Archive for the ‘Lancaster County’ Category

Journalism at Its Finest

December 16, 2011


Lancaster Newspapers' Donegal News Front Page, with "WRECK" front and center.

If it bleeds, it leads.


El Pescadito Returns to Pennsylvania

February 28, 2011

Last week, the Philadelphia Union signed 31 year-old Guatemalan international forward Carlos Ruiz, a.k.a. “El Pescadito” (“the little fish” in Spanish), throwing a confusing curveball to Philadelphia sports fans. My guess is we’ll be hearing the nickname more around here, since the Phillies already have a Central American player named Carlos Ruiz on their roster (he’s their catcher, hails from Panama, and is nicknamed “Chooch,” which I’m guessing we’ll be hearing a lot more around here now as well).

The Philadelphia Union logo.While the Guatemalan, soccer-playing Ruiz has competed all over the world and is well known in his homeland as the country’s all-time leading goal scorer in international competition and is well known among Major League Soccer fans in this country from his days with the L.A. Galaxy and FC Dallas, what people might not know is that he’s played in Pennsylvania before — in central Pa., particularly.

Way back in 2000, when he was a promising 20 year-old playing professionally for Municipal in Guatemala and a member of the country’s U-23 national team, the North American qualifying tournament for the Summer Olympics was held, bizarrely, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, of all places.

Unlike the World Cup, the Olympics are contested by countries’ U-23 teams, rather than the full national teams. I was actually lucky enough to have met Ruiz back then, as each of the colleges and universities near Hershey basically adopted one of the national teams and hosted all of their training sessions. I was in charge of athletic communications for the school that got Guatemala, and I got to work with them quite a bit in coordinating local media coverage.

HersheyPark Stadium

The scene of the 2000 Olympic qualifiers.

That wasn’t an easy task, as the head coach was a little more than slightly paranoid about anyone from the other teams turning on the local TV news and seeing anything that might potentially give away the tiniest detail about their training sessions and game strategies. For the first day or two, they were more like the Brigadoon national team, as they would mysteriously vanish when cameras approached, and then magically reappear when they retreated. Eventually, we got things sorted out.

On the whole, though, it was a great experience, especially since at the time I was still in my first year out of college and was the same age as nearly all of the players on the team. Carlos Ruiz certainly stood out back then, but I never would have guessed that in another two years he would jump from Municipal to the Los Angeles Galaxy and end up as the MLS Most Valuable Player his first year in the league, nor would I have guessed at the time that he would eventually become Guatemala’s all-time leading scorer in international competition.

His signing now is definitely a good pickup for the Union. After an offseason largely spent finding ways to plug up the obvious defensive holes from their inaugural season, bringing in Ruiz fills another big need, which is taking some opposing defensive pressure off Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga. Even if he isn’t quite at the same level as a goal scorer he was when he played for L.A., he’ll be a helpful presence in relieving pressure. Also, having Le Toux take corner kicks, which seemed kind of strange for much of last year when he was the team’s only reliable scorer, would make more sense now with Ruiz on the field at the same time and Mwanga with a year of pro experience under his belt.

Besides, I’m of the opinion that he still has quite a few productive years left. While he struggled to score in the first half of the 2010-11 Greek Super League season for Aris Thessaloniki, somebody doesn’t score three goals in a handful of Europa League games over that same span by being washed up. Context is certainly going to be key for Ruiz’s scoring opportunities, and potentially having Le Toux and Mwanga on the field at the same time will definitely create opportunities for him.

Overheard, Unfortunately

September 30, 2010

I don’t know whether it’s a result of the routes I pick or if the town in which I live is really just that sad, but I end up overhearing the strangest things when I’m out on my nightly runs. Here’s the gem from last night:

Picture it! Sicily, 1922. One teenager (we’ll call him High School Tool) is on the front porch of a house, bellowing inside to another teenager so that the entire neighborhood can’t help but hear their conversation.

High School Tool: Hey Jed, remember what all the straight girls said!

Jed: Huh?

High School Tool: Remember what all the straight girls said, that I had sex with!

Jed: What?

High School Tool: [his voice beaming with pride] There’s sex with people, and there’s sex with you!

For an instant, I considered yelling, “Dude, they don’t even consider you people!” In the end, didn’t blurt out anything. It was likely a wise decision, since the kid looked like he might have been hitting the ‘roids pretty heavily.

Caption: Worst pick-up line ever. Image: A disgusting creature says to a woman, "I'm my own species, baby!"

You Searched For What?!

