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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blogging, Emily Dickinson & the meaning of life

I don't look at this whole blogging thing as a kind of production shop.  I write when I want, as much as I want and for whomever I want (which really means just me).  That noted, I confess to something of a decline in blogging units of late.  That's probably going to be the case for a while to come.  

Slump?  No

Lack of topics?  No.  Hell, I could write a ream over a certain Senate candidate and her fascination with humanoid-brained mice. 

No, the answer is a tad bit more complex:  I have a lot on my mind now that I simply can't really share in this kind of forum for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are almost de-facto policy for NCFE, such as the fact that I generally will not talk about my employer, regardless of what happens at the office.  That's partly a function of economic self-interest and partly out of loyalty.  Others, well let's just say that I don't always understand what's in my head, let alone understand it enough to be able to write about it.

Funny though that when it comes to times like this, I'm often drawn to my favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. Now in fairness, I want to note that a dear friend pointed this poem out to me the other day as being symbolic of some of the "stuff" I'm dealing with at the present time.  Anyway, Emily (I'm going to be familiar for a moment) had this knack for describing sometimes incredibly complex feelings, thoughts and emotions using some of the simplest language around.  That's part of the genius of poetry I suppose...it's a form of expression where the meaning is always far greater than the sum of the letters & words.

The poem referenced was #419 (you Emily fans out there know that her poems don't have titles), which you can read HERE. I'm going to cull the most important verse from my perspective:

The Bravest—grope a little—
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead—
But as they learn to see—

That's a pretty telling description for me at this stage of my life.  I'm hoping to be brave enough to grope, and maybe eventually even learn to see.

Too nebulous?  Not clear?  Oh well.
 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From the Simple Truth department

This was the best advice I received all day today:

"Steve, you think too much"

Note that I'm not denying that this is true.  In point of fact, I do think too much, something that has probably caused as much harm in my life as it has good.

Here's to simple (but true) advice.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Anger

Definitions of anger on the Web:

* a strong emotion; a feeling that is oriented toward some real or supposed grievance
* make angry; "The news angered him"
* the state of being angry
* become angry; "He angers easily"
* wrath: belligerence aroused by a real or supposed wrong (personified as one of the deadly sins)
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

******************

I wanted to get the definition out of the way before I start typing away.  I've always had a problem with anger, but it's not the problem most people have I suppose.  No, my problem is that I probably don't get angry enough.  Me, raise my voice?  Almost unheard of!  It's not as if I'm a Vulcan or something like that, incapable of feeling emotions.  I just don't know why anger is such a difficult emotion for me to express.  

It is there, mind you.  I think I actually feel about the same amount of anger as anyone else does, truth be told.  My best guess is that the anger I feel is often times covered in layers of guilt and other feelings.  It's almost as if there is something inside of me that usually gets away with saying "don't be angry, because this probably your fault anyway".  Maybe the anger is still there, but directed inwards instead of outwards.  

By my thinking, anger directed inward doesn't really look like anger any more.  I think the act of looking inside morphs it into some rancid form  of self-loathing.  Apparently the human form that I inhabit finds self-loathing and guilt to be far more acceptable than actually getting pissed off at someone or something in the non-fictional world that resides around me.  

Is all of this sick crap learned?  I have no clue.  I do know that I found myself today in the gym, all alone, shouting out in anger at things that were bothering me.  As bizarre as that sounds, it was a step in the right direction, because at least the anger was actually expressed externally as anger.  It was as honest an expression as one can get for a workplace health center at 5pm on a Sunday.

Maybe I need a mantra of some sort...

...it's okay to feel angry
...it's okay to express anger
...it's okay to be angry even when that anger may be somewhat unfounded

Maybe I'll incorporate this into my daily dose of Hail Mary's.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Doing Big Things

At the beginning of every year I try and set some goals for myself.  A few years ago that goal was "to do something big".  I know, that breaks the "SMART*" rule of goal planning, but it seemed to be the right thing at the time.  Well the key phrase there was "at the time", because in reality it wasn't the right time to do anything big.  In point of fact I probably haven't done anything big in my life in something like 10 years, when I last had a change in job responsibilities.  This is not a good thing.

It's time now to revisit that goal.

In time all of the details will no doubt come out here, as this is the place where most of my mental flotsam and jetsam end up anyway, although in all fairness I usually try and work things out just a bit before I start pounding the keys.  Note the word "usually" in that last sentence. Anyway, it's time now to start making some changes.

Why now?  There are probably a dozen reasons including...
  • Two of my three children are now legal adults, and my youngest is only a few months shy of that herself, so I no longer can hide behind them as an excuse to reside in the land of the lethargic.
  • I'm starting to see 50 on the horizon, which can be the beginning of the best part of my life or the beginning of my death.  I'm going to chose the former.
  • I'm more self-aware now than I ever have been in my entire life. 
  • I have, for the first time in my life, finally started to really learn the value in friendship.  Another frightening concept, huh?  Took me this long to figure out something that most 12 year old girls have a decent handle on these days.
 Mostly I'm just ready.

What change?  I'll be talking more about that as time goes on.  Is this some kind of ego-laden teaser designed to entertain the 3 people that might read this?  No.  I've always said this blog thingie is 100% about my own personal enjoyment, and in retrospect it has been something of a help over the past two years.  A good friend said "you know those blogger things are really good for you Steve", and they are right.  Interaction with other members of the species is healthy in the same way that strenuous exercise is...for me both are a strain, and straining is good for the soul, provided that it produces some kind of result

It's ironic that I called this blog "Not Cease from Exploration:" at a time when I was probably not all that ready for any kind of exploration.  Then again maybe this has been the first step.

Here's to having the courage to do big things in life.






(*) SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Timely

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Advice for Difficult Times


As I struggle through some difficult times, I am reminded of the advice provided by the late, great Dr. Hunter S. Thompson:

 

“Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas ... with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether."

 

 

 

Now to get my hands on some ether.

