Not Cease from Exploration

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Favorite Ted Kennedy Story

With the passing of Ted Kennedy, I recall hearing this story about him that says a lot about the guy.

In the 70's, convicted Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy was doing hard time in a Federal Prison. While in jail, Liddy's daughter was graduating from a conservative Catholic high school. Talk about difficult: You are a teenage daughter, graduating from a high-end, conservative high school, and your father is a convicted felon. Not a good mix. At the same time Senator Kennedy had a daughter graduating from the same school. After graduation, Senator Kennedy made a point to come over to Liddy's daughter and congratulate her. Apparently it made all the difference in the world to Liddy and his daughter.

Rest in Peace Teddy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Life In The (Slow) Lane

I'm in Hartford this week training, so here's a typical day:

5:45-6:00am
Wake up & get out of bed. I got about six hours of sleep, give or take.

6:00-6:45am
Shower and get dressed.

6:45 - 7:00am
Pack laptop & briefcase, go down the hotel lobby.

7:00 - 7:15am
Walk across the street to the office & sign in as a visitor*.

7:15 - 8:00am
Head upstairs, into the PC Lab, unpack my stuff, connect my laptop, log-in and begin to read emails from the weekend and yesterday.

8:00 - 8:15am
Go over to the cafeteria, get something to eat and head back to the PC Lab. Eat while talking to my Director.

8:15 - 8:55am
Log into the training PCs, test access and put materials out.

8:55 - 9:05am
Greet attendees as they enter the room & make updates to material on the white board.

9:05 - 12:05pm
Morning half of my class. All seems to go well...attendees are engaged, ask lots of good questions & seem to be getting it. We agree to break for a 30 minute lunch.

12:05 - 12:20pm
I review some material for the morning session & check emails.

12:20 - 12:30pm
Go over to the cafeteria to get some lunch (ham sandwich on wheat).

12:30 - 12:35pm
Eat sandwich while talking to one of the attendees who stayed in the room.

12:35 - 12:45pm
All attendees return from lunch and the session begins again.

12:45 - 2:30pm
Afternoon portion of the class. A key business partner sits in for part of the class.

2:30 - 2:50pm
Finish class work and attendees leave as they get their production system access.

2:50 - 5:00pm
Clean up after class, catch up on emails, send out class evaluations, print roster for tomorrow's session.

5:00 - 5:15pm
Pack up and head back over to the hotel.

5:15 - 6:00pm
Check email, read the headlines and decide what to do for dinner.

6:00 - 6:20pm
Head over to the downtown CVS to get toothpaste (spend too much time in line).

6:20 - 7:15pm
Find restaurant in town, go in and am seated. I ended up having steak for dinner.

7:15 - 7:30pm
Pay bill (about $60 with tip) and walk back to the hotel.

7:30 - 7:45pm
Get changed into almost nothing, set up the computer and begin writing silly blog entry.

Glamorous, glamorous stuff!!


(*) I hate that I have to sign-in as a visitor, after all I am working at the office & I've been a Prudential employee 5 times longer than this location as been a Prudential office.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Politics of Steve

My political thoughts and leanings...

Government's Role...In General - I want the government to more or less stay the hell out of my life. In fact, I think it needs to really just do three things:
  1. Protect me from foreign invaders.
  2. Protect me from you (for example, prevent you from opening up a pig farm outside my bedroom window).
  3. Protect me from organizations what want to screw with me (such as monopolies) where otherwise I would have no recourse or ability to effectively fight back.
Gun Control...I think that law abiding citizens should have the right to own guns. I don't think that they have the right to superior firepower though. Want to own a pistol? Go for it. Same thing for any hunting rifle or shotgun out there. Machine guns? Nope. Same thing for a bazooka, flame-thrower, shoulder-fired missile, etc. This falls under the category of the government protecting me from you...I don't mind if you have a weapon, but I do mind if you have a weapon that can blow up my house.

Abortion...This is a personal decision between a woman, her partner, and their God. The government needs to stay the hell out of it. I find strict abortion controls to be ultimate example of an over-intrusive government. For the record, I am not in favor of abortion on demand in most instances, but that's my personal belief, and I don't feel that my personal belief (or that of any politician) should be a matter of public policy.

The Death Penalty...Another example of a government that becomes overly intrusive. Seriously, do we want a government to be able to put people to death? Murders should be put in work camps...in Alaska...raising reindeer herds (or something equally horrible).

