Friday, February 05, 2016


Today (Friday, February 5th, 2016) is my 72nd birthday.
My wife died at 68, almost four years ago.
She woulda made 100 if she’d not developed cancer.
Leaving me wondering why I’m still here.
I don’t expect to make 100, although I’ll probably make 90 if my health holds.
My paternal grandfather made his 90s.
I never smoked, and I work out.
My wife’s mother will turn 100 on Valentine’s Day.
Model-T Ford to man-on-the-Moon.
Which means my wife died before her mother.
Yer not supposed to outlive yer children.
My wife’s mother also wonders why she’s still alive.
She’s still in independent-living, a small apartment in a retirement-center in De Land, FL.
She helps out “the old folks,” who are of course way younger than her.
She can’t see — macular degeneration.
Her 74-year-old son keeps tabs on her.
Which I find ironic since they were always at each other’s throats.
My wife’s mother turning 100 requires a HUGE shindig. Relatives from all over the country are going to De Land.
I reserved to fly down Friday the 12th, and back home Monday the 15th.
Dare I say, I’m scared.
I know that’s not manly, but I had a stroke over 22 years ago.
My wife and I used to fly to Orlando to visit her mother.
My wife, having visited her mother more often than me, was familiar with Orlando Airport.
I used to let her lead. This happened with other things. My wife used to make phonecalls for me, and sort out problems.
My stroke left me somewhat incompetent, more tentative than anything.
My flying down there is the first time I’ve done anything like that since my wife died.
I’ve made long motor-trips, and been to Altoona, PA many times to chase trains — I’m a railfan.
But I’ve never flown anywhere. It was always me and my wife.
Now I’m alone. I’m more comfortable just staying put, and fiddling this here ‘pyooter.
My wife’s brother will pick me up.

• My wife of over 44 years died April 17th, 2012. I miss her immensely.
• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered. Just tiny detriments; I can pass for never having had a stroke.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Monthly Calendar-Report for February 2016

STAND BACK! (Photo by BobbaLew.)

—We are still in Tyrone (“tie-RONE;” as in “own”), like last month.
The February 2016 entry from my own calendar is a westbound rounding the curve past Tyrone’s station.
04T, Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian, has made its Tyrone station-stop, at the tiny phonebooth that serves as Amtrak’s Tyrone station.
Norfolk Southern 11A is off the Nittany & Bald Eagle, and the Nittany & Bald Eagle local has ventured up its mainline (the old Pennsy Bald Eagle branch).
Norfolk Southern 10A, the northbound counterpart of 11A, has gone up into Tyrone on its Nittany & Bald Eagle trackage-rights.
It’s waiting for the Nittany & Bald Eagle local to clear off the main.
Some of this action comprised my January calendar-picture.
Suddenly a horn blared, and grade-crossing lights started flashing. Gates dropped.
A westbound blasted Tyrone on Track One. 04T had made its station-stop on Two, which is normally westbound.
Tyrone is where the old Pennsy turned east toward Harrisburg through a notch in the mountains, and the Juniata (“june-eee-AT-uh”) River threads it too.
Pennsy was following the Juniata.
The railroad pretty much follows the line as originally laid out.
It was John Edgar Thomson back in the early 1840s.
Thomson had previously engineered railroads in Georgia, and used past experience locating Pennsy.
Surveys had been made to locate Pennsy up on mountainsides to ease the grade over Allegheny summit.
But Thomson located the railroad in valleys, and then took on Allegheny Mountain with a giant leap (helper locomotives).
Mountainside location would have eased gradients, but traffic was down in valleys.
Thomson also used a trick to ease the grade over Allegheny summit. That’s Horseshoe Curve, the greatest engineering marvel of the original Pennsy.
Pennsy was so proud of it they used to stop passenger-trains mid-curve so passengers could view it.
“From the rear of the train you can see the locomotive.”
It made crossing Allegheny Mountain possible. Previously Allegheny Mountain had made trade with the nation’s interior extremely difficult.

One of the best-looking cars of all time. (Photo by Dan Lyons©.)

