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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thought Worm

Okay, I haven't written much, but in my defense I was traveling this week, have a busted netbook (broken screen) and, well, last night I was suffering from a bad case of thought worm.

Now I don't know if there is a formal definition for a thought worm, but I figure that it is related the ear worm.  If you are not familiar with an ear worm, well it happens when you have "that song" running through your head that you just can't seem to out of your head.  Replace "song" with "thought" and you have the concept.  Anyway, the thought worm occurs for me, on rare occasion, when I have a thought/problem/idea that just keeps borrowing through my head like an earthworm through a pile of dead leaves.  Basically we are talking about something that I just can't seem to let go of, no matter how hard I try.

How did I get this particular thought worm?  Well I'm not going to get into the specifics of the thought, but near as I can figure it happened in part because I was so mentally tired from three days of off-site meetings.  These kinds of things typically take a lot out of me...I am usually very focused, very conscious of my surroundings, very much "tightly wrapped".  Of course eventually the tight wrapping comes off, then everything just mentally seems to just fall out.  It's then that the thought worm seems to start its boring.

This particular thought worm was especially insidious because it hearkened back to a situation where I was faced with something I just really could not understand.  To this day I still can't understand it, truth be told.  The fact that it was wrapped in a lot of emotion made it all that more difficult for me, as I find it especially difficult try to "process" some emotions.  "Process" is an important thing for me, as I'm a problem solver at heart, and understanding the nature of a problem is the first step to resolving it.  All well and good except for the fact that there are some things in life that you encounter that simply defy analysis...they can not be processed...they simply can not be "solved".  Beginning to see the nature of the thought worm now?

So yesterday evening my head is full of the thought worm, and I accomplished basically nothing.  I became this obsessed blob of nothingness that was locked into trying to figure something out that my rational head knows is impossible to figure out.  No wonder I was up until 1am, and what sleep I got was filled with thoughts and dreams that all centered around the thought worm.

Where does this all end?  Well I suspect that the truly insane have thought worms that manage to take up a permanent residence side the skull.  As for me, well I am many things, but being truly insane is not on the list. My day began with the thought worm still in control, but getting back to the routine of a day in the office helped to create some order out of my personal chaos.  Hitting the gym also further diminished the power of the thought worm, as for some reason physical exercise has this way of sorting and ordering my thoughts.  Finally the thought worm was mortally wounded this evening, as I had the opportunity to talk about all of this to a dear friend who mainly just listened.  It's amazing the power to be found in a pair of open ears.

So now my thought worm is on it's last gasp, holding on to a tiny fraction of my mental process.  It may take a few days to truly eradicate the power of the thought worm, and I do know for sure that it will probably never truly disappear because the dirty little secret here is that I'm going to carry this particular situation with me for the rest of my life.  It reminds me of the scene in the movie Rocky III where Adrian confronts Rocky over his inability to get motivated for the rematch with Clubber Lang.  Rocky is afraid but will not admit it.  The actual scene goes like this:

Can I talk to you?
I wanna ask you something important, and I want you to tell me the truth.
- What? - Why'd you come here?
I just don't want it no more.
- If it's over cos you want it to be, I'm glad. - I do.
It's just, you've never quit anything since I've known you.
I don't know what you want me to say. I mean, what happened?
How did everything that was so good get so bad?
What's so bad? Tell me. What?
I wrecked everything by not thinking for myself.
Why couldn't Mickey tell me where it was really at from the start?
He didn't have to carry me and lie and make me think I was better than I was.
- He never lied. - Those fights weren't right.
I never fought anybody in their prime.
There was always some angle to keep the title longer than I shoulda had it.
Do you understand?
You've gotta understand, he loved you! That was his job, protecting you.
Protectin' don't help nothin'. It makes things worse.
You wake up one day thinking you're a winner, but you're not. You're a loser.
So we wouldn't have had the title as long. So what?
- At least it would have been real. - It was real!
Nothing is real if you don't believe in who you are.
I don't believe in myself no more!
When a fighter don't believe, he's finished. That's it.
That's not it. Why don't you tell me the truth?
What are you puttin' me through? You wanna know the truth?
I don't wanna lose what I got.
At first, I didn't care about what happened. I'd go in the ring, get bust up.
But now there's you and the kid. I don't wanna lose what I got!
What do we have that can't be replaced? What? A house. We got cars, money.
We got everything but the truth. What's the truth, dammit?!
I'm afraid! All right?
You wanna hear me say it? You wanna break me down? I'm afraid.
For the first time, I'm afraid.
I'm afraid too. There's nothin' wrong with that.
- There is. For me, there is. - Why? You're human.
I don't know what I am. I know I'm a liar, and because of that, Mickey ain't here.
You didn't push him into anything. He was a grown man. He did what he had to do.
And you have no right to feel guilty. You don't!
You were a champion. You did what you were expected to do.
You did what everybody thought you should do.
And you wanna tell me that those fights weren't real? I don't believe it!
It doesn't matter what I believe. You've got to carry that fear inside you,
afraid everybody'll take things away, that you'll be remembered as a coward,
that you're not a man any more. Well, none of it's true.
It doesn't matter if I tell you because you're the one that's got to settle it.
Get rid of it! Cos when the smoke clears, and they stop chanting your name,
it's just gonna be us.
And you can't live like this. We can't live like this.
Cos it's gonna bother you for the rest of your life. Look what it's doing to you now.
Apollo thinks you can do it. So do l.
But you gotta wanna do it for the right reasons. Not for the guilt over Mickey.
Not for the people, not for the title, not for money, or me - but for you.

