Not Cease from Exploration

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Memory #8 - The G.I. Joe Command Center

Growing up our family struggled financially.  My mother was a single parent and received almost nothing in the way of support from my father.  That noted, I give her credit for always trying to make Christmas something memorable.  Now being a young boy, there were many things that I wanted, including the G.I. Joe Adventure Team Headquarters, which looked something like this:

Yes, it was basically a Barbie Dream House, except for the fact that it was inhabited by dolls that toted around guns.  These were the "real" G.I. Joe's, by the way, complete at 12 inches tall and having the fake hair and Kung-Fu grip.

I remember simply being thrilled to get this for Christmas, and I am sure that my Mom was thrilled that the whole headquarters thing folded up nicely into a square kind of package.

By the way, unlike the radio, I am not even remotely tempted to buy one of these things.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Memory #9 - The Chipmunk Song

Yes, I am referring to this song...

It was inevitable that, around Christmas time, this 45rpm record would be dug out from among the others that my Mother had laying around, and I am reasonably sure that we played the heck out of it.  Over and over again.  And over again.

Of course after Christmas it would disappear, along with the radio.

By the way, there is something of a parody of the song that can be found HERE.  Please do not click on the link if you are a member of PETA or otherwise object to the consumption of Chipmunks.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Memory #10 - The Radio

It was kind of shaped like a squat can of beans, except for the fact that it was mostly clear (you could see the transistors), it was blue-ish in color and it had a light inside of it when powered on.  Now I suspect that it was laying around the house year-round, but for whatever reason I only, as a kid, noticed it around Christmas time.

With a bit of researching, I was actually able to find the make and model of the radio.  It was a GE Blue Max P2760 Blue Police Light AM Transistor radio.

The purpose of the radio?  Why to listen to the broadcast of Santa's progress, as reported by the good folks at NORAD.  These days, but the way, NORAD broadcasts this on-line; you can find it HERE.

For whatever reason I remember the house being dimly lit when the radio was being used on Christmas Eve.  That was, I suspect, all part of the plan, namely to make four little boys sleepy on Christmas Eve.

On another note, while I don't collect radios, I do have two vintage radios in my office.  The first is a terrific Sony table radio that actually works really, really well.  The second is an actual Kmart brand radio from the early 60's that I'm quite frankly afraid to even power up.  The Blue Max will be joining that small collection, courtesy of a seller on Ebay.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hate Mail

I get some hate mail from time to time.  I guess it's a cost of doing business when engaged in this kind of activity.  I do, however, struggle with what to do about it.

Do I just completely ignore it?  The drawback to that is it denies me some decent content.

Do I publish and mock it?  I don't like that option for two reasons:

  1. It just encourages the writer(s).
  2. Despite a desire to respond on my part, I really don't want to be brought down to that level of negativity.

Take this little gem that I received on November 25th:

" will be the last thing your liberal ass can post on the #### internet. on "

(Just a snippet, and with the swear word redacted by yours truly.)

Again, what to do?  I could very well republish the posting that offended "Anonymous" (they are always anonymous, by the way) on spite, but why the heck should that person get to decide what I write here?  My $10/year, my content decisions.  Besides, again, why give in to that level of negativity?

Maybe what I should do is simply say the following:

* * * * * *

Dear Anonymous and Offended Reader, 

You do realize that your comment was directed at a blog posting, right?  Maybe you thought I was somehow affiliated with a real news organization.  Sorry to disappoint, but I'm just a schlub who likes to write and this is the Internet, home to a billion cat videos.  That's it.  I'm not making public policy here, and in point of fact I don't take much of what I write here seriously, so why do you?  Life is too short.

Here's my advice to you:  Channel that anger into something more productive, like whittling or playing Neopets.  And for God's sake, if you're going to threaten me, please at least use your real name, if for no other reason than the fact that "Cletus" is easier for me to spell than "Anonymous".