—The February 2016 entry in my Tide-mark Classic-Car calendar is one of the best-looking classic cars of all time, the 1955 Oldsmobile Super-88 Holiday two-door hardtop.
The ’55 Olds has the most garish two-tone color scheme of all, but it looks great.
Oldsmobile stepped away from building turkeys — that is, they looked like turkeys, but they had Oldsmobile’s phenomenal overhead-valve Rocket V8 motor.
But Olds was moving upmarket. The first Rocket V8s were plunked in a lightweight Chevy body. They were the scourge of NASCAR, which at that time was still racing actual stock cars available at dealers.
As the ‘50s began, Oldsmobile began building bloated turkeys. They were on Buick’s body, individualized to be Oldsmobiles.
Chevy and Pontiac did that too.
General Motors was moving toward standard bodies and chassis used across car makes. Oldsmobile was one of the B-O-P cars: Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac.
Change started in the 1954 model-year, a switch to a larger leaner-looking body.
1955 found full-flower.
The GM-bump — that dip in the side window-sill — was where the two-tone paint-scheme began. Same with the ’54, but the ’55 was much more dashing.
That body lasted though the 1956 model-year. The ’56 Olds wasn’t as good-looking as the ’55.
For 1957 GM cars became giant glitzmobiles, bloated bodies and acres of chrome. Even Chevy went that way with its ’58 Impala.
With 1956, Olds began its downfall. 1957 was a bloat-mobile, and for 1958 Olds was no longer the exciting car it was in 1955. It became glitz.
I notice this car has a windshield-visor. It doesn’t need it; if anything, I think it looks stupid.
The ’55 Olds is one of the best-looking cars of all time. It doesn’t need gee-gaws.
Hardtops are no longer made — that is, a steel roof on pillarless side-windows. Hardtops had little crush-resistance like sedans with their side-pillars.
Even convertibles now-a-days have integral rollbars inside extending above the occupants’ heads.
Heaven forbid you roll a convertible or hardtop in days of yore. The roof would crush down to the body and trap the occupants, maybe even decapitate them.
But the hardtop looked great, open and airy. Convertibles also had pillarless side-windows, so hardtops were a metal roof, as opposed to a cloth roof, on pillarless side-windows.

Too good to pass up. (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—I normally try to interlace my train-calendar pictures among the others, but this one is too good to pass up.
If it weren’t for the fact the ’55 Oldsmobile is one of the best-looking cars of all time, I’d have run it first after my own calendar.
The February 2016 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is a North American Texan trainer.
At first I thought it a Douglas Dauntless, and was pleased photographer Makanna made it look so good.
A Dauntless.

My trigger was that rear-facing gunner. A Dauntless had the same thing.
Photographer Makanna probably sits in this location with his big telephoto.
Texan trainers are a dime-a-dozen; about 350 remain airworthy.
As I understand it, the Texan trainer was the last stop before letting fighter-jockeys try the Mustang or Thunderbolt.
They’re fairly friendly, but more challenging than a Stearman.
A Texan is good for 205 mph, and was known as “the pilot-maker.”
That engine-cowl threw me off; it doesn’t look like the Douglas Dauntless.
Our 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush, flew Dauntlesses in combat during WWII. He even got shot down once, rescued at sea after parachuting.
Our current presidents avoid combat at all costs, yet are happy to send others into combat.
My WWII warbirds site says the Texan had no armament — so that rear-facing gunner is an exception.

Last days for Pennsy steam. (Photo by Robert Malinoski.)

