Not Cease from Exploration

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

AT&T Wants to Protect Its Customers...From Themselves

AT&T recently enacted a new rule that requires the owners of certain cell phones (smartphones...see below) to purchase a wireless data plan. These plans typically cost about $30/month. So riddle me this Batman, how could charging someone for something they don't want be considered "helping" them?

Here's the AT&T logic: owners of certain phones that don't have data plans instead pay for data services (such as checking email or uploading stuff to Facebook) as they use it. However, because paying for data in this manner can be expensive, sometimes customers are surprised at the size of their bills. By forcing them into data plans, AT&T is preventing them from suffering "bill shock".

Here's the Steve logic:
This is Horse $hit! No one should be forced to buy anything they don't want, and this has more to do with AT&T squeezing more money out of casual data users than it does any notion of customer service. I say this because I have been using smartphones for almost ten years and I've never had a data plan. What's more, in all these years, I may have once used more than $30 in data services. Maybe.

Now if this were something the government was planning on doing, the likes of Limbaugh and Glenn Beck would be on it like a fly on a warm turd. But since this is capitalism at its finest, don't expect any protests.

I know, the retort will be "okay, if you don't like it, then simply switch carriers". Nice thought, poor reality. Why?

...most carriers now have similar smartphone requirements (AT&T, to their credit, was among the last)

...most cell customers are locked into longer-term contracts that are horribly expensive to break

In other words, for all intensive purposes the entire industry has these requirements, so simply switching carriers doesn't solve a thing. Yeah Capitalism!

As a side note, there is a way around this madness, the way I actually get around it: simply don't buy your smartphone from AT&T. I have a Palm Treo that I bought on-line (not from AT&T), so the data requirement doesn't apply to me. It's also not retroactive, so three of the other phones that I pay for (all belonging to my daughters) are grandfathered. The fifth phone I pay for isn't considered a smartphone, so the requirement doesn't apply to it. By the way, what is considered a "smartphone"? In a final act of arrogance, AT&T will not give you a list. It's true, as I called AT&T and asked for the list, but they couldn't provide it, and was instead told that someone at one of the AT&T retail stores can tell you this.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On Roman Polanski

Article link here.

Famed director Roman Polanski is fighting extradition to the United States after being nabbed by Swiss authorities on an 31 year old arrest warrant. Apparently both France and Poland and have filed complaints with the U.S. State Department over the apprehension.

Now what could Roman have done that was so horrible as to warrant being arrested 31 years later in a foreign country? Well he is accused of raping a 13 year old girl (who, by the way has now stated that Polanski shouldn't face charges).

Here's my two cents: Roman Polanski is not entitled to any "special" justice as a result of his stature, accomplishments or residence. Maybe the situation is different in Europe, but here no one is above the law. Mr Polanski, if he truly believes that he is innocent, should face his accusers in court.

Now there apparently are credible charges that the original judge in the Polanski case (who is now deceased) engaged in some measure of misconduct, so perhaps there are some mitigating circumstances that should be considered. That's nothing more than a side note though, because the real issue here is whether Polanski did have inappropriate contact with a 13 year old girl, period. Making matters worse is that he fled his accusers all those years ago. Again, that's simply not how justice works in this country.

Here's to hoping that the U.S. State Department stands firm in requiring that the Swiss government uphold it's obligation to extradite Mr Polanski to the United States. He can then stand trial, no better or no worse that the rest of us.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Road Apples #44

Mackenzie Phillips...I heard the news last week about the relationship between Mackenzie Phillips and her late father "Papa" John Phillips. First, I think I am soiling the word "relationship" by using it to describe what happened, but it's the best I can come up with at 6:39am. Second, I never cease to be amazed at the depths people will go when they are on the drug of their choice. Finally, there are few greater sins than that of a father harming his children. This is simple revolting.

This Week...Is going to be chilly, which is fine by me. I'd prefer that my furnace be fully up to the task of heating, but it will do. I have about $575 worth of repairs pending to it, but the plumber can't get to it for a week or two. There's basically a whole bunch of pipes that need to be replaced, work that's needed to be done for several years. One of these pipes should have lasted the life of the house, but I suspect that some mine subsidence in the late 60's caused a little bit of settling, which caused this mail steam pipe to bow; that caused it to eventually leak. Anyway, the furnace works, but I'd prefer that it not have to (much) until the repair is completed.

Facebook...Am I the only one that hates it when Facebook "suggests" friends for you? I can't tell you the number of times it has suggested "John Smith" (name changed to protect the innocent) as a friend, but yet I have no interested in having someone as a Facebook friend that I don't actually know. Well that's not true, as I do have some that I barely (or don't at all) know, but those were people that approached me first...which is different. I know, I'm splitting hairs on that one.

Dental News...Well today is, I think (make that "hope") my final, last, concluding, curtain-call, in the dental implant saga. Ten months ago I was eating a hamburger from the cafeteria at work and bit into something hard. I felt a little pain, but didn't think anything of it. After a few days the discomfort grew worse, so I went to see my dentist. The diagnosis? I had cracked the root of a tooth that had previously had a root-canal, and there was nothing that could be done to save it. After a recommendation from my dentist and a consultation with a periodontist, I decided to get a dental implant to replace it. What happens today? Well I get the new fake tooth fitted over the metal screw that gets threaded into the titanium thing in my skull. As I've said all along, in 500 years someone will open up my grave and see a pile of dust...plus one titanium screw. It's my own piece of immortality. On a more serious note, while my cousin had a serious problem with one of her implants, so far this is something I'd recommend to someone else. The final word from the jury will come this evening, but so far so good.

