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little watermelon Monday 21 July 2008

The SUV Problem: attitude in personal finance

the psychology of breath-taking denial in the context of economic efficiency

(Note: I have my opinions about unneccessary use of SUVs for image purposes, but the following is completely free of any personal pointed judgements about car manufacturers, people who drive SUVs in general, or any comments about environmental impact or anything else. The topic is specifically about the personal finance situations some SUV owners are finding themselves in these days & the problem I see in some commentaries urging people that they'll lose money by trading in their gas guzzling mammoth vehicles.)

I've been reading these articles recently about the SUV falling out of favour because of higher fuel prices. Naturally more of the new cars being purchased now for basic work commute needs are more fuel efficient cars. It makes sense, for people already in the market for a new car, in light of recent oil prices, to pass on a big vehicle if they don't really need it.

But I've also been reading a lot of commentaries that suggest that it's NOT a wise move to trade in your gas guzzler just to get a fuel-efficient car. In essense, advising people who already have inefficient vehicles, to keep on driving them.

The Burns family debates whether to ditch the SUV
Should You Trade in Your SUV for a Fuel-Efficient Car?

But one thing missing from each & every commentary I've found on this subject - where people are urged not to trade-in their inefficient vehicles - is the possibility of getting a, -- god forbid -- used, older, fuel-efficient car. All of these commentaries assume anyone interested in trading in their economic liability is going to run out & buy a brand spanking new car - and lose big in the process.

That's just not the case.

Or at least it shouldn't be for any rational person who is really considering taking a hit on the value of their car in order to economize.

I'm pretty sure the gazillionaires who drive Hummers for fun aren't the ones looking to downsize for fuel efficiency. Even if they want to save on road trips, they could afford to buy a Honda Civic, and keep their prized 5-ton vehicle for being seen tooling around town.
I regularly hear of people saying that they love their SUVs, and they wouldn't get rid of them "even if gasoline hits $10 per gallon"... Because, I assume, apparently they can afford it. (Or they feel/believe that they can.)

No, most of the people who are looking to downsize for economic reasons are people who are already hurting from gasoline prices. (Or at least they worry about hurting in the near future.)

And I think it's sad if people aren't looking further into the math, because they're told it wouldn't be worth it to trade in their money pisser, and continue to let the vehicle bleed them into bankrupcy court. Just because they really want to believe that keeping their SUV as a commuter vehicle is the sensible choice. So they look no further than, 'See, it wouldn't be worth it to switch anyway.'

I used the calculator to do a little experiment...

Gas Mileage Savings Calculator: Car Cost vs. Fuel Savings

I'm no economist nor financial advisor, I don't have a degree in accounting... But I'm frugal and I know how to budget. Maybe there's some flaws in my calculations, but I'm really thinking people are missing the obvious.

Let's take a hypothetical example like this that I just came up with in my head, based on everything I've been reading & hearing about in the news:

Mister Smith is in the home building industry, and his wife is a mortgage broker. They live in a big house in an affluent suburb, which, when they bought it 8-10 years ago, in the housing heyday, when gasoline was $1.50 a gallon, they could well afford it. But now that the housing bubble has burst, and the subprime mortgage crisis is in full swing, and their son had an illness requiring a lot of medical expenses, and oil prices have jumped the sharks circling the land yaghts... Well now they're now in trouble, or at least heading that way fast.
The Smiths have taken a good hard look at their projected finances, and they figured out that they need to sell the big house and downsize to a smaller house in a more reasonable neighborhood, or, at their current expense level, they'll be facing foreclosure in less than a year. They're having trouble selling their home, especially not at the price of what they still owe on their mortgage, so it may take awhile. They're looking to cut costs wherever they can, so they can keep up with the mortgage payments, and keep their good credit intact, until they find a buyer.
Mrs Smith has been driving a 2004 Ford Explorer, which is paid off now, for her commute to work, and also to school (now that she's looking to switch professions). She drives about 1,000 miles a month.
Now if the Smiths want to trade in their 2004 Explorer for a brand new Prius or a new Honda Civic, for that matter, of course the calculator is going to tell them that it would take 3 years or something crazy to start saving money - way too long for them to wait, and way too much money to throw into the void until then.
BUT, let's say they sold their 16mpg Explorer for $10,000, and then went out & bought an older $10,000 car that gets 21mpg - say a 2002 Subaru Forester or something like that. According to that calculator, they'd break even on the switch, and immediately start saving $60 per month in gasoline. Or say they bought a 2001 Honda Civic for about $8,000. They'd immediately have a surplus of $2,000, and immediately be saving $120 a month in gasoline.
And I'm thinking that could most certainly, at the very least, assist them in trying to avoid financial disaster, and allow them to transition to their new circumstances in the nick of time.

(Note: in the calculator, I input my own figures instead of taking their monetary values based on Make & Model. I actually adjusted the sell price of the SUV to be lower than the calculator estimated, and adjusted the buy price to be higher than the calculator estimated. So actually, the calculator is saying they'd be saving even more than I'm thinking they would.)

Of course, I imagine that some mortgage brokers, for example, who've been livin' large & flyin' high, living in McMansions, driving SUVs, & spending $4 a morning at Starbucks, wouldn't even consider driving a *gasp*, old car, until the repo man came, and then the sheriff forced them out of their foreclosed house & they found themselves living in a rusted out van down by the river.
I imagine that many people in that position have started living on hope & credit cards, and haven't looked far enough ahead to avert disaster.