GOP Pledge to America

From CBS news (link HERE), we have a Republican "Pledge to America", along with some of my thoughts [in red bold]:

Jobs:
- Stop job-killing tax hikes  
[And the revenue lost will be replaced by what? What about the tax incentives that encourage jobs to be shipped overseas?  Republicans like to claim that business taxes are simply passed on to consumers; well if we reduce taxes, can we then expect/demand that they will reduce costs or hire more people?  I'm not against lower taxes, but I am against blatant sloganeering.]
- Allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income
[And if that small business is run by a billionaire, they get it as well? By the way, adding such a tax deduction is yet another example of making our already too complex code even more complex.]
- Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that would add to the deficit
[Agreed, as long as it applies to everything. Mark my words:  this is a double edged sword.]
- Repeal small business mandates in the new health care law.
[And replace it with what?  Making small business employees eligible for Medicaid?  Giving employees a tax credit to buy coverage?  That last question is a joke, because the credit may not be enough to buy coverage, will add to the deficit and increases the complexity of the tax code.  Republicans tend to like slogans, but also tend to dislike details.] 
Cutting Spending:
- Repeal and Replace health care
[With what?  "Free market" based solutions?  Note to file:  Health care by and large in this country operates in a non-competitive environment, so that will not work.  Repeal nothing until there is a better idea that a) Covers all, b) Actually reduces the rate of health care inflation/profiteering.]
- Roll back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels before TARP and stimulus (will save $100 billion in first year alone)
[Agreed.  Let's not forget that it was a Republican that came up with TARP.]
- Establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending going forward
[Agreed, as long as it applies to everything.]
- Cancel all future TARP payments and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
[Nice thought, but how?  I agree that the government should be out of the bailout business, but it was a lack of proactive enforcement that ultimately created the need for TARP in the first place.  What to prevent this kind of thing in the future?  Then prevent the next AIG from happening.]
Reforming Congress:
- Will require that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority
[Fair enough.]
- Give members at least 3 days to read bills before a vote
[Agreed]
Defense:
- Provide resources to troops 
[Agreed]
- Fund missile defense 
[How is this not a form of federal welfare to the defense industries?  Enough spending money on technology that will never be fully effective.  You think missile defense systems will protect your house?  Guess again.  This is technology that will never be fully effective.]
- Enforce sanctions in Iran
[Agreed, but let's also encourage moderate factions in  the government and society as well.]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Road Apples, #78


Picture...I couldn't control myself & just had to share the above picture with the proud mom of NEPA's favorite local blogger, taken at the most recent blogger/politician soiree.  Given my employers, well shall we say "displeasure" with Congressman Kanjorski, that may not have been such a good idea.  But what the hell.  For the record I hate how short my hair looks in this picture, although I've had worse pictures taken.

On the Physical Front...I've lost about 11 pounds since my last visit to the doctor in May and my blood pressure was a "not great" 140/88.  I have to go back in early November to check it again.  One of these days I'm going to walk out of there with a prescription for God-knows-what medication.

On the Mental Front...I'm dealing with some intensely stressful issues at the moment.  Like most things in life, things never go quite the way you first imagined, but that's okay.  That which does not destroy you makes you stronger, and it is at times like this when you find out who really does have your back.  [Insert your own favorite self-help/motivational quip here]

Lee Morgan...It's funny how time has the ability to change one's perspective.  Years ago I thought Lee Morgan was just another Scranton City Council crazy, you know the kind that fully enjoys the camera.  Fast forward and I now have a sign of his in my yard and I'm going to vote for the guy. You an follow Mr Morgan via Facebook HERE.

Junk...In cleaning out my attic I discovered that I have a total of 6 disemboweled computer CD drives.  I seem to collect these things like cats.  I also found a cache of old National Lampoon magazines, so the effort was not a total waste.

GOP Senate Candidate...Christine O'Donnell apparently has said just about every insane thing ever cooked up by a fertile imagination.  I even saw a video compilation of her "greatest hits". In her defense she looks like she was about 15 when the whole "monkey spanking is evil" thing came out.  Anyway,  Charles Krauthammer was right...an unelectable Tea Party member doesn't really help the GOP, and Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle will cost the GOP the U.S. Senate.  Mark my words:  when the dust settles, Republicans will be scratching their heads trying to figure out how Harry Reid (of all people) managed to get re-elected in this cycle.

Stickers...Am I the only one who absolutely hates the advertising stickers that the Scranton Times places on the front page from time to time?  I'm probably less inclined to buy from those institutions, as the stickers are annoyingly placed over something that I inevitably want to view.

Onorato Cloaking Device...Rumor has it that Dan Onorato has conspired with the Romulans to develop a cloaking device that allows him to be in the Scranton area without actually being seen.  That must be the case, because I follow the guy on Facebook, so I can tell you that he manages to appear at every pig roast, fire hall dance and quilting bee that happens across rural Pennsylvania.  There do not, however, appear to be many appearances here.  What gives?  Are we simply being taken for granted?  If we are, that's a mistake.  A Western Pennsylvania Democrat needs support from the cities in NEPA.  Wake up Dan.


Bob Cordaro...I briefly heard Bob Cordaro on WILK yesterday, defending all things Cordaro.  Say what you like about the guy, but one thing is for damn sure:  he has huevos the size of church-bells. Indictments aside, you have to admire a guy that looks you in the eye.

Coda...I wrote some training material a few months ago and partly out of a desire to sound different I used the word "Coda" in the copy.  Of course all my peer editors wanted it taken out, but what the hell...I had my moment of culture.  Anyway, as my "Coda"  to this post I present the late, great John Lennon...



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's in a name?

As I had heard on Friday and read in a recent edition of the Scranton Times, there apparently is a push to name a new Scranton elementary school after a deceased firefighter, Captain James Robeson.  You can read an article about this HERE.  As referenced in the article, there is a Facebook page dedicated this cause, which can be found HERE.

I'll be blunt:  I don't think the school should be named after Captain Robeson.  While I certainly admire his sacrifice, I'm just not sure:

1.  How that sacrifice translates into the name of a school
2.  If naming a school after Captain Robeson is a fitting tribute

Let me expand on those two arguments.

Who Should A School Be Named After?
I believe that the school name should somehow connect with ideals and/or advocacy for education.  Someone who was an educator would make an ideal candidate for this honor.  Someone who helped the cause of education through their work.  Someone who set an example of life-long learning.  All of these seem to be the traits I think would best exemplify a naming candidate.  Here are some names that come to my mind:

Former Governor Casey...tie to Scranton, strong advocate for education
Secretary of State Clinton...tie to Scranton, well educated, children's advocate

Is This A Fitting Tribute?
I don't think that there is any kind of connection between Captain Robeson and the new school.  There is no connection between firemen and schools period, unless of course a firemen would happen to get injured or die after fighting a fire at a school.  If the only criteria for naming a school was death while in public service, I think there are about 9 Scranton firefighters over the past decades who have died in the line of duty.  Shouldn't they get equal consideration with Captain Robeson?  What's more, we've had policemen and DPW workers die in the line of duty.  Is their sacrifice somehow less than that of Captain Robeson?  

Captain Robeson should be honored in a manner that acknowledges his unique sacrifice as a fireman.  Maybe that means naming a fire-station after him.  Perhaps (if one doesn't already exist) having a monument built in a city park to honor his (and others) sacrifices.

