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

Monday, June 29, 2009

Learning to Flinch

The title, above, is from a Warren Zevon and has absolutely nothing to do with anything I plan on writing - I just think it sounds "cool". It's an interesting take-off on the more deeply meaning concept of "Learning to Fly", which if you want something of a heady song with that title, listen to the Pink Floyd number (which happens to be a favorite of mine; I think it's from the album "A Momentary Lapse of Reason").

Anyway, I'm looking down at another week following a weekend that was pretty busy. On top of my list annoyances is the fact that my back has been bothering me, at times pretty badly. Years ago I had some pack pain that was eventually cured by a Chiropractor. I tried to get an appointment with this same Chiropractor, but that wasn't in the cards, so it's off to a new one for me at 11am. Let's hope that, between what he can do and my own common sense, I can get to the point where standing straight up is an option again.

Speaking of common sense, my eating habits have none. I'm going to start this week reigning that back in. My weight has soared over the past year or so, and while there have been a lot of excuses (extreme stress at work, etc,), in the end I am the one who is accountable for what I put into my body. It's about time that I grew the hell up and started eating like an adult. Growing old, as they say, sucks.

On that happy note, it's time to start the week.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Getting It Wrong

I know, I promised that I would only have one Michael Jackson comment, and I've tried keep to that, I swear. But I do hope that some of the news outlets decide to get this story RIGHT.

What do I mean by RIGHT?

Well first, certainly do talk about Jackson's life, etc. The fact is that he has been influential in popular culture over the past thirty or so years. There are things to celebrate here, even if you are like me and don't particularly care for his style of music (the last MJ song I liked was "Ben", the one about the killer rat).

Second, do talk about how this man died. Americans LOVE to rubber neck whenever we see an accident, we always look at road kill, we are entertained whenever someone seemingly important drops so mightily.

Finally though, to get this RIGHT, we need to take a serious look at the uniquely American Culture that creates this freak-show. Some of the elements of this culture include -
  • Worship of the Celebrity - Forget doctors and nurses that save people's lives, many Americans instead worship some young man or woman who can sing (or rap). Clearly, we have our priorities majorly messed up. Some actually believe that a celebrity is somehow worthy of more...whatever more is (be it money, adulation, etc.)...than those of us who live common lives. They aren't. The true worth of a person far too complex to be measured by a media popularity contest under the guise of "celebrity".
  • Worship of the Dollar - Michael Jackson, more so than most, personified the notion that having money is this kind of "game". Clearly, he was incredibly disconnected between the effort required to earn money, and the effort required to spend money. Apparently while he was not working all these years and instead being sued by the families of little boys, he was still living like a prince. His attitude about money is almost akin to that of what you see in a teenage girl who does not work: they just expect to have it.
  • Worship of Self - Michael Jackson, apparently, was obsessed with altering his appearance to look less African-American and look more like, well, something else. Look, I write this as an overweight, tall, gawky middle-aged white guy with a bad back, a receding hairline, eyes that are always flying off in different directions and a nose that is both too large and which is slightly bent to the left. In other words, I know about physical imperfection. Yet I've managed to survive all these years with the knowledge that "hey, I may not look like George Clooney, but I can tolerate what I see in the mirror"). Michael Jackson, a guy who wrote a song called "Man In The Mirror" apparently could not stand what he saw in the mirror. His apparent disgust for what he saw, and then his unmitigated worship of self took him to physical-altering places that created something of a monster at the end.
Yes, Michael Jackson has taught us an invaluable lesson: talent, fame & wealth don't equal happiness; in fact, when it came to Michael Jackson, those things just magnified problems he probably had for a long time.

Here's to celebrating all of us who are imperfect but yet still manage to live our lives, smile every once in a while, sing a song or two and try to do the right thing. We may not be a "celebrity" like Michael Jackson, but I can virtually guarantee that, for the most part, we will be happier.

I'll end this with the lyrics to a song that I think clearly GETS IT.


ROCKSTAR (by Nickleback)

I'm through with standing in line
to the clubs I'll never get in
It's like the bottom of the ninth
and I'm never gonna win
This life hasn't turned out
quite the way I want it to be

(tell me what you want)

I want a brand new house
on an episode of Cribs
And a bathroom I can play baseball in
And a king size tub big enough
for ten plus me

(yeah, so what you need)

I'll need a, a credit card that's got no limit
And a big black jet with a bedroom in it
Gonna join the mile high club
At thirty-seven thousand feet

(Been there done that)

I want a new tour bus full of old guitars
My own star on Hollywood Boulevard
Somewhere between cher and
James Dean is fine for me

(So how you gonna do it?)

I'm gonna trade this life for fortune and fame
I'd even cut my hair and change my name

[CHORUS]
'Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
Livin' in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
with her bleach blonde hair
and well..
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar

I wanna be great like Elvis without the tassels
Hire eight body guards that love to beat up assholes
Sign a couple autographs
So I can eat my meals for free

(I'll have the quesadilla... ha ha)

I'm gonna dress my ass
with the latest fashion
Get a front door key to the Playboy mansion
Gonna date a centerfold that loves to
blow my money for me

(So how you gonna do it?)

I'm gonna trade this life
For fortune and fame
I'd even cut my hair
And change my name

'Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
Livin' in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
with her bleach blonde hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary
in today's who's who
We'll get you anything
with that evil smile
Everybody's got a
drug dealer on speed dial
well..
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar

I'm gonna sing those songs
that offend the censors
Gonna pop my pills
from a Pez dispenser
Get washed-up singers writing all my songs
Lip sync 'em every night so I don't get 'em wrong

Well we all just wanna be big rockstars
Livin' in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
with her bleach blonde hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary
in today's who's who
We'll get you anything
with that evil smile
Everybody's got a
drug dealer on speed dial well..
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Only Michael Jackson Comment...

...I don't know what's more tragic: the life of Michael Jackson, the death of Michael Jackson, or the cadre of assorted freak, loons and weirdos that are now being interviewed about Michael Jackson on cable news 24/7.

Rest...finally...in Peace Mr Jackson.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Interesting Comments, Scranton Times Article

There was a none-too-Earth-shattering article recently in the Scranton Times that had to do with an extra collection being taken at area Catholic Churches to support the costs of healthcare, etc. for Diocese religious. Story Link Here. While the article was almost mundane, the comments it generated were, as usual, very interesting. Since the topic really isn't all that interesting/controversial, etc. I didn't comment, until now. Why? Well a response from Father David Bechtel caught my eye.

Here is the post that caught my eye...

Proud Catholic:

Another cryptic response which I am expected to magically uncode. Why did the Vatincan Newspaper release a statement praising Hussein Obama? What was the statement? Unless you are going to try to tell me the pope praised his pro-abortion stance I don't see why even Hussein can't be praised from time to time if he does something right. So I need more information.

Father Dave Bechtel, 06/24/09 - 2:25PM


To save space I didn't post the comment from "Proud Catholic", but that's okay, as it was pretty hard to follow anyway. Regardless, here is my response...

"Hussein Obama"
I'm assuming the reference by Father Bechtel to "Hussein Obama" was a paraphrase from the Vatican newspaper in question, as I'd be disappointed if he (Father Bechtel) were to engage in what I think is a none-too-respectful way of referring to the President of the United States. I note this because while I've written some highly critical things about Bishop Martino and disagreed with Father Bechtel's defense of this actions, I (a lowly lay quasi-Catholic) would & have never referred to Father Bechtel as anything other than his professional title..."Father Bechtel"; the same is true for Bishop Martino (although I will refer to him as "Joseph Martino" on rare occasion if I want to contrast his religious vs his his secular actions).

