Monthly Archives: February 2014

Walking Alone

Greg Walk Dec 22 2013 006An abandoned Christmas Tree farm. The trees are now taller than houses.

Greg Walk Dec 22 2013 002The New Jersey Devil tree. Legend says it was the sight of notorious lynchings. The roots are supposed to stretch all the way to Hell which keeps the ground so warm that there is never snow under the tree.

Devil Tree in Winter 004The New Jersey Devil tree with snow under it

Greg Walk Dec 22 2013 005Dedicated bicyclists on a cold winter’s afternoon.

 

Tough Winter

New Jersey Winter 007The snow in the fields is chest high for the deer so they have taken to walking down the plowed streets.

DEER 009This snows have covered the normal food supply so the deer are coming right up to the houses for food and warmth. This fellow has lost half of his antlers and is munching on bushes 1 foot from a homeowner’s window.

Winter Snow 007Waiting for the 6:34 am train at Lyons station, New Jersey.

The Gentle Woman’s Bunny

GREG PICTURES 007

Once upon a time there was a sad little bunny. He lived in a small cage in a cold dark garage.  He was a beautiful little guy. A family had bought him for their little girl. He was what was called a  Dwarf Albino New Zealand.  At first the little girl played with the bunny a lot. But soon she became bored with him, ans his cage was moved to the garage.

He got food and water but no attention. He got a half a bowl of rabbit pellets and some straw every day and there was a bowl of water in the cage. One day the door to the cage was left open and the bunny hopped out. He hid in a dark corner of the garage.

When the family saw the bunny was gone they searched and called for him but he stayed hidden in the dark corner. The family put up signs in the neighborhood and asked people if they had seen him.

That’s when they spoke to Susan who lived next door. Susan found out that the family did not really want the bunny any more, and she said she would be happy to take care of him if they found him. Two days later the family found the bunny in his dark corner and gave him to Susan.

That’s when the bunny’s whole world changed. Susan is a kind and gentle woman who loves all animals. She was sad to see the condition of the poor little bunny. He was cold and dirty and even had little flies around him. He only weighed two pounds.

Susan gave the little fellow a warm bath and trimmed his nails. He did not like this very much, but after he was dry, the flies were gone and he felt better then he had in a long time. Then the gentle woman gave him something he had never had before – all kinds of new food. There was broccoli and apple slices and his favorite of all- Carrots!.

Susan threw out the little cage and got the bunny a whole new place to live. She brought him inside the house where it was warm and she let him hop around on the rug. After a big meal of broccoli, he stretched out in a warm patch of sunlight and took a nap.

That’s when Susan decided he needed a name. He loved the sunlight so much that she named him Summer.

GREG PICTURES 006

When springtime came Susan took Summer outside to play. He had never felt grass before and at first he was not sure about it. Then he figured out that not only was it soft to hop on, but he could eat it.

Susan took a little beach chair and sat on the lawn, while Summer hopped all around her. He no longer tried to run away. He loved Susan very much. He would hop to her when she whistled for him. He liked the top of his head rubbed and wanted Susan to pet him all the time.

But Susan had to be very careful with Summer outside. He was not a wild rabbit, so he did not know he was supposed to be afraid of some things. One day the large dog from next door came running over at full speed and Susan had to scoop up Summer to save him from the dog. The dog was really a very friendly fellow and only wanted to play. But he was so big and played so rough that it was not safe for Summer to be around him.

With all the hopping and eating, Summer grew stronger and got up to two and one half pounds. That does not sound like much but for a Dwarf Bunny that was good.

Summer lived with the gentle woman for a long time. But the sad fact is that little bunnies do not live as long as people and Summer began go grow old. He hopped less and less and sometimes even had trouble standing up. But he always liked to eat. Susan took him to the bunny doctor and got him all sorts of medicines. Summer did not like the taste, but Susan would hide the medicine in little pieces of banana. Sometimes she would grind  up the pills and sprinkle them onto broccoli in a little powder.

The medicines helped Summer but still be got old. One of his legs was very bad, so he would hop under a chair and keep his balance by leaning against the leg of the chair. It was actually a very clever thing to do. He stay there while Susan brought him food and water. Susan would sit on the rug by the chair and pet Summer for as long as he liked.

As Summer got older he found it harder and harder to stand. Susan would have to hold him while he ate.

Winter Snow 005

He still loved his food and would eat like he was a big wolf instead of a tiny bunny. Susan would hold him and pet him while he ate, and then let him down for a nap. Every morning Susan would get up and hold bunny while he ate a big breakfast. Susan would lean against the wall so her back would not hurt.

