Monday, January 19, 2015

4006 The State Resort

Monday, January 19, 2015

The minute you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.
 --Peter Pan--


In 1967 into '68 I lived near Schwenksville, Pa.  I was living with and trying to leave Ex#1, and temporarily  teaching at the high school  in Lansdale.  (There's a whole story around that period of my life.  Maybe someday....)

The apartment was part of a large old house surrounded by fields.  I had heard that there was a prison just over the fields, but there were trees between, and you couldn't see it from the house.

One day there was an escape.  Lots of excitement, police everywhere, "lock your doors", and so on.

I was thinking about the prison the other day, wondering exactly where it was in relation to the house, what kind of prison it was (high or low security) and so on, so I went to Google maps and looked for it.

With Google maps, sometimes if you click on a labelled spot, like a hotel or resort, you get all kinds of information, including reviews.  So I clicked on it.

I got reviews.  They are funny.  Note the "impromptu activities".

State Correctional Institution at Graterford

3 stars  -  Set in the rolling hills of the Perkiomen countryside, Graterford stands out with this prominent industrialized complex. It is a diversified self-contained facility with many activities to keep guests entertained. Scheduled activities include ping pong, weight lifting, exercise class and book club. Special impromptu activities include hide and seek, man hunt and “you’re getting hotter/colder”. . Short-term and long-term visits can be scheduled through the department of corrections.

5 stars - It's an all inclusive resort for some of the states finest criminals. The experience is second to none, that is why many return multiple times.

Later edit - it's a maximum security prison. They even have a death row, although executions are not carried out there.  A proportion of the prisoners are under 23-hour lockdown, one hour a day out for exercise, only one visitor allowed per month.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

4005 Hands, Furnace

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Is it better for a man to have chosen evil, than to have good imposed upon him?
--A. Burgess, A Clockwork Orange--


I'm having a weird reaction to hands lately.  Whenever I see hands in a photo, or even more recently in a video, my immediate thought is that there are too many fingers.  Especially if the fingers are spread.   I have to count them to be sure.

So far, in real life, hands remain "normal". 

Something weird going on in my brain?


I woke up this morning to a very cold house.  I still had power.  I still had gas - the stove worked.  I checked the box and the circuit breakers were on.  I checked the gas bill and I'm paid up.  But BOTH thermostats were dark and unresponsive, and there was nothing coming from the heat vents.

I have two thermostats, one upstairs, one down.  I have two furnaces in the attic, one for upstairs and one for down.  It freaked me out that both were dead.  Both, at once.  Both?

It took me several calls to find someone who would come out and check, but I finally found someone willing to make an emergency call on a Sunday.  A rainy Sunday.

The problem, it turned out, was in the thermostats.  The batteries were dead in both.  Yes, they do run on house current, and I had assumed the batteries were just for backlighting when you need to see the display in the dark, but apparently not.  According to the service guy, the batteries do a lot more, and allowing them to die can burn out the thermostat.  We put new batteries in, and now everything's working.  (Yeah, I was aware the batteries needed replacing, but I couldn't figure out how to open the case.)

"But, both at once?  Both during the night?"

He pointed out that if the upstairs one had gone out first, with the heat coming up the stairs from downstairs, I might not have noticed for a long time.

...Yeah, I did notice the last few baths and showers have been a bit of a shock when I got out.  With the bathroom door closed (to keep a curious Jasper from falling in the tub; he likes to splash water) there was no heat in there.

Lesson - change the batteries in your thermostat occasionally.

4004 Friends

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
--Martin Luther King, Jr. --


A few days ago I mentioned that I talk to no one much now  other than Daughter and store clerks.  Yeah.  That's quite different from four years ago in the Hudson Valley.  I was very active there in Mensa and the Albany and Poughkeepsie/Newburgh Meetup groups, and a few other things I belong to.  A lot of going out to movies, luncheons, dinners, hikes, activities --- a lot of conversation.

Here,  nothing.

I checked out the local chapter of Mensa.  There seems to be two subsets of the group.  The bunch near me seems to be overweight male basement-dwelling WoW types who don't much talk at all.  The more interesting folks congregate around Princeton.  They are fun --- but Princeton is a bit of a distance on a busy highway, and the drive just doesn't feel worth the effort.