To the issue at hand: All I can say is "yawn". Raising this extra money has nothing to do with anything other than the economics of running a large organization in this day and age, period. Anyone who stridently believes that this has something to do with some massive scandal can save the mental energy and instead simply chose to not contribute. For every non-compassionate, ineffective priest I've met one who is just the opposite who deserves this kind of support.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Swallowing My Pride...

...I've come to the conclusion that, at least at work, I've had to swallow what little pride I have left that so often I've actually grown accustomed to the taste.

The Union "Flip" Side

I've often written here in defense of the right that I think Catholic school teachers have to form an (independent) union, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm an absolute fan of labor unions.

Case in point: This Article.

The article manages to point out a perfect storm of inept, bureaucratic government combined with a Draconian "the teachers job is more important than everything else" union mentality.

It doesn't have to happen this way. In other parts of the working world employers manage to create processes that efficiently deal with allegations of employee misconduct without paying the accused to sit around and do nothing (or even worse, sneak off to a bar and get snookered).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Road Apples, #33

This Week I am under a lot of pressure to get most of the development work done on training for a new application installation happening in July. It's "do-able", but it will require some extra hours of my part. Nothing I am looking forward do, but these days I suppose we should all be thankful for what we have, especially when it comes to employment.

Thankful - Which brings me to the next point. Are difficult economic times justification for putting a desire to do better on hold? I'm sure that in the minds of some employers this is perfect cover for the "shut up and be glad you have a job" mentality. Well I think that kind of persona probably uses that line all the time, but it's just that in times such these, the threat actually has some teeth to it.

Also This Week marks the start of the summer schedule for me, meaning that I go into work earlier because I don't have to take children to or from school. That's a double-edged sword, as I end up working even harder for nothing more. Wait, I'm sensing a theme here in the works. Perhaps this shouldn't have been a "Road Apples" after all.

In PC News - Norton has given up on removing the W32 Trojan from my computer, as it apparently has wrapped itself up so far into my operating system that it's not repairable by them or any other mortals. Yes, they have suggested I contact Microsoft for a solution. In the interim, I'm going to have to stop using Google, which is now basically useless anyway, as the Trojan simply re-directs my search results into other things anyway. However the new Microsoft search engine, Bing, is not impacted by the worm at all, so I've been using that for the past two days. It's a great tool actually.

On The Dental Front - This Thursday I get the metal screw put into my head as part of the implant process. I can't say that I'm actually looking forward to it, although it will be nice to have it behind me. I am told that this part isn't too difficult. We shall see.

Side Note To Myself - As I get older and the parts start to not work so well, I have to remember that none of that is an excuse to be mean, nasty, negative, surly or otherwise difficult to be around. Life is far too short for that kind of thing. It's a shame that some folks just are not capable of understanding that, at any level. As has been the case for me on many occasions, I've been blessed with many examples in my life of what not to be. It's ironic that when I was growing up, I always was so envious of these "perfect" families that I saw on TV, thinking that my life was crap because I could never exist in that realm. What I've come to realize is that having everything doesn't guarantee perfect happiness. Granted I wouldn't mind some of that good stuff coming my way sometimes even today, but still, I am grateful for the lessons that I've been able to learn in life.

In The News - It looks like protests continue in Iran, North Korea is still threatening war (Wait, is that really news? After all, they have been threatening war almost non-stop for as long as I can remember...), and President Obama is having a difficult health care reform sell. Ah, to live in the modern age. Regarding Iran, I think those folks have all the guts in the world for standing up the way they do; here's to hoping that they remain in solidarity and eventually force the change that everyone except the religious leaders in Iran seem to want. On health care, well that's a different topic for a different post, but I will say this: Health care is already rationed in this country, so I'm not sure how much worse anyone could possible make it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On Father's Day

David Gates, the chief songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from the 70's soft-rock group Bread wrote the song "Everything I Own" about his father. The song itself has been covered by many others, including Boy George, and, as I understand it, a Jamaican musician. I think the song's lyrics are as fitting a tribute as can possibly exist on a Father's Day.

EVERYTHING I OWN
You sheltered me from harm
Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, set me free
The finest years I ever knew
Were all the years I had with you
And...

(Chorus:)
I would give anything I own
Give up my life, my heart, my home
I would give ev'rything I own
Just to have you back again

You taught me how to love
What it's of, what it's of
You never said too much
But still you showed the way
And I knew from watching you
Nobody else could ever know
The part of me that can't let go
And...

(Repeat chorus)

(Bridge:)
Is there someone you know
You're loving them so
But taking them all for granted?
You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away
And they don't hear
The words you long to say

(Repeat chorus)

Just to touch you once again


I've always found this song very touching, not because it reminded me of my father, but because it reminds me of the father I try to be to my daughters. I probably fail more than I succeed, but in life I've always believed that it's the effort that counts more than sometimes the result. Even more importantly, I always keep on trying.

As for my own father, growing up he was never there, physically or otherwise. At the time that always made me very angry. Now I've come to realize that he was trapped in a viscous cycle of mental health ills, promoted by a series of bad decisions, including too much medication, too much alcohol, too much denial and a sea of guilt. If for no other reasons than those I don't drink, only take medication when absolutely necessary, and I do my best to stay mentally fit. I also now make the choice to believe that in his own mind he always wanted to do the right thing, even if he was never really able to actually do so.

Happy Father's Day in Heaven Dad.



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sick Computer

Alas, my laptop is infected with a Trojan Horse, and despite the hours of work by the folks at Norton in India, it is still sick. I'm going to see if a Vista reinstall helps things. Could be an interesting evening to say the least.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Excellent Covers

A lot of deep-thought posts this week, so I think it's time for something a tad bit, shall we say, "lighter". That noted, here are my favorite cover versions - i.e., famous songs covered by a different artist. The list isn't in any particular order.

Song Title:
Raspberry Beret
Originally By:
Prince
Excellent Cover By:
The Hindu Love Gods - The Hindu Love Gods were basically 3/4ths of REM (sans Michael Stipe) plus Warren Zevon. It's the same song but with a heck of an edge and some cheeky singing by Zevon.

Song Title:
My Sweet Lord
Originally By:
George Harrison
Excellent Cover By:
Billy Preston, Eric Clapton & Others - If you are a Beatles and/or George Harrison fan and you don't own The Concert for George, then get off your butt and immediately buy it. It is, by my reckoning, the best tribute show ever. Preston is simply moving on this version.

Song Title:
Across the Universe
Originally By:
The Beatles/John Lennon
Excellent Cover By:
Rufus Wainright - Hear it for yourself here. Just a great a performance, sung enough like Lennon to make it familiar but different enough to keep you interested. I once saw Wainright and Sean Lennon perform this during a John Lennon tribute show.

Song Title:
Without You
Originally By:
Badfinger
Excellent Cover By:
Harry Nilsson - This is an example of the cover being markedly better than the original, and I'm something of a Badfinger fan to boot. Nilsson's singing on this song is a "one in a million" kind of effort; there probably aren't any artists in popular music today that could pull this off the way Harry did all those years ago.

Song Title:
To Sir With Love
Originally By:
Lulu (written by Don Black & Mark London)
Excellent Cover By:
10,000 Maniacs + Michael Stipe - This was performed, I think, for the first Bill Clinton Inauguration ball in 1993. Natalie Merchant has an outstanding voice.

