Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Bio- Solids Rubicon, Part 3: Two Words - One Purpose

Black Diamond Mine, Indiana County, PA
Photo: U.S. National Archives 
1. The Second Word – Preemption

Our legislators, the regulators, and most importantly the profit-makers couldn't trust that a risk management decision of spreading bio-solids in rural communities would actually be successful on its own merits.  The quality of bio-solids might create a fuss, communities might refuse to allow it inside their municipal borders.   It wouldn't be enough to convince a community that this is a good solution to a long-standing problem of where and how to dispose of sludge. Choice had to be removed from the equation- and for good reason too.

To correct this potential problem, two words became instrumental to the success of the industry.  The two words are regulation and preemption.   The first was to regulate the sludge through the application of numbers – setting new standards for sludge based upon already established standards for contaminates in soil, setting standards for land application based upon geology, isolation distances, soil morphology, and the amount of contaminates in the solid waste- which was broken down into two groups of bio-solids to be applied: Type A and Type B.

The second word was taken from another law.  Pennsylvania’s industrial history is primarily based upon  coal mining.  When coal mining was the power industry that built our State, the last thing the industry would allow and the state legislators would permit was a local town, borough, or county interfering with coal mining.  Entire communities relied upon those dangerous mining jobs.  Written into the mining act of Pennsylvania was a special section called the Preemption Clause.

Preemption was simple. No community of any size or persuasion could write a law that conflicted with Federal and State law and those regulations written pursuant to that law.  Mining was off-limits to Nimby-Warriors.  That worked for several years and still is very effective.  By the 1980’s coal mining was  in full decline in Pennsylvania but strip mining for sand and stone was a growing industry and the exemption clause protected all types of mining.   Central Pennsylvania has never fully recovered from the decline.

In North Pennsylvania  the process of fracking, the process of fracturing shale to get natural gas is helping their depressed economy. Here is another temporary extractive industry bringing jobs and opportunity to a region starved for a real economy.  And this too shall pass once all the gas is gone.

Preemption protects the State from the occasional uprising of small communities who decide that their local needs are more important than the needs of the greater whole.  It is a minority opinion- the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many that small protest groups sometimes embrace.  Preemption is a stark reminder to local populations that their personal needs, while valid in thought and often in practice, are not paramount over the greater social good.

Local governments do not have the resources, technical or financial, to hire the professionals needed to create sound, scientific regulations that will best protect them.  Besides, even if a local government had retired EPA scientists living in their community who could write and even enforce tough regulations, what about the farm owner just across the Township line.

“Oh my, lookie what Farmer Brown is spreading and there ain’t no fancy-pants EPA guy living in our Township to regulate that mess. Oh my oh my, he just dumped a pile of radioactive turds right on his property line, right on the Township line, and right about 40 feet from our well.  Quick get the phone Sally, we gotta call our State legislator and demand they do something about this so it never, ever happens again."   Kind of reminds me of a song from Pink Floyd..Us and Them.

2. The First Word: Regulation

It is Martin Luther King Jr. day and I am sitting in an ethics class. My fellow students  are members of the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association.  Here are the men and women who pump out septic tanks in rural Pennsylvania and they are learning about ethical conduct. I find that to be very encouraging.  I've seen more than my fair share of homeowners drop a sump pump into their own septic tank and pump it into the woods next to their house.

Any other day these mostly young people are locating your septic tank lid, dragging a large suction hose across your yard, dropping it in that tank and sucking out your biological solids.  Then they drive away into the sunset, leaving behind a black odorous stripe of sludge in your yard from the suction hose that is now hanging on the side of their truck.   Except for that stinky stripe,  the sludge just goes away forever.

No it doesn’t.  It has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is usually in a farmer’s field, regulated by a State environmental agency.  Local contractors sometimes ask me, Do we really need all these regulators?  Why can't they just leave us alone?  The answer is simple- to protect us from ourselves, to protect us from greedy people who would dump pollution in our streams and rivers for a profit.

We need regulations to protect us from bandits who do not give a damn about who suffers , who gets cancer, or who passes along damaged genes to future generations..  We need regulations to solve environmental problems we create by living the life we all want to live- full of gadgets, computers, food networks, wedding  receptions, and fine restaurants.  Regulations are necessary  to keep at bay the hustlers, thieves, and pirates who would do us harm were the words of regulators not in their proper place.

