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Webster's Blog

Everybody Wants a Job But...

Hello, Geisinger Choice? I got a notice in the mail today, says THIS IS NOT A BILL, but it goes on to say that...what's that? Oh, okay.

Hello? Yes, I got a notice in the mail today, says THIS IS NOT A BILL, but it goes on to say that...oh, you're not? Yes, please. Thank you.

Yes, hello. I received a notice in the mail today, says THIS IS NOT A BILL, but it goes on to say that 100% of the blood test I had done at Viewmont Labs was not paid because my coverage has expired.

Yes. I'll hold.

Hello? Hi. I received a notice in the mail today, says THIS IS NOT A BILL, but it goes on to say that 100% of the blood test I had done at Viewmont Labs was not paid because my coverage has expired.

Now a few months back I dropped MY insurance where I work and went on my wife's plan where she works which is ALSO Geisinger Choice. When I went to my doctors office AND when I went to the lab they made a copy of my new card but I can see on your notice that the numbers don't match.

Oh, those numbers are transferred electronically? Mmm-hmm.

Electronically seems foolproof so I wonder why would the old number be transferred electronically instead of the new number which both offices made copies of?

Oh, you don't? Well I don't either. That's why I'm calling. So, can you rectify the problem?

Oh, you can't. Mmm.

Oh, I have to call the lab myself. Great. Okay, sure, oh, you can give me the number? Excellent. Sure, I'll hold







Yes, I'm still here. Okay.






Hello? Yes. Okay, yes I'm ready.

Okay, got it. Thank you.


Hello, Viewmont Labs, I received a notice from.....what? Viewmont. Labs.

It isn't?

Sorry. Wrong number.

My father always says 'Everybody wants a job but nobody wants to work.'

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In the Spring...

Mark Twain said, "In the Spring I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours."

We clung to the 'prediction' made by an over-commercialized part of Pennsylvania folklore named Punxsutawney Phil that we would, he 'claimed', see an early Spring.

And slowly, with each passing day of grey skies and temperatures in the 30's, with overnight lows in the 20's, with a tease of sunshine then clouds, then partly sunny skies, then hail, then flurries in the higher elevations that sometimes showed up in the lower ones, we waited.

And waited.

And waited until the possiblity of an early Spring was no longer a possibility.

In fact we waited so long that ultimately a prosecutor in Ohio sought to being Phil up on charges of fraud or whatever charge might be brought against a rodent who we pretend predicts weather and who we pretend angers us when his prediction is off the mark.

But as Spring always does, it has finally arrived.

We're still not out of the 'Jeez, yesterday it was 68 degrees, today I don't think we hit 48' woods but I guess that's the nature of Springtime.

It's great to leave the house without a coat. It's nice to not notice a temperature change from indoors to outdoors. And thoughts of SPF 30 aside, doesn't the sun feel good?

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It's a Gas, Gas, Gas!

I bought a five gallon gas can this week. The first thing you see when you walk into the store where I bought it is a gas can display, the price marked $19.95. I wandered through the store and found more identical gas cans on a shelf near the back where they were marked $18.95.

I love when I find something like that.

It was only a dollar difference but I was preparing for the battle that was about to take place.

"This can is marked 19.95 over there but back there it says they're 18.95!"

And the kid says, "Well let's see." Waves the magic price wand and VOILA! It scans for $18.95.

Damn it.

Then he says, "Unless you wanna pay 19.95." I replied, "I will if the 19.95 one has gas in it." I thought it was cute. The kid didn't get it or he didn't care.

And that's not even why I'm telling you all this.

If you haven't purchased a gas can since 2009 you might not know that the California Air Resouces Board (CARB) has decreed and evidently some other states have voluntarily complied with the fact that the old-style gas can spouts (the kind that work) were emitting excess fumes. So now gas cans come with a spring-loaded spout that won't allow the gas to pour unless the spout has pressure applied to it by making contact with the tank you're refilling. Or something.

