Not Cease from Exploration

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Select New Years Wishes (for the famous and not so...)

If for no other reason than the fact that I just thought to write this (and besides, I'm backing up files on the computers today, which is akin to watching paint dry).

President Elect Barack Obama...
...the best of luck, because he'll need luck in addition to skill to get us out of the economic pickle we are in these days.

President George W. Bush...
...a quiet retirement from public service. We've had enough, thank you very much.

My Director At Work (Bill)...
...inspiration as he tries to craft that little speech about not getting a raise at work when it comes time to do my review. Don't sweat it, as I've already figured it out.

Bernard Madoff...
...a conscience.

Sirius Chairman Mel Karmazin...
...that he will keep his word...for real...about allowing Sirius subscribers to pick channels a la carte. I don't listen to the news in Korean, so why do I have it? Also, let's do this so that every subscriber can make selections, not just those with the latest radios. I supported the XM merger, so some payback is due.

Tom Cruise...
...a sudden desire to quit acting and take up painting (or something similar). I'd rather burn $8.50 for heat than plunk it down to watch the guy act.

My Extended Family At The Office...
...I hope all of us are around this time next year to celebrate 2010.

JJ Abrams...
...that he respects the Star Trek franchise and comes up with a decent new movie. Also, some additional information on where that monster in "Cloverfield" came from would be nice too.

David Gates...
...that he goes on tour again and comes to NEPA.

My Mom...
...that her knee feels better.

Britney Spears...
....that she comes to the conclusion that she has, in fact, no real talent other than making babies and, realizing just how lucky she has been all these years, decides to dedicate the rest of her life to helping children with cancer (hey, no one said that all of these wishes had to be realistic).

The Republican Members of Congress...
...that they become a credible opposition and focus on principles and solutions, not grandstanding on morality.

The Democratic Members of Congress...
...that they make decisions based on whats right for the nation, not whats right for their party.

My Brother Chris...
...that the closing goes off without a hitch.

My Brother Rich...
...that he finally masters all the technical intricacies of using a laptop and the Internet (tall order, but I know he can do it).

My Brother Joe...
...continued success with the job.

My Sister Michelle...
...that she will decide to come out of her self-imposed years-long exile.

Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino...
...humility.

The Federal Communications Commission...
...that it will go away, as I'm not sure what it does anyway.

Berkeley Breathed...
...a return to the daily comics. God I miss his stuff.

My Friends...
...that all will find 2010 to be a year of health, wisdom and peace.

Myself...
...a healthy (both mentally and physically), balanced 2010.

..and finally...

My Girls...
...that they will see and act on the wonderful gifts that they have been given in life, living even more to the potential they each have.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Still Searching For The Ant Invasion

How's this for an 80's flash-back?



Now what's pretty cool about this song is that it's being performed live for the "Old Grey Whistle Test" TV show in the UK. It's pretty damn close to the studio version, which is a credit to the band.

Monday, Monday


"Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning, of what was to be"
(Monday, Monday - John Phillips)

Got to love Mondays. Well this one isn't too bad for me, as I'm off, although I'll probably plug in the work laptop some time today and get some work done. Speaking of work, I'm hoping to spend at least this morning cleaning up around here. To be blunt, I don't live with the tidiest of people. Yeah, as one of the parents, I'm partially to blame there, but I don't want to get started down that path.

On a completely different topic, I slept ok last night...not spectacular, but ok. I did have some strange dreams, involving the school construction happening by my house in ways that I can't really recall. That's not such a bad thing when you think about it: at least for me, some of the dreams I have are so strange that I'm far better off not remembering the details. I got up this morning at 6am, which is about normal. Clearly, my sleeping habits are not as well developed as, say, Buttons the Cat (see above picture).

Well I had better start to work on the day (off).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Road Apples, #8

Sunday Mornings
I love Sunday mornings. There is just something relaxing about it, in the sense that others sleep in (I usually don't), so even if I'm up awful early, I can't clean and I don't have work to get ready for, so I have to sit and relax. Now "relax" is a relative term for me in that I don't think my mind ever really relaxes all that much, save for those few minutes right before I fall asleep. Anyway, it's another Sunday morning here, everyone is still asleep, and I'm not going to start cleaning or doing other things for a bit yet. I do, however, have to chance the cat litter boxes though [insert gagging noises here].

New Year's Resolutions
I don't have New Year's Resolutions, but I do have plans & goals for the new year, if that makes sense. Funny, but every year I say to myself "I'm going to start thinking about these things earlier, so that by the time January 1st rolls around, I'm hitting the ground running", but I usually don't have them all fleshed out by then. Regardless, I actually have three sets of goals for the new year:
  1. My Professional Objectives for the Year - these are set in concert with the people I work with/for at the office. There are usually about a half dozen or more, and most dove-tail the objectives for the organization as a whole, plus a few additional related to my role as a leader.
  2. Individual Development Plan - At work we also set an Individual Development Plan (or IDP) for the year, which is intended to focus us on the areas where we want to build/increase our skills. I almost always end up with crap here...my boss coined the phrase "Astronaut Training" for this kind of thing (in other words, stuff that sounds nice so you write it down, knowing full well you will never achieve any of it). Anyway, for this year, I'm actually going to write real, meaningful and achievable IDP goals. I swear.
  3. My Personal Goals - These are goals I set for myself and include things related to my health, finances, home, etc. I don't include things here that I have to do anyway, such as paying my oldest daughter's tuition bill. Rather, these are truly "improvement" things. For example, for 2008 two of my house goals were to get the top of the roof repaired (done...a few shingles had blown off, and we have a very steep roof) and have the electrical service line replaced (done...from the pole into my circuit breaker box was replaced). More often than not, most of my personal goals aren't achieved, so for this year, I'm going to look at setting smaller, more manageable goals for myself.
Anyway, I'll post my personal goals here once they are all fleshed out.

Today Is Sunday, You Know What That Means?
It means that I am taking my mother and brother shopping. That's a Sunday ritual that I've probably written about before (note to myself for the next "apple"), and basically take from noon until about 3:30-4pm each Sunday. I look at it this way: there are things you always just do because it's the right thing to do. That's why I take my mother shopping. Other's don't do it (of my three brothers, one doesn't drive and lives with my mother...the other two take my mother shopping to varying degrees; one goes over once or twice a week...the other never does), but that's ok, as I've never been one to do things simply out of fad or fashion. If I think something is the "right" thing to do, then I do it.

Repeating Myself
I often think that I repeat myself here about certain topics and wonder if that's ok. Then I snap out of the momentary fog and remember that I write this for me, not for anyone else. Now if someone else actually reads this stuff and is interested/disgusted/amused, etc, then so be it and I'm glad. But if no one were to read it, then I'd still write. Why? Because I simply love to write. I always have. I have a few notebooks filled with pre-Internet journals. Hell, most of those probably repeat the same themes over and over again. Therein lies the crux of this whole shebang: writing is what I do to help me manage myself. It is one of the tangible things I can do to help me manage the stress in my life (not that I have it much worse than anyone else) and it gives me the creative outlet I think I really do need as a person. I'm also lucky, if you will, in that I have the ability to type quickly and in a relatively accurate manner. Now that really isn't a function of luck by the way...it was foresight and interest in my part in wanting to learn how to type in the first place. Being a "old guy", I learned how to type on typewriters, the first being this ancient Royal manual typewriter that my mother owned. I can still smell it...it had this odor of ink from the ribbon and oil from mechanism of gears and levers. Wow, did that ever digress or what? Anyway, getting back to the central point, if I repeat myself then so what.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

...And So That Was Christmas...

