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Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Andy Palumbo's August 31st Blog
While I'm not in favor of one governmental body suing another, I certainly understand the frustration many feel over the gross mismanagement of the local AAA franchise & facilities over the years. The fact now that the Yankees are basically making up their own rules...including the insane one where dealing with a pubic entity is somehow subject to a confidentiality agreement...points to just how pathetic this whole business has become.
Yes, the more the Cordaro years are scrutinized, the worse they look.
Monday, August 30, 2010
- Promoting the brand known as Beck and his many endeavors (books, shows, University, etc.)
- Countering the argument that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ("the Mormons", referred here as "LDS") are not a mainstream Christian denomination
Values...that brings us to the second point.
I think the rally was as much about selling the Mormon Church as it was anything else. Beck converted to the LDS Church years ago, and he is in fact becoming one of the Church's most ardent apologists. I've heard the guy counter the many arguments that the LDS are not true Christians, and to those without a lot of knowledge on the subject he does sound convincing.
Are Mormons Christian?
Typical dissertations by evangelical Christians on the subject can be found HERE and HERE. Granted there are religious scholars out there who believe that Mormons are Christians, but having studied the faith for a few years (and having worked with Mormons when I was in high school), it's difficult for me to accept them as being "classically Christian". Why? First and foremost, most Christians, by very definition, consider the Bible to be the complete Word of God, without need for a "Volume 2". The Book of Mormon is, for all intensive purposes, a second Bible. There are other nuances of faith that are at play here, but suffice to say I personally don't think that Mormons fit in the traditional Christian category.
Note: I'm not making a value judgment about the LDS Church, as I'm just about the last person to comment on the merits of any faith. Hell, you can make a good argument that I don't fit the classical definition of being a Christian. My commentary is more academic than anything else, and in point of fact the Mormons I've known have been some of the nicest, most pious individuals I've ever encountered. That doesn't mean though that they fit the classical definition of being Christians.
Anyway, I could discuss Mormon theology for hours on end, but that's not the point here; the point is Glenn Beck. It's my hypothesis that part of his crusade is to create a mainstream view of the LDS Church for the Christian right, as embodied by the likes of Sarah Palin. Saying "Jesus", talking about the "Heavenly Father" (Mormons love to say "Heavenly Father" by the way) and extolling the virtues of prayer are the kinds of things that many on the religious Right want to hear. The problem is that, as I've noted above, the Mormon Church doesn't exactly match 1:1 with the tenants of what most of the religious Right actually believe.
So what do we have? Basically it's a Glenn Beck who is selling himself as a brand, and tagging along his Church for the ride. Far be it for me to knock a brother is who just trying to make a living, so more power to Glenn Beck. He's no better nor worse than many of his peers. Beck does need to hope though that his evangelical friends overlook some of those little theological differences (the planet Kolob, Spirit Babies, Baptizing the Dead, "Sealed" Marriages, Plural Marriages, "like a God", special underwear, etc.) that might impact the brand known as Beck. The more the uneducated on the religious Right look, the less they will like.
I am, by the way, referring to the pending lawyer orgy that will result from Luzerne County suing Lackawanna County. Story link HERE. More details to come, but seriously, do we really need them? It all boils down to this:
- Luzerne County will have lawyers...paid by taxpayers...sue Lackawanna County.
- Lackawanna County will have lawyers...paid by taxpayers...defend against the suit by Luzerne County.
By my reckoning the only winners here are the lawyers, which is probably the underlying point of it all.
Amazing...simply amazing. This would be funny if it were not for the fact that it's our money they are playing with in the first place.
Tell you what: Give me $200 + a pair of tickets to see Gordon Lightfoot at the Kirby and I'll mediate a resolution between the two groups of county commissioners.
Well today is something of a milestone for me, as it is the last first day of school. I know, that sounds somewhat complicated, but it is true: today is the last "first day of school" for the youngest of my daughters. Rebecca is starting her senior year of high school today, and this time next year I'll not have any kids just starting school. Fast forward to late August 2011 and I'll have one daughter in the workforce with a college degree (Katrina), one starting her second year at the University of Scranton (Korin) and one starting her first year of college (Rebecca).
I don't consider myself old or mature enough to even be in this position, but as John Lennon once observed...
More true words have never been spoken.
Not bad for a kid from the projects.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Associated Press story, "Vicious Attack Leaves PA Inmate Comatose" linked HERE.
One of the more troubling aspects of this report is the fact that there are credible allegations that the inmate was grossly mistreated over an extended period of time, a fact which has yet to be reported at any level of detail in the local media. From the story:
A former inmate who lived on the same block as Pinto confirmed the abuse. The inmate, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears retribution against family members who hold local patronage jobs, told The Associated Press that he saw guards brutalize Pinto.
"...hold local patronage jobs..." that phrase alone should send shivers down your spine. A man was being raped and people kept quiet because they had relatives with patronage jobs. Gee, what else would they turn a blind eye to in order to protect the status quo?
The article also touches on details of Father Pickard's warning to prison authorities:
Pickard wrote a letter to the Lackawanna County commissioners on March 30 of this year complaining that prosecutors had failed to look into Pinto's allegations, "resulting in additional sexual assaults and continued denial of medical treatment."
Father Pickard continues to be banished from the prison, despite a quarter century of ministry to the jail's population.
Again, the fact that the AP provides so much more detail than the Scranton Times has to date is nothing short of astounding.
You think the prisoner having the baby on the jailhouse floor shook things up at the jail? Hell, that was minor league stuff compared to what will happen as a result of this incident. Mr Pinto was not a good man, and for his crimes he deserved to be punished. Let me be perfectly clear though with how I feel: NO ONE deserves the treatment this man received. His blood is on the hands of everyone in that jail who was in a position to intervene, be they guards, prison administrators, the warden or the Prison Board. The investigation as to what happened here needs to reach into all operations of the Lackawanna County jail and the county District Attorney's office. No sacred cows, be they unionized guards, the prison warden or the District Attorney's office.
