Not Cease from Exploration

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Road Apples, #168

Led Zeppelin...It occurred to me that the band's movie, "The Song Remains the Same", is aptly titled, given their propensity for borrowing material from other artists.

The Donald...It's pretty clear that those who support "The Donald" for president are simply running on some kind of emotional autopilot.  Sadly though, being the leader of the free world probably isn't something that should be decided purely on the basis of emotion.  Saying that you're going to vote for "The Donald" because you're angry at Washington DC is a bit like saying you're going to stop eating entirely because McDonald's served you warm french fries.

The Real Pickle...It occurred to me that I'd have a heck of a tough time if the general election for President came down to Bernie Sanders and "The Donald".  That's a bit like having to decide between cancer or diabetes.  Not that Hillary Clinton is anywhere near a great choice either, but she does have the advantage of not making endless promises for everything and as well as simply not being an incompetent walking ego with hair.  Interestingly enough, I'll be in Florida on vacation when the election happens; we've already decided that we'll case a write-in ballot, as every single vote will count in order to prevent the thrice married, four times bankruptcy declaring reality television star from becoming President.

Graduate Degree...I'm soon going to be 70% of the way done with my graduate degree.  I can't find the words to describe just how happy I will be when this is over.  It's tedious.  And time consuming.  And at times frustrating.  In other words, it's probably worth it.

Speaking of Graduates...My youngest daughter "officially" graduated from Marywood University recently.  In addition to being, well, officially old, I am also extremely proud of her, as I am of all my children.  All will make the world a far better place.  Love You Stinky!

Back to Politics...Both parties are, to one degree or another, are built upon a fundamental lie.

Democrats - Want us to believe that government is the answer. To everything.  And that we should all be in labor unions, whether we want to or not (because big powerful institutions are always inherently good, right?).  Government is the answer when it comes to essential services and protecting us (from foreign powers and, sadly, from each other), and that's pretty much it.  Otherwise, it simply becomes this giant, impersonal, all-consuming thing that grows continuously larger without rhyme or reason.

Republicans - Want us to believe that somehow taking care of the wealthy and business interests will, almost by magic, make everything better for everyone else.  Sorry Cletus, but you and your relatives in rural Pennsyltucky have been sold a massive bill of goods.  We've had decades worth of practice when it comes to favoring the wealthy and business interests and nothing really to show for it, other than stagnant wages, spiraling executive pay and a tax code that favors those that make the most.

The real solution, in my estimations, is to scrap the two party system in this country.  We are, after all, one party away from a one party state.  Having multiple political parties will force greater compromise and alliances, something that's nearly impossible in the polarized region of the planet known as Washington DC.

Bathroom Bills...Speaking of ridiculous issues, there is far too much talk about manufactured bathroom issues.  For Pete's sake, if you look like a woman, than use the woman's rest room.  Ditto for males.  In fact, I'll take it one step further...

Enough...of the politics and other such stuff.  I started this posting on a musical note, so I'll end on one as well.  Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Vince Gill.

I love that song.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What I wanted to be (when I grew up)

My earliest recollection was that I wanted to be an Aerospace Engineer when I grew up.  Now I did have some idea as to what that meant, although the enormity of the mathematics that would entail was, at the time, beyond me.  More on math in a second.

As I grew older, I thought I'd like to be an Architect.  In fact, I used to create my own floor plans for imaginary schools and similar buildings using big sheets of paper.  Some if it, I think, was probably quite good.  Then I started Algebra in high school, and early into the class the teacher asked each of us what we wanted to be "when we grew up".  I said "Architect".  She said, in front of the whole class, that I probably wasn't good enough in math to make that happen.  Before then my math grades weren't bad, but they weren't spectacular either.  Thereafter I got good in math.  Real good, in fact.

As I approached college, I still wanted to be an Architect, but the realities of college financing (we had no money), the competitiveness of Architectural school programs, and their relative scarcity made that not all too realistic.  I settled on an Associate's Degree in Architectural Engineering.  That lead to acceptance into a Bachelor's degree program in Civil Engineering.  Then I changed my major to business administration.