Well another Christmas has come and gone, and another new year approaches. Damn, that sounded very philosophical. Anyway, yesterday was actually a working day for me, so I was in the office from about 8:30am until about 4:30pm. I did sneak away to Arby's for lunch though, as our cafeteria at work is being remodeled, so the food currently consists of "all things fried...and pizza". It was a productive day never the less, as I cleaned out some old files and got some reports ready for the new year. It was also nearly empty...in my part of the building there may have been a total of six people working, and I was the last to leave. Other parts of our building had more folks working, mainly because there are areas that involve customer contact work, so they have to keep a certain minimum staffing level at all times.

As for the rest of the holiday season, I'm off except for New Year's Eve...yet another day that I usually work, mainly because it's so quiet that I can get a lot done. Then comes the new year, and the whole thing starts all over again.

Today I'm probably going to head to the Eddie Bauer outlet in Wilkes-Barre to burn up the $60 if gift cards I got from my mother and brother Rich. It was very kid of them to get me the cards, as I really love Eddie Bauer. Kind of strange in a way, in that I'm not the kind of person would normally be loyal to a store (generally speaking I think over-consumption is evil), but as I've written before, I just love the place. There is something to be said for well-fitting cloths in Earth-tones.

In the "Now For Something Completely Different" department, my oldest daughter joined me in video-recording a duet to Steely Dan's "My Old School". Yes, me singing, on video no less. I have a horribly wretched voice, but damn that was so much fun. It really is something I will treasure. For the benefit of preventing noise and visual pollution I'm not going to post that, but I will post the original.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas, 2008

My girls, getting bigger every year (from the left, Rebecca, Korin and Katrina).

...So This Is Christmas, And What Have You Done?

I'm taking a few minutes to sit down and relax a bit before the next round of things to do. Yes, while I do love Christmas, there is a certain amount of running around associated with it that comes with the territory. Like many, I have really three sets of families...my own, my wife's and my side of the family...and that requires a certain about of moving around. No bother, as I think of the alternative: having NO family to be around during the holidays.

Anyway, you know your kids are getting older when you get up before they do on Christmas day.

I think that the girls liked the presents I got them this year. By way of explanation, my wife and I usually shop separately; she is good at clothes and fashion stuff, I'm more the technology guy. I also get the "big" gift for each of them every year. This year, Katrina and Rebecca got Ipod Nanos and Korin got a 10mp Sony digital camera. Those gifts had actually been purchased quite a bit ago. I also get them gift cards to stores that the frequent (Katrina = Lane Bryant, Korin = Victoria's Secret, Rebecca = Kohls), mainly because I'm incapable of buying clothes for them and besides, it gives them something to spend the big day after Christmas.

Speaking of the big day after Christmas, I will be working. As I may have mentioned before, that was by choice. I can get a lot done and there usually aren't a lot of people in the office. For example, I have 24 hours of Continuing Education to get in by mid-January, so I had better get to it.

Well, I think I will do some cleaning up.

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Anniversary Watch


January 3rd marks my 20th anniversary with my current employer (think really big "rock" for a logo), and as an anniversary gift my employer gave me this watch. Actually there were a few things I could pick out, including a full set of golf clubs. Since I don't golf, I figured a watch was the better choice, and it was between this dressy one or a more casual Seiko...I chose dressy, as I'm less likely to buy something like this for myself.

Of Auto Bailouts, Retiring Nuns & Basement Lighting

Auto Bailout
I've wanted to mention something about this before, but the mood or time never seemed to allow it. Anyway, as reported all over the place last week, President Bush is providing GM and Chrysler with around $17 billion in loans so that they can, in his words avert "disorderly bankruptcy". Now there are more than a few stinky points to this whole thing, but I'll give credit where credit is due: the President did the right thing. As I've said before, this isn't just about inept auto industry executives, private jets or union workers...this is about the entire economy of some communities, right down to the small luncheonettes owned by families around these factories. I've been quick over the years to point out where President Bush has made mistakes (of which there are a few), but again I do give him credit here for doing the right thing. Now it's the turn of management and the UAW to do the right thing by working to make these companies viable. It's also the turn of Cerebus Capital Management to invest some of it's own billions into Chrysler (little fact that many people don't realize...the owners of Chrysler are no where near bankrupt...they have plenty of cash). Anyway, enough of that, as it's too early to get my already troubled blood pressure raised any further.

Sister Adrian Barrett to Retire
I caught this in the paper this morning. Article here . If you are not from Scranton then you probably don't know about Sister Adrian. I first met here when I was, oh, maybe 5 or 6 years old, give or take. Growing up we were not well off, and Sister Adrian has made it her mission to help the poor in the Scranton area. Anyway, back in those days, my brothers and I were, if you will, consumers of her services. That sounds almost sterile as a description, but I quite honestly can't think of any better way to describe it. As time progressed, the financial situation of my family growing up improved somewhat, so we no longer wanted Sister Adrian's help, and in fact there was probably just a little bit of mocking, if you will, of those that still did (when you are a teenage boy that testosterone flowing through your bloodstream will do that). My last encounter, if you will, with Sister Adrian was in 1981 when, as strange as it sounds, my date to the Jr/Sr prom was her niece. Yes, there is picture somewhere in a landfill, taken by Sister Adrian with her niece dressed really well and me in a white horrible tux that no-doubt made me look like a q-tip. Fast forward to the modern time, and there have been a few in the Scranton area that are convinced that Sister Adrian has a hand in recruiting poor people to come to Scranton. Now I don't know if that's true...mostly I don't...but regardless, you can not deny that Sister Adrian has spent the better part of 60 years doing her best to help people. On the whole, I'd say that's a very good thing. I hope she takes the time to relax and stays healthy.

Vacation Time
Speaking of taking time, I was off yesterday and today, and I'm off next Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Time off for me is weird in a way, mainly because I not really one to sit around and relax. About the closest I come to that is when I sit here at the computer and read stuff (everything from serious financial news to message boards to humor and gossip stuff). As for yesterday, it was taken up mainly with activities related the holidays and getting my oldest daughter's car inspected. The good news there was that the cost was only about $20. Having a little extra around the holidays isn't a bad thing. As for today, I have some last minute gifts to buy and that's about it. If I have the time, I'd like to start looking at the basement re-wiring project I'd like to get done early this year. That will involve...

...installing a new basement power circuit
...adding new fluorescent lighting fixtures
...connecting the new fixtures to a central switch box (so that you can turn on part or all of the basement lighting)
...removing the old lighting fixtures

There are two main benefits to the project: 1) Improve the lighting down there and 2) Reduce the load on the circuit they are currently under. I'm also going to relocate the in-house cable connections as well. The whole cost of the project will probably be somewhere around $100, with most of that being for the actual fluorescent fixtures. Pretty nerdy stuff to get excited about, but consider the source.