Song Title:
Let's Stick Together
Originally By:
Wilbert Harrison
Excellent Cover By:
Bryan Ferry - Harrison is famous for the song "Kansas City", although Let's Stick Together was released as a single on or about 1962. The Ferry version of this song is very cheeky, but very, very catchy.


And a few covers that I can't stand...

Aerosmith performing "Come Together" (Beatles)
This was done for the horrible Sgt Pepper's movie staring the Bee Gees. The original has this kind of "industrial" edge to it that makes it so different; the cover is just Steven Tyler doing his act. Nothing special.

Earth, Wind & Fire performing "Got To Get You Into My Life" (Beatles)
I love the horn arrangement on this cover (far better than the Beatles version), but the overall performance just doesn't cut it for me. McCartney's original singing, which I think is his take on Motown, almost seems more "soulfull" (all be it over the top) than the E,W&F version.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Response to Father Bechtel

PREFACE
This is difficult to write. Why? Well I'm still not sure. Yes, I was raised a "good Catholic", and as such was told to not question Church authority, especially as personified by a Priest or a Bishop. On the other hand, I was educated to ask questions. At a basic level that education came from my mother, who made it clear that education was an essential part of life. On another level, that education came from the Church itself, starting with CCD and continuing through the Catholic secondary education I received at Bishop Hannan High School. What remains is an almost perfect dichotomy: A Church that values learning & education on one hand, but yet (increasingly so) also demands blind obedience on the other. It's on this note that I've found myself lately increasingly at odds with the current Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, who seems more intent on preaching obedience than anything else. While I suppose that on some level I understand the need for a Gospel of Obedience when it comes to religious matters, it's nearly impossible for me to understand that same need for obedience when it comes to temporal matters. It's on that note that I find myself discussing the issue of Catholic teacher unionization with Father Bechtel.

NOTE
I am not a fan of labor unions. In fact, I am not a member of one, have never been a member of one, and in all likelihood will never be a member of one. As a manager at my employer, I believe that unionization is often times the by-product of poor leadership.

The above noted, I am not pretending to speak for Catholic teachers in general or specific to the Diocese of Scranton. Anyone wanting a credible perspective of this issue from a point of view opposite to that of Father Bechtel or Bishop Martino should visit the SDACT website.

Methodology - I am not going to engage Father Bechtel in a "point-counter point" discussion on this issue. That would be foolish, as I am hopelessly out-gunned. Why?
  • As noted above, I am not a fan of unions, therefore I'm ill equipped to cite labor law and the like in a way that would bolster my argument.
  • We are talking about a matter of the Catholic Church, and I am discussing this with a Priest. Do the math. This would be akin to Father Bechtel arguing the merits of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) with me...as a "pension guy" by trade, I'm pretty well equipped to handle that discussion, and I highly doubt that Father Bechtel studied pension law at Saint Pius
So what I am I left with? Let's just say an open mind, and a very Catholic sense for justice, as learned from the good Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who I'd like to think taught me well in both CCD and high school.

...and now the response


BACKGROUND
Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino unilaterally decided that Catholic lay teachers in the Diocese of Scranton could no longer be represented by the union the teachers themselves ratified and which had been recognized the by the prior Bishop of the Diocese. This decision on the Bishop's part was made after he had given indications that the Diocese would, in fact, recognize the union. For a far more detailed explanation of this history, refer to the SDACT site.

Key Point 1 - Bishop Martino made the decision to de-recognize a union that was selected by a majority of impacted teachers and which was previously recognized by another Bishop.


THE CENTRAL ISSUE
The above noted, and with a nod to respectful disagreement to Father Bechtel, the central issue here is this: Was the action taken by Bishop Martino RIGHT? Now Father Bechtel went to great pains in this posting to talk about the need for a Bishop to be the only authority in a diocese, which I actually agree with, in so much as the authority being exercised is truly dogmatic in nature.

Religious vs Temporal Authority - As I see it, a religious leader, be it the Roman Catholic Pope or the Dali Lama can rightfully claim authority over the dogma to which they are attached. In fact, Catholic teaching, at least as far as I understand this, actually codifies the concept in 'ex cathedra' whereby the Pontiff is considered to be infallible in matters of faith. Note that this concept does not apply to the Pontiff, or any Bishop for that matter, when it comes to temporal matters.

Okay, so what does 'ex cathrdra' have to do with any of this? Simple: The Bishop of Scranton can be wrong in temporal matters, and it is perfectly acceptable for a Catholic to say so. Now I've read many defenders of the Bishop's actions cite the need to be "faithful and obedient to the Bishop", but the truth is this: Father Bechtel is required, via an oath he took, to be obedient to his Bishop. Lay Catholics are not required to take such an oath.

In his capacity of running institutions like schools, I would argue that Bishop Martino has a position not unlike that of any temporal executive. Father Bechtel points out that there can only be one authority in a Diocese, but yet can't that same argument about singular authority be made by the CEO of a business? In fact hasn't this argument been used in the past as justification for union opposition in the private sector? Northeastern Pennsylvania history is full of examples where companies vigorously opposed unionization based on a similar argument.

Key Point 2 - There is nothing in Catholic teaching that tells us that Bishop Martino is incapable of making a mistake. In fact, he is just as fallible as a corporate executive.


CATHOLIC TEACHING: LABOR UNIONS
In 1891, Pope Leo XIII set the stage for what would be the firm stance of the Catholic Church with regards to the rights of workers in his teaching Rerum Novarum. In fact, Pope Leo XIII actually seems to encourage labor unions by stating...

"...to enter into a ‘society' [union] of this kind is the natural right of man.."

...which seems pretty clear to me.

An even more direct reference to the right to unionize was stated by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1986 (Pastoral Letter On Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy):

"The Church fully supports the right of workers to form
unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair
wages and working conditions. This is a specific application
of the more general right to associate."

No where in this Pastoral Letter can I find an "except for the Church itself" clause.

I could continue, but I would not do justice to Catholic teaching. Instead, I refer anyone interested in this topic to find the letter written by the Reverend Patrick J. Sullivan that was reported in the February 27, 2008 edition of the Scranton Times. In addition to being a Priest, Father Sullivan is also a recognized expert at labor relations.

Key Point 3 - The Catholic Church universally has advocated for the rights of workers to organize and form independent unions.


ADDING THE POINTS TOGETHER
  • Bishops can make mistakes just like anyone else
  • The Catholic Church has a history of teaching that workers have the right form independent unions, teachings that come from the Holy See as well as from the ranks of Bishops themselves
  • Bishop Martino decided that Catholic teaching on worker rights no longer applies in his Diocese
Call me naive, call me simple-minded, call me uneducated in the ways of Church teaching, but it seems to me that Bishop Martino has made a mistake here by selectively deciding which teachings he will choose to abide by in his Diocese. This issue can be clouded by comparisons to coal mines and the like, but in the end the beauty of Catholic teaching on this issue lies in its simplicity: workers have a right to unionize, period.

Speaking of coal mines, the Bishop has argued that working in a Catholic school is far different than working in, say, a coal mine. That is physically true, but the teachers in question didn't unionized in order to protect themselves from Black Lung. Rather, it's my belief that teacher unionization grew from a lack of respect paid to teachers as workers within the Diocese. That lack of respect can be compared to the actions of the old NEPA Coal Barons. See my comments above: organizations "get" unions as a reward for not respecting workers; unions seldom if ever come into existence in environments where workers feel respected. Bottom line: the SDACT (and its predecessors, such as HKAPL) did not come into existence out of thin air.