New Shoes...I hate buying new shoes and I hate wearing new shoes. However new shoes are a requirement when the old ones have holes in them. Why do the old ones have holes in them? Because I wear them down for so long that eventually they just fall apart. Why? Because I hate buying and wearing new shoes. So far so good on the new pair...a fine 'Nun Bush' brown pair that seems to be reasonably comfortable. Nothing is more comfortable than my old Hush Puppies, but alas, I did need to buy something a bit more dressy. Growing up sucks.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Road Apples, #43

Lung Cancer...Great article on lung cancer appearing on the front page of The Sunday Times. Link to it here. The article is aptly titled "Deadliest cancer tied almost entirely to smoking". It really, truly saddens me to see people who still engage in activity, especially people I know. I do realize how addictive it is, but we are not talking about some mildly annoying habit here...we are talking about something that is 100% fatal. Kudos to the folks at The Scranton Times for writing this story.

Pandorum...I went to see this movie today. Not bad, although it was one of those movies that has action scenes that move so fast that you can't really tell what is going on. I hate that. The last Transformers movie was just like that; what's the purpose of having a sequence if it moves so fast that you can't tell what's going on?

Movies...I do like to go to the movies, but I do also have this "love/hate" relationship with movie popcorn. Love in the sense that I love the taste; hate in the sense that I hate the feeling of it between my teeth and, quite frankly, it has this nasty habit of over-loading my digestive system. I'm 45 with the digestive system of an 80 year old. I think I should go on the RoboCop diet

Flu...I managed to get my flu shot on Friday, five minutes before my class began. Nothing like having to flail my arm around while I'm trying to teach people how to use salesforce.com. Of course now I've had some sinus problems over the past few days, but I think I can blame that one on the bug that Katrina possibly gave me last weekend. Right now the front of my face feels like it's about to blow the hatch on a submarine. Time to medicate.

On The Road...I'm back in Hartford this Thursday and Friday. This time someone else is going, so I'll drive with them Wednesday evening. It will be nice for a change to have company. I'll be staying again at the Homebound Suites in Hartford...much better than the "regular" Hilton.

In Computer News...My laptop continues to suffer from "computo-AIDS", so one of these days I really should see about getting it disinfected. I'll need to do that in order to install the Palm desktop. Maybe once I get all this furnace work done.

Doctor Assisted Suicide

My daughter Katrina attended a lecture by Doctor Jack Kevorkian, the man who brought the issue of doctor assisted suicide to the forefront. Interestingly enough, Dr Kevorkian was not allowed to discuss the issue of doctor-assisted suicide during the lecture, as that would have violated his parole.

Anyway, Dr Kevorkian has championed the right of terminally ill patience to decide when they were going to die. Give the "Right to Life" crowd consistency points for this issue, as they have always been against the notion of doctor-assisted suicide (now if they only had that same level of consistency when it come to the death penalty). Controversy or not, I've heard over the years that the notion of doctor-assisted suicide isn't the most uncommon practice in this country. This doesn't mean that doctors routinely do it, but I've heard (again "heard", so I make no claims for accuracy relative to this statement) that it is practiced. Regardless, this certainly is a controversial issue.

Why is this so controversial? My personal opinion is that the controversy has more to do with religious dogma than it does the actual circumstances found in these situations. Think about it: if someone is terminally ill and suffering greatly, what purpose is served (other than a religious one) by requiring that individual continue to suffer until their bodies simply give out from the constant battle? In some ways it almost sounds too cruel to be true. What's more, if any of us were to come upon a mortally wounded animal that was in great pain, our first instinct would be probably be to want that creature to be put out of it's misery. However, with fellow humans, there are some who believe that the misery needs to continue...and probably intensify...simply because the whole ordeal is somehow part of "Gods Plan".

Granted that this whole thing is about "my opinion", so I feel rather nutty saying "my opinion is this", but I will anyway...My opinion is this: there are five conditions under which I think this should be permitted:
  1. The individual has a terminal illness for which there is no cure.
  2. The individual has a very severely limited lifespan as a result of the terminal illness.
  3. The individual is in constant severe pain and discomfort.
  4. The treatment for the constant pain/discomfort renders the person such that they can not perform basic human functions.
  5. The individuals is in a clear mental state, fully understands the circumstances under which they find themselves, and has expressed a desire to end their life in a controlled manner.
Given these conditions, I would argue that such a person should have the right to die with some measure of control, and not laying in a hospital or hospice bed waiting for the end to come like an animal at a celestial slaughtering house. In conditions such as this, when everything about someones life is turned around, it seems to me that allowing a dignified, controlled way to end a patent's suffering is far more compassionate of an act that simply prolonging life and suffering through temporary band-aid measures (such of which may have side-effects that are nearly as bad as the illness it self).

Now I have two side notes to the above:

No doctor should be forced to help a terminally ill patient end their life.

While this could change, I personally don't think I would ever choose to end my own life, regardless of the circumstances.

For the first side-note, I recognize that reasonable people may have differing opinions on this subject, rooted in both religious and other moral traditions. That's okay. Just as no doctor should be forced to perform an abortion, no doctor should be forced perform an assisted suicide.