Monday, December 22, 2008

People I Should Thank

When you get to the point where you have a few miles on the odometer, you sometimes look back and think to yourself "Gosh, I was such an idiot back when _______________". The specifics aren't so important I guess, as everyone at those younger years makes mistakes. Actually "mistakes" is probably the wrong word, as as in the grand scheme of things that aren't so much errors as they are omissions...omissions of common sense, etc. Now I look at my oldest daughter, who will be turning 21 in a few weeks, and it really does make me look back to when I was young, in my 20's, clueless, but ready to try it all.

Anyway, there are a few people from back in those years who were kind to me, and who I probably never really ever thanked for that kindness. I know that they will probably never see this, so it's more symbolic than anything else but a late thank you is better than no thank you.

So here you go: some folks who were kind to me that I probably never really thanked....

Father Miller
I was a senior in college and in all honesty, I really didn't know what the hell I was doing. One thing that I did actually try,...at least a little...was to be active in the campus Catholic Ministry, Chi Rho. The advisor was Father Miller, who was also the pastor of the Catholic Church in Middletown, PA. Now days I realize that being a pastor is a lot of work, but every week Fr Miller took time to be with us knuckleheads to say Mass in the afternoon (in the Student Union Building) and to talk to us before and afterwards. Now I was the President Chi Rho my senior year, and to I didn't do much. I think I moderated a debate on abortion or something like that. Anyway, despite my general cluelessness Fr Miller was incredibly supportive, and at the end of my Senior Year he even gave me the gift of a very nice crucifix . I have that crucifix to this day, hanging in my bedroom, with a hand-written note taped to the back with the specifics of when I got it. So anyway, Thank You to Father Miller for being kind, for taking the time to actually get to know rock-heads like me, and for being a role-model of what a Priest should be...in this day and age it seems that there are few of you left.

Tina Veverka
Now I probably misspelled Tina's last name, but it's as close as memory allows me to get it. Tina was the Buyer that I was assigned to assist during the on-the-job training part of my stint at Bon Ton Stores. Actually, Tina and I worked for a s subsidary called "Mailmans/Maxwells", and she was a Buyer in the Domestics and Drapes area. Tina was young (probably not much older than me, truth be told), but had worked her way up to the Buying Office from jobs on the sales floor. She was very smart about the business and, most important from my persective, she was able to put up with my clueless nature and constant questioning. She even let me drive her car once. How wierd was I? Well let's put it this way: I went away on vacation and returned married. She didn't even know I was engaged. Anyway, Thank You to Tina for putting up with one hell of a wierd trainee and for trying to teach me about the business.

Deb Forsyth
Deb was Tina's boss, and was, at least to an assistant buyer, a "big deal". All business. The Buyers who seemed to spend all their time goofing off also seemed to strongly dislike her, which probably meant that she had an actual expectation that folks under her watch would "work". Deb was also very kind to me. I was included in meetings, she took the time to explain things to me, and even went so far as to take me out to lunch when I got promoted and had to move to Carlisle. So Thank You to Deb for setting a good example and for treating me with dignity and respect, because God knows that I didn't always feel that way about myself.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Another Nite In Slumber Hell

I slept horribly last night, simply horribly. I don't think there was anything physically wrong with me, other than a slightly stuffed nose (which I think comes from the heating system inside), but instead the problem was more mental than anything else. I just couldn't shut my mind down enough to get to the point where I could fall into a deep sleep. Even when I did fall asleep, which I think took something like 40 minutes, I was up probably a half-dozen times throughout the night. I finally gave up at about 6am this morning. I do have something to take that will help me sleep, but I'd prefer not to; maybe nature will take it's own course and I'll be extra tired tonight.

The above is yet another expression of my sheer, utter hatred for sleeping. Gosh, I wish it just wasn't required. Annoying and inefficient are the two words that best describe sleep for me. I know, I've covered this ground before, but what the hell, this is supposed to be where I pour out my thoughts, right?

Something that I've not shared before about sleep is the fact that someone in my family sleeps far too much, along the lines of 10+ hours per night/day. Maybe some of my anger about sleep is really displaced relative to that person, as I see what too much sleeping can do to a person. Very deep indeed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 Charitable Giving

A percentage breakdown of where I donated money during 2008. This excludes money I have deducted from my pay, which goes to a local women's shelter.

St Jude Children's Hospital 32%
Penn State University 21%
Cancer Charities (various) 16%
Scranton Rescue Mission 11%
WVIA FM 10%
La Salle Academy 5%
AIDS Fund 4%

I am a big believer in the work that St Jude Children's Hospital does; if anyone deserves help, it's children that are suffering from diseases like cancer. Us older folks have had a something of a chance to live decent lives, but children...well, to be cut down at such a very young age is one of the worst tragedies I can think of.

Saturday Night

It's another Saturday night and I'm at home, in front of the computer, creatively finding ways to not do anything else. I think the technical term is "Creative Loafing". Anyway, I had every intention of setting up the Christmas tree, but alas, I lost the motivation, so I'll have to do that tomorrow morning. Not a big deal actually, as the weather tomorrow is supposed to be crappy anyway. Yes, this is the exciting life I lead: Saturday night decisions that consist of "should I clean" or "should I type mindless stuff into my blog"? Somehow I don't think remarkably successful and popular people face choices like this.

Oh, in my defense, I am playing "driving parent" this evening, as I need to pick up Korin at the mall in an hour or so. I know, that's a fairly lame defense.

In the good news department, I have a few days off next week...Monday and Tuesday specifically. More time to creatively loaf I suppose.

You know, sometimes I think I go between these extremes of getting a lot of stuff done and then getting nothing done. For example, I could be re-wiring the basement. I could also be fixing plaster, concealing telephone wires upstairs or any number of activities. Now am I? Nope. Perhaps one day I will look back and think to myself "you idiot...you had all that time and you did nothing with it". Who knows.

Here's to "Creative Loafing".

Friday, December 19, 2008

...And The Weather Inside Is...

Back again, sitting here trying to accomplish several things all at once:

1. Not sucking up too much bandwidth - Two girls on-line means that my DSL is now down to a crawl
2. Waiting for dinner to digest - I shouldn't have had so much
3. Waiting for laundry to dry - As if I actually want to fold, mind you

Anyway, taking a few minutes to write doesn't use up much bandwidth, keeps me from eating more, and kills time while clothes dry, so why not?

In the weather department, the first big storm of the winter is over with, and we probably got over 6". I ran the snow blower pretty much as soon as the storm ended, so that's all done. Now it's just cold outside, and my girls are, at times, at each other's throats, maybe due to the close proximity. Anyway, it's over with...the storm that is...at least until Sunday morning when more is expected. They are also calling for more wet weather (exact type, rain/sleet vs snow still to be determined).

Ah, the joys of winter.