Denial can be a funny thing.

I could easily see the proverbial Smiths continuing to believe that they're in the same financial position as Mr. Burns, when they're NOT, no matter how much they wish it to be so.

And that unavoidable human psychological factor is why it bothers me that all these financial experts keep pushing this general idea that downsizing is a bad bet for any SUV owners, when that's simply not the case.
Sure, if every SUV owner absolutely insists on driving, if not an SUV, then some other image of wealth that just happens to get better gas mileage, then yeah, those commentaries make sense.
But in the real world, where formerly wealthy people, middle class people, and regular joes who thought themselves wealthy, are heading into credit nightmares & mortgage disasters, with no relief in sight, that kind of generalization just doesn't wash.

And I find it troubling that little old shoe-string budget 17 year old car driving me is seeing logic that so-called financial experts seem completely oblivious to.
Is our culture's group psychology really so irrational that the thought of going older when buying another car is so unthinkable that even financial experts feel compelled to 'enable the denial'?

I guess this is the kind of thing that anthropologists have a field day with years later.

posted by Chloe | Monday 21 July 2008 12:07 AM
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little watermelon Wednesday 04 July 2007

The Bald Eagle

A bald eagle flying at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge in Sequim, Washington.

I took these during my trip to the state of Washington to visit my parents in May 2007.
They were taken at the start of the spit from the beach in Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge in Sequim.

This was the only time I can recall seeing a bald eagle in the wild.
Though I saw several bald eagles at Dollywood park in Tennessee when I was there in 1993. I have heard the eagle aviary at Dollywood was instrumental in repopulating the bald eagle since then.

NPR : Bald Eagle Leaves Endangered Species List
NPR : Biologist Recounts Path to Bald Eagles' Recovery
Bald eagle is no longer on brink of extinction - Nashville, Tennessee -

posted by Chloe | Wednesday 04 July 2007 4:20 PM
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little watermelon Sunday 01 July 2007

May Cause DEATH

Ironically, I'm talking about a message about legal drugs.

I am by no means against medications, modern medicine, etc. I'm not some kind of nutty Scientologist or anti-vaccination type, by any stretch of the imagination.
I use prescription medication myself, and I consider it a lifesaver... literally and figuratively.
And I think many medications have had a positive impact on many humans. Not to mention on many animals.

However, I find the whole pharmaceutical television commercial thing somehow very unsettling.

I had the television on the other day while I was washing dishes in the kitchen, so I didn't see the commercial, and I didn't even hear the whole thing. I don't even know what drug this commercial was advertising.*
But the part I did hear was the mandatory side-effects being disclosed, and though none of the rest of the commercial caught my attention, one of the side-effects mentioned certainly did.

They said, "May cause death."

I told my mother about it. And a few days later she told me that while she was doing something in another room, my step-father saw the same or similar commercial, and called her in to tell her about it. So I'm not the only one to notice the peculiarity of this commercial.

I know that they're required to mention the side-effects. But I just think, with a side-effect like that, why advertise at all?
It seems to me with a side-effect like DEATH, it kind of defeats the purpose of the commercial.

Another thing I've noticed is that in the pharmaceutical commercials, they don't even say "doctor" anymore. As in, "Ask your doctor." They simply tell you to go get it from "your provider". "Provider" sounds an awful lot like dealer to me.
It's like they've basically reduced doctors to the mere role of dispensing their products. It gives me the impression that they want doctors to just be their storefront.
Makes me wonder if eventually they're going to push so that doctors aren't even necessary.
The only reason they might like to keep the dealers with medical licenses in the loop, is because they're useful to the pharmaceutical companies as at least a mere failsafe barrier so that the pharmaceutical company isn't responsible for keeping their drug from being taken by someone it would most definitely effect badly or kill.

"Hey, we told you it may cause death!"

posted by Chloe | Sunday 01 July 2007 3:33 PM
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little watermelon Friday 04 May 2007

Rollerskating in a china shop accidentally on purpose

A sign reading "Absolutely No Heeleys" on the door of the Big Lots store in Dunmore, Pennsylvania
For those who haven't been slammed into by a kid on "Heelys" yet, and haven't learned about what they are... They're half rollerskate half sneaker shoes, a fashion trend, where kids wearing them can roll around everywhere on wheels in their heels. They look like shoes, so you may have no warning that the kid is going to start wheeling about around you.

I noticed the huge blatant sign on the door of the Big Lots store today, prohibiting heelys, and I'm actually surprised a sign like this isn't hung in more places. Like the grocery store, for example.
They're not just dangerous for reckless kids wearing them, but anyone around them. Nothing like awkward uncoordinated pre-teens with burgeoning hormones, hopped up on soda, or heaven knows what, rolling haphazardly around shopping carts, store displays, & elderly women.
I suppose the sign on the Big Lots store is an indication that they've had an incident there involving 'heelys', if you subscribe to "It must've happened once".
The most assinine place I've seen kids on 'heelys' was a few months ago, when some little girls from a church group were at the Just Paint It ceramic pottery painting studio in Clarks Summit, PA, scooting around in the small room between the painting tables. Yep, not only was one girl whizzing around people trying to paint breakable items, but the girl let her friend try them on for the first time, and they probably weren't even her correct size. There were a couple of falls, naturally, and it was just dumb luck nothing was broken, be it bone or ceramic.