 Regulations level the playing field.  Everyone plays by the same set of rules.  And in the case of bio-solids/sludge the regulations are written to solve a problem of disposal by using science- let me repeat that word because this is where we lose some of the Nimby-Warriors:  bio-solids regulations are written to solve the problem of disposal through the application of a SCIENTIFIC method to handle the metals, toxins, and other nasty viruses that may or may not be travelling inside the sludge.

We send our children to school to learn to be environmental engineers, specialists, botanists, soil scientists, and many other disciplines. Where are we expecting them to work?   Only a few people can make a living fighting for the environment by hugging trees, riding Greenpeace ships,  and  showing up at the local fire hall as an expert witness.  The bulk of the work for our professionals in the environmental field is within the regulatory process of allowing certain industrial processes. We can not allow these practices without regulations.  Remember Lake Erie of the 1960’s?

Bio-solids comes from human beings.  There are toxins in bio-solids because, in part, people will dump anything down their toilet and flush it away.   People do it in the city and people do it in the country.  Latex paint gets flushed down.  The only difference is there are more people in the city, so the concentrations are higher.    Yet the sludge from a septic tank is essentially the same as the sludge from a city treatment plant.  It is the waste product of human beings.   We generate it every single day.

You want an ultimate solution to determining where to dispose of bio-solids- stop flushing your toilet.  Please don’t flush your toilet.  Otherwise, learn the regulations and if you choose to fight them,  fight with a alternative solution using the sound application of a scientific method.  Oh, that's right, your community doesn't have the people to doit for you.   Not in my backyard is simply not intelligent enough an argument to withstand the battle of a long and unending war with the educated effort to find a scientific answer to an age-old problem- what do we do with the 1/4 ton of our own yearly crap we don’t want in our backyard.

Next in Our 5-Part Series:

The High Price of Peace in Small Town Politics

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Bio-Solids Rubicon: Part 2 - Rise of the Nimby-Warrior

There are Nimbys in every community and if we were to be honest with each other- we are all Nimbys to a certain extent- some more than others but not one of us wants a landfill in our back yard.  Drive through several communities and you are bound to find one with signs in several yards. NOT IN MY BACKYARD  is what they usually want no matter what they technically state. NO QUARRY. NO LANDFILL. NO WALMART. NO SLUDGE. SIGNED, NIMBY.

The community with the no Nimbys may end up with landfills and sludge spreaders and factories spewing  regulated toxins on the land and in the air.  Is there an upside to that scenario? Yes, their local taxes  will never increase.  That’s because user fees may not be enforceable but they can be offered and accepted as part of an agreement.  At a dollar a ton,  a million tons of nasty  is a tidy smart sum for a yearly local budget.

Some folks will tolerate a nascent industry that is needed and necessary if their taxes stay the  same.  These types of communities are becoming few and far between making the next landfill harder to find than the last.

There are Nimbys and then there are Nimby-Warriors.  Nimby-Warriors  vow to defeat the evil perpetrators at all costs and will use any study, report,  radically opinionated website to make into spears to be thrown at anyone who stands in their way.  They are dangerous because they are sometimes misinformed, emotional, and unyielding even in the face of overwhelming facts, law, and political power.

Nimby-Warriors will ignore the history of law in our country if it doesn't agree with their mission.  Nimby-Warriors demand we ignore our own national and state constitutions that were written to create a rule of law, not a law of men- exactly what they often advocate.  They refuse to accept that the minority has an equal voice and nothing more. That is because they refuse to believe they are the minority.  They heckle those who disagree with their mission statement.  They just don’t want something bad in their backyard- they will destroy anyone who doesn't get behind their personal crusade to completely stop the demons bent on ruining the quality of their lives.

Nimby-Warriors are amazing to watch, but they often disappear from the scene as soon as they declare victory.  They go home and the elected officials they spear often carry on the daily chore of running local government- fixing the potholes and plowing the snow off the roads.

 In Mount Bethel Pennsylvania, the percentage of Nimby-Warriors may well be significantly higher than anywhere else in the nation. When a major resort that built indoor water worlds proposed such a resort in Mount Bethel, the Nimby-Warriors attacked and filled the fire hall with angry citizens.  The project crashed and burned.

When a large landowner proposed an entire village with shops, medical offices, and condominium housing- he worked with the local government for over a year at their request and then had his proposal denied.  I can't say the Nimby-Warriors were responsible for this decision but they are clever tacticians.  I wouldn't rule them out either.

When a major developer proposed a 1400 unit housing development partially with its own infrastructure, school and an environmental center,  the fire hall was again filled to capacity.  He walked away from the project even after offering to lower the number of units  to 1/3 the original proposal.  The Nimby-Warriors may have smelled blood  but the year was 2008. The great recession may have been responsible for him calling it a day, licking his wounds, and going home.