Just you. Just you alone.
- And if I lose? - Then you lose.
But at least you lose with no excuses. No fear.
And I know you could live with that.


You can link to the script for Rocky III HERE.  The moral of the story, at least for me, is that sometimes you just have settle the things that bother you inside, even if you don't completely understand them. You have to use them or in a very real sense they will use you up.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Post #1000 - Chris Kelly on the Muchak/Cordaro Trial & Verdict

Now I actually have something a bit more introspective for the "momentousness" of posting #1000, but then I read the Chris Kelly column in today's edition of the Sunday Times.  Simply put, it's nothing short of outstanding.

Now while I am loathed to link to the Scranton Time's pay-per-view site I'll make an exception here.  You can read the June 26th Chris Kelly column HERE.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

(post #999) Giving Corey Credit

As I slowly catch up on the weeks (local) news, I read in this morning's edition of the Scranton Times that Lackwanna County is considering taking action against former commissioners Cordaro and Munchak to recoup some form of financial damages.  Now given that I have been pretty hard on Mr O'Brien (half of the "Great-Haired Duo" running for commissioners in the Fall) I'll be fair and give proper credit where credit is due in that this is something worthy of at least exploring.  Do I think there is actual cash to be had from the smoldering carcasses of Cordaro & Munchak?  Probably not, but it doesn't hurt to at least look into the possibility.

Note to the above referenced half of the Great-Haired Duo though:  be careful throwing those rocks, as you know how that old saying goes.

Along the lines of the glass houses thought, what makes even more sense here is for some outside body to take a look into the operation of county government in areas such as professional services procurement and other county contracts to make certain that any and all stains of "pay to play" have been removed.  Am I implying that such arrangements still exist?  No, but I am claiming that local governments in this region are right up there with Chicago when it comes to finding creative ways to fund political campaigns and reward supporters, so while we are cleaning house it probably makes sense to do some procedural pressure-washing, if you get my drift.

I suppose much of what I've written above comes down to the following:  I don't trust ANY of them now.  Yes, Cordaro and Munchak are the convicted ones, but anyone who thinks that the behavior examined during the trial is unique to those former commissioners is sadly mistaken.  Put another way, they were the ones who simply got caught.  Credit that to the Fed's for diligence and Bob Cordaro for having such an inflated sense of self worth that he eventually believed his own act.

Poor AJ...he most likely just got sucked into the vortex.

Friday, June 24, 2011

(post #998) Road Apples, #106

Screw the blogging holiday...I just can't keep away for all that long, despite the best of intentions.  Not that I have the time at the moment, but what the hell, I'll make the time.

Munchak and Cordaro...Being out of town I was late getting into the verdict loop for Mr Munchak and Mr Cordaro.  How do I feel?  Should I be somehow "happy" about this whole "justice served" thing?  Well I am not happy about this whole mess.  How could anyone be witness to what has transpired and be anything other than disgusted?  Think about it:
  • If they are truly innocent, then ponder just how much power the government actually has to do what has been done here.  A.J. Munchak, given his age, will mostly likely get what amounts to life in prison.  
  • If they are truly guilty (which is what I think is the case...there was just too much cash flowing around these guys), then consider just what the political culture is around these parts.  These guys didn't create political corruption around here, they just fed off of it, like starving piglets.  
Lastly, and for what it is worth, this has nothing to do with political affiliation as some (including a brother of mine) have implied.  Both Democrats and Republicans can be corrupt, as money knows no ideology. 

Family News...My oldest daughter is taking a securities industry exam today, and I do wish her good hunting.  She has a degree in education, but thanks to the likes of governor "I hate education" Corbett, school districts across the commonwealth are cutting teaching jobs, not adding them. 

Computer Woes...For the record, I am typing this at the business center of the hotel I find myself staying at.  I would be using my Gateway netbook, but it seems that somehow my screen was damaged in transit, as it now looks like a modern work of art instead of Windows XP.  No bother, as I am always up for a challenge, and the thought of maybe trying to replace the screen myself is intriguing.  I have replaced the LCD screens on cell phones (I did it twice with an old Palm Treo 600 I had years ago), so I'm thinking that, if the part is available, this might be fairly do-able.  How's that for trying to see the silver lining?  If course I do now have the issue of what do without a computer at the residence.  Maybe I should go about fixing the two that are sitting there now, waiting to be repaired.

Congress...recently voted, across party lines, to end Ethanol subsidies.  This his a very good thing.  We need to stop this madness of the government using the tax code for social engineering (such as getting people to use certain products over others).  It does, however, bring up an interesting point:  many Republicans (rightfully) voted to end the subsidies, but yet voting to end a tax break has been described by some party leaders as being the same as voting for a tax increase.  So which is it?  Look for this to come up time and time again as some smart folks begin to truly figure out that the government may be involved in some things that it shouldn't.  Next up:  Let's see some action of getting the government out of the business of encouraging people to own homes.  You should buy a home because you want to own property, feel it is a good investment, etc., not because there are rich tax subsidies associated with it, regardless of the good intentions involved.  Good behavior can not be legislated.

Marijuana...The Odd Couple of Congress, Representatives Barney Frank and Ron (not to be confused with his psychotic son Rand) Paul have introduced a bill to end the federal government's enforcement of anti-marijuana laws.  You can read more about it HERE.  I have mixed feeling about this...

  • On one hand marijuana is a drug and it can lead to the use of other drugs.  My own personal opinion is that anything which dulls the senses is bad, and things that make you crave peas and chocolate at 2am are even worse. 
  • On the other hand, does anyone actually think that marijuana is any worse than alcohol?  Please, if you disagree, let me know, however I'm of the opinion that all things considered, marijuana is probably less personally detrimental than that case of beer that some folks love to guzzle on Friday night.
By way of disclaimer I will not that (unlike Bill Clinton) I have never tried marijuana and I never will try marijuana.  As noted above, I like my senses fully in tact, which is also one of the reasons why I don't drink alcohol.