'Heelys': Danger Mixes With Fun, Head Injuries Possible From Use Of Popular Sneaker-Roller Skate Combo - CBS News
Brzezinski spoke with Valerie Poston of San Diego, whose nine-year-old daughter, Katrina, suffered a concussion when she lost her balance wearing Heelys at a mall.
"It just didn't dawn on me that they were so dangerous," Valerie told Brzezinski, adding she never thought twice about letting her girls wear Heelys.

I don't get this, I really don't. I would think it should be obvious that rollerskating, without protective gear, in a confined area full of moving obstacles, would involve risk. And it is rollerskating. The shoes have wheels and the kid wearing them is rolling. Furthermore, I find shopping malls to be somewhat hazardous in sturdy sensible orthopedic shoes. You really ought to have combat boots during the holiday season.

Beyond the dangers of physical injury to themselves & others because of mishaps... I wonder about the orthopedics of these shoes.
I took figure skating lessons in the past, and my sister Marie is an amateur adult competition figure skater, so I know very well that there are proper postures and positions for ice skating on figure skates. Those positions, I believe, apply also to ice hockey skates, rollerskates, rollerblades, inline skates, etc. And unlike ice skates & rollerskates, 'heelys' only have wheels in the heel, which would make it impossible to roll in proper form.
So I can't help thinking that frequently wheeling around on heels would constantly force a growing body into odd postures, and might have some detrimental effect on the physiology somehow.

I'm not trying to single out 'heelys' as uniquely dangerous or bad, or more detrimental than drug addiction, or anything crazy like that.
According to my physical therapist friend, ideally, we should all be wearing orthopedic shoes regularly. So of course things running around on pavement & tile all day on high heels is bad for your body, and the sport of ice skating can be risky. But in the proper setting, in sensible circumstances, or in moderation, those detriments can be mitigated.
What makes 'heelys' unique is that they're specifically designed, made, and marketed for kids to slyly wear wheels when & where they shouldn't be rollerskating.

But mostly, I just find it bloody annoying to have to dodge these kids for my own safety. It's bad enough when unsupervised children accidentally ram shopping carts into me at the grocery store. Call me stodgy, but I just don't see the point to adding unnecessary hazards to shopping, what's to me, an already annoying errand.

posted by Chloe | Friday 04 May 2007 11:50 PM
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little watermelon Monday 30 April 2007

The werewolf time of month

The Moon, seen through a telescope, from Moscow, Pennsylvania, USA.

And by... well maybe not hugely popular demand, but maybe one person might be interested in... 'The Moon over Moscow' as desktop wallpaper.

posted by Chloe | Monday 30 April 2007 11:59 PM
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little watermelon Sunday 22 April 2007

Back yard critters

an angry squirrel

a cat in the alley

a starling in the tree

Porch weather has returned.

posted by Chloe | Sunday 22 April 2007 11:49 PM
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little watermelon Tuesday 17 April 2007

Recognizing tainted rice crispy treats & believing what you observe

(people don't just snap, and violence is predictable)

When I first read the book The Gift of Fear by Gaven DeBecker, I felt like I was reading what I already knew all along, but finally had some confirmation about it all.
I've been reminded of many parts of this book in the past few days. Here are a few parts I've been reminded of particularly...

The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker
From Chapter 1 "In the Presence of Danger"

    A television news show reports on a man who shot and killed his wife at her work. A restraining order had been served on him the same day as his divorce papers, coincidentally also his birthday. The news story tells of the man's threats, of being fired from his job, of putting a gun to his wife's head the week before the killing, of his stalking her. Even with all these facts, the reporter ends with: "Officials concede that no one could have predicted this would happen."
    That's because we want to believe that people are infinitely complex, with millions of motivations and varieties of behaviour. It is not so. We want to believe that with all the possible combinations of human beings and human feelings, predicting violence is as difficult as picking the winning lottery ticket, yet it usually isn't difficult at all. We want to believe that human violence is somehow beyond our understanding, because as long as it remains a mystery, we have no duty to avoid it, explore it, or anticipate it. We need feel no responsibility for failing to read signals if there are none to read. We can tell ourselves that violence just happens without warning, and usually to others, but in service of these comfortable myths, victims suffer and criminals prosper.

From Chapter 3 "The Academy of Prediction"

    The blind eye, of course, will never recognize {the human predator}, which is why I devote this chapter and the next to removing the blinders, to revealing the truths and the myths about disguises someone might use to victimize you.
    I'll start with the hackneyed myth you'll recognize from plenty of TV news reports: "Residents here describe the killer as a shy man who kept to himself. They say he was a quiet and cordial neighbor."
    Aren't you tired of this? A more accurate and honest way for TV news to interpret the banal interviews they conduct with neighbors would be to report, "Neighbors didn't know anything relevant." Instead, news reporters present noninformation as if it is information.
If someone causes me & others to be uneasy or speaks or writes in a way that's disturbing... That's a clue.
If you compound that with trouble with the law, a pyro incident, and a history of stalking women... Those aren't just "red flags" --- They're actual incidents of wrongdoing. They are blatant examples of actual dangerous behaviour.

It does everyone a disservice to claim there's "no way anyone could have known this was coming".
Perhaps not a specific this, but definitely a something. Particularly if other somethings have already preceded.
Violence might be shocking by its very nature... But it isn't completely random & unpredictable.

But even if law and law enforcement, administrators in workplaces & schools, and your neighbors, choose to believe in the myths of ignorance, and stay invested in non-responsibility... I know now that I don't have to operate under that ignorance, I need not labour under that convenient delusion. And neither do you.
There are ways to predict trouble. There are ways to keep oneself out of most harm's way. There are signs to utilize, and choices to make.

