solve mysteries as they try to complete their digging seasons in Egypt.

#2. J.D. Robb. Her main characters are Eve Dallas and Rourke. This series is set in the future, where Dallas is a New York City cop and Rourke is a very successful business man. Some of the material can be tough to read as some of it is about sick violent minds, but it is handled with respect and Dallas always gets the bad guy at the end. You may also know this author’s romance novels under the name Nora Roberts.

#1. Janet Evanovich. Her main character is Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter for her cousin in New Jersey. She is not very good at it, especially at first, but she has gotten slowly better at it as the series continues. The first book in the series was made into the movie One for the Money, which got the spirit of the whole series down right, though the book is a bit darker than the others in the series. Overall the series has a light, slap-stick comedy tone.

I love reading and I love books, so this is a small list of authors that bring me joy and that I would recommend. I hope you also have a list of artists that you enjoy. Have a good day.

Our voyage on Voyager of the Seas

Greetings, readers. When I was married to then Georgia Kockelmans, she and I went on a cruise in 2005 which was one of the happiest times we spent together. It was a ten-day grand vacation, with two days down and two days up on the Atlantic Ocean, and four ports of call in the Caribbean. Our ship was Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas.

Good friends of ours drove us to Cape Liberty cruise port in Bayonne, New Jersey where Georgia and I waited several hours for the ship to be cleaned and re-stocked. We had much to do in the meantime; there was customs to go through including showing passports, and baggage checks. I had the eager anticipation for this trip of a little boy. It was the first time I had been on a liner since 1973’s Queen Elizabeth 2 crossing of the Atlantic Ocean with my parents. I was wide-eyed at the whole experience. Then we got the news: something had delayed our boarding and we were all going to be in this waiting area for much longer than anticipated. Since we were all checked in, that gave people time to smoke, stretch their legs, and get a drink. However, we weren’t allowed to venture far away from the boarding area. Finally in the evening around 7:00 or 8:00 as best as I can remember, we were allowed to board.

When we got to our stateroom, our luggage was in front of our door, just like it was for other passengers. If memory serves, when the ship was finally ready to cast off, we were already three to four hours behind schedule. It was going on 11:00 p.m. Georgia and I went out to our balcony and watched our ship sail under one of New York City’s bridges. We swore the top of the ship was not going to clear the bottom of the bridge, then we both looked at one another as if to say, “I’m sure this captain has done this a hundred times. It must be safe.” We watched it safely go under the bridge and out to the open ocean. Then Georgia and I went into the stateroom and enjoyed the complimentary beverage that was given to all passengers.

While I don’t remember every single detail of this voyage, I shall now tell you a little bit about the ports of call. We visited Labadee, Haiti; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Freeport, Bahamas. What I think we did was go to the southern most port and work our way back north, but I’m straining my memory eight years now so I hope I’m not fibbing.

At one of the lovely ports, Georgia and I decided to go swimming with the dolphins. Now, I can’t swim to save my life. For insurance reasons, even the most avid swimmer was made to wear a safety vest. One of the park employees had to hold me while I kicked my feet, so that I could use both hands to pet the dolphin, and give it a little kiss. All of the sudden I saw Georgia’s eyes get big. I looked over and saw the person holding me up was swimming in front of me. I had one of those hey, wait a minute, moments. I thought to myself, “Hey, if you are in front of me, who is holding me up? I must be treading water all by myself.” And sure enough, I was. As soon as I realized it, I began to flounder like the Titanic. The guy came back over quickly and caught me.

At another port, Labadee, Haiti I believe, I went hog-wild with my souvenir buying. I wanted remembrances of my trip. Of course, everything was hand-crafted, and quite expensive. Looking at the items much later, Georgia and I both chuckled over the fact that they were probably not worth the money I paid. It was worth it as I had these reminders and do to this day.

Two highlights now from on-board ship. While neither Georgia nor I was big on dressing up for the formal dinners, we did do it once out of the two formal nights. I rented a tux from the shop, and Georgia looked elegant in her best outfit. We sat at a big table with many of our fellow passengers and enjoyed delicious food, wine, dessert, and coffee. We fit in as best as we could. All other times, we dined in leisure clothes, on our time schedule, at the venues on the promenade levels, cafes, the 50’s style diner, or our personal favorite, room service.

The other big on-ship highlight was the couple’s massage at the fitness center. Two words describe that: completely scrumptious. It was an hour-long session, being rubbed down and pampered from head to toe. We left feeling like a million bucks.

On the cuter side of the ship’s decor, in every elevator was a plaque on the floor with the number of days left in the voyage. Changing them every day must have been a lot of work. Other niceties on the ship included the clubs and our ultimate favorite place, the casino. Georgia, my hat’s off to you for your prowess on the slot machines.

As the ship approached Bayonne, New Jersey, we both knew that something magical was ending. I always expected to take another cruise one day, but we never did. The whole ten-day experience is something I will always treasure. Years later I found on the internet a webcam mounted to look over Voyager of the Sea‘s promenade deck. It instantly brought back the feeling of being on board.

Next Wednesday will be a personal day, and Rebecca has asked to do the blog entry on Thursday. On Friday or the following week, since a lot of my readers seem to be big into the Air Crash Investigation series, I will do another blog entry about that show. Until soonest, have a great weekend, take care, and happy reading.

I’ll be at Addison Court for at least one more year

Greetings, readers. Today I began the process, i.e. paperwork, for renewing my lease for another year at Addison Court apartment building. I moved in here in 2006 or 2007. I can’t believe I’m quickly approaching a whole decade here in this place. The first year was murder; I wasn’t used to the downtown traffic or all the hustle and bustle outside my window on a Penn State football Friday night. Now I barely hear it.

A few months ago I was highly debating whether I would renew, but suffice it to say there is far less drama than there used to be, and it is once again a very enjoyable place to live. Addison Court is next door to a small grocery store, very near the public library, as well as my very much-loved Panera cafe. In the last year or so something called Zipcar was added to our town. For those that don’t know what that is, it is called car sharing; it is car renting but better. I love it so much I did a blog entry about it. Five Zipcar vehicles are parked near Addison Court, making almost any errand I need to do at a moment’s notice convenient to do.

The folks here at Addison Court are some of the nicest people I have met. Do I love everybody here? That might be going a little extreme, but I try to get along with everyone. We all have our faults. When I finally do leave Addison Court and some time has passed, I think I will write a book about my experiences, changing all the names of course. Watch that be my big seller. Lol.

My absolute favorite thing about Addison Court is my top-floor living room picture window looking out toward Beaver Stadium, where on the 4th of July I have the best seat in the house for the fireworks. I can see them plain as day, without being too close to cause any hearing damage. Those shells are loud folks. Keekee the kitty cat is also fascinated by it; I tell her that it is time to watch the boom-booms.

Will I ever leave Addison Court? Oh, I’ve had pipe dreams of living in a lavish home in Florida with servants, but that is just what dreaming is. We can say, what is your ultimate life and enjoy living it through our dreams. Though in reality I have a nice apartment that takes pets, a good little kitty cat for company, good friends, and for the most part my health. So I’m content to be here at Addison for the foreseeable future.

Look for another blog entry on Friday and as always, take care, have a good day and happy reading.