Friday, November 18 – Sunday, November 20

“Eight hours” is an ugly term. It defines the shifts I had to work on both Saturday and Sunday at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. Let’s just say that it wasn’t pleasant either day. Saturday was really busy, Sunday less so, but each shift just dragged on forever. I guess I’m just not used to working eights.

On a better note, I had a nice gym session on Friday, ample upper-body work. Given that I had the day off I went during the early afternoon when it wasn’t crowded. No trouble getting one of the rare-as-diamonds flat benches. Speaking of the gym, over the weekend I watched a couple videos about the NO2 supplement I’ve been using, and they weren’t particularly favorable toward it. Dunno, I believe it helps with post-gym recovery, maybe everyone’s different.

Published in: on November 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, November 14 – Thursday, November 17

Winding down, for sure

Monday marked the beginning of the last full 2-week work cycle of 2016 at my main job. Following this cycle, which will be split in two by my week off for Thanksgiving, there will be a one-week cycle to clear up loose ends, and then I’m off for three weeks. Of course I’ll be working fairly long hours at the Major Home Improvement Retailer for much of this time. If the past two years are any guide things will finally slow down about a week before Christmas.

Which isn’t to say that the work cycle which began on Monday is anything close to a normal cycle. It was more like an I’m-done-so-early-can-I-really-leave-now sort of thing. Really just minimal tasks. Needless to say I’m quite pleased with this turn of events after all the very difficult ones I’ve had. This is doubly true now that my MHIR hours have gotten long. I worked 4:30 to 9:30 on both Monday and Wednesday. Five-hour shifts aren’t as bad as 8’s, but they’re still no walk in the park. Each shift consisted mainly of keeping the Christmas lights and ornaments stocked. Even with well over a month until Christmas people are buying big quantities, which makes sense as they do tend to sell out as the holiday approaches.

Tuesday and Thursday were gym trips. After having been so bad about going for so long I’m finally getting back into a more regular routine and, hopefully, seeing a bit of progress. One thing I’ve noticed is that the gym seems more crowded than usual, which can be a drawback if I want to bench press. For utterly inexplicable reasons they have only two flat bench stations, even a recent major expansion didn’t add any. In a month or so an LA Fitness is opening up around a mile away, I’m not sure what effect that’s going to have on the gym’s business. From what I’ve heard, LA Fitness gyms have excellent amenities but can be costly, with various combinations of initiation fees and monthly dues and contract lengths. The current gym has a far simpler, and much more transparent, pricing structure.

Published in: on November 24, 2016 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, November 11 – Sunday, November 13

After an easy day off on Friday, it was back to full 8-hour shifts at the Major Home Improvement Retailer on both Saturday and Sunday. Neither one was a terribly difficult shift, as these things go, they were just long. Not having worked many 8’s recently, I had forgotten just how long. Not merely twice as long as a 4-hour shift, but more like three times as long. At least it sure seems that way. Near the end of Saturday’s shift, the first shipment of Christmas trees arrived. Yes, it’s still a long way to Christmas, how the trees are supposed to last that long … well, it’s not my job to ask why.

I made two gym trips, during the late afternoon on Friday and around noon before my Sunday MHIR shift. It does look as if I’m getting back into a rhythm. One thing that might be helping is this new supplement I’ve been taking, NO2 (nitric oxide). While some of the claims are exaggerated, which is true for most supplements, I do think it help with post-workout recovery. That’s fine by me.

Published in: on November 19, 2016 at 2:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, November 7 – Thursday, November 10

At least I had an excuse for exhaustion

This week at my main job was another rare case in which the second week of a two-week work cycle was harder than the first, so much for the learning curve. Each day I had to stay about 30 to 45 minutes after normal quitting time despite taking a very brief lunch break. Fortunately, the next cycle is going to be much easier, I checked, and in any event between now and the first of the year I have only three work weeks remaining. There’s a week off for Thanksgiving week, then back for two weeks, then off for three. It’s been that way for all the time I’ve been at the job, and while it does mean less money, the break is quite appreciated. Especially this year, with all the hours I’ve been working at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.