TWO FINAL COMMENTS

The Employee Relations Program
- The "form of a union" referenced by Father Bechtel in his final paragraph can not actually be a replacement for a union simply because its terms of existence are dictated solely by the Diocese (which is the same as Bishop Martino). In a union, both sides have the ability to negotiate. In the employee relations program, the Diocese decides what can be negotiated.

Economics - Catholic teachers have never, nor will they ever reach parody with their public school counterparts. This fact has been readily acknowledged by members of SDACT. The argument that Catholic teacher unionization is simply a means to gain this kind of parody is the very definition of a "red herring". I heartily believe that economics were never the driver of unionization in the Diocese; rather, that driver seems to have been one of gaining some sense of respect from a management structure that inherently believes that it is entitled unquestioned obedience.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Catholic Education & Teacher Unionization: Commentary from Father David Bechtel

PREFACE
I occasionally will write comments to articles that appear in The Scranton Time on-line edition, most especially when the articles deal with the subjects of Catholic education/schools, Catholic school teacher unions, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton (Joseph Martino). Often Father David Bechtel will respond to my comments (and the comments of others) with differing opinions. Whether or I agree with Father Bechtel or not, I do admire the fact that he is making the effort to engage those of us with differing opinions. After my last round of comments with Father Bechtel, he asked if I would be willing to post some thoughts of his on the subject of teachers in Catholic school teachers belonging to a labor union. I responded that I am more than than happy to do so, although I can't guarantee that anyone other than the two of us will actually read them. To that end, I've posted his commentary on Catholic Teacher unionization exactly has he as written it, without any edits or comments from me. I will respond with thoughts of my own on this commentary within a day or so.

If reading this moves to you respond, please feel free to do so in the form of a posting comment. All I ask is that we be civil and respectful.


NOTE
Father Bechtel is not speaking for the Diocese or for the Bishop, but only for himself as an individual educated priest. While Father Bechtel takes full responsibility for for what he writes here, he asked that I make it clear he is not speaking in an official capacity for the Diocese or the Bishop.

COMMENTARY FROM FATHER DAVID BECHTEL
Let me begin by stating what I am NOT going to argue. I am not going to argue that a Union would cause the system to fall apart. I do personally believe that given that our system is ready to collapse now as it is, but I will not argue it. The reply would be "But this has been tried in other states and it worked, etc." I am NOT going to argue that a union interferes with Church and State. Though I believe it does, once again, the reply will be "But in other states they have not experienced that problem, and it works." I am NOT going to argue that such a union would cause tuition to rise exponentially. Though I believe it WOULD, the reply would be "But we teachers aren't stupid enough to negotiate ourselves out of a job. Besides for 30 years we had a union and it worked." I disagree that the union worked for 30 years anyway. Such a statement ignores the fact that even if it DID NOT work, Bishop Timlin was extremely hesitant to shut down schools, even though the parishes were going bankrupt funding them. Bishop Timlin's mindset seemed to be "Things will turn around.." Then Bishop Hoban School (now Holy Redeemer) was thought to be the crown jewel in the whole system, but the Mitler Report revealed things previously not realized. Things were not as rosy as Mr. Miltz would have us believe.

Now that I have listed what I am NOT going to argue, I will list the thesis that I seek to prove: "Unions (in the Mike Miltz sense of the term) are a positive force within their proper place: Secular Society. Within the Church, they are out of place. They can even cause disruption to the Church's mission, because of the nature of the Church." The analogy I will give utilizes the human body. There are certain Bacteria that are essential to digestion. Without them we could not live. However when these Bacteria are not in their proper place they will disrupt the bodies workings and can even lead to it's death. When they are in their proper place, the body is healthy and functions quite well.

The Church is the Body of Christ, the called out. The Church recognizes one head and one head only: Jesus Christ. The pope and bishops in union with the pope comprise the visible expression of Christ's invisible headship. As such each bishop within his diocese is the only authority in that Diocese. There can only be one head, not many. He exercises Headship over the people (including priests) entrusted to his care. (Do not confuse the concept of "Headship" with "Lordship" as many will tend to do) Coincidentally this is also why Bishop Martino could rightly state that "The USCCB is irrelevant in this diocese, I am the only authority..."

A union would disrupt the bishop's authority in his diocese, for it would set up a competing authority which could at times work AGAINST the bishop, AGAINST his Headship, and AGAINST he mission of the Church which the schools and those who work in them are meant to SERVE. I realize Mr. Miltz gives us his absolute assurance that no such thing would happen, but even granting that, the possibility is always present that such would happen.

Secondly yet as important: within the Body of Christ we do not deal with the concept of "work" as in secular society. There is a distinction to be made between "Career" and "Vocation." In secular society "work" is not a vocation, it is a career. It is something you do for financial gain, and advancement within the organization. This is a good thing. People should be ambitious, and they should strive to advance themselves. However within the Church there are different principles in play. Teaching is not a career in the Church, it is calling, it is a vocation. As a result, those who teach in a Catholic School first and foremost are evangelists, they are secondarily educators. They do receive pay for their work, and they should. Their motivation for working however, is not for payment, but rather to advance the mission of the Church, specifically as the bishop envisions it in his diocese.

It is not unlike the priesthood. Priesthood is a vocation, NOT a career. Priests are paid for their work, but their motivation for working is not the pay they receive, but the advancement of the Church's Mission specifically as the bishop envisions it in his diocese. How would Mr. Miltz feel if priests took the same tactic as he and demanded the bishop recognize a "union" of priests? How would Mr. Miltz feel if the priests went on strike, demanding better wages, benefits and pay?

Somehow I doubt he and his supporters would back such priests because they know such a thing is not proper to the vocation of priests. They would know that if priests wanted to advance themselves and have the opportunity for financial gain, priests would not be priests, they would find work in the secular world. They would be right of course. It is the same with all people who are called to work specifically in and for the Church. It is a vocation, not a career. As such, there would be no purpose of a union, for the union would advance such ideals foreign to the concept of vocation.

In short, I submit that unions are proper to those who want to have a CAREER, Careers are in the secular world. They are not proper to those who have a VOCATION, becasue a vocation is NOT a career, it is calling by God to serve in the Church in some capacity.

We must also note that the context in which many of the documents emerged from popes writing in support of labor unions were coal mines, long working hours, children making 3 cents an hour and so forth. We do not find ourselves in that context anymore. While I grant the teachers do not get comparable wages to the public schools, at the same time their jobs can hardly be compared to the days of coal mining. The bishop can hardly be compared to a coal mining boss. Is he forcing them to work long hours? Is he forcing them to work in dangerous conditions? Is he forcing their children to work? Is he paying them less then minimum wage? Can people really say that he just arbitrarily fires people? He just wakes up one day, throws a dart at a board with teachers names on them and wherever the dart lands, that person looses their job? Come on. Lets be realistic here.

In closing, the teachers do have a form of a union. I grant it is not the one Mr. Miltz would have, but where is it written that Mr. Miltz is the final arbiter of what is and is not an acceptable union? Secondly, Mr. Miltz does not even seem to want to give this form of a union a chance, nor do his supporters. Does he not understand that if the bishop does not take the current union seriously, he will loose credibility with the teachers, and could risk pushing them over to Miltz's side definitively? Just like the teachers aren't stupid, neither is the bishop. Most of the teachers are willing to give it a try, why isn't he?

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's The Little Annoyances In Life...