Milestone...I'll end this posting by noting that this blog is coming up on it's 1000th posting, so I'll be doing a quick countdown over the next few days.  That's a heaping amount of content, and if you add everything together, the sum of it all might coalesce into maybe one or two decent thoughts.  Regardless, it has been and continues to be fun, and if anything, this past week has proven to me that I have no desire to stop doing this any time soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On the Road

Taking a break from business of blogging and heading out on the road.


Here's to avoiding the bats.

NEPArtisan Post & Comment

Tom Borthwick's most recent posting (THIS POSTING) really got me thinking about just what our governor is up to in Pennsylvania.  While you can read my comment on NEPArtisan, I thought I'd dual post it here as well.


While I strongly disagree with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s recent actions regarding collective bargaining, I do give him credit for one thing: He’s up front about what he is attacking.

Contrast this to our governor, who is very anti-union (especially unionized teachers) but yet his attack is far more indirect. Basically he is saying “the costs I want to reduce are labor, but I’m too much of a chicken-$hit to do it outright”. What Corbett is doing instead is basically forcing local school districts (of which there are too many in Pennsylvania to begin with) to do his dirty work for him. What’s more, PA’s school districts (Scranton and Old Forge come to mind in particular) tend to be populated by political hacks who often know ZILCH about education, let alone running multi-million dollar organizations.

Now I’m not a big fan of unions, but unlike our governor, I’ll say that to anyone’s face. What’s more, I firmly believe that the best way to deal with unions is for an employer to create conditions whereby employees don’t feel the need for one in the first place. Unions thrive because employers are often greedy and stupid. HOWEVER, if employees choose to unionize, management has an obligation to be respectful and honest in how they deal with them. The side-ways, indirect attack by our governor is neither respectful or honest.

Your parents lied to you: monsters are real.

I first heard about THIS STORY in the Right to Gripe blog (see the left sidebar) and have been following it since it broke in the Scranton Times.  It's one of those  things that you read and you just can't quite believe it.  How anyone can treat another human being this way, let alone a child, is beyond my ability to comprehend.

To Mr Caravella and Ms Hann all I can say is this:  I hope that one day it dawns on you as to just what you have done, because shy of execution, I'm thinking that would be the most fitting punishment available for your heinous crimes.

To the young man involved, I sincerely hope that he is able to turn himself back into a functional human being.  Maybe, just maybe, he might even be able to turn this horror into something beneficial for others.  The world needs people who can truly emphasize with the abused, be it as someone in law enforcement, social services or some other human-services field.

Yupp, monsters are real.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Road Apples, #105

Happy Father's Day...to all the Dads out there, both young and old.  As I noted the other day, I think being a father is the most difficult job a man can have, a thought echoed by the President in his radio address this morning.

My favorite magazine...is Mental Floss.  I just wish they would publish it a bit more often.  Why am I so fond of it?  Well for starters it is filled with tons of useless information in nicely sized packages (in other words, short...which matches my attention span).

Munchak and Cordaro...Kudos to the Scranton Times for the great (all be it somewhat redundant...they seem to be basically printing the same article twice in each edition) coverage of the Bob Cordaro and AJ Munchak corruption trial.  I'm into predictions, but I'll offer this:  I'll bet they are found guilty, at a minimum, of tax evasion.  The burden of proof for tax evasion is, as I understand it, fairly low (Did you get the money?  If yes did you report it on your tax form?  If no then guilty.), and it seems pretty clear from what I read that has been some unreported income floating around these two gentlemen.  As I mentioned to my brother the other day, the truly sad part of this whole affair is, in my opinion, the squandered opportunity.  I voted for Mr Munchak and Mr Cordaro precisely because, at the time, they seemed like the kind of guys who truly were going to break the "business as usual" modus operandi of Lackawanna County government.  What we got instead apparently was the usual way of doing business but on steroids.  They are, of course, innocent until proven guilty, but man it doesn't look good.

Wansacz and O'Brien...Take good notes, because "business as usual" is going to be in rare form as the "great haired duo" of Wansacz and O'Brien are anointed commissioners.  Have these "arch enemies" kissed and made up yet?  If not now, then very soon.  Anyway, am I implying that they will be engaged in all manner of corruption?  Of course not!  I'm stating that they will be engaged in far more self than public service.  Money may not be involved, but certainly personal power will be, in spades.  Now these guys can prove me wrong by, for example, endorsing a county-wide property reassessment, but don't hold your breath waiting for that one to happen.   Regardless, let me be blunt:  I will vote for Wansacz and O'Brien when Hell freezes over.  Who are the Republicans running against them?  I don't care, as they have my vote, no matter who they are or what they stand for.

County Vendors...Another thought about Muchak and Cordaro's trial:  let's ban any and all vendors that have acknowledged bribing the two former commissioners from doing any business, now or in the future, with any arm of government in Lackawanna County.  That might send a message that times are a changing.  Hey, maybe Wansacz and O'Brien will do that when they are elected.  As noted above, "don't hold your breath".

Bob Dylan on money...All of this talk about bribery reminds me of a quote from Bob Dylan...

