Not Cease from Exploration...a blog by Steve Albert

Monday, March 30, 2009

A (Quasi) Day Off

I'm technically off today, but I am going into the office in the morning to attend at least part of our bi-weekly staff meeting. Why do I even do it? I'm not sure. The cheap and easy thing would be to blame Catholic guilt...one of the truly elemental forces in the universe, right up there with gravity, inertia and Jewish guilt. Anyway, I'll go in and make my contribution, hopefully have the foresight to get in a workout and then take the rest of the day off. I also have an email from Compliance to respond to, so I might as well take care of that while I am at it.

As for the rest of today, I have to pay my mother's garbage fee for 2009 and go over to her house to fix some blinds. Did I mention how much of a factor Catholic guilt is in my life?

I also have tomorrow off as well, and that will be a "real" day off...no going into the office or checking email. I have to get my outside water line replaced, so I'll (if I'm smart...and the jury is still out on that) get the parts list this afternoon, get everything I need tomorrow and then install it all tomorrow morning. I normally don't like to do plumbing, but I really don't want to spend the money on a plumber, and besides, this is all screw-together stuff anyway. I just need to figure out what I want to do first. I've had to replace this every few years, as the parts tend to rot/rust. This time around I'm probably going to use Rustolium or some similar product to coat everything before I install it Hopefully that will make it last more than a season or so. This is actually a pretty important small project, as I need the outside hose for things like car washing, watering plants, etc. I am nothing if not domestic.

Other things I could be doing? Well, the list is endless. I really do want to clean out a spot in the basement for a new freezer. The one we have is so old and small, and is no doubt very energy inefficient. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow while I am waiting for parts to dry, etc. Part of the turn-off down there is that it, well, smells of cat. I know, I know, that's what I get for having so damn many of them, but still it stinks. That's life though, although being a "cat rancher" was never something I ever wanted myself.

Well I suppose I should get some other things ready here and get the day started. No time like the present I suspect.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where I Go (on-line)

I admit it: I would be lost without the Internet, and quite honestly I am not sure what I did before it existed. I am an Internet junkie. The word 'portal' has an actual, technical Internet meaning, but in a very real sense it is a great word to describe what the Internet really is, namely this gateway to other things and places. That noted, here are some thoughts and links to some of the places I enjoy visiting on-line:

BLOGS
There are really only two blogs that I read regularly these days -

Dinoscopus - This is the blog of arch-conservative Catholic Bishop Williamson (infamous of late for his "I am not convinced that millions of Jews died during the Holocaust" views). Once you get beyond the overly formal language the Bishop uses and you hold your nose at his offensive Holocaust views (which he doesn't really discuss in his blogs) you find that he writes about a variety of different topics. I find that fascinating.

SDACT Blog - This is the official blog for the union that formerly represented Catholic teachers in the Diocese of Scranton. I am the product of a Catholic high school education, and I have fond memories of some of my teachers. While I don't necessarily agree that teachers should be unionized, I do recognize that they should be the ones to make that decision. The fact that the Bishop of Scranton unilaterally decided that the union shouldn't represent the teachers rubs me the wrong way. Anyway, this blog tracks news and events surrounding this group.


NEWS & CURRENT EVENTS
There are four news sites that I regularly visit -

MSNBC - Tops for both volume & freshness of content. My only complaint is that the page doesn't always load when I am at work and I want to check the headlines. That could be because of the ancient version of Internet Explorer that we use at the office.

Scranton Times On-line Edition - This is my new homepage, replacing the Drudge Report. I only really read it for the local news. The national & international stuff I get from MSNBC. It's not a great page, but it has the best volume of local content that I've seen. They also let you comment on articles, which can be fun.

Drudge Report - My old homepage, before Drudge well full force into "Obama Evil" mode. I don't claim to be the President's best supporter, but Matt Drudge does go overboard in cherry-picking articles that paint Obama in a bad light. Too much negativity for me, but the page is always worth visiting for the extensive and well-balanced (in terms of liberal vs conservative) links.

Note that I also will visit FoxNews when I am at work on occasion, although I never go there while at home. I like the freshness of news content at FoxNews, but some of the opinion pieces (and there are a lot of them) tend to get stale.


ON-LINE VIDEO
This is where I spend about a third of my Internet time -

Hulu - I watch current episodes of my favorite shows here; in fact, I watch them more on-line than on the TV. I love the fact that I can catch the latest episode of The Office when I have to time to watch it, as opposed to having to watch it when NBC says I have to.

Break - I don't go there as often as I used to, but it's always worth checking out. If you find videos of 12 year old boys eating teaspoons of cinnamon (and then seeing what happens...note: don't do that), then this is the place for you.


JUST FOR FUN
Some other places I like, really just for the fun of it -

AmIAnnoyingOrNot - I love reading the profiles, although I don't do any voting, etc.

FaceBook - You can find my FaceBook page by searching for me. Stop by and see me.

Tee Shirt Hell - Some very funny (and often offensive) stuff.


OTHER
A few other sites I enjoy & why -

Cult News Network - I really enjoy reading about religion, philosophy and related topics, so this is a great site for keeping current on religious events.

Operation Clambake - A site with information on the Church of Scientology. Fascinating stuff.

Urban Dictionary - Say your teenage son/daughter references a term you've never heard before, what do you do? Why you go to Urban Dictionary and look it up.

Song Facts - Lots of trivia about thousands of songs.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday, Not In The Park, I Think It Was The 28th of March

Title is with apologies, of course, to Chicago.

Well it's about a quarter to four in the evening, and I've been going at a brisk pace today since about 6am. I had to get up early to take Rebecca to work, and from there I had the usual Saturday stuff to do, including paying bills and grocery shopping. Today however, I had the added thrill of getting the gas grill all ready for the outdoor season. That entailed taking off the winter cover, cleaning it out, inspecting the burner, getting a new take of propane, etc. The burner was, by the way shot, so I needed to replace it. After taking the old one out, I cleaned out the bottom thoroughly and installed a universal 17" replacement burner, the same thing I think I did two years ago. The burners themselves don't last much more than two seasons, if that.

Did I mention how wonderful it is outside? Well it was wonderful this morning, although now it's a bit overcast actually. No rain in the offing for the rest of today, but it certainly looks like it could rain.

Now this is supposed to be a long weekend for me, as I have Monday and Tuesday off. I use the word "supposed" because I in fact will go in on Monday morning for a staff meeting. Aren't I the team player?

Another task I am contemplating is to swap out my cold for my warmer weather clothes. That's a little ritual that I usually perform around the end of March, when I'm sure that the snow is forever gone (or gone at least until maybe next November). I really could use some other short sleeve shirts to wear for work. Perhaps I'll do that after dinner.