Healthcare...Healthcare is not a right, but I do think it is an obligation on the part of both government and individuals. Government needs to make sure that people are not getting screwed by folks who want to make enormous profits via sick people. I'm sorry, but an insurance company earning a 15% ROE while denying coverage to people who need it is just simply wrong. Conversely, individuals have to have "skin" in the healthcare game. That means, in part, that everyone has to pay something for healthcare coverage, period. I don't care if you earn $5,000 a year...part of that $5K needs to go towards paying for medical insurance. It's time for the free-rides to end. NO MORE FREEBIES.

Immigration...The federal government has a legal and moral obligation to protect our borders, period. Immigration made this country great, and I have no sympathy for the modern version of the "No-Nothings"...but...we are a nation where we expect people to play by the rules. Part of those rules include the notion that there is a process for becoming a citizen, and a failure to vigorously enforce immigration laws is a slap in the face of everyone who followed the rules to legally immigrate to this country.

"English Only"...Let's be honest here: there are more than a few folks in the "English Only" crowd who simply don't like people who are different than them. That may be offensive to some, but I think that we all know it's true. That noted, it's time for the government to say that official business in this country should be conducted in English. I have no problem with anyone speaking any language that they want, but as Americans, we all need to have a common ground for communication.

Censorship...It's time for the government to get out of the "deciding what is in good taste" business. This is yet another example of big government gone too far. Now does this mean I want S&M videos playing on CBS at 8pm? No, but conversely, it's rather stupid that a TV show can depict someone getting killed at 8pm but God forbid they a have a character utter the word "shit". Let's set very, very broad and consistent guidelines and leave it at that. All too often censorship is more about the personal standards of politicians and their interest groups than it is about anything else. For me, while I think Rush Limbaugh is a drug-addicted, hypocritical idiot (knocking Al Gore for his service in Vietnam...as ole Rushbo dodged the draft via a boil on his ass), I'll defend his right to speak to his mindless automatons .

Taxation...It's time for the government to "de-complicate" the tax code. Let's move to a flat (or flatter...say two rate tax system) or consumption based taxation. I earn more than some, so I don't have a problem paying my fair share. I do, however, have a problem with someone who earns more than me getting enormous refunds because they can claim all manner of tax loopholes.

Spending...Governments need to live withing their means, period. NO MORE unbalanced budgets, ever. If the government wants to do something to make the healthcare system in this country more effective, then I'm all for it...as long as they pay for it. The bottom line is that the laws of responsibility...as in not spending more than you have...should apply equally to governments as well as people.

Religion and Politics...Nothing pisses me off more than people who try to make the point that the separation of church and state exists only to protect religions from government, but not governments from religion. In point of act, that street runs both ways. This country was founded by people who wanted religious freedom, so the notion by some that the United States is a "Christian" nation shows nothing but contempt for those came here in the first place. It doesn't matter that the people who wrote the Constitution were "Christians"...what matters is that they had the foresight to demand that personal religious views were not meant to be tied to the hip of public policy. Yes, there is a role for religion in this country, as it forms the moral fabric of individuals; however that moral fabric should provide guidance, not hard and fast direction, to those making public policy.

2009 Mitsubishi Galant

Week before last I rented a 2010 Kia (I forget the model name, other than it was Kia's -sized sedan) and was pretty happy with it. I was especially thrilled with the audio system, which in addition to having fairly logical controls, had satellite radio, an aux in jack and a USB port.

Fast forward to this past Thursday and I had as my rental a 2009 Mitsubishi Galant. Now in theory the Galant would be a more up-scale car than the Kia, and relative to price I am sure it was. However if I had to buy one of the two, it would be the Kia, by far and away. Why?