There was recently an uproar when a lady threw a cat in a dumpster. Weeks later and the cat is doing fine. Mr Pinto had his head stomped in 15 times. Weeks later and he is probably going to need intensive care for the rest of his life. Do the societal math.
Finally, I know that there are some out there that say this man "got what he deserved". Funny, I wonder how many of those folks revile in disgust when they hear of people getting stoned to death in Islamic countries? In my estimation, what happened to this inmate is basically America's version of Sharia Law.
- Nicotine actually changes the structure and function of your brain, requiring it to constantly want more of the drug.
- Nicotine is poisonous to many insects. In fact, in the past it wasn't all that uncommon for ranchers to walk cattle through nicotine baths. In modern times is is an active ingredient in some pesticides.
- Nicotine is actually classified as a stimulant, as it increases heart rate and metabolism in general.
- 82% of individuals suffering from Schizophrenia smoke.
- Nicotine has only one known medical use: as a product in gums & patches to help people quit smoking.
- Nicotine impedes the body's ability to rid itself of damaged or dead cells, which encourages the formation of cancer.
- 60 mg of nicotine will kill you.
- Once inhaled in smoke, nicotine is able to impact the brain's functioning in less than 10 seconds.
- Nicotine, like heroin and cocaine, causes the release of dopamine into the brain. Over time, the amount of nicotine required to stimulate dopamine release increases.
- Nicotine impedes the release of insulin from the pancreas. This elevates blood sugar levels.
Bottom Line: Smoking is simply a socially acceptable delivery mechanism for the highly addictive (and toxic) drug nicotine. If you smoke please try to quit.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
1. My ex is...many, many years ago.
2. I should learn to...play the guitar
3. I love...pizza
4. People would say that I am....Picky
5. I don't understand.....people that don't read
6. When I wake up in the morning...I think about the day ahead
7. I lost....26 pounds this year
8. Life is....very complex
9. My past taught me.....that you grow or you die
10. I get annoyed when.....I am around closed-minded people
12. I wish....I spoke Italian
13. Dogs and cats.....are okay (I like cats better though)
14. My childhood pet...was a dog named "Choo Choo"
15. Tomorrow is.....Sunday, a day when I actually don't do all that much resting
16. I have a low tolerance for...lazy people
17. If I had a million dollars...how I spent it would really piss people off
18. I'm terrified of...not much (although I'm uncomfortable with heights)
19. I've come to realize...that the biggest struggles in life come from the inside, not the outside
20. I am listening to.. the SNL monologue
21. I talk...as little as possible
22. My Best Friend...knows who they are
23. My first kiss.....was so long ago that I don't even remember it
24. Love is....rare
25. Marriage is... something most people aren't prepared for
26. Somewhere, someone is thinking.....my God, why am I wasting my time reading this dribble?
27. I'll always be.....instrospective
28. The last time I really cried was...was a long time ago
29. My cell phone ...is always with me
30. Before I go to bed...take drink my lovely does of dietary fibre
31. My middle name...is Gerard
32. Right now, I am thinking.. ..I wish there were fewer questions
33. Today I.....actually managed to get in a decent workout
34. Tomorrow I will be....doing the usual Sunday stuff
35. I really want to.....lose about 5 more pounds, but damn is it hard
36. The person most likely to re-post this is...irrelevant
37. The person least likely to re-post this is...equally irrelevant
38. My relationship with my grandparents.....was nonexistent (they were almost all dead when I was kid)
39. My most treasured possession is.....a picture of me with the girls
40. My favorite pictures....are those with me and the girls
41. I sing......very, very badly
42. If I was a crayon...I would be dark red
43. Someday I want to travel to...Italy, Germany and Sweden
44. I am wearing...a Kutztown University tee shirt and blue shorts
45. My favorite class this semester was.....not applicable...
46. My favorite language is.....to speak...English; to listen to...Italian
47. It hurts...when people I know lose their job at work
48. I'm going to miss.....having Korin at home
49. My profile picture ..is one of the few I can tolerate
50. I need......a simplified life
Friday, August 27, 2010
I get this way from time to time. It might be something like a circuit overload of sorts I suppose. There is far too much multi-tasking in my life, or so I think, and sometimes it just gets to be mentally exhausting. Add some physical exhaustion to the mix and you probably have a perfect storm of mental disorder. It's as if there is this kind of centrifugal force in my head that is just about ready to send my gray matter off into splintering directions at any moment, if it were not for the affects of some strange mental gravity that holds things in my head together. It all gets to be so damned complex.
Anyway, I'm ready for this day to end at any moment. Good riddance. Right now I'm just waiting for something I just took a few minutes ago to take hold and send me off into what I hope will be about 8 hours of catatonic slumber. I've learned over the years that the closest I get to a natural circuit breaker reset lies in some sleep. Mind you I still hate sleeping, but even I concede that, from time to time, it is necessary.
"Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination." - Mark Twain
Blog Roll...I've updated my blog roll & list of blogs I follow to better reflect some of the local blogs that seem interesting (at least to me). I included blogs that were...
...written by adults
...updated with some regularity.
In looking for blogs I found it amazing just how sleepy the local blogging scene really is in NEPA. Maybe the mountains that sit on either side of "da valley" are higher than I thought.
Article link HERE.
Apparently Barletta wants to protect the pristine former mine land or something like that, and he believes that a "military style training camp" would be disruptive. Now this facility would be run the by U.S. State Department, not the Marine Corps, but I suspect that Barletta would be opposed to Christmas if it could somehow be proven to be a Kanjorski idea (which makes no sense at all, because Christmas, in and of itself, doesn't involve sending public money to the Kanjorski family, but so I digress...). Regardless, while I'm not entirely convinced that this project will happen here, if it does it would be a great, great thing for the region.