Well I suppose I should get on with a few other things, including some decision on dinner. Perhaps it's a good time to put the grill to use.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Luzerne County Judges

The latest in the on-going Luzerne County judge scandal is that the State Supreme Court voided the convictions of thousands of juveniles convicted by two former Judges. Story here. This is just the latest chapter in an on-going drama that will be playing out for years.

What's interesting is that now the State Supreme Court is getting "all serious" and such now that this is in the public domain. Where was this same court a few years ago with the Juvenile Justice Center tried to get their attention over the myriad of abuses happening in Luzerne County? Back then they chose to do nothing. While I applaud any action to right the wrongs that have occurred, I find their after-the-fact conversion to taking this seriously more than just a little sad.

It all boils down to this: in Pennsylvania, lawyers and judges can only be disciplined by...you guessed it...other lawyers and judges. Whenever you have a group responsible for policing itself you have recipe for disaster.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Road Apples, #21

Yesterday my Internet service was down at home and my voice-mail at work was at work. Coincidence? I'm not quite sure, but I was bummed out over not being able to get on-line yesterday morning. We humans do value our routines.

In the "Stupid Entertainment" Department I was watching one of the "Blade" movies last night. I think they are the intellectual equivalent of McDonald's french fries.

At Staples Yesterday, I was looking at the new breed of netbooks...these are very small laptop computers that have enough memory/processing power to surf the net and do basic task, but lack things like CD/DVD drives, large hard drives, etc. The ones that I saw ran on Windows XP. Very, very cool. The prices range from about $300 upwards of $900 (for a high-end Sony). The only drawback for me is the small screen, but I could adjust. Now if I didn't get hosed at bonus time maybe I'd consider getting one.

On the Music Front I've been listening to some Harry Nilsson from the CD where he sings standards, such as "As Time Goes By". I think I'm going to order it. Listening to Harry Nilsson sing is one of those simple joys in life that I like to partake in every once in a while. The man had such an incredible voice.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Still Skipping the Light Fandango

Back again, and it's a very cold Tuesday morning in northeastern Pennsylvania. Le yawn.

On the health front, I'm feeling better today, as the whole intestinal distress thing seemed to get marginally better yesterday, and as of this morning I think I'm basically over it. That's a good thing. The whole work thing is difficult enough on a normal day, if you add in not feeling well it just pushes you to the point of apathy. For me, it's not as much apathy as it is the notion that it takes that much more energy to be motivated.

Ah, what else is happening?

Well in Scranton we have a mayoral elections happening shortly; since this is a heavily Democratic town, the real race for mayor is in the primary, where incumbent Mayor Chris Doherty is being challenged by insurance agent Gary DiBileo. I've met and talked to Mayor Doherty once or twice over the years and found him to be very personable. I can't say that I've ever met Mr DiBileo, but he seems like a decent enough guy, and he has a very good professional reputation. The choices could be far worse I suppose. Good luck to both candidates, and may the best person win.

We also have the whole bonus situation in the news (story here). I could rant on and on about this, and maybe I will once I have a greater level of motivation, but I will say this much: the entitlement mentality doens't just exist at the lower end of the economic spectrum. We have an entire culture in business today where, the higher up you go, the more you feel entitled to compensation regardless of your actual performance. AIG is the example de jour these days, but an even better one is GM: CEO Rick Wagoner has never had a good year at GM. By virtually any measure, this guy has been an abject failure...GM lost market share, produced poor quality vehicles, lost money, engaged unions in lose-lose labor agreements, etc. Yet year after year Mr Wagoner saw high salary and bonus payments. You figure it out. Note though that if Mr Wagoner were a burger flipper at McDonalds who didn't meet their standards year after year, he would have been fired. Maybe that's not a great comparison, but the underlying thought is sound: if you can't do the job, then you shouldn't have the job.

On a related note, I have 27 (I think) shares of unrestricted stock available to me that were granted after to me (and other employees) after my employer reached an important milestone a few years ago. The problem is that, given the stock price, these shares really aren't worth all that much at the moment. I'd love to have them to pay part of Kate's tuition, but it wouldn't make sense to sell them yet. See, this whole Wall Street mess is more than just a pain in the butt for high-rollers.

Finally, we had the President make a really stupid comment about the Special Olympics on the Jay Leno show. What do I think? Well first, I can't stand Jay Leno, so I didn't watch it myself. Second, it really was a stupid comment, but we all make stupid comments from time to time. Certainly the President should be more sensitive, but let's not forget that he's a human being. What's important isn't that he makes a mistake every now and then, it's what he does when he makes a mistake.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another Week...

...or maybe I should make that "weak", as I was not feeling well over this past weekend. It started later in the afternoon on Friday and just continued throughout the weekend, and while I won't add any details, let's just say that the only thing that helped was liquid Imodium. Not the pills, but the liquid stuff, which quite possibly is not most vile concoction since Father John's Medicine.

Anyway, I'm hopefully feeling better now, although that jury has not yet completed deliberations.

The week ahead looks busy on Tuesday-Thursday, but reasonable today and Friday. Next week I'm off Monday and Tuesday, so that will give me a chance to put away all the winter stuff, such as the snow thrower and shovels. I'd also like to replace my outside water tap, which rusted and broke last Fall. Having a functioning hose would be of some help as I start to get ready for things like yard-work and such.

Well I must be going...a few things need to be done before I head out to begin what I am sure will be another "fun-packed, adventure-filled" day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

On Gifts & Giving

One of the things that I've learned over the past few years is the value of giving. Now I know, most decent human being know how important it is to give, and we put quite a bit of formality around that when it comes to birthdays, Christmas and the like. Also, for decades, I dutifully put money in church envelopes every Sunday, viewing it as an exercise in obligation. A few things happened though to change my outlook on giving, from something that was mainly an obligation to now something that is more of a, well, joy...

Liberation from the Obligation
As noted above, I would give at church because I was told to do so. No one stood over my shoulder and said "give", but growing up in a guilt-o-centric Catholic Church, you learn these things as being an obligation. However, in Scranton we had a new Bishop come along (Joseph Martino), and over time I realized that the Church he stood for wasn't the same Church I wanted to belong to; compassionate leadership has been replaced by a command-and-control leadership style that would make Chainsaw Al Dunlap proud. That liberated me from the obligation to give to the Catholic church because the institution that I supported all these years wasn't the same institution that I thought I knew. From that point forward, I knew I still wanted to give, but now I had to figure out who to give to.