Next a company proposed a large holding facility for illegal aliens for customs and immigration. The developer was shouted down at the special meeting at held at the local school auditorium. That project died a fast death.   Prior to his final moment at the lectern, the Nimby-Warriors publicly attacked a group of elected officials, a retired State representative, and a few businessmen for holding a dinner meeting with the private firm that was bidding for the project. Meanwhile more local decisions have been worked out at breakfast at the local diner than anywhere else over the past 30 years.  Go figure.

Recently a company built a manufacturing facility in the local industrial park.  It would appear that industrial parks may be the lone exception to the Nimby crusade. Since opening a couple of years ago, that facility has had two explosions at their plant- raising alarm to a neighboring Borough and to citizens living east of the facility- in New Jersey.   The Mount Bethel Nimby-Warriors didn't stop that one.
Based on its safety record so far, that may prove to be an important loss and a new battle may begin there yet again.
Photo Credit: Bernie O'Hare
The Nimby-Warriors of Mount Bethel are educated, intelligent, persistent, environmentally-based warriors who know how to rally the troops, pack the fire hall with angry citizens, and create the illusion that their numbers at a single meeting represent a local population 1000 percent their size.  And these seasoned veterans of local politics don't always go away when the instant fight is over.  Sometimes Nimby-Warriors get elected to local office. (To place this in the proper perspective: there are two-thirds as many cars in the fire hall parking lot for weekly bingo night.)

Now the warriors had their spears sharpened and ready for sludge but sludge had already entered this battlefield several times before in multiple States.  The sludgy corporation proposing to spread on Mount Bethel farmland had those Nimby-warriors dead in their sights. The citizens were sharpening their spears while the sludger battalion flew drones overhead loaded with bio-solid missiles.  War was about to commence when someone saw an opportunity.

Tomorrow We Explore the World of Sludge Bureaucracy in 

Part 3 - Two Words - One Purpose

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Bio-Solids Rubicon: A Battlefield Emerges in Rural Pennsylvania

Part 1  -  Setting the Sludge Table

This issue of sludge in Upper Mount Bethel Township is fast becoming a cautionary tale of extremism, coercion, ignorance, capitulation, and resignation.  It is a black reflection on the dark road our State laws have built for our safe passage.  The wildly successful actions of major corporations within each industry to financially support  and cooperatively assist our National and State legislators with passing laws that support corporate financial goals is turning rural communities and small businesses into chemical graveyards and shuttered shops.

There is so much more to this story than the competing personalities within a single community and the laws that govern them.  This is a 5-Part Series on the Sludgy politics of Bio-Solids.

 The practice of spreading manure on farmland is an old, very old practice.  Farm animal waste and farm pesticides have been known to contaminate the groundwater and rural streams for many years.  Anyone who has read Silent Spring knows how much can be lost through the practice of placing chemicals on farmland.

 Farmers have fought hard to be exempted from having to meet the same environmental standards as a manufacturing facility that builds a new plant on raw land.   Why?  Because our farmers feed us.   The better the crop yield, the more corn is available for food and gasoline, more wheat, and more soybeans too.  In soils with acidic problems and low PH, lime and fertilizer is necessary to restore the balance after the crops remove nutrients and minerals while growing tall for harvest.

Manure was plentiful when many local cow farms existed.   Those numbers have dwindled due to retail industry pressure on State milk boards to maintain unreasonably low prices on milk.  What else can the farmer use to repair his soil? Commercial fertilizer can quickly become cost-prohibitive and ultimately unprofitable.   What about sludge or bio-solids?  
Bio-solids is the name EPA chose to re-invent a waste product formerly defined as sludge.  That might make it appear less threatening to rural communities- bio-solids.  That name worked nicely with the risk management decision- to spread sludge/bio-solids on farmland away from major population centers, and away from concentrated areas inside landfills. If you spread out the heavy metals and sewage-related bacteria across tens of thousands of acres you reduce the risk of contamination to larger populations.  

Most farming communities are already used to the odorous practice spreading manure on farms.  After all, the classic engineering solution to nearly every problem is “dilution is the solution”.  Finally, what better name is there for a biological solid waste removed from effluent in a municipal treatment plant process than bio-solids?  Truth in advertising lives!

Now this all didn't happen exactly in a certain way.  Laws are written to regulate the disposal of a waste product.  Industry creates a method for making a profit off the law and the regulations. If that is not possible, the industry will lobby for changes in the law and/or regulations or for government assistance to help make their disposal process a profitable venture.   