Well in the Galant's favor, it has a typically smooth engine with terrific acceleration. I suspect the engine was a V6 (I didn't take the time to look), and it has power to spare. That's nice, but when I am rambling over three hours of I84, 65-70mph feels the same in just about any car. The Galant also looked (on the outside) great. So far so good, right? Well the Galant had one major, fatal flaw: I hated the audio system, for a few reasons:
  • Overly stylistic controls - See the picture, above; yes, the audio system control may look nice, but there is nothing you can tell via feel which button does what.
  • No aux in jack - I could not plug in my satellite radio system (this car, surprisingly, didn't have one built-in), nor could I plug in an mp3 player.
  • No USB jack - This was a great addition to the Kia. I have about 4mb of audio files, and being able to plug them directly into the car audio system (on the Kia) was just a great benefit.
  • Display - Not shown above, but the audio display actually was on top of the dash, and consisted of the station frequency, time and (when used) CD track number. No text with station name or information, just the most rudimentary of displays in LCD.
  • Hum-Drum sounds - Last but not least, the actual audio of the system was was good, but not spectacular. In point of fact it was probably a little better than the Kia's, but all of the other flaws made me discount this slight advantage.
Maybe I'm a little overly sensitive about the audio stuff but I frequently drive to Hartford CT and the drive, all three + hours of it, takes you past a half dozen radio markets. Since I make this drive by myself most of the time having something to listen to is pretty important. The Galant failed on this one.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Road Apples, #39

The Week that Was....was long. I'm now moving into a grove where I'll be working Tuesday-Friday in Hartford for a few weeks. It's not great, but when you consider that I'm paid to do this kind of thing it's not horrible either. On the plus side, I get to eat out every night. On the minus side, I really worry about what is happening back home. Life isn't perfect, that's for damn sure.

Driving Home Yesterday...I got caught in a horrible storm, with real visibility being no better than a few feet at times. How bad was it? Well on I84 I was going about 15 miles per hour at one point. On the plus side, at least it wasn't snow.

2009 Mitsubishi Galant...This was my rental for Thursday/Friday. I'll post something on it later today or tomorrow, but while the car had a great engine and handled very well, I absolutely hated the controls.

Today...I really want to keep it open to basically do whatever the hell I want. I'm thinking about replacing the rest of the mini-blinds downstairs, so maybe I'll go looking for something that strikes my fancy. I kind of dig the natural material (i.e. reed, bamboo, etc.) roll shades, so maybe a trip up to the Christmas Tree Shoppe is in order.

This Wednesday...Kate returns to school, but I will be unable to go down with her then, due to my needing to be in Hartford. Instead I'll go down on Saturday morning. I'm not thrilled about missing this, but there isn't a lot I can do about it. For a variety of reasons (some good, some basically really stupid) I am the only person who can conduct the training that is required in Hartford, so there was no way for me to make it down to Kutztown before Saturday.

Parts Phone...I received the rather beaten-up Blackjack II I bought on-line last weekend. Now all I have to do is figure out how to replace the center button. Maybe that will be part of my thrilling Saturday night.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ah, The Night Before

One of the advantages (well make that the only advantage) of the long drives to Hartford for me is that I actually have to sit, as a captive audience, and actually listen to stuff. Seven hours in the car will do that to you. Anyway, driving back from Connecticut today I played a copy of The Beatles Help CD. Amazing stuff. Considering that this music is almost 45 years old, it holds up remarkably well. Anyway, one of the my favorite tracks on Help is "The Night Before"; it's a McCartney song* that just has this great vibe to it. Also, like a lot of the songs on Help, I also really dig the background vocals.




(*) Contrary to the famous 'Lennon/McCartney' songwriting credit, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote very few of their songs together; stylistically it's pretty easy for a Beatles fan to tell the work of either Beatle apart, but a good rule of thumb is that the lead singer is the generally the composer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bread: Make It With You

There aren't many David Gates/Bread video clips out there, so I was glad I found this. I had the pleasure of seeing David perform this live a few years back, and he sounded spot on, nearly 40 years later. In case you are curious, the lead guitar part is played by sessions musician Dean Parks.

So here's to sappy 70' s love songs, written by people that could read music and performed by people that actually played instruments.


BREAD "Make It With You" (live)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Male or Female? You Decide


Story link here.

There is question as to the gender of this South African runner. Based just on the picture, I'd say that the questions are worth asking.

(How I) Wish You Were Here

Have you ever had a song in your head that, while you are really not all that fond of it, you still can't get it out of your head? And so it is for me with the Pink Floyd song "Wish You Were Here". Now as a caveat to my first sentence, I don't like the song, but I do like the lyrics. From what I gather the song is about Syd Barrett, the founder of Pink Floyd; not long after the group began to become successful, years of hallucinogenic drug use caught up with Syd and he slowly slid into an almost permanent madness.