Speaking of the MHIR, Wednesday was my only shift there, which is tougher than it sounds because I had been up very late on Tuesday watching the election returns (why is Michigan so slow?) One thing that helped me make it through the shift is that I was back in garden for the first time in over a week. I really don’t know how I could have handled working the lot. Oh, I also got my annual raise … suffice to say I won’t be in the market for a new Mercedes, even with my extra money.

I made it to the gym on Monday and Thursday. Both were successful visits, I’m back to making slow but steady progress. What with a heavy MHIR work schedule I probably won’t be able to make many visits until Thanksgiving week, but that’s okay.

Today’s longform mystery: The storm, the reading glasses, and the disappearance of Leigh

On the morning of August 27, 1992, the remnants of Hurricane Andrew were lashing Tupelo, Mississippi with high winds, lightning and rain. At 13 years of age Leigh Occhi was terrified of lightning, so scared that she had spent the night in the same bed as her mother, 36-year-old Vicki Yarborough. Vicki and Leigh’s father, Donald Occhi, had been divorced for many years. Donald was a sergeant in the Army and lived in Virginia. He maintained a good relationship with Leigh. Vicki’s second husband, Barney Yarborough, had moved out several weeks earlier though he and Vicki were still married. Everyone seemed to get along well, although Leigh supposedly had told a friend that her mother and stepfather “weren’t treating her very well.”

Vicki left for work around 7:35 in the morning, arriving about 15 minutes later. As school hadn’t yet started for the year Leigh remained home. Surprisingly, given that she was certainly old enough at 13, Leigh had never been home alone before for any length of time. At 8:30, Vicki called home to see how Leigh was doing, but got no answer. This so unsettled her that she left work right away and returned home at 8:45.

Vicki found a terrifying scene. The garage door was opened and the front door unlocked, and Leigh was nowhere to be seen. What was present was a significant amount of blood of Leigh’s type. Enough blood to indicate a very serious injury though not necessarily death. A pool of blood on the carpet suggested that Leigh had laid there for a short time before being moved. There was evidence that the attacker had tried to clean himself off in the bathroom sink. As best as Vicki could determine the only missing items were Leigh’s shoes and reading glasses, some of her underwear, and a sleeping bag. Police figured that the attacker used the sleeping bag to remove Leigh’s dying or dead body from the house.

Massive searches failed to find any trace of Leigh, though the heavy rain rendered tracking dogs largely useless. The case took a bizarre turn about two weeks later, when a large envelope containing Leigh’s reading glasses arrived in the mail. This was weird enough by itself, but two things only added to the mystery. The envelope was addressed to “B. Yarborough,” Leigh’s stepfather Barney, even though he had moved out weeks earlier. It also had been postmarked in the town of Boonville, about 30 miles north. A few days after the disappearance a girl fitting Leigh’s description had been seen with an adult man in Boonville, although the police had located both the man and the girl and cleared them.

A possible suspect came to light several years later when a man whom Leigh and Vicki knew, a man in a “position of trust” at the church they attended, was convicted of kidnapping and raping a girl around Leigh’s age. Police have been unable to connect him to Leigh’s disappearance, although Vicki points out that if he had come to the door on the fateful morning Leigh might well have let him in because she knew and trusted him. Vicki herself has come under some suspicion, as no one but her would have known that Leigh was home alone, and she might have been blaming Vicki for ruining her second marriage. Police do not consider her a suspect, however, and also have exonerated Barney and Donald.

Published in: on November 17, 2016 at 1:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, November 4 – Sunday, November 6

It was an easy weekend, no work except for a five-hour shift on Saturday evening at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. I figured that I had better enjoy it while I could, because the following two weekends are going to be anything but fun, what with 8-hour Saturday and Sunday MHIR shifts. Ugh.