If you're interested in more about how, I highly recommend the following books on this topic that I found both helpful and fascinating...
The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

Where to Draw the Line by Anne Katherine

There is Nothing Wrong with You by Cheri Huber
There's more to life than instincts, but they do come in handy. I've learned to trust my gut -- It's so invariably right it startles me sometimes.

posted by Chloe | Tuesday 17 April 2007 11:20 PM
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little watermelon Sunday 23 July 2006

a swastika on the doorstep

Recently when my 'My #1 Fan' came to visit my place with some friends, I left them hanging out on the front porch when they first arrived. 'My #1 Fan' happened to notice a hooked-cross symbol on the doorstep threshhold of my neighbor's entrance door.
Sherry said to me, "Your #1 Fan wants to know why there are swastikas on that doorstep. I think he's concerned Nazis live there."
I hadn't noticed it myself before, but luckily I had already met my new neighbor, a cute & friendly old Indian man.
I took a look, and said, "That's not a Nazi swastika, it's a Hindu symbol."

It really is too bad that Nazis have inflicted so much damage, that continues in the form of having corrupted an age-old benign, even positive symbol -- the swastika.

The swastika has been a symbol of 'the wheel of life', representing the positive energies of the universe in the Hindu tradition, for thousands of years before it was adopted by Adolf Hitler & the Nazis. The word "swastika", itself, is from the ancient Sanskrit language, and usage of the swastika symbol apparently dates back to the Paleolithic era at least.

I blogged about this topic about a year & a half ago. But I suppose this was before 'My #1 Fan' was my number one fan.
Watermelon Punch, the Blog - Side-Blog - 22 Jan 2005 | swastika, the hooked cross origin

Wikipedia has a lot of information on the history of the symbol, including several visual aids:
Swastika - Wikipedia

posted by Chloe | Sunday 23 July 2006 7:53 PM
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little watermelon Wednesday 19 July 2006

Farewell, Msgr. Andrew McGowan

The Citizens Voice - BREAKING NEWS:
Monsignor McGowan dies

Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan, 80, a longtime priest, ubiquitous community leader and sought-after speaker known for his quick wit, died today at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
The renowned toastmaster and philanthropist once upstaged comedy legend Bob Hope and spoke before hundreds of organizations across the country.

I didn't know him personally, but I was many times in the position of taking photos of him, and he was always a spritely subject, and, well, just a cute old tweety.

Msgr. Andrew J. McGowan at "Operation Thank You", by the Luzerne Foundation in
honour of veterans, held at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. June 14 2005

posted by Chloe | Wednesday 19 July 2006 11:28 PM
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little watermelon Thursday 06 July 2006

Flying Saucer Sighting

(Not quite a Fire in the Sky)

On my way home from 'the Cottage' to Scranton last week, I spotted a flying saucer and an alien in someone's yard on Falls Road between Falls and Route 307.

I was kind of hoping to also spot a nude D.B. Sweeney in the vicinity, but no such luck.

posted by Chloe | Thursday 06 July 2006 10:32 PM
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little watermelon Tuesday 04 July 2006

Independence Day 2006

Since the Independence Day celebration at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre was cancelled because of the flooding last week, I was very disappointed.
This will be only the 3rd time I've missed 4th of July at Kirby Park in the past 15 years. (In 1992 I spent July 4th at Lake Wallenpaupack, and in 1997 I spent it in New York City.)

However, I did see some nice fireworks in Moscow, Pennsylvania, on July 3rd.

Not quite the same without the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, but I must say the display in Moscow was much longer than I would've expected it to be.

posted by Chloe | Tuesday 04 July 2006 12:02 AM
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little watermelon Monday 03 July 2006

'the Suscon Screamer' (local suburban myth)

'The Scream' by Edvard Munch
If you live in Northeastern Pennsylvania, specifically - anywhere near Pittston, for long enough, you'll eventually hear the ghost story of "The Suscon Screamer".
Now that prom season is over, I won't be spoiling too much fun by letting out the boring truth, and putting the word out that other states don't have a monopoly on this ghost story.

This this enduring urban legend is just a locally tweaked version of the well-known tale of "The Vanishing Hitchhiker".
I recall seeing various versions of this on Night Gallery or Tales from the Dark Side type television shows, including one that was pretty much an exact duplicate of the one "The Suscon Screamer" story I'd heard.

It's a widespread ghost story all over the United States, (if not the world), the origin of which is unclear.
Urban Legends Reference Pages: Horrors (The Vanishing Hitchhiker)
A man turns to bid his unusual hitchhiker goodbye and discovers that she has disappeared from the car. He later learns that his mysterious passenger had died several years earlier.

Vanishing hitchhiker - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The vanishing hitchhiker (or phantom hitchhiker) is a reported phenomenon in which people travelling by vehicle meet with or are accompanied by a hitchhiker who subsequently vanishes without explanation, often from a moving vehicle. Vanishing hitchhikers have been reported for centuries and the story is found across the world, in many variants.

It is interesting to note that this legend has made it into many regional folklores. In Hawaii, for example, the hitchhiker is often said to be the goddess Pele. It has already been mentioned that La Llorona has also been connected with the story. In the Chicago area, the vanishing hitchhiker takes the form of Resurrection Mary.

