Friday, December 24, 2010

The Meaning of Christmas [JESSE 2.0]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 2.0] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes. You can read all Jesse 2.0 entries here.

"I get it... the meaning of Christmas is... the idea that Christmas has meaning, and it can mean whatever we want. For me, it used to mean being with my Mom. But now it means being with you guys."

-- Abed, "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"

I'm always pleasantly surprised at how deep the comedy "Community" can cut emotionally. This comment by the show's stop-motion-animated character last night sums up what I'm feeling during this first Christmas after my divorce - and a realization that may have allowed my heart to grow like a little like the Grinch. Ironically, the image of him above looks a little like me today.

At first I tried to avoid Christmas completely, but it's impossible to do that here in the U.S., and eventually its warm, pine-scented tentacles got to me. I still didn't decorate, but I put up a string of USB lights at work and at home, and a pink Christmas Tree for my Flamingo collection. I still didn't listen to Christmas music (when possible), but I am watching the Christmas-themed TV shows that I normally have on my weekly list.

So what is Christmas to me this year?

Relaxation and good food. While I'm watching those shows on TV today and tomorrow, and a few flakes of snow are falling outside, I'll be preparing my favorite meal, a spicy pasta dish, to go with some Christmas cookies and candy I'll be enjoying later today and tomorrow. To go with that, a couple of movies I've been wanting to see ("Inception" and "Devil"), a stack of magazines, and my cat Star on my lap.

True, today he is my only companion, but that doesn't bother me, and I'd rather be here relaxing than anything else. This is probably another blog entry, but I think I'm finally comfortable with myself -- getting back something that I had earlier in my life, growing up as an only child. And that... may be the best present of all.

Me, getting the Christmas Tree at Age 13

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Horror Show [JESSE 2.0]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 2.0] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes. You can read all Jesse 2.0 entries here.

Today is Black Friday. Here is a link to my AccuWeather blog on Black Friday 2006, when I recounted my horror story of Black Friday 2003. This will explain why since then, I have done all my shopping online, opting to not shop at the stores on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chasing Death [JESSE 2.0]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 2.0] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes. You can read all Jesse 2.0 entries here.
UPDATE 11/9/2010: Matt's wife and mother have been kind enough to issue this statement - read more on - excerpt below, which I applaud them for and again offer my condolences:

"Our family never intended to conceal the circumstances surrounding Matt's death in an effort to deceive the public, but rather to allow us to grieve privately, as well as, protect the many young children that have been affected by this tragedy. Depression is an extremely widespread, yet treatable, condition. Receiving education regarding the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation is essential. Those who know of, or may need help themselves, need to seek treatment or call the "National Suicide Prevention Lifeline" at (800) 273-TALK (8255)."

I also received a phone call of thanks today from a weather enthusiast friend who read this post and decided to seek help. All in all I'm glad I had the courage to write this!


Someone dear to the meteorological community was lost this May... and the whole world found out about Matt Hughes' death last week on Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers." In fact Monday morning that topic Dominated (pun intended) internet searches. Combined, two separate phrases "how did matt hughes die" and "matt hughes storm chaser death" were by far the #1 searched topic on Google Trends.

Why? We fellow chasers knew almost immediately in May from hobby chat boards online. But the information about how he passed away was not mentioned then, only notes that it was "not chasing-related" and only a handful knew before Monday, when TMZ and others released the truth: Matt committed suicide. This news hit me hard, and not just because I am a fellow storm chaser.

(The tribute image above is from which has information on a Memorial Fund for Matt's two sons).

First, I was disappointed in the way that Discovery Channel handled the situation. They had three episodes featuring Matt before their tribute last week. I realize that they desire to do things in chronological order, but to not even mention Matt's passing during the first three episodes made those of us who knew the situation wonder if they were ever going to address it. And when asked, they didn't answer.

Second, I respect the family's privacy, and realize there may be legal issues, but by trying to hide the truth, I believe Matt's family missed a big opportunity to further the cause of Depression screening and prevention. Instead, they (understandably for privacy concerns) hid the truth and some in the media are now interpreting this as a "cover-up," putting Matt's death in a negative light. As a result, everyone else is scared to talk about it, so we stay quiet.

But I feel too strongly about this topic to remain silent.

As a person who suffered from Depression years ago (in college), I feel I am qualified to speak on the topic. As Mental Health America says a couple of important things: "Clinical depression is a serious medical illness. Clinical depression can lead to suicide. Sometimes people with depression mistakenly believe that the symptoms of depression are a 'normal part of life.'"