Speaking of laundry, I'm weird (I guess) in that I don't like other people to wash my clothes. I have a certain way I like things done, and it kind of creeps me out to think that other people are touching stuff that I wear. Hmmm, strange enough? I can think of far worse in my life, trust me.

Well, it's off to check the clothes and hopefully get load one of three folded.

Oh The Weather Outside Is...

...supposedly going to get bad. Never the less, it's "off to do the training" for yours truly. Actually it hasn't started to snow here, but it should start any moment now. Since there isn't any school today (it was called off in anticipation of the bad weather), I'm going to take my wife's car, which is an all-wheel drive Saturn Vue. The Saturn is stellar in bad weather, and I'm glad we got it. Note that the term "wife's car" isn't completely accurate, as I actually put the money down and make part of the payments, but it was still a good choice on her part. At the moment I'm just waiting for it to warm up so that I can head over the to the office.

Speaking of the office, my scheduled is fairly light today: I am doing some room coordination (namely that someone is actually training a class from another site but presenting in other locations, including Scranton, so I just have to be the "trainer in the room" here), which allows me to get some other work done as well. That's good, as I've got a few things to get finished before I can call it a year.

Well, I suppose I shouldn't postpone the inevitable and get my butt in gear.

Here's to snowy winter days, over-weight house cats and other such things that just naturally occur.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Road Apples, #7

The Stitches Come Out! The Stitches Come Out!
Yes, today I get these incredibly annoying stitches out of my mouth. The level of annoyance can best be compared to having a piece of dental floss stuck between your teeth. It's so bad that I don't care what it feels like when they come out...I just want them out. By the way, this will be my lunch today. Joy. Maybe I can start to eat popcorn again.

I Saw A Promo For A Cheech & Chong Tour
Seriously, a current tour for Cheech and Chong. I really was laughing, if only because here are these two are far too old to be running around the country making jokes about smoking pot. Please guys, you did some funny stuff in the 70's (although now when I listen to it I think to myself "but smoking pot really is bad for you"), but it's over.

Oh The Weather Outside Is...
...going to be nasty tomorrow, as a storm is coming that promises something like 8-10" of snow when all is said and done. Quick, get milk and eggs from the store!! Actually I do need cat litter, so I'll stop and get that one the way home from work. I guess this really means that winter is really here, or will be here. Regardless, it's going to snow.

At The Quarterly Meeting Yesterday...
...I got a certificate and letter, both signed by the President, CEO and Chairman of my company, congratulating me on 20 years of service. Among other things, that make me old. It's actually interesting in that these days it's very unusual for someone to stick around as long as I have. That wasn't some grand plan, but rather the simple fact that I've been given some decent jobs to do over the years and, by and large, I've been treated well by my employer. Will I be there for another 20? I hope not. Simply put, I'll be there as long as I'm paid what I think I'm worth (or relative to what the market says I am worth) and as long as they will have me.

Tuition Paid
The first of three tuition payment installments were made yesterday for Kate's Spring Semester. Only about $3000 to go. You know you're a grown-up when you can figure stuff like this out. Does this mean I'm actually a grown-up? Quick, I had better get a Cheech and Chong DVD.

In The Time Off Department
I've got four more days of work for the balance of this year...that includes today, tomorrow, Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. I work the "Eve" days for one simple reason: they really aren't full days of work AND I can get a lot of work done. Today and tomorrow will stink, but I'm hoping to make up for it with the two "Eve" days.

Holiday Cheer?
Still not tree up, still no outside lights strung. I'll get some of that done over the weekend. I promise. I mean it this time. Really. Honest.

Sirius Satellite Radio...
...has a whole channel of music devoted to just ABBA, in conjunction with the release of Mamma Mia on DVD. Now the movie was ok...not great, but ok. I'm a big fan of ABBA, but in all honesty, the cover versions done in the musical (both in the movies and on Broadway...and I did see it there as well) don't really do justice to the music. Unless you actually hear the songs and really, really listen, you miss a lot. The original stuff is really, really well done. Very tightly played and produced, and some of the vocal parts are really incredible. Anyway, it's something to listen to while Howard Stern is busy playing his retrospective stuff next week. I like Stern, but I really don't need hours of his ruminating over how great he is, as I think that runs somewhat counter to what the show is about in the first place. Anyway, Thank You For The Music Sirius (inside ABBA reference there).

In Gastric-Intestinal News
I didn't really suffer any ill effects from the trip this week. Usually I end up getting queasy or something like that from eating too much, the wrong things or too late. I can't usually help the "too late" part, but I did make an effort to do a better job on the too much and wrong things department. It's nice to be able to function without feeling like you are going to hurl at any moment.

Move On
The refrain from an ABBA song I really like...
Like a roller in the ocean
Life is motion
Move on
Like a wind that's always blowing
Life is flowing
Move on
Like the sunrise in the morning
Life is dawning
Move on
How I treasure every minute
Being part of it
Being in it
With the urge to move on

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday Morning

It's a lovely Wednesday morning in Connecticut. Well, actually it's not, but what the heck, I can always pretend, right?

Anyway, I am working on day 3 of 3 days of quarterly staff meetings. We do this at work four times a year, rotating between 3 of our 4 major offices. The December meeting is always held in Hartford, as that's where most of the staff in my part of the company work, so the travel burden is, by and large less for the group. That's not to say that travel isn't an issue for those of us who are not from Connecticut, as I'm sure I'll be white-knuckling it during the drive home today. The good news is that we are supposed to be leaving by around 2pm, which means that I should be back around 5:30pm-ish.

These meetings are an interesting mix of pomp, circumstance and useful information. Especially in December, you do learn alot about the direction the company is taking over the next year (this is something that changes...much to my shegrin...every year) as well as hearing how the company is viewing its overall performance for the year...that drives things like raises (which I probably will not get) and bonsues (which I think I'll get, but I expect it to be less than last year). I don't really sweat the money or the performance rating stuff; it's not that I don't care, but rather I've always tried to keep my own personal standards at a level that is higher than what the company expects; this way, if I am satisfying myself, then I'm satisfying the company as well. Now sometimes it doesn't work that way. More times I could could I've had years where I thought I did great, only to get an average review; other years I've had an average year but for some reason the company thinks I did spectacular work. It would be so very confusing, if it were not for the fact that this is a very human process.

So there you have it, my Wednesday morning view. Now I have to go to a breakfast meeting. Damn, that sounds far more important than it actually is, and besides, who the hell would want to eat breakfast with me anyway?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's Been Five Days...

...since I had my #3 molar taken out, and I feel like utter crap. The post-procedure instructions from the Doctor said something about "a few days of discomfort", but this is taking things a bit too far. Five days? Come on now already. Now I know that some of this (well, maybe all of this) is probably in my head, but still, it's getting a little old. The stitches are driving me NUTS. I feel like ripping them out with tweezers. The antibiotic gives me heartburn, so I can't take it on an empty stomach. I made that mistake on Wednesday...oh my Lord was that uncomfortable.

Just how bad is the discomfort? Well today I could feel the pain moving from my empty tooth socket up to the top of my head. Advil helps. but there are only so many of those things I can take at a time. Most times there is just this gnawing feeling in my gums. Now I did to to the doctor on Friday to have them check it out, and according to them, all is well. But damn it, I'm just really tired on this already.