For the second side-note, I view human life (even my own) to truly be a special thing. At this moment (knowing that things can change) I would want to be able to get every single breath entitled to me in this life.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Important Lessons

As I was engaged in the long drive home yesterday from Hartford, I was thinking about some of the more important lessons I've learned so far about life in general. Why? Well why not? Besides, I like to keep my mind engaged during these drives, as it's one of the few things that can keep my from eventually nodding off and landing in the Hudson river. Anyway, here are a few of the things that came to mind:

First & Foremost: You have to live in your own skin
It's nice to be liked, it's nice to have others around you, but in the end you really only do live within your own skin. What does that mean? Well you spend 100% of your time with yourself, as opposed to some smaller percentage that you spend with friends, family, etc. Given that, you need to learn to like...or at least tolerate...yourself. I have a lot of flaws, but there is also a lot that makes me a good, decent person. And that's okay.

You Own Your Feelings
No one has the power to make you feel anyway or anything. No one can climb inside your head without you first allowing them access. This doesn't mean that it's wrong to feel bad over something involving someone else; to the contrary, I think it's healthy to feel the range of emotions that we all experience in life. But I think we all need to realize that our minds are one of the few things in life that we truly do own ourselves. Have the ability to take control of how you are feeling and say "okay, I'm done being pissed-off over this; time to pull myself up and move on". How much sense does it make to be in a situation where someone else "makes" you feel a certain way but yet you can't change how you feel? Again, who owns that real estate inside your skull anyway? Accept how you feel, but have the wherewithal to take charge when those feelings become destructive.

Be Kind
I try to be kind to people. Why? Well it's not out of any "tit for tat" notion that good works ensure that I'll live on a cloud when I die, but rather it's because there is a small measure of happiness to be find in doing something good. What's more, I truly enjoy being around people who are kind to me, so it's only right to set an example myself.

Keep It In Perspective
It's too easy to get caught up in all the stuff running around you these days...simply put, there is just too much going on in this overly complicated world that we've managed to create. I need to do a better job of reminding myself to take a step back, look at the world around me, and realize that there is a lot more here than simply the current crisis at hand. The phrase "This too shall pass" is probably the wisest thing ever written.

Forgive, But Don't Forget
I've come to accept that it's nearly impossible for me to stay angry at anyone for any great length of time. I'm simply not wired that way. To this day, I can count on one or two fingers the number of people for whom I have a genuine dislike; even then I suspect that I could grow to like this (or that) person if circumstances were different. This isn't to say though that I have a sign on my forehead that says "Please do take advantage of me", because while I forgive easily, I almost never forget.

Lastly...I Define Me
When I look back to when I was much younger (say back to high school years), I think I was constantly looking to others for affirmation as to who I was; it's as if I was allowing others to define me in terms of who I hung-out with, what I wore, where I lived, my grades, etc. One of the biggest lessons I've learned in life-to-date is that I define who I am. I don't need the affirmation of a person or group of people, friends or not, to define me as a person. I don't need to lie about where I live and I don't need to pretend to be anything more than who I really am. To the extent that some folks know who I am and still choose to call me a friend, well that's truly a blessing. And that's okay.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Stuck Inside of Mobile (with the Memphis Blues again)

Now the rainman gave me two cures,
Then he said, "Jump right in."
The one was Texas medicine,
The other was just railroad gin.
An' like a fool I mixed them
An' it strangled up my mind,
An' now people just get uglier
An' I have no sense of time.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.


Now for the life of my I don't know what the hell the above means, but man it sure sounds so very deep.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Learning How To Use A New System/Application

If for no other reason than I feel like it (which actually is the only motivation behind my writing anything anyway), here are some Professional tips on learning how to use a new system/application:

Purpose - First understand that the system is supposed...and not supposed...to do. Know what you are dealing with so that you don't end up expecting it to do something that it was never designed to do. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to figure out how to do something on a system only to later discover that it doesn't actually do that thing anyway.

Terminology
- Often overlooked but very important...get a list of system terms and definitions. Sometimes one system will use a common term to mean something very specific to that application, so make sure understand what the terms mean.

Get 'Hands-On' Instruction
- Systems are tactile things...in other words to work with them you actually have to touch, manipulate, change them. It's my opinion that you really can't get an effective introduction to a system without actually using it.

(Depending on the above) Actually Be There - If you are receiving classroom training on a system, actually be there. What do I really mean? Well...
...turn the cell phone off
...don't sit by your best friend (or that man/woman you love to flirt with)
...be comfortable...if you need to use the bathroom, then use the bathroom

Ask Questions
- If you are receiving classroom instruction then never be afraid the ask the instructor whatever questions come to mind. There really aren't any dumb questions; often times people will ask me questions where they really don't need to have me tell them the answer, but rather they need to ask the question out-loud in order to figure out the answer themselves...which is okay with me (hell I love it...that's one less question I have to answer!).

Help
- Know where to get help once you leave the classroom.

