Saturday, February 26, 2011

Early life on a dirtpile

The Pile!

When my wife and I talk about our education we realize how different we were educated and raised. This should come as no surprise. She was raised in an area in Quebec where aluminum mining was the big industry. I was raised in an area of New York where the big industry was iron ore mining. That is where the similarity ends.

Her dad was the Assistant Superintendent of the company, my dad was the guy who went into the ground every day. A dangerous place. There were many mine widows in our town.
Sadly, my wife's dad could never become the big boss of the facility. He had the education. He spoke perfect English, but he was French Canadian. The facility was owned by English people. He could drink coffee with them but he would never be invited to join the country club.
It was very much like being a black man in Mississippi during the 60's. As long as you stayed in your place life was OK. The French Canadians were treated like second class citizens in their own province. This may help explain why "Parti Quebecois" became so powerful.
But that is another story.
This is about kids being educated and socialized.
My wife is surprised that I can remember all of my teachers from Kindergarten to high school. I am not.
She was educated by nuns. They all looked alike when she was in school. They wore black with white trim. Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Elizabeth looked like twins.
She did not have teachers with colorful nicknames like Peg Leg, Hose Nose, Frizzy, Fossil, Whitie, Bull, and Izzy, to name a few.
Some of the students had very colorful names also. Most of the names were some type of animal like Beaver, Horse, Dogbone, Mole, Cougar, Cub, Munger, Slats, and Carp, to name a few. That was my class only. I am sure some of the other classes had some colorful names also.

The teachers who survived and got tenure were actually quite good. You had to be pretty dedicated to hang around and teach at this school. The school was built on a pile of tailings. Our campus was dirt, gray dirt. If you left the windows open you could hear the sounds of ore cars coming out of the mines and the 2:20 PM explosion. The ground would rumble. They're getting more ore ready for the next shift.
One thing we have in that area is dirt, mountains of dirt.

The people who worked in these mines were a very diverse group. There were many names with "ski" at the end. I guess that would be the Polish People. We had black people who came from South Carolina to find work. We had numerous Spanish people, many French Canadians and of course, the Irish.

I lived a sheltered life for a while. I didn't actually meet a black person until I went to school. Let me correct that. I didn't actually see a black person until I started school.
I was waiting for the school bus which would drop off kids at the school.
The bus arrives and kids start getting off the bus. Suddenly this really black human gets off the bus. I was shocked. I never saw a person with that particular condition. Whatever he had I didn't want to catch it. I didn't know whether to run, poop my pants or go blind. I was traumatized. I eventually got over it. I made a full recovery from this trauma. The guy actually became a good friend later in my teen years.

My school never had a "gay" issue. Huh?...Well, maybe.
I knew of some people who were "different". The one person who really stood out as being gay was not really given a hard time. It was more insidious and subtle. He really wasn't "one of the boys". He was tolerated.
The odd thing, a couple of my classmate came out as gay later in life. I didn't have a clue that they were thinking of joining that club. It's a choice, right? (wink! wink!)

No child left behind? What a concept! There were no Special Education classes when I was in school. If you had an education issue, too bad for you. About half the class I started with in Kindergarten was left behind. It was a miracle that I didn't fall behind.
I made it through. I was horrible in math until 9th grade. The light bulb finally went on.
I was good at physical Education.(Gym)

Life on the dirt pile was interesting. This town of 5 hamlets had about 7,000 people in 1970. Numerous churches, 3 small high schools, 2 catholic schools, 5 post offices, numerous taverns and eateries and big brother, THE COMPANY!!!

The Company decided to close the mines in 1972. They could import steel cheaper.
Outsourcing began. 800 people lost their jobs. My dad retired in 1972. He collected a pension, social security, free health insurance for the next 33 years. Not too bad. I hope to do the same. That will take me right up to 2041. I don't know what I will do after that. I will be getting close to 100 years old.

The town is still there but they are dying a slow painful death. Me too. I hurt everywhere already. 

Pictured: Miners on their way to work.

Note:While getting information for this blog I came across a side story that is interesting.  It was a topix blog called "Remember when". It happened in my hometown.

Pictured: My school literally on a dirt pile.

