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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Paul McCartney & Eric Clapton - Something

A special dedication...from the simply outstanding "Concert for George"...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happiness (Gordon Livingston, M.D.)

From the book Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart...

"The three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to."

Dr Livingstone goes on to say that the term "work" can encompass any activity, paid or unpaid, that gives us a feeling of personal significance.

He defines "love" as a state where the importance of someone else's needs and desires rises to the level of our own.  He goes on to note that true love requires us to become totally vulnerable to someone else.

Insightful stuff.

Critics of the hurricane Irene warnings

I continue to be amazed at the Monday morning quarterbacks who bemoan what they perceive as the overly hyped warnings associated with hurricane Irene.  These are, without a doubt, the same folks who would complain the LOUDEST if the damage from the hurricane were greater than anticipated.  Pardon me, but when it comes to protecting human life I will always air on the side of caution.

Conversely, kudos to the hard working folks at the National Weather Service, NOAA, and all of the state/local officials (including NJ Governor Christie) who cared more about safety than expediency.  In this day and age when too many are quick to point the finger of BLAME at government for all the ills of society, it's important to point out where government plays an essential role.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Road Apples, #109

Earthquake...Kind of ironic that this was centered near Washington D.C., hay'na or no?  (By the way, did I use "hay'na" correctly?).  Anyway, I was working on staff mid-year performance appraisals when it all went down and I didn't feel a blessed thing.  People on the second and third floors of my building (including my oldest daughter) did feel it, so best guess that was that since I was sitting on a concrete slab I didn't but those sitting on open-web steel joists did.  Oh well.  In other news, apparently people in of fruits and nuts...are mocking the earthquake response here in the east.  Big deal.  Let's see Los Angeles handle 6 inches of snow.

Family Genetics & Maine...As was documented ad nauseum here, I spent a week vacationing in Maine.  Loved it...and if you like the outdoors at all you should really consider going there once in your life.  Anyway, it seems that my cousin Jeanine also loves Maine, which makes me wonder if there is some kind of genetic thing going on.  Anyway, I really do recommend vacationing there, although it's not exactly a great place if you like swimming in the ocean.

WILK...I see & hear where WILK is thumping Lou Barletta (the man who has the whitest teeth I have ever seen on another human being) on a regular basis these days, as reported HERE among other places.  Now for the record I was pretty harsh in my criticism of Paul Kanjorski over the years, so no one can successfully label me as a shill for the Democrats.  However this is a self-inflicted wound for Barletta.  If you are going to be critical of the former incumbent for not having town hall meetings, then damn straight you had better have lots of them...and even more importantly...don't talk about how you can't have them because of disruptive constituents (or "nuts with cameras", as Kanjorski used to say).  Here's one other thing about Barletta that I want to get off my chest:  he can stop already with the canned, GOP-fed word for word talking points.  Barletta seems like a personable guy, so maybe he should leverage his people skills just a bit more by being himself.  Talk to people in the public domain.  Skip the scripts.  Doing stuff like having a closed door meeting at the uber-WASPY Westmoreland Club doesn't exactly inspire confidence.  Having the ability to handle critics well in the public domain can be a pretty positive thing.  Seeming to duck critics can be the opposite.  Man-up Lou.

NEPArtisan...I have an open invitation to continue posting at NEPArtisan, so I'm thinking I should actually write something one of these days.  It's so hard though for me to get excited about political stuff these days.  I normally find politics to be ever so slimy, and in this current political climate that normal layer of viscous sludge is growing even more repugnant.  What's more, I think they are all mostly self-serving bums in Congress anyway.  Excuses, excuses.

Movies...Movies that are coming out that I am interested in seeing include Apollo 18 and The Rum Diary. The former is your standard Sci-Fi horror thing, and the latter is a movie version of an early Hunter S. Thompson novel.  I never real this particular HST piece by the way, so it should be interesting.

S-WB Yankees...Apparently a local group of investors has come forth with an offer to buy the management rights of the S-WB Yankees.  Good thought, but probably isn't going to work, as I believe that there already is legal stuff in place to transition the ownership to the Yankees organization.

Sports...Finbar O'Brien has a great post on college football that you can link to HERE.  It's one of those things that I read and immediately wished I had written it.

School for a number of local districts.  Here's to a safe and productive new year of learning for all the kids out there.  The first day of school was always this kind of magical time for me when I was a kid, and while I am now years past such things I can still recall that feeling of wonder/awe/anticipation.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What I Read

I was talking to someone the other day about my reading habits, which like just everything else about me is ever so slightly bent.  So what's the dealio?

First and foremost, I love to read.  I read constantly.  I am proud to say that my kids read constantly as well, as this was something that was strongly encouraged.  The fact that my daughters have a teacher for a mother didn't hurt as well.  We had books all over the place.  In fact, it kind of creeps me out when I go into a house and see no books laying around.  Conversely, when I go into a house and I see bookshelves filled with stuff I automatically get this feeling of quasi-comfort.  Reading isn't just an activity, it's a way of looking at the world.  It's a way of acknowledging "I don't know everything and so I am willing to learn".