The illness is further misinterpreted, or simply not seen, by friends and family who think that depressed people are just "extra sad" because of something that went wrong in their life. Actually, everything could be going perfect for you, but you still feel sad. That's what makes is so odd.

Fortunately, it's treatable. But only if you or those around you recognize the problem. As MHA points out, one way is through screening. Another is simply for your friends and family to be aware of the signs, which they list. Every time that we are unable to catch the signs in time, we need to get the word out about this illness.

I was able to recognize the problem and seek help, which started with psychotherapy. That helped a little. Then I tried a couple different prescription antidepressant drugs, some of which had horrible side effects like paranoia, "brain zaps" (the Internet wasn't around then so you couldn't Google that - it was quite scary) and me forgetting how to spell simple words (not great for English 101).

I finally found one that worked, and had no side effects (Zoloft). I'll never forget the day that I knew it was working. I was overcome with a wave of calmness as I retrieved a Pepsi from the refrigerator at our Beach House (I was there with my parents). I'd like to be a huge proponent of that particular drug, but the truth is that different drugs work for different people. After a year on Zoloft, I discontinued it and was completely recovered.

The reason the drugs work is simple -- depression is caused by an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin. I also happen to believe that most, if not all aberrant behavior is caused by brain chemical imbalances and hope that one day we may be able to rid the world of much crime and unrest via psychotropic drugs like anti-depressants.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 105: Dark Halloween [JESSE 2.0]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 2.0] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes. You can read all Jesse 2.0 entries here.

Tomorrow night is trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. But this year my house will be dark, for the first Halloween since I moved into this neighborhood with my family in 2006.

Halloween is the first in three late-year holidays that I will be spending without my wife, stepdaughter, or dog. Halloween is a somber holiday -- but it's hard to say if it's worse or better than other more intimate family holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We used to start out the evening watching the "Garfield Halloween Special" on DVD during dinner, something that I, too, had done before trick-or-treating as a child. Then my wife would get her daughter dressed up in some crazy costume.

When I gave out candy the last four years I kind of did it for them, even if they were out trick-or-treating themselves. I did it to be part of the suburban community life that I always dreamed of.

But now that dream is gone. I am but a shell living alone in a large suburban dwelling. I just don't feel like giving out candy this year.

These holidays are going to be difficult, but they are something I'm going to have to get used to. I'm going to have to treat them like every day of the year, or at least relax and catch up on reading, like I would have done anyway.

Other than the upcoming Holidays, how am I doing these days? Better I guess, I am mostly able to go on about life, though they still crowd my mind during idle time and I still dream that they forgive me and take me back. I am still wrestling with the mortgage company on a loan modification. I am still going out with my "guy friends" at least once a week - no females are in the picture yet.

The divorce will be finalized on November 11th. It's not clear to me if I have to see her that day, or sign anything, or if the paperwork we already signed simply becomes official and I get a copy in the mail. I guess that will launch "Jesse 2.1"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 79: The Stones World Tour [JESSE 2.0]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 2.0] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes. You can read all Jesse 2.0 entries here.

Yesterday another inconvenience of no longer having a family living with me came to the forefront - and it was something I never thought I'd face anytime soon.

I haven't been to the emergency room (or really, a hospital) since I was twelve years old (for me; I had visited my ex-wife there several times). But yesterday morning when I awoke at 4 AM I immediately knew something was "wrong" because the pain in my abdomen was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

I thought at first it might be the stomach flu because of the nausea, but the pain extended from my abdomen backwards through my lower back - and the heating pad didn't help. Finally after writhing in pain for a couple hours in bed I dragged myself into the heavy rain and drove myself to the emergency room.

Thankfully everything went fairly quickly and they quickly put in an IV for fluids, anti-nausea and morphine. As I lapsed in and out of consciousness for the next couple of hours, they kept asking me for basic information that had to be in their system already, and finally got me in for a CAT scan. Half an hour later the doctor said that I have a kidney stone, which is too small to operate for and must come out "naturally" (read: painfully at some undisclosed time in the future).

After they wheeled me back from the CAT scan they forgot to take down the sides in the bed and (also because the IV was connected to the bed) I was momentarily trapped, feeling quite nauseous, with no convenient receptacle. Fortunately a nurse came in and gave me a bag specifically made for such situations.

A couple hours later I awoke to the doctor asked me if "someone was waiting for me." No, I said in a haze of morphine, not realizing what that really meant until afterward. There was no one that cared for me now, no one that would be in the waiting room, no one to drive me home. I was truly on my own.