"Money doesn't talk, it swears"

Another bit of simple but powerful insight from Uncle Bob.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Things I've Learned (as a father)

Over 23 years ago I became a father for the very first time.  Since that time my family has grown to include three young women that now call me "dad", and as of this morning, none of my children will any longer legally be considered "children" (that's a fancy way of saying that my baby daughter has just turned 18).  With the no longer having children and Father's Day fast approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to ruminate on just what it has meant for me to be a dad, what I've tried to accomplish and what I've learned (both about being a dad, and more importantly, about myself).

What it means to me to be a father
Trying to be a good parent is the highest calling any human could ever aspire to, period. I mean no disrespect to anyone out there who does not have children, but until you are actually responsible for the life and well-being of someone so young an vulnerable, you probably just can't understand this aspect of life.  Oh, and while prostitution may be the "world's oldest profession", the world's hardest profession is that of being a good parent.

I guess the above is a fancy way of saying that it is simply a tremendous responsibility.  It hurts when you get it wrong, and you beam with pride when you get it right.  It's is both invigorating and at times exhausting.

What I've tried to accomplish as a father
Before anything else, when the thought of being a father entered into my head a long, long time ago, I really just wanted one central thing...a kind of vow to myself:  I wanted to be there for my children, to be a part of their lives, because I never had a father that was a part of my life in any meaningful kind of way.  I had, growing up, the perfect example of what NOT to be as a dad.  In a strange kind of way I guess I have my own father to thank for setting this (anti) example for me.

As a father, I've tried to do all the parental things that typically fall into the job description:  I've attended concerts, I've attended softball and basketball games (I even coached a season of girls basketball), and I've dropped off and picked children up from various friends houses.  I've also provided resources, both financial and otherwise.  That's all the "usual" stuff, but for me, pretty much from the beginning, I've had one kind of singular focus that I've tried to work on as a parent:  teaching my children the necessity of being independent.  It has been critically important to me, especially having girls, that they understand the value of not having to rely on others.  Now I'm not claiming to have raised a clan of anti-social hermits, but rather I've done my best to instill in my children the critical value in being independent.  The kind of independence I'm talking about is far more than financial in nature, as it more appropriately means having the ability to do what you want in life without needing the permission (or resources) of another.

It may be a very long time before I know how successful I've been as a parent, but I know that I can look myself in the mirror and see someone who has genuinely tried.

What I've learned as a father
This is more of a list than anything else:

  • While there is no substitute for showing your children that you love them, you should tell them that you love them too.  I didn't do enough of this when my girls were younger, but I make a point of it now.
  • Your children are always far more perceptive than you think.
  • While very difficult, you can't take how your children feel about you (at times) personally.  Being a parent means that you sometimes need to make tough and wildly unpopular decisions.  I can think of many in that category myself.  Never the less, if you are sure of a course of action...and it is truly important...stick your guns and take the resulting chiding.  
  • It always ends up costing more than you think, so just get used to it.
  • Your children will learn via their own mistakes, and while you can tell them what to avoid, the reality is that some things do need to be learned the hard way.
  • It's not enough to say...you need to do as well (kind of a reverse of bullet #1).  "Walk to the talk and talk the walk". Never underestimate the power of setting a good example.
  • Talk to your children as often as you can.
  • Have a lot of books laying around.  It creeps me out when I am in a house and there are no bookshelves.
  • Set high expectations for things like grades in school.  If you expect the mediocre then you will most likely  get the mediocre.
  • Cherish whatever stage in life your children may be at during the present moment.  


Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't end this with just about the most moving musical tribute I've ever heard given to a father.  Singer David Gates (from he 70's group Bread) said that his song "Everything I Own" was written about his father, and if you  listen to the words I think you'll find that it's indeed something that came from deep within heart.  You can link HERE or click on the embedded video, below.



An early Happy Father's Day to one and all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When the 80's attack...

In hindsight he kind of looks like Milli...or is that Vanilli?




"Wish me love a wishing well, like Norman Fell..."

This made me laugh...

"Tweet" (God, it sounds gay just writing that) from comedian Lisa Lampanelli...


Pippa Middleton spilts from beau, Alex Loudon cuz he couldn’t handle her newfound celebrity. Hey, he shoulda waited 14 more minutes!




For the life of me I don't understand why the English royalty still exists in this day and age.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Is there a town named "Kenya" in Hawaii or Illinois?

From the Huffington Post:

Herman Cain:  Obama was raised in Kenya

Maybe Mr Cain is just geographically challenged.

This is right up there with the President having attended a radical Muslim school in Indonesia.  In point of fact he did attend a Muslim school in Indonesia, but he also attended a Catholic school as well.  Hey, instead of a Muslim, maybe Obama is secretly a Catholic?

Anyway, for more factual reading on this stuff, see THIS reference.

I don't agree with about half of what the President has done (such as his pandering to Harry Reid decision about Yucca Mountain), but the lies and falsehoods about his background from people who should know better borders on hilarious.

Road Apples, #104

Back to the Future...I've probably watched the first Back to the Future movie about a half dozen times and have watched parts of it maybe a dozen times more.  In the "you know it's a great movie when..." department, every time I've seen the movie I catch some inside joke, sly reference or obscure point that I never saw before.  You got to love it.

Super 8...Also in the movies department, I saw the new J.J. Abrams movie Super 8 last night with my oldest daughter. Well worth the price of admission.  Now I think it started rather on the slow side, but my daughter disagrees.  We both agree though that it is, overall, a great movie.  What's more, it's fairly appropriate for large audience, as I didn't see any real heavy gore and no sex/sexual innuendo, which is a rarity these days.

