Monday, January 21, 2019

Scranton School District: When the Man Comes Around

The big news coming out of Scranton...well make that one of several pieces of big news coming out of Scranton (considering the fact that the FBI recently searched the home of the Mayor) the fact that the state Departmartment of Education (DoE) has appointed a recovery officer that will be assigned on a full-time basis to the Scranton School District (SSD).  This is one step shy of the Pennsylvania DoE actually assuming full control the SSD.  A related article can be found HERE

Yes, the man is coming around.

No one will be happy with what happens next:
  • Teachers will be paid less.
  • SSD employees will be laid off.
  • Taxes will increase.
  • Children will lose the benefit of a neighborhood school.
  • Some programs will be eliminated.

Basically, less will be delivered and it will cost more.

Who is to blame?  That's surprisingly easy to answer:  Registered voters in Scranton.

It was a majority of the 30% or so of registered Scranton voters who routinely voted for grotesquely incompetent candidates for the SSD board.   How "grotesquely" you may ask?  Well, ponder the fact that, over the past few years, two former SSD board presidents didn't even graduate from high school,  That's how grotesque.  The SSD board operated like a sailor on leave in Bangkok for decades, and now no one is "clapping".

Scranton taxpayers got the successive SSD boards that they wanted.  

This is also a board that twice...not just once, but twice...voted for a no-bid busing contract that just happens to be with a significant campaign contributor and influential local businessman.  For the record, I don't blame the businessman; if anything, he's guilty of out-smarting a bunch of amateur politicians (again noting that two recent SSD board presidents didn't even graduate from high school, so how difficult could that have been?).

District teachers don't escape blame here either.  The Scranton Federation of Teachers (SFT) routinely endorsed many of these grotesquely incompetent board members, time and time again.  Why?  Well, like the busing contractor, I suspect that they knew who they could out-smart.  They were successful, but like the kid that eats too much candy, the inevitable rotten teeth now must be pulled.  Look for the SFT to complain loudly about the actions that "the man" will recommend, while conveniently forgetting their active role in SSD mismanagement.  Their excuse/refrain will be that it was the "administration" that is to blame here, and they are right...but again forgetting that they helped elect many of the "administration".  

Detecting a pattern here yet?

My heart genuinely goes out to those teachers, maintenance workers and others who will lose their jobs.  I've lost a job through no fault of my own, so I know the difficult road they will travel.  Many of these people just want to work hard and earn a decent living.  But like the bystanders in a drive-by shooting (decades in the making), they had little choice in the matter.

I'd like to tell you that this will all work out in the end and that there will be momentary pain followed by a better tomorrow, but that's a lie.  There will be years of pain ahead.  Scranton voters will learn the hard way that you reap what you sow by either voting for the incompetent or not voting at all.  

Sunday, January 20, 2019


I've been reading about the whole Marie Kondo thing lately, and while having absolutely no intention of reading Ms. Kondo's book or following any of her advice, I think we can all appreciate the fine art of the cleanup.  To take a bit of a sidetrack for a moment, I don't think Ms. Kondo is really selling organizational skills; instead, she's selling the perception of self-control.  That's something most of us want, but yet not everyone can actually (mentally) afford to any degree of consistency.

As for me, well I enjoy the act of organization.  In fact, my latest quest has been to re-do our home office.  To take a step back, when I was living in my own apartment, I bought some office furniture from IKEA that was well suited for the task and space.  When we bought our current home though in 2013, well, my office furniture wasn't quite a good fit for the home office space we had available.  Think about 3 sizes too big.  While I knew I'd eventually have to make some kind of change, I also had a few other things ahead in the life-queue department.  Fortunately, I have a wife that's relatively tolerant of my need to create a personal retreat space.

Since 2013 I had made a few improvements to the office space, including adding bookshelves on the exterior facing wall.  I have a lot of books.  And other stuff.  Anyway, I'd tell you that the shelves were a part of a larger, strategic space plan, but that would be a lie.  I just wanted lots of shelves.  I still had a desk that was still 3 sizes too big.