I've used this kind of spout before. It's supposed to cut down on the fumes but in fact what it does is make filling the lawnmower or snowblower more difficult and you end up spilling more gas then you ever did with the old spout which obviously defeats the new spout's make-believe intent.

Faced with a gas can that has a government-mandated spout I wondered if there might be somplace online where one might purchase an old-school replacement spout.

And there is!

It's a website called EZ-Pour Spout (

They sell gas can spouts and water can spouts.

I was thrilled! 

But my bubble soon burst when I noticed on the website that Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that do not allow the sale or purchase of pre-2009 gas can spouts. So I contacted the folks at EZ-Pour Spout and asked if there isn't some workaround for this.

There isn't.

What there IS is the fact that they CAN sell residents of Pennsylvania a water can spout legally, just fine and dandy, no problem whatsoever. And the water can spout is identical in every way to the gas can spout save for one difference.

It's a different color.

So I bought one.

In case I ever get a water can.

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'One for You, Nineteen for Me...'

I put it off as long as I felt comfortable with putting it off but I finally got my income taxes filed this past weekend.

I use a popular tax program you've probably heard of, TurboTax.

It's the one our former Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner claimed tripped him up on filing his taxes in a timely fashion.

Call me wacky but I think a former Treasury Secretary and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York would have a better handle on a hold-your-hand, fill-in-the-blank tax program but that's not important now.

I've been using TurboTax for about ten years and the nice thing about it is, each year the program takes your pertinent information from the previous year's file and fills in a lot of blanks for you. That's a time saver when it comes to things like 'Dependents Social Security #'.

My wife and I file a joint return and the bank where she works has provided online access to the TurboTax program so that all the information on her W-2 is also automatically loaded into the program and all I have to do is doublecheck for accuracy. Maybe we'll get that next year.

Anyway, so the taxes are done and e-filed and that's a relief to have that behind me for another year even with the program doing most of the heavy lifting.

I was a little bit disappointed with the outcome though.

Two years ago I got back $3600. Last year it was a $600 refund. This year I owed the federal government 72 bucks.

In the grand scheme of things, what's $72, right? That's about what it takes to fill my gas tank when it's on empty. Still, I'd feel a lot better if I thought the money wasn't just going to be tossed along with the rest of our taxpayer dollars into a gaping maw; that pitchblack bottomless abyss of federal overspending and unaccountablity.

I would have gotten a bigger kick out of putting a match to the $72..
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The Age of Stupid

A video that was posted on my Facebook page by Rick Manwiller. It's a 6 min video. I hope it's an exaggeration but I'm not convinced that it is.

(There is one fast word of questionable appropriateness which would render this NSFW for most. If you are offended by a four-letter word, don't click the video.)
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I Love a Parade

A beautiful day for a parade this past Saturday in Scranton and I'm glad that it's over.

Once upon a time I thought I looked forward to the parade. I know now what I looked forward to was the 'fun' to be had afterward but 'afterward' has become, for me, an activity meant for those less distant from their arrival at legal drinking age than the point where I find myself now, those whose definition of 'fun' no longer matches mine.

The allure of what has been called Scranton's version of Mardi Gras'has gradually diminished for me over the years until now the only thing I'm concerned with is how to get around the noon-time police barricades to get to where I'm supposed to be before we 'step off' and then how to get back to my car and outa Dodge as quickly as possible once we pass the reviewing stand.

On a separate note, I'm not Irish so I wonder, is 'step off' an Irish thing? The newspaper uses it every year. 'The parade steps off at 11:45'. Steps off what?

And while we're on things I don't understand, does the parade committee have someone who is expert in estimating attendance? The number in the paper this morning was quoted as somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 people in downtown Scranton this year.

That seems a little optimistic.

If 200,000 people came to Scranton and they arrived four to a car that would mean 50,000 cars were looking for somewhere to park this past Saturday morning? Are there 50,000 parking spots in Scranton?

I'm sure the parade 'wheels' aren't afraid to goose the attendance numbers a little. We hear the same number tossed around every year for La Festa Italiana so why not?