Practice
, Practice, Practice - The dirty secret about training in general is that you really don't retain an awful lot of what you are taught in a classroom. The real learning occurs when you take the bits and pieces of what you learned in a classroom and them try to apply them in your real-world situation. Ideally get some practice within 24 hours of the classroom training.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Race-Baiters

I am always suspicious of people that use race as a primary driver...for anything. I'm even more suspicious when race-baiting is used in political circles. Now it's coming out prominently from the likes of Glenn Beck (President Obama has a "deep seated hatred of white people") and Rush Limbaugh (see a previous blog), but it's important to note that the far left has used similar tactics in the past as well by the likes of the Reverend Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan and others.

Of course now we will have the far right claiming that they are no more guilty than those of the left of race-baiting, as if "well he did it too!" worked now or when you were ten years old.

Wrong is simply wrong. Period. No fine print. No exceptions.

Discussions of race do have a place in our society, but not in the political arena. There are simply too many feeble-minded, weak people who desperately want someone (other than themselves) to blame for their own plight. That's why I have a particular disdain for people in the media who race-bait: they can reach some of the ignorant masses with their "act" who are basically too intellectually weak to separate fact from fiction, bellicose rhetoric from factual dissertations. This is not just bad...it's just plain wrong.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Chronic Illness


I try to count my blessings every day that I am generally pretty healthy. Outside of an acid-reflux problem that requires to me to take a daily pill and my weight being too much at times, I have no health complaints. I do, however, have someone in my family who suffers from a chronic illness.

"Chronic illness" - Even the words sound strangely painful. I guess we should thank Dr Dre from at least taking the sting out of the word "chronic".

Now I know that actually having a chronic illness is far worse than having to live with/be around someone who does. Making that kind of comparison is not what I'm talking about here. Given the choice, I'll gladly not have that condition, thank you very much. Never the less, having a front row seat during the chronic illness show has it's own set of problems. Things flash through my head all the time:

"I wish he/she would get a flu shot, because a bad bout of that could do a lot of damage."

"Is that cold going to develop into pneumonia again?"


"He/She doesn't like to use public bathrooms, so urinating during work isn't happening. How much kidney damage is being done?"


"What are the long term effects of not eating right?"

"He/she is always so tired that he/she never exercises, ever. That can't be good."

"Is that pain in the chest a heart attack or some kind of heart ailment?"

"He/she doesn't drink enough water, which is having a negative impact on their blood pressure."


I know, it's always easier on the outside to arm-chair quarterback health decisions for someone else. However, there is something incredibly cruel about having to watch someone slowly disintegrate, one gram at at time, in front of you. Heck we are all slowly disintegrating, but it's that extra push on the morbidity accelerator pedal they get from a chronic illness that makes it all see so much more horrid.

It all reminds of that scene in the move "A Clockwork Orange" where the lead character is forced to have his eyes kept open while he is deprogrammed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Shame

Well, it appears that Pennsylvania has a "political" budget. Link here.

Yes, it's a political budget because it seems more designed to meet the needs of politicians (Democrats can say "we take care of children" and Republicans can say "we cut spending") than it does the needs of real Pennsylvanians. Among the more ridiculous provisions:
  • An increase in taxes on cigarettes (Good!) but no extra tax on cigars and chewing tobacco (Insane!); maybe this is because the governor and his GOP friends in the legislature do so enjoy a good cigar every now and then
  • The sales tax now applies to entertainment tickets, but not to sporting events; when last I checked, sporting events are a form of entertainment
  • Gambling is extended to table games; funny, but wasn't all of this gambling revenue supposed to go directly back to taxpayers in the form of reduced property taxes?
No sense inflating my blood pressure any more than it has to be. One point though...you will see a lot of comments being made about "Rendell and the spend-o-crats"; one such comment was made to the Scranton Times article by someone named "Santo". Apparently people such as this have conveniently forgotten that Rendell had the willing assistance of Republican leaders in the Legislature in crafting this nonsense.

Welcome to Pennsylvania.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Pennsylvania Budget...Maybe?

Article link here.

I'm going to say this right up front: ANYONE who believes that the budget failure in Harrisburg in the fault of "those Democrats" or "those Republicans" is, in my humble opinion, mentally retarded. Direct enough?

This whole budget fiasco isn't a failure of Democrats...or Republicans...it's a failure of a system of Harrisburg that exists more for the enrichment of career politicians than it does for anything else. When economic times are good, it's easy for the career politicians to hide their self-dealing, as the voting population is busy enjoying various forms of consumption. It's when times are tough, and the voters are actually looking to the state government to make things better (mistake #1 by the way) that they notice just how pathetically bad the situation is in Harrisburg.

Solutions? The current structure of the Pennsylvania Legislature will never create any meaningful reform. It truly is like asking a fox to guard a hen-house. I'm convinced that, knowing there will always be some forms of self-dealing and enrichment among all politicians (greed and graft aren't the exclusive properties of either political party), we need to reduce the amount of it by reducing the size of the legislature.

In the end, it's like dealing with a chronic health condition: you know you will never cure it, so you look for ways to live with it by minimizing the damage.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Rocky Planet Found Outside the Solar System

A very important discovery was announced today. Link Here.

We are inching towards the day when we will be able to identify planets that resemble Earth in terms of both composition and position from their respective stars. While it may not seem like much, this will help us as a species understand if we really are alone in the universe.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Limbaugh & Drudge's Race Baiting

First, a definition (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Race baiting is an act of using racially derisive language, actions or other forms of communication, to anger, intimidate or incite a person or groups of people, or to make those persons behave in ways that are inimical, and often harmful to their personal or group interests.