Future concerns aside, I made the best of these days, going to the gym on Friday and Sunday and basically not doing anything I didn’t particularly want to do. Lazy, maybe, but the way I figure is that I’ve earned the right to be lazy. On Sunday, we made a short trip to the outlet center in Riverhead, though I didn’t end up buying anything. I’ve never quite gotten the point of outlets, though some people are nuts about them. Most of the supposed huge bargains, really aren’t.

Published in: on November 14, 2016 at 3:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, October 31 – Thursday, November 3

Do they count as days off? No, I didn’t think so.

My spell of easy weeks at the Major Home Improvement Retailer came to a crashing end this week. Every day, Monday through Thursday, I worked from 4:30 pm to 10 pm, and in the lot rather than my usual spot in the garden department. Vacation coverage, as it turned out. Now, I knew in advance that working both jobs for four days in a row would be a bit too much, so I had decided to take Tuesday and Wednesday off from my main job. I figured I could tough out working both jobs on Monday and on Thursday. It’s a lot easier to get time off from the main job than from the MHIR.

All in all it was a smart idea. Monday wasn’t as bad as I had feared, as it started a new cycle at my main job and it is a reasonable workload. I finished up about 1:30 and therefore had three hours between jobs. Thursday was a bit tougher, as I worked until 2:30 and then ran into some traffic getting back, but knowing that a mostly free weekend would follow made it much more tolerable.

As for the MHIR shifts, they were fairly long at five and a half hours, but I got into a pretty decent routine for getting through them. I spent the first hour or so getting the carts in order, and then had a fairly easy time for the balance of the shift. Monday was especially easy as it was Halloween and the store was pretty empty. Which made working both jobs that day more tolerable than would otherwise have been the case. On Tuesday and Wednesday I took advantage of the partial days off to make gym trips. My progress isn’t lightning fast, but I’m getting there.

Published in: on November 7, 2016 at 3:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, October 28 – Sunday, October 30

Wow, all this time on my hands. What with working so many hours between my regular job and the Major Home Improvement Retailer “free time” has become somewhat of an alien concept. This weekend, however, was quite a difference. Friday was a full day off as usual, Saturday I had only a 4-hour MHIR shift, and Sunday, remarkably, was a day completely off. It was pretty nice. I took advantage of the time off to do some chores, do some reading, make two trips to the gym, and – most of all – waste altogether too much time online.

Naturally enough, free time is soon to become an alien concept. Over the next few weeks I’m getting bombarded with hours at the MHIR. Extra money, of course, but it’s not going to be an easy schedule. I’ll manage. Somehow.

Published in: on November 7, 2016 at 2:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, October 24- Thursday, October 27

Busy, busy

Much to report on for these days. First of all, the workload at my main job did not follow the usual pattern. I’ve noted many times that the second week of a 2-week work cycle is generally easier than the first week. Learning curve and all that. It was different this time. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday were a lot more hectic than the prior week had been. No getting out early, in fact I stayed a bit late each day except Thursday. I cannot really explain why this was so. Tuesday was quite different, as I was on a special project. That day was the worst of all, as I had to stay almost two hours late. Fortunately, the project should be a one-time thing. I hope.

Thursday was my only shift at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. It was a long one, 4:30 to 10, and I was back on lot duty. As it was raining for most of the time I tried to keep my cart-wrangling trips to a minimum. This wasn’t hard, as the rain did a pretty good job keeping customers away, but on the downside it made for a very dull, slow-moving shift.

On a much better note, I’ve finally made my return to the gym. That ever-elusive sprite Enthusiasm hasn’t made a complete return, but at least isn’t entirely absent. Be thankful for small things. My new routine, which I found after some online research, is based on doing a variety of different exercises for three sets of 12 using relatively light weights. I’m not accustomed to that tempo, as normally I do sets of no more than eight. Hopefully I will find it to my liking. I did upper-body work on Monday, legs and back on Wednesday, and on Tuesday did some work on the stationary cycle. There have been false starts recently, but just maybe this time will be the charm.

Published in: on October 30, 2016 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, October 21 – Sunday, October 23

Enjoying a day off, which Friday was for me, should not be affected by anticipation of what’s coming. Saturday and Sunday are going to be bad? Well, that’s a pity, but it shouldn’t have any effect on Friday. Unfortunately it did.