Realistically though, my guess would be something closer to 30,000 people show up for the parade and that's probably the high end.

Anyway, back to my favorite time of year.

I have lost all interest in being in an elbow-to-elbow after parade crowd of green-haired people whose brains are in moderate or greater degree of marination while we wait 25 minutes to get inside an overloaded, slippery floored porta-potty. Call me crazy. That sounds more like punishment than fun.

Maybe I'm wrong and this is just my continually evolving cranky old man talking.

And if that ball comes in my yard one more time I'm keepin' it and I'm callin' your father!

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They're Just Numbers

We toss words like billion and trillion around without any thought about their significance.

I suppose inherently we know that these are words that represent numbers that none of us will ever deal with on a personal level and so, aside from being able to pronounce them and spell them, we instinctively realize that there's no use in trying to understand their magnitude or their relationship one to the other.

Which brings us to the sequester.

As it approached we were told of the disaster that awaited once it kicks in. Borders thrown open. Food inspection halted. Air traffic controllers unable to do their jobs. Programs for children, for the elderly, for the mentally and physically disadvantaged tossed aside. Education funds slashed.

And then the sequester cuts came and while most of that doom-and-gloom scenario came from behind a podium with the Presidential seal on it leading up to last Friday, when the day actually arrived the President said 'This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said.'

Some people?

Okay,  so let's get back  to billions and trillions.

The sequester cuts are $85 billion. The federal budget comes to about $3.7 trillion. Anyone know how many billion are in a trillion?

It's a thousand.

A thousand billion equals one trillion.

That means the federal budget  is equal to three thousand, seven hundred billion dollars. Can you get your head around that?

How about this? Start counting aloud from the number one and go all the way up to a thousand. Then do that two more times and then after that count again up to seven hundred. Each number you spoke represents a billion dollars.

A trillion is a lot, huh?

What this boils down to is that $85 billion out of $3.7 trillion is about 2% of the federal budget.

Still hard to get those numbers in line, right? Imagine this. If you have a dollar and someone says you have to hold back on 2%, that leaves you with 98 cents to spend.

The oldest political trick in the book is to scare people. Elderly will suffer. Children will suffer. Teachers will lose their jobs. there will be no money to pay firefighters and police.

The natural extension of the oldest political trick in the book is to scare people and try to make them believe that if all these terrible things happen it's the other side's fault.

I suppose the question is how far will one side go to pin the blame on the other?


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A Marine's View of What Is Really Going On

The following is presently making the rounds on Facebook.

This young man is articulate and has a flair for colorful language and descriptive prose.  Scorpions, chiggers, and sand fleas. Great letter, a must read.

From the Sand Pit. It's freezing here. I'm sitting on hard cold dirt between rocks and shrubs at the base of the Hindu Kush Mountains , along the Dar'yoi Pomir River, watching a hole that leads to a tunnel that leads to a cave. Stake out, my friend, and no pizza delivery for thousands of miles.

I also glance at the area around my ass every ten to fifteen seconds to avoid another scorpion sting. I've actually given up battling the chiggers and sand fleas, but the scorpions give a jolt like a cattle prod. Hurts like a bastard. The antidote tastes like transmission fluid, but God bless the Marine Corps for the five vials of it in my pack.

The one truth the Taliban cannot escape is that, believe it or not, they are human beings, which means they have to eat food and drink water. That requires couriers and that's where an old bounty hunter like me comes in handy. I track the couriers, locate the tunnel entrances and storage facilities, type the info into the handheld, shoot the coordinates up to the satellite link that tells the air commanders where to drop the hardware. We bash some heads for a while, then I track and record the new movement.

It's all about intelligence. We haven't even brought in the snipers yet. These scurrying rats have no idea what they're in for. We are but days away from cutting off supply lines and allowing the eradication to begin. But you know me, I'm a romantic. I've said it before and I'll say it again: This country blows, man. It's not even a country. There are no roads, there's no infrastructure, there's no government. This is an inhospitable, rock pit shit hole ruled by eleventh century warring tribes. There are no jobs here like we know jobs.

