Not Cease from Exploration

Monday, July 27, 2015

...and after all, we're only ordinary men

Some folks, well, they just can't seem to face their demons head-on.

Now okay, facing demons head-on is a frightening, nasty business, but it's a business never the less we all have to undertake.  You see, you either face them under your own terms, like a man (at the risk of sounding sexist...so feel free to also insert "like a woman"), or you eventually face them under the demon's terms, which more often than not involves stuff like death, be it physical, emotional or spiritual.

I'm no hero by the way.  I'm really not.  I am pretty damn good at putting things off, including facing my own demons.  But face them I eventually do.  All of them.  With my eyes wide open and with a clear, unmedicated mind.  Again, that doesn't mean that I'm a hero...it just means that I'm damn good at surviving.

Speaking of surviving, a co-worker and I had this running joke about an executive we both know, someone how has been incredibly good at surviving in the corporate world, despite many sea changes.  I'll call him "Guido".  The joke was that Guido was so good at corporate survival, that, in the event of a thermonuclear war, the only things left on Earth would be cockroaches, rats...and Guido.  And so I digress.

For the record I'm no Guido*, but I've already mentioned that I really am good at surviving.  But there is more to this than simply facing demons, as in order to face one you have to first realize you have a demon to face.  Self-deception isn't a skill I've mastered in my life.  If anything, I've been guilty of the opposite, namely failing to give myself even remotely enough credit.  Maybe that is a form of self-deception.  I like to think that I've mastered the art of humility to an almost epic level.  As in a PhD in humility.  This provides no real life benefit for me, except for the fact that it's enabled me to not believe in my own bullcrap (i.e. self-deception).  I question everything, especially the stuff usually found swirling in my head.  I am nothing if not very well thought-out and that has, so far, served me well.

I know, this is rather circumspect posting, but so be it.  My $10/year URL fee, my website, my rambling.  I will note this though:  I know someone who is right now sitting on the edge of their life, where they finally have an opportunity to face their demons, head-on, straight-up, honestly and likely for the first time in their life.  I just don't know that path this person will take, and I've done all could to to influence and help.  My conscience is clear, although that's of little comfort when compared to the challenge that this person faces.  As noted above, it's a nasty, nasty business.






(*) That's not intended to be funny, but in writing it out it does sound rather comical, especially since I have the anti-matter opposite look of a Guido...complete with an almost silly inability to grow any serious facial hair.






Thursday, July 23, 2015

Winner of the Dumbest Comment on the Internet, Donald Trump Edition.

From a Facebook posting by Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the following comment  (along with my response) was made in defense of Donald Trump:

  • XXXX XXXXXXXX The fact that he isn't a politician, he can't be bought by corporate America. He's not PC and knows how to negotiate deals.

    Y'all can keep voting for politicians that continue to ruin this country but I'll take a chance on the business man.
    Like · 5 · 4 hrs
  • Steve Albert Wait...Trump IS corporate America.
(Red Bold Text by me.)

Yes, apparently Donald Trump can not be "...bought by corporate America.".

(Excuse me while I go laugh myself into a momentary seizure.  Okay, back.)

Oh, and apparently his negotiation skills aren't that great, as they failed to prevent corporate bankruptcy filings FOUR times.

I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry at this whole exchange.

Another poster to referred to Donald Trump as a "huckster", which seems like an apt description to me.  He's Mr Haney, but in a better suit.

(from the Chicago Tribune)

And it's only July...of 2015.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

File this under "Point Proven"

(photo from nbcnews)

Note that it's not me this time stating that there is a moral equivalency between the Confederate battle flag and the NAZI swastika, it's some of the folks that promote the flag itself.

As I've previously noted (for example in THIS posting):
I will add this slight caveat to the discussion though:  I do think some organizations have taken the whole "ban the flag" thing a bit too far.  For example, a cable channel refusing to play re-runs of the Dukes of Hazzard because of the rag flag on the roof the the "General Lee" is silly at best.  It's just a television show.  By that logic, no re-runs of Hogan Heroes should ever be shown.  What's more, I don't want to see the flag totally banned; heck, it's a good way to identify the latent and overt racists out there, and as long as society actually acknowledges what the flag stands for, my concerns are met.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

On the slope of insanity


I have this theory...well I'm not going to claim it's profound or even unique...but it's a theory never the less.  You see, I don't think mental illness is this kind of on/off switch.  It's not this condition that either exists or does not exist in us.  Rather, I think it exists in all of us.  Every single one of us.  It's about degrees on a slope and what we do about where we are on that slope that counts.