I also think this is yet another example of how Barletta is a one-trick pony: he sounds good when he is busy trying to scare the bejesus out of a certain audience worried about illegal immigration, but he falls flat when he talks about just about everything else, including his tenure as Hazelton's mayor.
After reading the story of Kanjorski's announcement yesterday on NEPArtisan I was skeptical about the project's prospects and worried that it might make the Congressman look bad if it didn't happen. Well Barletta just solved that problem. By immediately coming out against 1,000 jobs (in an area with unemployment in the 9.5% range and layoffs & outsourcing coming right and left) Barletta has just negated any advantage he could garner if this project doesn't come to fruition. People are now going to be debating why Barletta is opposed to this, not whether Kanjorski is engaged in wishful thinking. If this whole thing was Ed Mitchell's idea, then I have to hand to to the guy, as it's a stroke of genius.
This brings to mind a certain scene in a favorite movie...
Thursday, August 26, 2010
What's interesting here is how the real underlying issue has been presented by the Internet media. In point of fact Philadelphia does not have a "blogger tax". Philadelphia has what is basically a fee that every business owner has to pay for the privileged of doing business in the city. Does that fee apply specifically to bloggers? No, and in fact many cities have business privilege taxes or fees (Scranton does as well), so the concept is nothing new.
What's the "new" part? I think it's the idea that running a blog...and getting paid for it...is a business. Note the use of the word 'and', as it's critical to the discussion. Basically what the government folks are saying is "Hey, if you run a blog and you get advertising revenue, that's basically a business. Like any other business, you have to pay this business privilege tax/fee.". Honestly, I think they are right, at least as far as consistency is concerned. Why should, for example, someone who runs a newspaper (which has content and sells advertising) have to pay a tax/fee but a blogger with ads (which has content and sells advertising) not have to pay the same tax/fee? I realize there is a de minimis argument that can be made, namely that many bloggers only earn very small amounts of revenue from their on-line endeavors. That's a fair point, but I'd argue that many businesses don't make a lot of money. Why should an on-line endeavor be treated differently?
For the record, I am not endorsing these kinds of taxes and fees. My point is one of consistency. If you are going to have this kind of tax/fee, then fairness dictates that there should be no sacred cows in the field. To hear some on the Internet, you would think that blogger is the most sacred of cows. It's not. Any dope can do this, although I'm not saying that any dope can do this well. To the extent that bloggers are upset that they need to pay the tax/fee based on, for example, the $11.20 in ad revenue they receive annually, then they should fight for a minimum revenue clause in the tax/fee legislation that would apply to all businesses.
Bottom Line: The moment a blogger begins to receive advertising revenue from their corner of cyberspace is the same moment that the blogger begins running a business. As a business person, they should be treated no better...or no worse...than anyone else running a business. If a blogger doesn't like the local business privilege tax/fee, then he/she should fight to end it (or at least add a revenue floor) for all businesses. Arguing that blogging should somehow be exempt from these types of business taxes is ridiculously arrogant.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
"The prison has told the Rev. Pickard not to come to the prison until the investigation is complete."
You can read the whole article HERE.
What's the reason for Father Pickard's banishment? Well he brushed up against a guard after not being allowed to minster to a man in a coma, a man who he had previously warned prison administrators was in danger. Call me crazy, but it seems like prison administrators are none too happy that Father Pickard dared to speak out about this case in the first place.
Now what do the prison guards have to say about this? From the article:
Sgt. Bill Shanley, president of the prison employees union, said Father Pickard should be allowed back into the prison.
Since the guards are not bothered by Father Pickard's presence in the facility, why should he be banished?
This isn't a case of someone visiting a distant relative in jail. Father Pickard has a job to perform in the prison. Ministering to the needs of inmates isn't just a "nice to have"; for an inmate who is Catholic (or arguable just religious) it's essential.
Lackawanna County Prison administrators need to end this bizarre banishment and allow Father Pickard to continue his work. If necessary make him write "I will not discuss the condition of Mr Pinto" a thousand times if that's what's needed, but let him do his job.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Put another way, once again the Scranton School District lives down to its reputation.
Article link HERE.
In the latest batch of job-fills we have the wife of a district administrator getting a clerk position and the hiring of an assistant principal at West Scranton High School who also happens to have a wife that works at that same school. Making matters more interesting is the fact that this newly hired assistant principal's attorney is also the SSD's solicitor.
Yes, I'm sure that it's just a coincidence that the deputy superintendent's wife was the most qualified for the special education clerk position. After all, there are about 900,000 people in the Scranton Wilkes-Barre MSA, so what are the odds that someone else would be more qualified for a CLERK position? Funny, but I can think of at least 30 soon-to-be outsourced employees from a large financial services company who are probably just as qualified for this job.
It was another coincidence that the new assistant principal has a business relationship with the school board's attorney. After all, there are so few lawyers in Scranton, so this kind of thing happens all the time, right?
Okay, I've dispensed with my daily dose of sarcasm, so let me get to the point: the Scranton School District is awash in family members and individuals who are connected via business and personal relationships. As such and at a minimum, it's in dire need of clear nepotism policy. If I were writing the policy I'd basically state it as follows: "the district may not ever hire the spouses or children of current or former board members, district administrators, or others within the district who have supervisory authority", period. Now does this mean that, on rare occasion, the district might not get the most qualified person for a job? Sure it does, but the trade-off is that the public would be assured the most qualified person for a job would be hired the vast majority of the time. What's more, such a policy would ensure that taxpayer money wasn't being used to create positions for family members.
Now my suggested policy wouldn't prevent all hiring abuses, but it would send a clear signal that the district has the public's best interest in mind when it makes hiring decisions.