—Steam-locomotive usage was winding down on the Pennsylvania Railroad. This picture is February 24th, 1957; steam-locomotive usage on Pennsy would end in a few months.
The February 2016 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is an M-1 Mountain (4-8-2), the finest steam-locomotive Pennsy ever had.
Also in the picture are two Pennsy Decapods (2-10-0), also ready for service.
The picture is at the engine-terminal in Williamsport, PA.
It could be said the M-1 was intended to replace the K-4 Pacific (4-6-2).
But that didn’t happen.
The K-4 wasn’t that good but good enough doubleheaded.
That’s two locomotive crews per train; extravagant, but Pennsy could afford it.
It also could be said the M-1 was the last successful steam-engine Pennsy developed.
Pennsy developed others after WWII, but their success is debatable.
While other railroads were developing or purchasing big-drivered 4-8-4s in the ‘30s, Pennsy was pouring investment into electrification.
Would that they developed a steamer as good as the GG-1 electric, the BEST locomotive of all time.
So when WWII inundated Pennsy with its tidal-wave of war-traffic, they were stuck with old tired steam-engines.
And they weren’t allowed to develop replacements.
They had to shop outside. The J-1 2-10-4 is not a Pennsy design. It’s Chesapeake & Ohio’s SuperPower T-1 built by Alco, dolled up to be a Pennsy engine. It doesn’t have Pennsy’s standard Belpaire (“Bell-pear”) firebox.
The M-1 was an all-purpose locomotive. Its drivers were only 72 inches in diameter, not the 80 inches of the K-4, and many 4-8-4s.
The M-1 had the gigantic boiler of the I-1 Decapod, but its fire-grate was only 70 square feet, fairly large, but not 100.
What made it such a good runner was a large combustion-chamber ahead of that firebox — to better burn its coal.
M-1 Mountains were extremely well-suited for Pennsy’s Middle Division, the long slightly uphill grade from Harrisburg to Altoona. It was following the Juniata River, a so-called “river grade.”
Railroads often located next to rivers.
The original Baltimore & Ohio located along the Potomac River.
An M-1 on a freight might average 40-50 mph to Altoona.
The last steam-engine on Pennsy was an I-1 Decapod into Altoona on a coal-train from Cresson (“kress-in”) PA — November 27th, 1957.

Wauseon, OH, station is at right, now a location for railroad memorabilia. (Photo by Tim Calvin.)

—This picture looks like something my brother or I might take.
Too much foreground.
The February 2016 entry of my Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar is a trailer-train from Chicago heading east.
My brother and I see many trains like this at Allegheny Crossing.
Trailer-on-flatcar goes back a long way. Railroads discovered it was possible to make money shipping highway-trailers on railroad flatcars.
This was 1950s on, maybe even late ‘40s.
Trucking companies loved it. It avoids paying multiple drivers.
I see the lead engine is a 6300, #6315, an SD40-E.
The SD40-E is an EMD SD-50 downrated by Norfolk Southern to 3,000 horsepower. The SD-50 was 3,500 and overstressed.
I’ve seen many SD40-Es, but in double-sets of helpers for Allegheny summit. The SD40-Es replaced SD40-2s used as helpers for years.
I also notice the Lackawanna Heritage-Unit, #1074, as the second unit. 1074 is one of 20 Heritage-units painted by Norfolk Southern in paint-schemes of predecessor railroads.
1074 is Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, which merged with Erie Railroad in 1960 to form Erie-Lackawanna.
Both lines had Buffalo extensions; DL&W was primarily to Buffalo.
The Norfolk Southern line east out of Buffalo is Erie’s Buffalo extension, which later became part of Erie-Lackawanna.
The Erie Heritage-Unit. (Photo by Mike Ramey©.)
The old Erie main across southern NY is now a Norfolk Southern line to New York City. There also is an Erie Heritage-Unit, #1068.
The Heritage-units are used as regular road-power.
I think by now my brother and I would avoid too much foreground.
But in Ohio a photographer is not dealing with a mountain railroad, with many curves and tunnels.
What the photographer is trying to get is old railroad stations, and we have an elegant one here.
It’s just that including a railroad station often forces too much foreground.
The old railroad station in Tyrone, PA is gorgeous, but I have yet to be able to successfully include it in a photograph.

Chop not! (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—My cleaning-lady and I recently had a discussion about this car.
She likes hotrods.
“I’d buy it in a minute,” she said.
“Not this kid!” I said.
“I know, you don’t like chopping the top of Ford’s five-window coupe.”
A 1939 Ford five-window coupe.

A Ford three-window coupe.