With his heroism rightfully noted, Captain Robeson has no connection to education, children (other than his own) or an advocacy for life-long learning.  This makes him ill-suited for this specific honor.  Let's not simply look for honors for the guy; let's find appropriate ways to honor him and the others who died serving the citizens of Scranton.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The $372,000 Investment

The Scranton Times is reporting this morning that GOP governor candidate Tom Corbett leads all candidates in money received from oil and gas interests.  That comes to $372,000.  Those same interests have contributed $117,000 to the campaign of Corbett's running mate, Joseph Scarnati.  That's a total of $489,000 to the GOP ticket.  I would provide a link to the story, but I just can't find it at the moment.

Now I could go on about the ethics of campaign contributions*, but the central question is this:  just what are these interests expecting in return for this investment?

We don't have to play naive here:  they are expecting that a Corbett Administration will take it easy on them in the areas of...

...taxes (as in less on them, which means more on you)
...environmental protection (they want us to trust them)
...property rights (Don't want drilling under your property?  Too bad!)

...and I have absolutely no doubt they will get these things, in whole or in substantial part, if Tom Corbett is elected.

Look, my intent here isn't to rail against Tom Corbett.  If you think the oil and gas interests are doing a net service to the Commonwealth, if you think that any harm done to the environment is a fair trade-off in exchange for jobs, if you think that the whole notion of having some say over what happens under your property is over-blown, then this probably doesn't bother you.

It does, however, bother me.

Unlike some, I grew up in the Scranton of the late 60's & 70's.  I still remember the stink of the culm bank that sits behind what is now Mr Z's supermarket in South Scranton.   I remember when the area that now contains the Lackawanna County Recycling Center looked like a lunar landscape (and in fact it was actually called "the moon" by many a high school drinker).  These environmental legacies, and many more, were courtesy of the last "energy boom" that happened in these parts.  You have to wonder at the parallels between that period and today.  

In the end, the big question is this:  Have we really learned anything?

Tom Corbett can take all the money he wants from the oil and gas industry and claim till he is blue in the face that he is not "in their pocket", but common sense dictates the opposite.  If any of us made a $372,000 investment, I think it's pretty reasonable that we would expect a decent return.


(*) Side note:  if they are, as Rush Limbaugh says, a form of free speech, then does that mean those with more money get more speech that those of us with less money?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

From USA Weekend: If you only remember 5 things for good health

I read this a few minutes ago and wanted to share.

You can find the article on the USA Weekend site HERE.



If you remember only 5
things for good health...

In his last column, Dr. Tedd sums up his
philosophy

Dr. Tedd Mitchell • 9/19/10

After 12 years, this will be my last column for USA
WEEKEND Magazine. It has been tremendously
rewarding to be able to provide helpful hints on
health. I'd like to leave you with a few of my
thoughts on maintaining good health. Given all the
uncertainties the national health care debate has
brought, it makes even more sense to make personal
health maintenance a high priority. So here are
some tips to remember:

Health is your responsibility. It is not the doctor's
job, the hospital's job, your spouse's job or the
government's job to keep you healthy — it's up to
you. We suffer from chronic diseases that are too
often the result of poor habits. The choices you
make today usually determine the health you have
tomorrow.

Stay active. If you're looking for the fountain of
youth, look no further than that pair of sneakers in
your closet. A daily “dose” of 30 minutes of
moderately intense exercise will go a long way
toward keeping you healthy as you age.

You are what you eat. Diets high in saturated fats
and refined sugars provide lots of calories and little
nutrition. Imagine your plate in four quadrants;
three of them should be filled with colorful fruits
and vegetables. This is a simple but very important
image to maintain whether you're at home or eating
out.

Stop smoking. Smoking is the greatest modifiable
health risk facing our nation. For people who want
to try to kick the habit on their own, stop-smoking
aids are available at the local pharmacy. For those
who need an extra push, professional help can be
found with the help of your local doctor. However
you do it, live smoke-free.

Keep a healthy emotional outlook. Life has ups and
downs for all of us, but how we react to adversity
influences not only our own psychological health
but also the quality of life of those who live and
work with us. It's like Grandma Moses said: “Life
is what we make it — always has been, always will
be.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

2001: Blue Danube Waltz

The special effects aren't nearly as special any more, but it's hard to find a better combination of music and visuals than what you find in Kubrick's 2001.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Blogger Meeting

Well it's nearly nine thirty on Friday night.  I just got off the phone with a friend and before that I was at the semi-annual blogger meeting in the thriving metropolis of Pittston.  Oh, and have I mentioned that I am running on about 3 hours worth of sleep last night?  

Maybe this kind of condition doesn't lend it self to any form of objective observational reporting, so I'll keep it to a short bullet list:
  • It was a pleasure having something to eat with Mary Borthwick's son.  Speaking of Tom, since he is the most popular political blogger in Lackawanna County and there is only one other political blogger in Lackawanna County, does that mean I can lay claim to the title of "Second most popular political blogger in Lackawanna County"?  Just wondering.
  • It was nice meeting Big Dan and Mrs Big Dan.  
  • I had a great conversation with former Scranton Times reporter Jessica Durkin (you can find her work HERE).
  • There is a picture of me speaking with Congressman Kanjorski somewhere out there.  It was nice meeting the Congressman again.
  • Frank Scavo was there with some kind of bodyguard.  He must need protection from all those "Islam-o-fascists" that apparently are running amok all over the place.
  • It was very nice meeting the face behind the blog of Loreley's Musings.  And a hardy "arrrrrggggggghhhhhhh" goes out to her.
All told, it was a somewhat thin crowd.  Rumor has it that Lou Barletta was going to stop by, but perhaps one of his scouts poked his head in, saw Frank Scavo, and immediately assumed he was an illegal immigrant (and we all know how Lou feels about "those people").

Have I mentioned how exhausted I am?

Anyway, that's about the best I'm going to be able to come up with in my current state.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll be rested enough to put more than a few errant phrases together.



Candidate Meeting Tonight


The loosely organized cabal (I love the word "cabal") of local bloggers will be meeting various sundry political types this evening in the thriving metropolis of Pittston at Rooney's Pub.  You can read all about it on Gort's blog. I'll actually be going, in spite of my natural inclination against socializing on any scale. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stopping the Machinery

Like most members of the species, there are some things that I can handle very well, and others that are more difficult.  Then there are those "machinery stopping" things that we all have; you know, these are the things that happen in your life when it seems like the machinery in your head seems to come to a creaky stop.  It's the balance of these things that I think dictates our health and ultimately defines our existence.