Enough of that, and on to more pleasant thoughts.

Tina Fey

How's that for a pleasant thought? I've seen "30 Rock" a few times, if only to bask in her "Fey-ness". Ok, that sounds creepy, but she has this "really attractive but not super-model therefore approachable" look to her. She's also very funny. Mr Tina Fey is a hell of a lucky guy. Glad that there are some out there.

Back to news of the unpleasant variety. I have three days of meetings in Hartford CT this week, which actually translates in to several things:

1. It will be virtually impossible to eat right (not that I've done a good job at it anyway of late).
2. I have to engage in small talk and be "on" for something like 16 hours a day.
3. I have to be friendly to people who probably otherwise wouldn't even attend my funeral.
4. I will have to eat uncomfortably late each evening. That screws all sorts of things up.

I'm probably going to be unable to do any real writing, as I'm only bringing my work laptop with me and I doubt I'll be able to access this site or anything else I like to frequent. That's a bummer. Often times this kind of stuff really does help me settle my head, if only just a little bit. Oh well, I could aways write and paste it here (although I did try that once and it wouldn't take for some reason).

Well I have a shirt to iron and a few other things to take care of before I make an early night of it. I have to be at the office tomorrow at 5:30am to catch the "Hartford Express". Luck me.

[Clearing my mind of everything except Tina Fey]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

You Know You're From Scranton When...

...you know people that pronounce the name of your fair city without the 't' in the middle (Scran-un).

...someone gives you directions that involve going "up da line" and you actually understand what they mean.

...you know older folks who use the phrase "corps house" whenever someone passes away

...you remember chicken croquets being served at Oppenheims Department Store as being a fancy meal

...you (still) see giant mounds of rock and don't think it looks abnormal

..despite what you read in the New York Times, you actually do realize that there has not been a coal mine operating the region in decades

...you see local people on TV who oppose any and every form of progress/development, whether it involves public, private, stolen or borrowed money

...the local Catholic Bishop is trusted less than the Mayor

...you know that Wilkes-Barre is close, but you almost never go there

...you don't even know where "Nanni-coke" is, outside of somewhere near Wilkes-Barre

...you know someone who lives in Wilkes-Barre, but when they describe where they live to someone from outside the area, they actually say "ahhh, near Scranton"

...you take pride in having one of the worlds largest Salvation Army store

...you can play "Six Degrees of Scranton Separation" [Hillary Clinton: father was Hugh Rodham, who was born (and is burried) in Scranton]

...you can't tell the local Republicans from the local Democrats

...everyone knows "Uncle Louie" as being a certain all-powerful, almost mythical businessman who single handedly supports an entire town

...people fight for jobs at the Post Office

...you think that mid-March is a perfectly acceptable time of the year to have a drunk-fest/parade

...the crappiest pizza in the world somehow tastes better at the Italian Festival

... the phone book shows 560 lawyers for every neurosurgeon

...you order a "tray" of pizza

...you remember the episode of All In The Family where Edith scream to Archie "I don't want to go to Disney World, I want to go to Scranton!!"

...parking underneath the mall is a common practice

...take pride in telling out of town visitors "yeah, the whole town has mines under neath it; the whole thing could collapse at any time"

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's A Union Kind of Friday

Catholic Teachers in the Diocese of Scranton have, in my opinion, gotten screwed by the Bishop of the Diocese. Interesting article HERE. I understand the need of the Diocese to reduce costs in order to run the Catholic educational system in an efficient manner, but simply put you can't lie to people about things like benefits. In the strange world of the Diocese of Scranton, religious leaders are now defending their right not to recognize a union that was authorized by employees.

Parallel news from the auto industry bailout talks comes in the form of the failure of the US Senate to come to terms of agreeable language for a loan package. Apparently Republican Senators demanded that domestic firm unionized employees more or less immediately accept wage cuts that would bring them down to the levels of pay provided by foreign companies manufacturing in the United States. It's worth nothing that most of those foreign firms have operations in the South, where the cost of living is less than it is in, say Michigan. Anyway, the UAW balked at the request and the talks ended.


Now I have mixed feelings about unions:

First, I've never been a union member and I most likely will never be a union member. I don't believe in having someone represent me; I'd like to think that I could represent myself, and in fact I've been more or less successful at that over the years.

Second, I do believe in the rights of workers for form and join unions. In fact, I'll put it this way...unions are the "reward" that companies get for treating their employees like crap. Who would want to be unionized in a company that treats all of it's employees fairly, with dignity and respect? Why would an employee feel like they needed some to advocate for them if they felt that the company was actually listening to them as individuals?

Third, unions have, in my opinion, done some great work in protecting workers...particularly those in very dangerous occupations. The United Mine Workers is a great example. Unions have also, however, done some harm as well. The classic example is the "Jobs Bank" program of the domestic automakers and the UAW, which pays laid-off workers to do nothing. There is also the problem of graft and organized crime infiltration into some unions.


Again, I think it all comes down to choices...the choice of an employer to honestly treat individuals with dignity and respect OR the choice of employees to form a union in order to get missing dignity and respect.

Back to the headlines.

Catholic Teachers - I am personally thrilled with the success that the former union representing Diocese of Scranton teachers has had in recent months. I am a product of a Catholic High School, and I've seen first hand the hard work that these dedicated individuals put into their jobs, often times at pay levels much below their counterparts in public education. I don't want to see the Diocese of Scranton bankrupt, but as I said before, you can't lie to your employees about things like sick leave and severance packages.

The UAW - While I think that the demands of Senate Republicans stink of "screw our political opponents in the unions", in the end they are right in that the UAW basically priced itself out of the labor market. One gets the impression that the domestic auto industry was run like the house of an alcoholic...you had the alcoholic (the UAW) and the enabling spouse (company management), living lives that seemed divorced from reality. Both are equally guilty and both seemed oblivious to the reality of their situation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Road Apples, #6

Just a few random thoughts:

Next Week I am off to Hartford for three days of meetings. These things happen four times a year. The worst part is the drive...nothing like a three hour drive in the winter. I'm ok with the informational content of the meetings, but I'm uncomfortable with some of the social aspects of these things. Nothing against my co-workers, but I'm just really not into the whole hanging out thing. My idea of fun is an hour at the gym and then watching a DVD on my laptop in the hotel room.

My Mouth is sore, but healing. The stitches feel funny too, although I don't know that "funny" is how they will feel once they are taken out next week. Ouch.

Crappy Weather is forecast for the next two days. Now I work fairly close to home, so my commute is never really a problem. This time around my only real worry is that Katrina can get home from Kutztown on Friday without a hitch after her last final. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Illinois Governor "Blago" got caught effectively trying to sell President Elect Obama's senate seat. I'm sure that the right-wing talk-show hosts are having a field day with this. Hmmmm...maybe they should check page three, you know, where it says that Republican Senator Larry Craig's motion to dismiss charges that he engaged in bathroom sexual solicitation was denied. Graft, creepiness and general all-around sleazery doesn't reside in just one political party. Anyway, the real interesting stuff on this case has yet to come out, namely who was vying for this seat. Plenty of talk abounds that the son of Jesse Jackson may be implicated...which I hope isn't actually the case.