It's Monday morning at about 7:30am and it already feels like I've been up for a day. That's not a good sign.

Anyway, one of the first things I do every morning when I come down stairs is to turn on my laptop. Being a Windows (Vista in my case) user, I've built my schedule around the seemingly forever boot-up time that the operating system requires. That's annoying, but rumor has it that other operating systems (is it the pear? oh, apple...) just simply start when you turn them on. One of these days I'm going to have to explore that further. Once my Vaio gets going and I log into my account, I have Firefox use The Scranton Times as my homepage. That brings me to another point of annoyance: The homepage for The Scranton Times doesn't look like it's been updated at all since Sunday.

Wait, we are talking about a NEWS PAGE here on the Internet.

Few things bother me more in the "information age" than stale news. I loathe CNN.com precisely because the content is stale. I generally speaking think that FoxNews.com slants horribly to the religious right, but I still visit the page a few times a day precisely because they do frequent updates (although they fired outstanding columnist Roger Friedman in April...strike against them). I love MSNBC because they also update their content very frequently. I still even visit the Druge(Obama Evil)Report because Matt knows when to throw up a decent headline.

Come on Scranton Times, you can do better than this! I know that there is a lot of talk and thought going into how local media can actually make money with an Internet presence. I'm cool with that, even if it means charging for content. What I'm not cool with the same Dairy Farmer story being the headline now for over 24 hours. Charge me something to view your content, but for *gosh* sake please at least have something worth paying for up on the site.

Okay, I'm not sure if I feel better after that rant, but it is over with, I promise. Funny, but I often write these things as if I'm talking to someone else; in reality, I'm talking to myself. The fact that anyone else would even think to read this dribble is beyond me. Although I do probably update about as much as The Scranton Times does!

In other news, Father David Bechtel has written something for me to post here on Catholic teacher unionization. I'll have that up later today or tomorrow. Any delay is solely due to my wanting to noodle over how I want to respond. As I mentioned in a reply to him this morning, I'm leaning towards having his text posted and then putting up a separate reply the next day. I also need to come up with a suitable disclaimer of sorts, in that I'm in no way, shape or form even capable or qualified to speak for Catholic teachers.

On that note, it's time to go to work to probably be annoyed silly.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Placing Blame for Mental Illness, Scranton Style

"I am not going to place blame, what will that accomplish? However, I do have to wonder why the family did not take action?"

- Anonymous Internet message board poster, on the death of a Scranton resident who suffered from mental health problems


Okay, I've been fighting the urge to comment further on this, but lines are being crossed here that shouldn't be crossed.

Now (as I've mentioned before) I have members of my family who currently suffer from mental health problems, ranging from mild to almost debilitating depression. I mention this not for want of sympathy or anything of the sort, but rather to note that I've seem the family side of mental illness - similar to that of the family of the Scranton resident shot by the police - all be it without the tragic ending. Yes, I've even had experience in my family with a "302 call", and I'll say that the officer in question (a Scranton police officer) handled the situation with incredible tact, compassion, professionalism and understanding.

In other words, I know what I'm taking about.

That out of the way, the family of the recent shooting victim is in no way, shape or form to blame for what tragically happened to this individual. Even in the midst of severe depression, an individual is accountable for their own actions. Does suffering from severe depression cloud some one's judgment? It surely does, but they are accountable never the less, up until such time as they are deemed to be incapable of handling their own affairs. We want to believe that there exists these clear lines between health and illness, sanity and insanity, but in my experience no such clear lines exist. It's the complexity of these issues that make them so difficult to deal with at times, that and the frustration of seeing what needs to be done on your end, but not being able to get that individual to see it on theirs. That's a frustration I live with each and every day of my life.

Blame the family? That's a nice little piece of blamestorming, but it denies the complexity of the problems at hand. That's a case of looking for a scapegoat. That's a cop-out from facing the reality that we don't do a very good job in this country of facing issues of mental health in and then dealing with them. In this case it is entirely possible that there is some responsibility to be born by the Scranton Police Department (SPD) for the actions they took; I'll look for the report by the State Police to help determine that. However, even if the SPD is to be held responsible for the tragic death, we can't forget that there were choices made by the victim in question that are part of the equation. We sometimes don't want to face this, but sometimes bad things happen because we make bad choices, and that's not unique to mental health problems. Yes, this is all difficult to swallow, it's dirty, it's something we don't want to face, but it's reality.

A family can sympathize, a family can support, a family can suggest, but in the end the family can't live for the person that suffers from mental health problems.

Road Apples, #32

It's Sunday - so I get to do all the ritual Sunday things I typically do. This includes exciting things like running the vacuum cleaner and picking up garbage. Just how pathetic is this? Well consider the fact that I got up, on a Sunday morning, at about 5:30am and yet there was no real reason for me to have done so.

Letterman vs Palin - I see where David Letterman is in something of a feud with Governor Sarah Palin. Now if anyone ever questioned the governor's intelligence before, now you have proof. Letterman is a comedian. Debating him on any issue makes about as much sense as my debating fiscal policy with any of my four cats. Part of what Letterman said was stupid at best, in extremely bad taste at worst; this is, however, what comedians do. The good Governor should maybe spend more time on running the state of Alaska and less time debating the tastefulness of a "Letterman Top Ten" list.

Cracks - I did manage to finish sealing some cracks in the concrete in and around the front of my house yesterday. If I were more ambitious I would work on filling in some cracks on the left hand side of the house, where I have an old sidewalk that goes to the back yard. I'll add that to the never-ending list of things I want/need to do but probably will not actually ever do. It's a long list.

Iranian Elections - Yes, the problem with a democracy (even a quasi-democracy like Iran) and the democratic processes in general is that it never guarantees anything. The United States learned that lesson the hard way with the election of pro-Hamas candidates during the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election. We now get reminded of that again with the re-election of President Ahmadinejad in Iran. I mean how dare the people of Iran defy the Western world and re-elect someone we don't like? Now don't get me wrong, as I think some of what President Ahmadinejad has said, particularly when it comes to Holocaust denial, is down right scary. However they don't let me vote in those elections. If we want to live in a world where democracy flourishes, then we need to be willing to accept things we don't agree with.

Yesterday - I spent about three hours yesterday cutting grass at my mothers house and then my own. It was hot, hot work. I think the relative humidity at noon yesterday was something more usually seen in the jungles of South American than this part of the world. I also got a little bit of sun on the back of my neck. I guess I should worry about the "getting sun" thing; when I was a kid you just took sunburns for granted. Now days, it seems that every sunburn brings you one step closer to fatal skin cancer. Life was indeed simpler growing up in the 70's.

Things I Need To Do Today - In no particular order...
  • Return some documents to my brother that I had faxed for him last night and today (yes, I have a fax machine).
  • Replace a light switch at my brother's house (same brother as above).
  • Take my mother shopping and write out checks for her.
  • Get a new string trimmer head for my mother's weed whacker; my younger brother normally does the yard-work at my mother's house, but since his stroke that isn't going to be happening for a while. As I've been doing it I've noted that the head on her trimmer is really in bad shape.
  • Get some new socks at Kmart.
Yes, this is how very thrilling my life truly is.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Response to Comment from Father Bechtel

Note: I'm taking the liberty of responding to Father Bechtel's comment in another posting. It's simply easier on my eyes to write this way, not to mention the fact that I like having spell-check available. I trust that the good Father will not mind.