What Matters?
When I realized that I wouldn't give to the Catholic Church any more, I had to decide who I wanted to support. Sure, I get a tax benefit from giving, but I really don't give that much that it has a tremendous impact on my financial health (or lack-thereof). I decided that there were three things that mattered to me relative to giving:
  1. Helping Children - Kids have it tough enough growing up these days; adding burdens to them because of things like diseases, etc. seems especially cruel. You are only a child once.
  2. Helping the Truly Less Fortunate - Some folks truly just need a hand up when they are down.
  3. Repaying Kindness - I'd like to think that I could give back to those institutions that have meant a lot to me over the years.
I then found charities that addressed things important things.

Matching
Here's what I decided to do...
  1. Helping Children - I try and give to St Jude Children's Research Hospital every month. I always found the story behind its founding (by the late entertainer Danny Thomas) to be compelling, but even more compelling is the work that they do. St Jude is also a highly rated charity.
  2. Helping the Truly Less Fortunate - I give to the Scranton Rescue Mission whenever I can. 75% of their donations go towards helping the needy, which is high percentage.
  3. Repaying Kindness - I was given a lot by my education at Penn State Harrisburg, in ways that are at times very difficult to describe. So I now make my single largest annual donation goes to the University.

Going forward, I'd like to move beyond simply giving money and do something with my time. I haven't figured that out yet, and I know that my time isn't the most easy commodity to acquire these days, but never the less I think it's also important to demonstrate with your hands (as well as your wallet) what is truly important in this world.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Skipping A Light Fandango

We skipped a light fandango,
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor.
(Whiter Shade of Pale/Procol Harum)

Wow, since I created this blog a few months ago I don't think I've ever gone three days without writing or posting something, but here we are never the less, Saturday morning, and my last post was on Tuesday. Not posting 'twas not my intention, but something things come up and you simply have to adjust. How's that for a cryptic explanation? Actually, "Skipping a light fandango" is a derivative from the first line of the song "Lighter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum, a song with very cryptic lyrics (do a Google search for the song lyrics and the first response is a posting where someone asks what they lyrics mean).

Anyway, I'm back. Let's see, what's going on?

Well, while cleaning my car on Tuesday, I unplugged my satellite radio receiver and the power adapter promptly fell apart. To make a long story short, the radio doesn't work, even with a replacement power adapter, but I narrowed the problem down to the fact that the power outlets in my car are not working (but the satellite radio does). I checked the main fuse block and the fuse identified for the outlets (my car has three of them...two up front, one in the back) appears fine, so that's not the problem. I did a quick Google search yesterday and I have two leads to purse: first, while the owner's manual says that fuse 19 is for the outlets, it may in fact be fuse 20 & second, there may be something of a main bus fuse in the engine compartment that I need to check. Regardless, I will get it figured out before too long. I love a challenge (as long as it doesn't involve plumbing).

On the physical front, I tried to eat lighter normal during this trip, in hopes that it would help me not get sick, which is an all too common occurrence during many of my trips. For the most part that strategy worked, as I didn't suffer from anything really bad, at least until the drive home yesterday. Let's just say that I had some stomach cramps, but I also had a much bigger breakfast than normal as well on Friday morning. Lesson learned I think. It's disturbing when I think about it: the older I get, less I can seem to eat. I thought adults were supposed to have all the fun?

Speaking of fun, the last three days were very productive. I solved a few problems, got to see a few very interesting things, and I learned that even old Scottish dogs like to play every once in a while.

As for today, I have a lot of cleaning to do. I also have to take Becca out to get a pair of jeans and maybe a cover for the Blackberry Pearl I bought her (I got it used and it as a few scratches, so I thought we could get a cover for it). All things considered, I expect a very productive day.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In The Sickening Department...

I was in the gym at work the other day (yes, we have a gym at work...) and despite my desire to the contrary. the Ellen Show was on the TV. Anyway, "P.Diddy" was on, talking about the recent event where two current musical stars, Chris Brown and Rihanna were involve, were involved in a little incident. Google search results here (in case you are curious). The long and the short of it is this: Chris Brown (the male) pretty much beat the snot out of his girlfriend, Rihanna; said beating included choking, bite marks, punches, etc. In fact, Rihanna was beaten so badly that she was nearly unconscious. That in and of itself should make most sane people hang their heads in disgust. However, it gets worse (and back to "P.Diddy"): on the Ellen Show, P.Diddy said that since on one was there but these two (Brown and Rihanna), no one should be judging them.

Yes, no one should be judging them.

Here's what Rihanna looked like before the Chris Brown beating. Photo Link Here.

Here's what Rihanna looked like after the Chris Brown beating. Photo Link Here.

Well "P.Diddy" is full of it. There is never, ever an excuse for that kind of behavior. Want to know what's wrong with our society? Simply ponder what "P.Diddy" is saying. Forget Chris Brown accepting responsibility for his actions. As long as there are apologists for this kind of behavior this kind of behavior will flourish. What kind of message is "P.Diddy" sending to young women, that it's okay to get beaten-on by your boyfriend because "no one should judge"?

As a father of three daughters I am completely, utterly disgusted by this whole episode.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Another Letter to the Editor

This appeared in today's edition of The Scranton Times...I agree completely with the writer.



Editor:

In “The Wizard of Oz,” the wizard was really a weak, cowardly man, pretending to be all-knowing and powerful to control others. Unfortunately, Bishop Martino is just like this cowardly wizard.

From his “bully pulpit,” from behind the curtains on Wyoming Avenue, he makes his pronouncements to attack lifelong pro-life Catholics like Bob Casey, threatens to take away the Catholic status of Misericordia University, and now threatens in a letter to deny Communion to those who do not meet his standard of being Catholic.

As a product of Catholic education through graduate school, I am saddened by his actions.

This bishop does not speak with his people or act as a pastor to them; he speaks to them through the newspaper, tape recordings and written edicts.

He does not even meet with his priests when he is transferring them; he calls them. He does not meet with parishioners when he closes churches; he announces them through the newspaper. He does not speak to parents when he closes schools; he sends his subordinates to do his dirty work.

He does not minister to his people and heal their wounds and bring the word of God with its healing message and words of hope. Instead he speaks of condemnation, exclusion, excommunication.

As a member of Immaculate Conception parish for 21 years, the parish of Bob Casey, I challenge Bishop Martino to come out from behind his “curtain” on Wyoming Avenue and meet with his people.

Come to Immaculate Conception and meet with faithful Catholics like me, to discuss our concerns, our needs, our expectations, and minister to us as we have so many questions about recent decisions.

Does he have the courage to speak to us in person?

Or is he like the cowardly wizard who would rather stay hidden because he fears others will see him for who he really is: a flawed human being just like the rest of us?

ROBERT FREIN

SCRANTON

Signs You Are Getting Old....