Judge Vaughn Walker...is being criticized for making a decision against California's Proposition 8 while keeping the fact that he is, himself, gay a secret.  Story link HERE. If his ruling is thrown out on this basis, does it mean that a heterosexual judge could also be called "biased" if he/she makes a ruling against gay right?  After all, if one is heterosexual, perhaps that means he/she is automatically against homosexuals by design?  Maybe non-smoking judges shouldn't be allowed to hear tobacco lawsuits.  Or smoking judges shouldn't be allowed to hear tobacco lawsuits.  Okay, I am being sarcastic, but my point is this:  throwing the ruling out on this basis alone creates a mighty slippery slope that I don't think serves the interests of any party.  Like it our not, our judicial system rests on the notion that judges can make decisions based upon the facts and circumstances of each case.  If we start trying to dissect the personalities and personal traits of judges post-decision, then we open ourselves up to the notion that every judge can be questioned on every decision.  What would the point then be of even having a legal system?

Weiner-Gate...I have been staying away from this one for the most part, simply because it's so tawdry in nature, but hell, it's just begging for comment.  Mind you, my thoughts in the case have nothing to do with politics, as history has shown that "horn-doggyness" isn't an exclusive trait of any one political party.  By and large I think his constituents should be deciding his fate, save for one caveat:  if he extensively used government property to pull off his schemes, then I say throw the bastard out.  I'm also discounting the notion that his activities involved having inappropriate contact with minors; if there is proof that he did have any form of sexual contact with a minor (virtual or otherwise), then this becomes a criminal matter.

Tuesday...I will be pressuring washing the front porch of the house.  I know that it doesn't take much to entertain me, but as I remarked to a friend the other day, in our line of work often the effort you put forth into something doesn't necessarily manifest itself in visible results.  This is why I actually like activities such as yard-work (or pressure washing the porch):  I put forth effort and I see almost immediate results.  Then there is the whole notion of a certain, simply joy in physically hard work.  I sometimes think our society is needlessly degrading the value of getting your hands dirty.  This is something that Mike Rowe from the TV show Dirty Jobs is very passionate about (you can read more HERE).  In another life I am coming back as an electrician.

Blog Vacation...I am contemplating a taking a blog vacation next week, as I will be traveling anyway  and will probably have only limited blogging units available.  It would be the first extended time-off from blogging that I've taken since setting this up in 2008. We shall see.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tracy Morgan

Comedian Tracy Morgan said some pretty stupid stuff during a recent comedy routine that involved his son, homosexuality and stabbing.  The actual diatribe is not worth repeating, but if you want to read more, you can follow THIS link.

While I don't support violence against any group, I think this needs to be put in the perspective of being delivered by a comedian who is trying mighty hard to sound "shocking".  If we held every comedian's feet to the fire every time they said something silly/stupid/offensive/outlandish/etc., then that's pretty much all we would be doing as a society.  Call him out on his comments?  Sure, but keep it all in perspective.  Now in fairness to Tracy Morgan, he has apologized, so I say let's all just move on and deal with actual pressing issues of the day, including those that face the Gay/Lesbian community (ranting about Tracy Morgan's routine will not solve issues of job discrimination and domestic partner benefits).  What we don't need is, for example, Tracy Morgan meeting with the families of homosexual teens (I believe as suggested by GLAAD) or some other silly act meant more for show than anything else.

The best comment I've heard so far?  That comes from fellow comedian Chris Rock, who commented that...


  • Tracy morgan is a tad off we all know that so when tracy says something i usually don't take it anymore serious than i would a statement from gary busey or flavor flav .when i first heard the statement i thought it was offensive but it also reminded me of my father saying ill kill you if you ever bring home a white girl but after reading everything tracy said . wow i get it that shit wasn't called for and i don't support it at all. now can i please go to the tony awards without getting my ass kicked .


Reference at THIS link.

"...now can I please go to the tony awards without getting my ass kicked."...now that is funny.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bernard Goldberg's column on Sarah Palin & Newt Gingrich in the news

Bernard Goldberg is one of those Republicans along the lines of George F. Will that I actually agree with some of the time.  One of those times of agreement can be found in his latest column about Sarah Palin. You can read it for yourself HERE.

I particularly like his point about compromise.  I've actually heard Limbaugh talk about how Republicans should never compromise with Democrats, that somehow it always has to be "my way or the highway" and that anyone who tries to gain consensus via compromise is somehow "selling out".  Well, in the real world, sometimes getting PART of what you want is far better than getting NONE of what you want, which I think is part of Mr Goldberg's argument.

Another point from Mr Goldberg's piece that I found insightful:

"The hard-right (like all true believers) lives in a bubble. They don’t care much what people on the outside say. Listen to conservative talk radio for 10 minutes and you’ll “learn” that the only reason Palin isn’t doing well in the polls is because the mainstream media have convinced the American people that she’s a dolt. And since conservatives can’t let the liberal media call the shots, that’s another reason they want her to run."

I'd add that his point about "true believers" is equally true for the hard-left as well.

In other news Republican, Newt Gingrich's senior staff has left his campaign, en-mass.  Story link HERE.  I'm actually NOT glad to see this, chiefly for two reasons:

  • When Newt sticks to intellectual arguments (as opposed to social issue bomb-throwing), he's actually a pretty reasonable and thoughtful guy. His possible departure from the race is a loss for the GOP.
  • This apparently creates an opening for current Texas governor Rick Perry, who, among other things, hinted that secession could be considered in this day and age by individual states.  Don't believe me?  Check THIS out.  Anything that creates an opening for someone like Gov. Perry isn't a a good thing.

When last time I checked, the previous time states tried to do this there as a war.  Maybe Gov. Perry learned history the Sarah Palin way and forgot this small point.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Road Apples, #103

Mobile Optimized...File this one under the "only I care" department, but this blog has now been optimized for mobile devices. This is more a benefit for me I suppose, as I do check in every once in a while with my Palm Pre.