Then one February morning, Susan went to see Summer, but there was something wrong. He was awake but he did not want to eat . Even when his favorite foods were put right up to his mouth he paid no attention. Susan just held him in her arms while he breathe slowly.

A short time later, Summer gave a little squeak and died. Outside it was a cold winter’s day. But inside the little bunny died in the warm arms of the gentle woman he loved.

Winter Snow 001

 

 

The Chemical 9/11 by Gregory Farrell

If you tired to design the perfect spot for a terrorist attack you could not come up with a better spot than the Akcros Chemicals plant in New Brunswick New Jersey.

It is a 10 acre chemical plant at 500 Jersey Avenue in a densely populated city in the most densely populated state in the United States.

When it was first built many years ago, it was on the outskirts of the city. But as New Brunswick expanded, the city surrounded the plant with things that have no business being anywhere near a chemical plant.

Directly across the street from the chemical plant is a high school. Next to the high school is a middle school; then a grammar school.  Bordering the plant the city built a park, where the kids from the grammar school have their physical education classes.

If there is ever an accident at the chemical plant a cloud of toxic gas will form and the wind will carry it . Anyone who is not sheltering inside with all windows and ventilation shut would get severe chemical burns, lung damage or die. If the toxic cloud goes one way it will immediately engulf the schools.  If it goes the other way it will reach downtown  New Brunswick in a matter of minutes.    The population of New Brunswick is 56,156 people.

I was at the Akcros Chemicals Plant when the 9/11 attacks hit the World Trade Center. We could see the smoke from the towers in the distance. For a long time no one could decide what to do. Then someone came up with the idea that if terrorists were attacking multiple targets in the U.S. trying to kill as many people as possible, then maybe we should do something to secure the chemical plant. The gates were shut and an employee sat in a folding chair in front of the gate.  The gate was not crash-proof and there were no actual guards.

In the weeks after 9/11 new security measures were put in place. If a tanker truck showed up at the plant the driver had to show a valid license I.D., insurance and proof that the truck had an appointment. Amazingly enough, before 9/11 this was not being done. Up until that point a truck filled with explosives could have driven right into the chemical plant with no security check at all.

The first security alert came just 1 week after 9/11.  A full chemical tanker truck with no license plate of any kind pulled up to the main gate. The driver became belligerent when asked to show I.D. and it looked like there would be fight.  One of the employees was intelligent enough to call 911. A policeman  arrived in minutes after the 911 operator heard that a truck was trying to force its way into a chemical plant.

The driver started yelling at the policeman and said, “And what are you going to do if I don’t show you any I.D?”

By the time the driver finished that sentence the policeman was pointing  a gun two inches from the driver’s  head. That’s when the driver suddenly became very cooperative and produced all his I.D.s. It turns out that he was not a terrorist at all. He was an actual truck driver, but he had no registration, no insurance, and many driver’s licenses from many states in many different names.

The  company he was driving for actually did have an appointment to deliver a load of chemicals at the plant. The trucking company was trying to save money by not having insurance or registration. The driver had so many tickets and points against him that he had started getting licenses from different states so that he would not reach the maximum number of points on any one license. It turns out that this is actually a common practice for truck drivers.

The police impounded the truck and took the driver to the police station. The police later told us that the minimum fines to the trucking company would be about $30,000. If the driver was lucky he would just get fined. There could be some jail time.

Even though there was never an actual terrorist attempt on the plant the instance with the truck is still very scary when you examine it. Every full chemical tanker on the highway is really just a toxic bomb on wheels driving through our major cities.

The industry tells the public that the trucks are safe and that the drivers are fully trained professionals. But is this true? The truck that arrived at Akcros in New Jersey had driven all the way from Washington State with no license plate on it and no police car had ever stopped it.

It the months after that first instance we never had a terrorist attack but we did have  many trucks arrive with problems. Lots of drivers with no license. Lots of trucks with no insurance or inspection stickers. Leaking trucks. Trucks with bad brakes. Trucks with tires visibly wobbling.

It is just a matter of time until one of of these trucks causes a large loss of life. The right set of circumstances will happen.  Bad drivers in  bad truck are carrying toxic chemicals through large cities every day.

It won’t be a planned attack and it won’t be a terrorist with a political agenda. But the number of dead could well exceed what happened on 9/11.  The  only question is when it will happen.

