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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Advertorial

I was reading the golackawanna website today, trying to catch up on some local news, when I spied a review of the Suzuki Kizashi.  Now being mildly interested in cars, I thought to myself that this might make for an interesting diversion.  I like reading car reviews, and while I'm not in the market for a car at the moment, who knows, I may find some useful tidbit and/or factoid.

Then I saw the word: Advertorial.

My initial reaction was a simple and straight forward "what the hell is an advertorial?".  Then, as I am often fond of doing, I thought about it some more.  Sure, I got the definition...Advertisement + Editorial.  In other words, this was a paid opinion piece.  Someone greased the golackwanna folks so that they would publish this mock review of the Suzuki Kizashi.  Forget for a moment that this looked like a straight-off review, although the constant references to "J.D. Power award" came up time and time again.  That was a dead give-away.

Side note:  I think just about every piece of crap that Detroit has ever produced has won a J.D. Power award.  I wouldn't be shocked if, going back to the 80's, JD. Powers marveled at the cutting edge engineering of the Chevrolet Citation.

So now I am left wondering just what place, if any, the "Advertorial" has on a real news site.  Call me old fashioned but if an advertiser pays for space...be that space on paper or virtual...that is an advertisement.  Calling it something else is, in my opinion, walking the edge of propriety.

Maybe this is a common practice in print journalism.  Maybe I'm making too much out of this whole thing. Maybe I'm just tired.  Who knows?  Well I do know one thing:  I am disappointed in the golackawanna folks.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The vaccination against cervical cancer can turn your daughters into honor students!

Michelle Bachmann wants you to believe that a vaccination against cervical cancer can cause mental retardation.  Oh, and she brings this up to score cheap political points against Rick Perry.  Read how Leonard Pitts calls her out on it.

Leonard Pitts:  Bachmann's Irresponsible Behavior

For the record, all three of my daughters received this specific vaccination.  All three of my daughters are honor students as well.  There may be no connection between the these two facts, but my making a none-too-subtle claim that the vaccination can cause higher intelligence is just as valid as Bachmann's claim that it can cause mental retardation.  The difference?  I admit that my claim is just simply made-up bull$hit.

Lest we forget...it's the little things that count

There is a larger thought in all of this, but as I'm sitting here stalling on starting what is a very full day, I am reminded that in life it is the little things that count the most.  Here is a smattering of that for me...

Having children that aren't in jail, are not on drugs, and do work hard at their chosen endeavors.

Having healthy, clear lungs so that I can breathe in the Fall air and enjoy every molecule.

Having a good job that gives me some satisfaction and which pays my bills.

Having a pet who meets me at the door when I arrive & waits outside my bedroom when I wake.

Having good enough vision so that I can read a book, drive a car or post stupid ruminations on-line.

Having sufficient smarts that I can ask the questions, even if I don't always understand the answers.

Having an extended family that is supportive.

Last but certainly in a category all of it's own, having someone in my life who asks how I am doing, listens to me, respects me and genuinely enjoys spending time with me.

Yes, the days come with frustrations and there are reasons a-plenty for feeling down.  Points taken,  But you know what?  When all is said and done, every day that we can wake up and realize where we are is a day that we are given yet another chance to get it make a difference and get it right.

One final note:  almost by habit whenever someone causally asks how I am doing I respond "Not Bad".  How sad is that?  My response is basically that "hey, it could be worse".  Maybe that's the wrong frame of mind.  Maybe a more accurate response would be simply "Well", because in the totality of it all I am, in fact, "well".

Carpe diem folks.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Road Apples, #112

Apollo 18...I went to see this last night, and I highly recommend it, but only if you really want to waste $17.50 and 90 minutes of your life.  If this is supposed to be a documentary, then how did the film get back to Earth?  This was prior to high-speed data streaming or even digital video.  I know, I shouldn't point out plot flaws in something that is supposed to be just entertainment, but still I was very disappointed.