Best Wishes for a Joyous Holiday Season, 

p.s. - I still don't think there is much in the way of difference between the Confederate battle flag and the swastika.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Happy Holidays and/or Merry Christmas

I know a few folks who get themselves into a bluster over the phrase "Happy Holidays".  Words like...

"Jesus is the reason for the season!"

"Political correctness strikes again!"

"War on Christmas!"

...get thrown around like excuses at the end of just about every Boston Red Sox season.

Me?  I don't get it.

Why on Earth would anyone want to offend someone else ordinarily, let alone during a supposed time of joy?  We don't wear signs on our foreheads that say "I'm Jewish" or "I'm an Atheist" or "I'm a Christian", so how would we know what holiday someone celebrates towards the end of December anyway?

I'm perfectly fine saying either "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", and you can say either to me and I will not mind in the least.  In fact, either will make me happy.

Oh, and there is no "War on Christmas", but rather there is a "War for Ratings" by certain television commentators who simply want to create some holiday hate during what should be a season of hope.  Yes, the fictitious "War on Christmas" is really just a "War for Money" in the form of higher ratings.  Call my cynical, but you can also call me honest.  This is simply the wrong season to be engaging in social issue wedge politics.

 There was a great chart that I saw on-line that sums this up nicely.  Credit to Rachel Held Evans for putting this together.

So the end this on a happier note, here's a favorite Christmas song of mine.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Little Slices of Death

"Sleep, those little slices of death - how I loathe them."

- Edgar Allan Poe

I don't consider myself a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, but man, he was right about sleep.

For the record, I almost never sleep well.  In fact, for me to actually get through a full night and not wake up once, twice, three times maybe is a small miracle.  "Restful sleep"?   That happens to me with the level of timing more akin to cicadas than people.

Now I know I don't get enough sleep, but for me that's like saying I don't get enough dental work.

Every little sound at night wakes me up.

Slight temperature variances both me at night.

The whole activity seems, well, so wasteful.  Now I know that there is benefit to sleep, and in fact I will cop to the fact that at times when my head is full of stuff at the end of the day, sometimes sleeping helps to clear things out.  Score one benefit to sleep.  However, even then I find the benefit more in waking up than in actually snoozing.

I can probably count on one freak'n hand...the number of times in my life when I've gotten such a great night's sleep that I actually wake up feeling refreshed.

Some of this is a self-inflected wound by the way.  Too many energy drinks, I know, but that's in part because I don't like coffee.  So what if Red Bull's chemical composition closely resembles the atmosphere of Titan, as it does taste better than that bitter, repugnant coffee people drink.

One thing I don't do, well at least not very often, is to actually take chemicals to help me stay asleep. I gave up on that actually working, as about 75% of the time it just makes me feel sluggish in the morning without actually delivering the coma-esque sleep I'd like to experience once or twice a decade.  Nothing like waking up in the middle of the night, groggy as heck, but not  getting the benefit of actually feeling better in the morning.

Now I think I at least have solved the mystery, all be it for me, of how to fall asleep.  By and large taking a large dose of Melatonin does help put me to sleep, and I am glad to report it does not make me groggy in the morning.  It's only negative?  It has about a 30 minute window to work; meaning that if I take it and I don't fall asleep within about 30 minutes, I might as well have had M&M's instead.

Have I mentioned yet how much I hate sleep?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ferguson & the B.S.

I know, this may not be all that popular, but so be it.  I've been watching, reading and thinking about what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri, and a few truths stick out for me:

TRUTH - Black males are treated differently in this country by the police.  Call it what you want, including racial profiling, but it's a simple fact.  The way to solve this problem though is by holding the elected officials who run police departments, be that at a local and a state level, accountable.  Police chiefs answer to mayors, and state police commissioners answer to governors.  If either doesn't take a tough enough stand on racial profiling, eliminating bad actors, and making police forces representative of communities they serve, well then a change should be made using the voting booth, not the Molotov Cocktail.  In my mind, black males should have the highest voting rate in this country, because they have the most at stake these days.