Finally, no district employee should EVER be in a position to supervise...directly OR indirectly...a spouse or family member. It's clear from recent actions that the SSD administration is not serious about preventing this kind of abuse. Why is this so important? Simple: allowing these sorts of abuses creates, in my opinion, a toxic work environment for those individuals who are "non-connected".
Disclaimer: I should note that a member of my family is employed by the Scranton School District in a professional position. This individual was hired after spending years on professional hire eligibility lists and after substitute teaching in many of the district's schools. What's more, I do not have (nor did I have at the time of their hire) any professional relationships or associations with any of the district's board members or administrators.
Monday, August 23, 2010
No biggie, right?
Well read the not-so-fine-print on this one:
"Represented by attorney Boyd Hughes, who also serves as city council's solicitor, Olde Good Things..."
I know, this probably happens all the time, but for some reason I'm going to stop on this one. Why? Call me insane, but it just seems, well, wrong that same attorney that the taxpayers pay to represent Scranton City Council is also being paid to sue the taxpayers of the City of Scranton. Oh, and please, let's dispense with the "city council is different that the administration..." bullcrap. That's legalistic nonsense which is nothing more than a diversion from the common sense that should rule in these instances.
I am sure that Attorney Hughes is not violating any of the rules. Well make that "not violating any of the written rules governing legal practice". But the fact remains that he could very well be getting paid by both the plaintiff and the defendant in this case. Maybe, just maybe, the appearance of a conflict of interest should be enough to raise an eyebrow or two.
One other point: would this story be getting more attention in the local Internet underbelly if the attorney in question were connected with Mayor Doherty instead of Council President Evans? This story smells an awful lot like the local politics/local connections as usual that, in theory, Mrs Evans is supposed to be against.
Ah, September is a strange month. Next to December, it's about the only month that is probably both a noun and a verb when you think about it. Yes, the other months just come and go, but stuff actually goes down in September. Yeah, December gets a lot of press because of Christmas, but I think day for day, no month beats September when it comes to the sheer gravity of change.
First, you have kids going back to school. In my case that would be just one going to high school, which actually starts next week. I have to other already in college. For many others, it's the ritual of uniforms and routines. I can still remember going back to school myself. It was only yesterday.
Second, you have Labor Day. In this neck of the woods that means just one thing: Food. Forget the actual thoughts and intent behind "labor day"; in Scranton it's all about eating quasi-warm pizza at the Italian Festival (that would be "EYE-talion" Festival for all my friends in Western Pennsylvania) while trying to weave through the massive crowds at courthouse square. The "La Festa" is kind of like St. Patrick's Day around here, without the beer, and the street fights, and the vomiting. Anyway, it's a good time. Trust me.
Third, every few years you get a really decent political season starting in September. This year will be one of those good ones, with a lack-luster Congressman (Paul Kanjorski) in the fight of his life against an opponent who never met a politically opportunistic sound byte pass him bye. The minute Lou Barletta invoked the name "Joe Paterno" I knew he was engaging in all-out political warfare. JoePa is the one thing around there that reaches across all political and ideological boundaries. In other parts of the area you have what amounts to a mob lawyer pointing ethical fingers at a Congressman who has missed votes because of his wife's cancer treatment. Yup, forget football: in NEPA politics is the chief contact sport.
As for me, well I'm not oblivious to the change in season either. I like warm weather, but I can do without the worst of the summer heat. I also love the Fall. I love the temperature when it's a nice 50 degrees or so. I love the smell of leaves on the ground. I love the sound of the wind blowing leaves across the path at Lake Scranton. I love getting the yard ready for winter.
It's as if September is really this big affirmation that despite our best efforts, the rhythm of life will not ever be denied.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
It's on this note that another hero worshiped jock gets ready to go down in flames.
Roger Clemens indicted for perjury.
The case to me looks pretty much black and white: he lied to Congress about taking 'roids. Now lying to fans is one thing, after all, they are the saps who ultimately just pay his salary. However lying under oath is another, and yes, when you testify in front of Congress you are under oath.
[Ironic side note here: Congress is full of members who lie all the time, it's just that they hold that privilege more or less for themselves exclusively. They can lie to you...you just can't lie to them.]
This is serious stuff baseball fans: you do real jail time for prejury. We are not talking Lohan time either.
Oh, and if convicted he can probably kiss the hall-o-fame goodbye.
Not being much of a baseball fan (that left me long about 1978), my interest is this story is probably more sociological than anything else, as I simply find the attention and adulation afforded to sports figures to be fascinating. Wait, is that "fascinating" or "pathetic"? I'm not really sure. Anyway, I find it interesting that someone who was paid so much to play what amounts to a teenager's game basically blew it because they wanted to continue a fantasy. This fantasy was fine for the press and (as noted above) the fans, but like most fantasies it couldn't continue indefinitely. What was the fantasy? It was "I can do whatever I want, because I'm Roger Clemens and I play professional baseball".
So to you Roger Clemens I say "HaHa!". You screwed up. You threw it all away. You had a life whereby you were paid millions of dollars...not for protecting society...not for solving the worlds problems...not for curing cancer...but for playing a f&^king children's game. And somehow that just wasn't enough for you. You wanted more, you moronic greed-head.
And now it is slipping through your 'roided fingers.
Mr Bad Example
I started as an altar boy, working at the church
Learning all my holy moves, doing some research
Which led me to a cash box, labeled "Children's Fund"
I'd leave the change, and tuck the bills inside my cummerbund
I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store
Laying tackless stripping, and housewives by the score
I loaded up their furniture, and took it to Spokane
And auctioned off every last naugahyde divan
I'm very well aquainted with the seven deadly sins
I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
I'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for sloth
I'm greedy, and I'm angry, and I don't care who I cross
I'm Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
I like to have a good time, and I don't care who gets hurt
I'm Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
I'll live to be a hundred, and go down in infamy
Of course I went to law school and took a law degree
And counseled all my clients to plead insanity
Then worked in hair replacement, swindling the bald
Where very few are chosen, and fewer still are called
Then on to Monte Carlo to play chemin de fer
I threw away the fortune I made transplanting hair
I put my last few francs down on a prostitute
Who took me up to her room to perform the flag salute
Whereupon I stole her passport and her wig
And headed for the airport and the midnight flight, you dig?