A 1941 Willys three-window coupe.
“The ’39 Ford five-window coupe is one of the BEST-looking cars of all time,” I said. “You don’t chop the top.”
The February 2016 entry in my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a 1936 Ford five-window coupe — obviously chopped; six inches.
Scrunch the driver!
The worst thing is to chop the top on one of the prettiest cars of all time; a disaster.
It appears the lines of the five-window coupe began in 1936 — in fact, there was a three-window coupe at that time.
But by 1939, Ford’s three-window coupe was gone.
And good riddance, since it looked stupid.
But for 1939 the five-window coupe had perfect lines and proportions‚ although I think the ’41 Willys three-window looked fine.
While I was growing up as a teenager, living in northern DE, my family lived near a neighbor that had a ’39-’40 Ford five-window parked out back, shorn of its front clip.
Word had it the owner was planning to wrench in a Rocket Olds V8.
I never got to look at it up close — it was black, the makings of a very desirable hotrod.
For 1939 Ford designed a new front-clip.
The front fenders were more bulbous, and no longer flowed into the running-boards.
I’d like to know who approved that, since it looked much better.
Ford didn’t have a Styling-Department; unlike General Motors, which despite its “Art and Colour Section” fielded some of the worst looking turkeys of all time.
Ford’s styling was essentially “Bob” Gregorie, with input from Edsel Ford, son of Old Henry. Despite bad-mouthing from his father, Edsel promulgated some of the best-looking cars of all time, the Model-A, the 1932 Ford, and the ’34.
Edsel’s last car was the 1949 Mercury.
Old Henry thought styling a waste, and Edsel a dandy.
Too bad Edsel had a car named after him that looked awful and bombed.
Old Henry thought the Model-T was all America needed. Ford almost tanked because Old Henry wouldn’t admit American car-buyers wanted more — the Model-A, which is much more “normal” than the Model-T.
In fact, Ford almost tanked again in the late ‘40s, except Old Henry’s grandson, Henry Ford II, pushed through the revolutionary 1949 Ford, the first Ford with a modern chassis: no transverse buggy-springs.
Compared to a ’39 Chevy, the ’39 Ford looks much better. —As long as you stick with the coupes; the sedans were beetle-bombs.
Years ago, probably about 1990, I went to south Jersey to celebrate the 90th birthday of an uncle. He was living with my cousin in the south Jersey pines — not the Pine-Barrens, but where they began.
My brother-from-Boston had come down too, and we noticed a metallic-green ’40 Ford five-window coupe motoring into the development.
My brother and I immediately gave chase; we’re both car-guys.
We caught up with the five-window; its owner was driving back from a car-show.
The car had a 350-Chevy and air-conditioning.
What I remember most was how small the car seemed inside; like occupants had gotten much bigger.
The car looked fine. The only thing wrong was the color. The top had not been chopped.
Chopping the top of a five-window would be a struggle.
Whoever chopped this calendar-car did a stellar job. Perfect lines and no sign of shortcuts.
But the top of Ford’s five-window coupe should not be chopped. Plus the front clip of the ’39-’40 Ford looks much better.
Chopping that top turns it into a gun-turret.
For gearheads the motor is a supercharged SmallBlock, 650 horsepower.

Not a Pennsy electric. (Photo courtesy Joe Suo Collection©.)

—Despite the “Pennsylvania” scrip on the side of the locomotive, FF-2 #7 is not a Pennsy engine.
The February 2016 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is FF-2 #7 in front of the railroad-station in Columbia, PA.
It’s actually Great Northern, probably too big to fit through the tubes under the Hudson into New York City.
When Great Northern gave up its electrification, Pennsy decided they could use these behemoths.
They were helpers out of the Susquehanna River valley toward Philadelphia.
They ran as far east as Thorndale, PA on the Pennsy main.
The line to Columbia was the original railroad from Philadelphia to Columbia in the Susquehanna River valley.
Columbia is where the cross-state canal system began — the vaunted State Public Works System that eventually failed.
Pennsy made it moribund.
Pennsy came to own the railroad from Philadelphia, but used a more direct route to Harrisburg.
It left Public Works at Parkesburg (“parks-burg;” not “parkers-burg”).
Pennsy came to own the line to Columbia, but kept it because it could be incorporated to get freights east from Enola Yard (“aye-NOLE-uh”).
Getting up out of the Susquehanna River valley is not difficult, but it is a grade.
The FF-2s could be used as helpers, or lead a train.
They don’t look like Pennsy electrics, which had to be small to fit the Hudson tubes.
Note both pantographs (“panta-GRAFFS”) are up. The FF-2 had to have both pantographs up.
In color. (Photo by Jim Buckley.)
I also have a color picture of an FF-2 that ran in 2011 in my All-Pennsy Color Calendar. The calendar-picture appears to be a black-and-white version of the same photograph.
The FF-2 is waiting to help eastbound freight to Thorndale.
It’s worth noting the FF-2 (2-6-0 + 0-6-2) is using the same class-numbering as the GG-1 (4-6-0 + 0-6-4); “F” being the 2-6-0 steam-engine — Gs were 4-6-0; e.g. the G-5.