Master degree completed, and other excuses eliminated, so it was time to turn our home office into something that isn't a hazard to both humans and cats in while in the dark.  That work is (mostly) completed, with a bulky IKEA office thingie replaced by two bamboo surface, adjustable height tables (one for me, one for Ms. Rivers), along with a few other improvements that probably only I, and our cats actually care about.  To be honest, though, the cats don't care about it either.

(NCFE Central:  Still a work in progress)

Again, the above details don't mean much to anyone but me, and that's okay.  There is a bigger point in all of this though, and I'm not selling "organization is important but it's really about control" either.  I think that activities like cleanup and re-organization are actually about a need for change.  It's about always being in a place where at least I can say "this can be better".  That's a place that ultimately tells me that, in spite of a few bumps in my road over the past two years, everything is still okay.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

New Year's 2019 Un-Resolutions

A short list of things I will strive to NOT do/accomplish in 2019.
  1. I am not trying any new vegetables in 2019.  I tried a brussel sprout in 2012, which was more than enough.  For the record, after a single (disgusting) bite I basically swallowed the offending dwarf-cabbage whole.  Needless to say, there have been no repeats.
  2. I am not staying current with the news.  At best I'll be a day or two behind.  Let's face it:  The country is in the toilet anyway at the moment, so the old saying is actually true:  No news really is good news.
  3. I am not learning any new languages.  I'll stick with my pig-Spanglish, thank you very bien.
  4. I am not committing to a regular blog posting schedule.  For the record, I am barely getting this one out.
  5. I am not getting any new cats in 2019.  I wish I was, but I'm not.  This in spite of the fact that most cats and dogs are better than most people.
  6. I am not committing to reading more fiction.  I'm sorry if that makes me look like an uneducated cro-mag to all you fiction readers and writers out there, but that's just how I roll.  I will be reading more books though in 2019 (I've already finished two this year).
  7. I am not starting my Ph.D.  My academic career is over.  One soon-to-be doctor in the family is enough.
  8. I am not committing to getting more sleep.  I probably should, which is a fact, but my mind just doesn't seem to allow such things.  I still have trouble falling asleep sometimes, in spite of having enough medication in me to tranquilize a rhino.
  9. I am not contributing to any political campaigns.  Sorry, but not in 2019.  We'll see about 2020 (or when this guy runs again).
  10. I am not listening to any new music in 2019.  I don't care how enthusiastic some family members are for, example, the Mountain Goats.  I'll stick with the 60's + 70's, with a bit of Duran Duran or maybe the Fixx thrown in for good measure.  

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Two Years Later - January 5, 2019

(A sailor on leave, 1985-ish)

I found my brother Chris dead in his home on January 5, 2017.  We aren’t actually sure exactly when he passed away.  The circumstances of his passing are actually pretty terrible; in the past, I’ve noted that I was glad in a sense to have found him, as that spared others (such as my other brothers) from having to go through the trauma.  These days, well, I would no longer use the word “glad”, but perhaps instead I am relieved that others were spared the experience.  I will confess though that it's taken something of a toll on me over the intervening years.

Before I go on, my intent on writing this posting is to tell a funny story or two about Chris, but I’m not sure it will go in that direction.  I know that’s lifting the writing curtain up a bit, something that doesn’t necessarily make for good reading, but I’m going to do it anyway.  Maybe I need to give myself outward permission to take this wherever it goes.  Anyway, permission is officially granted.

When Chris met Chris.  When my brother Chris met my (future wife) Chris(tine), the very first words out of his mouth was a joke involving midgets and pornography.  With apologies for using the word “midget”, but that’s the word he actually used.  That was, by the way, the way he rolled.  Chris (the brother) loved to get a reaction out of people.  Now I did warn my future wife Chris(tine) about my brother Chris, but I don’t think the warning did him justice.  Very few things did my brother Chris justice.  It was in part homage to that first encounter that I ended up getting Chris this tee shirt for Christmas one year:

(Available from THIS fine site)

Chris loved the shirt though, and over the years I took great delight in finding other absurd shirts to get him, including one that proclaimed that PETA actually stood for “People Eating Tasty Animals”.