And fourteen hours later I was down in Adelaide
Looking through the want ads sipping Fosters in the shade
I opened up an agency somewhere down the line
To hire aboriginals to work the opal mines
But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut
And whisked away their workman's comp and pauperized the lot
I'm Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
I like to have a good time, and I don't care who gets hurt
I'm Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
I'll live to be a hundred and go down in infamy
I bought a first class ticket on Malaysian Air
And landed in Sri Lanka none the worse for wear
I'm thinking of retiring from all my dirty deals
I'll see you in the next life, wake me up for meals
Saturday, August 21, 2010
When did it get really weird? That happened when she claimed that her "First Amendment Rights" were being violated by the controversy. Surprisingly, Dr Laura can't seem to differentiate the right to free speech and the business of appearing on a nationally syndicated radio show. There is no right to say anything on the radio. Commercial broadcasting is a business, and in that context someone like Laura Schlessinger is at the mercy of her syndicator and her sponsors. Her on-air speech is only "free" to the extent that those two groups allow it to be free. They can pull the plug...and her speech...at any time for any reason, as long as it is permissible under her employment contract. Here's the kicker though: neither group seems all that upset about the controversy. Nope, it's Dr Laura who is saying she will quit radio after her contract has expired precisely because her supposed "rights" have been violated.
Bottom line: for someone who admonishes others to have thicker skin, Dr Laura Schlessinger sure has some thin skin herself.
(*) How Could You Do That? & Stop Whining. Start Living
Flying Blues...I'm looking at the ginormous bruise on my leg, courtesy of Delta airlines and one rather large passenger. On my first (of two) flights back yesterday I was sitting next to a nice gentleman who in point of fact actually took up two seats. Unfortunately I was still sitting in one of the two, and as a result my left leg was jammed into the armrest of a CRJ 200 for about an hour and a half. Make that more like molded into the armrest of CRJ 200. Airplane seats are not made for large people; hell they are barely made for any people.
Kudos...go out to Mary Borthwick's son Tom (a.k.a. NEPArtisan), who will be writing for the HuffPost. The world of politics is full of stupid people who talk in sound bytes (see Sarah Palin), so it's always great when a voice comes along that is capable of something a little more articulate than "liberals evil!".
Movies...I was greatly disappointed by "Dinner for Schmucks", but there is movie hope out there: the next installment of Resident Evil is coming out in September. In 3D no less. In truth I can't get too excited about 3D, as I really don't get the effect all that well. No bother, as Mila Jovovich and zombies can make up for just about anything.
I Want...a Hofner fiddle base. Just wanted to note that for the record.
Ubuntu...I have two laptops that are laying around in a more or less comatose state, so I've ordered the latest version of Ubuntu to install on them. Something of an experiment I think. For what they will be used for, namely web-surfing, I think it will work out just fine. I'd like to find a way to run iTunes on them (and I think I found it HERE). Here's to mad science and sticking it to Microsoft, at least symbolically.
I know Pat from family gatherings and as a co-worker. You couldn't find a nicer, harder-working, more decent human being in all the world than "Mr Cusick" (as I call him when I run into him at the office). I can't comprehend what he must be going through now with the death of his daughter and the grave condition of the other members of his family.
If you are a religious person, I'd appreciate you taking a moment to pray for Pat & his family.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Anyway, I'm back.
While gone I saw numerous previews for the new Julia Roberts movie "Eat Pray Love". I'm thinking that about 6 straight guys, in total across the entire universe, will see this flick. As for me, here is a list of the things I'd rather do than go see "Eat Pray Love":
- Have knitting needles perforate both eardrums simultaneously.
- Have my toe nails removed by a drunken Russian doctor without anesthetic.
- Eat sauerkraut.
- Watch the John Travolta movie "Staying Alive" 12 times in a row.
- Be an in-studio guest during the Don Imus show (and watch him actually decay right in front of my very own eyes).
- Attend a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan film festival (wait, that would be about the same as watching "Eat Pray Love").
- Be responsible for emptying the trash...at Courtney Love's house.
- Be Rush Limbaugh's drug mule.
- Be the only white guy in attendance at a Wu Tang Clan reunion concert.
- Go mullet spotting at a local WalMart.
Note that I was going to say "play a game of spot the Spic" with Lou Barletta, but I didn't want to offend anyone of Hispanic heritage out there. Ops, too late.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
From the New York Times column "The Examiner".
The claim: Smoking relieves stress.
The benefits of quitting smoking - reduced risk of cancer and many other health problems - are known. But for millions of smokers, the calming effect of a cigarette can be reason enough to start up again.
Studies have found, however, that in reality, lighting up has the opposite effect, causing long-term stress levels to rise. For those dependent on smoking, the only stress it relieves is the withdrawal between cigarettes.
In a recent study conducted at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, researchers looked at 469 people who tried to quit after being hospitalized for heart disease. At the start, the subjects had similar levels of stress and generally believed that smoking helped them to cope.
A year later, 41 percent had managed to stay abstinent. After controlling for several factors, the scientists found that the abstainers had "a significantly larger decrease in perceived stress," roughly a 20 percent drop, compared with the continuing smokers, who showed little change.
The scientists' hypothesis was that the continuing smokers were dealing with uncomfortable cravings between cigarettes multiple times a day, while the abstainers, after facing some initial withdrawal, had greater freedom from nicotine cravings and thus had eliminated a frequent and significant source of stress.