This can also be accomplished by implying that there is an underlying race-based motive in the actions of others towards the group baited, where none in fact exists. The term "race" in this context can be construed very broadly to include the social constructs which define race or racial difference, as well as ethnic, religious, gender and economic differences.


Second, this headline from the Drudge Report:
LIMBAUGH: Race Rules All in Obama's America...


Third, judge for yourself.

Santorum Eyes 2012 Presidential Run...

...and in related news, I am considering a run at becoming the next Pope.

I think my chances are slightly better than Rick's.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Food Stamps & Potato Chips

I was at Kmart yesterday buying a battery for a watch I found at a flea market (an older L.L. Bean watch...pretty neat actually...and worth the $2 I paid for it) and I had the misfortune of being behind a group of ladies who, among other things, were buying several bags of potato chips with an Access card. Now I don't know all of the specifics of how some of these programs work; hell I still use the term "food stamps". Anyway, it just seemed strange/odd/wrong that these folks were buying something like potato chips with a benefit program that seems more designed to provide food that I would think should fall into the "staple" category.

Returning home, I conducted about ten minutes of research and found what I think are the "Food Stamp Rules" on-line. USDA Link here. They seem pretty reasonable to me, although there is no mention of potato chips anywhere to be found. Oh, and I am glad that someone can't buy booze or smokes with an Access card.

All of the above points to a larger issue, namely what our society has become, thanks in part to what I think has been a overly consumer-driven economy where "having" becomes more important "needing". This isn't to deny though the real fact that we all have free will and make personal choices that ultimately dictate how we act. Never the less, here we are, living in a society where I once saw...

...someone using an Access Card to buy groceries in a Quickie Mart (way over-priced)
...while talking on their cell phone
...and after the Access Card transaction is complete, using cash to buy a pack of cigarettes

Somehow our society has decided that there is nothing wrong...hell, there doesn't even seem to be something ironic...with someone begging for money from the government on one hand for food, but yet having the money for a luxury such as a cell phone on the other. Oh, and I could send an hour ranting about the tobacco thing; suffice to say that I find it horrible that the public pays for free healthcare for someone who destroys their own health via smoking.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just turning into an angry middle-aged white guy. Maybe I am slowly becoming "The Man". It all though just sounds so very, very wrong. I want the government to help people up, not subsidize bad choices and behaviors.

Pulling A "Kanye"


I'd like to add a new phrase to the modern lexicon: "Pulling A Kanye".

Definition:
To act like a classless ass, particularly when liquored up, in a very public situation.

Example:
"Man, I was so drunk, and then I pulled a Kanye at the restaurant, right in front of my in-laws. I am so embarrassed."


I refer, of course, to the little stunt performed by "artist" Kanye West during the recent MTV Video Music Awards. Link to article and video here. Now I didn't watch these awards, but I did read about it and see the video. This is what rewarding bad behavior gets us, although I guess we should count our blessings in that no one was shot.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chris Kelly's Excellent Column on the Scranton "Tea Party"

I don't always read the Chris Kelly column in The Sunday Times, but this time I glad that I did. Excellent, simply excellent. Look, I have a real beef with the way that our city, state and nation is governed at times, but like most people I don't degrade into insane accusations that bear a striking resemblance to what you would hear at a Klan rally.

Article Link Here.

Road Apples, #42

Work...I am actually working in Scranton...as in not traveling...for the next week and a half. Truth be told, while I have a lot of travel yet to come, there is only one more 4 day "stint" of left between now and the end of October (barring something unexpected). I have a lot that I want to do at home, so the time here will be welcome. Lots of cleaning.

The Fall...Fall is my absolute favorite season. More on this in another post.

Car Speakers...When I returned from a trip a week ago, I discovered that my right front car stereo speaker has blown-out. "Blown-out" is a technical term for "no longer sounds right", or something like that. I need to see if I can buy a replacement for it, as it now sounds pretty bad no matter what I do.

"You Might Be A Redneck If..."...Yes, I am going to the "Flea Market" this morning. I like to go every once in a while for a few reasons, including...

...I can find interesting junk from time to time
...It's not a bad little walk
...It makes for interesting people observing

For $0.50 parking fee you get a lot of entertainment. Plus they have these really good hamburgers.

Yesterday...I went grocery shopping and then went out on the great quest for new boxer shorts. About two years ago I decided to make the "leap" from wearing white cotton briefs to wearing boxer shorts. Something about how I bought one pair of boxers, put them on, and realized that for the preceding 43 years I had been wearing underwear that really was uncomfortable; but another way, I didn't know what I was missing in not wearing boxers. Well it was time to throw out everything I had and get some new ones. My first thought was "I'll get some from Eddie Bauer", as I really dig Eddie Bauer's clothing. Well, Eddie no longer carries boxer shorts, so it was off to Kmart where I found some Fruit of the Loom. I am very particular about the boxer:

...they must be made from 100% cotton (except for the elastic)
...the waist-band must be covered in fabric
...solid colors only

Yes, I know, so many rules. I sound like Monk. Anyway, I found some at Kmart, and am wearing a new pair as I write this. Just another spoiled American I guess.