Lately I'll confess to encountering more of the "machinery stopping" events than is probably good or healthy.  The reasons will make for interesting reading one day, although it may just be me who ends up doing both the reading and the writing.  What's fascinating on a more intellectual level is that when I (I'll keep this in the first person, although "I" think it applies universally) go through these periods of extreme feelings it is as if logic, reasoning, and proportion go out the window.  Yeah, someone may be reading that and saying to themselves "no sh*t Sherlock!", but that someone may not understand that things like logic, reasoning and proportion are really the kind of glue that actually hold me together.

What to do?  

Resilience
Well part of this whole solution lies in just plain old resilience.  I'm a believer in resilience.  Resilience works.  You slug through the difficult times in your life and do the best you can.  But you always continue to slug through though.

Help
In my experience, even the most resilient people though need some help.  Maybe the very concept of help is central to being resilient in the first place.  Help is a more difficult concept for me, and being an introvert, I don't necessarily feel like emoting at every opportunity to any stranger walking by. For me, just getting help causes additional stress, because I inevitably have this internal dialogue about "who do I talk to", "how much do I say", "can they really help me", "can they be there for me", and on and on and on.  Think that was tiring to read?  That's nothing compared to replaying it in your head constantly.  In the end though, we all need a little help every now and then.

Clarity
Clarity is probably the most difficult remedy in all of this mess for me.  I seek clarity like greed-heads on Wall Street seek money.  It would probably make sense if I could define just what I mean by clarity in this condition, so here goes:  clarity is this state where I've been able to fully think through something that is bothering me and truly understand how it actually impacts my life, both in the short and the long term.  Clarity isn't as much a process as it is result of a process.  In trying to clearly think about things, I think I am slowly able to chip away at the irrational stuff and come to some real level of understanding about the nature of what troubles me.  Clarity is as much a journey as it is a destination.   

Irrational Stuff
It's the irrational stuff that gets to me the most.  I'm facing a particularly vexing problem now and the most inane aspects of it are what sometimes trip me up the most by interfering with clear, rational thought.  Here's a fictionalized example of what I mean:  "Johnny graduated from college and has to decide whether or not to take a job in another town.  Johnny is stressed about a lot of things, including who will cut his mother's grass."  Seriously, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about.  "Cut the grass"?  Are you kidding me?  That probably shouldn't even be on the concern radar, but it is.  For me, it's dealing with those kids of seemingly irrational details that does the most damage.  Maybe these irrational thoughts are something of a defense mechanism that are put up to shield my head from dealing with the larger issues that lie buried deeper. 
  

Lastly, there is writing.  I write constantly.  Having something of a public confessional for all of this is actually pretty helpful too, in a bizarre sort of way.  I think it may be an extension of that inner dialogue that all introverts have, although I have the luxury (and if you are reading this you have the curse) of being able to do it in a somewhat extroverted manner.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Enjoy that iPod/iPhone/iPad?

Apple Inc. produces products which seem to appeal to a certain demographic that, among other things, tends to lean towards being socially conscious.  It's with that in mind that I read an outstanding article in this week's Bloomberg Businessweek.

The Man Who Makes Your iPhone:  Inside Foxconn

It's a very long article, but if you think about human rights, labor rights, or just tend to think period it is worth the investment.

Ironic, huh? I have no doubt that there are journalists out there who write on and on about the downtrodden workers of the world...on computers produced by what amounts to a veal farm for technology.


Another bit of irony is the fact that are tons of self-proclaimed anti-business types who probably dismiss Businessweek as being nothing more than capitalistic propaganda, but yet (as a subscriber) I have found that it produces some of the most critically insightful and balanced journalism out there on business, labor and political issues.  They don't pay me to say this, but if you want a great resource to really learn about the issues of the day I highly suggest getting this magazine.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Cutting Edge of Technology...1990 Style

I saw this and thought it was a gas.  Check out the base unit...it's the size of a car battery.



It makes you wonder what tech will look like 20 years from now.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Highlander Grogg

For the record I know nothing about coffee, flavored or otherwise.  Well that's not entirely correct, as I do know one thing about coffee, which is that I absolutely hate the taste of it.  Oh, and yes, I have tried it.  Once. 

Now I'm not some kind of high-brow who looks down on coffee drinkers, as I actually like the smell of coffee.  I also like the smell of roasting peanuts. Roasting peanuts and coffee seem to go through some kind of metamorphosis though between when their molecules hit my nose and when they hit my taste buds, as I simply can't stomach the taste of either.  It's as if there is different machinery working both processes, which isn't entirely correct. You see the  facilities that allow you to smell something are kind of the same as those that allow you to taste something, which is a distressing thought when you consider something like dog poop.

Anyway, I have been looking for Highlander Grogg coffee, as I have a friend who loves the stuff.  In conducting this search I have come to a few conclusions:
  1. You can't buy it in stores, at least not stores in northeastern Pennsylvania (rumor has it though that it can be found in Pittsburgh).
  2. There is one company selling coffee on-line that actually seems to own about 20 different URLs. 
  3. From the descriptions I've read, this stuff is a cross between whiskey and chocolate cake.  Since Scots are not known for their chocolate cake (the culinary arts in Scotland seem more directed towards sheep innards), I'm assuming that the "Highlander" part comes from the whiskey flavor.
  4. Serious coffee drinkers grind their own beans.
  5. You really, really can buy just about anything at Amazon.com.
It's kind of amazing that something like coffee, a product that millions of people enjoy every day, is so alien to me.  Then again I was the only kid in my junior high school that wasn't a Kiss fan, so cultural awareness has never been one of my strong points.  At age 46 is this likely to change?  Probably not.  I keep telling myself that being so unaware is okay, but I've also been telling myself that being a heterosexual male ABBA fan is okay too.  Most folks, including my daughters, seem to disagree on that last point. 

Maybe I should start drinking coffee after all.

Smoking Ban

Andy Palumbo's blog this morning makes a great point about Pennsylvania's smoking ban being two years old now.  Gee, two years and the world of Pennsylvania commerce has not come to an end?  Now who ever would have guessed that (*cough* me *cough*)?  Smoking should be banned in every public place.  Why?  Simple:  someones right to harm themselves is not greater than my right to keep myself from harm.

Now this does beg the question (well it does if you are me, and this is my blog):  if it were up to me, would I make smoking illegal?  The answer is a solid, 100% no.  Let me be clear here: smoking is nothing more than another drug addiction.  Hell, it has been well documented that the addiction to nicotine bears remarkable similarities to opiate addictions.  Anyone who somehow thinks that smoking is just a "time honored tradition partaken of by adults" (a line that I got from a cigarette company website) is living in a land of delusion.  It's a drug...a powerful very powerful drug...that causes a very powerful addiction.  