Sometimes the chicken is first and the egg follows and sometimes they both arrive in the same place at the same time.  But they are symbiotic in their shared desire to turn municipal waste into a waste product- a beneficial , profitable, contaminated product.

In time  a love/hate relationship begins to develop between the corporations and the regulators.  But they both have one common enemy-  the Nimbys. 

 Next in our series is Part 2 – The Nimby-Warrior Nation

Monday, September 30, 2013

Diffle County Update: How to Catch a Killer in Diffle County - Chapter 4

Family History

They were third cousins once removed when they met at a family reunion in Dalton, Georgia- spittin' distance from Tennessee's southern border.   She was a fifteen year old raven-haired beauty with a wide mischievous smile, a small pointy nose that gave her mouth an even larger exposure. Her teeth were perfect in order, perfect in placement, and perfectly white.  She was tall for her age, standing flat footed at five feet, ten inches, small-breasted and slim- which made her head seem slightly too large for her body.  She perfectly coiffed her hair to provide a maximum amount of wavy coverage down the small of her back. She was the girl next door, with a bit of an edge because she was also an All-American brat.

Her parents were convinced that she would be a big star one day. In the Spring of her 15th year they packed up and moved to Los Angeles, California- land of swimming pools and movie stars- and pushed her towards their destiny and million dollar paychecks.  With summer smog in the L.A. basin reaching critical levels, she and her mother drove back to Georgia to stay with family for the season.. Her father remained behind to manage the blossoming career of Linda Malone.

He fell in love with her at first sight.   He was twenty-seven at the time, unemployed and high on pot every day from breakfast to bedtime.  He was tall and lanky, his straight brown hair pulled back into a pony-tail, with a few stray whiskers on his face staking claim as a mustache.  He looked younger than his age and he often acted that way too.

He had a few other faults.  He was raised in the North by his mother and step-father - a harsh, bitter man who never liked him and sold him on that truth every drunken day. When he was younger and more impressionable, his mother- Maria was her name-  insisted he take his step-father's name and he did so, but deeply regretted that decision later.  Between the age of twelve and eighteen, he was beaten and spit on more times than he could remember As soon as he turned legal age, exactly 12 hours after his 18th birthday, Mark Westin Jones left home and moved to the Southern side of the Mason-Dixon line. He landed a job in the maintenance shop of a  West Virginia Strip Mine.

He had never met his biological father but he had heard the stories.  Three dead in a  hotel room in Knoxville and his father found guilty of the crime. The crime scene was one of the "worst I've ever seen in my 25 years on the force" said the homicide investigator at the trial.   

Tequilla and LSD will do that to a man if he isn't careful.  They executed his father on an antique electric chair. It took five shots of current and 18 minutes to completely kill him. Johnathan Matthew Marcus Jones, on the morning of his execution, shouted a few short comments for the press.  "We come from a proud family of righteous killers!"  was one comment.  "I wish I had taken out a few more of them cowardly Coles!" Then he swore long and loud making sure everyone would hear him long after he died.  

His last statement was hard to understand with a his head covered in a hood and foam filling his mouth, but some witnesses insist they heard him say, "Make me proud son!"  Johnathan Matthew Marcus Jones knew long before he was removed from Earth that his son was the apple that dropped near the tree.

A Summer Affair

And so they met, at a picnic table with all the fixin's, burgers, dogs, chips, rolls, soda, and her priceless, emerald eyes.  Before long, they were united in purpose as they shared a mocking view of their families, shared a hamburger, shared a joint behind an old Beech tree, shared a soft kiss along the nature trail, and then shared their bodies in a field of high grass.  

The cousins met every day after that and made love, small talk, and future plans.  They found their common bond, the cruel world was against them because of his age, her age, their shared family history, and anything else that didn't seem fair or inconvenient.   It was the greatest summer of his life.  By the time she was packing to return to Los Angeles, his love had evolved into obsession.

Back in L.A. after a torrid summer with her older cousin, Linda Malone soon found friends and work to keep herself occupied and by November her love letters to Mark had dwindled down to one of two a month. Meanwhile he had built a shrine to honor his lover and prayed for her safety and deliverance to him.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Diffle County Update: Tracking The Great White Buck (Part 2)

Story by Rick Fisher  All characters and places are fictional. Any resemblance to real folks we know is purely intentional  coincidental; Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved.  NSA file No. 2314566780000999330000.1302df 

Big Don (or Country Dave if you prefer) walked Jesse Kern through the garage to a flight of stairs that led to Don's office above the town's meeting room. Big Don had a Pepsi in one hand and a legal pad filled with numbers in the other hand. Jesse Kern stood for a moment in the hallway outside of of Don's always-open door.