Of pumpkins and Limbaugh.  Chris absolutely loved Rush Limbaugh.  Not that he actually believed most of the nonsense that Limbaugh spewed (he said yes, but I knew better) but for Chris, it was mostly, I think, about rebellion.  That would be a rebellion against our mother, who could easily be thrown into a rage at the mere thought of talk radio, let alone “El Rushbo”.  While most folks stop rebelling against their parents at about age 19, Chris carried it forward until the day mom died.  She ended up getting the last word in their on-going war though, as Chris lost his seemingly perpetual reason for rebellion.  I’m convinced that this bothered Chris on some very deep level.  Anyway, at one point after a heated argument with me about talk radio’s Most Famous Pill Addict, Chris actually left in disgust, claiming that I was just going to keep calling him (Limbaugh) “Pumpkin Head” anyway.  In all fairness, Limbaugh’s head does kind of look like a pumpkin.  For the record, that was probably the only time in my life when I could claim any kind of real verbal victory against Chris.

A third story, and not necessarily a funny one.  Chris was secretly one of my biggest cheerleaders.  That’s an odd comment to make for those that knew Chris, but the two times in my life when I was at my lowest (well outside of finding my brother…) Chris made sure I knew of his confidence in me.  He knew I would get through my difficult divorce (and all divorces are difficult) and he was absolutely positive I would land on my feet when my nearly 28-year former career came to an end.  There was never any doubt in Chris’ mind either time, even though there was plenty of doubt in mine.  I wish I would have told him how much his confidence during those two difficult times meant to me.  That’s a common denominator or sorts about losing someone close to you:  You get to think about all the unsaid things. 

Speaking of confidence, well, that was an important part of Chris’ bag of tricks.  My genetic testing kit tells me that I am far more Irish than I want to actually believe (no offense to the Irish…I was hoping for more German), but if anyone in our family had the Irish “gift of gab” it was Chris.  He was engaging, smart, and confident.  Now I can play “engaging and confident” when I’m being paid to do so, but for Chris, well, it was the real thing.  My confidence was learned; Chris had it in his genetic code.  Even towards the end of 2016, a very difficult year from my brother, he could still manage to talk me into things.  Yeah, part of that was his skill, but part of it was the fact that I would have done anything to rescue my brother, as would have the others close to him.  For the record, I failed.  Kindly spare me the “it’s not your fault Steve” stuff, as I logically understand I am not to blame, but logic was in short supply when it came to Chris’ passing.

I think it was this confidence that, in part, made Chris clash so much with our mother.  What I saw as confidence she saw as arrogance, and she had little place in her world for arrogant men, with emphasis on the word “men”.  Maybe on some level, she felt that was intimidating.  I personally think that they were actually a lot more alike than dissimilar.  Maybe that’s why my brother didn’t spend much time with our mother.  While on vacation, as a general rule, I couldn’t count on Chris to check in on our mother; he wouldn’t do it or mom would flat out refuse to do anything with him.  All of this was quite a feat given the fact that, for a number of years, they lived across the street from each other.  In retrospect, their clashes were, I think, a function of both looking into a mirror and seeing things neither was especially keen to gaze upon.  Our mom saw in Chris some of her earlier life flaws; Chris saw in mom so much anger…anger that he held as well, but which he would completely deny up until the end, in spite of my encouragements to the contrary.

Gazing is a good place to end this posting.  When I found Chris, well, I didn’t get a horribly good look at him.  The bedroom where I found him was dark (his house had no electrical power at the time), something for which I have some gratitude.  That visual simply would not have been all that pleasant, given the details of his passing.  I did touch him though, in a one-time attempt to see if he was sleeping.  He wasn’t sleeping and I will never, ever, get that touch out of my mind.  Saying “mind” isn’t an adequate description here, as it’s more of a physical memory that I have of that final encounter with Chris.  I can still “feel” it.  I would have given anything for a chance to say goodbye, but ever the rebel, Chris wasn’t going to allow that to happen.  As I noted in his eulogy, my hope is that he is now in a better place with our mother, rebellion full exercised.

Until we meet again brother.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Frozen Lake In Winter

A few pictures from our recent stay at the Ricketts Glen family cabins, a tradition of my wife's family.  The first three photos are of Lake Jean.

