Tag Archives: State College

A Standoff in State College

This afternoon around 12:30pm I left my apartment to run a few errands. As I exited the driveway of my apartment complex I noticed an ambulance was parked in the right lane of Vairo Boulevard with orange traffic cones stretching across the road beside it, preventing me from turning right. I turned left, and saw several police cars in the parking lots of the apartment complexes that line Vairo Blvd.

When I returned around 2:45pm I noticed more police officers along Vairo Blvd, and the road was blocked at Majorie Mae Street. I pulled into the Lions Crossing parking lot–sitting in my car for a moment wondering what was happening. Then I got a text from a friend:

I walked to the barricade on Vairo Blvd and asked the township workers standing guard what was going on. They told me the road was closed for a police emergency and that they were not allowed to say anything else. By this time I had received more texts and seen reports on Twitter, so I asked them where the gunman was. They seemed surprised and said that they couldn’t talk about it (and they wanted to know where I heard a gunman was involved), but their response made it clear they knew something.

A CATA bus was sitting along Majorie Mae Street, sent there to be a shelter from the sun and looming rain for people stuck outside their apartments. Most people walked or drove away from the area, so for about 20 minutes I stood by the bus and talked to the bus driver. We discussed how scary the world was, higher education economics, phones, and the weather. I read him the updates I was finding on Twitter about the situation and texts I was receiving.

At the barricade I was surprised at how angry some people were at being prevented from driving through. One man in particular stands out. He was a middle-aged guy who seemed to be in a hurry. He wanted to get to the apartment complex I live in–which was completely off limits at the moment. Here is a paraphrase of the conversation:

The Guy: I need to get to that (pointing) apartment complex. Can I drive around to the other end of Vairo Blvd and get in that way?

Guard: No, I’m sorry, Vairo Blvd is closed right now for a police emergency.

The Guy: Can I park and walk over?

Guard: No, I can’t let you do that. We are not allowed to let anyone past this point, walking or driving.

The Guy:have to get back to my apartment! (When I saw the agitation on his face I thought he might have a loved one he was concerned about.) How long will I have to wait?

Guard: I have no idea.

The Guy: But I HAVE to get back to my apartment! (Anger now very obvious.)


It was interesting. In that moment losing a gallon of milk and some frozen vegetables trumped personal safety. The efforts of the protectors were met with disdain.

By 3:30pm news vehicles were starting to arrive. When they stopped at the barricade they were told the road was closed for a police emergency, then they were told to move on. The same was happening with civilian cars. Since I was standing close to the barricade I got to hear the guards deflect questions and refuse to comment (they did a very good job holding the line literally and figuratively).

At 3:40 I decided this might take a long time to resolve, so I drove to Otto’s Pub and sipped a Nittany Pale Ale and had an Ottonator.

Based upon the story posted by the Centre Daily Times it looks like the situation was a stand off with police by a man experiencing an emotional crisis (and he had access to weapons–no word on whether he made any threats). He was in the apartment complex directly beside the one I live in. No shots were fired. Things were resolved around 3:15pm, while I was talking to the bus driver by the barricade.

I hope the distressed guy gets help. I’m grateful for authorities who are able to bring a conflict to a peaceful resolution. And I think my neighbor’s groceries are going to be just fine.


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State Patty’s Day 2012

Today is the annual State College non-holiday State Patty’s Day. While some would argue that there is some merit to its observation, it is really just a day dedicated to irresponsible drinking.  People from far and wide come to State College. It’s bad enough that Penn State has made the decision to refrain from bringing potential students to University Park for tours on this weekend.

State College and University Park decided to enforce parking policies that were more strict and expensive than usual to cut down on drinkers leaving their cars in municipal and university lots and garages. This meant many drivers were seeking alternative parking. Many of them ended up in commercial parking lots on Friday night (presumably intending to leave their cars there overnight). I’m not sure how commercial parking lots that forbid overnight parking, like major grocery stores or department stores, are normally policed. If a car is left in a lot for a weekend, how is it caught?  It seems very labor intensive to scan security camera footage or go car to car and track license plate numbers.

But then something happened last night that changed everything. It snowed in State College. Saturday morning every car covered in snow was revealed as an overnight guest.

And the tow trucks had a field day. I stopped by the Wal-Mart on Atherton this morning and there were busy tow trucks all over the parking lot.