 "Come in and plop yourself in a chair" said Big Don as he dropped his own large frame into his Staples-discounted 99-dollar black-plastic-fake leather office chair.

Jesse sat down in one of two provincial chairs that clearly belonged in the home Mrs. Carolyn Dorshimer,  President of the East Greenville Garden Society.  Jesse hadn't noticed that the chairs were completely out of place in a municipal office.  He did notice they were rather uncomfortable.   Perhaps that is why Big Don liked them so much.

"That chair you're sitting in we pulled out of the dumpster on clean-up day,"  said Country Dave (or Big Don if you prefer) who smiled broadly, his grayish-blue eyes twinkling with mirth.  "The Dorshimers drove in with a truck full of furniture. They pretended to be Township residents. Larry asked them what road they lived on and she politely said, 'We live right off Main Street on a private lane."  We helped them dump their furniture and then I told them, 'Now If you come back with more junk be certain to bring someone who lives on Main Street'  They didn't come back.   You know she is President of the Garden Society."

Jesse nodded.

 Big Don went on, without barely taking a breath.  "I hear you have been tracking a white buck.  I remember when me and my pop, God rest his soul, saw a white buck.  We had been hunting all day and hadn't seen a single deer.  We had just gotten back to the cabin and had sat down on the front porch with a few refreshments.  Our guns were leaning against the wall just outside the front door.  We may have been onto our second or third refreshment when down the lane trots a white buck. He stops 30 feet from the porch, directly in front of us and stops to nibble on some grass. We sat in our porch rockers watching him for about two or three minutes.  He was a 10 pointer with a fine rack. What a trophy.  I quietly reached over for my gun."

Big Don took a sip of his Pepsi as he got up from his chair, which groaned and cracked from the loss of his weight.    Big Don held the soda can like a gun, pretending to point it at a deer.

"So I leveled my rifle and took aim. I was about to release the safety when Pop yells 'HA!' jumps out of his chair and slams the palms of his hands down hard on the porch railing several times. He even scared me. The buck leaps into the air with a snort and was gone before I could fire.  I turned to Pop and said, 'Why the hell did you do that?   I had him perfect in my sights!'

Big Don looked Jesse right in the eyes.  "Pop looked at me straight in the eyes.  'There's some things you don't kill. It's bad luck to shoot a white deer."

Then Big Don grinned that old just between us grin he was famous for.  "So what can East Greenville Township do for you?

Jesse Kern paused briefly then replied, "I don't believe in luck and I want that deer on my wall.  I've been tracking him for quite a while now but he's vanished these past two weeks.  Do you know anyone who has seen him?  Al Jacobs thought he saw the Albino last week across the pond."

Big Don shook his head .  "I don't know anyone who has seen your trophy in the past few weeks, Jesse. Did you check down at the Legion?  "Jesse nodded his head.  Don paused in thought for a moment and then broke into another smile.  "I have just the thing for you. We have a GameSpy camera you might be able to use. Diffle County Waste Management gave it to us. We had folks dumping at the dead end on Shale Pit Lane.  We used the camera to try to catch them in the act."

Don got up and walked over to tall file cabinet, pulled out the bottom drawer, and removed a camouflage-covered plastic box.  He set the box on the desk, opened the face of it, and pulled out a camera.

"This is a motion sensor camera.  After it is activated by movement, it will film for 15 seconds.  It has night vision too.   You place it in this protective box, lock it in,  and secure the box to a tree.  This camera does an excellent job of filming deer. That's a fact we learned on Shale Pit Lane."   They both chuckled. Big Don handed the camera and box to Jesse.   "Try it out for a few weeks but our zoning officer will want it back so try to remind yourself to return it.."

Jesse stood up and thanked  Big Don. "I will try to remind myself. And I know exactly where I want to place this camera." Jesse looked down at the camera in his hand.

"Good!" Big Don Exclaimed, "Now I've got to get through these numbers before the State Auditor arrives.  Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya!"

Jesse stood motionless for a moment in front of Don's desk. Don sat back down in his groaning chair, grabbed a pencil off the desk and adjusted his adding machine.

"Don, why don't you use a computer to add those numbers?" asked Jesse Kern.

"Don't trust computers," Don replied, "Never did and never will. I can add just fine on my own. Then I know it's right."  Big Don waved Jesse towards the door.  "Now go catch your great white buck and don't bring any bad luck back into this office!"

