Friday, February 27, 2009
A desperate Kevin Berret, 39, of Pennsport (Phila), PA needed a single stamp to mail an almost-belated birthday card to his mother. As he opened his wallet, standing next to the neighborhood mailbox, he had a feeling that he had recently used the last remaining stamp from a book he purchased over three weeks ago. His hunch was correct.
All that remained of the Forever (Liberty Bell) double sided convertible booklet of 20 self-adhesive stamps were the 20 empty slots. Berret folded the booklet and placed the wax paper remnants into his wallet telling himself to 'think dammit.'
"At first I was like 'gaul dangit.' I was desperate and I was on my way to work with no time to stop at the Post Office. I just kept saying, 'get a hold of yourself.'"
His Center City bound bus was fast approaching the crowded stop and Berret was beginning to get frantic. It was then that he realized the empty booklet wasn't all together empty. He quickly fished for the booklet and staring him right in the eye (sun glare forced him to close his other eye) was the "21st Stamp."
Berret had heard stories about the "21 Stamp" but had never actually dared to use it. The cover from a self-adhesive book of stamps is quietly know as the "21st Stamp." It is not a stamp at all and pictures, in this case, a Liberty Bell, is four times the size of a normal stamp and displays a bar code. Often given to children as a toy sticker, the cover is worthless and mailing it further diminishes its value.
Berret hastily peeled the cover from the booklet, placed it on the envelop and dropped the card into the mailbox. The sound of his mail colliding with envelopes affixed with regular sized, bar code-less stamps sent his heartbeat racing.
"I got onto the bus and I could tell that everybody knew that I mailed the "21st Stamp." I could just feel it. I was sweating profusely. Could [the U.S. Post Office] track me by the bar code? I could see the on-duty mailman calling for backup once he discovered the stamp."
Several days later Berret's mother phoned to thank him for the card as this confirmed the cover from a book of self-adhesive stamps was mailed, and accepted, by the U.S. Post Office. The Center City architect let out a huge sigh.
"I am never doing that again."
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
At the southeast corner of JFK Blvd and 17th St there is an inordinate and unnecessary amount of standing taking place these days. Food stand patrons eat while standing, Septa employees take extended breaks while standing and impatient passengers wait, yes, while standing. All the while a perfectly good sitting ledge (pictured) stands idle just feet away.
Crowning the top of this ledge, however, are long, narrow, metal rails challenging passersby to sit at their own risk. This almost-waiting area is located at the base of a Center City office building adjacent to one of Septa's Suburban Station sidewalk elevator entrances. These rails render the ledge useless turning a possible bench into a ... ledge ... with rails.
"It's almost like they put them there on purpose or maybe they didn't. I can sit on them for maybe ten minutes at the most then I begin to lose the feeling in my legs," said Dan Roth, a Septa engineer.
Roth claimed that he was late for a shift several months ago after his legs fell asleep trying to sit on the ledge. The engineer had to be helped to his post by two coworkers.
Other prospective sitters feel that the building's management has no idea of the potential the ledge holds as a resting place. A Cooper-Sinclair survey shows that 5 out of 10 ledges, if given backs, would make great benches.
"I think they put the bars there for an artsy look. It's a good look. I mean I would sit on that ledge and eat my lunch if it wasn't for those metal bars and someone should tell them that," said Center City office worker Betsy Carmen.
Hot dog vendor Jim Selonski, who operates a stand yards from the ledge, feels that sales would increase 50-60% if the rails were removed. He claims that having his own "dining area" would set his stand apart from his competitors.
The building's management said they are considering removing the rails from 2-3pm, Monday through Friday and during random times over the weekend.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Tyler Steroyds, 45, of Norristown, PA is an avid fisherman. He is not, however, your everyday fisherman when it comes to the well-known North American style of angling with a rod. When the weather is nice, or even not so nice, you'll find him on the east bank of the Schuylkill River a stone's throw from the borough's Barbados Island with a bow and arrow.
One of the few area bow fishing enthusiasts remaining, Steroyds has decided to change his normal routine for the upcoming weekend by using a rod. The Delaware Valley Bow Fishing Alliance (DVBFA) member is always studying and investing in the latest bow fishing equipment in an effort to "think two or three steps ahead of the fish." Last week, however, after scouring outdoor gear catalogs and internet sites for weeks, he finally purchased a rod from Penn Reel.