Getting back to the point, I would not ban smoking completely simply because I don't think government can or should legislate personal behavior down to this level.  Note the word "personal", in that as long as your behavior doesn't in any way, shape or form negatively impact me, then I'm thinking that it's none of my damn business if you want to turn your lungs into the equivalent of charcoal briquettes.  Yes, the argument will be made that "well it causes health-care costs to go up for everyone" and that would be correct, but there are a lot of stupid things we all do that have that same result.  
  • Do we ban, for example, people from using box cutters?  After all, I once filleted my leg while cutting a piece of ceiling tile with a box cutter.  
  • How about banning people from using using a knife to separate frozen hotdogs?  Been there, done that, and I have to puncture wound scar to prove it.

The reality is that we can't as a society protect people from themselves.  However, I'd like the government to protect me from you, at least if you smoke.  You may want to pour up to 599 different chemicals into your lungs, but I don't.

Now the above may sound cruel and harsh, but that is not my intent.  In point of fact I wish everyone who does currently smoke would quit.  Especially if I know you.  No one should die from something like lung cancer simply because a tobacco company wanted to make a buck.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Road Apples, #77

Facebook Feed...Why is it that Facebook feeds my blog entries at such strange intervals?  Maybe there is a pattern to how this is done, but I'll be damned if I understand it.  Why the service isn't worth what I pay for it.  Ops, wait, scratch that last comment.  It would be nice if they fed the media I paste as well.  Make that "sauce for the goose".

Changes 1 ...Well now that my middle daughter has been away at school for something like two weeks, I've finally decided to go up to her attic bedroom and clean it out.  Note to you fathers out there:  cleaning out the bedroom of an 18 year old daughter is not for the faint of heart, as you may find things that you wish you would not have found.  No biggie though because in the parenting business, understanding is probably the most important asset you can have, bar none.  Well that and a sense of humor.  Oh, and a sense for the ironic (as in "gee, my kids are pulling the same stunts I did when I was their age") helps as well.

Vision...I've been taking some medication this week to help with a certain problem, and it has this very annoying side-effect of making my already crappy vision even worse.  Imagine that?  It's bad enough I don't have very good depth perception, now what little I do is blurry.  Have I mentioned lately how much growing old really, really sucks?

Book Burning...It looks like the whole book burning fiasco has come and gone, although not without those raving lunatics from Westboro Baptist Church (God, Baptists around the globe must cringe when they hear that affiliation) attempting to do a "hey, pay attention to us!" act.  As I have noted ad nauseam here, I don't like the idea of burning any books.  Human beings produce and inflict so much pain on each other, so why destroy one of the few things that actually exemplifies our better nature?  Burn no books, ever. Rather than burning a book that offends you, I say buy a copy, study it and better understand just why you are offended.  You may learn a lot about yourself in the process. 

Quiet...It is amazing how much more quiet my house is now that two of the three daughters are away at school. 

Changes 2...After having done some work in the attic bedroom, I decided to see what it is like sleeping up there.  One thing is for sure:  the mattress isn't exactly what I would call being of "high grade".  In fact I think I still have spring indentations on my back.  I think I need to see about getting some kind of padding for it.  Since I also want to replace the blinds in the room, maybe a trip to the Christmas Tree Shoppe is in order.  That place is always good for odds-n-ends in the home-store department.  I've also gotten some decent furniture there as well over the years, including a really neat looking mission cabinet that I store audio & video stuff.

Innovation...They now make Metamucil in a pink lemonade flavor.  Scrumptious.  Doesn't exactly taste like lemonade, but hey that's not the "real" intent.  And who says Americans aren't good at innovation any more?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

09.11 - Hero




I remember after this happened just wishing I could somehow cry just to get all of the emotions in my system out. I never did. That kind of thing just doesn't come naturally for me. But somehow hearing this song helps me deal with it all.

The other thing that stirred up a lot of emotion for me was a scene in the movie 'World Trade Center' that featured Nicholas Cage.  In the movie Cage played a firefighter who is trapped under some debris after one of the towers collapses.  Things are are looking bad.  Then a volunteering U.S. Marine who is searching the site of the towers for survivors and hears Cage trapped in the rubble.  The Marine tells him not to worry because "you are my mission".  I'm sure that part of the movie is a bit of fiction, but it never the less reminded me of how powerfully emotional a time it was.

Fiction aside, there were a lot of heroes on that day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My comment on Justin Vacula's Koran burning post

As referenced in the previous 'Road Apple'.  I wanted to paste my comment to the posting here so that I have record of it.

***************

Justin,

First I want to compliment you on the blog. You present some well thought-out ideas.

Second, and to the topic at hand, I strongly disagree with burning the Koran for one simple reason: the mass burning of any book (or books) is really an example of human society at it's very, very worst. Books are meant to be read and cherished. Books enlighten. Books entertain. Books represent what's best in our society: the sharing of "stuff". Books are intellectualism at its finest. What's more, no book...outside of a large type copy of Steven King's "The Stand" falling on your head...ever has or ever will cause harm. It's the idiot humans who read books that actually cause harm.

George Carlin had a twist on this in one of his routines; he said "there are no bad words...there are bad thoughts, bad intentions..." and he was absolutely right. I'll take the liberty of extending his logic to books as a whole.

So why burn books? Because it's a hell of a lot easier to engage in a violent act against a binding of paper than it is to engage the people that wrote/like/sponsor that idea. The book becomes this kind of sick avatar for a bunch of chicken-shit sycophants who pretend to misdirect their rage.

My point in all of this? Burn no books, ever. Book burning is the lowest common denominator in anti-intellectual behavior out there, which is why is has been practices by the likes of Hitler, Mao, Mussolini, Stalin, Milosevic, etc.

Want to express a right to "free speech" about a particular book? Then get a copy of it, go the courthouse square, read it aloud and tell everyone who passes by why the book is full of crap. There ya go: free speech.

Regards,
- Steve Albert/Scranton PA

Road Apples, #76

Book Burning...Lots of opinions out there in both the traditional and non-traditional media on the subject of book burning.  I love it.  I just finished writing a too long winded comment on Justin Vacula's blog about the subject.  I think my thoughts are pretty clear:  I'm against the burning of any book.  The world needs less anti-intellectual sentiments, thank you very much.  Thugs and cretins burn books.


Changes...When you stop changing  you stop growing; when you stop growing you start dying.  I've spent the better part of the last twenty years really not changing all that much.  That needs to change.  No, I'm not shaving my head and joining a commune, but I am re-evaluating a lot of different things.  I am, as they say, on the down-hill side of my life now.  Done a lot for some, probably not done enough for others, but definitely haven't done enough for me. Time to take inventory.