While I do love to read, I don't love reading just anything.  Sure, the errant product label can make for an interesting diversion, but by and large there are fairly broad categories of things that I am interesting in reading about, and those for which I have no interest.  What I read most the most is probably the news. Whether it's the one or two newspapers I may read during the day, on-line news (I read Drudge, Foxnews, CNN, MSNBC, CNET and just about every day), or news magazines, I just love to consume the stuff.  I subscribe to three magazines by the way:  Bloomberg Businessweek, Mental Floss & Fast Company.  I'll also pick up a copy of Time every once in a while from Ms Rivers, when she is kind enough to share.  This stuff what I consider to be my "steady diet" of reading.

As for actual books, I have to say that I am not the biggest reader of fiction on the planet.  What works of fiction I have read over the years include mostly Star Wars and Star Trek novels.  I could list a few titles, but the list would end up being mighty short.  I've always been this way.  I recall getting into trouble during a summer program, back when I was about 12 or 13, because I would not read Hinton's "The Outsiders".  I just didn't really care about the adventures of my mind it was all just made up stuff anyway.  I still recall trying to explain this to my mother.

When it comes to books, I love biographies.  I've read so many over the years that I've lost count.  Probably by favorite was "First In His Class", which was written about Bill Clinton, but others that I've enjoyed include books about Keith Moon, John Lennon and Lee Iaccoca.  I know, not exactly the most mentally weighty stuff, but I do so enjoy it.  I also love reading books that center around personal growth. My current read is "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart" by Gordon Livingston, M.D., which is just outstanding.  I'd offer up a few more titles, but then I'd run the risk of having someone who is reading this really think I was a nut.  Speaking of odd (at least for a 47 year old man), I am a sucker for poetry, so I have a few of those books, including a well-worn copy of "The Poems of Emily Dickinson" (as edited by R.W. Franklin).

Lastly, I love reference books.  I have books on... trivia
...cartoon anthologies (for Bloom County)
...home improvement
...local history
...religion/philosophy. name just a few topics.  Sometimes I find some find enjoyment in just picking up a book at random and going through a few pages before I go to bed.

Bottom line?  I don't know how anyone could live a life without consuming the written word.  It is, basically, glorious.  Read on!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday Morning Random Thoughts

I really don't have time to write this morning, but I don't really care...I'm a-writing anyway.  What to say?  How about a few random thoughts:

Getting back into the groove isn't as easy as it should be.

My cat seems to have grown while I was away.

I still can't sleep really well. Just shy of 5 hours last night.

While on vacation the government in Libya fell.  If I go on vacation again perhaps the Syrian tyrant will fall.

The reality of my youngest daughter going away to college is starting to sink in.

I really need to get a washing machine.

Behold the wonders of the "To Do" list.

I am trying hard to worry less about the actions of others and instead of focus on what I can actually impact:  my self.

I dread what my Lotus Notes account looks like at work.  Best guess?  250 new emails...if I am lucky.

I hate checking voice mail.  Hell, I basically hate the phone, period.

The nuttier Rick Perry and The Bachmann sound, the more reasonable Jon Huntsman & Gary Johnson sound.

Scranton Teachers are apparently going to picket the opening of a new school.  Bad move.

Apparently Scranton City know, the group that passed the last budget...continues to disclaim all responsibility for the results...of their budget.  We knew Mayor Doherty spends money like a drunken sailor on shore leave in Bangkok, but weren't the members of the "stupor majority" supposed to held SOLVE the problems?  Funny, any idiot can point a finger and say "It's all HIS fault".

I am stalling rather than making my lunch for work.

I have to work on my weight.

Okay, enough stalling,  The day has to begin now.  "le sigh"

Monday, August 22, 2011

Field Notes, la fine

I love the sound of the Italian language, so what better way to end a series of blog postings than in Italian?  Speaking of “La fine”, I’m going to end up writing this in pieces over two days, with the result no doubt being something that is rather disjointed (or should I say “more disjointed than usual”?).  For that I will say “Mi dispiace”.