Anyway, I think the lyrics of this song are very touching. Maybe I view these lyrics through the lens of someone who has people close to him suffering from mental health issues. When you deal with someone close to you who suffers with this kind of illness it's nearly impossible to not want to reference a time in the past when they were "normal". Of course also in retrospect (well at least as far as I am concerned) they probably never really were here, as now I look back and see so many signs in the past that pointed to the problems of today. The cheap-n-easy thing to do is to blame yourself and think "I should have done this differently back then", but that relies all too much on the simplistic human view of time as this linear chain of events; in point of fact even doing something differently in the past never guarantees you that a future outcome will be different, let along better. Put another way, I am thinking that the human mind is simply far too complex for a cause-and-effect analysis.

Some things in life are best not over-thought, which I admit is difficult for me on many levels. So here's to simple songs expressing simple thoughts.

Wishing you were here.



Wish You Were Here (by Pink Floyd)

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skys from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

There Are Time When The Catholic Church Gets It Wrong...

...and this is one of them.

Article link here.

So there are about 60,000 Sisters who need to be investigated for possibly straying from Church dogma. Why does the phrase "Inquisition" come to mind?

Let me just say this about my experiences growing up with women religious: there has never been a group I had experience with who gave so much of themselves for seemingly so little. These are people who truly live their faith, every moment of every day. Growing up, when my parish priest was playing golf on Wednesdays, the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were busy teaching.

Let's hope that the Church, in it's infinite wisdom, decides to celebrate the lives of the Good Sisters, not spend needless time and resources conducting shadowy examinations searching for dogmatic impurities.

Howard Stern Is Underappreciated

I know that it's a bit on an enigma, but I love Howard Stern. As I've noted before, I've been a fan for over twenty years, back to when I first heard him in Washington DC (when I lived in York PA).

Anyway, if for no other reason than I feel like it, here are 10 reasons why Howard Stern is under-appreciated:

Reason 1: He invented modern talk radio.
Before Limbaugh decided to channel the 1950's, before Imus even thought of referring to African-Americans by various derogatory names, Howard Stern abandoned playing records and decided instead to talk for 4+ hours per day to his audience.

Reason 2: He is one of the best interviewers in media today, bar none.
I've heard Howard interview politicians, porn-stars, Beatles (all but John) and actors, and in ever instance he always gets his subject to open up about subject that the Katie Couric's of this world could only dream of doing.

Reason 3: He's not perfect, and he is the first to admit that.
In an age of other radio personalities who can on one hand shout that "people who abuse drugs should go to jail" and then on the other hand be abusing drugs themselves, Howard stands out as someone who, despite a healthy ego, doesn't take himself very seriously. What he does take seriously though is the obligation he feels to his audience.

Reason 4: He loves his parents.
Howard frequently will have his parents on the show and he always ends the conversations by telling them that he loves them. Not quite the monster the media makes him out to be, huh?

Reason 5: He is professionally ignored.
There is a 'Hall of Fame' for broadcasters that includes such folks as Don Imus, the late Paul Harvey, Rush Limbaugh and Neal Boortz. Howard has never been inducted, nor do I think he has ever been nominated. Mind you, this is a man who convinced 9+ million listeners to fork over $13/month to listen to him.

Reason 6: He is loyal to his friends.
Howard has been working with some of the same people for decades.

Reason 7: His audience pays to listen to him.
Howard brought over something like 9+ million listeners to Sirius satellite radio who pay to listen to him. Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, has about 20 million listeners who don't pay a dime for his show. How many listeners would pay $13/month to listen to Limbaugh? Somehow I'm thinking it's not 20 million...or 9 million for that matter.

Reason 8: He is an equal opportunity offender.
Howard doesn't have any sacred cows on his show.

Reason 9: He has been successful in four different medias.
Radio, TV (he had the highest rated TV show on the E-Channel), Books (two best sellers) and a hit movie (Private Parts).

Reason 10: His show is simply damn funny.
I am especially fond of the 1989 - 1991 period, and while Artie Lange isn't nearly as funny as Jackie Martling, the show still makes my bust a gut laughing from time to time. In a world where everything is so serious, there is something positive to be said for having a good laugh.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Going Back...Software Style


I made the enormous mistake of upgrading my laptop to Windows Vista early in the year. Now plagued with a virus, card readers that haven't function properly since the upgrade, printer drivers that mysteriously disappear, constantly crashing Firefox and other assorted forms of mayhem later, I'm finally getting ready to "go back" to Windows XP.