A few hours later, Jesse Kern was ten feet high in an old oak tree pointing the Township camera down a woods path on the State Game lands directly behind his farm.  He had seen enough buck rubs high up on the smaller trees to know there was a buck with a big rack moving through these woods.  Maybe he would get lucky and make a great discovery.

Chapter 1 of This Story Here

Diffle County Historical Society Note:  Big Don is a Grinold Township Supervisor.  There is no Main Street in Grinold Township, Diffle County.  Mr. and Mrs. Martin Dorshimer are residents of East Greenville Borough, Diffle County, PA They reside on Carolyn Lane. Mrs. Dorshimer has been President of the East Greenville Garden Society for over 24 years.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Ghost of Mrs. Mitchell

Not Our Mrs. Mitchell
We can't seem to avoid ghosts.  As our strange life adventure continues- my wife and I have moved 5 times in 3 years- we have discovered there may be more ghosts floating around us than anyone ever thought possible. I blame it on the old houses and properties in the Northeast United States.

I may also have to blame those prescription meds I take for RLS.  There are serious side effects to the drug Mirapex such as the ability to sense the presence of ghosts or to believe your hallucinations actually are ghosts. I was leaning towards the drug side effects as the source of my problem.  Then we moved into Mrs. Mitchell's house on East High Street in Bangor, Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Mitchell is dead.  Kinda.

The Pastor's House
Let's review the history of our ghosting experiences before we discuss Mrs. Mitchell.. We lived for three years in a Methodist church parsonage that was built in 1890.  It was used as a home for the clergy, a school for children, a makeshift church, and a rental home.  We don't know if anyone died in the house and we did not research its history beyond what the locals told us. The house is located on Division Street in Portland PA.

One late night, sometime after midnight, Waterbunny wakes me up.  The room smells like coffee. Our bedroom is upstairs in the front of the house.  The kitchen is downstairs at the rear of the house. There is no coffee maker in our bedroom. This isn't the Holiday Inn.
  "Are you making coffee?" she asks.
  "No."  I reply.
  "Why does it smell like coffee in here?  Did you leave the Keurig on?"   she asks.
  "I don't think it's possible to leave a Keurig on."  I reply.
  "Go check the kitchen. The smell is really strong," she suggests.
  "Okay"  I reply.   The kitchen is fine.  No new coffee in the keurig. No smell either. By the time I crawl back into bed the odor is rapidly fading into nothing
   "Nothing happening in the kitchen." I tell her.
   "That's weird." she states. The next time the odor was ham. Then it was potatoes.  The Methodist ladies are very busy with church dinners in the afterlife.

I had other experiences there and the believers call them residuals. I would wake up and think I saw several shadow shapes running around the bedroom. They were kid sized and would be gone in seconds. Then one night, a truly dark shadow spirit arrived who started following me from house to house.  That ghost is menacing, stands at the foot of my bed, a tall dark shape.  I do not like this one at all.  This ghost wants me dead.  He or she has tried to smother me in my bed.  Or it's my sleep apnea. Or Mirapex.  Getting older is not for the faint of heart, Waterbunny says.

The Hamilton House

When we moved to a newer ranch house in Sciota, we noticed a bedroom door with the lock on the outside, not the inside.   Then my dark spirit arrived to greet me again.  And she continued to visit me every morning at precisely 3 am.  I could hear her coming down the hall, dragging her chains, or bones, or something ugly that scraped the floor.  Then the room would drop 10 degrees.  Then she would get very close to me.  A few times I slept past the 3 am visit and she would come into my dream and tell me that she was waiting for me to die.  Sweet lass.

One time I woke as she entered the room and I saw her!  The white rags of some sort of lab coat hung off her frame, she was translucent and she was ghoulish to the core.  She was reaching out to me when I woke up and yelled and she vanished without a trace- not even a bone left on the floor.

This became a nightly event.  I would wake up within 5 minutes of 3 oclock am and wait for her to drag her crap down the hall to our bedroom.  One night I had my phone set up to record sounds, an IR meter, and video camera and a laptop waiting for her..when she arrived in the room and the temperature dropped 10 degrees I made my announcement:
  "And now I am coming for you, with all the technology I can find to catch you and end this haunting!"

 I swear I could feel the cold air suck right out of the room.  A good friend later came over and burned sage and smudged stuff up and then gave me crystals and herbs to carry around in a pouch.  It's all good.

Before we moved out my friend suggested I leave a shirt behind to keep the spirit focused on my scent. My scent?  I use Axe deodorant.  My scent matches every man whose family shops at Walmart.  I hung a sleeveless tee in the closet.  I bet the new renters were wondering why we left one shirt hanging in the closet. Ghosts aren't very smart if an old shirt in an empty house can fool them.