Getting Older...A sure sign of getting older occurs when your children grow up.  For me, I get a double reminder of this over the next few days, as my "baby" graduates from Scranton High School (this evening) and turns 18 (next week).  Among the blessings I have enjoyed in life to date are the three daughters that make me so proud.  My oldest just stared a new job, fresh out of college.  My middle daughter is changing schools in the Fall to study Nutrition and Spanish and my youngest (in addition to graduating and becoming something of a legal adult) will be studying Social Work at West Chester University in the Fall.

Rats Leaving the Ship...Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has left the university to begin an NFL career.  Reference HERE.  Of course there is the whole "Buckeye Sleaze" factor at work, what with a head coach leaving after basically lying to the NCAA about compliance violations.  Somehow I'm thinking that Michigan might actually win this Fall's match-up.  No word on whether or not Mr Pryor was one of the individuals who actually traded a championship ring for a tattoo.

The Dynamic Duo of Much & Cord...I've actually been reading the Scranton Times reports on the dual trial of former county commissioners Mike Munchak and Bob Cordaro.  It's pretty interesting stuff.  Then again I have been reading the stories while in the gym, using the elliptical, so I'm something of a captive audience (reading, I've found, make the work-out seem to go faster). So far the prosecution seems to have painted a good picture of two men lining their pockets.  So far the defense is relying on the phrase "did anyone ask you to do anything illegal" as their chief weapon.  Somehow I'm thinking that this may not look so good for Mr Munchak and Mr Cordaro.  Call me crazy, but pocketing contributions from county vendors seems like a fairly easy thing to prove...did they get the money?  Did the report getting the money?  If they answers are "Yes" and "No", well then maybe there is a problem.

Palm Pre...As referenced in the opening "apple", I've been using a Palm Pre Plus now for about two months and I have to report being exceptionally happy with the device.  I do wish there were more applications for it, but never the less it has made me more productive.  It also has enabled me to stay in the blogging loop when I don't actually have time to write (which has been the case over the past few days).  My middle daughter just got a Blackberry Torch, so I'm interested in how that device is working, as it was one of the phone I was considering buying back when I made the Palm decision.

The Sarah Palin History Network...Courtesy of Conan O'Brien, this is very funny stuff.  Check it out HERE.  Found via a link by Sabrina McLaughlin on Facebook.



Now that's a great way to start a day.

Maureen Dowd Column, June 7th

Now that I've gotten the "panties in a bunch" stuff off my chest, on to more serious business.

There is a great piece by Maureen Dowd that was published yesterday.  You can link to it HERE.  In the midst of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals, it's great to read about someone inside the Church who is making a positive difference.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's washing the feet of abuse victims isn't something that the media normally would report...and it's certainly a small statement in the midst of a large scandal...but it says something about the true nature of faith and contrition.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In the "Panties in a Bunch" Department...

...we have THIS POSTING from Wilkes-Borough'sBarre's favorite blogger, Mark Cour.

Now at the risk of further incurring the Wrath of Khour (don't get mad Mark...it's just play on words...you know, "Wrath of Khan"...honest...I promise...calm down), I'm going to make a comment or two of my own.

  • "Word Police"?  That's rather ironic actually, considering the social conservative bent towards book burning and banning (see links).  I guess that stuff doesn't count as "word policing", since books technically have more than one word in them.
  • Also ironic?  The fact that, despite what Mr Cour may think, I wasn't actually referring to anything he wrote.  The "Barry" part came from spew I've repeatedly heard from serial nut-job Michael Savage, which I do listen to once in a while (he is entertaining, in a train-wreck kind of way).  As for "Obamalama", that came from something that I think I also heard Savage say and as well as stuff I've read on several message boards (such as THIS ONE).   
  • The worst part?  Mr Cour didn't attribute the quotes to me.  That's a rather douchey thing to do.  Disagree with me until the cows come home, but for God's sake be stand-up enough to call me out by name (you know, like I've just done).  When I've disagreed with other bloggers I've been man enough reference them by name (for example THIS POSTING & the times I've disagreed with NEPArtisan).
For the record, I actually do enjoy reading Circumlocution for Dummies (see, I'm linking back to it, again).  In fact, I've been downright complementary every once in a while. Life is far too short to get too caught up in on-line flaming, so I'm done with this.

Oh wait, one more thing...from me to Mark Cour, here's something of a long-distance dedication;





Cheer up Mark, it's just a blog.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Road Apples, #102

Let me do my Conservative Republican imitation for you..."Barry.  Like that Hope and Change yet?  Osama Obama. Obamalama.  This picture." ...and I could go on.  It's as if political criticism from a party of supposed "thinkers" has degraded into nothing more than a bunch of Limbaugh sound bytes.  Note that not only can Republicans do better than that, but they will have to do better in order to win in 2012.

Schools, budgets and sports...I will respond to the comment by blogger Coal Region Voice to THIS posting some time this week.  He has a great blog that is well worth checking out.  I was going to do something yesterday, but Sunday seemed like a great day to go for a late afternoon walk, which is precisely what I did, at McDade Park.  By the way, can we re-name the park after someone who hasn't been implicated in fraud and hasn't exposed his genitals in public?  Just wondering on that last part.  And so I digress.  Anyway, seeing the well thought-out comment I wanted to reiterate that I'm not anti-sports.  As a kid I played tennis, basketball, baseball and I dabbled in some wrestling.  These days I hit the gym 4-5 days a week and, one of these days, I'm going to get my Trek out and hit the pavement. The central point is this:  sports should be a secondary part of the educational process in our public schools.  Hell, they already are in grades K to 8, so my point is that they shouldn't be some kind of sacred cow in grades 9 to 12, especially when hard choices need to made with budgets.  More to come.