Other studies have also found that smokers experience higher levels of stress and tension between cigarettes and lower levels overall when they quit.
The bottom line: The calming effect of a cigarette is a myth, at least in the long term.
Then I found something out (I can thank Gort for this): the mosque isn't on the Word Trade Center site. Where is it? According Matt Sledge at the HuffPost, it's a bit over two blocks away, at the still standing site of a Burlington Coat Factory store.
Now the calculus here seems pretty straight forward:
Ground Zero mosque? No.
Burlington Coat Factory Mosque? Yes, why not?
If not at a Burlington Coat Factory then where could this go? Would moving it three more blocks away change the opinion of, say, a Bill O'Reilly? He says yes, but I strongly suspect that if the mosque were actually going to be built five blocks away he would be saying "maybe if it were ten blocks away...". And so on and so forth. In the end I don't think this has an awful lot to do with cemeteries or ground zero.
I'm not a Muslim, I wanted Saudi Arabia nuked after 911 and I get nervous whenever I fly and there is someone who is Arab-looking on the plane with me. I own up to my own prejudices. That noted, it seems un-American to oppose the construction of a place of worship simply because you don't like the religion in question. That's what this comes down to, as AGAIN the mosque isn't on Ground Zero. The fact that many Islamic countries are extremely intolerant when it comes other faiths isn't the question at hand here, as this is America and we cherish the right to practice whatever faith one likes (including the right to practice no faith).
Monday, August 16, 2010
- They reference...but misspell...American Express in the notice.
- All sorts of bizarre bar codes and "Actual" stamps all over it.
- My name is listed in all caps and in a different font.
- The return address is a mailing label for some place in Canada.
- Call required to an agent to claim winnings (in my case $650,000).
- The following footnote: "Due to the Confidentiality Act put in place by the International Lottery Commission you are required to keep all information strictly confidential."
- The "Security Sealed for Protected Delivery" stamp at the bottom on the notice.
- A certificate number that is different than a issuing document number which is different than a ticket number which is different than a file reference number (I kid you not).
- They will only hold my win for two weeks.
- All manner of weird indentations in the text.
People of faith should join to work for fair, just, comprehensive federal immigration reform that embodies the principles enunciated in the National Association of Evangelical's 2009 resolution, which proclaimed that any immigration reform legislation must:
•Respect the God-given dignity of every person
•Protect the unity of the immediate family
•Respect the rule of law
•Guarantee secure national borders
•Ensure fairness to taxpayers
•Establish a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and wish to become permanent residents.
Mr Land is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). I wouldn't call the SBC a liberal organization by any stretch of the imagination. You can read their stated beliefs HERE.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
If you don't have anyone in your family/life/circle who suffers from mental health challenges, you will probably find this movie reasonably funny. If you do though, you very well may walk away like I did, feeling somehow kind of dirty for participating in the whole process.
I do not recommend this movie. Go and see Sly Stallone blow stuff up instead.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Details HERE and HERE.
As quoted from the editorial that appeared in today's Scranton Times:
"...After the assault, Father Pickard was denied access to Mr. Pinto by correctional officers at Community Medical Center, where the inmate was listed in critical condition with severe head injuries. "
I'm just wondering what purpose is served by preventing Father Pickard from visiting the prisoner. Generally speaking, having a cleric around you when you are near death is considered to be a kind, humane thing. Apparently not in this instance. Where was this same level of security when Mr Pinto was getting his head stomped on?
As a final note, I'm not going to wade into the whole issue of whether the savage beating was somehow justified, because it's not. Yes, the Mr Pinto was convicted of kiddie-porn charges, and as the father of three daughters I can certainly understand the intense emotions that this kind of thing stirs up. That noted, in our system of justice (as opposed to, say, Shar'ia Law), we don't beat people for their offenses. As I've noted before, if we want to be claim to be the good guys in the world, we actually have to act like the good guys.
First, the system is working, although it is a bit lagged. While some checks and balances have failed (see below, re: Board), at least control has kicked in and this whole situation is being reviewed.
Second, no publicly funded educational institution these days has hundreds of thousands of dollars in excess cash laying around. Any amount saved as a result of this investigation can then be used to help the NEIU serve its educational constituents.
Third, this is our money. Yes, you can argue "but what about corporate fat-cats who get big payouts?", and there is some merit to that discussion. However in a publicly owned corporation, it's the shareholders who are ultimately screwed by excessive compensation, not taxpayers at large. For example, while it may bother me that BP pays out too much money to failed executives, I don't own any BP stock, so the situation doesn't impact me directly. However, as a property owner in Northeastern PA, I'm basically like that BP shareholders.
Fourth, there has been evidence presented over the years that not every public institution in NEPA has adequate controls in place to monitor time off taken (the public servant in Luzerne County who was also selling used cars...at the same time he was supposed to be working...comes to mind). That noted, there is more than enough precedent for taking a step back and making sure that Dr Rosetti really is entitled to that portion of his payout attributed to time off reimbursement.
Bottom Line: Every dime saved here can go into helping to make education better in NEPA. That's a good thing. There are some eye-opening revelations here as well though.
The NEIU Board - The NEIU Board, except for one member, apparently didn't take its oversight role very seriously. Kudos to Louise Brzuchalski (from Abington Heights) for actually providing an example of what Board members should be doing. Hopefully this whole episode will serve as a wake-up call to those serving on BofD's that, when you are dealing with large amounts of money, you have to take your fiduciary role a little more seriously.