Some of us, for reasons that are probably both simple to feel but far too complex to explain, are able to keep our mental illness in check.  We manage it...which basically means we manage ourselves.  We have mastered the art of turning down the volume of the voices in our head or we have learned to completely ignore them.

"You lock the door
And throw away the key
There's someone in my head but it's not me."
- Brain Damage, Pink Floyd (Written by Roger Waters)

Others, well, they never really had a chance to manage it, either lacking the basic tools of self management the wherewithal to use the tools.  Mental illness manages them, and it's a tough boss.  The volume button for the voices inside their head was broken off, and Radio Shack is now closed.

Still others start at one end and slide down to the other.  The slide can be assisted by substance abuse or the slide can cause substance abuse.  Or the despair that comes with no longer being able to buy enough stuff to sooth the profound feelings of being unfulfilled by everyday life.  Or the trauma of a life change for which there was little preparation and even less understanding.  I don't think that really matters so much.  Sadly, the slide here almost always seems to be towards greater illness, not less.

None of the above is to say that it's hopeless.  I think we all can climb the slope in a positive direction, but it helps if your not already too far down the line to begin with.  When all is said and done though, I think the real core of it all lies in the acknowledgement that we all share this common bond of illness, in varying degrees.  None of us are that alone, a thought that is actually pretty comforting when you ponder it.



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The (void) Postage Stamp

I've saved this stamp since the very early 90's, waiting for the day when it would no longer be true.


That day has arrived.  At 8:52pm today, the New Horizons spacecraft phoned home to say that all was well and that it had a ton of data to send us.  Let the science begin!

You can follow the status of New Horizons on NASA television.

Well done NASA, well done.



Monday, July 13, 2015

The WORST Thing About Donald Trump

It's not the hair.

It's not the declaring bankruptcy four times (True:  you can read it here in the bastion of the liberal media, Forbes).

It's not his strong support for traditional family values throughout his three marriages.  Now in fairness I have been married twice, but then again I'm not running for president nor do you hear me crow about "traditional family values" either.

It's not his media claims about Mexicans being rapists.

It's not his strong support for American workers via having his clothing line made in China, Mexico by non-rapists and Bangladesh (reference HERE).

It's not the money he has made via degenerate gamblers.

Heck, again, it's not even the hair.

(from the Daily Mail)

No, I think the very worst thing about Donald Trump is the very notion he brings to the national debate that equates money to happiness and success.  I don't know how happy of a man Donald Trump is, and based on the fuzzy accounting of his finances and his multiple bankruptcy declarations I'm not even sure how financially successful he has been.  I do know this though:  He's a braggart when it comes to being a "billionaire".

I've had times in my life where I was actually buying dress shirts at the Salvation Army because I couldn't afford anything else.  I have also had times when financially I felt like I could take a deep breath and not worry about paying my bills.  Yes, money can buy you some sense of security, but it can't buy happiness and it's a poor measure of success.

Think of all those lottery winners who end up having lives in shreds (one of many examples HERE).

Think of people who have made the biggest differences in your life and for the world.  Were some wealthy?  Maybe.  You could argue that a Bill Gates, for example, has made a difference...but that difference now is manifest in the work of his foundation, where he gives his money away.  However I think that it's the actions people take from the kindness of their hearts, through their giving, that makes a difference in and for the world.  It's every great teacher and coach.  It's the people who serve the poor and helpless.  It's the people that comfort those in need.  These people are truly successful. 

I can't think of a single presidential candidate from either major political party that I'd vote for, but I do know this:  Donald Trump's bullying and bragging makes me sick.  Humility...that's the one thing Donald Trump can't brag about. 

Donald Trump is, in a very real sense, the very ugliest of Americans.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Holiday Road - Day 6, Homeward Bound, Multilevel Marketing & Other Thoughts

The chronicles of my first trip outside the United States, even if it is just to Canada.

* * * * * * * * * *

The actual trek home began yesterday and concluded today, with the previously mentioned overnight stop in Albany, New York.  The actual drives...Quebec City to Albany and then Albany back to NEPA...were uneventful.  Both of us were glad we decided to break the trips (both up and back) into two parts, as there's just not a lot of fun to be had in 9+ hours of driving.  