"Steroyds using a rod?" said the fisherman's friend, Tom Giller,"I never thought that I'd see the day. It's about time Steroyds turned the screw on a rod."
Steroyds admits that he hasn't used a rod since he was child when he struggled to catch any type of fish claiming he "didn't like the style."
"It's like a rod was using me before; but this weekend Steroyds will use a rod to go fishing on both Saturday and Sunday," said Steroyds.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Rock covers have been used for years to hide anything from unsightly utility pipes, garden hoses, deceased pets, and even real rocks that are to heavy and cumbersome to move, but don't provide the ideal "fake rock" look for your landscaped yard.
Well, the list of items to hide just got even larger. That's right! You can now purchase the extra large rock covers to hide your own clunker or even a neighbor's hideous jalopy.
Carol Becks of Downingtown, PA, and her family, recently went from neighborhood outcast to neighborhood un-outcast. Several months ago the family was the recipient of an anonymous letter asking them to park their rusted 1982 white Datsun 210 station wagon in the garage. The letter went on to say that children were scared and local wildlife had retreated from the area.
"I think the letter was taking two shots at our family. Yes, our car has seen better days, I'll admit that. But, the fact is, we don't even have a garage," said Becks.
After purchasing her new rock car cover three weeks ago neighborhood children (and some from adjacent communities) come to her driveway by the droves. The large cover has also lured wildlife that the area, and in some cases North America, hasn't seen in years.
"It really just looks as if there is an extra large rock parked in my driveway. But children are playing on it and deer and hawks have made a nice home as well. Who would have thought?" said Becks.
During the snow storm the area received two weeks ago there was a line of 20-30 children down the driveway waiting to go sledding. Though she has had the cover a short time the manufacturer has assured Becks that the top of the rock cover should remain snow-capped year round.
Becks' neighbor, Jim Ramirez, is determined to climb to the top once spring arrives in the Delaware Valley. Ramirez, 39, is an experienced climber who summited K2 in the summer of 2007.
"It's high," Ramirez said, referring to the rock cover,"But I'm starting my planning and training now and hope to be ready by early May. The fact that it's hollow will only make the climb more arduous."
Becks still uses her Datsun 210 station wagon everyday and uncovering the car requires the help of her husband, Dan, toddler son, Jacob, and a tire jack.
Over the weekend, while raising the cover up for a trip to the supermarket, an ibex (pictured) came tumbling down the cover and into the driveway.
"We didn't see the ibex. I swear. It must have lost its balance when we raised the cover. He wasn't hurt at all. Then it just ran into the woods behind our house," said Becks.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Philadelphia area hospitals experienced a dramatic increase in the number of hip surgeries performed on children aged nine to fourteen beginning in late November. Some hospitals, who haven't carried out this type of childhood operation in years, have completed over twenty-five in the last two and a half months alone.
The profound increase has been linked to the immensely popular Chase Utley, Phillies' superstar second baseman, and his November 24th hip surgery carried out to ease an injury that followed him throughout the 2008 championship season.
Billy Canapolis, 12, stared at his near life-size poster of Chase Utley hanging proudly from his bedroom wall. On November 23th, the day before Utley's surgery, Canapolis, using a Phillies magic marker, diagrammed the area where the operation would take place. Later that same day the Lionville, PA resident marked his own hip hoping to one day follow in Chase's footsteps.
"My f'n dad told me I could get f'n hip surgery for Christmas just like Chase. It's been really f'n cool. All my f'n friends at school are like, 'you're so f'n lucky,'" said Canapolis, who had the hip procedure on January 11.
Other children having the surgery were not given a choice whether or not to go under the knife. Todd Mercker, 42, father of little leaguer Jeffrey, 11, forced his son into surgery in mid January. Jeffrey admittedly has very little interest in playing or watching baseball.
"If Chase is doing it then maybe this will get my son into the Major Leagues. At the very least it will get my son to appreciate baseball," said Mercker.
"I'm feeling much better now. The doctor said there were some infections. My dad told me we were going to buy video games; I didn't know anything about the surgery," said Jeffrey.
Pediatric surgeons have been put in a very uncomfortable place since November 24th. Being asked to perform surgery on perfectly healthy children can be stressful, even though the recovery time for that age is estimated to be a little more than a month-unlike the 4-6 months for Utley.