Pennsylvania's Budget Crisis...Pennsylvania still does not have a budget. Personally I think every last one of them in Harrisburg needs to be fired. They do not deserve their jobs, Democrats and Republicans alike. All are more interested in the preservation of power and the status quo than they are in actually governing the Commonwealth in an effective manner.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spiraling Towards the Legal Blackhole


They say that when a super-massive star ends it's life, it can become a blackhole, which is an object so massive that it literally collapses in upon itself. Any matter or energy going near the blackhole will eventually be sucked up into it, all be it potentially after spiraling around the edge of the blackhole (known as an Event Horizon) for what seems like forever.

On a related note, in this past Thursday (the 10th), this little ditty was published in The Scranton Times (and Citizen's Voice in "Hayna Gulch"). While the road may take a while to travel, I have no doubt that in the end, the nation's most infamous crooked judges, Ciavarella & Conahan, will end up spending the rest of their lives in a hole of another sort.

Think of Ciavarella & Conahan as being like chunks of matter spiraling around a blackhole...doomed to eventually be consumed by a giant nothing. It may seem maddening that justice is taking so long to be served, but I like think of it this way: every day they get to see what's left of their lives (and their money) slowly spiraling away. Justice? Nope...nothing could undue what these two have done to others, but the fact that their fate is inevitable is of some comfort.

Enjoy the view guys.

Friday, September 11, 2009

10 Reasons Why Business Travel Is Over-Rated

In no particular order (for no particular reason):
  1. It's almost impossible to find truly good pizza.
  2. I am, for all intensive purposes, working 24 hours a day.
  3. I get guilting "but you are not here" calls and text messages.
  4. Others mistakenly think that I'm having fun, when in reality it's just the opposite.
  5. I tend to over-eat.
  6. There is nothing glamorous about sitting in a hotel room at 9pm waiting for time to pass so that I can go to bed.
  7. Hotel inconveniences suck...be they showers without enough water pressure, "high-speed" Internet access that has about the same bandwidth as as 24kps modem, or air conditioning that will not go any lower than 65 degrees.
  8. You get disturbed by creepy noises from people in the room(s) next to you.
  9. Plastic room door keeps that seem to only selectively work (nothing worse than standing outside your room, carrying tons of crap, trying to open your door and only seeing that yellow LED flash at you).
  10. 3am fire alarms.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Remembering September 11th

9-11 seems so long ago, but yet I still remember the morning that it all happened. Lori Carson, someone who reported to me at the time, first told me that something was going on in New York City. Before long we had groups of people watching TV monitors throughout the building, all trying to figure out what happened.

I remember the videos...those scenes of the planes just ramming the towers, seeming just melding with the structures like a knife cutting into a cake.

I remember Sue Unvarsky from our office calling everyone together to try and disseminate some news on what was going on.

I remember going home early and picking up my kids from middle school. We just didn't know what was going on.

I remember shortly after it happened thinking to myself "I really should cry...the sheer horror of it should rightfully bring me to tears...the sights of people jumping out windows...the replay again and again of the video...all of it just should have made be break down into tears. I never did cry.

I remember the anger at it all. "F&^%ing nuke them all!" was uttered from my (and others) lips. That's the problem with anger though: it makes you do things in response that really don't provide any real satisfaction. In the case of 911, we lost far more lives in the "response" than we did in the attack.

I remember being in Newark a month or so later, looking out from an upper floor window of the Plaza building and seeing Manhattan in the distance, smoke still rising from the remains of the structures.

Most of all, I remember at that moment the world changed forever.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Zombie Kids

For the record, I didn't hear reports of any zombie kids wandering around the nation, muttering "must have socialized medicine". Not even on Faux News. Yes, our nation's school children...at least the ones that were allowed to listen to it...managed to survive the Obama address. Amazing stuff.

Well this isn't so amazing, as I suspect some of those that questioned the President's speaking to school children also probably question...

...the President's citizenship
...fluoride in drinking water
...the role of Jews in the banking system
...[insert your favorite wild-assed conspiracy here]


By the way, the nuts on the extreme Right don't have a monopoly on stupidity, as equally ridiculous spew has come from the extreme left during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Yes, in United States we have BOTH the right to criticize the actions of government AND to be a complete and utter IDIOT at the same time.

Gotta love freedom.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Six Years Ago...

...Warren Zevon died from lung cancer. One of the last songs he recorded was "Keep Me In Your Heart", which is as fitting as any tribute to him could ever be.





Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile

If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for while

There's a train leaving nightly called
when all is said and done
Keep me in your heart for while

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for while

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for while

Sometimes when you're doing simple
things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile

You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for while

Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

Engine drivers headed north to Pleasant Stream
Keep me in your heart for while

These wheels keep turning but
they're running out of steam
Keep me in your heart for while

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for while

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for while

Keep me in your heart for while

Road Apples, #41

The Cardinal Makes a Splash...According to an article in the on-line edition of The Scranton Times (link here), Cardinal Rigali made a positive impression on the participants of the traditional Italian Mass at St. Peter's Cathedral. The fact that the Cardinal spoke about issues in addition to the right to life was a step in a positive direction. It does seem strange that he actually accepted the offer to say the Mass, but then again maybe this is part of his process for "turning the corner" on the administration of retired Bishop Martino.

Italian Festival...Speaking of the Italian Festival, Scranton hosts a very large Labor Day weekend celebration of Italian culture called "La Festa Italiana". About 150,000 people attend over three days. I haven't gone yet, but maybe I will today. For me, the problem has been that there has been no one to go with, and it's not as if I haven't asked. Worst case I go by myself.