Voter ID...There is a great piece in NEPArtisan about the voter ID legislation that is being pushed in Congress these days by Republicans.  I'm actually of two minds about this whole things.  Here's where I think both sides have it wrong:

Democrats have it wrong in the sense that it is NOT unreasonable to ask a voter to produce some form of ID.  Voting is an important process, and there is plenty of precedent for asking for ID when something important is on the line...a policeman can randomly ask you for it at just about occasion...you have to produce ID to get on an airplane...to start a new job you need one to complete your I9 form...etc.

Republicans are doing this simply to cut out as many lower-economic scale voters as is possible.  You know, these would be voters who typically vote Democratic.  The simple fact is that there is no wide-spread voter fraud in this country, and even if there was, it should be handled on a case-by-case basis.  Imposing a fraud solution in an area where there is no evidence of fraud makes you suspect the intentions of Republicans.  And I am.

My solution: ID yes, but just about any form of official ID should do, including a social security card.  Requiring a valid photo ID is too onerous.  My mother, for example, is 76 years old and does not drive.  She does have a photo ID, but it expired years ago.  By virtue of pending legislation she would be disenfranchised. Why?  To prevent some mythical fraud from occurring?

In the "Why" department...Why does the media continue to feed the attention gluttony of Sarah Palin?  Simply stop following her around.  Outside of dirty old Conservative men, Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge, I suspect that most people don't particularly care what she does OR the fact that she routinely mangles history. I get it, she is a moron.  Can we move on now?

    

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Housekeeping

Ever since I started using the mighty Palm Pre Plus I've been dismayed by the amount of time it takes to load the blog on my phone.  I know, it probably gets no more nerdy than that previous statement, but so be it:  I am a proud, self-confessed 6' 3.5" nerd.  Anyone got a problem with that?  Go ahead, try and take my lunch money now!

Sorry, I was having junior high flashbacks.

Anyway, I've altered the blog header to, in theory, make the page load faster.  We shall see.  I will miss the picture of the Morris Arboretum though.

Also, I wanted to give a shout-out to Harold Jenkins and the the other administrators of NEPA Blogs for all the great work they do.  Most of the blogs on my blog roll come from suggestions I find on the site, with the latest being the blog by Kevin Jordan.  Since that kind of work is somewhat thankless, I wanted to indeed buck the trend and thank the NEPA Blogs crew for publicizing the great cyber-work done in NEPA.  It's hard work proving that we are not all a bunch of backward-assed hillbilly coal miners in this part of the state...hard but necessary work.

Blog on!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Et tu, Brute?

I was reading in yesterday's edition of the Scranton Times that the Abington Heights school district is taking steps to close the looming budget shortfall that all school districts in Pennsylvania are facing by making a number of changes, including the elimination of Latin classes.  I've read where other districts are eliminating all day Kindergarten, increasing class sizes, reducing the number of teachers, and just generally slimming down programs in order to fit into a smaller financial footprint.

Strange though, in all of the articles I've read there seems to be no mention of touching that most sacred of local sacred cows, namely sports in general and football specifically.

Yes, apparently having a football team that benefits what, maybe 60 students, is more important that running a full day Kindergarten that would benefit potentially EVERY student that enters a particular district.

Latin?  Hell who needs that?  It's not as if the words are used in every day conversation (except of course if you are a doctor...or lawyer...or some other "fringe" job), right?  But football, well we all know that benefits the entire community.  Note that I am being sarcastic.

Getting to the heart of the matter, my thinking is pretty simple:  Playing football does help students, namely those students who choose to play football.  I get it that such a program instills discipline, provides the potential for college scholarships, may enhance a sense of school community, etc..  What it doesn't do is advance the core mission of every school district, namely to EDUCATE STUDENTS.  The fact that football programs are not on the table as potential areas for budget cutting is nothing short of astounding to me on one level, but on anther it simply validates the notion that many of the people who run school districts in this area are grossly non-qualified for the positions they hold.  While not claiming that I am qualified to be a school board director, I will say this...if it were my charge to fill a budget shortfall, the first thing I'd do is to parse out all of the districts expenses into four categories:

  • Direct Education Expenses...what expenses do we incur as a direct result of educating students?  This would include teacher salaries, cost of books, etc.
  • Legal Expenses...what expenses do we incur in order to comply with the law?  This could be building codes, Dept. of Education requirements, etc.
  • Indirect Education Expenses...what expenses do we incur in support of educating students?  This would include things like busing students, paying for educational field-trips, etc.
  • Non-Educational Expenses...this includes those extracurricular that have no direct connection to educating students, such as sports, non-educational clubs, conferences for administrators, etc. 

I'd then start reducing costs from the bottom of my list upward.  Then again I am a logical guy who thinks that "tradition" if fine, as long as it doesn't (in the case of a school district) prevent you from buying books.

Now do I expect any sports programs to be eliminated in NEPA?  Yeah, some local district may take the drastic step of cutting the rifle team.  Maybe the NRA can help.  What I don't expect is for any local school board director to be courageous enough to say "football is a nice to have program, but it doesn't have anything to do with education students.  Let's talk about eliminating the program", simply because we live in a society where there is still this mystique surrounding the "football hero".  Mystique and tradition are fine, as long as they don't prevent Johnny from learning how to read.

