There are three graphics going around Facebook these days that cause me to pause and contemplate. They’re supposed to be funny and the originator probably didn’t intend them to provoke deep philosophical thoughts, but nonetheless.

The last few years have just been something. I remarked the other day that having the rug pulled out from under my feet every 30 seconds or so should feel normal; it should no longer surprise me or provoke nothing more than an off-hand comment of “here we go again.”

Still, I’m surprised, outraged, demoralized, saddened, defeated or whatever emotion the Lucy-with-the-football moment has provoked. This proves something although I’m not sure what. Perhaps it proves that finding contentment in chaos is pretty damned difficult, but I suspect that any of the Buddhists of my acquaintance could have told me that. I wouldn’t have argued with them either because I am having a right awful time with finding any contentment, much less holding on to it long enough to marvel at the positive aspects of chaos.

I tried to abolish the rest of July the other day, but folks celebrating a birthday this month were opposed. In truth, it’s not just been July that’s been a problem so it was a flawed idea – a no solution solution.

Right on schedule, at about the age of 30 or so, I noticed that I didn’t know one single normal person. In talking with other people, I gather this is a rite of passage. Young’uns get this idea from somewhere that at the appropriate calendar moment they will enter the great society of something called “grownups” and much of the drama of the playground, school hallway and sports fields will cease. Decisions will be thoughtful and correct. Maturity and right-thinking will be abound and between bouts of doing the right thing, flossing our teeth, paying our bills on time, and running well-ordered lives, the “grownups” will look around, take a gander at what’s not working and correct it.

Poppycock. This is probably the worst fairytale we tell our children. “Grownups” are nothing more than children without the qualities that make children such wonderful creatures. Worse, the quirks of childhood solidify into something heavy, dark and dreary. There is so much that we don’t outgrow. And some of what we do outgrow, perhaps we shouldn’t. How I would have loved the other day to stand up and shout “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” But grownups don’t do that. If we’ve been through enough classes, employee trainings, and CEU conferences, we might say something like “That’s not my understanding of what happened.”

By the age of 50, most of us understand that “normal” is nothing but a dryer setting. But chances are pretty good that we’re angry about that truth. At least that’s my take when a statement purporting to state the norm is always met by a “but.” “But” is a result of the residual anger from learning the playground bullies are still bullies, the tattletale is still tattling and we’re still using rock, paper, scissors to solve problems.

Some of us embark on Sinatra’s “My Way” to navigate our lives. We’ve learned that the “grownups” aren’t, there is no “normal” and the Buddha is always killed on the road. We resolve to pilot our own ship, forge our destiny, march to our own drummer, yada yada yada. While we’re heaping those platitudes on the Chinette plate of our lives, we pass over Donne’s “No Man is an Island.” Perhaps we never had a teacher make us read that bit of wisdom.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

John Donne

I’m not good at planning. I never have been, but like Charlie Brown, I continue to try. I set out from a to b with the simplest path in mind. I’m never very far when chaos reminds me I’m not an island and the rich, often rewarding, continent of my life is going to complicate the straight route I’ve planned.

I had plans for this weekend that were derailed before the first footstep. Before I could alter them appropriately, a tragedy unfolded killing folks I don’t know and I’m caught up in the tolling bells. While learning of that horror, I read of others and now Wordsworth’s “The world is too much with me” is complicating the hope of the Easy Way to prevail.


The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be

A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

William Wordsworth

Someone I knew, who died a few months ago, used to go on a media fast once a year to celebrate his birthday. For thirty days, he partook of no television, newspapers, Internet. It sounded like a fine idea, but I don’t have the self-discipline to effect such a total block. Periodically, I’ll declare a media fast lite where I refuse all but the lightest forms of media entertainment ignoring politics and the mayhem of what we call “news.”

Is finding contentment in chaos achieved by blinders? Maybe? Is it necessary to allow my senses to be assaulted by the mayhem with only literature as a bandage?