All I wanted was a pink Oxford dress shirt. That's it. Something made of a decent cotton weight material, in pink, with a button-down collar, pleat in the back, etc. I want to five different stores and found nothing. I finally did find something marginally acceptable at JC Penny's, but it's not really an Oxford shirt. I suppose this means that I am getting old. The pink Oxford shirt is to me what wearing dark socks and sandals is to men in their 70's I suppose.

Other signs I am getting old:
  • I really can't stand, by and large, the music my teenage daughters enjoy. Now some of it is listenable, but a lot of it isn't.
  • I like listening to people talk on the radio, as opposed to music. Well truth be told, I do listen to some music, but the split is something like 60/40 when comparing to time spent listening to talk-radio vs. music. Much of that 60 is Howard Stern, with the remainder being local talk on station WILK.
  • While I really do like gadgets and technology, I can't stand Apple's Ipod products. I find I-Tunes to be annoying at best, confusing at worst. They succeeded in making things so simply that I find it irritating. I find it much easier to simply drop and drag files into my decidedly less complex Creative Labs Zen mp3 player.
  • I still read the paper, which explains why newspapers are having financial trouble these days. In a world without newspapers, where will you get local news? Younger people today want everything compressed into a Twitter posting.
Yes I confess: I am getting old. That's frightening, because in the back of my head, I'm still this 12 year old boy with a poor self-image and too much imagination for my own good. Where does it go? It was only yesterday when I was in high school and then college.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Madoff

If you haven't been paying attention to the whole Bernie Madoff saga, then you should at least devote a few minutes to learning the basics. I know, the whole thing smell of "complicated financial stuff", and to a certain that it true; however you still should still pay attention. Why? Because I my opinion, Madoff exemplifies everything that's wrong with American society today.

Here's what I mean:

The Cult of Greed - When it comes down to it, Gordon Gecko was wrong...greed is not always good. Madoff did what he did in part out of greed, plain simple greed. Madoff is a poster child for the notion of "getting ahead no matter what". Now we see that there is a $50 billion dollar cost. Greed wasn't so good this time, not at the Madoff/Gecko level and not at our levels either.

The Big Lie - If you are not familiar with the concept of the "Big Lie", here's a short description: as practiced by the NAZI's, the "Big Lie" is when you have something that is an obvious lie...such as the Jews being responsible for all society's ills...but simply repeat it over and over again until people just believe that it's true. How ironic is it that someone who is Jewish...Madoff...was the practitioner of the Big Lie himself? Madoff's big lie was to his customers over and over again..."I'll invest your money in stocks and there will be virtually no risk". Of course what Madoff was doing was simply taking money coming in and shipping it out to other investors requesting distributions, while skimming off the top for himself. Now how often do we, in America today, believe the "Big Lie" ourselves?

The Entitlement Mentality - Madoff is facing about 150 years in prison after pleading guilty to investment fraud and other charges, with sentencing coming in June. Until then, he has been sent to a prison in downtown Manhattan. So far so good, right? Well his lawyers are, at this very moment, fighting to get him out of jail and asking that he be restricted to his midtown Manhattan residence until sentencing. Think about that: he said that he is guilty...his crimes will yield dozens (if not a hundred +) years in jail...and yet he believes that he is entitled to live in a luxury apartment until sentencing? That should blow your mind. The guy said "I am guilty", so it's not as if there will be an appeal. Some elements in this country have historically slammed the "welfare society" or the "entitlement mentality" when it comes to people at the lower end of the economic scale, but yet here we have someone at the upper-most economic scale guilty of the same thing.


In the end, the Madoff case says more about us than it says about him. As a society we created this environment...one where accumulation of wealth comes before anything else, one where you are entitled to live in luxury (even when you steal billions). We created this monster.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Scranton Times Letter to the Editor

I read this letter this morning and thought it made a lot of good points, so I'm going to share it...


All-out crackdown


Editor:

Bishop Martino recently commented that “tolerance” has its limits. I completely agree. Obviously we should not tolerate homosexuals or pro-choice politicians because, frankly, we know very few of them around here. After all, according to Bishop Martino, homosexuals and Holocaust deniers are practically cut from the same moral cloth, and we know neither of these groups is welcome in the church, right?

But Bishop Martino isn’t taking things far enough. If we’re all really interested in enforcing canon, let’s do so completely and unapologetically. Bishop Martino should demand no one marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade be divorced, communion be denied to any politician who ever used a condom, and all teachers (especially unionized ones) espousing radical theories such as “tolerance” be fired.

It’s easy to impose hard-line dogma on groups long since alienated from Bishop Martino’s increasingly empty churches; it’s more difficult to alienate current churchgoers by asking for unflinching obedience to increasingly outmoded doctrines. I say our bishop should shutter the cathedral to all who disagree.

That’s the best way to spread the bishop’s definition of “tolerance.”

ROBERT B. REICHLE

OLYPHANT

Road Apples, #20

The Week In Review - It's been a rather busy week, but busy in a non-insane kind-of-way. That's a good thing. I've had a lot to do, but nothing that would fall into the category of "I'm falling under the water". Today is a light day schedule wise, so I'll be able to make some progress of those few really big things I'm working on.

Pontiac G6 - For the second time in a row, my rental car has been a Pontiac G6. My single biggest peeve about it? Well first understand that I have arms the size of an orangutan's (by the way, that's a difficult word to spell...). With the previous statement in mind, why on Earth would General Motors design a car that has doors that open so wide that you practically need to step out of the car to close them? It's one of those small things you notice, but it's quite frankly retarded that they open so wide. If I don't know what people that don't have ape-length arms would do to close the doors, outside of almost climb all the way out just to get back in. Oh, and in case you might be wondering, the cars I've rented were both 4 door models. File this under the "oh, that's why these guys are losing in the market place" category. Note to GM: It's the little things that matter folks, it's the little things.

Scranton Bishop Martino - is telling US Senator Bob Casey that he needs to vote against President' Obama's pick for secretary of the department of Health and Human Services, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. As I've said before, I respect (not that he needs it...) Bishop Martino's right and obligation to speak out on matters of faith and morality, but I strongly disagree with the notion that somehow Bob Casey (or any other public servant) is a Catholic (or Baptist, or Buddhist, or Jew, or Mormon) first, then a legislator second. Yes, religion does in fact shape our characters and certainly our sense of morality, but Bob Casey doesn't solely represent Catholics in Pennsylvania. What's more, I firmly believe that any candidate for elected or appointed office needs to be viewed from the perspective of many issues, not just one...no matter how important that one issue is. Viewing Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as unacceptable simply because of her stance on abortion seems short-sighted to me for two reasons:

1. What we hear about that stance comes from folks like Bishop Martino, not from the Governor.
2. Not everyone subscribes to the teachings of the Catholic Church when it comes to abortion.