September 15, 2010

There have been some extra weird search engine queries taking people to this site over the last week:

  • Turkey bidet toilet combo” — As much as it baffles me that someone would be scouring the Internet for this word combination, I was even more confused by my inability to recall ever having used the word “bidet” here. It turns out my memory was wrong: here it is, from November 2008. The same post begins by mentioning High School Musical. I must have a sicker mind that I previously believed.
  • Continuing with the international theme, “German Slanket” — I’m not sure what would make a Slanket German. Would it be in the colors of the German flag, or would it yell, “MACH SCHELL!” if you don’t flip through channels using your TV remote quickly enough?
  • Pennsylvania Dutch food humor” — Exhibit A: Scrapple. Exhibit B: Cup Cheese. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t actually eat any of those things; we just like seeing tourists wince at the sight of them. The funniest of all are the tourists who decide to be brave and eat them; the joke’s on you, folks.
  • Chemistry funny” — Yes, chemistry is very funny. I found balancing chemical equations to be a delightful hoot in high school.
  • Chupacabra Crossing sign poster.


    Chupacabra crossing signs” — I never thought of such a thing before seeing those words together just now. Now, having seen them, I’m not sure how it’s possible for my life to go on without one. I MUST HAVE A CHUPACABRA CROSSING SIGN FOR MYSELF!

  • Quotes about long winded stories” — I once knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy’s cousin who’s twice-related sister-in-law’s mother’s daughter knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who once said something about Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. But to put it into proper context, we’ll have to go back to the War of the Austrian Succession . . .
  • Mechanical parrots” — Unlike the chupacabra crossing sign, these are things I could really do without.
  • The best Yugo” — Speaking of things I don’t want . . .
  • la-veterana@hotmit.liver” — This can’t possibly be a legit email address, unless the nation of hepatitis has its own domain now.

So there’s a rundown of some of the search terms that have brought some really twisted people to this site over the past week. Luckily for them, I’ve been twisted enough to have somehow created content that would send them here in the first place.

Thanks to this post, it’s only a matter of time before I start getting hits for “hepatitis” combined with something else weird, too. Now that I think about it, “nation of hepatitis” is a weird enough phrase on its own.

What would be the most utterly revolting restaurant name ever? I vote “The Hepatitis Bidet.”

Rural America

September 9, 2010

“I’ve got a license to pick my nose and fart. That’s about it.”

That’s what I heard an old guy say to a group of people while I was out running tonight — right before he chuckled and got behind the wheel of a car.

File Under “I Don’t Want to Know”

May 17, 2010

While driving down a back road earlier today, I saw a sign at the start of a lane leading to a farm. On the sign were the following words:


Give Me Radon or Give Me Death!

April 19, 2010

I love the bizarre letters to the editor that pop up in our local newspaper. Here’s an incoherent ramble from someone defending his freedom to inhale all the radon he wants:

Before a law is passed that I have to stop inhaling radon gas, I would like to see a census of all coroners in the United States. Such a census needs to ask one question: “Over the past 15 years how many death certificates have you completed where the cause of death was stated as radon poisoning?”

Let’s have the Lancaster County coroner complete the first census and publish the results on the front page of the newspaper in large print. When the results come in from all of the other coroners, tabulate them and present them during the commercial spots of American Idol.

Then, once and for all, we’ll be able to determine if 20,000 people die from radon poisoning each year.

He’s apparently unaware that the cause of death in such cases would generally be listed as “lung cancer.” Long-term radon exposure is a significant contributing risk factor in the development of lung cancer; it isn’t exactly the same as “poisoning” in the sense of lead poisoning, for instance.

I have no idea what the heck American Idol has to do with anything. Come to think of it, lead poisoning may explain why this writer seems to insist on huffing radon gas as well as forbidding the gub’ment to have anything to say or do about a sizable, expensive, and easily prevented public health problem.

At any rate, “Give me radon or give me death!” would make a pretty lousy libertarian battle cry, since it’s a rare case where you really can have your cake and eat it, too.

I Can Only Shake My Head

March 26, 2010

In the past, I’ve highlighted here some of the letters to the editor that show up in our local newspaper for their unintentional comedic value and/or downright scariness. Here’s one from today’s paper that makes me wonder whether its writer ever passed ninth grade physical science:

Several letter writers have ridiculed those of us who believe in divine creation of life on Earth, as opposed to purely natural evolution. My question is, from where would life evolve?

It cannot come from the inorganic minerals which, along with air and water, were the only elements on Earth prior to the creation of life. It is impossible for any organic matter; carbon, for instance; to come from anything inorganic.

Carl Sagan, Ph.D., worked for years in a laboratory attempting to create organic life from the inorganic. The best he could do was an amino acid, which is a precursor to protein. As he wrote though, it was not life.

My advice to those who cannot accept the reality that someday they will have to stand before a sovereign God, who created everything, is that they begin to read his words to us in his book.

I’m not sure where to even begin with this one. Maybe I should start with the writer’s total ignorance of what an “element” even is, as this author seems to believe that air, water, and all minerals are found on the periodic table. Or, maybe I should start with the fact that stars produce carbon (which, unlike air, water, quartz, feldspar, etc., actually is an element) from inorganic material all the time, and that carbon is the basis of organic chemistry and is found in abundance throughout the universe. In fact, all organic compounds contain carbon, so carbon isn’t just one “instance” of organic matter. Or, maybe I should start with the fact that astronomers don’t spend their lives trying to create homunculi in chemistry labs. Neither do chemists, for that matter.