Father Bechtel,

I'd be glad to post anything you would choose to write on the subject of Catholic teacher unionization. I don't have FoxNews-esque viewership, but what the heck, I am always up for some interesting reading.

Interestingly enough, I generally think that labor unions probably do more harm than good in most industries, so being put in the position of defending them is a a definite twist of fate.

Regarding respect (or lack thereof), I was raised by my mother to be respectful to all. That said, what I find particularly disrespectful is how you are often addressed in the Scranton Times comments. Specifically, if you were a Jewish clergy member I would address you as "Rabbi Bechtel", a Protestant minister it would be "Reverend Bechtel", etc.; the fact so many seem to think that they can score a cheap debate point by referring to you as anything other than "Father Bechtel" (or some derivation thereof) bothers me to no end. Maybe that's the just latent Altar Boy in me I guess.

Finally, as a self-described "Internet Geek", I've learned that 'Internet commentary' and 'logic' don't always share the same road. In my mind that's the double-edged sword of the information age: now so many of us now have the opportunity to speak our minds in this very public way, but unfortunately having the opportunity doesn't always translate into having the ability to do it well.

Here's to the good things in life: thunderstorms on hot summer days, French Toast for breakfast and civil debates about the important issues of the day.

Catholic Education Continues To Decline

Another in a series of articles from The Scranton Times was published yesterday on the continued downsizing of Catholic eduction in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Link to the article here.

I commented twice on the article, and I've posted those comments (along with a response to one of my comments) immediately below.

***************
It's one thing to see something you valued once...in my case a Catholic Education...die in front of your very eyes, but it's another to see it happen so slowly and painfully. Perhaps Bishop Martino should stop playing with the school system like a cat "plays" with a mouse and simply fulfill what seems to be his bottom-line desire: namely to simply end Catholic (well all non-Jesuit) grade & secondary school education in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He can then focus all of his energy into ensuring that rigorous Catholic dogma is followed in our area Catholic Universities.
Stephen Albert, 06/12/09 - 8:22AM


***************
Hello Stephen, How are you? How is your blog?

Stephen, the bishop is dedicated. He desires very much to keep the school system. The problem is that desire and dedication are not enough to do it. The laws of business dictate that money plays a much larger role. Without proper financing, all the dedication and desire in the world mean nothing.

As I said, our teachers are indeed dedicated, no question about it. I am grateful for the services they provide. I am sorry this is happening. I wish it was different. If you can tell us how to circumnavigate the laws of economics, I would be glad to listen to you.

Father Dave Bechtel, 06/12/09 - 9:30AM


***************
Hello Father Bechtel. The blog goes well, and thanks for asking.

Regarding Bishop Martino, I do not know the man personally, but merely read of his actions (mainly in the Catholic Light, for the record). Since you have more experience with Joseph Martino the man, I’ll defer to your opinion on his desire to keep the schools open. However and as we’ve discussed many times, sometimes with the Bishop his true desires are masked by an execution style that seems more authoritarian than truly pastoral.

As for the laws of economics, well many businesses are hurting these days, and there is no doubt in my mind that this has had an impact of the school situation. What’s fair to debate though is just how much it has impacted the current situation. Regarding solutions, I obviously don’t have all the answers (unlike many on the Internet…), but I do have a suggestion: if as a Catholic Community we want schools, then it’s time for all of us…parents, parishioners, students, teachers, administrators and Bishop…to act in concert and collective act to save these important institutions. I passionately believe that part of acting in concert would require a step that I think even you Father Bechtel would acknowledge that the Bishop would never take, namely allowing lay teachers in the Diocese to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented by an independent union. The moment Bishop Martino unilaterally decided that lay teachers could not have an independent union is the moment that he decided that the only opinion that counted was his, and his alone. That kind of execution style does not lend itself to a community of support.

Thanks for reading/listening and while I don’t agree with everything you write, I do admire the fact that you publicly have taken a stand on these complex issues. In fact, I think the Bishop himself could take learn a thing or two about honest communication from what you’ve written.

Stephen Albert, 06/12/09 - 9:37PM

Friday, June 12, 2009

Michael Jackson's Ear: How Very American


Fascinating story yesterday in the Daily News. You can link to it here.

It seems that Mr Jackson has had so much surgery on his nose that his "doctors" have been forced to harvest tissue from his ears in order to have the parts to continue their good work. Man, if this doesn't creep you out, then I don't know what would. I mean he almost has Vulcan ears now. That's not even human.

Anyway, taking a step back, this should give us all pause on a few levels.

First, having talent (I don't like his music, but I admit that Mr Jackson has some talent) doesn't guarantee anything in life. Certainly not happiness or even basic mental stability for that matter. I know, there have been many geniuses (although I don't consider this guy to fall into that category) who have been deeply troubled, it's hard to find such an extreme example where someone basically pays to be mutilated.

Second, in my experience the world can be divided into two camps: those who know that money can't buy happiness (include me there) and those that somehow believe that it can (I have people in my immediate family that fall into that camp). At one time Mr Jackson was horribly wealthy, but yet apparently so distraught with himself - despite millions of adoring fans - that he felt compelled to physically re-do himself. All that money and yet he couldn't even look himself in the mirror without being disgusted at what he saw. What good was all that money? Sure, it bought him lots of trinkets, but none of that "stuff" could seemingly ease the pain of his own self-perception.

Third, Mr Jackson is walking proof that we all need people in our lives who will tell it to us straight. I am fortunate in that regard, as I have someone like that, but you get the impression that Mr Jackson does not. "I'd like to have my nose done to the point where it is falling off" - "oh, that's a great idea Michael!". This point is related to my second: having unlimited resources can sometimes mean that you have unlimited yes people around you, and your ability to stay grounded in reality diminishes by the zeros added to your bank account.

We Americans like to believe that success is it's own reward, and that the only direction that matters is up. How very untrue. Yes, success can be it's own reward, but in some instances - this in particular - it's clear that success is also it's own punishment. Success, in the absence of a grounding in reality and an acknowledgment that we all need people in our lives to help us see and interpret what is around us, can clearly be more torturous than glamorous.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Neo-NAZI Attacks Holocaust Museum

Story link here.

The guard that was killed, Stephen T. Johns, was a six year employee of the security company that protected the museum, and left behind a young son, also named Stephen T. Johns. In an interview on GMA, the younger Johns called his father a hero.

Now I wonder how the Rush Limbaugh's and Michael Savage's of this world will spin this? This is, after all, the extreme product of their tirades. Are they in any way, shape or form personally responsible for this kind of thing? Of course not. However, when you preach a constant gospel of "Obama Evil", "Obama ending US _____________", you have to know that some people are going to take that, couple it with their already insane ideas about race, religion, etc. and eventually find "the end justifies the means" rationale floating in their heads. The same is true for the abortion doctor killer: his actions were emboldened by a extremist agenda that preached a constant spew of hatred.

Does this mean that right-wing talk radio should be censored, moderated, "equal-timed"? Absolutely Not! What it does mean though is they have to be publicly held up for their views for all to see. I'm a firm believer that sunlight is truly the best disinfectant, so let's make sure that every extremist nut, be they right or left wing, is fully bathed in light.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Road Apples, #31

Extended Family Health Update 1 - Well my mother came home from Mercy Hospital on Saturday, but is still in some pain. I'm thinking this will be an almost constant thing now for the rest of her life. That's sad, truly sad. My mother worked very hard all of her life, both as a kid growing up on a farm in West Virginia and as an adult single-parent, working nights to support her family. There's something horribly wrong about this being the 'reward' for a lifetime of efforts.