Why the change?  I just didn't want to be an Engineer.  I almost got into the Architecture program at the University of Cincinnati, but then those realities of finance reared their ugly head again.  That and a general lack of encouragement for that kind of change spelled doom for my Ohio dreams.  Anyway, a major in business administration seemed like a safe bet.  I ended up having some difficulty with study-based courses, as I had been pretty much wired for math during my first two years of college, but all told I made a good run of it, finishing my BBA degree within four years and having a boat-load of math credits to boot.  Then I got a job in retail, mainly because it was 1986, and jobs were somewhat hard to come by.  My starting salary was the princely sum of $13,500 per year.  Needless to say, I ate a lot of Corn King hot dogs.  And I still didn't know what I wanted to do "when I grew up".

My retail career lasted about three years, and along with a new family came a need to earn more money, so I ended up getting hired by a large insurance company (the one without the cartoon beagle).  It had nothing to do with anything I actually wanted to do, but it was challenging and it paid reasonably well, so I stayed.

Fast forward to now, and I've had a long and varied career to date.  These days I do "HR stuff", and it continues to be challenging.  Heck, I'm nearly 70% of the way towards a Master's degree in the field, so I must be at least competent.  But is it what I wanted to do when I "grow up"?

Interestingly enough, I had a conversation with the vice president I report to, and she asked a very reasonable two questions:  What do you want to do?  What are you interested in?  I actually couldn't answer either all that well, truth be told.  What did I end up saying?  Well, here you go:  "The things I'm interested in are well above what I do for a living."

I know, that last statement sounds cryptic or brilliant, but it has the benefit of being true.  After all these years, I really don't know what I want to do "when I grow up".  I have, however, learned that a few things about myself:

- I like learning, continuously
- Despite not really liking people, I actually do like to help them
- I enjoy a good challenge
- I (now) like math
- I enjoy writing

I may in fact never know what I want to do "when I grow up", mainly because, perhaps, I've never grown up.  And I think this is probably okay.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Internet Graphic of the Week - Shania Law

(from the Kissing Fish Facebook page)

Allow me to quote from Shania Law:
And the Lord spoketh and said "Thou best understandith that the best part about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun".

As is the case for many of these things, the comments are almost as entertaining as the posting itself.  My personal favorite?  That would be "Forgot to mention that Shania is a foreign country singer from Canuckistan".

On a more serious note, we have to stop treating plain old stupidity as somehow being cute and/or okay.  It's not, and it's that stupidity that I think is the root cause of many of the ills that plague modern American society.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

NEPA Groupthink

The more I see, read, hear and experience in NEPA the more I am absolutely convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that our single biggest problem is NOT:
  • Being in the technology dark ages (although we are...)
  • Poor primary and secondary educational systems (I think they are functionally okay...)
  • A lack of a safety net for the poorest (even though there are plenty of poor...)
...or even...
  • A lack of economic opportunities for young people (more on this in a second...)
It's not any of the above, and I'll debate this item with anyone, any time.

No, our single biggest problem lies in an inability to critically question authority in NEPA.  We basically exist in some kind of bizarre herd mentality in NEPA whereby many willingly follow anyone in "authority".  Now reading the anonymous comments to various newspaper articles may make you think differently, but it's very telling that, in order to be critical, many have to hide their identity.  Where is the revolt at the ballot box?  We elect and re-elect the same failed politicians in NEPA without so much as batting an eye.

Anyway, it's an inability to question authority...heck, there is a cottage industry in NEPA surrounding how some enable authority...that I think leads to many of the ills we face as an area.

Just what do we believe?

We BELIEVE that school boards exist not to oversee the education of children, but rather to hand out good jobs and business contract to deserving family members and political supporters.  
See the lack of real nepotism policies in Scranton, Wyoming Area, Wilkes-Barre, etc.  And let's not forget Scranton's no-bid, multi-million dollar bus contract.