"[The children's] hips are just fine and at first I refused to even discuss surgery with the families. Then I began thinking that I could possibly be operating on a future Chase Utley. That would be pretty cool and great for business," said Dr. Simon Toliver M.D., cheif surgeon at Philadelphia County Medical Center.
Insurance companies are also stepping up to aid Delaware Valley children. Unnecessary medical procedures are normally dismissed by bottom line conscience providers faster than ... necessary procedures.
"Many of [the executives] agreed, 'What the hell, it's for the kids,'" said Debbie O'Donnel, CEO of Franklin and Jefferson Health Network, a Broomall health care provider.
Even the great Chase Utley can make surgery ... hip.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Rex Ryan (pictured holding helmet) the New York Jets new head coach learned that his task of turning the football club into a Super Bowl contender just became a bit more difficult. Yesterday, Brett Favre, the record-setting quarterback, decided to finally end his 18-year career.
Favre only played for the Jets for one season in which he admittedly underperformed, particularly at the end of the year. The team had very high expectations when they traded for the future Hall of Famer just before the 2008 season.
"The Bayou is calling," said Favre, referring to his native southern Mississippi upbringing and offseason home. "There's crayfish hunting to catch up on and I need to check the ATV trails."
Coach Ryan was very surprised by the news saying this was not an option he prepared for. Though the Packer legend had a subpar 2008 season, the coach has tailored the offense around the 39-year-old Favre since accepting the position several weeks ago. So integral to the coach's plans was Favre that several "warnings" have been issued by the new head man.
"At first I was calm about it and told him to just think [retirement] over. He wouldn't even do that for me. Then I asked him if he knew what the word bounty meant. And I didn't mean the paper towel," said a visibly upset Ryan.
After the quarterback laughed off the bounty, calling it "very 1988," the coach tried a new tactic and warned Favre that he knew of his weakness for pork chops. "I would hate to see anything happen to him while eating his precious pork chops," said the coach.
"It's true," said Favre, "I do like to eat pork chops."
Ryan's father, Buddy Ryan, was the controversial head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1986 to 1990, who allegedly used a bounty in 1988 to intimidate Dallas Cowboys' kicker and former Eagle Luis Zendejas (pictured). In 1990 another Ryan incident occurred when Buddy began choking on pork chops while in a restaurant with Ted Plumb, his offensive coordinator.
"If Rex had threatened to put a bounty on my pork chops then I may have reconsidered," said Favre.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Another company has decided to leave the Phelps business. Kakadu Bongs, Inc., a bong maker based in Nimbin, Australia, has decided to terminate its 8-year contract with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps after signing the deal this past September.
This is the second sponsor to drop Phelps after a photo was recently published showing the Beijing 8-time gold medalist smoking marijuana. Kellogg, the world's largest cereal maker, was the first company to end a relationship with Phelps.
"We're just really disappointed with Michael," said Kevin Bernardo, president of Kakadu Bongs, Inc., shaking his head. "Just plain disappointed."
Saturday, February 7, 2009
The Coatesville,Pa area has been hit with yet another arson fire. The fire on Friday night in a mobile home park was the 23rd arson fire of the year for this city living in fear.
As far as ATF, FBI and Coatesville Police officials can tell the arsonist randomly chooses a property to set fire to in the proximity of this former steel town in rural Chester County. He or she then carries the supplies necessary for lighting the fire to the chosen site. From evidence gathered thus far matches, lighters or lighter fluid, the typical tools of an arsonist, are not used.
This sick and twisted fire-lover is a purist, which is extremely rare for an arsonist. This person uses sticks, bark, dried grass and animal dung to ignite his flames of fury. The FBI is still uncertain as to which animal dung—a fuel for fire in some countries—the arsonist is using, but it shows the qualities of deer or rabbit waste.
Once a spark has come from the twisting and rubbing of sticks, along with the combination of dung and grass, a hand bellow (pictured below) is used to fan the flame into a destructive roar.
"Because this guy is using old methods of fire starting he can spend anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours at the site attempting to start the fire," said FBI agent, Graham Northton.
The long period of time it takes to start the fire should make it easier for witnesses to report or authorities to apprehend the criminal. The boyscout methods, however, make it nearly impossible to trace the items' origins—sticks, bark and dung are not common items in local stores.
"I thought I heard a rubbing noise the other night on the side of the house, so I went to check it out," said Rob Lance, resident of neighboring Caln Township. "There was a a hole in my vinyl siding stuffed with grass and horse [manure] and a stick on the ground with a warm tip."