All I could think of on Friday is that I’d be working 8-hour shifts on both Saturday and Sunday at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. Yes, just like the prior weekend. That made it hard for me to enjoy my day off. In a weird way, though, the anticipation was perhaps worse than the reality. My Saturday and Sunday shifts may have been long, but each one went by quickly. I was back in garden, which helped, and the store was quite busy most of the time. That really helps. Anyway, at least that made up, somewhat, for the less-than-enjoyable Friday. If there’s a motto, it’s don’t anticipate trouble.

Longform mystery: The (justifiable) paranoia of Blair Adams.
It’s somewhat surprising this case has never gotten much attention, given its strange elements. Sorry to say, the main reason might be that despite having what’s often a girl’s name, Blair was a man, and crimes involving women – especially cute young women  – get a disproportionate share of attention.

Blair was Canadian, living in a suburb of Vancouver and working as a construction foreman. He had no criminal record, and despite some youthful indiscretions with alcohol and drugs had been clean for years. He was well-liked by everyone who knew him. In the summer of 1996, however, when Blair was 31 years old, his behavior began to change for the worse. He began having wild mood swings and increasing fears. It was obvious to everyone that something was greatly bothering and frightening him, but he wouldn’t tell anyone what it was, not even his mother.
On Friday, July 5, 1996, he went to the bank and withdrew his entire savings of $6,000 in cash. He also took out several thousand dollars worth of jewelry and precious metals from his safety deposit box. Two days later Blair tried to drive across the nearby border into the United States but was denied entry, because as a man traveling alone with a large amount of cash he fit the profile of a drug courier.
The next day, Monday July 8, Blair went into work and quit on the spot, even though he was a highly valued employee. He then spent $1,600 on a round trip airline ticket to Germany, for a flight leaving the next day. Later on Monday he went to a female friend’s house and told her that his life was in danger and that he needed her help to get across the US border right away. He tried once more to cross the border but once again got turned away.
On Tuesday, July 9, Blair turned in his tickets to Germany, rented a car, and finally was able to drive into the US. He drove to the airport in Seattle and spent $770 on a one-way ticket to Washington DC. The ticket agent tried to convince Blair that it would make more sense to buy a round trip, it actually would be cheaper, but he was insistent on a one-way.
Blair arrived in Washington on the morning of Wednesday, July 10, and immediately traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee. He did not know anyone in Knoxville or in the eastern US for that matter and had no business dealings in the area. At around 5:30 that evening he went to a gas station in Knoxville and said that his rental car wouldn’t start. The people at the station determined that he had the wrong key, though how he got from the airport rental booth to the gas station is anyone’s guess. The rental agency being closed by this time, Blair hitched a ride to a nearby hotel.
Hotel security cameras and the desk clerk’s recollections attest to Blair’s increasingly unhinged demeanor. He seemed terrified that someone would come into the hotel lobby to attack him. In the space of an hour he walked in and out of the lobby five times. Finally, at 7:37pm, Blair walked out of the lobby, the last time he was ever seen alive.
About 12 hours later, on the morning of Thursday, July 11, 1996, Blair’s dead body turned up in a parking lot about a half mile from the hotel. He was naked from the waist down, though there was no evidence of sexual attack, and more than $4,000 in American, Canadian and German currency was scattered around the body. A small pack nearby held more than $2,000 worth of gold and jewelry. While he had a number of fairly minor cuts and abrasions, the cause of death was a very hard blow to the abdomen, from what isn’t known, that ruptured his stomach.
Police never found any further clues and have no suspects.


Published in: on October 30, 2016 at 8:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, October 17 – Thursday, October 20

At last, a reprieve

I really needed a break. Thankfully, I got one. Monday began a new 2-week cycle at my main job, and it is much easier than the last two ones. On Monday and Wednesday I worked until about an hour before the usual quitting time, while on Tuesday and Thursday I was as free as a proverbial bird well over two hours early. Again, I still get my full day’s pay, so it’s all good. Even beyond the ability to finish up early, the lack of pressure is a real plus. I can take my allotted breaks without worrying that I’ll have to stay late.