Afghanistan offers two ways for a man to support his family: join the opium trade or join the army. That's it. Those are your options. Oh, I forgot, you can also live in a refugee camp and eat plum-sweetened, crushed beetle paste and squirt mud like a goose with stomach flu, if that's your idea of a party. But the smell alone of those 'tent cities of the walking dead' is enough to hurl you into the poppy fields to cheerfully scrape bulbs for eighteen hours a day.

I've been living with these Tajiks and Uzbeks, and Turkmen and even a couple of Pushtuns, for over a month-and-a-half now, and this much I can say for sure: These guys, all of 'em, are Huns...actual, living Huns.. They LIVE to fight. It's what they do. It's ALL they do. They have no respect for anything, not for their families, nor for each other, nor for themselves. They claw at one another as a way of life. They play polo with dead calves and force their five-year-old sons into human cockfights to defend the family honor. Huns, roaming packs of savage, heartless beasts who feed on each other's barbarism. Cavemen with AK-47's. Then again, maybe I'm just cranky.

I'm freezing my ass off on this stupid hill because my lap warmer is running out of juice, and I can't recharge it until the sun comes up in a few hours. Oh yeah! You like to write letters, right? Do me a favor, Bizarre. Write a letter to CNN and tell Wolf and Anderson and that awful, sneering, pompous Aaron Brown to stop calling the Taliban 'smart.' They are not smart. I suggest CNN invest in a dictionary because the word they are looking for is 'cunning.' The Taliban are cunning, like jackals and hyenas and wolverines. They are sneaky and ruthless, and when confronted, cowardly. They are hateful, malevolent parasites who create nothing and destroy everything else. Smart. Pfft. Yeah, they're real smart.

They've spent their entire lives reading only one book (and not a very good one, as books go) and consider hygiene and indoor plumbing to be products of the devil. They're still figuring out how to work a Bic lighter. Talking to a Taliban warrior about improving his quality of life is like trying to teach an ape how to hold a pen; eventually he just gets frustrated and sticks you in the eye with it. OK, enough. Snuffle will be up soon, so I have to get back to my hole. Covering my tracks in the snow takes a lot of practice, but I'm good at it.

Please, I tell you and my fellow Americans to turn off the TV sets and move on with your lives. The story line you are getting from CNN and other news agencies is utter bullshit and designed not to deliver truth but rather to keep you glued to the screen through the commercials. We've got this one under control The worst thing you guys can do right now is sit around analyzing what we're doing over here, because you have no idea what we're doing, and really, you don't want to know. We are your military, and we are doing what you sent us here to do.

Saucy Jack
Recon Marine in Afghanistan
Semper Fi
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They're Out There

It is a fact that there is a tight little knot of listeners to our show in the morning (and in fact who probably listen to the radio every waking hour) who are, clinically speaking, half a bubble off plumb.

Pardon the medical jargon.

I'm glad for every listener we have even the ones who, if you could ask them 'What is 2 + 2?' once a day every day for a week, you might expect to hear a number that isn't 4 at least twice.

But they're not the listeners I'm talking about.

And I'm not talking about the majority of listeners who are normal and who listen because they enjoy if not agree with the things they hear and who, when they call or write, express themselves in a civil manner.

I'm talking about the ones who send vitriol-laden emails (sometimes signed, other times written behind the cowardice of a phony email address) and the ones who call and leave nine minute voicemails excoriating something they heard or think they heard on the radio.

Not sure that any of that select group will ever read this but if you do, please know that I tap '1 to delete this message' no more than ten seconds deep.

For those whose imbalance is expressed via the written though often anonymous word I have set up a rule in my email client that sends all yours directly to the Delete Folder marked Read.

Does that sound unreasonable? Mean? Dismissive? I'm not mean or unreasonable. I guess with you I am dismissive. Sorry.

Simply put, your problem is your problem but it's not mine.

Keep those cards and letters coming if you want. I get blowing off steam but better advice would be to find something constructive to do with your time.


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