Authorities feel that the key to catching the arsonist is the hand bellow.
"Some agents feel that stopping the arsonist lies in tracing the dung. We really argue about this because I feel that it's the bellow. If we can get that bellow and talk to local bellow makers than this should be solved," said Northton.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Tampa, FL—Last Sunday evening the NFL honored the crew of US Air flight 1549 at the Super Bowl just prior to kickoff. The heroes responsible for landing the Airbus A320 jetliner on the icy Hudson River without one casualty were given a loud ovation from the crowd and were delighted to be in attendance.
"This is really special. I want to thank the NFL for inviting me and my crew," said pilot Chesley Sullenberger after the game. "It was secretly even more special."
At the time the pilot did not expand on his "more special" comment and was not asked by reporters to go into further detail. Reports have now surfaced that the pilot and crew wanted a bigger part in the Super Bowl pregame.
Yesterday, it was reported that Sullenberger and the crew first requested an appearance fee to show up before the championship game. Then, when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell refused to pay, they demanded to sing the national anthem.
"I was completely shocked when they asked for an appearance fee. Then they demanded the anthem for which we had Ms Hudson slated to sing. Co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles said, 'either we sing the song or we fly outta here.' I told them we can work something out," said Goodell.
The national anthem was sung by the popular Oscar winner and former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson. The Chicago native brought the house down with a beautiful rendition of the song. Her own version?
Goodell, Sullenberger and Hudson met several hours before the game to work on a compromise. Hudson expressed that she was starstruck to be in the presence of such great American heroes and would do whatever it took to get something worked out.
After two hours of often heated negotiations it was finally agreed that the flight 1549 crew would record the anthem in a studio prior to the game and Hudson would lip sync the recording. It was also determined that both the stadium and television audiences would not be informed of the change.
"It was difficult for one person to lip sync to a recording of five people singing, but I think I was able to pull it off. I think everyone thought that it was my voice," said Hudson.
Notes: The flight crew said they had mild flashbacks of the January 15th emergency landing when Hudson(spelled like the river) was introduced to the crowd.
The crew will sing the national anthem(on the field) at this weekend's Pro Bowl and will also co-host the 2009 Oscar's on February 22nd with Hugh Jackman. "I have a couple zingers already written," said Sullenberger.
Monday, February 2, 2009
The city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County celebrated the Steelers NFL-record sixth Super Bowl victory well into the early morning hours. At the time of this publication there were no reported injuries or deaths.
The city did, however, suffer a major loss when an estimated 200,000 rabid Steeler fans celebrated by throwing their Terrible Towels—towels adorned with Steelers colors and logos—into the Monongahela River. Fans were attempting to "dye the river yellow" by letting the towels float down stream and into the Ohio River. The loss, however, was not the towels.
The revelers crossed the Smithfield St Bridge, Liberty Bridge and the 10th St Bridge toward the peninsula, while others moved against pedestrian traffic toward Station Square and East Carson St. Meanwhile, ShamWow, an ultra-absorbent towel maker, outfitted many of the raucous celebrants with free towels as a promotion for the cleaning product company—The Terrible ShamWow.
"The first Terrible ShamWow towel into the river was an accident, but the yellow looked real cool so we all started tossing the towels in," said Ben Shafer, a celebrating fan from Slippery Rock, PA.
The Terrible ShamWows began to absorb massive amounts of river water at an alarming rate. Drunken, stumbling fans were too caught up in the excitement to realize the consequences that such a high concentration of ShamWows would mean for the waterway. Pittsburgh Police made a valiant effort to save the river.
"[The Police] made a great attempt to stop the fans, but it was too late. The entire river was gone within a matter of twenty-five minutes," said Officer Leslie Stokes. "There's no telling where a liquid goes once it enters a ShamWow. The Monongahela was my favorite of the three rivers. It had a certain ... flow."
The Monongahela River flows almost 130 miles from West Virginia north into Pittsburgh. It is one of only a handful of northern flowing rivers in the world. Together with the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers the city earned the nickname Steel City of Three Rivers.
"We're the city of Three Rivers and it's going to be costly and time consuming to rewrite all of the city's tourism literature to say 'City of Two Rivers,'" said Luke R. Ravenstahl, mayor of Pittsburgh.
"I really don't know what to say other than it really was a great river and there are still two more," said ShamWow president, Tyler Shamwow.