At any rate, I can only shake my head in shame for my locale. This kind of willful stupidity and deliberate ignorance is all too common.

A Health-Conscious Gastronome’s Tour of Southeastern Pennsylvania

February 27, 2010

Via the Philadelphia Independence Twitter feed:

Help her out #Philly fans! RT @karinaleblanc Just got in trouble…Cheesesteak = not healthy. What else u got, Philly (that’s healthy)? #wps

Picture of a cheesesteak from Pat's in Philadelphia.
I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that this isn’t good for you.

Being expansion clubs, it’s likely that many Philadelphia Independence and Philadelphia Union players — not just Karina LeBlanc — are unfamiliar with the unique foods of southeastern Pennsylvania and are anxious to try them. It’s also likely that, being professional athletes, they would like to seek out healthy eating options.

While the cheesesteak — grilled mystery meat and onion shreds on a bun smothered in Cheez Whiz —may not be the healthiest dining option, we in this corner of the country have plenty of nutritious foods befitting highly active lifestyles.

Philadelphians cannot live on cheesesteaks alone, which is why there are many other gastronomic emblems of the city. Among them are the soft pretzel: carbohydrate-laden dough baked until fluffy, covered in big chunks of salt, and usually smothered in Cheez Whiz — okay, never mind about that one, either. But never fear, there are also cheese fries: nutritious, all-natural potatoes sliced into strips, deep fried until crispy, and smothered in Cheez Whiz — okay, this clearly isn’t working.

A plate of scrapple.

Scrapple. Appetizing, eh?

While the city of Philadelphia may itself be a cesspool of Cheez Whiz, the surrounding area will certainly have healthier eating options. Let’s look at that wholesome region called “the Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” to which the Independence headquarters in Downingtown is conveniently adjacent. One regional delicacy here is something called “scrapple.” Basically, you take whatever’s still left over after hot dogs have been made, grind it up and press it into a vaguely loaf-like shape with the consistency of chunky pudding intermingled with goo. The best way to serve scrapple is to cut it into slices like bread, fry them up in a pan, and them mash them up with a bucketload of ketchup.

This being Pennsylvania, you must know that there is only one kind of ketchup, and that is Heinz. Nothing else counts.

So maybe scrapple isn’t so healthy, either. But don’t worry, we also have things like “Lebanon bologna” and “sweet bologna.” These are tubes of mystery meat generally made from whatever’s left over after scrapple has been made and eaten in chunks. Another very traditional delicacy is something called “pig stomach,” which, you guessed it, is a pig’s stomach stuffed with sausage, potatoes, and spices, baked for several hours and basted in its own juices.

Shoo-fly pie.

Sugar goo and sugar powder. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, maybe you can forget about meat-based healthy main-course traditional dining options around here. One good local vegetarian (but not vegan) dish is called “corn pie.” Healthy corn, potatoes, and celery are baked into a crusty pie with lots of eggs, butter, whole milk and heavy cream. Okay, maybe you can forget about all healthy main-course traditional dining options around here. But, I’m sure we have some healthy desserts and snacks.

One iconic Pennsylvania Dutch dessert is something called “shoo-fly pie,” which allegedly received its unusual moniker because it is so full of molasses and sugar that it attracts flies. It attracts so many flies, in fact, that you constantly have to shoo them away while eating it. We are also quite proud of our snack foods. The first commercial pretzel bakery in the nation was founded in Lititz, Lancaster County, and our local potato chips are much better than any national brand, probably because we fry them in lard instead of oil.

I won’t even bother getting into Fastnacht Day, and cup cheese should probably never be mentioned by anyone in polite company.

So, in summary, “what else u got” that’s healthy? Nothing. We got nothing. Sorry, folks. Wilkum, and try not to starve while you’re here.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

January 6, 2010

I live in a very conservative, deeply religious, and rather rural area. That combination of factors means one thing: there are lots of roadside signs emblazoned with some random vindictive King James Version Bible verse telling passerby to repent or go to Hell.

Most of them hang over or under the mailbox in front of farms, and they are generally permanent signs that appear to be professionally made. Most often, the sings will feature one verse on the obverse and another verse on the reverse. They’ve been a regular feature of the landscape of the Pennsylvania Dutch country for as long as I can remember.

However, nothing lasts forever. Change is coming to Lancaster County, and I encountered evidence of this region’s social evolution while driving along a back road several days ago. For the first time ever, I saw an angry Bible verse road sign, not with a different verse on each side, but with a brimstone-stoked King James verse on one side, and the same thing in Spanish on the other side.

Can’t you just feel the approaching enlightenment? Lancaster County is slowly becoming multicultural in its passively-aggressive vindictive obnoxiousness. That’s progress, right?

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