We BELIEVE that political corruption is somehow bizarrely okay, as long as money is brought in to construct a building, add lights to a Little League field, renovate a theater, or any other kind of pork.  If it makes us feel good, it must be okay, right?
See Bob Mellow.  And Dan Flood.  And Joe McDade.  And Ray Musto.

We BELIEVE that big institutions are always right, no matter how often they prove it to the contrary.
See the Catholic Church*, public employee labor unions, utilities, Penn State and others.

We BELIEVE that athletes are heroes and are deserving of just about anything they want, no matter how incompetent they actually are off the playing field.
See "Skrep-Daddy".  And Joe Paterno.  And others.

We BELIEVE that local economic develop officials are doing a GREAT JOB, no matter how unsuccessful they are in getting the Scranton Wilkes-Barre MSA's unemployment rate out of last (or nearly last) place in Pennsylvania.  Note that I've been to most parts of Pennsylvania, and having the highest unemployment rate in a state that boasts such garden spots as Altoona, Easton and Erie is quite a trick.  The cynic in me thinks that some must actually work at keeping the area economically depressed.
See the local Chambers of Commerce, state economic development folks, county commissioners, etc.

We BELIEVE that entertainment is more important than attainment.  This is why local newspaper sports sections are multiple pages longer than the business section.  We wouldn't want people to be educated about our economy and how it actually works outside of the public sector.
See the Scranton Times, Citizen's Voice, the Times-Leader and others.

All isn't lost though, as the good work being done by Friends of Lackawanna is showing promise that perhaps some are willing to truly challenge the status quo.  This is a good thing.

(*) I am drawing a distinction here between what one may chose to believe about the Catholic Faith vs. human-run institution of the Catholic Church.  I admire the Faith, while I am dismayed at the institution.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My lessons in humility

I think about humility, probably more than most.  I'm not always sure that's healthy, by the way, in that it would be one thing if I were this raging ego monster that always needed to keep my head from blowing up into extra large proportions, but I don't think that's me.  At least I hope it's not me.  More on ego in a moment.

When I was a kid, I was in a perpetual state of humility.  Growing up in a fairly staunch Catholic family, I was raised to believe that I was in this constate state of sin, some of which (the "original" variety) wasn't even technically related to anything I've actually done myself.  No bother, as I was probably guilty of so many sins via thought that one more for the perpetual road wasn't going to make much difference.  This made, by the way, the confession of sins all the dicier;  I knew I was swimming in sin, so much so that I couldn't remember them all, let alone be able to actually act in accordance with a reasonable accounting of misdeeds (real or otherwise).

The above, by the way, contributed to my last formal religious confession of sins being in 1986.

It's not that I don't believe in the idea of confession; heck, it seems to be a good idea if you ponder it for a bit.  Who wouldn't want to express that which is gnawing at your conscience like a New York City pizza rat?  It seems both reasonable and logical.  So why did I stop and what does this have to do with humility anyway?

To answer that I think it's important to take a side trip down the road called "ego".  The president of my company has talked about his desire for an organization that is exemplified by " drama, low ego...", which I completely understand.  In fact, I remember the first time I heard that quote.  Quite frankly, I was thrilled.  I've always believed that I had a "low ego".  In fact, I can think of many times when my ego has been practically roto-stripped out of existence.  To be fair, I can also think of times, 98% of them being in my professional life when I wasn't acting in the best interests of "low ego".  I try in my life to not dwell on the past, but when I do and these thoughts come up, I am regretful.

Fast forward to now, and I've spent some time studying the works of Eckart Tolle, specifically his thoughts on the nature of ego.  Now I wouldn't consider myself to be a devotee of Herr Tolle, and I wouldn't recommend any of his videos right before bedtime (because you'll fall asleep well before any of them end), but I agree with his basic concept, namely that ego is a corrosive force in our lives and it really does lead to suffering. Mostly our own, but in some very grand ways the lives of others as well.  For me, this becomes a practical matter in that I've learned to detach the concepts of "ego" and "humility".  Humility isn't the absence of ego.  In fact, I can think of many people who are humble but yet likely have enormous egos.  It's not quite the contradiction that it would seem to be when you ponder it (and someone like, for example, U2's Bono) for a moment.