They said I couldn't drive because of the morphine, which made sense to me, and offered to call a cab in the pouring rain, which I took to Wal-Mart and got prescriptions for Vicadent and anti-nausea medicine filled, stumbling around the store, soaked, with my hospital bracelet still on and gauze and a cotton ball around my elbow like some sort of homeless druggie.

Fortunately a former co-worker was there at the pharmacy and offered to drive me home so I wouldn't have to take another cab (something that, by the way, I had probably only done once before in my life).

The time between then and noon today I spent drifting in and out of consciousness in bed trying to deal with the pain. Today, thankfully, the pain has subsided but I still have that empty feeling that there was no one there to calm the pain, no one to help me stumble through that horrible day in the rain.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 1: Numb [JESSE 2.0]

NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 2.0] blog at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes. You can read all Jesse 2.0 entries here.

When I came home to my "American Dream" home today, my house was empty after housing my wife, her daughter and dog for 10 years.

I am divorced;* its arrival was sudden, brutal and devastating, as if my family had been taken from this earth.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I'm not going to talk about our marriage, which was good until the end, or the divorce itself, which was my fault. So don't ask.

And I'm certainly not going to speak ill of my former family, I (still) love them too much for that and my wife has been kinder to me in the last 24 hours than she should have been. They are going through something worse than I am right now; thankfully they have each other. If you are praying for me you need to pray for them too. I don't have the "advantage" of hating them, and that makes it all the more sad for me.

I'm not playing the victim here and I don't request pity. What's done is done; I can't go back in time to fix it. I am moving on with my life, if I can find that that is possible, and that's what this blog is going to be about. When I can stop thinking about them, I won't talk about the memories of my former family either.

When I was a teenager and something was bugging me, I kept a journal. And of course I have been "blogging" in some form ever since. So, I need to write this blog to make it through the next few months as I restart my life, as Jesse 2.0. I'm doing this blog for me. I hope that those who come along for the ride can offer me some sage advice for this trip.

What I would appreciate is advice from divorcees on how to make it through this, because I didn't even get a chance to so much as research this horror before it happened to me. I am committing here to try to stay positive and not fall into the dark traps that divorcees often do. I hope this blog will be inspiring to others, or will at least let the 60% of America know: You are not alone.

But for now I am numb in a way that I haven't been since my father's death in 2000. I believe, like that event, it will seem like the pain will never go away, but I learned from his passing that it will.

Tonight I've taken turns crying and staring at the walls. I called my mother, who was the only person in this world who can truly understand this situation, and she was very supportive. At the moment I can't even go to my usual emotional friend "music"; because of my photographic memory and synethesia, I will forever associate those tunes with this terrible day.

For now I only look forward to a cold and restless night - and hope that tomorrow will somehow be better.

The profile photo here was taken as I left work, moments before I arrived home and my life changed forever. It was the last photo of Jesse 1.0.

*Pending paperwork.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

28 Healthy Months... But Why? [FB NOTE]

NOTE: This blog was previously published as a [Facebook Note] at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.

So... I won the "Super Iron Person Award" yesterday at AccuWeather (among many other employees). You get this award when you don't take any time off work. This is my second year, and my question is why? For the rest of my career there (1997-2008) I took 1-3 weeks off per year with usually 2-3 major cold/flu events, typically culminating in an ear or sinus infection.

What have I been doing since November 2007 that has kept me healthy? Well, first, I'm not the picture of health, but what I'm talking about here are debilitating sicknesses that cause me to be out of work. I still feel that I get a light "cold" for a few days every couple of months but it's never bad enough to have to stay home from work. And I'm plagued with food and non-food allergies, but that's another story that hasn't changed much since I moved to Pennsylvania.

I'm not sure, though I have several theories. My leading hypothesis is that I've been using hand sanitizer frequently (perhaps obsessively) since then. I've always been a bit of a germaphobe and my daughter got me a bottle of Germ-X for Christmas 2007 as a gag gift. I took it to work with me and preceded the widely-available-at-work-and-everywhere-else-hand-sanitizer-because-of-swine-flu craze by two years.

My runner-up theory is getting more sleep, especially when I feel something coming on. For the past two years I've been very careful to let myself get (nearly) as much sleep as my body appears to need, which is 9-10 (relatively) uninterrupted hours per night. If I feel bad I simply delay coming into work, or work at home, whereas in the past I might have dragged myself into work. My schedule changed in the mid-2000s to require me to not get up as early, and my wife cured her snoring when she was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea in early 2008. Again, these dates don't exactly line up, but I've began to think that you can almost sleep *anything* off.