Extended Family Health Update 2 - My brother was discharged from CMC yesterday and sent to in-patient care at Allied Services, which is an institution that does rehabilitative medicine for people who suffer strokes, accidents, or other impairments. My mother has actually been there a few times after some of her brain tumors (she has had something like 7 of them...so many that I've lost count). Joe doesn't seem to have much impairment resulting from his stroke, but I guess they want to make sure. Personally I think it's a great idea. Better safe than sorry with this stuff.

Police Shooting - Still no official word on the results of the police shooting of a Scranton resident, although I believe that the report was delivered to the Lackawanna County District Attorney yesterday. I continue to believe that the officers in questions should be assumed innocent until there is compelling evidence to the contrary; that said, this investigation needs to be made public, if only to squash some of the insane rumor-mongering that is going in in various dank corners of the Internet.

I Love Thunderstorms - Just wanted to add that, given the time of the year. I find nothing more thrilling than a storm after a hot and humid day.

In The "Creepy Life Lesson" Department - I overhead one side of a telephone conversation the other day and was certain that I knew what it was about, with "it" being something that would scare the heck out of me. Well low and behold I had the whole thing absolutely wrong, so wrong in fact I wasn't even close. It just goes to show how much the mind jumps to conclusions about things, and how dangerous that can really be. Score one for being wrong.

In "$hit Just Keeps Getting Stinkier" Department - Attorney Robert Powell has plead guilty to various sundry things related to the whole "let's send kids to jail for cash" scheme perpetrated in Luzerne County. I'm not even going to create a story link to it, as the mere thought as to what these bastards did makes me physically ill. I hear there is more to come on this, which is a good thing. Judicial corruption in Luzerne County is like cancer & it has to be treated that as as well - surgery, radiation & chemotherapy are all needed. Destroy every last possible "cell" of that disease down there. What they did, sending kids to jail for profit, is so horrible that I can't think of a punishment (other than the death penalty) that is too severe. If there is a God, He/She/It will ensure that these folks rot in Hell for their actions.

Monday, June 8, 2009

If You Were Here Today...

And if I say I really knew you well
What would your answer be.
If you were here today?
- Here Today/Paul McCartney


For whatever reason, as I was walking out of the grocery store this evening I thought to myself "if I were to die tomorrow, how would I be remembered?" I know, that's a morbid thought and there is probably some deep-seated psychological reason for even entertaining the thought. Anyway, and for whatever reason, here's how yours truly would hope to be remembered - if I was "here today".

Kind
He never ever intentionally tried to harm anyone.

Hard-Working
He never asked anyone to do anything he was not willing to do himself.

Inquisitive
He was always interested in learning new things.

Humble
He never considered himself to be above anyone else.

Silly
He took time out to not be so serious all the time.

Introspective
He was always challenging himself to try and do the right thing.

A Good Dad
Who tried to do what was right, even if that wasn't always what was easy.

A Good Investment

NASA will be spending over $600 million dollars on the Kepler Mission to find extra-solar, possibly habitable planets. The mission web-page can be found here.

Now I can see some arguing that this is not the time or the place to be spending money on something like this. I could not disagree more. In fact, this is precisely the time to be investing resources in basic science such as this. Why?
  • This Is About "The Big" Question - I'm a fan of all the sciences, but this is truly "the big one" in terms of scientific questions: just how likely is it that there is other life in the universe?
  • This Is About About Inspiration - I think that one of the goals of truly good science is to inspire others, not just with answers to big questions, but with projects that get people to think more broadly than they ever thought they ever thought they could. I often wonder if some 13 year old girl out there, reading about the Kepler Mission, will end up one day piloting a ship to Mars or better yet, discovering a communications signal from another planet.
  • It Defines Us As Americans - Americans have never been afraid of big challenges, and as noted above, this is about the biggest challenge of them all.
  • This One Is For The Long Term - This might sound incredibly strange and weird, but if our species is to exist for truly the long-term (as in hundreds of millions of years or more), we will need to find other homes. The Earth simply will not be able to sustain life forever. Now at this stage in our development it's not possible to go to any other extra-solar planets, but this kind of endeavor has to start somewhere; why not start with "is there any other place to go"?
So here's to answering big questions, dreaming big dreams and expanding our horizons.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Road Apples, #31

New Hampshire Allows Gay Marriage - Story link here. I am very glad to see this happen. Hey, all of us deserve to be happy. Opponents will decry that homosexuality is "unnatural" and that this will harm society. Bull$hit! I personally find the mere thought of two men being physically intimate to be repugnant at best (but that's okay, as I am sure that there are gay males who find intimacy between a man and a woman to be equally disturbing...), so much so that I can't believe for a moment that anyone would do that simply as a matter of "choice". No, I think that there is a relatively small percentage of the human population who is simply wired to be homosexual. That doesn't make those individuals better, worse, smarter, dumber or certainly less deserving of stable long-term relationships than the rest of us. "Unnatural"? I think that for the small percentage of people who are homosexual, it's about as "natural" as one can get. Now I may find homosexual acts to be by far and a way not by cup of tea, but you know what? I think they have a right to do whatever the hell they want in the privacy of their own lives, as long as it doesn't involve harming children or interferes with my ability to enjoy my life. That's about as American of an attitude as I think one can have. So here's the "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for all of us, no matter who we choose to stup.

Brother Update - My brother continues to make good progress at CMC and will most likely be sent to in-patient rehabilitation at Allied Services early next week. Interestingly enough, in the course of trying to figure out why he, at age 43, had a stroke, the doctors discovered that he has a small hole in his heart. That could have contributed to the stroke, but they are not 100% sure. In other family-health related news, my mother is coming back from rehabilitation at Mercy Hospital on Saturday morning. She does seem to be much better, which is a very good thing. Also in the good thing department is the fact that my need to do nightly "Scranton Hospital Tour" will be diminished. I can't say that I'm sad to see that end.

I Need To Paint - The downstairs of my house hasn't been painted in a million years (or something like that). Maybe I'll finally get off my lazy butt and get going on that this weekend, or at least get the paint to get going on that this weekend. I'm not sure of the color to buy, but it will probably just be something fairly light, maybe even off-site. I also need to do a lot of crack-filling, cleaning, etc. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Smoking - In reading up on stokes this past week, I found that smoking is a major contributing factor. My God, how much more worse does this need to get? I'm seriously struggling to figure out why people do this - some smart people no less. Look, I know that a lot of things one can do are dangerous in some way; hell, eating french fries can kill you I guess, but even the worse fried food has some redeeming quality to it, even if that's in supplying carbohydrates. Can we simply ban this? Walking into the hospitals I was often forced to run the "smoker gamut", walking through and around the huddled masses enjoying their drug-o-choice. Why? Why?

Scranton Police Shooting Death - Still no answers as to the cause or circumstances of the shooting death in Scranton that I mentioned a day or so ago. While I'd like to see the facts come out as a matter of curiosity, I'm sure that the family of the late Ms Williams needs some kind of closure to this issue as part of their grief process. Let's hope that they are briefed on the investigation results first, have a chance to ask lots of questions, and find some comfort in hearing that the incident was fully reviewed before anything is made public. They deserve as much.

The Song Running Through My Head At The Moment - is "Raspberry Beret", the Prince song, as performed by the Hindu Love Gods. Well worth checking out if you have a chance. The Hindu Love Gods were Warren Zevon and three of the four members of REM. Peter Buck is a great guitar player.