Road Trip...The return trip to West Chester is this afternoon.  Here's to hoping that it is less dramatic than Friday's excursion.

Republicans...Isn't it time for another GOP debate?  I mean we have gone a whole three days...I think...since the last one.  On the positive side, my favorite Republican, former governor Gary Johnson, seemed to do well.  Speaking of Gary Johnson, he put out a great piece on the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".  You can read it HERE.  From the statement:

“The idea that our professional service men and women could not serve effectively with gay colleagues has long been unfair, and just wrong.  Over the past several years, we have lost thousands of volunteer defenders of freedom to a policy that, on its face, ran counter to the American principles of equality and, yes, freedom.  It took far too long to get here, but this is a great day.”

Of course Gov. Johnson doesn't stand a chance in GOP primaries.  That's too bad, as instead the nomination will go to either a dullard (Perry) or a man that is so overproduced (Romney) that I half expect a line of Bob Mackie attired dancers to appear whenever he speaks.

Recently Ordered from Amazon...This DVD on the life of Harry Nilsson.

The "New" Facebook...Much has been written about changes to Facebook recently.  If you are not a "user" then I suspect that you probably think it's all just a bunch of hoo-haa.  As for me, the changes seem to violate a technology rule that Apple routinely gets right and Microsoft typically gets wrong...namely that making things more complex (even with the best of intentions) is seldom good for a users experience.  I'm not shilling for Apple here, and in fact I don't own a single Apple product.  I do, however, like the focus Apple puts on ease of use.  Speaking of technology...

Microsoft to Unveil Windows 8...Read HERE and in other places about the upcoming newest version of of Windows.  I'm somewhat skeptical of just how successful the launch will be and how it will impact the fortunes of Microsoft.  In my opinion the days of big, clunky operating systems that drive how you work are coming to an end.  Apple's success with the iPad is showing that smaller, lighter, quicker and more user-focused is where technology is headed.  Microsoft has another problem in that it will now have several different operating systems in use across the world, with many businesses still using a product...Windows XP (which is also the OS I use on my netbook)...that was first released in 2001.  A decade is an eternity in the world of technology.

The Scranton Times...ran what I would describe as a vicious editorial under the title of "She Can't Handle the Truth..." that pointedly attacked Scranton City Council President Janet Evans.  You can link to it HERE.  I actually don't disagree with much of what the editors noted about Ms Evans, but it pointedly avoided any real criticism of Scranton's Mayor Chris Doherty.  I like Chris Doherty, but his record of fiscal management isn't what one would describe as stellar.  When it comes to Scranton's government, it takes two to Tango (namely the City Council President and the Mayor).  Municipal union members will cry foul at the editorial and opponents of Ms Evans will no doubt cheer, in the end it will not be editorials that solve Scranton's financial problems.  What will?  Tough decisions.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Missing Blogfest + Other Assorted Tales

I know that I am not the most outwardly social person on the planet.  Myers-Briggs tells me, in fact, that I am probably as introverted as a human being can probably be without degrading into Bridge Troll -dom.  This noted, I did have every intention of attending Blogfest 2011 in the thriving metropolis of Pittston last night.  Needless to say, I did not make it.  What happened?

My youngest daughter Rebecca attends West Chester University, which is about a hair shy of two and a half hours from Scranton.  Since she wanted to come home this weekend, my thought was to leave work at 4ish, make it down there and back, and slip into Blogfest for a few minutes in and around the 9pm time frame.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Of course there is a "but" here, and this particular "but" can be summarized by a few different words, so I'll just pick one:  monsoon.

Yes, it was raining basically all the way down the turnpike from Scranton to Philadelphia.  Going down I would hit patches of incredibly heavy rain inter-spaced with periods of light precipitation.  I could count my blessings and claim that "at least it wasn't snow", but I have other blessing to count.  Read on.  Anyway, my normally steady speed of 65-esque was shunted down to the 50's for much of the ride down and over to West Chester.  Coming back? Well that was quite worse indeed.