I found references to the prom version, attributed to 4 states including West Virginia, New Jersey, Arkansas, and Mississippi. And this is just what I found in a quick internet search.
West Virginia's True Ghost Stories
City: Huntington
At the bottom of fifth street hill a couple was in a wreck on prom night. The girl can be seen standing near the bridge in her prom dress as if waiting for a ride. - The Ghosts of Arkansas
Imagine, a young girl on the way to the prom gets killed in a horrible car accident. I think every place has their own version of this urban legend and I think every town swears theirs is really true. The same is true for Arkansas. This ghost sighting takes us to highway 365 just north of Little Rock. Ask anyone who lives around this area and they will swear that they know the hitchhiker is real.

The Zappa Award for Incredibly Strange Ghost Stories
New Jersey - Totowa (Passaic County) - Annie's Road (Totowa Road)
The stories vary, but most involve her prom night: one version says she was decapitated in an accident afterward, one says she got drunk after her date stood her up and was walking along there when she was hit by a carload of her drunken classmates, and yet another says she was waiting for her date along the road when a truck driver nailed her. Either way, Annie's dead now. Said to be buried along this road, Annie has been known to make appearances. Described as "short" and dressed in white, her fleeting image has been spotted near the I 80 overpass and all along the road. Some say she appears at 2 AM, and you should drive down the road with your headlights off to see her.

Haunted Places in Mississippi
Hattiesburg - Burnt Bridge - The legend has it that on the old bridge there would be a young girl in a prom dress ride across the bridge on the hood of your car around midnight. Seems she and her boyfriend were killed on prom night on that bridge.

Sorry if this puts a damper on anyone's storytelling around the campfire this summer.

posted by Chloe | Monday 03 July 2006 6:20 PM
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little watermelon Saturday 01 July 2006

'The Flood of 2006'

The Falls Bridge over the Susquehanna River
Though there was considerable damage to the area involving hell of a lot more than soggy paper cups, it turned out that the Susquehanna River not only didn't go as high in 2004, but also did considerably less damage to 'the Cottage' than the flood in 2004. The highest crest coming in at 34.14ft.
At this time, the river is no longer at flood stage, and has now gone within its normal banks.

But, in what seems like habit at this point, I went to check out the damage and the water at 'the Cottage' in Falls on Thursday June 29th, the day after the crest.

Traffic was insane, it took me almost an hour to get from Throop to Falls because 81 North was blocked, and traffic through Green Ridge Street in Scranton was at a crawl. Everyone milling about after all the river excitement, I suppose.

damaged road to the cottage
After having seen the dirt road that leads to 'the Cottage' all flooded out on Tuesday evening, I figured I'd have to leave my car at the top of the hill and walk in.
I was right. The road was broken, the water that ran through there cut a big & rather deep canal right through the road. It also created a sort of gorged out area next to the road there, because the road was obviously damming up the water flow to a certain degree.
Despite having an entire nice sunny day, the rest of the dirt road was still muddy and full of puddles.

By the time I arrived, the flood waters had receded to just within the riverbank. Though the entire yard between the cottage and the river bank was mushy, and the sidewalks muddy. Inside the cottage, the cellar was still completely flooded, and there was mud in the kitchen at the front.
However, the water didn't make it into the entire living room. And overall it was far less horrible than the damage and mud that I found left behind after the 2004 flood, when I spent 2 hours dragging out sopping wet carpets 2 inches deep in mud.
There was some debris strewn about the yard.
I also watched a lot of whole trees that had been ripped up from their roots, floating down the river.

Buttermilk bridge in Falls
I took a photo of the little Buttermilk bridge in Falls, taken from the exact same spot & viewpoint as from Tuesday, and as is shown, the creek by Thursday was back to a more normal level.
When I was there on Tuesday, it looked like the water was about to come right over the bridge.
It didn't, but right nearby, a house slid right off the hill, and nearly into the street. I saw it first posted on the WNEP Channel 16 web site's slide show, and then I saw it for myself, and it looked even more bizarre in person.

So it looks like "The Flood of 2006" will take its place at the #5 spot of "Historical Crests", as reported by The National Weather Service, which of course means it was quite severe.

Susquehanna River in Falls
Historical Crests
01. 40.91 feet - 1972, 24 June
02. 35.06 feet - 1975, 27 September
03. 34.96 feet - 2004, 19 September
04. 34.45 feet - 1996, 20 January
05. 33.10 feet - 1865, 18 March
06. 33.07 feet - 1936, 20 March
07. 31.60 feet - 1946, 29 May
08. 31.50 feet - 1940, 01 April
09. 31.40 feet - 1902, 02 March
10. 31.02 feet - 1979, 07 March
I remember visiting the 'the Cottage' during the 1975 flood. And my father giving me stern warnings about the dangers of getting too close to the water's edge, which I did anyway, I'm afraid. Though the water wasn't really moving in the yard like it was out past the river bank.

The Falls Bridge
I also remember the 1979 flood, the water lapping up over the river bank into the yard at 'the Cottage'.

During the 1996 flood, me, my parrot Jacq, and my roommate Eve were evacuated from our apartment in downtown Wilkes-Barre near the River Commons. We spent the weekend at my sister Joanie's house in the Poconos. According to my father's records, the water was 6 inches deep in the living room at the cottage during that crest.

There was also a flood in March 1993, that was caused by the snow melt from Blizzard of 1993. I'd be interested to know what it crested at. It was definitely at flood stage, but I assume it was no higher than 28 feet, because though Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre was under water, I was actually on the Black Diamond Bridge during the crest of that flood. (I don't recommend that sort of behaviour now, by the way.)