—I don’t even know what this thing is.
And the calendar doesn’t tell me; it doesn’t identify the cars.
The February 2016 entry in my Jerry Powell “Classic-Car” calendar is unknown.
I was thinking it might be a late ‘30s Chrysler product.
I happened to be poking around, so I fired up Google-Images of ’37-’40 Chryslers, particularly Imperials, since it seemed to be a special-bodied car.
Look carefully and you’ll see it’s a half-sedan. The chauffeur is out there in the open, to get rained or snowed on.
Yet her Royal Hiney is safely ensconced in back, closed off from the weather.
Nope; not a Chrysler product.
I was thinking maybe “LeBaron,” so Googled “LeBaron.” It fired up Chrysler’s LeBaron of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, based on the humble K-car.
It also said something about LeBaron being a standalone coach-builder from the ‘20s and ‘30s that built special bodies for chassis supplied by car-makers — e.g. Packard, Cadillac, Lincoln and Duesenberg.
LeBaron was bought by Briggs, which was merged by Chrysler in 1953.
Briggs was another specialist coach-builder.
“Landau?” Not as far as I knew. A Landau has a hinged metal bar on the side of the top.
Not a Landau.
So what is it? A Buick, a Studebaker, definitely not a Packard; and I don’t think it’s a Caddy.
Whatever it is, it’s special. Probably a body assembled by a specialist coach-builder installed on a regular car-chassis. That half-sedan body says that.
And it has to be one of the last such cars made. By the late ‘30s chauffeurs were brought in out of the weather.
An uncle was chauffeur for the mega-rich Pew (“Pyoo;” as in church-pew) family near Philadelphia, scion of the Sunoco fortune.
He and his family lived in a small apartment over Pew’s gigantic garage.
Pew had a huge selection of cars, including a Roll-Royce.
But the car he used to get to work, the one my uncle drove, was a humble ’48 Dodge sedan.
It agreed with Walter P. Chrysler’s dictum that he should be able to wear a hat inside.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Henry N. Manney III

Henry N. Manney III.
My writing-style is that of Henry N. Manney III.
“Yrs trly” and “yr fthfl srvnt” are stolen from Manney.
I ain’t Manney, and not as good.
Manney covered Formula One auto racing for Road & Track Magazine back in the ‘60s, which I subscribed to from 1968 on.
He also was an Editor-at-Large for Cycle World Magazine. I never saw anything by him in Cycle World.
What I read was his Formula One race coverage. He was a gentle dude who reported what he saw.
He usually said “practice was the usual shambles,” reducing madness to being comprehensible.
Formula One is a stinkpot of madness, everyone trying to be superior.
Starting grids were determined by qualifying. The fastest qualifier got pole-position, and grid-position worked down from that.
Qualifying might go okay for a short while, until someone slid off-course.
Formula One was held on road circuits, many turns and straights.
The cars are open-wheeled single-seat racecars, essentially a gas-tank with engine and wheels.
Manney would exercise his gentle touch, making it all seem attainable to us ordinary souls.
Sadly, Manney had a stroke in the early ‘80s, which left him in a coma until he died in 1988.
Well, I had a stroke too. It didn’t leave me in a coma, but pretty much my whole left side was paralyzed — what I say is the brain-matter was no longer there to operate things.
I was persnickety about it: “I should be able to tie my shoes.” So by trying I inadvertently rewired my brain to operate my left side.
My speech had also been royally messed up; I was talking too fast — gibberish.
It reduced to a monotone, but then one day I decided to address my dogs just like I had in the past.
Let us see!”
My dogs were thrilled; the master is back.
So I can now pass for never having had a stroke.
But a stroke can put the lights out. It left Manney in a coma; he eventually died.
Manney would report without drama or histrionics, which is essentially what I do.
Years ago I wrote up walking our Irish-Setters in Rochester’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The parade starts on East Ave., Rochester’s ritziest street.
Members of the Brighton Volunteer Fire Department were openly urinating on the manicured lawns of Rochester’s richest — causing fear and loathing.
I reported it, of course, in my usual deadpan Henry N. Manney way.
And that’s how I do it; madness everywhere reported off-handedly as Henry would do it.
Manney was replaced at Road & Track by Rob Walker, an independent Formula One entrant.
He was interesting, but he wasn’t Manney.