TRUTH - The only two people that actually knew what happened in the Michael Brown shooting are the late Mr Brown and Officer Darren Wilson.  Mr Brown can't tell his side of the story, but Officer Wilson has, and that's the best we've got.  Like it or not, Officer Wilson has a right to due process, even if it appears that the late Mr Brown didn't get any.  Again, none of us reading this posting (unless you happened to be on the grand jury that heard the case, and even that's debatable) know all the facts of the case, therefore none of us are qualified to pass judgement.  I know that's painful sounding, but what's the alternative?  There simply isn't a scenario out there that will satisfy everyone.

TRUTH - Burning businesses in Ferguson, especially minority owned businesses, as an expression of outrage over the shooting of Mr Brown is an example of stupid, thuggish behavior at it's worst.  It's proving fodder to the lowest of racist scum in this country.  Those who are peacefully protesting the shooting of Mr Brown should be incensed at the violence being perpetrated in response to the grand jury verdict, and hopefully they are.

TRUTH - Most people will view the events in Ferguson through the lens that they've already established.  Conservative?  Well then, it's those "black people burning up their own neighborhoods again!".  Liberal?  Well then it's "Minorities have justifiable rage at white society keeping them down!".  In reality and despite what many would like us to believe, this isn't a simple issue that can be easily codified and solved.  Sorry about that short-attention span members of American culture.  Too many black men...young and old...are treated as suspects even though they are perfectly innocent, yet it seems that too many black men (mostly young) glorify misogyny, violence and drugs as cultural expressions, even if they don't participate in such things.  I get it in that it's difficult being a black male, yet on the same token, there's got to be zero tolerance for the "I am really mad at the shooting of Michael Brown, therefore I need to steal a TV" reaction because the tolerance of bad behavior simply validates the worst of stereotypes.  On the other side of the equation, too many white folks, men and women, want to believe in the fairy tale of a color blind society.  Sorry, but it's not a question of minorities simply having to "work hard to get ahead"; in reality, they have to work harder than whites to just maintain parody...forget about getting ahead...and most whites aren't willing to work that hard themselves.

TRUTH - The news coverage of what has happened in Ferguson has made it worse.  Conservatives bobbing their heads in agreement to Fox News commentators or liberals doing the same for MSNBC talking heads is just another expression of the "it the other group's fault" mentality that we've created in the United States.  The average American has been conned into picking sides in an ideological war that doesn't actually exist, except for in the minds of power-hungry politicians and (right or left wing) social issue bomb-throwers.  If you are getting your news from only one source these days then you are really not getting the're simply looking for and receiving validation for the world view that you already have burned into your head.  Sorry, that's just the way it is.  Do yourself a really, really big favor:  Diversify your sources of information across all of the ideological spectrum.  Why?  Simple because no one group, ideology or cause has a monopoly on the truth.

TRUTH -  In the end, violence only begets violence.

TRUTH - Ferguson is an avatar for a nation that really doesn't want to face it's on-going race relations issues.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Road Apples, #156

Fan Mail...I really have to get around to posting some recent "fan mail".  Nothing unexpected, other than the usual "anonymous tough guy" stuff.

First Mac Posting...This is the first posting I'm writing on my Mac Mini and new 25 inch HD display.  It's taking some getting used to, but so far so good.  Both the display and the Mac are creating the need to make some adjustments; for example, with a larger display I have to move the monitor back a bit more, and with the Mac the mouse buttons are different.  All in good time though.  On a related topic, by old Acer (well it's really not that old, and in fact I just upgraded it about a month or two ago) is being moved downstairs for others to use.  It's taken me days to clean all old files out of it and get it ready for it's new home.

Ferguson...I wrote a posting on the violence in Ferguson, MO, but in typical fashion I haven't gotten around to finishing it.  No bother, as I'm sure it will not make me any friends anyway (see item #1).  I will say this though:  Anyone who views this situation through a mono-chrome lens...i.e., one where the phrase "those people need to ________" (where "those people" are the police, the protestors, etc) is prominently featured....are simply using Ferguson to simply validate their own world view.  The reality is this:  the situation isn't as simple as getting "those people" to change.