And speaking of Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre, the annual Independence Day celebration scheduled for the 4th of July has been cancelled. I think I've only missed being at Kirby Park for Independence day twice in the past 15 years. (In 1992 I spent July 4th at Lake Wallenpaupack, and in 1997 I spent it in New York City.) So that's very disappointing as well.

posted by Chloe | Saturday 01 July 2006 8:11 PM
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little watermelon Wednesday 28 June 2006

Deluge not expected to be contained by Dixie cup

The prospects look better than they did yesterday. But the river's already way higher than I'd want it to be, measuring 34 feet at the Wilkes-Barre Hydrolic station, and still rising apparently.

WNEP Channel 16's web site has some aerial footage of flooding in Wilkes-Barre, including the flood gates on the Market Street Bridge..
They also have a viewer participation slide show. Including a photo of somebody's porch floating down the Susquehanna River in Harding:
WNEP: photo by Jon Williams

I'm sure there'll be several photos featuring the KMart Plaza in Edwardsville on Route 11 before it's over.
After all, that plaza floods when somebody spills their drink at Jim Dandy's!

What I saw near the Lackawanna River in Scranton (near the Green Ridge shopping area), the waters had receded off the streets, except for what people were pumping out of their basements into the streets.

Some of my friends were forced to evacuate their homes in Wilkes-Barre, under the mandatory evacuation order.

People are worried about the Huntsville Dam breaking:
WNEP: Huntsville Dam Concerns

All non-essential travel is strictly prohibited in Wyoming County, which includes Falls.
So there won't be any getting near the cottage for the duration.

Meanwhile, it's been a beautiful day here today.
Most of the day the sky was blue sporting just a few light fluffy clouds over the Scranton area. It's warm, sun shining, with a light breeze.
As if the past few days of torrential rains are a thing of the past, but apparently the deluge is not over. Susquehanna River level is said to be still rising, and we're expecting another, hopefully much smaller, rain storm.

But don't blindly pay heed to rumours:
The Luzerne County rumor control hotline is 800-821-3716.

posted by Chloe | Wednesday 28 June 2006 6:47 PM
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little watermelon Tuesday 27 June 2006

The Big Flood?

When the steady rains started falling, I wasn't even particularly concerned, because we'd been in a drought, and everything was bone dry, and I figured the ground could easily soak it up well enough.
But as it turns out, the ground in Northeastern Pennsylvania and about saturated within a matter of 2 days.

Between Scranton and Falls, I saw several farm fields under water, and many parts of the road were covered in water with run off and huge puddles.

It was too dark, raining too hard, and too treacherous to take any good photos.

This one was taken of the little bridge in Falls. The road was covered in water, though people were still driving over it, as the water slushed up against the bridge, splashing over the guard rails.
(In the photo, the water splashing up against the guard rail can be seen in 2 spots, the darkness you see underneath the guard rail.)
(I dared not to cross it to get to the Falls Bridge, because I was afraid I wouldn't get back, and might have to go to New York in order to get back to Scranton.)

'The Cottage' was inaccessible, due to a creek flooding over the road leading to it. I couldn't see the road on the other, the road was flooded so wide. I could hear trees breaking, and even saw one break, right in front of me, from the force of the flowing water.

From Rte 2013 in Falls, along the river & railroad track, the river looked far higher than the reported 14 feet that was being reported at the time. It looked more like times I'd seen the river when they were reporting it at 25 feet. (I suppose there could've been a discrepancy upstream from the Wilkes-Barre measuring station.)

At this point, they're calling for a crest in Wilkes-Barre at 38 feet.
NOAA Susquehanna River @ Wilkes-Barre

What this means for my family's cottage:
At 31ft, the water laps over the river bank. (See April 3rd 2005 & April 4th 2005)
At 32ft, the water is covering the lawn between the cottage and the riverbank.
At 33ft, the water is lapping at the structure.
At 34ft, the water is inside the cottage.
At 35ft, there's almost a foot of water in the first floor. (See September 18th 2004)
At 38ft, I believe the entire first floor is under water, and there's at least a foot of water in "the little cottage" behind it (which is up a little bit of a hill).

This is bad news all around, because if the entire first floor is flooded, not only is there damage, but everything inside floats around doing damage. The cottage will be lucky if it stays on the foundation in the conditions they're forecasting now.

And the raising of the levee in Wilkes-Barre, some say, has actually worsened the situation of flooding in Falls, so it may well be more serious, for the cottage, than the 1972 flood, even if the water level is lower.

The crest is predicted for the morning of Thursday, June 29th. In other words, don't expect photos of the destruction before the weekend when the waters will have, hopefully, receded to a point where the destruction is accessible.

The rain is still coming down steady here in Scranton. I'm starting to consider building an ark.

posted by Chloe | Tuesday 27 June 2006 11:58 PM
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little watermelon Wednesday 21 June 2006

What exactly is the inspirational message here?

Inspirational posters are apparently very fashionable now in a lot of workplace offices. You know, the pretty pictures with inspirational or encouraging sayings. Generally they have a beautiful landscape, a winding road, a peaceful scene, or some flowers, and some kind of caption involving words like 'perseverance', 'achievement', and 'success'.

But there's also one I've seen that has a picture of a sliced apple that looks like an orange inside.

And the caption reads, "Make it Happen".

I'm a little unclear on this one. What exactly is the message here?