“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”
-          Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau, for me, is a lot like Italy…the younger I was the less I “got” it; the older I have become the more I understand just what all the fuss is about.  As I sit here thinking about the week that was, contemplating just how this was intended to be a time and place for great contemplation, the more I realize that Thoreau was absolutely right.  Now translating revelations, even of the minor sort, into reality is easier said than done.  That isn’t to say though that I haven’t learned many things over the past week.  Here are a few, just for starters:

I thought a lot about guilt.  I even finished reading a book about guilt.  Do I feel guilty? Should I feel guilty?  Well the answers are “sometimes” and “mostly not”, in that order.  What’s important though about this particular topic is that I do realize now just how corrosive a force guilt can be.  Even more important, I now actively question many of the feelings I have taken for granted over the years.  Now in fairness, I’m not claiming that a week in Maine will cure excessive guilt, but I am going to claim that thoughtful study and introspection will almost always lead to the same conclusion when it comes to guilt.  That conclusion?  Well it’s that we all shouldn’t feel guilty about putting ourselves and our needs first sometimes.  Illogical selflessness is seldom actually selfless if you think about it, because in an effort to blindly please others, are we not actually just trying to make ourselves feel good?  Is that actually a selfless act?  I think not!  Yes, feeling guilty has a proper place, but that place shouldn’t come about as a result of someone else trying to manipulate or control our behavior…even if that attempt is not consciously made (but especially if it is).

Since about December I have made something of a conscious effort to simplify my life.  It has, in a very real sense, become something of a mantra to me:  I want to live a simpler, more honest life.  The Maine connection is actually pretty direct here:  there is nothing that screams the beauty of simplicity than, for example, fog in a harbor.  The fog just seems to happen, it doesn’t seem to over-think whether or not it should roll in or how rolling in will somehow impact something else. Life, like fog in a harbor, just happens.

I was shown tremendous kindness on this trip.  I have intentionally left out many of the logistical details of the trip to protect those who may not wish to be drawn into my own personal vortex, but I will note that for all of the week (Sunday to Saturday) I was the guest of a family where parents were celebrating a 50th anniversary.  They didn’t have to invite me, but they did, and I was made to feel at home at every opportunity.  It has been difficult, of sorts, for me in the past to be the recipient of things.  As I noted during the week, my lot in life so far has been that of the “provider”; now I wasn’t providing much but instead was the recipient from others.  That has been something of an instructional order for me:  I accepted the kindness of others and I didn’t feel guilty about it. 

I know I have more than my share of challenges ahead, and some of them relate very directly to challenges in the past.  I spent more than a fair amount of time thinking about some of them during the week, but as Thoreau notes, those things…be they past or future…really aren’t as important as what lies within me.  I need to practice.  I need to work on me.  I need to continue to grow as a person, in perpetuity, until the day I die.  Growth is essential because the challenges are not going to go away, and while I can’t stop them, I can improve my ability to deal with them.

Everyone Has a Story
I learned that everyone has a story.  As singer/songwriter David Gates noted in the song “Been Too Long On the Road”…

“Always looks so good on the outside”

…and I believed that somehow my life of fortune and misfortune has been unique.  I believed that other folks, well, they had “normal” lives.  I was wrong.  I was very, very wrong.  Yes, my personal story has its own unique set of twists and turns, but so too do the stories of everyone else.  We all have stories and that’s okay.  In fact, this is something almost worth celebrating in that it is such a revelation.  Not that this particular revelation all of a sudden came over me, but rather this particular road apple of wisdom has been building over time, and was most definitely solidified over this past week.  In a bizarre sort of way, I feel less threatened, less alone.  I can revel in being part of the “us” collective of dysfunction of stead of the solitary “them” who feel all alone in solitary dysfunction.

I know that people throw around terms like “life changing” all the time, and that in some respects the over-use of the term can be annoying at best.  Never the less this past week was life-changing for me.  Maine is this place of simple beauty where your thoughts can clear just as the fog clears from the harbor.  No, my life is far from perfect, and yes I have a lot of work to do yet (see above), but I walk away from the week a better person than I was at the beginning of the week.  This is a very good thing.

In sincere gratitude I want to thank the extended Rivers clan for their hospitality over the past week.  The entire family was so much more than just kind to me, in both big things and in small, and for all I am eternally grateful.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Field Notes, Friday August 19th

Today is my last full day in Maine, with an extended return trip home in the offing for Saturday & Sunday.  Actual touch-down in Scranton will come on Monday.  From there it is actually a short week, with Friday being a day off to take my youngest daughter to college.  The timing couldn't be better actually in that I've had more than enough time for resting, relaxation and contemplation this week, all in preparation for one of those big things that parents do in their lives, namely send their children off to fend for themselves for the first time.  Well, in a "kinda-sorta" way, if you consider being off at college "fending for one self".

Ah the timing of it all.

The timing of these events reminds me that I don't consider the universe to be governed in exquisite detail by some old white guy sitting on a cloud.  I guess that's another way in which Texas governor Rick Perry and I will part ways (well that and the notion...I suspect...that he feels the universe is 4,000 years old), but so I digress.  Not to piss off the Atheists out there, but I also don't think that all of this is the result of some random collision between two molecules either.  The very fact that I can ponder these very questions makes me believe that there is far more to the universe than simple bio-chemical reactions and random chance.  Anyway, one bit of evidence that seems to point to there being "something more" out there lies in how things in our lives just seem to fall into place.