Mind you this isn't an easy decision. My Sony Vaio originally had XP which I upgraded to Vista, but unfortunately it is not letting me uninstall Vista, leaving me with the necessity of having to buy a copy of XP Professional. Luckily I was able to find a full copy on-line from a reputable seller, complete with Service Pack 3.

If I didn't have a about $200 tied to Microsoft software already I would tell Bill Gates & company to pound sand and go the Linux route.

With a bit of luck I'll have my "new" copy of XP by next weekend and I'll be able to install it then.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"...and winning the Oscar for most humans being exploded in a feature film is..."

I saw the new movie 'District 9' this afternoon. It's actually an interesting flick on a few levels, combining something of a morality play with some of the most violent footage I've seen in a movie (outside of zombie movies....).

If you aren't squeamish, I highly recommend District 9.

If the sight of 6 foot shrimp bothers you...if seeing a head exploded...if seeing someone getting their arm ripped off...if seeing someone getting ripped about limb by limb by the previously mentioned 6 foot shrimp bothers you, then take a pass.

Go Ahead, Smoke Your Lungs Out, But Please...

...stop throwing cigarette butts all over the place. No one who lives in my house smokes, but yet I constantly find that trash all over the place. Since the street I live on is something of a man-made river during heavy rain storms, I think a lot of it washes down, but some are also just thrown out of car windows. Disgusting, simply disgusting. It's insult to injury in a lot of ways: not only is someone fouling up their own inside, but they also feel compelled to four up my outside.

I don't want to sound trite, but this really, really cheeses me off. It's as if rules of civility regarding litter (as in "don't throw your trash in another person's yard") have this asterisk at the bottom that notes "except for cigarette butts".

Okay, got that out of my system. Now I have do go do some yard work, which includes picking up cigarette butts.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

30 Denarii

The Bible tells us that Judas was paid 30 denarii to betray Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Believe that story literally or figuratively if you like, but I think the underlying meaning is the same: for love of money some will do just about anything.

It's with the above noted that I read about the guilty plea of Robert Mericle. Story link here.

Draw your own connections.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Elvis Is Everywhere

The lyrics to a truly original song, "Elvis Is Everywhere" by the great Mojo Nixon.


When I look out into your eyes out there,
When I look out into your faces,
You know what I see?
I see a little bit of Elvis
In each and every one of you out there.

Lemme tell ya...
Weeeeeeeeeellllllll...

Elvis is everywhere
Elvis is everything
Elvis is everybody
Elvis is still the king

Man o man
What I want you to see
Is that the big E's
Inside of you and me

Elvis is everywhere, man!
He's in everything.
He's in everybody...

Elvis is in your jeans.
He's in your cheesburgers
Elvis is in Nutty Buddies!
Elvis is in your mom!

He's in everybody.
He's in the young, the old,
the fat, the skinny,
the white, the black
the brown and the blue
people got Elvis in 'em too

Elvis is in everybody out there.
Everybody's got Elvis in them!
Everybody except one person that is...
Yeah, one person!
The evil opposite of Elvis.
The Anti-Elvis

Anti-Elvis got no Elvis in 'em,
lemme tell ya.

Michael J. Fox has no Elvis in him.

And Elvis is in Joan Rivers
but he's trying to get out, man!
He's trying to get out!
Listen up Joanie Baby!

Elvis is everywhere
Elvis is everything
Elvis is everybody
Elvis is still the king

Man o man
What I want you to see
Is that the big E's
Inside of you and me

Man, there's a lot of unexplained phenomenon
out there in the world.
Lot of things people say
What the heck's going on?

Let me tell ya!

Who built the pyramids?
ELVIS!
Who built Stonehenge?
ELVIS!

Yeah, man you see guys
walking down the street
pushing shopping carts
and you think they're talking to allah,
they're talking to themself.
Man, no they're talking to ELVIS!
ELVIS! ELVIS!

You know whats going on in that Bermuda Triangle?
Down in the Bermuda Traingle
Elvis needs boats.
Elvis needs boats.
Elvis Elvis Elvis
Elvis Elvis Elvis
Elvis needs boats.

Aahh! The Sailing Elvis!
Captain Elvis!
Commodore Elvis it is.

Yeah man, you know people from outer space,
people from outer space they come up to me.
They don't look like like Doctor Spock.
They don't look like Klingons,
all that Star Trek jive.