Assorted Loons...Yes, assorted loons continue to believe that President Obama will be sending subliminal messages to the nation's children via his upcoming broadcast to classrooms. One district in the area is asking that parents provide consent before their children view it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't two Republican presidents address children in the classroom (Reagan and one of the Bush's)? I'm sorry, but this one makes my blood boil. Personally I think we have the likes of Limbaugh and Beck to blame for this nonsense, creating an environment where absolutely every action of every politician needs to be viewed through a political lens. Yes, I'm savvy enough to realize that politics is a driving force behind much of what President's do, but there isn't any political undertone in the message of "stay in school and work hard" that I can detect.

This Week...I am actually working in Scranton on Tuesday, but then I'm in Hartford for Wednesday to Friday. I should be back in town on or about Friday evening. With this week over with, I will be more than half way done with my out-of-town project assignment. It will be strange going to work and NOT having to do the same class I have been doing for weeks on end.

Yesterday...Yesterday was my mother's 73rd birthday. Her health is pretty good for her age, although she does suffer from some fairly bad arthritis in her leg joints. Remarkable when you consider also that she has had 7 brain tumors removed over the years. Fortunately it seems that the brain tumor phase of her life is over with. I still remember the first one back in 1985. We thought we nearly lost her back then (the tumor was the size of a grapefruit and by sheer volume destroyed part of her optic nerve). Yesterday was also my sister Michelle's birthday, but I haven't spoken to her in years (something that has been her choice, not mine), nor have any of my brothers. I know she lives in south central Pennsylvania, but I no longer have an email address (I did at one time and sent her something, but she never responded), and besides I know she has moved. Anyway, happy birthday to her as well & here's to family reunions at some point in the future.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Body Ages at a Different Rate than the Mind

The body does age at a different rate than the mind.

The above is something I am absolutely, positively certain of, period. At age 45 I think I am finally (well over the past few years) started to become mentally mature. Of course there are times when I think my body is aging far too fast, but then I remember that there are times in the past when the average life expectancy was something like 45, so the issues I have seem minor in comparison.

It is all so very, very cruel in a lot of ways: We are given this physical hardware but when it is at peak efficiency (when we are in our, say early 20's) the software we have inside our heads isn't powerful enough to run it right. How's that one for a geek analogy?

There are ways of dealing with this stuff. I can make the choice to eat healthier. I can choose to exercise more. It's all about what you want I suppose. I want to be very active in my older years. I don't want to be some person who sits in front of a TV screen day after day after day, waiting for the next CSI re-run and ultimately just waiting to die. I know, we all die in the end. Well we all do die, it's just that we don't - and shouldn't - spend all of our time thinking about that constantly. That would be a waste of life.

Maybe the trick in life is to constantly try and strike this balance. When we are younger and have peak efficiency bodies, we work on improving our minds (going to school, starting careers, etc.); when we are older, we have to work on getting our bodies more in lines with the cumulative efficiency that our minds achieve through age and experience.

No one ever said that this life stuff was going to be easy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Coincidence? Mayor Doherty's "Announcement"

I really, really didn't want to write anything more about anything even remotely related to abortion. No offense to anyone, but I don't view the world through a lens of "abortion issue first, all other issues second". Yes, I do have opinions on this issue, but I also genuinely respect the views of other rational people on abortion, especially those who disagree with me.

I saw this article in the on-line edition of The Scranton Times and it just trumped the other things that are swirling in my head. That's okay, I can write about autumn, how hard it is to be a teenager these days and why business travel is not glamorous on another day.

Getting back to the subject at hand, I find it interesting that the Mayor chose to make this disclosure about a week after (now retired) Bishop Martino stepped down. Coincidence? I'm not sure. I do know that the Mayor takes his Catholic faith seriously, although I suppose some will state that he actually doesn't, given his professed stand on this issue.

I do know that the Mayor is a decent guy. Despite what is written about him in some of the Internet's underbelly, this is not an elitist, detached individual; I say this as someone who has talked to him once or twice and found him to be just the opposite. Decent or not, the Mayor has made a few enemies over the years, and I suspect that his "pro choice" stand will be akin to someone standing out in the middle of a field during a thunderstorm holding a 1-iron.

One thing is for sure: expect all manner of anonymous "baby killer" comments to this article. Will I comment? Hell no. Wadding into the comments mess that this article will generate will be like cleaning out a septic tank: anyone that goes in will end up smelling like crap by association.

Friday, September 4, 2009

In The "This will not make me friends" Department...

I saw this posting on Facebook from a morning radio talk show...

"Sen. Bob Casey on live at 7:45am...right wing wackos who are taking their kids out of class because the President is addressing students next week... on the Morning News right now on WILK"


To which I just had to respond...

Stephen Albert
I find it humorously ironic that this topic was started with the phrase "right wing wackos who are..." when it's WILK that profits from "right wing wackos" via programming. Isn't this kind of like a Preacher giving a sermon about the evils of pornography while at the same time running a pornographic website?


I just couldn't help it. This is the same radio station that has a line-up that consists of almost nothing but "right wing wackos", from Limbaugh to Hannity to Savage. Now I can respect people with differing political views, but come on it's hard to believe any measure of disgust from a radio Programming Director who does well via these same 'wackos".