And why is it that I think if I could only restore order to my home, I could find some equanimity? I know this last thing to be true, because it’s worked so many times before. Is it because by controlling what I can, I buy into that childish myth that when I’m a grownup I’ll have the power to right wrongs?

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

I’m off to self-delude.


Guillotines, I tell you.

I’m not kidding.

While I sometimes do not agree with the way we use our Armed Forces troops, I support the troops.  Similarly, I’m whole-heartedly appreciative of and grateful to the workers of Appalachian Power who’ve had a hell of a couple of weeks getting (most of us) back up and running after the Derecho and subsequent storms, however. . .


Since corporations are people (and possibly boards, commissions, etc. etc., are too) and today is Bastille Day, it’s time for guillotines.

Appalachian Power’s customers have seen a rate increase of 50% over the past four years.  That increase might be more palatable to me if the reliability of my service was not declining more and more with each rate increase.  Significantly.  For the month prior to the Derecho, my service went out long enough EVERY DAY to necessitate the re-setting of clocks.  It’s become a routine, I return home and, starting in the kitchen, begin setting clocks.  Over the course of the past four years, a routine rain storm will leave me without power overnight or for several hours during the day about once a month.  Every day, several times a day, day in and day out, my power flickers.  I have lost many appliances, small and not so small, to the frequent flickerings/outages resulting in power surges.

The Derecho was historic and I appreciate that.  However, the U.S. Department of Energy has noted that, on average, it takes Appalachian Power four times longer to repair outages in West Virginia than the national average.  On the surface of things, one would attribute the difference to our state’s terrain and rural nature.  Well, Donald E. Walker, a technical analyst for the PSC looked into that factor.  He noted in a report that in comparison to areas of New York with similar terrain and similar instances of power outages, the reliability factor in West Virginia was below the norm.  Specifically, he said, “Other states with comparable operating conditions to those found in West Virginia reflect similar statistics found in the New York performance report,” Walker wrote. “It is therefore reasonable to expect utilities in our state to achieve the more stringent reliability index targets recommended by staff.”

However, Appalachian Power’s and the other utilities’ proposals for increasing the reliability of service in our state didn’t impress.  Ken Ward, Jr. wrote:

Officials from the PSC staff and the Consumer Advocate Division are concerned that plans proposed by the industry will do little to improve the reliability of West Virginia’s electrical system.

Last month, PSC staff warned commissioners that utility proposals would simply require companies “to complete work which was neglected for the past 10 years.”

Appalachian Power is not the first utility, nor do I suspect it to be the last, to rape and pillage West Virginia.  (And I don’t use those loaded words lightly.)

Verizon’s neglect of the communication system left West Virginia with sub-par telephone service and even worse broadband.  Frontier bought a pig in a poke and I won’t be surprised when they throw their hands up in the air and close shop.  After my hissy fit with good, old Ken, my phone service is stellar which proves it can be done (and could have been done), if more people had more hissy fits.  Guillotines, I tell you.

During my 6 days without power following a storm which followed the Derecho, I had a lot of time to cogitate and bitch.  I absolutely out did myself.  I did not bitch about the power outage, per se, I bitched about what I was reading all over the web.  I can’t prove it, so it’s anecdotal at best, but the citizenry of West Virginia in online forums, media comment sections, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites were reporting that the out-of-state electrical workers that rode in here on their white horses to help restore us our normal state of unreliability expressed surprise at how poorly the lines and the right-aways were maintained.  I’m not surprised, are you? If West Virginia were anywhere near the national norm, I would have been 2 days without power, not 6.

And for this privilege, I’m paying 50% more than I was 4 years ago and 4 years ago I was paying more than I was in the four year period prior to that and on and on and on.  My service continues to degrade.