A rotting tree that just happens to also be making a face.

I've been going up "to the cabins" with my wife and her family for a number of years now.  The exact number of years escapes me, and Ms. Rivers for that matter.  The accounting though really doesn't matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.  What does matter is family, and I am eternally grateful to be a part of my wife's family.

So, what does one do in a place with no cell or Internet service in 2018?  Well for me, it was...

...about 5,000 words written.  Of that, maybe 2,000 are actually any good.

...several hikes in the "not too cold for this time of year" grounds of Ricketts Glen.

...finished reading Almost Everything:  Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott.  

...eating more cake than I should have.

...taking photographs (see above for a smattering).

...discussing all things corporate learning and HR metrics with my sister in law Julie.

...creating a new bill tracking spreadsheet for 2018.  I know, only I care about that.

...explaining the ins/outs of blogging to my mother-in-law, a published author.

...trying to figure out how to be both comfortable and warm in a cabin bunk bed.

...enjoying homemade bread created by my wife's sister's husband (my brother-in-law?).

...a drive to Benton, PA to shop in two antique stores; I bought a 40-year-old architect's scale. a dropped prescription out from the dishwater.

...talking about our life in (real) retirement with Ms. Rivers.

...pondering life in 2019.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Closing Out The (2018) Books

Closing out the books for 2018, thinking about what 2019 will bring.  While I'm short of specifics, I do know this:  The older I get, the more I realize that I really do have no clue what the new year will bring anyway.  Why bother trying then?  Because it's important to be more than just a spectator in life.

The above is not exactly profound, I give you that much, but as I've often times repeated in this corner of the Internet, it has the benefit of being true.  While just about every year I talk/think/write about new annual goals, for 2019 I'm going to go a bit more in the general department.  Why?  Well, for the most part, I suck stink at achieving the personal goals I set for myself (I am far, far better at my professional goals).  The logic defies me in some ways, as I always set detailed goals but then don't pay enough attention to them as the year progresses.  That's no doubt a manifestation of my interest in far too many things.

Anyway, as I think about the new year, three things do come to mind.

First, I need to focus on my health.  My whole health, as in physically, mentally and emotionally, mostly because I increasingly know that all three are connected anyway.  It's time to being more strategic when it comes to my own wellness.

Second, I need to re-focus some of my career energies.  While I loathe self-promotion, it's about time I stopped punching below my own weight class.

Third, I need to work at being happier.  There's simply no excuse for not being happier.  None. I simply have too many of the bases of life, such as an incredible partner, already covered.  Part of being happier will be finding ways to help others, be it personally or professionally.  And cats.  By the way, WebMD has 15 Steps to Becoming a Happier Person, for anyone looking for concrete suggestions (and cats, by the way, didn't make the list).

Grated that all three of the above are probably manifestations of the same underlying things.

I hope that you (who happen to be reading this) are thinking about what you want to accomplish in the new year as well.  My wish for you is that the new year brings challenges that are motivating, but not daunting.  I also hope that we can all find ways to rise above the fog of negativity that seems to be gripping our nation.

Lastly, thank you for reading my stuff throughout the year.  I appreciate your willingness to climb in what really is my head for a few minutes each week or so.  If I've provoked a thought or even mildly entertained, well, that's a good thing.  If not, well, I suggest you check out Andy Palumbo's blog instead.  He takes nice photographs.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

2018: What I've Learned

"Change is the end result of all true learning."
(Leo Buscaglia)

A few thoughts on what I've learned during 2018.

1.  The view may not always worth the hike.
In 2018 I earned a Master of Science degree as well as a senior Human Resources professional designation.  Yet try as I might to have some sense of pride or at least comfort in both, for the most part, what comes to mind is a kind of tired feeling.  I think about how draining the process of earning the degree was for me.  I sometimes now look back and wonder just how in the heck I managed, and whether or not I'd be able to do that again.  That's not a happy thought.

The silver lining:  I actually did it.  And did it very well.  There have been a few times when I've walked past my diploma and thought to myself "you've done well".  Maybe over time the "tired muscle memory" will fade.