Obama's Tax Proposals...are D.O.A.  Must people don't realize that to make the changes the President is proposing, you are basically creating a whole new piece of legislation.  This isn't a case of simply taking a MS Word document and zeroing out the cuts for rich folks and re-submitting it for a vote.  Much more complicated than that, and it's highly unlikely that any Republicans will vote for any tax bill that doesn't cut taxes for high-earners as well.  What will happen?  The tax cuts will expire and this will be used as a political guided missile by both parties.  As usual, all of us will end up losing in the process.


Social Security...I still have a post coming on it, but I've been bogged down my Adobe's Captivate, which I am trying to learn on my own.  Not much success.  To quote that great philosopher Ralph Kramden, "one of these days...".


Howard Stern News...I am a self-proclaimed Howard Stern fan who has been listening to the show since the late 80's.  He has talked quite a bit about how he may not re-sign with Sirius.  If that's the case, the company can kiss my subscription good bye.  Fortunately, my current subscription runs out at the same time his contract does.  Synchronicity in action.


Fontage...I apologize for the larger font, but lately I have been having trouble seeing the screen.  

More Howard Stern News...I found this on-line.  If you are a fan you will enjoy it.



Strike Two for Lou...Barletta's anti-illegal ordinances lose yet again in court (story link HERE).  Not much of a shock there, as anyone with access to a copy of the U.S. Constitution can tell you that it is the federal government that is solely responsible for securing the national borders.  Unfortunately that doesn't preclude someone from trying to stoke xenophobic fears for political gain via an ill conceived piece of legislation that would turn landlords into INS agents.  The real sad part?  Ultimately it will be the taxpayers of Hazelton that will pay for all of this lawyer feeding.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Favorite Sharron Angle Quote

In case you were unaware, Sharron Angle is the GOP challenger running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  In today's political climate, you would think that Senator Reid is in deep "stuff", as Nevada isn't exactly Berkley, and "Reid" is synonymous with "Pelosi" in many corners.  That noted, Senator Reid has a damn good chance of winning re-election for one simple reason:  Sharron Angle is a nut.  She is insane.  She is so far out of the mainstream of American thought that Iranian Ayatollah's probably hear what she has to say and think "damn, we're liberals compared to her".  Now the Internet is full of Sharron Angle gaffes, but I have to admit I have a favorite, which I've pasted below for your reading pleasure:

"And these programs that you mentioned -- that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward -- are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that’s really what’s happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government."
(quote found in various sources, including HERE)

Yes, you got that right:  the federal government providing an Access card to a poor family is apparently a form of idolatry.  By Ms Angle's logic, isn't the U.S. Military also a form of idolatry, as can't God provide for our national defense as well?

God help us if this lunatic actually wins in November.

Book Burners

What kinds of people burn books?

  • NAZI youth in 1933 burning copies of H.G. Wells books (among others) in Berlin
  • In 1992 Serbian Nationalists burned the entire Oriental Institute in Sarajevo, destroying millions of books
  • Present day Muslim extremists burning copies of the Satanic Verses by Salman Bushdie
That's what kind of people burn books.

By my estimation, book burning is one of the lowest forms of mock-protest that exits.  The ideas behind a book can't be burned away, so why do it?  Is the real intent to show "hey, maybe we can burn you next instead of the book"? 

Don't like what's in the Koran?  Then don't read it.  Better yet, do read it and then preach against it. 

What's the toughest part about getting older?

As I get older I get to experience a number of things that change.  Some are easier to qualify than others.

Physically, I have to work harder now than I ever did in the past.  The good news is that now matter how old you are, you can always be more active.  It really is just as simple as getting up and starting to do something.  I try to stay moving as much as possible during the day.  I hope that helps.  I've also learned over the years that there is a distinct connection between physical activity and mental health, so staying fit isn't just about looking good.

Also in the physical department, some of the senses are starting to dull ever so slightly.  Years of listening to music at deafening levels is starting to have an impact, as I do have to ask people to repeat themselves all the time ("Kay, I didn't hear what you just said...").  As for my eyesight, well the doctor tells me that it hasn't gotten noticeably worse over time, a point that I'm not going to argue (although I don't necessarily agree with it any more).  My senses of taste and touch are in factory new condition, so that's good, and I've always had a very good sense of smell...no doubt made possible by my enormous nose.

Mentally, I think I have one very big challenge in my life:  taking chances.  When I was younger, it seemed easier to be able to take chances, and I'm taking about big chances.  Moving away to school, trying to get that first job out of school, having to decide between two job offers (yes, I got two offers:  Kmart Apparel & Bon Ton; I chose the latter).  Some of those choices were very tough and took a lot to get through; in particular I was relaying to the above referenced the other day Kay just how lonely it felt when I got my first apartment in York PA.  I got through that, but the thoughts and feelings associated with something like that just stick with you.  Flash forward to more of a present time and I can look back at a few different instances where I've made some big changes, but by and large the scope of the change seems to diminish over time.  This leaves me asking one key question:

Am I done being able to make big changes in my life?

God as my witness, I hope the answer is no.

The fact that I even have this debate in my head is telling.  Is it the accumulation of effort & angst over time, like so much road gunk on a 4WD vehicles drive system, such that my ability to make these kinds of changes gets harder and harder?  Am I that battle scarred by it all?  Hell, it's not as if I've spent time fighting the Taliban, so the phrase "battle scarred" probably has no place in this mental dump anyway.
  
Maybe, just maybe, with age comes some insight.  That insight is the little movie that plays in your head before you jump into a big challenge or change.  When you are younger, that movie is relatively short and doesn't contain all that much information.  When you get older, that movie gets longer and more complicated. It's getting past that movie that is the hard part now, at least for me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Springsteen: Streets of Philadelphia

I was looking for something that suited the particularly blue mood I find myself in, and this came to me...



Here are the lyrics:

Streets of Philadelphia (by Bruce Springsteen)

I was bruised and battered and I couldnt tell
What I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window I didn't know
My own face
Oh brother are you gonna leave me
Wastin´away
On the streets of philadelphia

I walked the avenue till my legs felt like stone
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
Black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of philadelphia

Aint no angel gonna greet me
Its just you and I my friend
My clothes don't fit me no more
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip the skin

The night has fallen, I'm lyin' awake
I can feel myself fading away
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of philadelphia

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/bruce+springsteen/#share

Monday, September 6, 2010

Playing with the camera

I'm still trying to get used to my new Sony Alpha. 


Needless to say my first bit of programming for the camera was to simply shoot in black and white.  Not very artsy, but I'm working at it.

 This one is a bit more traditional & may yet make it to the blog banner.