I have not lived some  life of grand luxury, a-la the drunken Kennedy family, being given all the world has to offer on some kind of silver platter.  I have not always been what one would call "fortunate" in the most economic and social sorts of ways.  I have not been predisposed to great interpersonal relationships throughout my life.  Yet I also have experienced many things where, at that moment, I would have gladly traded in a kidney just to alter my fate, but yet in hindsight all of those "things" seem to have happened at the right time for the right reasons, always resulting in a better long-term outcome.  Being a good American I loathe short-term pain in exchange for long-term gain.  Yet I have had so many instances of "short-term pain, long-term gain" that it's hard to believe that it's all just some meaningless bio-chemical illusion.

Has everything in my life been engineered in perfect detail by some omnipotent deity?  I'm think not.  Best guess on my part is that we are set off in life with a series of talents & gifts, and we are pretty much left alone to use them as we see fit.  Every once in a while in our lives there seems to be something of a nudge on the part of something out there in the universe to ever-so-slightly change our course.  Some of those changes seem needlessly the moment...and I suspect that some of the changes end up costing us our lives.  In the end though I think we are given the opportunity to take whatever is thrown our way in life an turn it into something better...better for ourselves and sometimes better for others as well.

Tirades are us.

Yes, this tirade on religion and philosophy has been brought to you, via Steve Albert, by the State of Maine, which wants to you know that cool morning mist and harbor views are conducive to deep thoughts at any stage in life.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Field Notes, Thursday August 18th

I had this preconceived notion of just what Maine is supposed to be like, you know, not all that different that the preconceived notions that many of us have about other places (for example that the Jersey Shore is full of air-headed greasers and orange bimbos with multiple tattoos).  It's heartening to know that, on balance, those notions were correct.

The above noted, I give you the Bass Harbor light house...

Yes, rocky coast, waves crashing, buoys buoying, sailboats plying the's all here, in living color.  This place is as exactly as advertised.

There is a certain uniqueness in this day and age to a place like this.  I know, it sounds as if I am writing advertising copy, but too bad, 'tis how I feel. I am sure that, somehow, the Maine tourism folks would be happy at this spew.  I think that in this day and age we get accustomed to the sensational.  We expect the be dazzled at the moment so that then we an move on.  This is the same culture that decided that instant communication via email wasn't, we also need it is about 60 characters or less via Twitter.  In all of this crazy pace, you know what?  The sailboats seem to move up and down the waterways here at what must be the same speed they have always moved.  Couple that with the fact that I sit here typing via a wireless Internet connection and we get an interesting dichotomy.  Despite the speed of my connection and the wonderful tech I have in front of me, this place still seems to move slowly.

Ah, moving slowly.  I sometimes forget just what "slow" means.  Here and now I appreciate just how fast my life moves.  Whether it is the mile and a minute pace of work (where I seldom actually get a sit-down lunch) or evenings filled with trying to get stuff crammed in, now I think I truly appreciate just how fast my life has become.  This is part of the uniqueness of this place:  it forces you to measure time the old-fashioned way.  Tides don't operate in Twitter time and the fog takes most of the morning to clear out.

As the week winds down I'm beginning to think about some what I will be taking back to my "real" life.  I know that there will be some tangible things, such as maybe 300 pictures and a tee-shirt or two, but I am mostly interested in the tangible things that sit in the back of your head, things that persist long after the tee-shirts are fashioned into rags and the photos misplaced.  These are the things that really matter.  I suspect I will have a few of these really important things to take back with me Scranton.

One things I know to be true:  I needed to be in this place at this time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Field Notes, Wednesday August 17th (Whale Watching)

There be whales off the coast of Maine...

It's going to take me a good hour or so to get the salt out of my Sony H7 but it was worth it.

Field Notes, Wednesday August 17th

Yesterday was one of the wettest days I've ever encountered as a human  being.  The moisture was so thick in the air that it seemed to almost be a solid.  It was one of those days where it was difficult to feel warm, let alone dry.  Yet it really wasn't a bad day either.  The trek de jour yesterday was to Acadia National Park, and despite the lack of visibility it was still breathtaking.  I took a few pictures, but alas I am not at the moment sufficiently motivated to download them for attachment purposes.  No bother, as there will be opportunities for picture posting, just as there will be another opportunity to visit Acadia before I leave this wonderful place.

Another wonderful place that was accidentally stumbled upon yesterday was Seal Harbor, which just basically found us as we were finding an alternate route out of Acadia.  I didn't actually see any seals, but it was one of those picture-esque Maine harbors that you see on calendars for sale at a bookstore.  It's amazing how little justice pictures provide to some scenes.

In other news there will be boating today, and for that I am psyched.  I'm not a big sailing kind of guy, but it is cool to be out on the water and who knows, maybe I will get a glimpse of some flora and fauna.  Pictures would be even better.  One never knows.