During this stretch I had only one shift at the Major Home Improvement Retailer, a 4:30 to 9 on Wednesday. After those excruciating lot shifts I was finally back into garden. What a relief. It wasn’t a bad shift as these things go, mostly freight work. No complaints.

Longform mystery: The Dyatlov Pass incident.

In January 1959, ten experienced hikers set off from Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), Russia on a ski-hiking expedition to the northern Ural Mountains. Nine of them, seven men and two women, were in their early 20’s and were students or recent graduates of a technical university in Sverdlovsk, with the tenth being an acquaintance in his 30’s. Russia had and has a formalized system for certifying hikers, and by completing this lengthy winter expedition to a very remote area the group members would attain the top certification level and be authorized to work as guides. Their destination was Ortoten Mountain, one of the northernmost peaks in the Urals and far from civilization.

When the nine remaining hikers (one had turned back at the beginning for medical reasons) did not return as scheduled, the authorities launched a massive air and ground search. Searchers first found the hikers’ tent, which was still largely intact and contained most of their belongings. Among these belongings were extensive diaries, the keeping of which had been part of the certification process. Times of the last entries showed that whatever fate befell the hikers must have occurred on the evening of February 1. Area temperatures at the time were about 20 degrees below zero. It appeared that the hikers had slashed one side of the tent open so they could exit it very quickly. Something, or someone, must have scared the wits out of them.

Searchers found the first two bodies shortly afterwards, although it took a couple of months to find all nine. All of the hikers were buried deeply in the snow and autopsies showed they had frozen to death. Three had suffered fairly severe injuries from falling into a ravine. The bodies were in a few clusters, anywhere from a few hundred yards to a mile from the tent. What was strangest of all, however, is that none of them had proper outdoors gear, all of that having been left behind at the tent. Most of them were only partly dressed and were barefoot. As experienced hikers they would have known that leaving the tent in that condition, into such extreme cold, would have been a death sentence. Yet for some reason they had fled.

All the official investigation could conclude is that the deaths were the result of “a compelling natural force.” The authorities also named the location Dyatlov Pass in honor of expedition leader Igor Dyatlov. As you might imagine, there have been many theories over the years:

– Local tribesmen attacked the hikers for trespassing on sacred hunting grounds. In fact, the area wasn’t a hunting ground, and the tribesmen were quite friendly and some actually participated in the search efforts.

– Escaped Gulag prisoners attacked the hikers. This was unlikely because the nearest Gulag camps were more than 50 miles away across extremely rugged terrain.

– The hikers fled a wolf or bear attack. As experienced hikers, they would have known that staying together in the tent would have been safer than running out.

– Soldiers chased the hikers out of the tent because they had seen something of a military nature they weren’t supposed to see. There were no records of any military activities in the area, though that can’t be entirely discounted because the Soviet regime kept many secrets. Nonetheless, the soldiers probably would have shot the hikers.

– They heard what they thought was an avalanche and fled in fear. This might make sense, except for the fact that the hikers had deliberately chosen a spot for their tent that had no avalanche risk.

– Carbon monoxide fumes from the cooking stove disoriented the hikers. They hadn’t assembled the stove when they suddenly left and the autopsies showed no trace of carbon monoxide poisoning.

More or less by default, the infrasound theory has become the most prominent one today. Infrasound consists of very low-frequency sound waves, and in some circumstances can cause disorientation and an unwell feeling, though they aren’t actually dangerous. Riot police in Israel and some other countries have used infrasound generators as a crowd-control measure, though the results have been inconsistent at best. Scientific analysis has shown that the hikers’ tent was in a location where winds coming off a nearby mountain peak could generate infrasound as well as small tornado-like vortices. The idea is that the infrasound so disoriented the hikers that all nine fled the tent into certain death.


Published in: on October 24, 2016 at 3:23 am  Leave a Comment