Vacation Time Taken - Dr Rosetti was going to be paid for 319 unused vacation/sick days accumulated over 40 years of service. That's almost a year's time off, right? No, it's actually more than a year. There are about 270 business days in a year (Monday through Friday, excluding holidays), so Dr. Rosetti would actually be getting the equivalent of a year and a little less than a quarter's worth of pay for unused time-off. Note that these days were allowed to accumulate without limit in perpetuity for the life of Dr. Rosetti's contract. If you do the math, 319 days over 40 years means that, on average, Dr. Rosetti accumulated almost 8 unused days per year. Impossible? No. That's typically the amount of time off I don't take per year. The difference? I can't accumulate my time off in perpetuity over my employment. In fact I can't accumulate any unused time off. That brings me to my final point.
Time Off Earned - Dr Rosetti's contract allowed for 30 vacation days and 12 sick days per year, meaning that he had 42 days at his disposal every year for time off. In an average month there are about 23 working days (Monday through Friday, excluding holidays), so Dr Rosetti was given the equivalent of almost two working months vacation per year. Put another way, Dr Rosetti was given time off that was equivalent to about one sixth of his working time. This seems excessive, particularly when compared to the private sector. By way of that comparison, I have nearly 22 years of service with my employer and I earn 33 vacation days per year, plus one floating holiday. I receive no allotment for "sick" time. That's it. As previously noted, that time can't accumulate year to year. The rules that apply to my time off also apply to the time off of executives at my employer. While I personally think that it's okay to accumulate some time off year over year (that came in handy for a member of my family who is a teacher and had a major illness to content with), there should be some kind of cap that prevents the total accumulated from becoming excessive.
Let's see how this evolves over time.
Friday, August 13, 2010
I was talking to someone the other day about Beavis and Butthead. They thought it was juvenile and stupid, I think it was a work of genius.
I'm right & he was wrong.
Why? It's actually pretty simple: the cartoon wasn't endorsing stupid behavior (such as Frog Baseball)...it was making fun of it. It's a parody of teenagers, not a documentary. It's as if the creator, Mike Judge, was able to distill every stupid thought ever held by every teenage boy and somehow concentrate the sum total of it all into two morons. Genius.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Social Media...I really should pay attention to my LinkedIn account. It's kind of funny actually, in that I'll basically agree to get connected to anyone on LinkedIn. Hell, if Mussolini were alive and had an account I'd agree to get connected to him. I even agreed to a connection with a guy who is trying to sell me stuff at work. How pathetic is that? Now I just have to spend some time actually figuring out how LinkedIn actually works.
Dan Quayle's Son...apparently is connected to what is basically a soft-core porn site. And this is a problem? He should just man up, admit to it, and move on. Hell, it's not like he was a member of the John Birch Society, now is it? Sorry, that was his grandparents. My bad.
Speaking of Wackos...Apparently the off-again potential son-in-law of Sarah Palin is considering running for office in Wasilla, Alaska. He should do some research on being the mayor of a town like Wasilla first, before actually making a decision about running. Hell, he can talk to Nibs Loughney. Yes, Wasilla...that great metropolis and resume filler for Ms Palin...is about the size of our very own Dunmore. Oh, and getting a GED would probably help too. And maybe getting rid of the ginormous "Johnston" tattoo on his arm as well.
To quote the late, great Dr Hunter S. Thompson, "...and it never got weird enough for me".
Walmart Opening in Taylor PA...Speaking of Levi Johnston (at least conceptually) it was mentioned in the Scranton Times this past week that a new uber-Walmart is opening in Taylor, PA. You can see it from my house actually. I know that Wally-World stirs up a lot of emotions in many folks, and rightfully so: the folks in Bentonville take the notion of capitalism and put it on steroids. They also have a knack for hiring cashiers who are heavily tattooed, at least in my experience. Not that there is anything wrong with tattoos. Unless you want to be mayor of Wasilla. Anyway, for fun my younger brother Chris wants to one day ask a Walmart cashier if we can see his/her chains. It would be funny. Maybe. Seriously, I don't normally shop at Walmart, but I'm not a militant about it either. I do understand why some folks find the store objectionable, and I personally think that Walmart is the best thing to happen to communism since Chairman Mao (the Chinese Communists can thank Walmart for helping prop their government up though insane levels of exports). Ironic, is it not?
Charlie Rangel's Birthday...Let's get it straight: Representative Rangel is innocent until proven guilty. And so was the Congressman who hid the money in the freezer. Anyway, as an innocent man, he is free to enjoy a nice birthday celebration with his friends (including uber-sweaty guy David Dinkins). Note though that "innocent" and "in good taste" are two different concepts. If it were me, I'd suggest that having such a high-profile event while on the cusp of such serious charges probably isn't such a great idea and in fact it doesn't help the Democratic Party image all that much. Words like "insular" and "out of touch" come to mind.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
On one end you have big corporate content providers who want don't want their particular gimmick to be stuck in traffic's second place. YouTube, by the way, is owned by Google (ranked #102 in the Fortune 500), which is hardly a bastion of consumer-friendly activity.
On the other hand, you have big ISPs who greedily want to be able to charge premium prices to have you watch, for example, a bunch of 13 year old boys swallowing cinnamon. Comcast alone is rated as one of the worst companies on the planet when it comes to customer service.
Throw in inept regulators in the guise of the FCC (which is a poster child for how not to regulate anything) and you have a trifecta of greed and stupidity.
I guess by now you realize that I don't trust any of them, as I don't think anyone is really looking out for the interests of average consumers of Internet services.
Now if pressed, I'd probably fall on the side of favoring some form of Net Neutrality, although I think many folks really do think this is some kind of "David vs. Goliath" struggle; in reality it's more like a struggle between "Goliath" vs. "Goliath's equally large cousin". Consumers? We are just the spectators. None of the principal players have our interests at heart.