Even Senator Manchin, who I really don’t like, managed to get his head out of his, ahem, long enough to speechify about how the U.S. should not be spending money on the electrical infrastructure in Afghanistan when West Virginia is falling apart at the seams.  We’ll leave for another time my thoughts on what part Manchin and the rest of the  coal-crazy robber baron politicians have played in the not-so-benign neglect of West Virginia’s infrastructure.

In another peachy editorial in the Charleston Gazette, I learned that last fall Appalachian Power’s parent company gave $1 million to a “social welfare organization” that denies being a lobbying organization.  Take a gander:

What is it called when AEP seeks limited government for its subsidiaries? Limits on the government that enacts and enforces environmental regulations? The government that reviews and enforces workplace safety? The government that evaluates rate increase requests? The government that reviews how companies respond during power outages?

If AEP is concerned about our social welfare, is it not reasonable to expect they’d want the people of West Virginia to be up and running after a power outage at least as soon as the folks in upstate New York?  They’re not concerned about our social welfare, you say?  I’d say your right.  And to that, I say, “Guillotines, damn it.”

And with any luck I’ll be able to post this before my power goes out again.  It’s been up and down like a yo-yo today. For no apparent reason — just like all the days before the Derecho.  I’m a little crazed these days.  There’s been way too much life happening and it’s not going to take much for my transformer to blow.  If you read or hear about some hillbilly woman with a homemade guillotine taking hostages, I’d appreciate a bail fund as the Derecho pretty much left me without much in the way of surplus funds.

So, before I could publish this, AEP came rambling up my hill to respond to my earlier service ticket.  I had quite a talk with the cutie driving the truck.  I told him my power woes.  He assured me he’d heard it all before.  He assessed the problem.  The right-away needs serious work.  He was dubious that a work order would ever be placed.  He said, “I’m not telling you this, but you need to file a complaint with the Public Service Commission.”  I told him that I routinely file complaints and to-date it’s not done one jot of good.  We talked some more, he allowed as to how there were some forms and whatnot he could submit that might get them moving.  Old Ken at Frontier surprised me, so maybe I’m wrong in not feeling optimistic that this will be repaired any time soon.

Common Sense

Thomas Paine

On January 10, 1776, 235 years ago today, Thomas Paine published anonymously the pamphlet Common Sense

Besides other terrific stuff, he said in the pamphlet:

Yet, as the domestic tranquillity of a nation, depends greatly on the chastity of what might properly be called NATIONAL MANNERS, it is often better to pass some things over in silent disdain, than to make use of such new methods of dislike, as might introduce the least innovation on that guardian of our peace and safety.

“National Manners” is not a new concept but one we seem to have abandoned.  Indeed, Mr. Paine, these are the times that try men’s souls.

If you have not read Paine’s masterpiece, it is available online in it’s entirety.

Chris Needham needs a pair.

Buzzardbilly (my separated-at-birth-and several-years-younger twin whom I’ve never met) has been blogging here, here and here about Chris Needham’s bashing of West Virginia and NBC’s publishing of said article.

The story broke about a week before Christmas, but I’ve been lost in my own little world and didn’t hear tell of any of it until just a couple of days ago. The governor is furious and lots of people, rightly, are asking for a retraction, an apology, and a follow-up news story.

Upon hearing the news, I was disgusted and my ire rose, but not enough to drag me into the fray. I was just too tired. (And I call myself an Appalachian Activist. Shame on me.) Well, after a few days of round-the-clock sleep, I’m about as mad as a body can get. My panties are twisted and knotted big time.

What an ass! (I’m referring to Chris and not that part of my body where the twisted panties are.)

Now Buzzardbilly has a way with words and, really, she’s the best person to read to fully understand why the original news article was so offensive as well as why Needham’s and NBC’s response to the criticism was so woefully inadequate. NBC pulled the article from its website and the people of West Virginia (and only the people of West Virginia) got a sorry if you were offended type of statement issued only to a West Virginia news outlet.