They look like Elvis.
ELVIS!
Everybody in outer space looks like Elvis.
Cause Elvis is a perfect being.
We are all moving in perfect peace and harmony towards Elvisness

Soon all will become Elvis.
Everything everywhere will be Elvis.
Why do you think they call it evolution anyway?
It's really Elvislution!
Elvislution!

Elvis is everywhere
Elvis is everything
Elvis is everybody
Elvis is still the king

Man o man
What I want you to see
Is that the big E's
Inside of you and me

That's right ladies and gentlemen,
The time has come!
Time has come to talk
To that little bit of Elvis inside of you.

Talk to it!
Call it up!
Say "Elvis, heal me!"
"Save me, Elvis!"
"Make me be born again
in the perfect Elvis light"

That's right!
You've got that Elvis inside of ya
and he's talkin to ya
He says he wants you to sing!
Everybody's got to sing like the king!

Like the king
Get that leg going now
Get your lip too.
Not no fool Billy Idol lip either
Everybody!
Yeah, we're rockin now!

Elvis is with us.
He's with us and he's speaking to us.
He says "Peoples!"
"Peoples!"
"Everybody!"
"Everybody got to sing!"

Elvis is everywhere
Elvis is everything
Elvis is everybody
Elvis is still the king

Man o man
What I want you to see
Is that the big E's
Inside of you and me

Elvis is everywhere
Elvis is everything
Elvis is everybody
Elvis is still the king

Man o man
What I want you to see
Is that the big E's
Inside of you and me

Elvis

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cool Song Department

The song 'Turn It On Again' by Genesis is, I believe, about a lonely guy who fantasizes about a TV anchor. In the song theme department, that's pretty damn cool.




I actually saw Genesis perform this song in 1987...the only difference was that Phil Collins actually sang while playing the drums.

Mob Rules

I've read and heard about the "everyday citizens" yelling at politicians at various town halls over proposed healthcare reform.

Pretty simple on the surface, right? Just democracy in action, right?

I'm thinking not.

Look...yell, shout and blow your lungs out if you think the current healthcare system is great and doesn't need any kind of reform. Otherwise, if the agenda here is to simply shout-down any reform simply to make political points because you don't like how the last presidential election turned out, then I say...Shut Up & Sit Down.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Be Who I Am

The 5 most important things that shaped who I am...and why...

1. My Mother
Good bad or indifferent, my mother has probably shaped both the best and the worst in me, like all parents do. God help my children. Anyway, I can thank my mother for the importance of education in my life, for my love of reading, for understanding the importance of living within my means (even if others around me don't always get that). On the flip side, my mother has never been one to have a ton of friends and isn't particularly close to her family, two traits that I've tried hard at changing in my life.

2. The Catholic Church
Catholicism isn't just a religion; in a lot of ways it's an attitude and a way of life. Although I don't claim regular church attendance these days (for a variety of reasons), it has definitely played an important role in my life. Growing up, next to my mother, it was the one constant in my life, as evidenced by the 10+ years I spent as an altar server and while attending Catholic high school. On the plus side, the Church really does instill a respect for life in it's members, and that's not just an anti-abortion thing (my own views on abortion are too complex to fit into a simple phrase like "pro-life"). It also teaches you that there are somethings in the universe that you should always strive to understand better (the nature of sin, for example), but there are also some things that you aren't really capable of understanding (as George Carlin would put it, the "it's a mystery!" stuff). Regardless of whatever I do from a religious perspective, I will probably always consider myself to be Catholic.

3. 4H Camp
I worked at a 4H camp when I was 16 & 17, and it was definitely one of the most influential things to happen to me. This is where I learned the value of independence (I would stay up there, away from my family, for weeks at a time), solitude and hard work. Here I saw some of the possibilities in life, even if I've yet to achieve all of them.

4. Penn State Harrisburg
PSH is the only thing that I consistently dream about. While this part of my college career only lasted two years, the memories I have will last forever. In a lot of ways, this was an extension of 4H Camp, as I learned again how to be independent and I began to see the world as much bigger place than what I had previously seen. I learned a lot in classes, but I think I learned even more from having to interact with others who were so much different than I was. In a lot of ways, I received so much from PSH that I'll never be adequately able to repay the organization.