We learned the house was once a farmyard where something really bad happened. No one seems to know what that bad thing was.  As for the bedroom door with the lock on the wrong side.  According to locals in the know, the previous owner had a teenage daughter who liked to sneak out at night and get into trouble.  So he switched the doorknob around and locked her in her room every night.  Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your hair about two feet and I will rescue you from the ranch-style house in Sciota, PA.

Our Seattle Apartment
Not a thing. Zilch. Zero. Nada.   I think my spirit follower got confused by the time zone change.  Or maybe the Continental Pass was too high.  I know I didn't appreciate that part of the trip very much. It might have been the shirt.  Although I swear that spirit followed us a far as Wyoming.  Something was outside our door in that hotel at 3 am and it was sniffing for my scent. Our dog Tashi growled for the next 2 hours.  Creepy.

The Robinwood Shadow People
When I returned from Seattle alone, I spent several months with relatives. Mom and Dad actually.  It was a wonderful experience re-connecting with my parents. Mom has been spectacular and helpful in ways I will be forever thankful.  The entire upstairs is empty now and more than one nephew or niece warned me about the ghost in the cubbyhole.   Bah.  I've fought off a demon who followed me to Wyoming.  The cubbyhole is behind a door too small for a three foot child.  Bah. 

I didn't expect the Shadow people.   I contracted pneumonia around Christmas time and was given a nebulizer and told to take breathing treatments every 4 hours.  More often than not, I would drop into a light sleep during the treatment and the shadow people would show up to visit.   Mostly they would stand around and talk at me, sometimes four or five at the same time.  I didn't recognize any of their faces.  The shadow people were strangers to me.  

But they always were talking at me in loud rude voices.  One night a gentleman appeared. He looked like a cross between Danny Kaye, the Artful Dodger, and that comedian who starred in the series about firemen.

"Hey, hey, how are you there?" he half-yelled.  Maybe shadow people think we are deaf in this world.   

I never answered back that I remember.  At that moment a young brunette woman walked into the room and turned and walked down a hallway that suddenly merged with the bedroom.   

"Follow her. Follow that one. She has the answer. Follow that one."  said Danny the Dodger Leary.
Then he smiled and tipped his top hat, threw back his scarf and I woke up staring at the wall where Dennis the Leary Kaye had just been.

Fifty Ghosts in the Upstairs Hall
One night the hallway outside the bedroom filled up with ghosts.  There were so many that they couldn't get past each other into the room. When one made it, another grabbed him and pulled him back.  It was an epic battle of ghosts, shape shifters, and dark spirits that I knew I had to record it on film.  I kept the lighting super low to get the best shot of the ghostly battle.  I think this house is sitting on top of an underworld entrance, or a Native American burial ground, or this is what happens to a video when there isn't enough light obtain a decent picture.  I believe the correct word is digital degradation.  I prefer to think of a ghostly battle at the entrance to my bedroom door.


Circles of Light Shoot From My Eyes
 The first night I was at my folk's house, my 85-year old father fell in the living room and injured himself to the point where he couldn't get up and he couldn't yell loud enough for anyone to hear him..  It was 4 am.
Could have been from a Starship 

At the same time, a white circle of light entered my bedroom from the window,  travelled down the wall and entered the inside of my eyes! Everytime I opened my eyes, circles of light shot out from both my eyes like smoke rings  and travelled down the wall in both directions.  The feeling of this light in my eyes was of complete calm and serenity.  I didn't understand.  I blamed it on the drugs.  I believe in Angels now.

Mom called for me an hour and a half later when she found him and we called an ambulance.  He's fine. But I will never forget the message that was being sent from an Angel and how badly I misinterpreted what it meant.  My dad doesn't believe in God.   He is in for a huge surprise one day.

Mrs. Mitchell's House
Since we moved into the East High Street house, Mrs. Mitchell has pinched us, run her fingernails up and down the blinds while we lay in bed with the light on, shook my Pappy's sleigh bells, stuck a sliver of glass into my big toe, scared the dog so badly she climbed up on Waterbunny's head and relieved herself, added beats to the minute on my dj mixer when there is no music playing (in fact she is doing it again at 77 bps),  banged pipes, knocked on walls, and spoke to Waterbunny in a male voice and hummed for me in a sweet female voice.

The first few nights she was so active we thought we wouldn't be able to stay. Then the landlord told us how Mrs. Mitchell  was seen by previous tenants who described her perfectly.    Ugh.