2.  Sometimes the view really is worth the hike.
Especially when that hike is in Scandinavia.

(Bergen, Norway; July 2018)

See #5, below.

3.  We are all fully human.
All of us struggle.  I've experienced co-workers and family members struggle with stress and anxiety in 2018, more so than in prior years.  In fact, from a professional perspective, I don't ever recall seeing so many co-workers feeling so stressed in all of my working life.  There is no immunity for me when it comes to working struggles either, and as I reflect on the year, I've come to the conclusion that all of this may be for a reason.  Maybe 2018 is the ending act of something that started on October 13, 2016, for me (see THIS posting), a closing of a chapter that has to occur before a new chapter can begin.  Maybe this a transition time, a kind bridge between old and new lands.  Time will tell.

For my co-workers and family that are struggling at the moment, well, I know better days await them.  We all just need to keep moving forward, and remember the advice of the world's most famous fictional boxer:

"It ain't about how hard you hit.  It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward"

There's also never any shame in asking for HELP.

4.  Progress comes, but sometimes at a cost.
Smoking has been a big topic in the news this year, and there is really good "news":  The adult rate of smoking in the United States has continued to decrease, and I hope that it continues to drop.  Look, I realize that we all make bad choices, but those choices shouldn't result in a long, painful death (from, for example, lung cancer).

(from THIS page)

Dying of lung cancer is a horrible, horrible thing.  No one should have to experience such a thing, especially when it is the result of a personal choice...a choice that, in fact, has no real value.

Simply put, I really and truly wish that no one smoked.  While smoking rates have declined, 2018 saw the rise of a disturbing trend:  The surging use of electronic cigarettes and related devices among teenagers.
(From THIS article on Vox)

There is nothing redeeming about the use of nicotine, and while vaping is likely less damaging than smoking, it's just a higher tech way of addiction maintenance.  To me, it seems like a poor trade-off.

If you smoke, please stop.  If you vape, please at least wean yourself off of nicotine, which really is nothing more than a poison that also gets you high.

5.  My world got bigger.
See above; I don't think you can travel internationally and not be positively impacted by the experience.  In 2018 I got to visit the following countries:
  • Norway
  • Demark
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • Estonia
  • Russia
  • Finland
  • Sweden
The phrase "life-changing" doesn't give it justice.  You can read about my travels in a series of postings that start with THIS one.  Where do I go from here?  Well, likely we will be going to Scotland, maybe in 2020.  We shall see.  I wouldn't rule out a return trip to Norway or Sweden either.

6.  The negativity is like a toxic fog.
There is a kind of general negativity in the United States today that's unlike anything I've ever experienced before.  I'm not going to soil this blog by talking about national politics, but I will say this:  The country would be better served if the President of the United States simply stopped tweeting.

7.  Some take "servant" out of "public servants".
Some folks who are, in theory, public servants don't seem to understand what the combination of those two words actually means.  Nowhere is that truer than in the Scranton School District (SSD).  Case in point was the ridiculous decision on the part of the SSD Board to eliminate all of the district's librarians.  I wrote about this, and my recollections of Mrs. Golden, in THIS posting.  I'll note this for the record:  The SSD Board is grossly incompetent. While I don't wish to create any bad juju, I do hope that, at some point in 2019, the board is disbanded, the state Department of Education takes over, and at least some Directors are indicted on corruption charges.

A more current view of the SSD Board's latest foray into incompetent can be found HERE.

8.  The goodbyes may be coming more frequently.
The Bon Ton department store chain closed for good in 2018.  Before the final death knell, many of the chain's stores were closed, including one that I worked at up until 1988.  You can read about that experience HERE, and read about the final closing for the entire chain HERE.  When you get older, these kinds of transitions become more and more common.  To be blunt, you simply outlive people and things that have been a part of your life. 

9.  The emperor truly had no clothes.
The phrase "the wheels came off the bus" tends to be over-used, but I can think of few instances where it wasn't any truer than in the sexual abuse crisis facing the Catholic Church.  It wrote about that in THIS posting.  No one should be taking any glee out of the situation facing the Church, although there is something of a silver lining to the crisis in that even the most fervently conservative Catholics are now actively talking about how lay people need to take a larger leadership role in the Church.  That's a good thing and long overdue.  