Attention Apple Fans

A must read from Bloomberg Business*.

How Apple plays the pricing game

Insightful stuff.

I am not an Apple fan myself, although I've contributed to Steve Job's compensation via the purchase of several IPod generations over the years for my daughters. 

What don't I like about Apple?  Well part is it is a style vs. substance argument.  Apple's products have a lot of style, but I don't always see the substance.  Two examples:
  • Try plugging-in a flash drive into an IPad
  • What happens when the battery in your MacBook Air degrades?
Pound for pound I think Sony, for example, has much better hardware (exploding Vaio batteries noted).  I do give Apple some credit in the software department, but even then there is a catch:  they benefit from being the little guy, so their software OS is almost never a target for malicious code.

All in all, Apple has created a nice little empire for itself, and has benefited greatly from the mistakes of others (most notably Microsoft).  I'm interested to see what happens when Google gets serious about using its operating system in hardware other than phones.  Mate Andriod with a decent tablet package (that has USB ports, a forward facing camera, support for Flash) and the IPad may very well go the way of the Newton.


(*) Bloomberg Businessweek is, page for page, the best business periodical on the market today, bar none.  If information were calories, Businessweek would be the equivalent of a Double Whopper with Cheese.

Labor Day: What We've Forgotten

I was thinking about Labor Day as I woke up this morning, contemplating just what it means and how I could express that meaning in a way that makes some sense.  The meaning is kind of tough to construct in modern times...at times...because I think we have become victims of our own success is some respects.  Our society is now full of devices and gizmos and things that redefine the very meaning of leisure.  Hell, when I was a kid it was a very, very big deal to go to the arcade at Rocky Glenn and blow a few dollars on the games.  Fast forward to now and I've got a Wii, a Play Station 2 and an Xbox 360 at my disposal at home, all connected to HD televisions.  I have more choices and far more thrilling experiences awaiting me in my office at home than what ever existed in any arcade anywhere in the world (circa 1978).

All of this has been created for us by our fathers, "the greatest generation", the ones who built the true American consumer society that emerged in the 1950's and continues to today.  Of course that also creates something of a great hypocrisy of sorts, as that hard work seems to have created a society where hard work isn't as valued as it should be. 

Yes, our society of today was built by people who worked their asses off day in and day out.  This was, in part, because work was considered to be a noble endeavor, no matter what the work actually consisted of in the first place.  Dr King said it best:

“Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.”

But somehow I think we've lost part of that feeling.   Parts of our society, particularly in some minority communities, believe that it isn't hard work that counts, but rather luck or, worse yet, athletic ability.  Unfortunately these folks are really, really missing the point.  Even those very small number of people who do find success in sports or entertainment realize that it's as much about hard work as it is anything else.  Thomas Jefferson once said:

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."

He is of course right.  Sure, one out of 100  million may actually get some dumb luck and become a millionaire through no effort of their own, but in the real world that isn't going to happen.  The rest of us have to live in a real world where we don't always get what we want, but if we work hard, we always get what we really need (with a nod to Mick & Keith on that one).

Maybe, must maybe, it's really about defining what "success" really means.  

Money
Does success mean that you have more money than you know what to do with?  Nah, I don't think so.  I can rattle of the names of countless musicians who had enough money to burn but yet were miserable.  See "Life's Been Good" by Joe Walsh as a point of reference.  

Fame
Think fame makes you happy?  I referenced Lindsay Lohan in a number of postings over the past year when I talked about how detached the whole celebrity culture becomes from reality.  By my thinking Ms Lohan is a miserable human being these days who is probably figuring out how to re-start her life such that maybe she can actually apply some of her talents without morphing back into a skeezy punchline.

For me, things like money and fame seem like opiates.  Yes, I suspect that they can make you feel good, but that feeling is only temporary.  Maybe the real trick to is find things that have a value over and above the immediate in your life.  These would be things like working hard to support your family, being honest in your dealings, helping others, trying to make some small corner of the world a little bit better.  In all of that there is a common theme:  work.  

There is a certain nobility in hard work that our society needs to do a better job of remembering.  It's that nobility in effort that created what we have today, and I think only that nobility that can help our society endure over the long term.







Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pat Rogan: The Beat-Down Continues

A follow-up to this POSTING.

These comments were pulled from a local "political" message board about Scranton City Council member Pat Rogan:

Get the fvck back on that leash and stay there until your term is up

Loyalty issues take precedent.

There are many thousands of betrayed dems in this city who would love to have Pat Rogan's nuts for breakfast today. 

I strongly suggest that Mr. Rogan gets back on the leash where he belongs

This little punk fvck is playing a very serious game with some people who have invested a lot of time, energy and money into the Evans' promises. 

There's a political element in this town "that matters", and it believes that Rogan has betrayed every dem that supported the Evans Team. He'd be swimming with the fish if he pulled that shyt with the mafia one time. 

We, meaning many thousands of us, didn't elect a FREE THINKER. We elected a team player.

While I usually provide a link to comments, I'm going to skip that this time, as I have no desire to drive traffic to that particular site.  Besides, I think this stuff more or less speaks for itself.

What's ironic is that the message board from which the above comments were culled is more or less dedicated to fighting the political system/status quo in Scranton politics.  However the messages above seem to be more about "fight the system, but only the way we want you to fight the system" and "loyalty to a brand is more important that loyalty to your conscience" than anything else.  The brand in question is Janet Evans and the city Democratic party.  This stuff screams of substituting one group of blind political toadies for another.

Perhaps Mrs Evans should talk to her supporters and emphasize to them just how much of a political throw-back all of this appears.  Wait, that would only work if Mrs Evans were actually interested in truly being a different kind of Scranton politician, you know one that puts principles before politics, one that values deliberative thought over and above blind obedience.

Free piece of advice to Mrs Evans:  sometimes the harder you squeeze, the more it slips through your fingers.

Somewhere in Hell Boss Tweed is smiling.

To All the Cars I've Known...

The cars I have owned (or co-owned) over the years.  I'm not counting vehicles that were driven mainly by others/family cars.

1974 Plymouth Duster, 2 door coupe.  I owned this with my brother Rich.  It was pea green, but one of the front fenders was rusted out so we replaced it with an used part...that happened to be orange.  I eventually handed over my interest in the car to my brother.  I think about a year later the engine blew.


1974 Plymouth Fury III, 4 door sedan.  This was probably my favorite car, ever.  360 cubic inch engine.  Very fast and very comfortable.  It was tan with dark brown vinyl tap. I ended up totaling it while driving on route 307 during a snowstorm (I was picking up my mother from where she worked).

1970 Buick LeSabre, 4 door sedan.  It was black and bore a resemblance to the batmobile.  I sold it after about a year or two.