Full Tilt Boogie is the coolest name ever for a band. For the record, it was the backing band for Janis Joplin in 1970. "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose". Rest in Peace Janis.

The Weather stinks today. Freezing rain...rain...more freezing rain...snow. Hmmmmm, it's probably 75 and sunny in Hawaii.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"If A Picture Paint A Thousand Words..."


There are probably only about three or four pictures of me that I actually like; the rest range (in my opinion) from mildly bad to "I don't know why I didn't burn this already". Anyway, after years of not having this picture, I found it again in an old file.

Here's the story: it was, I think, late Fall of my Jr year in college, at Penn State Harrisburg. I was living in Wrisburg Hall (I'm sure I spelled that wrong), one of the two dorms on campus. One of the guys down the hall was taking pictures for a photography class, and he decided to snap this of me sitting me behind my "wall" of stereo equipment . Why I had that is a different story, probably for a different day, but never the less here you have the picture.

Now I really like this picture for a few reasons:

  • It's the rare one where I am actually smiling
  • It's actually constructed well, with a fore, intermediate and background.
  • It works better in black and white because the black of the stereo equipment actually make the light of the window stand out even more
  • I don't think I look revolting
Most importantly, I think, is that the picture reminds me of a great time in my life. I was young, out on my own, and figuring things out. I made plenty of mistakes back then, but I would definitely go back and do it all over again if I were given the chance. That place...Penn State Harrisburg...was the right place for me to be at that age. It is a truly special place for me, and I make every effort to return every now and then. Yeah, I know, it sounds very "Glory Days" esque to say that, and in truth, there was no real "glory" for me back then. Instead, this is one of the two places early in my life where I think I got a glimpse of what I was capable of doing. I had problems then, but we all had problems. What's different about that place and time is that the possibilities were always far greater than the problems. This is probably why, to this very day, I still have dreams about being back at Penn State Harrisburg.

By the way, the guy on the bed was also named Steve...I'll probably get this wrong, but his name was Steve Mylack (forgive the butchering of the spelling Steve), I will remember fondly for singing "I Can't Wash These Dishes Any Longer" (a parody of "I Can't Fight This Feeling Any Longer" by REO Speedwagon) while working in the cafeteria dishroom. He was also famous for actually having any real success with the ladies at the time...at Penn State Harrisburg, back in the day, the ratio of males to females was something 4.5:1. Note that I had no success in that department.

So there you have it, one of my favorite pictures.

On another topic, it's the "day after" the dental work yesterday, and all is relatively well. I have some minor bleeding, and the antibiotic gives me a major case of heartburn, but otherwise no problems. I actually slept really well last night, which is no doubt due in part to the fact that I exhasusted myself yesterday worring about things. As is true for most things in life, the actual thought of it was wore than the actuality of it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Here's To Setting Off Airport Scanners

Well today marked the first of a three-stage adventure into the world of high-tech dentistry for yours truly. While I may have written about this before, here's a brief recap:

About seven or eight years ago I finally got my act together and realized that I needed to overcome my fear of the dentist and get back into better dental health. Now my teeth weren't all that bad, but, I was still really too afraid to do the things I needed to do, like get regular cleanings. Anyway, I got back into the swing of things by going to a dentist in the neighborhood that someone in my extended family had recommended. All was well and good until I cracked a top left molar and the decision was made to pull the tooth. It was torture...sheer, utter, unmitigated torture. I swear this dude was injecting me with colored water, because I felt everything. After about thirty minutes, two different injections of novacaine, and a pint of blood, the tooth finally came out. Needless to say, I wasn't too keen on going back to this guy. Fast forward about a year, and I needed to go to the dentist again for another cracked tooth, but I didn't want to go back to the tooth-pulling dude. What was I to do? Well, I simply found a few dentists in the phone book and came upon one, Dr J.C. Charnitski, who seemed promsing. I called his office and they saw me immeidately. Dr Charnitski has a wonderful staff and he was really, really understanding of my fears and previous bad experiences. In short, for the first time ever, I really felt more or less comfortable at the densist. After about a dozen appointments (including a root canal on the other tooth that cracked), my teeth were in great shape. Fast forward to today, and Dr Charnitski has worked with me to get better at my oral hygiene and I now think I have great teeth.

So why the problem?

Well, about two months ago I bit on something really hard and I could feel it impact my rear tooth (the one that had the root canal all those years ago). After the initial impact, the tooth slowly got worse and worse, and by the weekend I was in real agony. I called Dr Charnitski and he saw me first thing Monday morning. By then it was feeling better, but the verdict wasn't a good one: whatever I had eaten had somehow cracked the root of my previously canaled molar, and I needed to see a specialist. His concern was that even if the pain went away, I would still have a persisent infection. I wasn't thrilled about having to see anyone other than my regular dentist, but I trust the guy, so I'm off to see Dr Frantz, a Periodontist.

The invitial visit to Dr Frantz confrmed the worst, namely that the root of the molar was cracked and was most likely infected. My choices were basically bridge work (which woudln't last and would involve messing up three teeth...but my insurance would cover it) OR a dental implant for the bad tooth. I chose the implant, although the thought of having a titanium screw in my head wasn't exactly music to my ears, just as the price-tag, $2800 out of pocket wasn't music to my wallet. Anyway, I agreed that this was the best long-term solution. The dental implant will last forever (unlike the bridge-work). So the wheels were put in motion, and the whole process would take almost half a year:

Step 1 - Remove the old tooth and add in material to build up my upper jaw. Allow it to heal.
Step 2 - Insert the titanium screw and post. Allow it to heal.
Step 3 - After my bone grew around the screw, put a new snythetic tooth over it.

Dr Frantz would do steps 1 & 2, and Dr Charnitski would do the third.

Today I got through step 1. First, I was very impressed with Dr Frantz; he seemed very concerned about my comfort and kept my abreast of what he was doing at all times. The actual extaction was much tougher than he expected, as there really was a bad infection in the root of the broken tooth. After about 40 minutes, the tooth was out, the bone build-up material was in, and my gum was sewed up shut.

So now I sit, mouth un-numb (finally) in only a moderate amount of discomfort. I think the Hagen-Daz icecream helped with that part. Now it's back to Dr Frantz next Thursay to get the stitches pulled out and to schedule Step 2. Lovely...a screw in my head.

The things I do for good oral health!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Theory: How Cats View The Universe

(Oreo the Cat, with his inverse widows peak)

As the owner of several cats (yes, I crossed that threshold of owning more than two cats, which qualifies me for the title of "weird cat person"), I have a theory about how cats view the universe. Now this could be based on things I've read, experiences, etc., but it goes something like this:

Cats only see three different kinds of living things in the universe -

1. Prey - These are things that the cat would like to kill and eat...well the eating part would only happen if they were hungry; otherwise, they would just kill. This includes insects, rodents, birds, rabbits, etc. Mostly anything smaller than the cat that isn't a cat itself.