Bob Sullivan from MSNBC has an interesting opinion piece on this that can be found HERE. The comments are just as, if not more interesting than that article itself. Some of the comments do miss the point though, as adding bandwidth is tightly intertwined with this whole issue because in our society it's not the government that's responsible for Internet infrastructure, it's the private sector players that are engaging in this dubious debate who ultimately have that charge.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I love this song. It has a terrific groove about it...it's almost kind of funky. The guitar work on the song is by Robert Fripp, and the synthesizers are played by Brian Eno, who also co-wrote the song.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Bowie wrote the song in Berlin while detoxing from heroin. Apparently Bowie saw two young lovers sitting near the Berlin Wall, which was the inspiration for the song.
Bowie does a terrific version of the song during the Concert for New York (which I have on DVD...well worth buying) that's pretty much spot-on to the original.
Monday, August 9, 2010
The weight loss became something of an obsession. It was my way of saying a glorified "f&^k you!" to a world that just seemed to be doing everything it could rub me down into a little nub. No, I'm not saying I was disadvantaged, down-trodden or mal-treated. I came from a housing project, so whatever I had as an adult was a step up from what I had as a child. I wasn't about poor me. It was about me vs. circumstances, and I was going to win, no matter what.
I did win. I lost the equivalent of five 10 lb bags of flour (my dietitian thought of that reference). I could have kept going, but the reality was that at 211 pounds the weight wasn't really coming off any more in buckets. But I could continue forever, or so it seemed. The good habits had become ingrained, and I knew what to do and when to do it.
Then I went on vacation to Wildwood NJ.
It wasn't the temptation of bad food. Hell, for most the week while in NJ I was still eating 1700 calories a day. In the end, what caused me to jump the shark really had nothing to do with food. This proves, by the way, the one truism about eating well that has stuck with me all these years: weight loss is 90% mental and only 10% physical. Anyway, what was it? I was lonely. Pathetic, huh? The family was in the hotel room, it was 8pm, and I was alone in NJ. I don't go to sleep all that early and I don't watch much TV, so I did my usual wandering on the beach by myself. Finally it got to me. Yes, I walked up to some dive restaurant on a pier and had a hamburger, fries and a hot fudge brownie sundae. I think just that one meal totaled more than 1700 calories.
It went down hill from there. It was as if the air was slowly deflated from my eating-well balloon and I began to sink a couple of feet every few months. Over the course of several years my weight crept up: 220...230...240...250 pounds.
Then there is the anger aspect of it all. In reality I should have known that I could never maintain the angry edge that I had originally used to lose weight in the first place. I just don't have that kind of anger in me. That's not a great trait by the way, as there are times when I wish I could be angry and stay angry, but it's just not in me. It's as if I never got that piece of genetic code. Note that my mother has managed to stay angry at some people for most of her 75 years of existence, so that genetic code didn't come from her.
Back to the weight. It was at 254 pounds this past November where I drew the line in the sand. The fact that I had a dear friend go through gastric bypass surgery also helped. This person had their body opened up and altered to do something that I could do by just simply not freak'n eating so much. It was kind of pathetic in a lot of ways. I realized again that the mental/physical equation of weight loss was as true now as it had been years ago. I over-ate because I wanted to think about having to eat right. I didn't want to think at all. It was Wildwood NJ all over again, except this time I was fat to boot. Food was my self-medication of choice.
Since November I've managed to get my weight back down to somewhere near 227 lbs. I have good days and bad days, but mostly I seem to be able to slowly lose weight over time. I'm trying to think more about what I am putting into my body by counting calories, trying to understand why I over-eat. I also exercise for about 30 minutes each day. So far it's working. I've lost weight and I've managed to do it without being all that angry. Maybe this time it is for good.
Now I've told this story before and I will tell it again. In fact I need to tell it again. You only get one shot at this thing, and if the lesson doesn't sink in the first time, then you have to keep trying, because some lessons are too important to ignore.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Bat Free...Well the sun went down yesterday evening and there was no bat coming out from a dark corner of my office, so I am officially declaring my home to be a bat free zone. On the good news front, while searching for the bat I cleaned up the office fairly well, so it I got an extra benefit out of the whole deal.
NEPArtisan...quoted me in a recent posting (HERE). Once in a while I do have a rational thought or two, despite what my children might think.
Chris Kelly...from the Scranton Times has a great piece in the Sunday Times about his recent colonoscopy. You can read it HERE. For the record, when you have the test you are on your side (not "bottoms up"). If you have GI problems or a history of colon cancer in your family this is an important test to get, and it's not nearly as difficult as it sounds. Not that I'm eager to get another one (I will in about 4 years), but when the day comes I will not be stressing nearly as much as I did the first time. Anyway, Mr Kelly does a great job with the article.
Eating...My eating has been out of kilter for some time now. Too much of the wrong stuff, in spades. Time to get back on track, as I hate this bloated feeling. Since about age 25 my weight has been something of a struggle for me, and the battle continues. My weight now is actually not horrible (about 227 lbs on my 6'3.5" frame), but it could be better.
New Police Chief...Scranton has a new Police Chief, Dan Duffy. I want to wish him all the best as he takes on this new assignment. One of the best things about the City of Scranton is the extremely professional and effective police force that protects and serves city residents. I say this as someone who has had some experience with the police in a stressful situation, and I can't say enough good stuff about the officers on the Scranton force. The officers deserve our respect and they also deserve a raise (and I say the latter as someone who generally is a supporter of Mayor Doherty).
Shameful Boy Scouts...I always held up the Boy Scouts as a group that tries to instill the best in young men. That opinion has changed. Yes, I am sure that many Scouts and their leaders are respectful, but that's not true of the group that I saw in the video pasted below. Note to the Scouts: even if you don't respect the man, you should respect the office. I was never a fan of G.W. Bush, but I'd never lower myself to booing him during a speech.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
The Naming of Cats
by T.S. Eliot
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
By the way, we call one of our cats Quaxo. His official name is Oreo, but on occasion I also call him "Pain in the Ass". See, three different names,