So I arrive in West Chester on or about 6:45pm.  This was a good 20 minutes later than I should have, but again my travel was inhibited by road conditions.  That and the two enormous ladders laying in the middle of Route 202.  By the time I got there, my daughter and her room-mate (who lives in NEPA and was hitching a ride with us) were all ready to go.  Some quick car packing and we were back on the road sometime slightly after 7pm.  From there, it seemed as if the rain picked up in intensity.  At times it was steady, at times it was so dense that visibility was really horrid.  Then there was the tunnel incident.

Coming up the turnpike approaching the NE Extension tunnel, the rain seemed to abate as the hole in the mountain grew near.  At that point I'm thinking "good, I can pick up some speed and make up for lost time", so once I got into the tunnel I got the car up to about 65, which was a far cry from the 40-50 mph that marked the journey so far.  Bad idea.  Popping out of the tunnel like a cork out of a rapper's bottle of Cristal, I almost immediately hit was seemed like a torrent of rain. What didn't hit?  That would be the wheels of my Kia Rio and the road surface.  For about a good mile I was basically floating on the road surface, more or less out of control of my vehicle.  I want to note that Kia Rio's weight about as much as your average washing machine, so it was the perfect storm of imperfect conditions:  slippery road an tiny, light car.  So what happened next?  Well I guess there are three schools of thought that could describe those few minutes in time:

  1. Skill - Having been driving for something like 30 years, I knew enough not to over-steer the car and to not slam on the brakes.  I carefully corrected the direction of the car, preventing a mashing into the retaining wall (or off the road itself) by making slight directional changes and lightly touching the brake until the car got some traction and slowed down.
  2. Higher Power - Some could argue that some kind of higher power guided me and prevented what would have been an ugly accident.
  3. Some combination of the two above.
I don't want to sound overly dramatic here, but I was seriously in some deep doo-doo on this one.  The Physics of the situation were working against me:  I was clearly driving way too fast for the road conditions on a car that is only slightly evolved from a go-cart.  This was not a good time.  In the final analysis this morning, I am going to heavily weigh my after-the-fact conclusions on #1, above.  I'm also though not going to discount the fact that I was clearly pretty damn lucky...or pretty damn blessed.  #3 perhaps?  I will say that I did take a few minutes this morning to pray & contemplate it all.

Almost being turned into road-hamburger rightly noted, by the time I dropped my youngest daughter's room mate off and delivered daughter #3 to her mother's house it was exactly 10:15pm.  I would have missed almost all of Blogfest and besides, at that stage I was more or less a blithering idiot after having survived the West Chester trek.

I can't wait until the next Blogfest.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NEPArtisan Posting

My latest contribution to NEPArtisan can be found HERE. I don't suspect that I will ever have a future working county government after this, but so be it.  Sometimes you just have to say "what the hell...".

Monday, September 19, 2011

10 Reasons Why I Make a Bad Northeastern Pennsylvanian

In no order and for no particular reason other than my own amusement.

  1. I can't stand cabbage and I don't like pork (there goes about 90% of the ethnic food choices around here).
  2. I would rather drive rusty nails through my eyeballs than attend a political rally and/or campaign event for someone unless I consider them to be a personal friend.
  3. I don't "get it", you know, the whole Notre Dame thing in NEPA.  The school is in Indiana.  The school's name is French.  So they have this stupid little gremlin-esque thing as a mascot...big deal.  Something like 0.000009% of the NEPA population has actually attended the University of Notre Dame.  What's more, based on my experience, a decent percentage of the Notre Dame fans in this region probably couldn't get into the university...or any university for the matter.
  4. I don't follow high school football.  My high school didn't even have a football team.
  5. I don't follow professional football.  If I want to see a bunch of well paid males bash each other I'll hang out at a bar near the courthouse on Friday night.
  6. I use my turn signal.
  7. I pronounce the "t" in Scranton.
  8. I find Ocean City Maryland to be a nice place, but not the nirvana of vacation spots.
  9. I'd rather read a good book than watch just about any sporting event on television.
  10. I don't drink coffee (or "caaafee" as it is pronounced in these here parts).
(credit to Ms Rivers for this one)