She likes to open a bedroom door at the end of the hall. Finally, I closed it so securely it may never open again.  Since the door has been closed she has been much quieter.

After everything else Mrs. Mitchell isn't very scary at all.  On a hot night when she enters the bedroom, her chill cools the room- air conditioning without the electric bill.

I told my mother about Mrs. Mitchell and mom said, "if she gives you any trouble, you just call Nanny down on her head.  Your Nanny won't put up with that.

I've threatened Mrs. Mitchell with that.  She hummed an old wive's tale as soon as I turned my back.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Did You Know? A Facebook Tutorial

Did you know that when you block someone on Facebook, you can't read their messages?  Did you know that hackers and busybodies can access your account if you accidentally leave the Facebook front door (Active Session) open on that particular computer?  Even though you did not invite the intruder(s) inside your Facebook profile,  they can just walk right in and make themselves comfortable.

Then they can surf over to your Privacy Options, unblocked your ex and read all your private love notes.  They can read all your private messages, including the ones between you and your daughter where you discussed in-depth deeply personal health issues, between you and your mother, your father, brothers sisters, friends, and business associates.  That intruder can learn everything about your life and all your privacy is gone, removed, stripped, ripped from you in less time than it takes for you to watch half a football game.

Check your Active Sessions often, pay attention to your security, and end every session you start by logging out.  Click on Privacy Settings on the drop down menu you use to log out of Facebook.  Then click on Security on the left hand side of the screen. Scroll down to the last item Active Sessions and click on it.

There they are, all your Active Sessions.  Now close them.  What?  A computer in Orlando has an active session open and you've never been there?  Close that one first. Now go change your password ASAP!

For more information on Active Sessions,  go to Facebook's Help Center

Friday, June 21, 2013

What I Can't Talk About...But You Should Know About

Did you know that Facebook has a security feature where you can download an expanded archive of every log-in and review your entire account activity?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Moral Decline of Our Society

Does it feel like everyone in the world is gearing up for a fight?  Everywhere we turn, there is a new challenge and another struggle.  Attempts to enjoy a small portion of our day is met with acrimonious demands from self-centered, entitlement-based individuals, domineering corporations, and overbearing government agencies.

If we were members of an extreme right-wing movement perhaps it would all make sense in some grand conspiracy theory of-us versus them.  But the honest truth is each incident is unrelated to the others that continue to plague us. And the drama that accompanies each new incident reaches unbearable levels.

The latest is a stolen bike.  That does not seem like much.  But I bought that bike for my son before he left for college and he rode it enough until adulthood intervened and it was left in the garage for recreation only. Then his life took an ugly turn when the self-centered person he loved decided he was an old sweater you can drop at the homeless shelter.  When you love someone as much as he loved her, that hurt drives deep and remains there a long, long time.

No car, no money, no income, and no lover to hold you will send you down into the darkest voids. But he did have his bike, his cat, and soon found a small studio apartment.  He began re-building the business she stole from him.  He used his bike to go grocery shopping, to ride to his doctor (a 30 mile round trip), even to go bar-hopping with a new friend.  His bike was a lifeline.  Then yesterday some asshole stole it, lock and all.

We expect thieves to not care. How about when your healthcare provider doesn't get your address correct and sends an invoice to the other side of the country.  Then they try to tell you that you don't exist on their automated phone message system. You may have to gear up for another fight.  This is exhausting, isn't it?

Then there is the landlord who owns a duplex that gets infested with bedbugs and refuses to treat one unit because the tenants did not pay their rent.  Leave them infested and maybe the tenants will leave without you having to evict them?  Or ask the local zoning officer to toss them out?  Where is the moral character in that type of thinking.  Are the tenants so not human in the landlord's eyes that he would leave them in bedbugs?

The list goes on and on.  When we were rear-ended on the Cross-Island Expressway, I asked the driver if he had become distracted by a fallen tree along the side of the road.  His casual reply: "No, I was just daydreaming."  I wish I had time to daydream.  Yet he did provide us with a chance to lower our own moral standards. We know we could fake injuries and collect a cool thirty grand.. That is what society expects from us now.  We decline.

From the NSA bugging the internet and scooping up the conversations, emails, chats, and websites we visit daily to the laws that favor corporations over individuals right down to the neighbor who told the police that we were parking the wrong way at the end of our dead end street (welcome to the neighborhood) - the niceness is gone, the moral decline has arrived and what comes next will be even uglier than what we've already witnessed.   Gotham City is here and the Jokers are winning.