**WARNING, this blog post is highly link intensive, but I promise you won't be disappointed if you follow them**
Back in the day, when I was knee high to a grasshopper and an awkward teenager just trying to fit in….my mentor was already hard at work changing the world around him. I have to start out this story by giving a little background first, otherwise the story would only be a shell and not make much sense. Yes. I have a mentor. His name is Frank "Mike" Burnside, although I've been known to call him Sparky and Sideburns. I give everyone I like nicknames….I don't know why. I just do it. Consider it a form of endearment. Anyway….back to the story…
With one question in a staff meeting, the computing world of Northeastern Pennsylvania was forever changed…
"And then I said, “What about the Internet?”
And soon thereafter, epix Internet Services, one of Northeastern PA's first Internet Service Providers was born. "epix" by the way, was an acronym. Eastern Pennsylvania Internet eXchange. In Mike's words: "Yes, I know, you have to spell exchange as “eXchange” to get the nice acronym “EPIX.” Every company, at least every Internet company, needs an acronym, and what the hell kind of an acronym is “EPIE”?" You can read the rest of the story of how NEPA's first ISP came to be here. That is some history right there, folks.
I started working at epix Internet Services in the spring of 2000, Mike retired/resigned from his post shortly thereafter. At that time, we were ships passing in the night. A few years later, after finding a "cache" of Agnes photos from both sets of my Grandparents (which can be viewed here), I decided to create www.agnesinnepa.org, a website all about Agnes and its effects on Northeastern PA. I'll be honest with you, I haven't really done much with the website in quite a few years. I'm frustrated because I lost a lot of my archived files from the last format the website was in, which was the PHPNuke CMS. Anyway, I decided that I needed a "project advisor" of sorts to help me oversee this latest endeavor, and who better to tap then someone who had strong ties to the Luzerne County Historical Society. I sent Mike an email and soon after had a response, he was interested in helping me! We exchanged several emails back and forth and eventually exchanged IMs. The "Spark-ster" was awesome. He had taken a bunch of photos during the Agnes Flood which he allowed me to scan and use on my website. I still have a copy of them here. At the time, he was a VP over at WVIA and allowed me to use footage from the documentary "Remembering Agnes" on my website. I have screen caps of the movie here. If it wasn't for my little website and Mike's help, I would have never met author Lou Orfanella, and had my poetry and ugly mug published in/on one of his books.
A few weeks ago, Trish Hartman from WNEP contacted me about my website and was looking for an angle I couldn't give her. She wanted to interview someone who had lived through Agnes and the September 2011 floods and talk about the differences between the two. Sadly, I was born at the tail end of of 1980. I pointed her in the direction of Dr. Anthony Mussari, who had published the book "Appointment with Disaster", which was all about the lessons learned from Agnes. I actually found a copy of this book on … I think Ebay … and snagged it up. You can't find it around any more because it was published in 1974. From what I gather, Trish setup an interview with Dr. Mussari for her piece. I didn't get to see it because SOMEONE recorded the WBRE news that night instead of the WNEP news on the DVR. As an aside, Dr. Mussari had a local human interest show on WBRE/WVIA called "Windsor Park Theater". You can still view some of the archived episodes here. He's also involved with the Agnes 1972 Anniversary project here.
Many people ask me what my fascination is with the Agnes floods and weather in general is. I honestly don't know. I've been a weather channel addict for as long as I can remember. I would watch it 24×7 whenever I had the opportunity. You literally had to pry me away from the TV. My Grandmother had several books from the flood that she flipped through with me. I was instantly amazed with the books and eventually found copies of both books that she had online…through EBay. I have several books and a record from WILK about the flood and the river. My stupid crappy website was actually mentioned in one of the books, if you can believe that. [EDIT: After making approximately 25 trips up and down the steps this evening to my bookshelves, I found the name of this book…it's called "A Story Runs Through It; Wyoming Valley Levee System". The Agnes In NEPA reference appears on page 6 in a foreward written by F. Charles Petrillo.]
Wow. I didn't mean to really go that far off track with this blog post. I really wanted to discuss Geocaching and how I accidentally introduced Mike to it. I wish there was a more prolific story behind this. "Mike, you introduced me to the Internet….now allow me to introduce you to geocaching….", but it didn't happen like that. It was probably more like "Hey, check this out" as I spammed half of my AIM buddy list with the URL to the website. Mike read up on it heavily and went to purchase a GPS. Rich & I already owned a GPS and could easily go anytime we wanted. What is Geocaching? Well, the concept behind Geocaching is pretty simple, really. Its basically an outdoor scavenger hunt in which you use a GPS to encode clues and hide and seek out containers called "caches" or "geocaches". The cache is usually in a waterproof container, which contains a log book, and toys or other chotchkies. You sign the logbook, take an item out of the cache and leave one behind. Another thing I loved about it was the "cache in, trash out" concept. Basically, as you look for the Geocache, you bring a garbage bag with you to collect any trash that may have accumulated in the wooded area that it is hidden. Did I ever mention I was an environmental club nerd? I highly recommend this as a hobby for anyone who is an outdoor enthusiast.
What made me start to think about writing a blog post about this topic was actually Cheri Sundra's blog post about the Kirby Zoo ruins. There's actually is (was???) a Geocache hidden there that I wanted to find. After the flooding in September, I'm not sure that it would still be hidden…it may have been swept away as that area would have been completely inundated with water. I've tried to seek out only 3 other caches. I know….call me a slacker if you must. One was located at the Tubs recreational area along 115. That one was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I think Mike may have located it though. Also, I've located a Geocache on Public Square with Mike and another in Francis Slocum park with Mike & Rich. Here's a picture of us after finding it…
This was taken in my blonde hair days, ick poo.
There are two cemeteries that are located pretty close to my house that have Geocaches hidden. I would love to take some time and try to find them. One of these days when work and school aren't in the way, I'll try my hand at them. I know Mike has already found the one in the Bronson cemetery….as a matter of fact, I think Mike has pretty much found every Geocache in this entire valley. I think he's Geocache obsessed, and its all thanks to me. I also introduced him to the Tubs and took part in a covert exchange (I still cannot remember the details around this, but I do still have the "IT" magic 8 ball that he gave to me that day).
Switching gears back to meteorology for the moment….tomorrow I'm attending a SKYWARN Severe Weather Spotter training class somewhere in Lackawanna county. I'm very excited about this. I'm all geeked up and ready to go. I really believe that I was not meant to sit at a cubicle troubleshooting stupid Microsoft Windows crap all day long. I think that my calling was to become one in tune with the earth sciences…meteorology specifically, I hope its not too late and I haven't missed it.
I wonder what good ole Sparky would have to say about it?