5. Being A Father
Nothing is as frustrating and rewarding as being a parent, and when you factor in being a father to just girls, then the whole equation gets raised to the hundredth power. I've made a ton of mistakes as a parent, but I've also gotten it right more than once, sometimes despite the best efforts of the environment around me. In a lot of ways, being a father is like investing money: you do without now (when they are growing up), but you reap a great return later (when they grow up into productive adults). Being a parent also gives you this permanent thing in your life to be proud about, as so many other things we do in life that center around careers and things such as that are so very temporary.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Road Apples, #38

It's the Weekend....and this time I really don't have a ton of work-related things to do. Mind you I could do some things, I might do some things, but most importantly I don't have to do some things. Big difference. I'm almost glad.

Also in the Work Department...I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next few weeks and months. Am I happy about it? Nope. However, as the late great Dr. Hunter S. Thompson once observed, "you buy the ticket, you ride the ride", which is just as true at work as it is anywhere else.

In The Movies Department...The new movie 'District 9' comes out on Friday the 14th. I can't wait to see it. Nothing better than a good old fashioned aliens movie to take one away from reality, and this year I think I need all the relief from reality that I can get. Also, I bought a copy (down right cheap...) of the movie "Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist" from Amazon.com. There were actually two prequels made to the Exorcist, with this being the first, and the second being "Exorcist: The Beginning", and both share a lot of the same footage. The studio didn't like "Dominion", so they hired another director to re-make it into "Beginning". I actually watched both movies before, and of the two I found "Dominion" to be far better. It's so good that I plunked down the $1.00 + $3.99 shipping & handling for it. Have to love the Internet.

For the Record...It's chilly in here this morning. I thought this was August already? Also, is it just me, or is this the year without a summer? I want my global warming and I want it now!

Family Health...My younger brother Joe just had surgery on Thursday morning to repair a congenital heart defect. This was something that was discovered after he had a stroke a few months ago. Anyway, the surgery was real open-heart stuff, with them sawing open his chest and repairing the hole that was apparently leaking in his heart. All seemed to go well, and when I was visiting him yesterday they were getting ready to move him up to a regular room. Here's to speedy recoveries.

My Health...My back pain is all but gone, hopefully never to return any time soon. I did go the route of the chiropractor just as I did the last time I had this problem, although this time I wasn't as happy with overall experience. This time around I saw a different D.C., and it just seemed as if he did less than the other one I saw a few years ago. He's a nice guy and all, but there was only about 15-20 minutes of treatment, whereas with the other one the time making adjustments seemed to take longer and they would put you on a table for heat and muscle relaxing after all the cracking was done. One plus about this time around was that I had two therapeutic massages done, and they really did seem to help. Highly recommended. In fact I may find out what it costs to get them done without getting the referral, etc. Normally I don't subscribe to things like that (massages) as being something that would actually make a difference, but this time around I'll be the first to admit that I was wrong: it helped a lot.

My Health, Part II...I also need to get my weight back under control. Things have really gotten bad over the past few months. No more excuses, no more bull$hit.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tongue Tied and Twisted

"Tongue Tied and Twisted just an Earth-bound misfit, I"

I love the Pink Floyd song "Learning to Fly". When I left my last job (working at the Bon Ton in Carlisle, PA) I left a goodbye note for my co-manager and quoted the song's lyrics, with a finial wish that "the wind be at your back when you are Learning to Fly". We should all have such good fortune.

In the not so good fortune department, I'm struggling at work to keep pace with everything being asked of me. These days I am usually the first (or nearly the first) in and always the last one out. I'm signing on to check email at 10pm-ish, just so I don't get crushed in the morning. I'm also working almost non-stop from about 7am to 5pm, with about 15 minutes tops for lunch.

I know, that sounds like I am complaining, which I shouldn't...or maybe I should, I don't really know. In the grand scheme of things this too will pass, but it's just the path between here and there that's a bit lumpy. The single most important question is this: why do I put myself in these kinds of positions? Part of it I think is this notion that I have a tough time saying no; the other part is the fact that I'm always looking at what I earn and thinking that I have to give 150% in order to really "earn" that. That part of me comes from my up-bringing; when you grow up without a lot, you have a tendency to look at what you have and somehow believe that it all might someday disappear and you will end up being poor again. Hence the manic sense of work.

Anyway, all of this is keeping me from getting to work, so I must close.

Here's to strong tail winds today...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In the "No Shame" Department

There is a tragic story about how a business owner in North Scranton was accidentally shot at his business. Article link here.

Now you would think that everyone who read and commented on the story would respond with phrases like "this is tragic" "he was a good man" or similar sentiments.