As a final...all be it unrelated...note, as I was logging in this morning to post something I actually yesterday, Google asked me if I wanted to monetize the blog as, in their words "it looks like you have a lot of readers" or something along those lines.  For the record I don't believe their assertion, but even if I did I have no plans to add any advertising to this, ever, no matter how few or many actually look at this spew.  Why?  I have a few reasons actually:

  1. The nature of my job requires me to get my employers permission before I engage in any outside business activities.  Getting a dollar every month from Google actually would be considered an "outside business activity".  Simply put, I don't want to ask my employer if I can blog.
  2. I've seen some left-leaning blogs that end up posting advertisements for right-wing candidates (although I have not seen the reverse), and it bothers me that my space might be advocating for some one or some thing that I disagree with.
So much for earning my fortune (or enough money to buy a paper...every other month) in the blog-o-sphere.

Scranton School District "saves" Full Day Kindergarten

There is an article in yesterday's Scranton Times that details the means by which the Scranton School District is closing a $5 million dollar budget gap, not firing any teachers (reduced numbers via attrition only) and keeping full day kindergarten.  I've read the article twice and for the life of me I still don't exactly understand how it all adds up to the savings needed.  Maybe my mind had been dulled due to vacation time.  Who knows.  Anyway, it does spur a few thoughts.

Full Day Kindergarten
Believe it or not I have mixed feelings about full day kindergarten.  On one hand I firmly believe that more education is always better than less education.  Period.  However, I do wonder how much capacity for learning actually exists at that age.  Is a full day too much?  Does providing full day of learning at that age actually equate to twice as much learning as which occurs at a half day?  These are reasonable questions to ask, and I'd love to see some evidence...either way...about the effectiveness of full day kindergarten in Scranton.

I do also wonder if something like full day kindergarten isn't actually another example of the government giving parents another excuse to, well, not parent.  It isn't the responsibility of the government to take care of our is the responsibility of the parents of the children.  The same issue exists with school provided lunch:  I do not want children to go hungry, BUT how many parents get free lunch for their children but yet have the money to spend on smokes and booze for themselves?  At some point in time we have to hold parents accountable for the choices they make as parents.

Something that I was able to gather from the article was that the Scranton School District plans on saving some amount of money on textbooks for the year.  As the parent of young adults in college I can testify to the fact that textbooks are outrageously expensive.  But when it comes to the actual act of education I'd say that they are something of a necessity.  Just which books are they going to economize on?  Maybe the history books will stop at Bill Clinton.

I didn't read anything about cuts to sports programs, but then again this is NEPA, and there are those who honestly believe that sports=education. Sorry, but sports are, well sports, and that's about it.  What's more, sports MAY be beneficial for the select few that can play them, but for the vast majority of students that don't, well, I guess they are supposed to just be "athletic supporters" (note to all the student athletes out there...this is an example of sarcasm).  I know that there are many in jock-o-centric NEPA that disagree with me, but so be it:  Sports are not required for the educational process, they only benefit a very small subset of students and in some instances they do more harm than good (as in the athlete who is moved ahead simply because he can play).

Now there is a glimmer of hope in all of this in that the article pointed to possible cuts in the massive size of the SSD's administration.  Now there is somewhere that some actual savings can be achieved.  Much of the rest of it seems like smoke-n-mirrors to me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Field Notes, Tuesday August 16th

It's barely 8am as I sit here at the official blogging patio in Maine, watching a Mourning Dove peck at the ground in front of me.  He/she had better be careful, as that big Maine Coon is no doubt wandering around the grounds.  Well maybe given that it is relative cool out now (high 50's) and there is a mist in the air the cat has opted to somewhat dryer and warmer surroundings.  Having all that fur might be a problem to dry out, not unlike Bon Jovi, circa 1989.  My "inner Beavis" is right at this moment going "hehehe, Bon Jovi is a hair band, hehehehe".

So far I've managed to reference a dove, a cat, a hair-metal band singer and Beavis, all in an opening paragraph.  Yes, that sounds about right.  Easily distracted?  You bet!

It occurs to me that while on vacation there is this kind of time dilation occurring whereby the passage of minutes, hours and days is different for me in Maine than it is for others in the rest of the world.  In fact is seems that a week has actually passed in the space of two days.  Now I do know that, in the absence of an extremely strong source gravity...something so strong that it could warp space/time...this isn't actually true, but it certainly seems so.  I think the far less geeky and more practical explanation  for my change in the perception of time lies in the fact that the old familiar markers of the hours, days & minutes simply aren't here at the moment for me.  I don't have those sign-posts of routine that tell me events are occurring in the "normal" flow of stuff in my life.  This is a good thing.  This is, in some respects, the kind of mental re-set that one needs to occur during something called a vacation.