• My stroke was October 26th, 1993.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Still hung

The Erie Heritage-Unit. (Photo by Mike Ramey©.)

I store my photo-files at PhotoBucket.
The picture above is an example of a photo I stored at PhotoBucket.
They’re not large files; only 72 pixels per inch, 5.597 inches wide = blog size. 72 pixels per inch is screen resolution.
Larger image resolutions bleed into my blurb at right. Larger still the image may not fully display = you have to scroll it.
So I often upload image-files to PhotoBucket.
My blog accesses the PhotoBucket file via http address, and displays the photo in my blog.
I screenshot that picture last night, processed it, then attempted to upload to PhotoBucket.
Didn’t work, or so it seemed.
I tried again; failed again.
I tried a third time after closing out PhotoBucket and logging in again.
Failed again, or so it seemed. So I went to bed. I’d try again the next morning.
After getting up I tried again, and it bombed again.
What is it about that picture?
Or is it PhotoBucket?
So I quit PhotoBucket and logged in again.
I went to where I upload it, my Monthly-Calendar-Report pictures for February, 2016.
And VIOLA; there were all three pictures I uploaded last night, plus the picture I tried this morning.
Four pictures of the same file. Well, I only need one, so I set about deleting the excess.
I tried to delete one picture, and it promptly hung. “This may take a while; so hang tight,” PhotoBucket told me.
I made my bed; takes at least 30 minutes.
I let this rig run, and its display goes to sleep after a while.
I’d wake it back up, and it’d still be hung.
Move on to fixing breakfast; a friend called my cellphone = at least 15 minutes.
We’d been “hangin’ tight” almost an hour. But when I woke it back up, it had deleted the extra photo.
On to another; hung again.
And still hung on my first wake-up.
Eat breakfast, and let ‘er keep running.
Breakfast finished, about 20 minutes, I woke this ‘pyooter.
The second photo was deleted, so I set about doing the last.
Wham-Bam! Gone in mere seconds.
This is the way it’s supposed to work.
What this tells me is the upload-function went south after PhotoBucket’s staff left for the day.
And when they came back to work this morning, they fixed the upload function.
Do we users get any indication of this, or an apology?
Dream on, baby!

• This here blog-column is 5.597 inches wide.
• “Screenshot” is a MAC function — this ‘pyooter is an Apple Macintosh. With it I create an image-file of something that was on my computer-screen. Windows PCs can do this too — I think it’s called the “snipping-tool;” that is, recent versions of Windows.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016


I have an ad trumpeting “Great Courses. It’s for “Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft.”
Sounds like one-a them right-side Facebook ads I never click, but it’s not Facebook.
It’s one-a them junkmail thingies I eventually shred.
Playing on dreamers seeking fame and fortune — essentially recognition.
I wonder if they could show me anything, like how to craft a better sentence.
I have my own ideas — one of which is to reduce wordiness. I would chop “Exploring the Writer’s Craft” off that title.
Copy-writers seem to do that, as if wordiness signifies erudition.
I hear it all the time. Company names followed by a catchy phrase from their mission-statement.
In my humble opinion a mission-statement shouldn’t be written. Who reads it? Only the writer.
During my final year at the Messenger Newspaper in Canandaigua a writers’ group formed.
I wasn’t part of it, despite my slinging words left-and-right.
One day a reporter came over to talk to another in an adjacent cubical. Both were members of the writers’ group.
“I don’t know what’s going on here,” I said; “but when I wanna write I just get out my pen and start slingin’.”
“Easy for you to say,” they said. “You don’t need no writers’ group.”
I ain’t Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, but I do seem to have a talent slinging words.
That is, sentences I write seem to be fine as is, not in need of heavy editing.
I learned to leave well enough alone during my union newsletter at Transit. My wife advised me to leave what I wrote alone, that it was usually good enough.
And I didn’t have time for editing. She also pointed out what editing I did destroyed what I wrote.
I still proof and edit, but not much. Usually what editing I do is word reduction.
I computer-find “that;” all the “thats” in what I wrote.
Usually it reads fine without “that.”
I also get rid of passive voice, unless it absolutely needs it.
I also reduce wordiness; usually I can.
Just slinging words may generate verbiage I can usually take out.
So what makes a “great sentence?”
In my humble opinion it’s to convey in as few words as possible.
And greatness is not the ability to do that.
It’s observing and conveying things the reader doesn’t see.
To tell a story that interests my reader, yet not bollix it so much my reader is turned off.
I’ve also concluded my readers enjoy dialogue, even if it’s made up.
Lots of time I let readers fill in the blanks. Explaining everything is a sure path to boredom.