Speaking of fun, or more correctly the absence of it, we were lucky enough to have a reservation at the Albany Hilton the same night as a convention of Abronne devotees.  What, may you ask, is Abronne?  Well think of it as Amway, but for cosmetics.  Multilevel Marketing (MLM) at its finest.  Now normally I don't care what religion someone is, or in what other ways people want to spend their money, but the good folks at Abronne crossed a line for me early this morning, in that our hotel room was sandwiched between two groups of MLM drones that decided to carry on until about 3am.  A set of parties, if you will, without the booze, laughing or debauchery but instead focused on the intricacies of MLM.  Needless to say, I was unamused.

What was amusing?  That would be this Abronne centered blog posting by Meg the Media Maven.  Good stuff that almost made up for the sleep deprivation caused by the pyramid scheme convention.  It also reminded me of a Bloom County book I own.



Anyway, it was nice to come home.  I missed our cats and the comfort of a daily routine.  None of that means that I failed to enjoy the trip, because it was a great time.  I could visibly feel my personal level of stress at an almost all-time low, as measured by the dual decreases of heart rate and need to pee frequently.

I also have a new found respect for the Great White North (GWN), even if I didn't exactly endear myself to all of culinary opportunities available.  As I've noted elsewhere, our friends to the north really seem like friends, and the language barrier is mostly made out of tissue paper.  In fact, outside of a roadside strawberry salesperson and a clerk at a Tim Horton's, most of the folks we met spoke better English than the typical Talkback 16 participant (sorry, I just had to pick the segment about gassing groundhogs).  

Lastly, it does feel different.  The "it" is a sense of a major life accomplishment, of walking through a door to see an outside that was only previously seen from a window.  It's as if I am finally home, and that's a good feeling.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Holiday Road - Day 5, La Fin

The chronicles of my first trip outside the United States, even if it is just to Canada.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yesterday was the last full day we had in Quebec, and after I jot a few thoughts down it will be time to pack up and head south.  Our actual trek home will be in two parts.  Today will be spent driving to Albany, NY, and tomorrow will be the stretch from Albany to home.  It's not an impossible drive for a single day, but we both had a ton of Hilton points, so why not break it up?  Besides, we enjoyed the last time we were in Albany (a few years ago, as part of a trip to see a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion).

Speaking of yesterday, it was basically spent wandering, shopping, eating and we took a short cruise up the St Lawrence.  My kind of day actually:  Not overly scheduled and with time to make things up as we went along.  On the eating front, I don't know how to say this other than to just be transparent about it:  Yes, I was in Quebec City and I did in fact have pizza for both lunch and dinner.  Now in my defense, while all of the food here is exceptionally well prepared, in point of fact I am never going to eat mushrooms, cephalopods, odd cheeses, most fish or any number of other things.  I'm just not.   For the record, the lunch pizza was so-so, but the dinner pizza was outstanding.

Our short cruise was fun, although slightly marred in that while we were waiting in line to board there was a gentleman and in front of us who insisted on conducting business...stock market kind of business...loudly for us and everyone else to hear.  Working in the financial services industry, neither Ms Rivers or I wanted to hear any of it, and I am sure this man's family was none too pleased (or at least they shouldn't have been) as he only momentarily put his phone down for the boarding group photo.  Thanks Gordon Gecko, we needed that reminder of work.

(Bridge to the Island of Orleans)

(Quebec City, from the St Lawrence, near the Island of Orleans)

Outside of Mr Gecko (and for the record, he wasn't that big of a Wall Street tycoon, at least based on what I heard), the cruise was relaxing, as was the rest of the day.

As for me, well it's time to pack.  




Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Holiday Road - Day 4, The Falls & Rapping (in French)

The chronicles of my first trip outside the United States, even if it is just to Canada.

* * * * * * * * * *

We've had the television on for a few minutes before going to bed and to get a quick check on the news.  Maybe an hour, tops.  In scanning the channels while in Quebec, naturally you discover that most of what is on is in French.  That's fair.  Except for TLC, which apparently is airing "all dwarf" programming at the moment.  Anyway, what I've found fascinating is when I see music videos of rappers working in French.  

