Soot, Part II

For those who yearn for the return of Soot, not to worry.  POTUS45 is a fan of soot and has recently taken the first steps to encourage its comeback.  Personally, I do not think this will result in a rebirth of the coal and steel industries.  Nor do I think it will result in many additional mining and manufacturing jobs or boost the economy in my hometown and many more like it in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

My hometown was about 30 miles down the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh, PA.  It wasn’t quite as bad as these pictures show.  But it was close on many days, depending on the temperature and presence or absence of wind.

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Soot, Part I

I was born and raised in a Rust Belt town in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  My Dad and his father worked in a foundry.  Just about all my other relatives worked in either steel mills or coal mines.  One of the vivid memories of my childhood is something called soot.  Back in the day, to make steel, the energy source of choice was something called coke.  In my particular sub-region of the Rust Belt, the mines produced bituminous coal which along with being processed into coke for the mills, was used in its natural state for home heating.  One by-product of burning all this coal for both manufacturing and home use was soot.  The smokestacks at the mills belched out soot-filled smoke on a 24×7 basis.  Likewise, in the winter months, homes added their share of soot to the atmosphere.  It was commonplace to wash a car one day and come out the next morning finding the car covered with specks of soot.  One other common event was cleaning the soot off of the walls in homes each spring.

Now that I’m done with soot, lets talk about the river.  Like all the other steel towns in the area, my hometown was in a river valley.  the foundries, steel mills and other industrial plants were located along the river, which provided cheap transportation of coal, iron ore, scrap metal, and other basic materials needed to produce steel.   Back when I was a very little kid, the boats pushing the barges of raw material up and down the river were actual steamboats with paddle wheels in the back.  And they used coal to fire their boilers.

The rivers had one other very important function.  They were a convenient dumping place for all the toxic waste produced by the mills and the mines.  You could find just about anything in the river…garbage, raw sewage, human waste, industrial waste runoff and more.  One thing that you couldn’t find were fish.

Today all the mills are gone and the mines are closed.  The river once again has fish in it and one can actually boat and swim in it without having to share the fun with raw sewage and industrial waste.  But the town is a ghost of its former self.  The businesses and stores are gone, the town infrastructure is falling apart, the housing is falling into disrepair.  The current mayor wants to sell town hall because the town cannot afford to maintain it.

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Fizz Buzz

Fizz Buzz is a game used as an aid in teaching children about division.  In addition, writing code to implement an automated version of Fizz Buzz has become a popular test of basic computer programming skills.  Subject matter experts say that if one cannot write a basic Fizz Buzz program in 15 minutes or so, chances are their coding skills are probably somewhat lacking.

Having spent a number of years back in the day as a software developer, I decided to try my hand at writing a Fizz Buzz program.  I actually did get a basic version working in less than an hour in spite of my typos and programming language syntax errors.  It took a bit longer to “beautify” it and make it fit for public consumption.  Feel free to take a look at my halfVAST Fizz Buzz page. 

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Groundhog Day – 2017

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, so we can look forward to six more weeks of winter.

Potomac Phil, his “stuffy” counterpart here in the DC Metropolitan Area, concurred and had this to say: “Sorry folks six more weeks of winter and six more months of political gridlock!!!”  Based on the current political environment, six weeks of gridlock may be a very conservative estimate!

Groundhog image courtesy of It is subject to the usage terms and conditions cited therein.

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Beat the Press!

POTUS45 – the horse is dead, you can stop beating it now!

Source:, 28 Jan 2017, 0830 EST

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