For the record,
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is herself Catholic.

Bottom Line - Everyone out there should be wary anytime a religious leader decides that he/she can tell a politician how to vote. In this country Bishop Martino should have the same ability to influence the voting of Senator Casey that Steve Albert does...namely through the exercise of his one vote...the same one vote that I have.

Abortion - Every time I reference abortion I feel somehow compelled to explain my "position" (quotes to denote the fact that position is nothing more than an opinion...but "position" sounds cooler) on the subject. I personally believe that abortion is wrong and that it shouldn't be performed unless there are compelling, almost life-threatening reasons. That said, I also believe that reasonable people can have a different opinion on the subject. In the end, it's up to each and individual and their conscience to determine what this means for them, as I don't believe that any larger body...be it a church or a politician...should have the right to make such a deeply personal decision for any of us. I realize that this puts me in a position that is contrary to that of the church I in theory belong to, but so be it. For sake of consistency, I also feel the same way about the death penalty...I believe that it is wrong, but I acknowledge that others can have a different opinion. For the record, the Catholic Church does in fact teach that all life is sacred, from conception through a natural death.

Contraception - Related to abortion...and since I'm out on a limb anyway...the Catholic Church also teaches that artificial means of preventing pregnancy are inherently evil because they either destroy a potential life (this is what an IUD does) or the prevent a life from happening (this is what a condom does). The Church also teaches that contraception has the impact of lessening the importance of sexuality by "cheapening" it. Yes, I certainly understand why the Catholic Church teaches what it teaches, but I also disagree with the notion that all means of artificial contraception are evil, because I don't believe that the sole purpose of sexuality is procreation. A really interesting side-note here is that about 96% of married Catholics use artificial birth control, putting them directly at odds with Church teaching. Think about it: if Bishop Martino were to truly enforce the Catholic Church's teaching of all life issues, then 96% of married Catholics would not be receiving Holy Communion. It does make you think.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just A Quick Note...

Just what does it say about me that I actually get enthusiastic about getting my XBox360 replaced? Probably not much, and what it does say isn't very positive. However as that great philosopher Popeye once said, "I yam who I yam".

Actually things have been busy, but not in an insane way. My schedule at work is more human now, and I finally have time to start to do things the right way, as opposed to simply stringing things together in some half-assed way to just get by. I know, that's probably not a nice way to describe it, and if you find yourself overwhelmed, sometimes half-assed is a really good outcome. Anyway, things on the work front are slightly more manageable these days. A sign of the times is the fact that I don't have too many things on my schedule that I look at and think "My God, I hate that...". Now that isn't implying that some of the things I hate are things I don't do well; in fact, I know there are some things I truly hate that I actually do rather well, thank you very much. Regardless, it's tolerable these days.

On a completely different note, the song currently running through my head is Elton John's "Funeral for Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" from the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. If you are a fan of Sir Elton and you don't have Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, then go out and get it. It's stands up as one of the best album's of it's day and certainly the best work he has ever done. Here's a typical review (and track information).

Well it's time to get to work. My middle daughter Korin, who is learning how to drive, usually takes the wheel for the trip in the morning. She is a good driver for a 16 year old, but I am an extremely bad passenger...not just for her, but for anyone.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday Morning

The downside to buying yourself a new TV is that you may actually be tempted to watch it every now and then. That's the case for me, as I spent over two hours yesterday watching a show on TLC about morbidly obese people who get gastric bypass surgery. I have to admit that I was fascinated by the show.

What did I learn?

...the weight problems they have (and I have, to a far lesser extent) are about 95% psychological, 5% physical. In the "you may think I'm full of crap" department, this is something Howard Stern says from time to time on his radio show, namely that people who are obese have unresolved mental issues.

...some of those folks have real courage, far more than I have. There was one gentleman who weighed nearly a thousand pounds who went in for the surgery and had all of these horribly intensive procedures done, all so that he could be around long enough to see his grand kids. While you can argue that it's a lack of discipline that got these people in to the conditions they are now in, it's hard to not have some admiration for someone who goes that far a-field but yet has the courage to say "enough is enough".

...it really show-cased the excesses that I think have been ruining our nation for decades. We are truly victims of our own success as a nation. Folks on one side of the planet are dying because they don't have enough to eat, but yet we have people here who are dying because they have too much to eat.

It does make you stop, pause and think.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

25 Random Things About ME

As posted on Facebook...

25 Random Things About Steve

1. I write constantly.
Note that I don't think I'm technically a good writer, but rather I am to writing what a typical bar-room piano player is to fine music. Enough said.

2. I don't share well.
I tend to be very guarded with the things that are the most important to me...the more important it is, the more guarded I will be. Sometimes things do leak out though in what I write, if you pay attention.

3. I have an incredibly short span on attention.
The older I get, the shorter it seems to become. In a conversation, if you don't get my attention in the first five minutes, you will probably never get it.

4. I don't hold grudges.
I can think of only one person in the whole wide-world that I have negative feels towards for something they did...and this person had to work hard at accomplishing it.

5. There is a scene in the movie Rocky II that makes me cry.
Seriously, there is.

6. I am slowly losing my hearing.
I need to get this checked. Too many years of playing music too loudly.

7. I've never smoked anything in my life.
I will die not having smoked a cigarette or a cigar. In fact, I've never used any tobacco products.

8. I've never tried any recreational drugs ever in my life.
I had the opportunity once or twice, but I was smart enough to say "no thanks". My head under normal conditions is a scary place.

9. I support Gay Rights.
Actually it's more like I don't not support Gay rights, if that makes sense. In my mind, if two people want to get married, why the hell should I care? If a gay couple who has a loving, stable relationship want to adopt a child, why not? I'm amazed that some folks seem to think that being gay is something that can be transmitted via direct contact...that if you let "them" get married that they will somehow "replicate". Note that I am 100% straight myself.

10. I grew up poor.
We lived in a housing project in downtown Scranton. I was ashamed of it then, I'm proud of it now.

11. I am a frustrated musician.
I wish I had musical talent. Hell, I even have a guitar...that I can't play.

12. I don't believe in conspiracies.
Conspiracies require a bunch of people to work together and keep their mouths shut. Neither happens all that much in the real world.

13. I think that astrology, ESP, tarot card reading, crystal balls, etc. are horse$hit.
Come to me...give me $25...and I will gladly make up crap to tell you so that you can feel better about yourself. Think about it: if these kinds of powers did exist, wouldn't someone be using them to say win the lottery or something like that? I am a natural skeptic who lives by the saying "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof".