December 1968: (posted by HWH)
I was at HWHenry(a car dealership) having a beer with Dick F, George B. , C. Henry, and Mark S.
Mark took a bottle of beer, put it on a steel beam in the back of the garage.  He said he would drink this bottle when he gets back from Vietnam.  
End of story? Not really. They say the bottle is still there.  The building is now the firehouse.  
April 26 would be 42 years.  Mark would be 62 years old now.  
Let me know for sure if the bottle of Genesee is still there.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Irony defined? A True Tale of geocaching.

Irony defined: A state of affairs or an event that seem deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

My wife and I recently  became geocachers.  One of my internet friends occasionally made reference to "geocaching" .  I tried to ignore it, but it just kept popping up.  I am a naturally curious person.  I googled it ...  I google everything.
It brought me to a website which, strangely was called "Geocaching".

The website defines geocaching as: A recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website.
In other words, finding tupperware in the woods using billion dollars worth of military satellites.  
This sounded like a fun activity to me.  It would be easy enough to get started: I already  had a TomTom GPS for our vehicle.  I signed up on  It was free and I found a few simple caches near our home.  
I was hooked.  Since a TomTom would not do the job out in the woods, I  started looking for a GPS that would best suit my needs.  
 A GPS saying, "Turn left on Ocean Blvd." would not be very helpful.  The actual decision took me only about four months.
One day my wife said to me, " Are you going to buy that GPS before you die?"
I had it the next day.  My biological clock is ticking, you know!

After a couple of days figuring out how to put my batteries in and turn it on, I was ready to geocache.  The little French lady went with me on my first few geocaches.
She seemed amused by my antics.  I would slither on the ground like a lizard, get hung up in bushes, have brambles in my hair, walk in dog poop, pick up dog poop thinking a cache would be hidden under it.  Once I even crawled under a gazebo looking for a cache.  A woman came along and asked my wife if she should call 911.  My wife talked her out of it.  I generally made a mess of myself while geocaching.

One day the little French lady asked some question about my GPS.  She started showing a little interest in my new hobby.  The next time we went geocaching she started questioning my navigational skills.  I was meandering all over the place.
Finally, she said, "Gimme that thing!" . Sigh... I did not see much of my Garmin Etrex that day.  Every once in a while I would whimper, "Can I look at it?"  The next day she ordered a Garmin GPS for herself.   She was hooked.

We learned about geocaching very quickly.  But...alas, not fast enough.  We would take a trinket out  and put a different one back in.  The trinkets are called "swag".
Somewhere in the beginning we apparently made some breach of  swag etiquette.
One of the cache owners sent us a nastygram accusing us of replacing her high price swag (her treasure)  with our cheap swag (our trash).  She said we plundered her cache.  We acknowledged that her swag may have been more valuable than ours. We did not consider our swag as  "trash", nor did we plunder her cache.  We didn't think swag was the point of geocaching, and we still do not.  Nonetheless she called us everything but a human being, which we thought might be considered a breach of etiquette also.  We were kinda taken aback by the whole incident.  I guess "One man's treasure is another man's trash".
We decided we would place our own cache and dedicate it to this incident.  Naturally we called it, "One man's treasure".  Wanting to keep with the theme, we decided to hide it at an appropriate place, near a flea market.  But ... we had no idea how ironic the whole story would be.
Life can be funny.

We received an email this morning from a geocacher named "The Shady Lady".
Here's what she said: "We  saved this cache! The landscape clean-up crew had thrown it in the garbage.  They were pretty interested to hear the explanation of geocaching and will be on the lookout for other mysterious containers that may pop up in their line of work. Tftc (Thanks for the Cache)".

Whew! that was close.  From Trash back to treasure!!!  Thanks, Shady Lady for saving GC2N3XP (One man's treasure).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Report from the Hemlock Institute.

Life in America

A skewered look at life on this planet.  Brought to you by the Hemlock Institute, an non-profit think tank running on fumes.