Next to time seeming to flow differently the other big thing occurring in my perception centers has to do with the subject of guilt.  Not a pleasant one, and no, I am not overcome by it in any way, shape or form.  But I do seek to understand it better. As I have noted no doubt  before, having grown up Catholic, guilt is this seemingly all-powerful force that those similar to me were subjected to at an almost constant rate.  Guilt ceased to be something that helped to steer a moral compass and instead become this mental governor of a sort, one that prevents you from going further.  Put another way, my sense is that guilt should be the judicial branch of your own personal government, but for many of us it also became the legislative (deciding what we do) and executive (deciding how we do it) branches as well.  It ceased being a check and balance and became a entity into itself, one that now needs to be checked and balanced.

Better understanding guilt is one of the things I hoped to achieve during this Maine trip.  I did bring along a book as a kind of study guild, but mainly I think understanding stuff like guilt requires that someone just spend quality time thinking.  Actually the flow is one of "think, read, think some more, read some more and eventually maybe talk about stuff", which seems to work for me.  As already noted, while I am not overcome by guilt I do realize that an incorrect understanding of it has been a corrosive force in my life.  What better place on Earth to ponder and understand than Maine in August?

Today there will be more pondering and understanding, but there will also be a trek to the Atlantic coast as well.  At the moment I am at Southwest Harbor, but the shore seems to only be a few miles away.

Here's to damp mornings, doves, fluffy cats, our inner-Beavis and better understanding the proper role of guilt in our lives.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Field Notes, Monday August 15th

Arrival at Mount Desert Island was yesterday afternoon, and having successfully made the trek I drew two conclusions already about Maine:
  1. They know how to take care of highways in this state.  I've never driven on such pot-hole free roadways in all my life.  Oh, and they do get some snow here.
  2. This place is beautiful, but I say this fully noting that it's summer outside and not winter.
The environmental vibe here is interesting:  while it smells like "da shore", that's where the similarities end.  This is NOT the shore as folks from NEPA would recognize it.  The water is calm at the the bay were I sit and type this, and there are boats-a-plenty bobbing up and down on the waves.  Another difference:  I actually hear more from crows than I do seagulls.  

Speaking of critters, I was greeted by a Maine Coon as I got up this morning and headed over the official blogging patio.  It's tail looked like something you find on the duster sold by one of the TV "miracle inventions to save you time and money cleaning" shows.  You know the one...the show that is hosted by the little guy with the British accent.  Anyway, the cat must be a permanent resident that makes the rounds between visitors, scarfing up that odd bit of attention from passers by that have soft spots for fluffy cats.

So here I sit, contemplating Maine, the week ahead, and devising my best possible strategy to actually relax during the week.  That's in part what this vacation is designed for I think:  to re-set the circuit, if you will, after what has been an "interesting" 2011 so far.  I'm utterly convinced that I need to, after 47 years of life, reset certain aspects of my life.  One of those things is my ability to actually relax, not over-think, not over-feel, just relax.  Given the calm salty air, the light breeze, the moderate temperatures and the basic notion that here I am on vacation and for once I don't have to be "in charge".  

"In charge" is more or less synonymous with "control", which is at the heart of many issues for me in and around my life.  I have been learning that sometimes you have to surrender yourself to what happening in your life.  I've noted this kind of revelation before:  sometimes in life you don't get what you want, but you do get what you need.  Now I am at the stage where I know this to be true, but actually appreciating it?  Well that's what I continue to evolve towards.

End Note:
As I'm typing this I reminded that the small number of people that read this spew fall into two categories...those that like the political stuff and those that like the more introspective stuff.  Sadly, much of this will probably be more of the introspective variety, as politics doesn't seem to jive well with Zen/personal enlightenment of my vacation time.  One never knows though...

Field Notes, Sunday August 14th

The NCFE command bunker is on the road this week, with a planned trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, being the final destination.  Actually the “real” final destination is Mount Desert Island, but since I am somewhat challenged in my Maine geography (side note:  I was accepted to Millersville University to study geography), I’m going to stick with Bar Harbor for the moment.

I feel like this is going to turn into an episode of Family Guy, as I have all these cut-away thoughts running through my head at the moment.  For example…

I know that the blog has been somewhat barren over the past few days and weeks.  In fact I strongly suspect that my blogging “volume” has decreased substantially over the past few weeks.  Why?  Well in all honesty (as opposed, I suspect, to lying) I’ve just had far more “things” than “time for things”.  Work in a great example…I just have a lot going on these days.  A lot.  Change will do that every time, and where I work change isn’t something that visits infrequently…in fact it is more or less a permanent resident.  There will be more to come on that one of these days. 

Another area for almost constant distraction has been getting my two youngest daughters ready for college.  My middle daughter starts her second year at the University of Scranton (a cut-away within a cut-away:  she just recently switched majors from Business/Spanish to Biology/Spanish…a chip off the old block, as I once switched majors from Civil Engineering to Business) and my baby daughter starts her first year at West Chester University, studying Social Work.  The payoff to all these things going on is that eventually life will settle down a bit more after the end of the month.  Unfortunately “settle down” also equates to “seeing daughters less”, but this is what happens when your kids get older.  In theory one is supposed to be thankful for this sort of thing…going away to college is preferable to going away to jail.