• For 16&1/2 years (1977-1993) I drove transit bus for Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY, a public employer, the transit-bus operator in Rochester and environs. During my final year I produced a voluntary newsletter for my bus-union. It was great fun, although time-consuming. I produced it in Microsoft Word® on our home computer. My stroke October 26th, 1993 ended both. I retired on medical-disability. I recovered fairly well. After my stroke I began employ at the Messenger newspaper in nearby Canandaigua.


Monday, January 18, 2016


People get upset I never seem to have enough time.
I’m supposed to be doing exercises to offset my knee-change, and the earlier prostatectomy.
But finding time for them is a struggle.
My stack of unopened mail is about seven inches high. I’ve culled out the bills, which I pay online. Processing that stack of unopened mail might take 2-3 hours, which I don’t have.
My last load of laundry is still in the dryer. Putting it away would gobble up 15-25 minutes, so I live out of my dryer.
“I saw an Amazon box in the garage,” my in-home physical-therapist said.
“That’s my dog-food. I haven’t had time to bring it inside yet, and may not until I run out of dog-food.”
“What’s this other box?”
“That’s mailing-envelopes for my calendar. I haven’t been able to open it yet, and may not get to it until my calendar shows up.”
“And what’s this other box?”
“That’s probably an unwheeled walker. I haven’t needed it, so it remains unopened. It’s been that way almost two months.”
“I can’t believe you don’t have time for this stuff. Five minutes here, five minutes there....”
“Well, five minutes here, five minutes there — pretty soon you’re up to 30 minutes. That’s 30 minutes when I could be doing something more important. Priorities, man!”
The other day my home nursing-service wanted to schedule a visit. They called and said they would visit the next day.
“I already have two other appointments that day,” I said.
She got all huffy.
Who am I to question the vaunted medical establishment?
“Is it a Doctor’s appointment?” she snapped.
“Yes, but Urology Associates of Rochester not Canandaigua Orthopaedic; it’s followup of my prostatectomy.
Thud! Couldn’t be rescheduled.
“The other is in-home Physical Therapy at 11 a.m., but if you come at 9:30 as you suggested, we should be all right.”
Sorry, I have appointments galore. I have to interlace everything; that’s the way it is.
“So maybe you could do your exercises while you watch TV.”
“I never watch TV,” I snapped. “It’s dreadfully boring compared to my computer.”
“So maybe you should spend less time on your computer.”
“Less time than no time at all?” I said. “Yesterday was no time at all.”
I used to write a blog every day. Now I’m down to maybe one per week.
Writing takes place during breakfast. Keying in is about 45 minutes to an hour per day, and that ain’t enough for an entire blog. That may take three days: “yesterday” becomes “a couple days ago,” which becomes “a week ago.”
I also have other computer functions I hafta do, bookkeeping, bill-paying, etc. My calendar got done and ordered over the hospital’s wi-fi. But I couldn’t take my giant printer with me. Christmas-cards got processed here at home in the middle of January.
Then there is computer madness.
I just recently installed this fantabulous bank app on my Smartphone that allows me to photograph and deposit checks. Great idea, five minutes online here at home instead of driving to the bank.
So I set about to deposit a check from the State.
It of course wanted a password, but my password didn’t work.
So much for five minutes.
“Forgot password” led to “reset password” via e-mail from the bank.
And of course, what you type isn’t shown, so mistypes are valid.
Mistypes are common to a stroke-survivor, but if you can’t see ‘em, you can’t correct.
After all this horsing around I was up to an hour, so I gave up. I would deposit the check in a couple days when I drove past the bank.
But then I had to log into my bank from my laptop.
My Firefox browser has a gizmo for memorizing passwords, and, of course, the password it had memorized wasn’t my new password. So that crashed too. I couldn’t even get into my bank.
I called the bank, and got a service-rep. Amazingly she could speak English — she didn’t sound Indian.
We reset my password yet again, and it was the same password my Smartphone wanted.
My laptop Firefox gizmo probably memorized a mistype.
Great; five minutes of processing took two hours.
I’m supposed to wedge in exercising amongst laundry, lawn-mowing, my many appointments, and our wondrous technological advances. (“Can you hear me now?”)