Is this for employers to hang in the workplace to remind employees they're expected to accomplish the impossible?

posted by Chloe | Wednesday 21 June 2006 7:36 PM
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little watermelon Sunday 18 June 2006

Still (not stillness)

I'm still alive, still eating watermelon, still wearing overalls, and still... well, still whatever.

And apparently, I'm still "educating" the masses... Because The Visine on Nipples Post remains in the top 20 most accessed pages on this domain.

But although I saw a mattress abandoned on the side of Highway 380 South a few weeks ago, I passed it too quickly to get a picture, darn it.

No news is not always necessarily good news.

I do recommending avoiding getting a massive bacterial infection. Not just because of the drawbacks of an infection, but because of the drawbacks of staying on antibiotics for extended periods. Let's put it this way, I'm sick to death of yogurt smoothies. They don't come in watermelon flavour either...

Which is surprising, because recently watermelon flavour seems to have become popular for a lot of things finally. And why shouldn't it have, and sooner, I ask?

posted by Chloe | Sunday 18 June 2006 1:27 AM
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little watermelon Saturday 12 November 2005


painted watermelon magnets

papier mache watermelon dish

painted vase & mug (& before glazed & fired in kiln)
Last winter I painted a vase and a large mug at Color Me Mine, for my sister Marie & brother-in-law Preston.
I thought the vase and mug turned out very well, and Marie & Preston seemed well pleased with them.

Leslie and I have been going to the Color Me Mine studio in south Jersey about once a year for some years now. I have a vase of my own, and 2 mugs, one which I still drink from, and another I've been using as a pencil cup.

partially painted magnets
I found out that there's another studio like this (though not a Color Me Mine), where you can paint pottery, in Clarks Summit, but I've not yet gone there.

In May I started painting wooden watermelons, and making them into refrigerator magnets.

And then I came into some old furniture that had seen better days.

painted coffee table
There was a coffee table and one end table that wasn't in the most pristine condition, by any stretch of the imagination. And 2 small sets of drawers, that were varnished dark, but were light wood underneath.

I had originally wanted to strip & stain them all a yellowish blonde wood colour, because most of my other furniture and all the wood in my apartment is blonde.

But the coffee table & end table seemed to be

painted end table
impossible. I even tried staining over stain. And even the yellowish colour stain I got refused to change the mousy gray-brown wood into something that could have possibly fit in with even my hodge podge decor.

Alison encouraged me to try painting them. So I painted them antique white with metallic inca gold trim. And they turned out rather pleasing, I think.
I'm pretty happy with it because up until this year, I've never before had a proper end table. And I've never in my

drawers as they were
life had a coffee table.

The sets of drawers were both better & worse to deal with.
I stripped one and stained it with a yellowish stain. It took several hours just to strip the old varnish off the darn thing. I had never before stripped or stained furniture, so I had no idea just how much hard work is involved in the endeavour. Particularly when the furniture had been covered in what

re-stained set of drawers
must've been several layers of thick varnish.

I was pretty happy with the yellowish colour stain finish, even though I, by no means, did a perfect job of it. But it looks well in the nook, so I'm happy with it.

However, by the time I was finished with one of them, I was rather sick of it, so I decided to put off stripping and staining the other for awhile, and just put the other one in the part of the living room with some other dark brown furniture items I have.

partially painted
magnets & papier mache
I then I decided to try my hand at papier mache.
I had done a papier mache mouse in junior high school art class many years ago, and I remembered it was pretty fun.

I had that papier mache mouse for awhile, but I seem to remember having to trash the poor thing because it had gotten torn nearly totally apart, by, oddly enough, a cat. Though I can't remember what cat got its claws into the poor thing. It either happened when I lived with my mothers' cats Romeo & Julius, or it happened later, after I got my cat, Nikita.

I had all kinds of ideas for papier mache, but I started by making 2 bowls, since I've always been meaning to get more candy dishes. (As is well known, there's always a lot of candy in my home.)

painted papier mache bowl
I got the idea from some web site someone sent me when I had told them I was thinking about doing papier mache. It was a papier mache bowl painted to look like a watermelon.
Papier Mache - Visitors' Gallery - Glawen - watermelon
My attempt at papier mache has not been anywhere near as neat and tidy, I must say. And that's because papier mache is harder to work with than you'd probably think it would be. I have a lot of respect for some of the papier mache works I've seen photos of on-line, because obviously a lot of patience has gone into them.

However, back in the summer, I never actually finished painting my paper mache bowls, because by July it had gotten way too hot outside to be doing anything enjoyable on my porch. (The summer in Pennsylvania this year was consistently unusually hot... over 90° almost every day!)

But I finally finished painting the bowls, indoors after all, in October.

By this time I had gotten Amoreena, my new kitten, so you can imagine how much fun it was trying to keep her nose and paws off the painting projects while I was working on them.
Amoreena seemed absolutely fascinated by the papier mache in particular for some reason.

Amoreena with the partially painted gold papier mache bowl
I'm thinking it might be because the papier mache glue is made from flour, which, of course, is more or less food, when it comes right down to it. I had an incident back in the summer where I had left the bag of flour I was using, on the porch, overnight, and some member of our backyard wildlife here got into it. One would think that having mixed the flour with newspaper, moreover newspaper ink would've tainted the scent of the flour though. And I'm hoping now that the bowls are painted and covered in a sealant, that they won't end up the way the poor junior high school papier mache mouse wound up.

watermelons in the nook
And hopefully the cats won't think destroying watermelons a fun sport, because now my place is filled with watermelon type items, in addition to the ones given to me by others.
(My birthday was in October, and so Jeanie gave me a large watermelon bowl, Shelly gave me more watermelon jelly candies, and Alison gave me watermelon candles.)

posted by Chloe | Saturday 12 November 2005 1:33 AM
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little watermelon Wednesday 09 November 2005

Another gender specific fortune cookie

Why is it that I get gender specific fortune cookie fortunes that are not specific to my gender?