1974 Chrysler Newport Custom, 4 door sedan.  This was the car I took away to college for my junior and senior years.  It was enormous.  How big?  Well I've stayed in hotel rooms with less interior space.   440 cubic inch engine got about 10 miles to the gallon city.  I didn't drive down the road in it...I floated down the road.  The transmission eventually went bad...and this is the gospel truth...while driving home for the last time from college.


1978 Chrysler LeBaron, 4 door sedan.  This was a great car, but it had one flaw:  whenever it rained the floor behind the drivers seat would flood.  I kid you not.  I checked and it wasn't rotted under there, so who knows where the water came from.  The car was totaled in York PA while I was driving back from work by a guy who ran a stop sign. 

1980 Dodge Colt, 2 door coup.  It looked just like the picture in the link.  This was a great car and I put a ton of miles on it.   I had this car while I worked for the Bon Ton.  Traveling between the Bon Ton in Carlisle and Perry County I went through something like four sets of front brakes.  The transmission eventually died at about 160,000 miles or so in mid-1989 as I was just starting with my present employer in Florham Park, NJ.

1974 Mercury Comet, 4 door sedan.  I was actually given this car by my brother Chris, as I needed something to drive (the Colt had died) while in NJ and I couldn't afford another car.  This was a wretched piece of crap that wasn't worth the "free" price I paid for it.  The steering was bad.  It leaked exhaust gas into the cabin.  It creaked like an 85 year old man.  One day I just drove it to the junk yard and said "take it".

1986 Chevy Celebrity, 4 door sedan.  A stop-gap car between the Comet and my next vehicle.  I had this for about a year or so.  Outside of a set of front brakes and a thermostat, this was a pretty good car.  I traded it in for the truck.

1997 Ford Ranger, extended cab pickup truck.  I loved the Ranger.  It's only real flaw was that it was rear-wheel drive, making it a a horrible drive in snow.  That noted, I loved the utility of the vehicle.  I bought it in 1998 and it only had a few miles on it.  I think I gave it to my oldest daughter when it had about 80,000 miles or so on the odometer, after having owned it for almost a decade.  I eventually traded it in for a more suitable female college student vehicle, a 1999 Chevy Cavalier 2 door coupe.  I'd love to get another truck one day, although it would have to be 4 wheel drive (or two wheel drive but as a second vehicle to something with front or AW drive).  The Ranger is probably still tooling about somewhere.

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser.  I actually had the truck and the Cruiser together for a short period of time.  I bought the Cruiser in 2006 with about 15,000 miles on it and just recently gave it to my oldest daughter.  It's a great car that was small but drove like it was much larger.  My only complaint was that it started to run into mechanical problems at about 70,000 miles (two oil leaks, A/C compressor that went).  I want my oldest to trade it in when she graduates next Spring.

2009 Kia Rio, 4 door sedan.  My current vehicle.  I got this in May from Scranton Toyota, and it had about 10,000 miles on the odometer.  I've had a few minor problems, but all have been fixed by the local Kia dealer.  The Rio is great on gas, which is what I was mainly looking for in a car these days.  I'm probably going to hang on to this and eventually give it to one of my daughters.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Glenn Beck: Wacky Morning Zoo DJ

Ever wonder where Glenn Beck gets some of his act from?  Well lookie here...



...wacky morning zoo DJ, complete with chimp.  Classic.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Road Apples, #75

Two Holidays...In Scranton we have two extra special local celebrations:  St. Patrick's Parade Day & La Festa Italiana.  Since I don't drink & generally speaking hate parades, St. Patrick's Day really isn't my cup of tea.  Besides, the parade is held in mid-late March, which can be less-than-ideal weather in these parts.  The Italian Festival though is just great.  A quarter of a million people, lots of food, nice weather and did I mention lots of food?  I took a walk downtown this evening (the festival actually starts tomorrow) and it was relatively busy.  Lots of bands playing on sidewalks, people walking around, a car show tons of stands being set up for the festival.  If anything, I felt kind of dork-esque walking alone with a camera.  That comes with the territory though, and besides, I came to terms with my dorkicity a long time ago.

2001: A Space Odyssey...I watched this on Blu Ray the other day and was reminded of just how great a film maker Stanley Kubrick was. While the special effects don't hold up as well these days, it's still a great story.  Then there is the music.  The Blue Danube Waltz is what you usually think about when the music of 2001 comes to mind, but for me the song I find the most captivating is Aram Khachaturian's Gayane Ballet Suite (Adagio).  If you are familiar with the movie, this is the song that plays when you first see the space ship Discovery headed to Jupiter.  Here's what I'm talking about...



There is something rather sad...lonely...I don't know...about the piece.

Labor Day...Along with the Italian Festival comes Labor Day, which also marks the start of the "campaigning in earnest" season.  I'll offer no suggestions except one:  it is going to be a brutal few months.  A bad economy, a weak Democratic majority, a GOP fighting schizophrenia (Tea Party vs. establishment), and a relatively slow cycle for news all make for a bruising political season.  November can't come soon enough.

Yard Work...I was off today and spent most of my time getting some much needed yard work done.  I enjoy doing yard work, as it provides a sense of immediate accomplishment that I don't always get with my professional endeavors.  The only negative today was the oppressive heat and humidity.  Rumor has it that will be changing tomorrow.

Blogger Meeting/Politician Feeding Frenzy/Debauchery...The next blogger soiree (a word, by the way, that is mighty difficult to spell correctly) will be held on September 17th at 5pm in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre neutral zone town of Pittston.  Details HERE.  Tom Borthwick promises that there will be fisticuffs and the like, so no doubt a splendid time awaits.  As for me, I'm a solid "maybe" in the attendance department.  Okay, I guess that's probably more of a "yes", but begrudgingly so.  No offense to the organizers, but I'm just not really a social butterfly, so anything that involves having to interact with other humans is somewhat disconcerting.  Oh, and have I ever mentioned that I'm a corporate trainer (actually training department manager) by trade?  One would think such an occupation would mean that I actually get my rocks off on talking to folks, but one would also be thinking wrong.  For me, teaching a class on retirement plan investments to a group of 30 people I don't know is far, far easier than having to make small-talk in a bar.  Okay, I'm thinking that this blurb has already gone past the TMI stage.  Time to move on.

Glenn Beck...In response to another blogger's posting (names withheld simply because I choose to do so), I've mentioned Glenn Beck 7 times in postings prior to his Whitestock event last weekend.  Just wanted to note that for the record.

Condolences....go out to Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and his family at the death of his mother.  If you judge a parent by the quality of their children, then Mr & Mrs Doherty were experts in the field.