Hold that thought.

Yes, in addition to those kinds of human responses to this event, there were individuals who commented on the story by saying things like...

"Restoring the Pride..."

and

"This can't be. The good mayor said there was no crime in the city of Scranton."

In the world of Scranton Politics there is never a bad time to take a pot-shot at a politician you don't happen to like. Never mind that this horrible accident had absolutely nothing to do with the current Mayor, his administration or any law he has proposed or signed. Nope, for some it's just a cheap opportunity to take a cheap shot.

There are some who apparently have no shame.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Senator Mellow, Guest Columnist

Senator Mellow graced his constituents with a guest column that appeared in the last edition of The Sunday Times. His gift to us was entitled "No timeouts amid budget crisis". In the column, the Senator chided Republicans for going on recess while Pennsylvania still does not have a budget.

Nice, very nice. Apparently Senator Mellow wants us all to believe that Senate Republicans are nothing but lazy and intransigent while Senate Democrats are the very definition of hard-working and oh so willing to compromise. The problem is that most of us, I suspect, see the situation for what it really is: entrenched political interests on both sides are unwilling to move from their own positions. The fact that Senate chamber is closed for recess in August is a red herring because it's not as if they were accomplishing anything anyway. If anything, Senate Republicans are simply acting on the obvious.

Moral Outrage.

Apparently the good Senator fails to see the irony in expressing moral outrage at his Republican colleagues in the Senate on one hand while telling us to "don't worry" as he collects compensation from corporate boards (in industries he plays a role in regulating) on the other. That's the strange thing about claiming the moral high-ground: in order for people to believe you, you actually have to be on a firm moral footing yourself first.

Note to Senator Mellow: Those in glass houses should avoid throwing stones.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

More on The Con and The Ciav

Follow-up story in this on-going saga was published in the Sunday Times. You can read it here.

In addition to reading the story, I also took the time (well it wasn't that much time actually) to read Judge Kosik's 5 page decision. I normally try to avoid reading legal decisions, mainly because I don't really care about the citations that abound in them, but this was one where you could read the plain English between the legal-ese. It's pretty clear from the decision and from the Sunday Times article that Judge Kosik seems, well, disgusted by Luzerne County's finest. Gee, I wonder why? The Ciav and The Con has set judicial ethics back 100 years. Neat trick when you think about it: Not only do these two have just about every parent hating their guts (well just about every parent with a conscience...) but they've also manged to seemingly enrage their (formerly) fellow judges.

I find this whole case both tragic and fascinating. Mark my words: one day this will be made into a movie.

Anyway, it seems that (based on what I read in Gort's blog) in about two weeks The Ciav and The Con will need to decide whether this goes to trial, accept whatever Judge Kosik doles out, or try to negotiate a new plea deal. Personally I am hoping that they just accept sentencing from Judge Kosik, as he does seem offended and will likely give them something damn close to 25 years. For these two, that's basically a life sentence. More likely they will let this go to trial. That's both good and bad...

...good because all of the evidence will come out, amplifying just how shamelessly sleazy these two have been

...bad because it will simply postpone the inevitable serving of justice.

As I've said several times now, the concept of "justice" may actually be a mute point in this case, because I think it's damn near impossible to even assess just how much damage these two have done to the children that appeared before them and the reputation of judges in this region.

If there is a Hell, I'm reasonable sure that sending kids to jail for money is a one-way ticket there.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Note to File: Getting Older Sucks

When you are younger, you can't wait to get older; when you are older, you wish you were younger. Quite the paradox, is it not?

Anyway, I helped a family member move between apartments today, and it was exhausting. Fortunately my back isn't' feeling too bad, mainly I suspect because I was standing most of the time. That seems to be the key to all of this back stuff: the Physical Therapy person I saw on Friday said that I should be getting up from my chair at work about every fifteen minutes or so. Easier said than done. I can just see myself in the midst of teaching an application class via a virtual classroom but having to get up for a stretch break with my headset on. Classic.

The good news is that the moving stuff is done.

Actually I should not complain in the least. The family member in question has been very good to me and my daughters all these years, so helping move some furniture is the least I can do. In fact, there are some people in all of our lives I suspect that probably help us and mean so much to each of us that there is no measure of good deed that could ever truly be considered valid repayment.

So here's to...

...doing the right thing
...repaying acts of kindness
...sore muscles
...realizing just how durable you were when you were a teenager