2. Predators - These are things that could harm the cat, like most dogs.

3. Other Cats - This is anything else on more or less an equal footing with the cat.

I put humans in category #3 in that I think most cats see their "owners" as being nothing more than really big cats. I know that there's the purring issue to deal with (that cats really don't, as far as I know, purr around each other....well I think kittens do when they are around their mothers), but I still think that cats view us as other cats. A cat may also view a human as being a predator, by virtue of its size. This is probably how wild or mis-treated cats view us. Maybe they view us as substitute mother cats to them, which also solves for the purring issue. I do know this: having more than one cat enables you to see what there are definite social orders in the world of cats, which is interesting for an animal that isn't known as a social creature. For the record, all my cats are male, which makes the social thing even more interesting, as male cats are supposedly known as loners.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Steely Dan

For some reason I'm in a Steely Dan kind of mood. Maybe it's the constant bombardment of Britney Spears that's inflicted on humanity these day. Anyway, here's to an era when artists...

...who weren't child actors
...wrote their own material
...played their own material
...sang without the aid of electronic enhancements

So here you go, "Reeling In The Years" featuring Donald Fagan on lead vocals, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter on guitar (the one with the glasses) and Walter Becker on bass.

Friday, December 5, 2008

BegFest, Part Deux

The Big Three auto company executives, accompanied by a representative of Connecticut Auto Dealers, the CEO of Johnson Controls and the head of the UAW appeared before the United States Senate to beg for money. I actually took the time to listen to their opening statements over lunch, and I still have mixed feeling about the whole thing. Maybe it makes sense to parse this whole thing out a little bit.

First, the issues are real. Chrysler and GM are both effectively worth nothing, and both will burn through the remaining cash they have by the end of the year (in less than a month). There are hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake, jobs held not just by too-well paid auto executives and well paid union members, but jobs held by small businesses like lunch counters located near auto plants. If these plants go dark, so too will all the side businesses that support them. Some of these auto plants are the major employers in their communities, and the impact of the closings will be very tough to handle.

Second, the CEOs gave it a good shot, but I'm not sure it will be enough. There is a lot of skepticism in Congress when it comes to simply handing out money to companies that, by and large, have failed to even realize how badly they have been managed up until now. This is nothing more than these CEOs saying "I've screwed the company up so please give me money".

Third, the UAW doesn't really get it either. The UAW President stated that the union agreed to suspend temporarily the infamous Job Bank program. This is a program that pays workers to not work. Newsflash: it has to end, as it's indicative of the larger problem of bad decisions that have plagued the industry for decades.

In the final analysis though, who will suffer if there isn't some kind of governmental help? Nardelli, the CEO of Chrysler, already has a golden parachute from his former employer, Home Depot. I suspect that the CEOs of Ford and GM could walk away from their firms without much real financial damage either. No, the real damage will be to the people who don't make millions, who don't have golden parachutes, who don't have corporate jets. It will be the people that run lunch counters near auto plants, who run the sporting goods stores, smaller businesses that supply the auto-makers, etc. In short, a failure by these companies will hurt the wrong people. As is the case in life, it's not fair, but it's reality.

So what do I think should be done? Well at first I was absolutely opposed to any governmental help, but I've come around, so to speak, to some limited help. Here are my thoughts (I know...there's a reason why people like me aren't in charge):

1. Government backed loans are ok, as secured by equity interests in the firms.
2. Set real performance targets for the firms receiving the money, including caps on executive compensation, cost reductions and quality improvements.
3. Have the GAO or the Fed...some organization with a history of strong oversight/auditing skills....be responsible for monitoring the performance of the firms.
4. Require that the UAW contracts be opened up and all items open for discussion in review. Permanently eliminate the Job Banks program. Require that any reductions in union wages and benefits be accompanied by a proportionately larger reduction for management.
5. Place a representative from the government, someone like Paul Volker, sit as a full voting member of the Board of Directors for all firms receiving federal money.
6. Require that Chrysler provide financial reporting equivalent to what a public company would have to provide. I don't trust Cerberus Capital Management...and either should you. Just ask the former employees of the Mervyns Department Store chain.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Words of (Business) Wisdom for Difficult Times

This comes from a Reuters story about IAC CEO Barry Diller, who had the following to say about companies that are earning money but still lay people off during a recession:

“The idea of a company that’s earning money, not losing money, that’s not, let’s say ‘industrially endangered,’ to have just cutbacks so they can earn another $12 million or $20 million or $40 million in a year where no one’s counting is really a horrible act when you think about it on every level. First of all, it’s certainly not necessary. It’s doing it at the worst time. It’s throwing people out to a larger, what is inevitably a larger unemployment heap for frankly no good reason.”

I think I have a new business hero. You Rock Barry!

Skills That I Admire (most of which I don't have)

There are certain skills and abilities that I find very noteworthy. Now I don't have most of these things, which may be why in fact I admire them so much. Not in any kind of order....

1. Ability To Play A Musical Instrument
Look, I know that musical aptitude doesn't necessarily equate to mental aptitude, but gosh, some of the brightest people I've ever met (or heard of) also had the ability to "play". I'm not on this list...I have zero musical aptitude, although (as I've mentioned before) I have a perfectly good Yamaha acoustic guitar sitting about six feet from me, just waiting to be played. Maybe I'll get around to those lessons next year.

2. Ability To Speak Another Language
I am fascinated by the ability to speak fluently in another language, which is another skill I don't have. Yes, I can string a sentence or two together in German, and yes, I can pick out about every 15th word of the lady speaking Spanish in front of me at the supermarket, but no, I have no real skill in this arena. That's not likely to ever change, but if I could learn just one language well, what would it be? Italian, by far and away. It's just such a cool sounding language.

3. Ability To Speak In Public
Finally, a skill that I actually do have. Part of my job requires this, so I'm actually (I think) very comfortable speaking in front of a group...be it 5 people of 500. Do I consider this to be a skill? That's actually rather to tough to answer, because all of us, outside of those with a physical impairment, can in fact speak. The "in front of a group" part isn't as much as skill as it is a state of mind I suppose. Yes, there are technical aspects of this...for example, I know how to avoid distracters (the "hmmm" and "ahhhhh" you hear some people utter)...but I personally think that this can be taught to anyone. What speaking in public comes down to is this: GUTS. You simply need to have the guts to pull it off. To be very crude for a moment, obscene comic Andrew "Dice" Clay once nailed it when he said "Balls....in this world you just need f&^king balls". He is 1000% correct.

4. Ability To Paint/Draw
This is highly opinionated, in the sense that what I consider to be "art" may not strike the fancy of someone else. For example, I love paitings done in the "American Primative" style, but I can see where someone else might find that cheesy. Anyway, I will confess to doodling every now and then, although not too well.

5. Ability To Sell
I am not a salesman, and truth be told, I don't like being sold to. However, I do admire people that can actually do this well, and I'm talking about people who work in car dealerships either. The most successful "sellers", in my opinion, are high profile politicians. Think about it: over 50% of the voters in this country selected Barack Obama for President. Why? He was clearly less experienced than his chief opponent, but he was better at SELLING his vision to voters.