As a matter of personal practice, I don't try to remove ego from my life, mainly because that's almost an egotistical thing to think and do.  I simply recognize it for what it is and try to live accordingly.  This hasn't made me more humble; my humbleness quotient (if there was such a thing) is at about the same level it has always been.  The key difference, at least for me, is that it's become okay to aspire to humility, not because I'm down-trodden and unworthy of doing anything of importance, but because it's simply good for the soul.  The narrative for me now is one of conscience acceptance of who and what I am.  Note the word "conscious", mainly because I do have to work at it.

Another thing I have to work on?  Awareness and management of my feelings when I am around those who may prize their ego and for whom humility is something that is maybe equivalent to a personal weakness or even a show piece that is displayed mostly for effect.  I am admittedly unnerved by such folks.  However, I've learned that my reaction says more about me and my ego than it ever could about anyone else.  Ego isn't just a looking down kind of thing, as it works in the other direction equally well.  That's an easy lesson to understand for me, but far more difficult to apply.

So why haven't I been "back to confession" in 30 odd years?  I respect and admire the tradition of a religious confession of sins, but I've realized that I don't need to feel sorry for my misdeeds in retrospect, as I can (and should) fully do that in almost real time.  An act of religious confession for me only served to distort the real meaning and value of humility.  Being humble isn't something that I need to drag out for an event; rather, it's a conscious decision I need to make about how I live and view the world around me.  I'm not "so good" as to be above the act of confession, but nor am I "so bad" as to be beyond its hope.  Mostly I try to be a good human being; humility simply helps me approach that goal in an intellectually honest manner.        

* * * * * *

What I was listening to on the way back from the gym:

"By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
There's a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, "I feel my life
Just like a river running through"
(Al Stewart, "Year of the Cat")

Unrelated to humility or ego, mainly just a great song.  And that's good enough.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Buying a Mother's Day card was always difficult...

(My mother, late 1960's, with some of her children; I think I'm the one on the far left)

When I was far younger, buying cards for holidays such as Mother's Day was a luxury, mainly because I had no money.  As I got older, got employed and got some money (even in small amounts) the economic challenge of buying a Mother's Day card was solved, but it left me with an even larger one:  What card to buy?

It all goes back to my mother.  Saying that my mother was a "tough lady" is like saying that there definitely is a chance of a Tuesday next week.  In point of fact she was one of the toughest human beings I have ever met.  Growing up she really didn't express all that much in the way of emotion, save for a round of "pissed off" when her sons would inevitably miss that large bathroom target known as a toilet bowl.  Love?  Hugs?  Not so much, although I know for a certain fact how much my mother loved all of her children.  She just wasn't able actually say it in words.  Luckily, at least for me, there were a few scattered times when she showed it, and for that I am grateful.  That toughness never left my mother by the way, up until her passing.  Speaking of tough, that was my final act as a son, namely to insist that my mother be allowed to pass away with the dignity that she would have demanded.  For that moment I was Doris Albert.    

Prior to her passing, but in later years, my mother did start to have interests in some things.  She liked being in the yard and she enjoyed flowers, so on Mother's Day I would usually get her something that could be planted.  That was easy.  The hard part?  Finding a card to go with the plant.  My mother simply wasn't that wonderful, loving person, in line with what's expressed in most greeting cards.  Oh, and my mother's demeanor wasn't limited to her children; if anything I think she was remarkably consistent in how she approached most thing in life.  Now I don't mean any of what I've written be demeaning in any way, shape or form, as my mother was a product of her own upbringing and circumstances.  I know, as I've grown older, that she did what she thought to be right, and, by the way, my mother always had strong feelings about what constituted "right".  Hindsight is always 20:20, and again as I've grown older I've become even more acutely aware of just how difficult it must have been for her as a single parent.  There was no manual and virtually nowhere she would have gone for help.  Yet here I am, typing this, so the end product couldn't have been all that bad.