Distractions, distractions.  Doesn’t life know that I have blogging to do?   Back to the field notes.

At the moment I am in Webster, MA, getting ready to make the trek to Maine.  This leg of the trip will include a stop in the massive Maine outlet complex in Kittery later today.  I believe that there is an L.L. Bean store there.  This is an urban preppy heaven of a sort, the kind of place that makes fake outdoorsmen like me giggle with delight.  In driving here yesterday I was struck by just how green everything is in western MA.  In particular the trees grow right out to the road here, is if it is some kind of perpetual battle between the forest and civilization, with civilization only marginally winning.  Outside of the environmental distinctions, the house I am staying at for tonight (and next weekend, for the return trip) has a distinctive “This Old House” feel about it.  In fact I am waiting for Norm Abram…who is only the second Jewish carpenter I’ve ever heard of…to come out from a closet at any moment.  I’d make a crack about Bob Vila, but that would REALLY date me.

Did I mention that it is raining outside?  It’s probably a typical New England rain, the kind that helps the forest in its battle with civilization.  It also makes for good sleeping weather.

More to come… 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Note to "Anonymous"

In response to my posting on "The Response" I received a few comments, including this one:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Until you get JESUS, You'll never gonna get it. The Christian life is the ONLY WAY life makes since. May GOD have mercy on you and those you love, because Heaven and hell is a real place. Not because I say so but because THE LIVING GOD OF GENESIS SAYS SO. John 14:6&9
August 8, 2011 7:34 PM

Note to Anonymous...

At the risk of being too blunt, I believe that you harm to your own cause by failing to post under your REAL NAME.   I would welcome a discussion with you on this topic and (if you read this blog with any regularity) you will certainly find that I am both reasonable and respectful to individuals who take the time to write.

I hope to hear from the "real" you.

Best Regards, 
Steve Albert, Scranton Pennsylvania

Monday, August 8, 2011

Birthday Wishes

A friend of mine has a birthday today, and well nothing says "Happy Birthday" better than a bunch of cats.

Happy Birthday Rob!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Your parents lied to you: monsters are real.

Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was convicted by a jury in Texas of sexually assaulting at least two girls, one aged 15 and other aged 12.  Story link HERE.

Make no mistake about it, this man really is a monster.  A real, scary, child-harming monster.  The kind that are usually reserved for the likes of bad Hollywood movies.

During his trial, one in which he went through something like six different defense attorneys, Mr Jeffs basically claimed that this right to religious freedom somehow allowed him to rape little girls.  While he ended up being his own worst enemy (his personal record-keeping of misdeeds was almost NAZI-esque), you do have to give credit to the Texas prosecutor who doggedly created a case that clearly painted Warren Jeffs as a sick monster.

While I am not normally inclined to outrageous statements, I am going to indulge myself a little by hoping that Mr Jeffs ends up with the biggest, nastiest, most violent cellmate who also happens to have at least one young daughter at home.  Hell, maybe he will make Warren his "spiritual wife".

Friday, August 5, 2011

Road Apples, #108

Summer...precisely where has the summer gone?  It seems like May was just about a week ago, now the first week of August is almost over with.  Hell, it could be snowing in 4 months.  I think it all goes to prove that time is a relative...rather than a constant...concept.  When I was a kid time seemed to move very slowly.  Now days it seems to race by.

Mitt Romney...has apparently snagged a gi-normous campaign contribution from a company that existed just to give him a gi-normous contribution.  Score!  Dan wrote about this on NEPArtisan (see THIS link), but I think this is also a very interesting example of how "fair and balanced" Fox News really is these days.  This is a worthy story, but yet while it was breaking yesterday there wasn't so much as a mention of it on  Not a peep.  Why?  Every time George Soros gives that kind of money to a left-leaning organization Fox News reports on it as if it here the second coming.  However since this was money that benefited a Republican it doesn't warrant coverage?  Things that make you go hmmmmmm.  My personal take?  This is another example of the distortion of free speech by the Supreme Court.  If you buy the argument that campaign contributions are a form of free speech, then you also MUST buy the argument that some folks have MORE of a right to free speech than others (because they have MORE money). has an all time low approval rating at something 82% disapproving of its performance. This of course makes we wonder who the bozos are in the 18% that think they are doing a good job.  My own member of Congress, Rep. Barletta, seems only capable of speaking in sound-bytes.  What a shame.  The job of members of Congress has changed from doing the "people's business" to "staying in office".  Maybe term limits are not such a bad thing.  We need to change the culture in Washington DC away from self-interest and towards common interest.  Note the word "common".  The interests of, for example, the Tea Party are not, by and large, my interests, so I don't expect that their agenda should rule the day.  Same thing goes for other groups as well on both the right and the left.  It's time we end this bull$hit notion that compromise and working together are somehow bad.  We pay these people to get stuff done, so it's about time they started to perform, and not just for their particular pet constituency.