Classroom...My second gradate program class is coming to an end in two weeks, and while I'm sad to see the learning end (and I am learning a TON), it will be nice to not have the pressure of reading and studying week to week.  I can declare a victory of sorts, as I got my first "100%" on a graduate program test/quiz over the weekend.  I've scored just as well on several papers, but this was a first for an actual examination.  Test taking is 75% about strategy, 25% about actual learning.

Happy Almost 1 Year Anniversary...On December 13th I will celebrate my one year anniversary living in "lessor Wilkes-Barre" (aka West Pittston).  Like most things, I've had my share of trips up and down the learning curve, but all and all I am impressed.  Living in a small town is different than living in a city, that's for sure.  Over and above the location though, it's nice to truly have a home.  That's a feeling I've not really had much of before, and it's heartening to know that, at age 50, there is always room for "firsts".

Speaking of Home...My middle daughter was home from graduate studies at UMass for Thanksgiving.  It was nice seeing her...and it was equally nice being reminded that, despite being probably too hard on myself for too many reasons, I seem to have done okay as a co-parent.  Having three hard-working, inquisitive and decent-human-being daughters is a very good thing.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

50 Reason to Give Thanks

Simply because I can, and in no particular order.

I am thankful for:
  1. The small physical challenges I have, because they are in fact small and because they serve to remind me that our bodies are not to be taken for granted.
  2. The Beatles.  All You Need Is Love.
  3. My cat JeanLuc and his step-brother, Tiger.  Cats remind us not to take ourselves so seriously, mainly because they never take us very seriously.
  4. My home office, which may not be Superman's Fortress of Solitude or the Batcave, but it is never the less my place.
  5. The gift of being able to continue my education.  It's one class at a time, but so far I've had outstanding instructors and I'm managing to learn some stuff.
  6. My past, as it was my path to today and because it serves to chart my future.
  7. Emily Dickinson, who was Emo long before there even was Emo, and who reminds me all the time to seek beauty in simplicity.
  8. My job, which supports me and mine, and which provides me with a purpose in life.
  9. An inquisitive mind, which has served me well.
  10. Kittens, because they are one of the best antidepressants out there.
  11. Dr Hunter S. Thompson, who was the first to teach me that being a little weird is, in fact, okay.
  12. Dunkin Donuts, for their version of the Cronut.  It's darn good and well worth the 300 calories (once in a while).
  13. The Keystone Rescue Mission Alliance for all the  good that they do and the honor that I have in supporting them in a small way.
  14. Rebecca Albert, for always allowing me to  call her "Stinky" (despite being 21 years old) and for being the hardest working person I know.  I love you Stinky!
  15. Every clothing manufacturer that makes the size Extra Large Tall.  Words can not describe how frustrating it is to wear a shirt that is too short or being forced to wear a shirt that is too wide.
  16. Sylvester Stallone, for making the Rocky movies.  I don't like fighting, but I love stories of individuals who beat the odds.
  17. Christine Elizabeth Rivers, who is a gift from God to me. Here's to the second half of our lives together.
  18. A&W, for making the best diet Root Beer on the planet.
  19. The gift I have to not hold on to anger or bitterness.  
  20. Militant Right Wing Catholic Radio, for entertaining and enraging me.  We all need to listen to ideas and opinions we may not agree with from time to time.
  21. My coal stove, which requires effort to produce heat.  There is something noble about having to actually work for something, be it a paycheck or warmth in the winter.
  22. Everyone who does not call me "Albert".  I really don't like being called by my last name.  Just saying.
  23. The health professionals who keep me running, including Dr James McKenna (my family doctor) and Dr Jan Charnitski (my dentist).  I am grateful to have healthcare professionals who are both extremely competent at what they do and also honest with me.
  24. Korin Albert, who is one of the smartest people I know, and I'm  not just saying that because she is my daughter.  I love you Korin!  Be careful up in Amherst!