I do think of my mother often, and in fact I've written more than a few things about her over the years.  Some of it is fairly direct, but maybe that's something I inherited from her.  That's another part of her her "living legacy", if you will.  So you'll forgive me if I don't write a glowing tribute to how wonderful a person my mother was, and how much I miss her on this day to appreciate mothers far and wide.  In fact I don't really "miss" my mother in the same way that other's certainly do, and that's okay.  If anything, I'd like to think that, years after her passing, my mother is now in a place where the anger has gone and it's been replaced by something I don't ever really remember her expressing in this life: Namely joy.

Another part of my job, also in the "living legacy" department, is to try and live a life filled with more joy than anger, more blue skies than pain*.  The irony is that my mother didn't teach me this, but I learned it from her never the less.  Some lessons need to be taught by example, even if it's not the example you think.

Happy Mother's Day in Heaven Mom.

(*) This thing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Welcome to Introvert Hell (population 1, thankfully)

(from THIS page)

We all, each and every one of us, have our "crosses to bear" (as was often said in my youth), and I readily accept that mine are far from that heavy.  That noted, there are times when I'm truly, utterly and completely mentally exhausted.  Mostly those are caused by self-inflicted wounds.

For example, why on Earth would I ever choose for a career a job that, given my desire to not call all that much attention to myself, regularly requires me to stand in front of large group of people and talk?  Heck, sometimes I do it even outside of my day job.  For example, during a recent company "town hall" meeting there was an audience question and answer period with our senior leaders.  It was clear that, outside of the lone question already asked, no one else was going to speak up.  What's my reaction?  Why to stand up and ask a question.  Bingo, a room full of people (plus hundreds more on video feed, mind you, and I'm not going even count the replays) are now looking at me.  Granted, I think it was a decent question, but just as I handed over the microphone and sat down, a quick check my heart rate yielded a reading of 110. If I were exercising that would be a good number.

Now part of my motivation in asking the above question was to avoid our senior leaders having to seemly beg for audience questions.  I don't like it when I am in that position and if I can help someone else who is, well I file that under the category of "professional courtesy".  The other part?  Well I was genuinely interested in the answer.

I don't get anywhere near a rush from standing up and being looked at by large group of folks, regardless of the setting or reason.  Town Halls or classes I teach or meetings I facilitate.  None of it.  In fact, if I were to actually ponder it all that much before standing up, I'd probably not actually do it in the first place.  Regardless of what "it" happens to be at any given moment.  However it's my's what I do.

People are sometimes surprised, at least when they see me work, that I am an introvert.  The situation reminds me of a scene from one of Star Trek movies...

Female Character to Captain Kirk:  You must be some kind of space man or something.
Captain Kirk:  No, I'm from Iowa; I only work in space.

I'm fine working in front of others, but as noted above it takes a toll in that I'm often exhausted after any kind of large engagement.  Years ago I actually had a truly introverted kind of job, working in accounting.  I really didn't like it.  I like numbers, but the job lacked any kind of edge for me.  Truth be told, I like being challenged, even when I find it terrifying and exhausting.

Oh, and what's worse than being looked at by large numbers of people?  That would be work-related social functions.  I accept these as important element of team cohesion, but they make me very uncomfortable.  It's easier for me to ask a question to a group of senior leaders than it is for me to engage in small talk with colleagues over dinner.  It also feels like far more pressure.  When I'm teaching or facilitating I have some measure of control; with small talk it's like the wild west of communication:  I don't know where things go and I'm unsure of my part.  It's all so random and unpredictable.  If such things were graded, I'd get a solid D- in the art of reading social clues, which is another reason why small talk is so vexing for me.

Welcome to my world.

I do have a strategy for dealing with work social functions though:  Find another introvert and then introvert together.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lackawanna County Buying the (former) Globe Store

I wrote this on Thursday; since then Lackawanna County has voted to purchase the building.

* * * * * *

One of many articles on this topic can be found HERE.