 

Nebraska Movie Review

Nebraska is one of the best  films of 2013. It is still playing in theaters so there is still time to see it.

Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, a retired auto mechanic who lives with his wife Kate in a tiny run down house in Montana. Woody receives one of those annoying  junk mail flyers saying he has won a million dollars. However, unlike most people, Woody actually believes that he has won. He decides to go in person to the headquarters of the contest company to collect him money. Unfortunately the company is located in Nebraska and since Woody no longer drives he has no way to get their. He tried repeatedly to get their, including trying to simply walk from Montana to Nebraska. His son (played by Will Forte) finally decides that the only solution is to actually drive Woody to Nebraska.

This is a touching, emotional movie filmed in black and white. In some ways it is reminiscent of the road trip taken by Tom Cruse and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Main. Woody’s son learns more on this road trip then he ever knew about his father. In the beginning of the movie you just assume that Woody is nothing more than a senile old man. Along the way we come to see that Woody is a much more complex character than most of his family has ever realized.  One woman asks the son if Woody has Alzheimer’s Disease  to which the son replies sadly , “No. He just believes what people tell him.”

One of the best performances in the film is by June Squibb, who plays Kate Grant, Woody’s very outspoken wife.  At first they appear to be a bickering old couple, but later we see that there is a deep love and trust between the two. Woody is a gentle, non-confrontational type, while Kate on the other hand is not afraid to take on anyone who crosses her, or who dares to try to mistreat her man.

We will not give away the ending of the movie other than to say that they do make it to Nebraska and that even late in life there are all sorts of ways to be a prize winner.

10 Things That Are Better Than They Used To Be – by Gregory Farrell & Susan Marascofarrell

We promised ourselves that as we got older we would not be the type of people that are always complaining about how everything used to be better. So here is a list of 10 things that are better, or have made the world better.

10. Cars are better than they used to be. We had a lot of debate about whether or not to include this. We are taking a risk of getting hundreds of nasty e-mails or comments from people insisting that the old time cars were better. It is true that some of the old cars were beautiful works of art. Unfortunately many of them were also death traps. No seat belts, metal dash boards, no air bags. Take a look at highway death statistics and you will see that cars really have improved.

9. No more second hand smoke – It used to be there was no way to get away from it. Trains, airplanes, restaurants, offices, even doctor’s waiting rooms all had people smoking. For a first hand account of how it used to be just read the story Cigarettes in the Slipstream.

8. The internet – We take it so much for granted now that we tend to forget all the benefits it has given us. Information that used to take hours or days to find can now be found in seconds. Doctors in remote locations can instantly send data to a major medical center in order to get a better diagnosis for a patient. It is also spreading democracy world-wide.

7. Cell Phones – They used to be giant bricks. Heavy, expensive and with poor reception. Sure, someone talking on a cell phone in a restaurant is annoying, but that is more that outweighed by the benefits. People can instantly call the police or an ambulance in an emergency.

6. Medicine has improved tremendously. There was a time not too long ago, for example, when the diagnosis of cancer was essentially a death sentence. Now there are thousands of cancer survivors living long and happy lives. Transplants of livers, kidneys and even hearts have saves thousands of others.

5. Education for special needs children has improved. This is especially true in the early identification of issues.

4. The crime rate is way down.  Of course there have been very public shootings and tragedies and any crime is awful. However, the overall crime rate has dropped tremendously especially in large cities such as New York.

3. Race relations are very improved. It is hard explain to people growing up now, just how much hatred and mistrust existed  not many years back. There is a long way to go, and there will always bee some people filled with bigotry and hate, but  the overall trend has been positive for many years.

2. Opportunities for women and minorities are better than they have ever been. Today an Africa-American doctor or a female engineer was an unusual event. Now it is so commonplace we do not even notice it.

1. The future real. That may sound strange, but when we were kids there were only  two opposite extremes of the future presented to us. The first was  the  “End of World “. We even had bomb drills in school to prepare us for an atomic attack. (We were taught to hide under our desks, which is ridiculous when you think about the impact of a Hydrogen bomb). The second was the “Science will make everything perfect” scenario. This was the magical future presented at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was a wonderful World’s Fair, but completely unrealistic. People now have a much more realistic view of the future. The world is not about to end but no magic science discovery is going to make it perfect either. The future is something we are going to have to create ourselves, by a lot of hard work and recognizing what is what is real and what is not. That future may not be as exciting as the fantasy future of the past, but it is actually better.