  25. Photography, which I thoroughly enjoy, even if I don't get to do it very much.
  26. My sister Michele and the fact that technology has allowed us to reconnect.
  27. Gary, my brother Rich's dog.  I'm not a dog person (see #3), but Gary is just about the happiest, most uplifting and wonderful creature ever to walk the Earth (on 4 paws), and I know he brings my brother real joy.
  28. God.
  29. Boston Mint Tea, the greatest mint tea on the planet.
  30. High quality socks. There is a world of difference between cheap and high quality socks, and they are a worthy indulgence.
  31. Katrina Albert, who lives her passion for helping children and young adults. The best spot in life is to paid to do what you love while also making a difference, which is what Kate does every day. I love you Trini-Bug!
  32. The ability to express myself in writing. I simply couldn't survive without the ability to describe what I feel, hear and see around me.
  33. Mr Rogers, who continues to impart simple wisdom. 
  34. My religious upbringing, which has helped form me. To get to here I needed to go through there.
  35. My brothers, with whom I experienced so much with while growing up.
  36. The gift of temperance.
  37. My co-workers, both now and in the past, who always see more value in me than I ever see in myself.
  38. My Mom, who taught me much by example, even when that example was an unintended "don't be like me".
  39. Berkeley Breathed, for creating Bloom County.
  40. Saturday morning routines.
  41. The family of Ms Rivers, who from the very first introduction have treated me so very well.
  42. The gift of empathy.
  43. Living in the United States of America, which represents the very best and worst that humanity has to offer.
  44. The clarity of thought that comes with growing older. 
  45. The ability to laugh, sometimes at the dumbest of things. It doesn't take much to entertain me.
  46. Those who have taught and mentored the professional me over the years.  My first "real" manager was a housewares buyer named Tina Veverka, who was incredibly kind and patient with me.  Since then I have worked for some great people, up to the present day.
  47. All those who serve now or who have served our country in the military.  We have because they gave.
  48. A (mostly) positive attitude, which I firmly believe is the greatest attribute anyone can have in life.
  49. Daniel Goleman, Melody Beattie, Daniel Pink, Brene Brown, Gordon Livingston, Tal Ben-Shahar, Jim Palmer and countless other authors who have written books that have helped make me a thoughtful, better person, be it personally or professionally.
  50. Everyone who reads this blog, be it once or repeatedly.  I am honored that you have let me share small snippets of my life with you over these past 6 or so years.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dunmore Council approves the building of an actual mountain made of garbage

The posting title is not from The Onion, but has actually happened.

Reference THIS article in the Tuesday, November 25th edition of the Scranton Times.

Here's a key paragraph from the article:

"Council member Paul Nardozzi told the crowd that previous council members had attempted to negotiate a better deal with the DeNaples brothers even before the 1999 agreement that gave Dunmore only the state minimum fee. They denied those requests but offered to help the borough in other ways, he said. "

Let me translate Dunmore-speak into English:  "They told us no, and we simply said 'Yes sir, thank you for the free turkey!'."

Look, I have no issue with the DeNaples family, their businesses, or anyone who wants to make living in an honest and fair way.  This particular action though goes way over the top.

What I do have an issue with here is a simple fact:  they are building a mountain out of garbage, and the beneficiaries will not be the community, future generations, the environment, the economy or anything else of the sort.

The community will have a mountain made out of garbage FORVER.

Future generations will look at this monstrosity and wonder "Why in the Hell did they do that?".

The environment will be put at risk through the possible contamination of ground water.

The only economy that will end up growing as a result of this will be that of the DeNaples family.

Congratulations Dunmore Borough Council:  you once again never failed to fail because it was the easiest thing to do.  Now go off to see Mr DeNaples, get a nice pat on the head, and maybe snag one of those free turkeys.