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Clearning The Air: The Catholic Church & It's Tax Exempt Status

A comment made to a previous posting moves me to clarify a few thoughts I have on the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church.

First, I firmly believe that all religious organizations should enjoy the privilege of having a tax exempt status, provided that the true purpose of the organization is spiritual and/or charitable in nature. There are what I would describe as "pay to pray" groups out there (some being greatly boosted by certain short actors) that I'd love to see lose their tax exempt status, but the Catholic church is about as far from that as a group can get. In all the years of going to Catholic Churches I never felt compelled, pressured or bullied into making a donation.

Second, the Catholic Church remains one of the great charitable organizations in the world. Whether it's the Sisters of Mercy running hospitals, other orders running homes for orphans or any other number of groups and endeavors, the Catholic Church has made and continues to make a difference.

Third, what bothers me about some of the statements made by religious leaders (including those of retired Bishop Joseph Martino) is that they could be considered by a reasonable person as being advocacy for certain candidates. No, I don't have an archive of exact quotes and I don't have a researcher digging them up for me, but I think we all know that the Catholic Church has made it very clear which candidates deserve a vote and which don't.

Finally, as I've noted before, I personally believe that it's important for religious organizations to stay out of the political process precisely because the leaders of those organizations lack accountability for their actions in the political realm. For example...if a company engages in illegal lobbying activities, there are a number of ways in which accountability can be established, including: firing of senior executives, replacement of Board of Director members, barring the company from federal contract work, etc. Now ask yourself this, if a Church engaged in illegal lobbying activities, would any of these remedies be available? There are no 'shareholders' in the Catholic Church who can remove a Bishop who broke the rules; in effect, the Catholic Church is accountable to no one other than itself for its own actions. This notion of zero accountability coupled with political activity should scare anyone with more than three functioning brain cells.

It's 4:45AM, Why Am I Even Typing?

Yes, I am sitting here in a hotel room at about a quarter to five in the morning. I made the enormous mistake of laying down at about 9:45pm last night, which meant that I fell asleep pretty quickly, which also meant that I ended up getting up far too early.

I do have this love/hate relationship with sleeping.

Anyway, when faced with situations like this, I'm always left with the dilemma as to whether or not I should lay back down for a while, useless in bed, or try and stay up, get some work done and just get the day going. I despise the former alternative, although I will also confess to acting on it once or twice. For today, I'm sticking with choice #2. Now come 9pm tonight I'll probably pay the price for my insolence via sheer exhaustion, reducing me to drinking caffeinated drinks about 7pm just so that I don't collapse early and breed this cycle even more.

I could blame this on the Olive Garden I suppose. Between salad, breadsticks, lasagna and desert, my digestive system probably shunted every once of energy in my body just for digestive purposes, making me the functional equivalent of a silver-back gorilla for the night. Yes, but I know better, don't I?

Knowing better.

I've often wondered if I have the bizarre compulsion to commit suicide via over-eating. I eat far too much, and the only thing standing between me and morbid obesity is the fact that I run around like a maniac all day (until I manage to lay down and then normally collapse into sleep). I know that I should be eating better, I feel better when I am eating better, I've lost a ton of weight by eating better, yet I still eat like crap. This is complicated stuff. Maybe it has more to do with growing up (than growing...out). A few years ago I lost a ton of weight and I did it the right way, by working with a nutritionist, counting calories, exercising, etc. Also in the mix was the fact that someone in my immediate family was very, very ill at the time; I think part of my devotion of a better lifestyle was a combination of:
  1. I want to be healthy (not like this other person)
  2. That is out of my control, so I need to have something important in my life that I can control

More heavily weighted towards #2 by the way.

Control.

Control is a big issue with me. It's my drug of choice. It's not that I am a true "control freak" in the classical sense of the word. For example, I have ABSOLUTELY NO desire to control the actions of anyone around me, family included. As far as I am concerned, it's strictly "live and let live". I do, however, have an absolutely need to be in control of those things that impact just me. This makes the situation all the more bizarre, in that I don't control what I put into my body in terms of food. Or maybe I do.

Okay, this is far too weighty stuff for so early a time in the morning. God help my class today, as I may end up comparing salesforce.com to Romanesque architecture.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On The Turning Away

I've been doing a lot of reading about/listening to Pink Floyd lately. In fact, at at 45 , I finally bought a copy of "The Dark Side of the Moon". Anyway, from a much later album (1987's "A Momentary Lapse of Reason") there is a song called "On The Turning Away". From what I gather, the song talks about the tendency of people to turn their heads away from people who are suffering. That's something we all need to be careful about.


On The Turning Away
Gilmour/Moore

On the turning away
from the pale and downtrodden
and the words they say
which we won't understand
"don't accept that what's happening
is just a case of others' suffering
or you'll find that you're joining in
the turning away"

It's a sin that somehow
light is changing to shadow
and casting it's shroud
over all we have known
unaware how the ranks have grown
driven on by a heart of stone
we could find that we're all alone
in the dream of the proud

On the wings of the night
as the daytime is stirring
where the speechless unite
in a silent accord
using words you will find are strange
and mesmerised as they light the flame
feel the new wind of change
on the wings of the night

No more turning away
from the weak and the weary
no more turning away
from the coldness inside
just a world that we all must share
it's not enough just to stand and stare
is it only a dream that there'll be
no more turning away?