There is a problem with the notion of larger lay participation in the Church though, in that the leadership (alone) of the Church gets to make up all of the rules.  And arbitrarily change the rules if it wants.  It truly is a case of a trial where the same person is the defendant, prosecutor, defense attorney, judge, and jury.  Call me skeptical when it comes to most Church reforms, which is truly sad given the many wonderful religious I have met in my lifetime.

10. Some things you just don't get over.
THIS posting.  Part of me feels, well, stupid.  I should just stop thinking about my brother Chris and just "get over it".  Another part of me, the smarter part of me (I think) knows that I wouldn't tell anyone else in a similar circumstance the same thing.  So, I'm not "getting over it".  I've given myself permission to embrace the grief.  

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Getting Ready for Christmas

My wife is equal parts impressed and (likely) disgusted by my organizational skills related to Christmas.  I can offer two examples:
  1. I buy presents months in advance.  This comes from times in the past when I simply didn't have an awful lot of money, so spreading out the cost of gift purchasing was a necessity.  
  2. I spreadsheet it all.  I maintain a year-over-year spreadsheet showing the gifts I buy for everyone, including their economic value(1).  I started doing this many, many years ago in order to make sure that, as I bought things for my daughters, they were all treated equitably.
Old habits are hard to break, which is why I still do these things.  What's more, I can see a point in the not-so-distant future when I scale my holiday organizational efforts back.  My life has been complicated enough, so why I continue to add to the burden, no matter how well-intentioned, is sometimes beyond me.

I just don't spreadsheet gifts for my daughters; the spreadsheet covers everyone.  I literally mean everyone.  Including people that aren't even with us anymore.

I had thought about modifying the spreadsheet to remove my late brother Chris' name, but I just don't have the heart to.  In fact, I get some sense of momentary pleasure to look back on the gifts I had given Chris over the years.  I always try to be very thoughtful about what I give to others; it's never about just gifts for the sake of gifts.  Getting back to my late brother, holidays were something of a difficult time for him in the two or three years prior to his death, as he would routinely just not show up for the Christmas dinner I would host, in spite of assurances to the contrary.  He would inevitably come up with an explanation after the fact, but the reality in hindsight (although suspected in real-time) was that he just wasn't well, and his abuse of things made going anywhere or doing anything just about impossible.  I know this was especially true at Christmas, which I know is a particularly hard time for those who struggle.  Anyway, as long as the spreadsheet exists, Chris' name will remain in column I, even though the cells will be sadly empty.

Christmas this year just isn't about the things on the outside.  Case in point:  I have a nasty habit of allowing things in my outside world (work and other pressures, as examples) to intrude into my inner world.  Christmas doesn't get a special pass when it comes to that stuff either.  This year I have three more specific things that are pinging around in my head like so many stray nuts and bolts placed in the fender of a mid-70's Chrysler(2).  The specifics of the specific things aren't important and they don't really add to this narrative, so cryptic I will remain.  Suffice to say, I'm trying to keep things in balance.

Part of keeping this in balance, at least for me, is having a plan.  The late Dr. Gordon Livingston(3) once said that there are three keys to happiness:
  1. Something to do
  2. Someone to love
  3. Something to look forward to
Planning, for me, takes care of items 1 and 3.  I can honestly say that I have item #2 covered, a fact for which I am truly blessed.  I do, however, need to plan...and act...more.  Case in point:  I read quite a bit about the benefits of disconnecting from things like social media, at least for some time frame, but I don't think that would work for me.  I can, however, make some small changes, including moving my cell phone off of my nightstand and into my office.

Finally, there's also some benefit for all of us in taking stock of the year as 2018 rolls into 2019.  One of the things that this far-too-fast-paced world takes away from us, as we instantly react to various sundry tweets and cat videos, is the time to really reflect on who we are, and what we're doing.  This is important because we can't know where we are going if we don't know from whence we start, and there are a lot of places we all can be going to in the months and years to come.