Yes It's Friday - It has been a trying week, to say the least. Despite everything else happening around me, I'm also trying to get back into a 4 to 5 day a week regime of working out at the gym at the office. That can be difficult, given my schedule, but I just have to try. I'm not getting any older, and recent events seem to point me in the direction of "you need to be healthier". Fortunately I still have the stamina to spend time productively at the gym without having a coronary myself. Getting back to the work stuff, I have a lot of my plate at the moment, but if everything works out the way I think it should, it will be manageable. I know "if everything work out the way..." is a dangerous condition to put out there, because it seldom does, but never the less I need to keep a positive attitude.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Favorite Guitar Solos

I actually listen to what I think is a lot of music, although it's not always as varied as I'd like it to be. Anyway, I was listening to Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" the other day, thinking about how great David Gilmour's playing is on that song, so it got me to thinking about the greatest guitar solos of all time. Now I'm not anywhere near a guitar expert, aficionado, etc. so it goes without saying that I really don't know what the hell I am talking about. That noted, here are my top ten guitar solos of all time:
  1. Layla/Eric Clapton & Duane Allman (note...I HATE the acoustic version of this song)
  2. Comfortably Numb/David Gilmour
  3. Stairway To Heaven/Jimmy Page
  4. White Room/Eric Clapton
  5. Pipeline/Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughn (Two big song-length solos. Never heard it? Watch here. Well worth a listen.)
  6. Intruder~Oh Pretty Woman/Eddie Van Halen
  7. Back In Black/Angus Young
  8. Something/George Harrison
  9. Enter Sandman/Kirk Hammet (although I love the rhythm parts by James Hetfield)
  10. Powerful Stuff (Live Version)/Jimmy Vaughn (See video below...this blows me away)

**


Anyway, here are the poll results from Guitarist magazine...

Readers' Poll from Guitarist magazine, January 1998

  1. Hotel California - The Eagles (Joe Walsh and Don Felder)
  2. Eruption - Van Halen (Edward Van Halen)
  3. Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd (David Gilmour)
  4. Crossroads - Cream (Eric Clapton)
  5. Voodoo Chile - Jimi Hendrix
  6. Parisienne Walkways - Gary Moore
  7. All Right Now - Free (Paul Kossoff)
  8. Since I've Been Loving You - Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page)
  9. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen (Brian May)
  10. Sultans Of Swing - Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler)
  11. All Along The Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix
  12. Shine You Crazy Diamond - Pink Floyd (David Gilmour)
  13. Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page)
  14. For The Love Of God - Steve Vai
  15. Still In Love With You - Thin Lizzy (Gary Moore)
  16. Child In Time - Deep Purple (Ritchie Blackmore)
  17. Still Got the Blues (For You) - Gary Moore
  18. Goodbye To Love - The Carpenters (Tony Peluso)
  19. Purple Haze - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  20. Brothers In Arms - Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler)
  21. Need Your Love So Bad - Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green)
  22. Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses (Slash)
  23. Freebird - Lynyrd Skynyrd (Ronnie Van Zant)
  24. Layla - Derek and the Dominos (Eric Clapton [and Duane Allman])
  25. White Room - Cream (Eric Clapton)
  26. Red House - Jimi Hendrix
  27. Black Magic Woman - Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green)
  28. Rosanna - Toto (Steve Lukather)
  29. Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughan
  30. November Rain - Guns N' Roses (Slash)
  31. The Wind Cries Mary - Jimi Hendrix
  32. Ladies Nite In Buffalo - David Lee Roth (Steve Vai)
  33. Hot For Teacher - Van Halen (Edward Van Halen)
  34. La Villa Strangiato - Rush (Alex Lifeson)
  35. Killer Queen - Queen (Brian May)
  36. Addicted To That Rush - Mr Big (Paul Gilbert)
  37. Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page)
  38. Brighton Rock - Queen (Brian May)
  39. Get The Funk Out - Extreme (Nuno Bettencourt)
  40. Nothing Else Matters - Metallica (James Hetfield)
  41. Inca Roads - Frank Zappa
  42. You Do Something To Me - Paul Weller
  43. Crazy Train - Ozzy Osborne (Randy Rhoads)
  44. Marquee Moon - Television (Tom Verlaine)
  45. Tunnel Of Love - Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler)
  46. Live Forever - Oasis (Noel Gallagher)
  47. Telegraph Road - Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler)
  48. Out In The Fields - Gary Moore
  49. The Final Countdown - Europe (John Norum)
  50. Little Wing - Stevie Ray Vaughan
  51. Bad Love - Eric Clapton
  52. The Riverboat Song - Ocean Colour Scene (Steve Cradock)
  53. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana (Kurt Cobain)
  54. Cause We've Ended As Lovers - Jeff Beck
  55. Beat It - Michael Jackson (Edward Van Halen)
  56. Dead Or Alive - Bon Jovi (Ritchie Sambora)
  57. Another Brick In The Wall - Pink Floyd (David Gilmour)
  58. And Your Bird Can Sing - The Beatles (George Harrison)
  59. Green Tinted Sixties Mind - Mr Big (Paul Gilbert)
  60. These Are The Days Of Our Lives - Queen (Brian May)
  61. Yo Mama - Frank Zappa
  62. Rocky Mountain Way - Joe Walsh
  63. Paranoid Android - Radiohead (Johnny Greenwood)
  64. Something - The Beatles (George Harrison)
  65. Dry County - Bon Jovi (Ritchie Sambora)
  66. Surfing With The Alien - Joe Satriani
  67. Mr Crowley - Ozzy Osborne (Randy Rhoads)
  68. Jump - Van Halen (Edward Van Halen)
  69. Love In An Elevator - Aerosmith (Joe Perry)
  70. Light My Fire - Jose Feliciano
  71. Alive - Pearl Jam (Mark McCready)
  72. The Loner - Gary Moore
  73. Kid Charlemagne - Steely Dan (Larry Carlton)
  74. Summer Song - Joe Satriani
  75. Big Trouble - David Lee Roth (Steve Vai)
  76. Resurrection - Brian May
  77. While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Beatles (Eric Clapton [and George Harrison])
  78. I Want It All - Queen (Brian May)
  79. Stargazer - Rainbow (Ritchie Blackmore)
  80. Sunshine Of Your Love - Cream (Eric Clapton)
  81. Rough Boy - ZZ Top (Billy Gibbons)
  82. Road To Hell, part 2 - Chris Rea
  83. Tubular Bells - Mike Oldfield
  84. Paranoid - Black Sabbath (Tony Iommi)
  85. Foxy Lady - Jimi Hendrix
  86. The Forgotten: part 1 - Joe Satriani
  87. Lazy - Deep Purple (Ritchie Blackmore)
  88. The Supernatural - John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (Peter Green)
  89. Bold As Love - Jimi Hendrix
  90. Mother Knows Best - Richard Thompson
  91. Cry For The Nations - The Michael Schenker Group
  92. He Man Woman Hater - Extreme (Nuno Bettencourt)
  93. Samba Pa Ti - Santana (Carlos Santana)
  94. No-one Said It Would Be Easy - Sheryl Crow (David Baerwald)
  95. Echoes - Pink Floyd (David Gilmour)
  96. She's Not There - Santana (Carlos Santana)
  97. I Am The Resurrection - Stone Roses (John Squire)
  98. Song 2 - Blur (Graham Coxon)
  99. You Love Us - Manic Street Preachers (James Dean Bradfield)
  100. A Kinder Eye - Allan Holdsworth