Another theory is getting the appropriate dosage of herbs & vitamins. I have always been on 1000% Vitamin C fairly consistently, but long before 2007. For years I was on Echinacea, thinking it was keeping me healthier, and on Aloe Vera thinking it would help digestive problems. I might have quit them around that time but I'm pretty sure it was later in 2008. I also added 500% Vitamin D, but that was last year. I've been on Zyrtec-D since the early 2000s though I quit the "D" during the middle of 2008. None of these seem to add up to the period that I've been healthy but perhaps I finally hit the correct dosage.

Sure, I've been exercising more since then, but not consistently, and I haven't lost much weight. Besides, that really started when we moved into our house in 2006. I've also been eating better and drinking less soda and more water, but I can't really say for sure that started in late 2007. In fact I'd think it's a lack of allergen when moving to our new house but again that was mid-2006.

I haven't flown anywhere, which helps -- I came down with the flu both times I flew for AccuWeather in 2004 and 2007, but there have been many years when I have avoided traveling. I've also ruled out changes in my workplace, which don't match up with the dates I've been healthy.

All in all, I really am not sure but it's clear something magical has happened and I'll tell you what, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. Whatever it is, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for another year without a major sickness, and hoping that I didn't jinx it by posting this :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It Took the Netherlands To Fix My Father-In-Law's Computer [FB NOTE]

NOTE: This blog was previously published as a [Facebook Note] at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.

So my father-in-law's computer contracted a virus/malware and I drove up to his house to eradicate it last week. This is something I have done many times before for several friends & family members. McAfee couldn't find it but Comcast was forcing its customers to switch to Norton anyway so I installed that and it said it had fixed the problem. This week I get a call from him saying that his Google Searches are hijacked, something I had never heard of before but when I saw it last night, I certainly believed it. When you searched for something on Google, the list came up, but no matter what you searched for, it sent you to a spam site. Since McAfee & Norton didn't do the job, I installed SpywareTerminator which has worked miracles that the "big two" couldn't solve for me in the past, but it couldn't find it either. I tried deleting all cookies, as one site suggested, but that didn't work (keeping in mind here that, since Google was disabled, even researching this was a pain). My fifth idea was to run a risky fix from Russia recommended on a discussion board, but I was desperate. After a little research to make sure the company was legit, I ran the batch file, but it came up empty as well. My sixth and final idea before reinstalling Windows (something malware has driven me to do before) was to try a new Anti-spyware program recommended on the same forum page as the Russian fix, called "HitManPro" It is made in the Netherlands, and is a cloud computing program (meaning the analysis is done remotely which is more efficient than running it on your machine). By golly, the sixth time was a charm. HitmanPro found and deleted the malware. It never ceases to amaze me how so many major anti-spyware/virus programs can fail to find some problems. I guess the moral of this story is, if one program doesn't fix it, try another, until you're frustrated enough to reinstall Windows. Here's hoping that there's nothing else on his machine.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Weather Dream 2010/01: Flash Flood @ My House [FB NOTE]

NOTE: This blog was previously published as a [Facebook Note] at but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes.

I frequently dream of severe weather - thunderstorms, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, etc (and successfully filming them). I'm going to try to keep track of my major weather dreams this year. Here's episode 1 from a night this week:

I usually don't dream of severe weather occurring at my house, usually I'm out chasing it or it's at a lake or the ocean. But last night I dreamed that it was summer time, and I awoke to heavy rain, wind and fog outside my house. The rain let up momentarily and I saw a river of muddy water coming down the street towards our house. I thought "oh man, flash flood, must be some heavy rain coming." It swept over our yard putting everything about 6 inches under water and ended up flowing into a lake behind my house (which doesn't exist IRL (In Real Life)).

Hanging out of a balcony (which doesn't exist IRL) on the east side of my house I saw a large, forked lightning strike in the distance that lasted several seconds (looking similar to one I photographed IRL last year shown below) hitting a cell phone tower to my north, then presumably a power substation to my west because the power went out. I went into the garage where everything was under water and the rain got heavier. That's all I remember. As usual, I was videotaping the whole thing.

We had the worst lightning storm in years this afternoon in State College - the thunder was rumbling constantly for an hour as hundreds of lightning strikes peppered our area. I got lucky with this video capture, looking north just before 4 PM. More pics & video at had the worst lightning storm in years this afternoon in State College - the thunder was rumbling constantly for an hour as hundreds of lightning strikes peppered our area. I got lucky with this video capture, looking north just before 4 PM. More pics & video at