Finally, as for football being this wholesome activity that builds character, I'm reminded of what I see in the news lately about the Ohio State program.  In case you haven't been up on the sports news, the program had students who were trading championship rings for, among other things, tattoos.  Yup, there's some wholesome tradition for ya!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Road Apples, #101

President Mitt...Mitt Romney is set to state the obvious and announce his candidacy for President.  I predict a very good hair day.


I find Mr Romney to be far less objectionable than many of the others in the current Republican field.  What's more, he supports health care mandates.  Wait, does he?  I'm not sure.  It's all so very confusing.

One the rubs against Mitt is that he is rather boring.  Being boring is okay though in the primaries, as we always have Santorum saying stupid things to keep it interesting.  This includes such hits as implying that  John McCain doesn't understand harsh interrogation tactics.  Ahhh Ricky...he kinda was tortured once.

Super-Bug...and I'm not talking about a 70's vintage Beetle either.  Apparently the stain of E. Coli that has caused many a German to get sour (get it..."Sour Kraut") is some new version that is particularly toxic.  Given the German propensity for eating cured meats, I'm thinking it would have to be in order to make them sick.  Still no word on the source of the tainted veggies.

Leeloo Dallas, Multi-Pass...I love the movie The 5th Element, and there is a scene that I quote where Milla Jovovich's character holds out an ID and says in this thick accent "Leeloo Dallas, multi-pass" whenever I come up to an EZ Pass toll booth on the PA Turnpike.  Problem was that I didn't have an EZ Pass.  Problem now solved, as I joined the ranks of the EZ Pass(ed).  This should come in handy as make trips down to West Chester to move my youngest daughter into college.

The Enforcer...It was noted in an article appearing in yesterday's Scranton Times that the husband of Scranton City Council President Janet Evans basically told a reporter that she would not be talking to that particular version of the press.  I guess that makes Mr Evans the de facto press secretary for Ms Evans.  Interesting stuff, particularly given the fact that Ms Evans is reportedly interested in becoming Scranton's first female mayor.  Call me crazy, but I expect my elected politicians to talk to the press, frequently.

On the Flip Side...I can almost (note the word "almost") understand the reluctance of Mr Evans to allow his wife to talk to the Scranton Times, as they have been fairly tough on Ms Evans over the years, especially over the past few months.  Why?  Well Ms Evans is apparently trying (or was trying) to get a disability approved by her former employer, the Scranton School District.  I've noted this before, but while I certainly respect the right of Ms Evans (or anyone else) to keep confidential medical information private, the basic facts and circumstances of her claim should be a matter of public record.  She was employed by the public, so the public should know whether or not she has filed a claim, the basic nature of the claim (was it an accident?) and why she believed that the injury prohibited her from sitting at a desk for a few hours a day.

Speaking of health...I continue to thoroughly enjoy the ability to now take very deep breathes.  It is a wonderful feeling.  My "cat free zone" seems to be doing the trick, and since I have been off the 'roids now for about a week I can no longer use that as an excuse for flying off the handle.  Okay, I don't really "fly off the handle", but I just wanted to make a snarky 'roid comment.  Anyway, breathing is a very, very good thing so don't take it for granted, and for God's sake don't do anything that might impede your ability do it.  Life is too short.

Happy Birthday...to Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones.  He turns 70 today. That statement alone is rather saddening.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Unconventional Solutions

A few unconventional solutions that I have been pondering.

Helmet-less Motorcycle Riders
Don't want to wear your helmet while riding your Hog?  Then here is my unconventional solution to the problem of paying the medical bills when you turn your head into road paste (after it inevitably hits the asphalt):  you pay for it all.  No insurance coverage, no hospitalization, no medical coverage of any kind.  You are in debt for the rest of your natural life to the hospitals, doctors, etc. that provided you with treatment for your self-inflicted wounds.

Social Security Disability
While most people know that the Social Security system will eventually run out of money (on or about 2030-ish), they don't realize that the disability portion of the system is in even worse shape.  This is in part due to the fact that the term "disability" can mean everything from a real injury to the inability to read.  Here's my unconventional solution to this problem: everybody works.  If you don't have functioning legs, then maybe you work at recording audio books for the blind.  No arms?  Fine...then tutor children after school. Disability means that you can't do some things...it doesn't mean that you are incapable of doing  anything.

Juvenile Detention
For those hardened juvenile offenders who repeatedly screw up every opportunity to straighten their lives out, I have an unconventional solution:  work farm, preferably in the middle of no-where.  The rules would be simple:  you want to eat?  You work to grow/raise your own food.  Don't want to work?  You don't eat.  While on the farm the offenders may in fact learn a skill or two.

Smoking Contract
I get that smoking tobacco can be as addictive as shooting up smack, and I actually do have a tremendous amount of sympathy for those who picked up the habit when they were young and stupid but now can't seem to quit.  In fact I think smoking cessation should be fully covered by insurance.  However, for those insist that they "have a right" to smoke and are uninterested in quitting, I have an unconventional solution to the problem of countless health care dollars being sucked up into maintaining their existence:  no medical treatment for smoking-related illnesses...as long as the person continues to smoke.  Want medical treatment for that lung cancer?  Then sign a contract that obligates you to quit smoking immediately; fall back into the habit and the treatment stops.  Period.


Yeah I know, I sound like a heartless bastard, but so be it.  The common theme throughout these unconventional solutions is the notion that we have somehow as a society disconnected actions from consequences.  We have created a state where there is an entitlement for everything.  We have diminished the value of work. These things are, however, like gravity:  you can act as if it doesn't exist, but just don't try and jump off a building and expect to float.  There is no truly free-ride in life, as someone always ends up paying for your mistakes.  My point is that maybe it should be me that pays for my own, not society at large.