When I got out of my car I noticed a group of guys walking from the bus stop to the parking lot. One of them loudly exclaimed: “Dude, your car is gone! They towed your copulating car!”  (Okay, so they didn’t exactly say copulating.) I looked around and I realized there were people all over the parking lot making the same discovery. Evidently the bus that had just unloaded had been full of people returning from a night of partying. Many of them now were facing the reality that their cars had either been raptured, stolen, or towed.

Sometimes snow covers things. Sometimes snow exposes things.

I suspect the storm last night made today one of the most profitable days in the history of John Tennis Towing, Inc. Happy State Patty’s Day.

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Instant Clear Jel in State College

On Monday evening I decided to make a strawberry pie or two to usher in the summer. But I had a problem. I needed Instant Clear Jel. I checked Wegman’s, Wal-Mart, Weis, and Giant all to no avail. The closest I could find was Sure Jell, a pectin-based product that I did not trust as a substitute for the cornstarch-based Clear Jel.

I tried internet searches, looking for places that stocked the product near State College, but nothing turned up. I reserved myself to ordering the Clear Jel online and waiting a few days to make the pies.

On Tuesday I was at my Rock Springs experiment site when I suddenly got the idea to call Way Fruit Farm, since Clear Jel is used in fruit preserves and pies. Success! They carry Instant Clear Jel for $2.75 a pound.

I was able to make a strawberry pie when I got home from work, and the summer was not kept waiting. My goal is to make quite a few strawberry pies this summer and to try to tweak the recipe to use less sugar and maybe add a few subtle flavors to the mix.

This post is rather boring–I realize that. My real intent in writing it is to publish on the internet information regarding a local source for Instant Clear Jel in State College. So here is my public service announcement:  if you’re in Happy Valley and you need Instant Clear Jel do not despair, stop by Way Fruit Farm.

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An Unexpected Blizzard

Yesterday it snowed in State College, to my surprise. I expected a few flurries and no accumulation. We got 10 inches.

I like snow. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I love snow. In December and January. Most definitely not in March.

Trees and snow.

This morning I decided to try to appreciate the snow. It went well. As I walked to campus I was cheered by the appearance of the wooded area behind my apartment complex. The path had more than a foot of snow on it, all the trees and bushes were coated. A peaceful beauty blanketed the forest. I stood there for a bit, just taking in the scene.

A cool snowscape.

My walk continued on the bike trail, then down the street. Many people were out clearing off cars, shoveling driveways, and putting out recycle bins. I’ve been walking this street for four years now (that sounds bad, yes I’m a street walker–but not that kind), so I know many of the people who live along it on a very casual basis. This morning everyone was cheerful. I stopped several times for brief discussions about the weather. By the time I got to campus I decided I could handle the snow, so long as it did not tarry long before melting.

So that’s my verdict. I can appreciate this snow if it chooses to depart soon. The forecast indicates warmer temperatures and some rain, so it seems probable.

A snow covered tree.

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Analyzing a Menu Graphic

Baby’s Burgers & Shakes is a 1950s themed diner in State College, PA. It’s a pleasant little diner, well worth checking out for the Americana decor, Wurlitzer Juke Box, and wait staff with change dispensers. And yes, the word Daddy-O appears in the menu.

On the back of that menu is a small graphic. It’s a self-deprecating, humorous map of all the Baby’s Burgers & Shakes locations in the US (there is only one). “Visit all of our locations throughout the U.S.A.” the menu states. The graphic has always interested me, for the star locating the one Baby’s location does not seem to be placed correctly on the map.

The graphic in question.

Some people could wonder about this, then eat their meal and forget about it. Not me. Where is that star located?

This week I picked up a Baby’s menu, scanned the graphic, and superimposed it on a map.

The superimposition in progress.

Then I zeroed in on the location of the star.

I followed the star to . . .

I then synced landmarks on a map with a higher resolution (and names of small towns) to pinpoint the middle of the star. And lo, the star resided over Barnesville, OH (or at least really, really close to Barnesville). That’s a drive of 225 miles from State College. So the verdict is in, Baby’s menu has a misplaced star.

Is analyzing a menu graphic for entertainment on a Friday night a cry for help? Don’t pity me, it was quite gratifying.


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