Now, personally, I’ve never thought an apology you had to ask for was worth a shit in an outhouse, but if you do ask for one and you get a “Gee willikers, I’m sorry you were offended,” well that’s just an additional insult. Neither Needham nor NBC is owning the problem, much less making restitution.

No worries - the misspelling of Nebraska was corrected before mailing.

As much as it bothers me, I’m a Drama Queen. As such, I can’t bear the thought of being just another irate email, just another West Virginia blogger shooting volleys of words, or, worse, just another Appalachian sitting around saying, “Well, what can you do? People have been saying this stuff for years.” It is not because I don’t think the written word is powerful, but because chiming in at this late date means there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said. (Drama Queens just hate that.) Our point has been made (and re-made) and I’m pretty sure Chris and NBC stopped reading a couple hundred emails ago.

Now don’t misconstrue that last paragraph. I think it’s vitally important to send email and letters. Vital. Important. They may not read them, but they’ll note they’re coming in. It is also important to blog about it and talk about it. Inundating both Needham and NBC with our complaints will have an effect even if they don’t read our words.

But. I’m a Drama Queen in Good Standing. I have to work to retain my tiara. (It’s not all rhinestones, sequins and boas.)

So. I put my tiara on and sat to thinking. I came up with what I think is a pretty good idea, but I needed NBC Washington’s mailing address. Shouldn’t have been that hard to come up with, but it was. I don’t think NBC really wants snail mail, because the address is nowhere on their website. I was all over the web before I could find anything at all. I called 202-885-4200 and verified the *mailing* address. So, unless that woman lied, I mailed two bouncy balls to this address:

Chris Needham
NBC Washington
4001 Nebraska Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016


Bouncy balls? Yes, bouncy balls – ones the size of volleyballs. Pink ones, as a matter of fact. Two of them. And if it is true that NBC doesn’t want snail mail, I figure two, bright pink, bouncy balls will get their attention.

I know for a fact that if you take two bouncy balls down to the post office with the address written on the balls with a Sharpie and hand them to the clerk, the clerk will slap postage on those suckers and mail them off. No packaging (talk about environmentally friendly!) – nothing but bouncy balls in the mail sack to get dumped on some poor person in the mail room. (Take a moment to savor that image.)

On the side of the ball opposite the address, I wrote:

Dear Chris and NBC-Washington,

Since y’all don’t have the balls to issue a proper apology to the people of West Virginia or a proper retraction to your readership, I thought I’d help you out. Sincerely, Connie

And the second reads:

Dear Chris and NBC-Washington,

Here’s the second ball. I wanted to make sure you had a pair. Sincerely, Connie

I have hopes of provoking a smile on the face of that mailroom person. With any luck, said person will not like Chris Needham or be from West Virginia, or both. Now if it was me in that mailroom and a postal person handed me two bouncy balls, I’d be flying down the hallways to hand deliver those suckers. But it could be that’s just me.

Now I get the giggles thinking about what might happen if a few people sent Chris bouncy balls. Or more than a few. In that part of my imagination where grandiose dreams live, I think about hundreds of bouncy balls landing in the offices of NBC Washington. (Now savor that image.)

There are two reasons I like this idea: 1) it’s visual, spatial, colorful, and, well, bouncy (kinesthetic, if you will); and 2) it is permeated with a sense of humor. These reasons sum up West Virginia rather nicely, I think. Besides it’s just the kind of a thing a Hillbilly Diva Drama Queen with twisted panties would do. It’s not like I had a choice.

So, if you’re of a mind to, feel free to send a bouncy ball or two to Chris Needham.

Note: I had to do a fair amount of talking at the post office to convince the clerk that yes, indeedy, I could send bouncy balls sans box through the mail. She finally agreed.  They cost me $1.73 apiece in postage. If you do decide to send Chris a pair and your postal person balks, you might mention this company.  All told, I’ve got less than$8 invested.