This is one of those "not sure" kind of deals, at least from my perspective.

The good?
If it ultimately saves taxpayers money via office that can be proven in an external audit...then this is a good deal.  Conventional wisdom says that you're almost always better owning real estate than renting it.

The bad?
The "good" part works only if you assume that the county does in fact consolidate all of its offices.  Pardon my skepticism, but I wonder if that will actually happen.  Politicians...especially local ones that tend to switch parties like the seasons and who never met a camera lens they didn't big projects that are paid for with other folk's money.  I worry that the appeal of a big project will overshadow the only economic reason to actually do this in the first place.  What's more, this shouldn't be an excuse to expand the size of county government.  Government needs to be just big enough to provide for the safety, well being and public infrastructure of the citizens is serves, and no larger.  Northeastern Pennsylvania though has had something of a history of treating government like an employment agency for the well-connected, especially at the city and county level.  That simply perpetuates a "down trodden unless connected/trickle down from local politicians" mentality that I believe actually harms the local economy.  As I often tell people from outside the area, when I was growing up the very best jobs in northeastern Pennsylvania were at "da Depot" or at the Post Office.  How sad is that?

The indifferent?
If there was even a chance that a private enterprise would buy the Globe Store building and return it to the tax roles I'd say this whole idea is, well, stupid.  From what I've read though, it's not as if there are competing offers on the table.  The building is an icon for Scranton and deserves to be occupied.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Politics, April 2016

Greetings from 33,000 feet above sea level, somewhere between Los Angeles and Philadelphia.  Yes, I paid a relatively insane amount of money for in-flight wifi service, but it's a long flight and I had a good week, so what the heck.

I've really, truly been disgusted...yes, the political season this year, both at a local and a national level.  This season embodies so much of the worst in politics...

...rabid followers
...a "win at all cost" competitive environment
...adults acting like children

Some of this I squarely blame on Donald Trump.  This is a "man" who has mocked the disabled, likened Mexican immigrants to criminals, advocated for a religious test for immigration (only for Muslims, as if that were somehow determinable by a special appendage only found on Muslims), called for the United States to "carpet bomb" ISIS (knowing darn well that this would kill hostages and the forced brides & children of these monsters), etc.  I could go on, but that narrative has already been played out well enough.  I don't dislike anyone who is supporting Donald Trump...I merely feel bad for them, as they're acting without thinking.  We need less of that in this country.

Some of it is the fault of the system at large.  I am shocked at the outrage being directed towards the delegate system for electing Presidents in the United States.  Guess what?  It's not new.  I'd say that folks should have maybe stayed awake in high school Civics class, but that would be wrong because I strongly suspect that this probably isn't taught for the most part.  I wasn't taught to me in high school.  Anyway, this system is patently wrong, period.  The idea that a majority of a population can vote for a candidate (even Donald Trump) and yet that isn't reflected in how delegates ultimately act in selecting a party candidate is sickening.  Why even bother having the election?  Simply have party bosses select delegates and then have the delegates make the selection

Speaking of political parties, some of this is their fault.  The United States is one party away from a one party state.  Both political parties are more interested in ideology and winning than they are in actual governance.  I can simply point to budget posturing by both parties as evidence.  Both parties engage in shenanigans and bogus "magic" math when it comes to spending our tax dollars.  Both parties have their sometimes irrational sacred cows that exist mostly just to rally their base voters rather than actually create a better country for all; for the Republicans it's defense spending, for Democrats it's public education.  I do support both defense spending and public education, but both are in severe need of radical change.

Locally things aren't much better.  Lackawanna County has a "Tea Party Patriot" county commissioner who somehow believes that her Facebook comments should be held separate from her pronouncements as an elected official.  Guess what Ms Cummings?  Your words...spoken or typed...matter and have consequence, regardless of where you utter then.  It's time to stop acting like a 12 year old who shares Facebook pronouncements as a means to impress friends in junior high.  Oh, and by the way, Ms Cummings, who identifies herself as a Christian, should be very familiar with what Jesus commanded of his followers (as noted in the Gospel of Mathew, chapter 5, verses 43 to 47):

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?"