Here's to a quick Christmas sprint.

(1) Economic value is, by definition, more or less what someone is willing to pay for something.  From a practical standpoint, in this case, it's what something is worth, not necessarily what I paid for it.  For example, if I buy something that costs $75 but it is normally priced at $100, the value for purposes of equitability is $100, not $75.  I do, by the way, realize that this explanation is just about the least Christmas-y thing you will read all day today.

(2) Urban legend (likely based on fact):  Apparently as a way to show displeasure with their labor contracts or, just because they could, American auto workers would put random things in the cars they were building.  If you ever had a 70's or earlier vintage American car, you know full well some of the quality "challenges" that came with the vehicles.

(3) If I had to recommend just one book to anyone, it would be Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Dr. Livingston.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Grapefruit League

(Photo from

I love grapefruit, which may come as a surprise to some, given the fact that I have the eating habits of a five-year-old.  Grapefruit though was something I grew up eating.  For the young Albert boys, it was bordering on an exotic fruit, given the limited food options (based on my mother's sensibilities) we had growing up.  With the previous three sentences noted, the last grapefruit I had was in early 2016.

It was in January of 2016 that I was diagnosed with a medical condition that necessitated my taking a medication that interacts poorly with grapefruit.  To the uninitiated, the seemingly kind and gentle grapefruit interacts with a ton of medications.  Don't believe me?  Check out THIS LIST.  It's kind of like discovering that your kind and gentle Uncle actually works for the CIA, interrogating suspected terrorists, or something along those lines.  I never had an uncle like that, but I have definitely missed eating (red) grapefruit.

Jumping back to the present day, actually this past Wednesday to be exact, I was feeling normal.  As in fine.  Outside of a challenging early afternoon phone conversation, the day was even going remarkably okay.  By later on in the work day, well, I started to feel a bit off.  What transpired next isn't suitable for my PG-rated blog, but here's a good-but-sufficiently-nebulous description for you:  "My body + Wes Craven Horror Movie".  At this point, I have to give my doctor's office, at Geisinger Mount Pleasant, tons of well-deserved credit:  I called the office and they were extraordinarily helpful, postulating on what likely was happening and providing good advice.  They also got me in to see my primary care physician the next day, which is nothing short of a small miracle in this day and age.  Two sets of blood tests and a doctor visit later and the jury is still somewhat out in terms of what is actually going on within my entrails, but I can gladly report that I feel fine.  More tests are likely needed, and I've run out of arms from which to draw blood, but I'm sure the good folks at Geisinger will figure that part out.

There is a silver lining to all of this:  I can eat grapefruit again, I think.  The medication that apparently offended the grapefruit gods has been removed from my daily intake, as it was making what happened above (i.e. Wes Craven Horror Movie) a lot worse.  The replacement medication I will be taking gets along much better with grapefruit. 

Friday was a day off, and outside of my doctor checking in with me, I spent the day shopping with Ms. Rivers.  Our final stop?  The grocery store.  I bought two grapefruits.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Scranton School Board: Yes, It Can Get Worse

Apparently, the individuals who are responsible for solving the Scranton School District's significant fiscal and educational issues had trouble even agreeing on who should be in charge.  See THIS article.

"The annual reorganization meeting, where directors elect leaders for the following year, included five nominations for president. After directors tried to beat each other by shouting out nominations first..."

Yes, they can't even effectively organize themselves.

It's a mistake to minimize this story as being "that's just how these things go" or "you don't understand the process"; the Scranton School District is insolvent right at this very moment.  This is an emergency, decades in the making.  The Board doesn't have the luxury of, to be crude for a moment, "pissing contests" over who gets what title.  This is akin to the officers of the Titanic arguing over who gets to wear what hat while the ship itself is sinking.

(from THIS page)

The taxpayers deserve better than this, but then again it's been the taxpayers who have elected successive and incredibly unqualified board members in the past.  While there has been some hope that new members would bring a degree of professionalism to the board, I can't get over the whole "...tried to beat each other by shouting..." aspect of this circus.  This is service to one's the expense of the greater it's very worst.

Will it get worse?  Yes, it will.