14. I have suffered from incredibly bad Acid Reflux.
I'm taking a "proton pump inhibitor" daily to prevent my stomach sludge from eating through my throat.

15. I love planting flowers in the Spring.
I plant Spring flowers every year around my birthday...as a present to myself.

16. I don't like dogs.
No offense to all the dog lovers out there, but I had one growing up. The all seem, well, stinky.

17. I am very sensitive to smells.
See #16. I have candles in my office at home just to make things smell better.

18. I have been known to sing "Dancing Queen" out loud to myself while driving.
I know...see #9.

19. I don't have a lot of friends, but those I have I am loyal to.
I'm a pretty introverted person, so I'm not one for having hundreds of friends and acquaintances. But when I do have someone I consider to be a friend, they are someone I would do anything for.

20. When stressed I clean/organize.
When I feel as if things are way out of my control, I have a tendency to clean as a way of somehow garnering control over my environment.

21. I love "first person shooter" video games.
I have Doom, Half-Life and a few others that I play.

22. I am a firm believer in accepting personal responsibility.
I am responsible for what I do and say; if I screw up I apologize and try to make things better. I expect the same from others.

23. I like being busy.
It goes with my short span of attention.

24. I am good at math but I can't do math in my head.
I can conceptualize things like numbers, problems, etc., but I can't really do the work associated with them without the benefit of at least a pencil and paper.

25. I am spiritually unsure.
I'm not sure if there is a God, although I don't discount the possibility. What I am sure of is that it's not possible to know everything, so best to keep one's options open in cases like this.

Sunday Morning

Ever have a day when things just didn't seem to click for you?

Yesterday started off well enough: I got up early, but that's not uncommon for me. After taking my youngest daughter to work at 7am, I did some things around the house and then spent about an hour cleaning up outside. I love the notion that it's getting warm enough to start doing outside activities. Anyway, from there I had to take my mother shopping (I usually take her on Sunday, but this week it worked better to do it on Saturday). From there things seemed to slide down hill.

Again, I'm not sure just wasn't working right for me, but I felt as if I had little patience. There was also a certain "anxiety" about me, although I'm not sure that is the right word to describe how I was feeling.

Maybe it was just the different routine, maybe it was the changing weather, who knows. Damn, I sound like some 75 year old lady who gets wigged out whenever she can't go to the store on Fridays at 10am. What's wrong with me?

I got home from all the running around at about 3pm or so and basically didn't do much after that, unless you consider watching back to back Terminators (the latest episode of Terminator: Sarah Connor & Terminator 3) to be productive. By the time I got to bed I was exhausted. Whatever was bothering me seemed to take a lot out of me.

I slept relatively well last night, so that's a good omen for today. As for how I "feel", I'm going to focus on the positive. If there is one thing I truly believe at my core it's...

You Choose Your Attitude

...no one or no thing can crawl into your head without your permission. Today I'm going to choose to focus on the good stuff.

Here's to warm Sundays in March.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Road Apples, #19

Finally, Some Warmer Weather - It looks like Spring is finally on the way in this corner of Pennsylvania. It was in the high 50's yesterday and will get close to 60 degrees today. Saying I'm thrilled is like saying there might be a Tuesday next week. I might try and get some light yard work done today, if it doesn't rain.

In The Truly Anal-Geek Department - I bought some cord organizers yesterday at WalMart, so that the stuff I put in the office over the past week doesn't look like something out of a bad science fiction movie. It's the simple things in life...

Weekend Routine - I have this "normal" weekend routine where I take Saturday off and try not to do too much of anything, but then I spend Sunday morning cleaning, Sunday afternoon taking my mother shopping and Sunday evening getting ready for the next week of work. That changes for this weekend, as my middle daughter Korin is in a play at school and I'm going to that tomorrow, so the whole schedule has to adapt. In practical terms, that means I'll take my mother shopping today, which means that virtually everything else changes as well. No bother. Sometimes it's a good thing that the usual routine is turned on its head.

Kepler Mission - NASA launched the planet-hunting Kepler Mission yesterday. Article here. This is very exciting stuff, even if you are not a fan of Astronomy. Kepler is the first mission designed specifically to find Earth-sized planets that orbit around the "Goldilocks Zone" (not too hot, not too cold) around other stars. While hundreds of other planets have been discovered, all are much larger than Earth and most orbit far too close to their parent stars. While this will not answer the age-old question of "are we truly alone in the universe", it will definitely help to level-set expectations. My view? Kepler will find at least one Earth-sized planet in the desired location during it's mission. Hope springs eternal.

Company Stock - The stock of my employer dropped quite a bit over the past two weeks, to the point where it is now almost $17 below it's 2001 IPO price. While that's good for me as I buy the shares, it doesn't do much for anything else. I'm hoping that it's hit the cellar, if you will. There was a good sign in that it closed slightly higher (by about a penny) on Friday. Again, hope springs eternal.

In The "Not A Surprise" Department - Since I now have a nice television in my office, I now find that I actually watch more TV. I know, rather shocking. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but all things considered, it's probably better than sitting doing nothing. I need to do a better job of staying busy in the evenings, as that will help me manage my weight a little better (or so goes the theory).

Katrina Is Back At School - From her spring-break service project in Cleveland. I'm very, very proud of her.

Okay, I need to actually start getting some things done today.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The "Octo-Mom"

I've read and seen quite a bit about the "Octo-Mom" (a.k.a. Nadya Suleman) in the press, and I have to admit that I'm both fascinated and disgusted, all at the same time.


Fascinated
What drives someone to re-make their looks so that they resemble a celebrity?

What drives someone to treat children like they were part of some glorified Beanie-Baby collection, where having a few more is something to be desired?

Why on Earth would a doctor implant 8 embryos in a single parent who already has 6 children?

Simply put, there is a lot to dig into here. If you want a story that has political, social, religious and ethical tentacles, then this one is for you.


Disgusted
What bothers me the most about the whole Octo-Mom story is that over and above the above points of fascination noted above, there are 14 children who are going to have a hell of a tough life ahead of them unless there is some kind of intervening on the part of California. When my three daughters were younger it was very tough, so I can't imagine what it would be like to be single and have 14 kids. Children these days have it tougher than I did as a kid: the world is more complex, there is far more pressure on them to grow up sooner, and there is so much temptation out there to do the wrong thing. The 14 Octo-Kids have all of these normal pressures, plus a mother that will not be able to cope with pressure. They deserve better.

Ms Suleman clearly needs help on the mental health front. Either she is incapable of understanding what having 14 kids entails, or she is and she doesn't care. Regardless of the choice, the underlying current of mental illness is still the same.