• On December 7th, 2015, I had my left knee replaced. On August 26th I had my prostate-gland removed because it was cancerous. I took my computer for both hospitalizations, although I wasn’t able to do anything following my prostatectomy.
• Each year I produce a calendar of train photos by my brother and I taken near Altoona, PA. I pass out these calendars as Christmas presents. My brother and I are both railfans interested in photography. —This year my calendar was produced in the hospital.
• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered. But it left me with sloppy keyboarding, among other small detriments - like taking away my ability to play piano. But I can pass for never having had a stroke.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sam, Sam, the junkman

During my 16&1/2 years of driving bus for Regional Transit Service (RTS), the provider of transit bus service in Rochester (NY) and environs......
They had a rule that a bus-driver had to show up on time. This was to the second, which may seem ridiculous to the average person.
But I felt it eminently fair, since it took management out of the equation. A driver had to report on time; there was no management cutting favors.
If you reported late, you “slipped.” That was what it was called.
An extra driver was assigned your work, and you might lose the entire day, unless they needed you elsewhere.
Slip enough times and you were fired.
Over 16&1/2 years I never slipped, although I tried hard once.
I was going to ride my motorcycle, but it started pouring. I had to park my motorcycle and get out my car.
I made it, barely. I had to run.
Bus-drivers used to play the rule.
They’d watch the clock, and report maybe 2-3 seconds early.
What I did was report 15-20 minutes early, so I could check lugnuts on my bus.
Lugnuts are what hold the wheel on.
The bus-company has since instituted some gizmo to indicate loose lugnuts.
But back during my time I had to check ‘em with my fingers.
I’d find loose lugnuts often enough to keep checking. When I did, I was punished by sending me to the tire-room to have ‘em tightened.
That’s 5-10 minutes, which woulda been late-out if I’d not shown up early.
I wanted to be on-time, since I’d long-ago rode bus myself.
Of course, Transit woulda been happy to fire me if a wheel fell off and creamed a four-wheeler; and/or sent me into the trees.
I had an afternoon pull-out at 1:30 or so. Sam, Sam, the junkman was behind the window, taking reports and assigning buses.
Sam and I weren’t friendly. Sam was a jerk.
Sam eventually got fired. He’d gone out on disability; supposed back-problems.
Except management photographed him moving his sister’s sofa. That was like him, a jerk.
I showed up to report, and Sam assigned me a bus.
I went out to look for it, but it wasn’t there.
So I went back inside to see Sam again.
He assigned me another bus.
Also not there, so I went back.
Sam assigned me another bus.
Also not there; back again.
This was getting my Irish up.
After five tries, I castigated Sam.
“Games, my man? I haven’t got all day, and I’m not interested in running back-and-forth.”
True to form, Sam snarled and hit me with the third degree.
In Sam’s favor, there’s a pretty good likelihood bus-drivers were just taking whatever bus they wanted, oblivious to their assignment.
I call him “Sam, Sam, the junkman” because he usually assigned me junk — a bus that would hardly operate.
The afternoon pull-outs were often Park-and-Rides, and usually merited a Park-and-Ride bus, a soft-seater over-the-road bus with a three-speed transmission — not a city bus, which had hard fiberglas seats and a two-speed tranny.
Sam would see me coming and pick out the junkiest bus he could find, mainly because I wasn’t bellowing at him like other drivers.

• RE: “behind the window......” —The room where all the bus-drivers congregated was adjacent to an area where officials managed the drivers and assigned buses. This area was walled off by glass, and had small openings toward the drivers’ area; they were known as “the window.” A bus-driver would report for work at “the window,” after which he received a bus-assignment. “The window” also had a tape-recorder.
• “Tranny” is the transmission on a motor-vehicle.
• “Park-and-Rides” were trips from suburban or rural end-points, usually through Park-and-Ride parking-lots, where passengers would park their cars for a bus-ride to work in Rochester.