College...I have two daughters now in college and just about the most difficult thing a parent has to deal with lies in navigating the whole "paying for college" stuff.  It's mind-boggling.  It is also incredibly stressful for me, as I am not always the most patient person in the world when it comes to getting answers from banks, college financial aid offices and the like.  I will say this though:  I've had to deal with both public and private universities over the years, and hands down the private schools (in my case the University of Scranton) are FAR BETTER in the arena of helping parents and students figure this stuff out.  Hands down, no contest.  It can be down-right difficult to even get in touch with someone from the financial aid office at a public university, let alone actually actually get meaningful assistance.

Eckley Miners Village...I had a chance to visit the Eckley Miners Village this week and I was really impressed, even though parts of it were under construction (work to preserve some of the hell-holes that our immigrant forefathers lived in).  This place is a treasure and is well worth a visit.

The song in my the moment happens to be the greatest song ever written about someone obsessed by a news anchor.  I am referring, of course, to Turn It On Again by Genesis.  Here's to getting turned on again...

You gotta love Phil Collins doing the "one, two, three, four" at the beginning of the song.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


This blogging stuff can be mighty time consuming.  It seems even more time consuming when I have a lot of other things going on all at the same time.  Things like...

...two daughters getting ready to go college shortly (one for the first time)
...big changes at work
...actual fellow human interaction time

Of course it doesn't help that I'm doing some substitute blogger work for a certain European traveler and son of Mary (this guy)...but I am not going to complain, not one bit.  With every ounce of sincerity I can muster I will state for the record that, while not every day is great, it's good to be alive.  No, scratch that one; I'll say that it is a blessing to be alive.

Speaking of blessings, I've been pondering some things lately, which I realize (for those that know me) isn't much of a revelation.  In fact I ponder "stuff" all the time.  About 5% of it all makes it here, but once in a while I do try and consolidate my thoughts into something at least quasi-cohesive.  This is one of those times and here is one of those thoughts:

Life is meant to be lived, not spectated.  

I know, I know, that sounds trite at best, stupid at worst, but it does have the benefit of being simple.  I like simple by the way.  Simple has become something of a passion for me of late.  Anyway, for years I was pretty much a spectator at life.  I watched.  I lived an oh so Walter Mitty kind of existence.  I would poke my toe into the water of life, but I pretty much pulled it back as soon as the water felt just a tad bit cold.  I know there were reasons for this kind of behavior, but after a while the reasons almost morph into nothingness...they become a kind of bland wallpaper in a self imposed room that you never leave.

Leaving the room.

It seems to me that in a self-imposed room some folks become mighty comfortable.  I know people like that.  Hell, I was someone like that.  It's comforting to know that you can look out the window, see the world, ponder all that you would do, but yet never actually leave the safety of the room.  So what makes you leave? In my case I suppose there were many things that egged me along towards change.  Perspective is a mighty powerful thing, and with time I see that some of those motivating factors appear now to be far different than they appeared then.  That's okay by the way, because sometimes (but not all the time) the ends do in fact justify the means.

Further blessings.

In the "further blessings" department I have always had people around me who have believed far more in me than I have ever overtly believed in myself.  That's powerful stuff, but note the word "overtly".  In point of fact I'm not quite the low self-confidence type as it would appear; much of that kind of behavior is something of a combination defensive mechanism (let'm low ball your abilities then you can steam-roll them when they least expect it) and just the way I was raised.  To the latter I'll confess to a Catholic upbringing that emphasized guilt over just about any and every feeling imaginable.  Hell, I think self-confidence alone was reason enough for 4 Our Fathers after Confession. Regardless and despite various factors, I seem to have had the change in me, all be it buried under a few feet of mental debris.  Yet another blessing. 

So where does all this rambling lead?  I'm not sure.  Sometimes, at least for me, it really is a kind of mental vomit...I just need to get some stuff out.  It may not be pretty, it may smell mighty bad, but sometimes you just have to spew.  And spew I have.  I'll note though that this spew has had its purpose, namely sharing in the gospel of change.  If you are locked into an existence that doesn't make sense, one that seems to lock you in a mental room, then just know that it is in fact possible to leave.  For the record "possible" doesn't mean "easy", but then actually "doing"  is always far more difficult than  "spectating" anyway.

In the end, we will all look back and wonder just what did we do with all of this life stuff with which we have been given.  I say live.

With apologies (and a nod) to Katharine Hamnett.

NEPArtisan Posting: Eating the Satan Sandwich

You can link to my latest NEPArtisan posting HERE.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The best Schoolhouse Rock ever...

If you are of a certain age you may remember this...and for the record (to Ms Rivers) it IS the best Schoolhouse Rock segment, bar none.

I will concede that the "I'm Just a Bill" is pretty good too!