Fortune cookie fortune which reads: "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

At least this one's not as bad as the last one...
Watermelon Punch, the Blog - 12 Mar 2003 | Sexist fortune cookies

posted by Chloe | Wednesday 09 November 2005 8:07 AM
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little watermelon Tuesday 08 November 2005

Peculiar musical choice for political campaign commercial

Incumbent Democratic candidate for mayor of Scranton, Chris Doherty, used music in one of his campaign commercials, from a song called "Dive" by conservative Christian musician, Steven Curtis Chapman.

Chris Doherty - Commercials
The commercial it is used in is: "Where is Chris".
Chris Doherty - "Where is Chris" ad (1.6mb wmv file)

The song by Steven Curtis Chapman is one called "Dive":
Clip of Dive by Steven Curtis Chapman (476kb mp3 file)
Christian Lyrics Online: Steven Curtis Chapman Lyrics - Dive

While outsiders might be confused about who's the liberal in the Doherty vs. DiBileo race for mayor of Scranton, because they're both apparently Democrats who apparently have the support of Republicans... It seems people with the most progressive, liberal, political opinions, seem to be in the most active support of Doherty.
DiBileo has focused his campaign on tax cuts and more police & law enforcement, whereas Doherty has been for making the city more attractive to bring higher paying jobs into the area, beautifying the city parks, and passed an anti-discrimination ordinance.
But I think it's also important to note that Northeastern Pennsylvania is highly Democrat, yet many local Democratic party politicians are actually rather conservative. (Paul Kanjorski immediately comes to mind.)

As for Steven Curtis Chapman... While there's no direct evidence of him endorsing Republican candidates or any specific conservative agenda, his concerts' opening acts have featured bands that also performed at the Republican National Conventions.

One active Democrat had this to say about Chapman:
"Steven Curtis Chapman is a Contemporary Christian Rock artist who, while not being a fundamentalist nut-job, certainly is no liberal Democrat like Doherty." -- John D.

Steven Curtis Chapman has also supported "Redeem the Vote", which is clearly a campaign to get out the right-wing conservative Christian vote.
'Redeem the Vote' registers 100,000 young people of faith - (BP)
"Working through record producers in Nashville, Tenn., Brinson and his staff gained the support of 47 contemporary Christian music artists, including Steven Curtis Chapman, Point of Grace, Jeremy Camp, FFH and Jaci Velasquez."
Evangelicals endeavor to redeem the vote - The Washington Times - October 19, 2004
"One of the newest groups is Redeem the Vote, the religious community's answer to MTV's secular Rock the Vote. The group is touring battleground states with Christian rock groups and voter-registration drives that organizers say are putting the fear of God into Sen. John Kerry's supporters."

And many Steven Curtis Chapman fans are conservative supporters of George W. Bush.
Chuck Currie: Steven Curtis Chapman's Fans Are Mad At Me. Who Is Steven Curtis Chapman? The reason Chapman's fans were mad at Chuck Currie?
The post they apparently objected to was:
Chuck Currie: Texas Paper: Why Would Christians Vote For Bush?
(I contacted Chuck Currie for some specifics of what the fans were specifically having a problem with regarding that post, but I have not yet received a response.)

Steven Curtis Chapman is also listed as one of the "Righties" on, although the link to "see why" doesn't actually mention Steven Curtis Chapman.
(I tried to sign up for the forum there in order to pose the question as to why, specifically, he's on their Righties list, and for clarification on that link, but as of this time, my membership to post has not yet been approved.)

Even if perhaps Steven Curtis Chapman's popularity with conservative Christians is merely due to his deep commitment to supporting affordable adoption (I found no evidence he directly supports any anti-abortion related political groups), and the devout Christianity in his song lyrics (I've not found any specifically political lyrics)... he still supported the campaign to 'get out the conservative Christian vote' (which was highly in favour of Republicans), and his career is obviously fueled by an abundance of politically conservative Christians.
Furthermore, I've seen no evidence that Chris Doherty favours any conservative religious agendas.

So whichever way, it still seems like a bit of a faux pas to use Chapman's music for Doherty's campaign advertisement.

That said, I personally think it's a shame that lately some people seem convinced that Christian and Liberal are mutually exclusive, just as it's a shame some people equate Islam with terrorism.

(Note: This is not an endorsement of any candidate, obviously.)
(Note: This is also not an advertisement for Steven Curtis Chapman's music.)

(Thanks John D. for the tip.)

posted by Chloe | Tuesday 08 November 2005 1:33 AM
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scientific evidence for 'intuition'
>>Subliminal Messages Fuel Anxiety | LiveScience<<
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>>If the facade is what's important to you, all you wind up with is an illusion. Disillusionment is the gift of substance.
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who didn't see scott binsack coming?
>>The Times-Tribune - Detractors, growing debt dog local builder
Watermelon Punch, the Blog - Side-Blog - 26 Aug 2006 | in the same line of work<<
I certainly saw this coming, and I don't know much about building at all. Just seems like common sense. Though I have heard that only 7% of the population has that. (more)

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