Maybe I'm destined to live somewhere else.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Response to Justin Vacula's Comments

Preface
Justin Vacula took some time to comment on THIS posting, so I wanted to take a few minutes to respond in kind.  Note that I'm not making a habit of defending what I write, no matter how articulated the opposing point of view may be.  I am not prone to giving anyone a soapbox to promote their intellectual wares either.  However I enjoy Justin's writing and I'm thrilled that he takes the time to read the virtual crap I write.  While I don't agree with everything Justin writes, I greatly respect his well articulated perspectives.

Anyway, on to the stuff.  I've pasted Justin's comments, word for word, below; my comments are noted in [blue bracketed] text.

****

I'm not sure what you mean when you note "atheism as another belief system" because, as you note, there are no supernatural beliefs. Atheism, properly defined, means lack of belief in any gods. Anyway...[Justin, your logic is flawed because "belief" as a word doesn't exclusively imply "supernatural" as a concept.  I can "believe" many different things that have nothing to do with a supernatural intervention.  For example I can believe that it will rain tomorrow...does that mean I am implying that God is going to make it rain?  No. ]  

I'm not sure what "non-religious extremists" are either. [They are individuals who "believe" that they have a right to strip out references to the belief systems of others from our culture, for example.] This idea of "people who are intent on taking any mention of religion and belief out of our culture" appears to be a strawman of the popular position which I and most atheists advocate called secularism in which we want religion to be kept separate from the government, not to have "any mention" removed. There is a crucial difference here. 

The founding fathers didn't want religion removed from society, but rather removed from government. The constitution is quite clear, as you mention, to not note that we are a Christian nation. The constitution's mentions of religion are noting that it be kept separate, too. 

You note: " If the intent of our founders was to have a society devoid of religious references, they would have said so in this first phrase of the first amendment." This isn't necessarily [I love it when the word "necessarily" is used in arguments.  But so I digress...] the case (and, again, they didn't want a society devoid of religious references) because there are many things they did not want that were not mentioned in certain places are anywhere.  [There are billions of things, potentially, that were not mentioned.  The point still stands though because it is reasonable to imply, as the Founding Fathers were by and large individuals who had a belief in the supernatural.  Note I am not falsely claiming...as some do...that they were all traditional Christians, as that was not the case.  What I am claiming though is the reasonable idea that they did not want to exclude something from society that they themselves thought important...namely a belief in "god". ]


The establishment clause does not entail, simply as it were written, that we are a secular society, but rather the words and intent of the founding fathers say this... from my 9/11 speech:
 "Another issue that is important for many atheists, although it should be important for every American citizen, is the separation of church and state. Many have false impressions of what this phrase, tracing back to Thomas Jefferson in his address to the Danbury Baptists, actually means. Separation of church and state does not only mean, in legal terms, that the government is barred from declaring an official state religion, but rather means that the government should be completely neutral in matters of religion; government should not favor religion over non-religion or favor one religion over another religion. Separation of church and state is important because, in the eyes of the government, all religious beliefs or lack thereof are viewed as equal.

[I don't disagree with you, to a point.  The phrase  "completely neutral" doesn't mean "completely against" either.  What's more, there is no reference to "non-belief" in the Constitution, only a reference to religion.]

Some Muslims and Christians, and perhaps others, unjustly believe that the United States is a 'Christian nation.' The unsubstantiated belief of the United States as a Christian nation fuels the myth of the 'war with Islam' and it would not be much of a stretch to say that this belief is a threat to national security.  [I agree.  The United States is not a "Christian" nation.  But I will argue that the nation is one of belief systems...even belief systems that don't entail supernatural beliefs.]