Now to back-track for a moment, my only real experience with Canadian rappers working in a foreign language was a performer named Snow, who had one well known song in the United States called "Informer".  I've always assumed that Snow was rapping in French, but when I actually looked up the lyrics for "Informer" I discovered that he's actually speaking English.  See for yourself.



Shows you what I know.

It's pretty obvious that I'm not really up on my rappers, let alone rappers who rap their rap in French.  Regardless, rapping in French seems to sound better.  Maybe it's just that the language is more fluid sounding.  Now granted that they could be rapping about killing police dogs or something horrible like that, but hey, it at least sounds good.  I suspect the same is true for those rapping in Italian out there.

Today's major jaunt was to Montmorency Falls, which is about 16 miles from Quebec City. We were rather proudly told by a tourist official that "it's 30 meters taller than Niagara Falls!", which for the under educated out there works out to about 60 feet, more or less, of extra vertical real estate.  Like most Canadian attractions, a few things were true:

- It's impeccably clean
- All the staff seem to speak both perfect English and French
- It's reasonably priced

The attraction for us was the walking, as we both enjoy it, and Montmorency Falls provides plenty of it.

(The Falls)

(Somewhere above the rainbow)

(We walked all of that...and more)

Dinner today was at the Champlain Restaurant at Le Chateau Frontenac.  A bit more fancy than what we'd normally do, but it was worth the splurge.  Dinner itself was okay, but not as good as last night's.  Did I mention there was more walking involved?

I think my tendons are going to need a vacation from my vacation.

Adieu!



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Holiday Road - Days 2 & 3, Quebec City

The chronicles of my first trip outside the United States, even if it is just to Canada.

* * * * * * * * * *


(Our hotel:  Outside & In)


10 Observations about Quebec City:
  1. Sour Cream...It's literally whiter than sour cream here.  Seriously, it is the most Caucasian place I think I have ever been.  With the possible exception of West Pittston.  I'm wondering why the Klan doesn't relocate up here.  Maybe they just don't like snow.  Or people who speak French.
  2. The Food...Day 2 I had a hamburger for dinner, but in my defense it was at a nice restaurant.  I suspect they kept it on the menu for people such as myself who refuse to eat cirrhosis of geese liver.  Day 3 I had a pasta dish at a great Italian restaurant (go figure...) for dinner.  That same restaurant had, no lie, the best strawberries I have ever had in my entire life.  Ever.  Whole life.  I swear.
  3. Subway vs Tim Horton's...Ms Rivers and I can't figure out what there are more of in Canada...Subway or Tim Horton's.  There is a Subway right next to the hotel we are staying at.  In fact, I think 85% of Canada's population lives within walking distance of a Subway.  By the way, I kinda figured the Timmy Horton deal in advance.  Speaking of Subway, that's a rough patch of news about Jared
  4. The People...The service in Quebec City is, without much exception, some of the best I have ever encountered in my whole life.  Very nice people, and they pretty much all speak English better than most of the people I grew up with in Pennsylvania.
  5. French...Ms Rivers has an ear for languages, having grown up for her first couple of years speaking Spanish (her parents were on a mission to the Dominican Republic when she and her sister where younger, so she ended up literally speaking Spanish first).  This has helped, although it was rather funny when someone commented that she spoke a few French words with a Spanish accent.  Bonjour mon sewer rat!
  6. Walking...Walking, walking, walking, walking, walking, walking and walking.  And up hill, seemingly both ways.  I am going to have Lance Armstrong (sans the whole blood swapping deal) tendons when all is said and done.
  7. More Food...I forgot to mention that it seems like everything is home-made here.  I had home-made ketchup on my hamburger.  There was home-made jam for my toast this morning.  
  8. The Hotel...We are staying at a nice place.  It was a factory or similar building in years past and has been nicely converted into a hotel.  The bed slopes downward, towards our heads, but it isn't too bothersome, and so far I haven't choked on my own stomach contents while asleep.
  9. The City...What's interesting about Quebec City, as opposed to other vacation destinations, is that this place really is a working port.  It's almost as if the tourist thing is nice, but they have also kept their day jobs.
  10. Drivers...Driving is a combat sport in Quebec City.  Everything you've heard about how nice Canadians are is true...up until the time they get behind the wheel of a vehicle...then they turn into the worst that you'd see in Central New Jersey.
Merci beaucoup ya'll!