Walk the Christian talk Ms Cummings or get off the road.

It's not all gloom and doom.  I was glad to see representative Frank Farina lose in the primary election for one simple reason:  His inconsistent stand of the expansion of the Keystone Sanitary landfill.  I got the impression that Rep. Farina wanted it both ways:  He wanted voters to think he wasn't in favor of expansion while simultaneously not upsetting the politically powerful (and financially politicians) owners of the landfill.  Bad move.  Landfill expansion is the single most important issue facing elected officials in northeastern Pennsylvania and in my mind there is zero room for inconsistency.

The political season isn't even in full swing yet, so no doubt things may get much worse.  Maybe, just maybe, enough voters will be also be disgusted with the process such that there may actually be some real change in this country.  We can start with the elimination of the electoral college and the undue influence two political parties have over who gets elected to national office.  Another start would be for national and state governments to end all financial support for the political parties.  We all want informed voters to make decisions in this country, but part of achieving that goal has to include reducing the over-sized role that just two sets of political party bosses have on governance.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Birthday Posting

Random (and not so) observations on a birthday.

* * * * * *

I'm actually working on my birthday today, traveling on company business no less.  The last time I worked on my birthday? was a horrible day, as Eastern Airlines had declared bankruptcy and I had the joy of answering questions from "salty" mechanics about the status of their pension (something that, having been with the company almost 5 months, I was hardly in a position to do anyway).  When the day was done and after having debriefed by manager at the time, his response was classic:  "Know what your biggest mistake was today Steve?  You worked on your birthday.".  I've taken the day off ever since.

"Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories" (John Mellencamp, "Minutes to Memories").  Ever since turning about maybe 45, I honestly don't know, off the top of my head, my exact age.  It's almost surreal, as I have to actually think about it for a moment.  Good thing that 2016 is an even year, as it makes doing the math in my head (1964 to 2016) easier.

Growing up I don't recall ever having a birthday party.  That was fine with me, by the way, as back then (and now) I'm not much of a party person anyway.

Speaking of growing up, I have three brothers and we're all year apart.  I'm second from the top.  Once I figure out how old I am (see above) it's simple math to determine how old they are; the only hard part is trying to remember actual birthdays.  I have a horrible time remembering dates.  All dates, and it's not just about getting older either...I've always had this problem.  I think it has something to do with my span of attention in that unless something dangles in front of me I tend to not pay too much attention to it at the moment.  Dates included.  Especially.

One good thing about getting older?  I think you learn what truly is important in life...or at least you gain something of a better perspective.  Gifts and such are nice, but it's times like this when just a short message means a lot.

Growing older things begin to physical break, stress, fall out, thin out, hurt, ache and just generally not function as well.  Me (especially) included.  It's easy for that to be discouraging, but I try to keep it in perspective:  It could be...and probably will be...worse at some point. The point then?  I suspect it's that we all need to live in the moment.  Appreciate being able to walk, even if it's a tad bit uncomfortable, as you may not have that ability in the future.  Also appreciate those ailments that can actually be treated.  Life (and modern medicine) has given me more than one "do-over", and for that I am eternally grateful.

Speaking of "do-overs", in life I've learned that they aren't just about physical health and modern medicine.  Life gives us almost infinite opportunities to fix that which is crappy, re-align that which is out of wack, and chart a new course when the old one is taking us over a cliff.  You just have to be willing to:
a) Be honest...mostly with yourself...about the current situation.
b) Be willing to take an educated risk that the new maybe better than the old.
A life centered completely around "risk avoidance" doesn't seem like much of a life at all.  Life should be about thoughtful risk management.  Jumping out of plane is bad, unless you learn how to skydive and have a parachute, then (some) think it's fun.  Not me mind you...I don't like heights.

Speaking of thanks and thankfulness...Thank You to all who have wished me a happy birthday.  It means a lot.  I'm just glad it only happens once a year, as there's only so much attention I can actually handle at any given time.