While the majority of people in the United States may be Christians, this does make the United States a 'Christian nation' any more than a majority of Caucasians would make the United States a 'white nation.' One simply needs to read the Treaty of Tripoli, a document unanimously ratified by the United States Congress and signed by president John Adams, to realize that the United States, as the document itself says, “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”  [But "not founded on the Christian religion" doesn't mean "not founded on any belief system"; if you want to argue that "not Christian" means "not religious at all" then your logic is flawed, as excluding "Christian" simply excludes one possible belief system.  I could argue, for example, that Protestant Christians of the day (and even to this day) don't consider Catholics to be "Christian".]


Separation of church and state, whether people realize it or not, is what guarantees freedom of and freedom from religion – and this falsifies the notion that the United States is a 'Christian nation' that is at war with Islam. [I agree.] We best not fan the flames of what are seen to be religious wars, misrepresent the secular character of our nation, or distort history.  It is also the case, because of the idea of the United States as a 'Christian nation,' that non-Christians are viewed as somehow being un-American or even worse, enemies of America trying to destroy the foundations of the county which some believe to be “Christian principles.” [See the anti-Catholic rhetoric spewed against John F. Kennedy during the Presidential election of 1960 as an example of how very narrow definition of "Christian" can be in the United States.] The United States, as the Treaty of Tripoli suggests, is not founded on the Christian religion. America, rather, was founded on principles of freedom, liberty, and Enlightenment values.  [While I don't disagree with your general argument here, you are hanging far too much on a treaty that was signed in 1797.  In point of fact the United States has codified into treaty and/or law many things. ]



Further, the 'creator' mentioned in the Declaration of Independence -- which is not a founding document such as the United States Constitution and has no legal standing -- is properly understood as a deistic god, one which created the universe but has no concerned for human affairs. Mentions of 'natural rights' in the documents of the founding fathers are not, as some religious individuals think, references to a Christian or any specific god. Many of our founding fathers were either deistic or non-religious.  [Agreed.  But it's worth noting that, to the best of my knowledge, all had some kind of belief system, even if it was not codified into a specific religion.  Are you aware of any of the Founding Fathers who were declared Atheists?  I don't think so...see HERE...specifically the sentence "None of the Founding Fathers were atheists."  Interestingly enough, this same citation makes good use of the Treaty of Tripoli as well.]

John Adams, in “A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” wrote that the original states were “founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretense of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in the favor of the rights of mankind.”


No matter what the founding fathers believed, their intentions was clear; they wanted a separation of church and state and made sure to make no references to God in the United States Constitution, but rather references to religion in the constitution -- that there should be no religious test for public office and that no law should be made respecting an establishment of religion -- separate religion from the government."



["No religious test" doesn't mean excluding religious references in culture.  A belief in the supernatural was important to the individuals who founded this nation, and it continues to be important to the vast majority of those who live here today.  My bottom line premise is that extremists who attempt to strip away any reference to "god" from governance or culture are no better than others who attempt to ram their version of "god" down our collective throats.    In point of fact I have no time for either group.]

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Discarded blog post ideas

For no particular reason, other than my own amusement, here are a few blog post ideas that I decided against using over the years.


Janet Evans:  City Council President or Sith Lord?

Fear and Loathing in Nannicoke

10 Reasons why Dunmore is bad for your health

If the Internet existed in 1980 I would never have left home

The University of Scranton:  Economic Engine or Hellmouth?

The Zen of the Laundry King

10 tips for a successful divorce

Playing fetch...with your cat

Illiterate F&%ks:  Why there are so few Scranton-based blogs

Soiled Jocks:  15 suggested occupations for former high school athletes

Democrats Kill Babies
(oh, sorry, that was actually a PA for Human Life blog posting...never mind)

Old Spice:  Whatever Happened to the Spice Girls?