6. Ability To Build/Repair Plumbing
I have tremendous respect for people who are engaged in the "trades". For example, I think that someone who lays bricks for a living can truely create something that is beautiful. For me, I most admire plumbers. I know, that sounds cheesy, but as someone who does have some aptitude when it comes to electical work (I wired our attic), I can't figure out plumbing. I wish I could.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In The "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department

Two quick-but-true stories that involve recent observations on my part.

The Collapsed Lung
I was at a wedding reception, and happened to be at a table with a few other folks that I didn't know. Anyway, one of those seated at the table was talking about how her parents/significant other couldn't see her smoking because she just had a collapsed lung a few months ago. Of course in a few minutes she was outside...smoking.

The Cancer Recovery (for now at least)
At another event, as I was leaving, I happened to see someone that I knew had just gone through a nearly year-long battle with a very difficult to treat form of cancer. I won't mention the type, but it' something that, apparently, isn't readily cured. Anyway, this person actually was basically cured, after months and months of treatment at a prestigious medical center that no-doubt cost his insurance company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sure enough I saw this guy smoking like a fiend.


Now I know we all have our own bad habits to break...I know I do...but come on, smoking after a collapsed lung and extended cancer treatment? That's beyond just stupid...it's bordering on surreal. Let me be frank: if your survive a collapsed lung...if you survive cancer...you are certainly being given a gift...the kind of gift that others with in similar predicaments don't always receive. WHY SIMPLY PISS THAT GIFT AWAY? How in the name of God could smoking be that worth it????

Road Apples, #6

Just a few random thoughts running through my head:

In The "Screw In Your Head" Department - Everything seems to be set for my dental implant work to begin next week. The whole process will take months to complete, with the first part being the removal of an old root-canaled tooth with a broken root. Gee, why does this not excite me? Along with the removal I'll have my upper jaw augmented so that it can hold a titanium screw installed in a few months (after the other stuff heals). Just to add insult to injury, I'm paying for this myself. The joy of it all...

Funeral - I attended the funeral service for the late mother of someone who reports to me at work. It was definitely interesting, as it conducted in an Orthodox church. It wasn't as long as I expected (about an hour) and virtually everything was sung. There weren't many people there, but it was important for me to attend. When my father passed away a few years ago, the church was empty except for immediate family in two rows...and...the four people I work with in the back of the church. That really, truly touched me, and I am not easily "touched". Making it even more impressive was the fact that there was a blizzard happening during the service (we actually had to delay the cemetery service).

Recovery - The sister of a very dear friend is recovering from surgery. All my best to her for a speedy recovery.

The Auto Industry Begs For Money, Part Deux
- The heads of the three American car makers submitted plans to Congress yesterday and have begun their trek to Washington DC for a second round of begging. Now I'm not unsympathetic to the workers of those companies, but let's face fact: all of the parties involved (union to executives) lived fat off the hog for far too long in the domestic auto business. While I agree that the unions have gotten too much over the years (the infamous Job Bank program), the executive suits got even more...these were CEOs who were getting millions of dollars while doing horrible jobs managing their businesses. No one will win in this one...the best we can hope for is a break even.

Real Estate News - My brother is going to buy my uncle's house, which I think is very good news. The place needs some work, but it's a nice space and my brother is a hard-working guy. I'm glad to see him getting ahead. I, on the other hand, have no interest in any real estate. In fact, I'd long term like to sell the house I currently live in. I will be needing less space, not more.

On The Work Front - The year-end review and next year planning cycle begins next Monday, which means a trek to Hartford. I really don't mind that too much...the better you plan, the better you execute. I'm just hoping that the weather cooperates. Also, I had an update call with my bosses-bosses-boss (the head of HR) that seemed to go well. I always get nervous with stuff like that, which isn't a bad thing. Being nervous is healthy sometimes...it means that you are concerned and care about what you are doing.

Scranton City Council Passed A Tentative Budget - Short article here. I am very, very wary of politicians in general, and when I hear of budgets increasing in an environment like this, I am every more wary. Let's run our government like prudent people run their households...when times are tough, spend less, not more. Enough said.

Skunks - The smell of skunk is very heavy in the air outside this morning (I just went outside to warm up the car). I didn't see any dead one's by the house, which is at least quasi-comforting. No doubt that the little critters were into the garbage set outside. People who don't use garbage cans need their heads examined....that or they should be responisble for cleaning up any skunk carcases that arise.

Pittston PA Man Cited For Having A Sign With The "F" Word On His Truck - The sign had something to do with this being America and people needing to speak English. Regardless, I don't know about citing the guy for disorderly conduct, but I think he should be cited for being an "F-ing" moron. Why? Picture this: a mom is driving her six year old daughter to a dance recital and the child sees the sign; "Mommy, what does 'f---ing' mean?". Personally I am all for freedom of expression (obviously), but I do think we need reasonable boundaries in order to have a civilized society...which includes very minor compromises when it comes to how we express ourselves in public venues.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Powerful Stuff Indeed

I just love this performance. Jimmy Vaughan just kills on the Strat and Kim Wilson's vocals are so strong that you can actually hear him through Jimmy's guitar.

Gay Adoption Bans

Here is the ideal adoption scenario:

- an infant child
- is adopted by a family of the same race
- consisting of a loving mother and father
- who are not too young
- who are not too old
- and who are very well off

I don't think anyone would disagree with that scenario. I certainly do not. However, as is the case with most ideal scenarios, the reality of the situation is far different than that:

- there are many children needing to be adopted who are not infants
- loving potential parents don't see the race of a child...they just see a child
- not every family consists of a mother and father
- sometimes potential parents wanting to adopt are young or are older
- love and caring isn't measured in dollar signs

So we have some states, including Florida, who have passed a Gay Adoption Ban. Is a gay family the ideal family to adopt a child? Of course not, but then again a "non-very well off" family isn't either, so should there also be a ban against people against adoption by people with household incomes of less than $250,000/year? Should we ban a black family from adopting a white child? That's not an ideal family situation for an adoption. Sorry Lionel Richie.

Look, I think everyone wants every child to be adopted under ideal situations. But life is full of less-than-idea circumstances. Besides, what really matters here? Think about it: what really matters is that a child, who doesn't have a family to call their own, be given that opportunity. Furthermore, the capacity to be a loving parent isn't just something that comes in an ideal package, it's something that comes from deep inside a person, from a place that is independent of their race, age, marital status, gender and sexuality.

The bottom line for me is this: singling out homosexual couples and banning them from adoption is, in my opinion, short-sighted at best, and at worst I think it out and out bigoted. Part of me believes that it's a carry-over from the days of institutionalized bigotry; part of me thinks that it's simply a case of ignorance. To the latter, let me set the record straight: homosexuality is not contagious...even if you believe that it is sinful and wrong, the fact of the matter is that you can not "get it" from having a homosexual parent. I know that discussions and notions of sexuality make some uncomfortable, but that discomfort shouldn't prevent a child...one that desperately needs a loving family...from being given the opportunity to be loved.

Let's temper our desire for the "ideal" with a dose of reality and compassion for the many, many children that simply need a loving parent.