The doctor that performed the in-vitro procedures (she had two done) needs to have his license revoked by the state of California. I know that he could argue that if he didn't do this someone else would have, but that doesn't change the fact that he knew her circumstances but yet still went ahead with this procedure which, by everything I've read on the topic (where the normal number of implanted embryos is something like 2 or 3) violates his oath as a medical professional to "do no harm".


God help these poor kids.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Office

New TV, component cabinet, etc.

I Still Hate Sleeping, TV & Other Thoughts

Just wanted to mention that I still HATE sleeping. If there is a God, I'm sure this was one of his/her practical jokes played upon humanity. Now my perception of sleeping might change if I actually could sleep well, but that's another story. As it stands now, I think I need to get a new pillow, as I'm starting to get headaches from my current one.

Wait, I need to put a little disclaimer in here.

I actually have four pillows: I sleep with one between my legs (something I do at the suggestion of a chiropractor from a few years back when I had back trouble) and I have three under my head. Well of the three under head I actually only use one of them; the other two kind of prop-up the third one where my head actually lies. I know, that sounds pretty complicated, but at least it's consistent with the rest of my life (complicated that is...). Anyway, it's the pillow that my head rests on that probably needs to be replaced.

In other news, I finally got the cable fully functioning for my new flat screen TV. I had it hooked up a few days ago, but the lower channels were very snowy, so I ripped out all of the old cable in the basement and replaced it with new cable. I think the problem with the old cable may have been interference from electrical wires or maybe even too much cable rolled up in a ball. Regardless, I measured the amount I needed, bought a run that was pretty close in length to what I needed. ripped out the old one cable, and re-ran the new cable using non-conducting plastic clips to keep it away from electrical wires, etc. The final product is a really good picture, even for 720p resolution. I still want to watch a DVD with a lot of visuals to get the whole effect.

What's next? Well I have to get my XBox 360 replaced, which I'll probably due this weekend. From there maybe I'll think about upgrading the sound for the TV, as I think it sounds a bit thin. I'm not a complete audio-head, but I do appreciate good sound. Maybe I can run audio through my Tivoli Audio radio (I highly recommend Tivoli Audio...my little desktop box sounds great)

On the work front, I find myself having a mildly difficult time adjusting to a schedule that isn't psychotically bad. Over the past year, as I've noted on numerous occasions, I've been involved with a project that really sucked everything I had out of me. I've since moved on (well actually I'm still involved, but now more from a consultative role), but instead of being booked all day every day with meetings I actually have time to read my emails, write and plan. I know, difficult concept to grasp. As Katrina would say, "le sigh".

Speaking of Katrina, she is ending her stint in Cleveland helping the under-privileged over Spring Break. I am very proud of her for doing this.

Wait, I am changing gears here so many times that this probably should be a "Road Apples" post. Oh well. My blog, therefore I can make up the rules as I go along, right? Hell, this might be the only place where I have that measure of control in my life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We Are Now Officially Victims of Our Own Success

Yes, I think we Americans are, in fact, victims of our own success.

We believed that everyone should be able to live in a beautiful, brand-spank'n new McMansion that they probably couldn't afford. Guess what? Many of those folks really couldn't afford the McMansion, or are one work injury away from being kicked out onto the curb. Now we have the entire world economy on it's head because, at least part, we somehow believed that there is a McMansion entitlement.

We believed that every guy, no matter how sick, decrepit or aged, should be able to have sex whenever they want. So what did we do? We put the weight of our medical science on the problem and presto, you have "stiffy pills". Yes, we have babies that are dying of AIDS and there is no cure for diabetes, but my God, 75 year old men can in fact now have sex.

We believe that there is a magic pill to cure everything (even over and above decrepit old men having sex). In fact, I think we've taken it so far that we now have pills just in case you feel sad. Now I know, more so than most people, that there are real medical causes behind things like depression. However, I've seen first hand in my family how easy it is for pharmacology to take the place real introspection and personal change. Why face your inner demons when you can simply have a pill that makes you not want to face your inner demons?

We believe that drinking is bad, that drunk-drivers kill people and that alcoholism is a disease that is "bad". Same thing with tobacco products. We also spend millions the encourage young people not to use to use those perfectly legal products, while simultaneously both the alcohol and tobacco industries spend millions in advertising to encourage people to use those same products.

We believe that we should support families who are working poor with things like food stamps, because said families don't have enough money to buy food on their own. However we don't seem to mind that they have money for things like beer and smokes. No, for some reason it's okay to spend $5 on a pack of Newports and then claim that you don't have $5 for 2lbs of hamburger. Anyone else see the irony in someone buying food in a Convenient store (where prices are way too high by the way), using food stamps, while they talk on their cell phone?

We believe that (per a recently announced presidential initiative) everyone everywhere should have access to broadband Internet service. Maybe it's me, but I live in a more metropolitan area precisely because want access to services...services like DSL. I agree that having a phone and electricity is a necessity and that the government should facilitate that kind of infrastructure. I don't believe that there is an entitlement for streaming video for the residents of Pig's Knuckle Cover, Arkansas.

We believe that if we are wronged in some way, we have the right to get rich as a result. Get whacked by another car? Sue'm. Spill hot coffee on yourself as you attempt to drive and talk on the cell phone? Sue'm. God forbid have a spouse that is killed by a truck on the highway? For your grief you should be awarded a large sum of money in the form of an annual annuity. Money can't bring your spouse back, but damn, that Porsche will sure help in the grieving process.

We believe that obesity causes all manner of health problems, including high blood pressure. So what do we do? We create pills to combat the problem...of high blood pressure. Never mind that for some folks, this wouldn't be a problem if they didn't over-eat.

We believe that we should feel bad about starving children in Africa, as we throw away the left-overs from dinner because our children "don't like" left-overs.

We believe firmly in the separation of church and state, but we prefer that our politicians don't actually say that they believe in the separation of church and state. In fact, we have some religious leaders (such as Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino) that in fact insist that politicians vote FIRST as members of their faith and then SECOND as representatives of the majority will of the people.

We believe that it's perfectly okay for a baseball player to make millions of dollars per year doing something that 12 year old boys do in sand lots while ER nurses make barely enough to live a middle class life as they save human lives.

We believe that it's perfectly okay to celebrate the success of things like college sports programs (UConn comes to mind...) while turning a blind eye to the graduation rates for student athletes. Now this isn't true for all sports and all schools...for example Notre Dame has traditionally had very high graduation rates...but in many instances...particularly in basketball...we seem to forget that it's "Student Athlete" not "Athlete-Student".

We believe that winning isn't everything, but we want you to win anyway. Cut corners, as long as it's done in a manner that isn't easily noticeable. This happens in virtually every aspect of American society...from college sports (Florida is famous for it's college "jock factories") to business (AIG...Enron...etc.).