I tried Meetup, but there are few dinner-and-conversation groups.  It seems to be mostly oriented toward booze, bars, and bands, or very young folks doing very physical things.  All that's left after that is special-interest groups, mostly woo-woo types.  Also, the people are different.  They are not as aware of what's going on in the world, not as well-read, not as intellectual as I'm used to in the Albany area.  They seem pretty xenophobic and racist.  I just don't fit in with any of that. 

I tried starting my own dinner and conversation Meetup group, and discovered that even if nine people reserve a spot at the table, that doesn't mean any of them will actually show up.  That is a major problem here, all of the organizers complain about it, and I guess it's the main reason activities are of the happy-hour type.   Then it doesn't matter so much; if 50 people sign up and 30 blow it off, who cares.

I looked for a volunteer group, like the RSVP (Retired & Seniors Volunteer Program) I had worked with up north, but although there are literally thousands of sub-chapters within 20 miles of here, 99.9% are in NYC.  The few things in NJ are hospice and animal rescue groups, and I know me well enough to know that I have to stay away from anything where I'll get emotionally involved.  I DID find the volunteer tax-prep assistance locally, something I did back in the Hudson Valley, but believe it or not, the classes for that ended January 17.  Today.  Missed it.

Upstate I was also into volunteer civil/small claims court mediation, but there doesn't seem to be anything like here.  


Yeah, I've got neighbors, but, frankly, I'm not into that kind of thing.  I'm actually more than a bit of a loner.  In fact, I'm very much a loner.  I really don't want people who are there all the time.  I guess I don't really want friends.  Not that kind.   I've often in my youth been hurt by friends who, now that they know a lot about you, suddenly turn on you, and know exactly how to hurt you.  I never understood that.  It seems like friendships take a lot of work, and steel emotions. 

I think I got turned off by stuff I saw happen in the upstate NY Mensa group, too.  Like what happened with May.  May and her husband, I'll call him Joe, hosted a weekly Happy Hour in Kingston, with a core group of ten or so people every week.  That went on for like ten years.  And every year they hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for all members without families.   And then Joe died.  The night he died, sitting in his recliner at home, May called me, I rushed over there, I walked her through making the necessary calls, took her to the undertaker and lawyer over the next few days, and so on.  No one else, of all those people, helped her.  I called the editor of the newsletter to tell him to put a notice in the next issue, and he refused, because Joe "was not a member".  I was furious!  Everyone knew Joe!  He was always with May at every event.  Everyone knew May.  How can you just ignore his death!?  How can he not matter!

And then there was NJ.  NJ was one of the founding members of that local Mensa group. She was the newsletter editor for years, and was the treasurer for decades.   She hosted three of the biggest and best annual parties every year, including food and champagne for all at her own expense (and she was far from rich).  Everyone went to them.  Then she came down with colon cancer.  No one knew until we all went to her annual Moonlight Madness party and discovered she was wearing a chemo pump.  When she had to resign her job in White Plains (under threat of layoff) just before her surgery, like three weeks after that party, she asked the group for assistance clearing out her personal belongings.  That Saturday, one other guy (the aging hippy) and I were the only people to show up.  Nobody else even acknowledged her need.  That really pissed me off.

I thought May and NJ had a lot of friends in Mensa.  Maybe not bosom buddies, but still a lot better than mere acquaintances.  I guess not.  Once they seemed no longer useful, once they weren't throwing parties any more, they were pretty much cast adrift.

Let's not forget my experience with FW, she who started out a friend, and ended up scaring me half to death with her demands and accusations.  The one The Man called my psycho exgirlfriend.  She was poison to my mental health.  I made a serious mistake there.   (Actually, she turned out to have problems with others, too.  She had been elected president of the local Mensa group, but was relieved of her duties under threat from national, and ultimately resigned from the group altogether after some unpleasant interactions with others.)

I don't get it.  I really don't.  I don't know how this "friends" stuff is supposed to work and I'm afraid to try.  It's just too hard, and I don't understand the rules, I guess.  I don't want friends anyway.  All I really want is compatible people to converse with occasionally, that's all, and I can't seem to find even that.  Not around here, anyway.

On the other hand, I am perfectly comfortable with my own company, especially these days when my body rebels frequently, so I'm not suffering any, either.

(Daughter seems to have a lot of friends, but I've noticed the friends she has now are not the same ones she had two years ago.)