Think tanks are quite adept at making prediction.  I will make some predictions.
  • In the year 2030: There will be millions of people walking around with their heads bent to one side.  They will have radiation marks on their face from cellphone microwaves.  Chiropractors will become millionaires.  They will be new rich. 
  • New type cellphones will be put out by Apple.  It will be implanted in your ear at birth. Sadly you will not be able to sign up for "Do not call" until your eighteenth birthday. Many teenager will go insane while others will go bankrupt buying stuff from telemarketers.  
  • Cigarette companies will come out with Nicotine flavored baby food. 
  • Governor Lindsay Lohan will sign the California free drug law into effect.  This will drive the Mexican Cartels out of business.  She will also sign into law the "English again law".  This will once again make English the first language in California after a 12 year absence.  English may be taught in schools again.  The Latino community is furious.  Since they are 70% of the citizens of the state they should have some say in the decision.  Texas is keeping an eye on the developments. They may also switch to English.
  • Airport security is starting to get slack again.  You will no longer have to go through the checkpoints completely naked.  You will be issued a washcloth to use as you deem appropriate.  After the inspection you will be issued a orange jump suit get on the plane.  Your baggage will be forwarded on a flatbed railroad car.  You can pick it up at a train station closest to your destination.
  • Movies with people wearing clothing is coming back into vogue.  Studies have shown that people wearing certain clothes can be very sexy and provocative.  Hence, any movie with clothed people will be rated "R" or "X".
  • A member of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas questioned whether they were doing the right thing.  They told him that he was a homosexual and deserved to die.  Some things never change.
  • The Democratic majority in Congress voted to revoke the Republican revocation of the previous revocation of the revocation of the Obama health bill.  They were all in agreement that they should get a big raise.  It was voted into law 99 to 1.  The one "no" vote was by Bernie Saunders of Vermont.
  • The average adult American now weighs 294 pounds.  Down from a high of 302 from 6 years ago. McDonald's has downsized their Mac (no longer called the big Mac) to a half pound.  The Biggest Loser is on Every night of the week on every channel.  The average would be higher if it wasn't for the diabetics, which is now 83% of the population.  The diabetics are dropping like leafs in October.
  • Destiny Lovechild is voted Playboy's playmate of the Year. The beauty from Los Angeles, Mexifornia is 6 ft 3 inches in heighth, she weighs in at a hefty 107 pounds. She has broken the mold.  She is the first to weigh in over 100 pounds since Angela "Porky" Gonzales, who hit the scale at a whopping 109 pounds on her 5'11" frame. That was 9 years ago.
  • The blockade of Cuba is in its 73rd year.  The President hopes to have troops out of Afghanistan by 2035.
  • The chairperson of the Republican party once again scoffed at the idea of global warming.  He issued this from his Condo at the Little America, Antartica after 18 holes of golf.
  • A District Attorney for Cook County Illinois stated that Johnnie Lee Jones, a convicted murderer was innocent.  He showed ample evidence of police misconduct, videotape showing the real murderer doing the deed, incompetence by Johnnie's attorney,  Proof that Johnnie was somewhere else, (he was in Washington, testfiying before Congress at the very second of the murder), and someone elses DNA at the scene.   The DA was fired.  When questioned, Cook County officials stated that Jones was convicted by his peers.  (12 white guys with a IQ total of nearly 100). No new trial for Johnnie.  He will be executed on schedule.
  • Microsoft has solved "The blue screen of death" problem.  It is now red.  It will be called "The red screen of death".
  • Clint Eastwood stated he may run for Mayor of Carmel, Mexifornia again.  He must finish his last Harry Callahan adventure called "The nursing home caper."  Quick plot line: Someone steals Harry's "Depends".  He tracks them down and beats the crap out of them or something like that.  Actually, He just touched their belly and said, "I know what your thinking. Did I have five depends or 6 depends?  Well, Frankly, with all the excitement and my Alzheimer's, I kinda lost track myself. Being that I just took in a boxful of prunes this morning, the most powerful laxative known to man,  you have to ask yourself, "Do I feel luck, punk? Well, do ya?....Oops!"  "GIVE THEM TO ME........NOW!!!!!!"......Well, I guess you get the idea.
  • There is a new program on TV called "Press the meat". It is about life in the Salami and cold cut industry. 
  • Former President Obama returns home to Kenya.  Ummm!...Huh?...Even that one surprised me.
  • Former President George Dubbaya Bush finally learned how to say strawtiggery.
  • Colleges have adopted the "No Student must fail".  You can just send the college the tuition money and you get drunk for 4 years.  At the end of four years you get your degree.  Hmmm? That didn't change much except for the "No Student must fail" part.
Well, I have given you a glimpse of the future.  We (WE???) here at the Hemlock Institute continue to notice the trends of the day and can predict the future from these trends.  That is what a think tank does.  I think..possibly, could be, perhaps, maybe.
I can say these things unequivocally.
I could be wrong.