We believe that violence is bad and so is the objectification of women, but yet we celebrate during music awards ceremonies those "artists" that promote nothing more than glorified advertisements for "gang-banging".

We believe that women are more than sex objects...but then Madonna performs on TV or we see the latest spew from the likes of Britney Spears.

We believe that saving and thrift are virtues to be encouraged, but yet we tax the results of saving and thrift. What do we the opposites of saving and thrift...borrowing and spending? We often times offer tax breaks for them.


We've become a society were somehow logic, proportion and reasoning fall to the way-side as we strive to make everyone "happy", as if "happy" is some kind of chemical that, if sprayed per manufacturers directions, will have the desired outcome. Now I'm not suggesting that everything these days is messed up and that we need to return to a more virtuous past (because the past wasn't more virtuous), but I am saying that we really do have our priorities severely mis-aligned.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Road Apples, #18

It's Cold Outside...In fact it was about 8 degrees out there when I got up this morning. I thought this was supposed to be March? I want a thaw, and I want it now! It's so depressing that I didn't even bother to shovel the sidewalks yesterday. Damn, I should probably do that this morning.

There's A Cold Inside...Both of my daughters at home have colds now, with my middle daughter being very sick over the past week. Fortunately for me, I've not suffered much, at all, from anything like that. Now I do sneeze a lot normally, but I think that's from the cloud of cat hair that permeates the atmosphere of my home.

Liberation...Today at noon marks the "official" end of my engagement in a project at work that has sucked up the better part of a year. The toll? About 20 lbs in additional weight, countless weekends spent working, 13 lost vacation days and about 5 years in aging. Those aren't even the worst things though; for me, the worst part was the fact that I put a lot of effort into something that, at it's core, simply isn't a very good product. Good effort chasing bad is never a positive thing.

A/V News...I am slowly getting things together with my new TV. I hooked up the VCR (yet to be tested) and both XBoxes (regular & 360) yesterday. My regular XBox works great...the test pictures were spectacular. My XBox 360 is on the fritz and I need to bring it back for servicing anyway. Next up: connecting the cable. With a bit of luck I'll have that completed this evening. Can you say "Battlestar Gallactica in HD"?

Why Can't...I get the song "Like A Virgin" by Madonna out of my head? Is this some form of beamed-into my skull torture perpetuated by an evil alien race?Maybe if I keep singing the song "Mr Bad Example" by Warren Zevon that will somehow displace the evil Madonna stuff.

Incompetence...I have been trying to buy Long Term Care insurance from my employer, but they keep asking me for additional information, I keep sending it in, and they promptly send me letters saying that I didn't send anything in. The latest incarnation? I faxed stuff in about two weeks ago, and yes, yesterday I got a letter saying that they had not received anything. I need to think "calming thoughts".

Car News...I need to get the Cruiser inspected, but first I need my windshield repaired. What's stopping me? I have yet to check my policy to see if I have glass coverage. I need to do that today so that I can get the windshield replaced maybe this weekend. Sloth sucks.

Okay, I need to get my butt in gear and head off to work. It will be a looonnnngggg day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Political Leanings

When asked to describe my political leanings, I usually say "Fiscal Conservative, Social Liberal". So what does that really mean?

Fiscal Conservative
For me, this means that I believe...
  • As a former President once said, "Government is too big and spends too much money". Not all government spending is bad, but the government does get involved in things that it shouldn't. For example, the entire system of farming price supports seems way out of whack.
  • The tax system is far too complicated. Think about it: the tax code is written by lawyers (most members of Congress are current/former lawyers) and is so complicated that it can only be interpreted by...you guessed it...lawyers.
  • The tax system acts as an incentive against investment and savings, and in fact encourages irresponsible behavior by allowing a tax deduction for borrowing (interest credit for home equity loans) but not for savings (which are taxed).
  • The tax system taxes the wrong thing: income. I am a strong believer in consumption based taxes as a replacement for taxing income. Think about it...such as system would be progressive (rich folks spend more...so they would be taxed more; the opposite would be true for poorer folks) and would encourage more reasonable consumption.
  • Governments should be prohibited from operating in a deficit. None of us could run perpetual deficits in our home budgets, so why should the government?

Social Liberal
For me, this means that I believe...
  • The government is the only entity with the reach to ensure that everyone can "pursue life, liberty and happiness", so it should play a role in prohibiting discrimination.
  • People don't decide to be "gay" any more than they "decide" to be black, Hispanic, white, etc., so why do we not allow gay folks to marry? I'm not talking about requiring any religion to recognize a gay marriage, but the government, for purposes of property rights, should.
  • The government is the only entity with the reach to ensure that greed doesn't result in our environment being poisoned in the name of greed. Don't "believe" in Global Warming? Okay...fine with me...but do you believe that pouring crap into the air is actually GOOD for any of us? Probably not.
  • There are some things that free markets do not do well, namely those where the profit incentive actually makes things worse. No where is this more true than in health care. In our current health care system, everyone in the supply chain is clamouring to make a double digit return, from doctors, to drug makers, to insurance carriers. And people wonder why the cost of heath care increases so much? It's very reasonable for the government to take some of the profit motive out of the current system...some, but not all.

I'd like to think that, all things considered, I have a simple, live and let live attitude about things.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Response to Comment, Howard Stern

I received this comment a week or so ago, but I didn't respond at the time...so I hope the original commentator doesn't mind if I respond now.

thecraptacular said...I think is that Howard Stern is misrepresented in Media, and whoever does not listen on the everyday basis gets a preconceived notion of him that he is some sort of 'bad boy' that needs to be taken off the air. it gets difficult, as a fan, to hear these misrepresentations on the everyday basis.
February 21, 2009 12:43 PM

First, thanks for the comment.

Second, I agree with what you wrote.

Third, along the same lines as the comment above, what's amazing is that so many people seem to believe that, for example, Howard Stern's audience consists of longshoremen, guys sitting in garbage trucks or 18 year old males skipping high school classes. For example, two of the truly smartest people I've met...my old boss Bob and a former co-worker Shannon are big Howard Stern fans. Both are very professional...successful...white collar...and not what some would "expect" to be a Stern fan. Hell, I'm not what you would expect a Stern fan to be.

Now are there things on the Howard Stern show that I don't like? Sure, (such as when Stern starts talking about how model wife...honestly, that's tough to relate to or care about) but when that happens I have this incredibly complex tool that I use to remedy the situation: I change the channel. People who don't listen to the show have no clue as to how varied the show can be...there is always something different going on...which is why I can have parts of the show that I don't like but still enjoy it overall.