Does Hillbilly Heroin abuse cause hearing loss?  The Limbaugh case study

A-Roid:  10 Things I'd like to ask to Alex Rodriguez*
(#1...does it really shrink your johnson?)
*All of the questions would be about 'roids & none about baseball

How to succeed in politics without paying your taxes
(oh, sorry, that was a Ken Smith blog posting...never mind)

Heyna Go?  Wilkes-Barre Geography

Sister Queer:  Recollections from attending Catholic high school

Big money in killing people...assassin or tobacco company executive?

Methane:  the latest craze in flavored water

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Extremists & Believers

Why assorted "believers" and extremists bother me.

Political "Believers"
Whether they be died in the wool "I will never vote for a Republican because they want dirty air and polluted water" Democrats or "Liberals are evil Socialists bent on destroying America" Republican types, I really have no time for individuals who simply spew what their particular party tells them to spew.

Newsflashes:
  • Obama didn't take oath of office while holding a copy of the Koran and he was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.
  • The EPA was created by a Republican...Richard Nixon to be precise (don't believe me?).
The world simply isn't that black-n-white.  It isn't.  Period.  Some folks need to simply stop believing what the just want to hear and open their minds just a bit.


Religious Extremists (and non-religious extremists)
Along with political believers, I have a hard time with religious believers when they take their views to an extreme and try to ram them down everyone else's collective throats.  Note that I'm going to include atheism as simply another belief system...more precisely one that doesn't have any supernatural beliefs.

Yes, I get it that some folks believe that they have an obligation to spread their belief systems to others, but can we all agree that everyone has a right to simply say "I disagree" and not be demonized for the effort?  I am sometimes shocked at how much in common the extreme fringes of religion...be they Christian or Muslim (for example)...have in common when it comes to their histories and methods.  Yes I get it that, for example, it was Muslim extremists that flew planes into the World Trade Center buildings.  But I also get it that entire wars throughout history have been fought...wars that killed far more than the number of victims of 9/11...out of misconstrued Christian values.  This isn't just historical stuff, as to this very day there is still sectarian violence in Northern Ireland (see some of the data HERE).

Not to be outdone, there are some who are intent on taking any and every mention of religion and belief out of our culture.  The simple fact of the matter is this:  this nation was founded in part by people who sought religious freedom.  Religious expression was and is an important part of the American experience.  Some point the the first amendment of the Constitution as a indication that the founding fathers sought to exclude religion from society.  I take a different tact:  this is the FIST amendment.  Securing the right of individuals to worship as they please without interference was so important to the founding of our nation that it was listed first in the Bill of Rights.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

Read these words!  They don't mean that we have a secular society.  They mean that we have a society where everyone can worship (or not worship) as they please.  If the intent of our founders was to have a society devoid of religious references, they would have said so in this first phrase of the first amendment.

Finally, to those "America is a Christian nation" types I say again:  read the amendment.  If the intent of our founders was to have a Christian nation they would have said as much.  The First Amendment would have been written as...

"As a Christian nation, Congress shall make no law respecting..."


But this isn't what was written. In fact, you will not find the word "Christian" anywhere in the United States Constitution.


In the end, I firmly believe that few things are as they seem, and what I consider to be a truth you may consider to be a falsehood.  So be it.  It isn't the fact that we have differences though that should matter, it's that we learn to respect those differences that really matters in the grand scheme of it all.  Tolerance isn't a bad word.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Road Apples, #111

Remembering 9/11...I'm not going to drone on and on about the 9/11 anniversary, as smarter people than I will post about this anyway (such as THIS).  What's more, I think I've already written this topic to death.   What I will do is post the best musical tribute I've heard about 9/11, courtesy of Enrique Inglesias...

WTC Hero

Enough said.

In Other Disaster News...I was traveling about the "west shore" yesterday and was amazed just how far the Susquehanna river water traveled up West Pittston.  You could actually see the line of dried mud on the street and the tire tracks that plied through the mess as it was drying.  There was a also the slow but steady progress of neighbors cleaning out basements, with debris sitting neatly at curb-side, as if this was some kind of rehearsed drill come to fruition.  These are some resilient folks, that's for damn sure.  As for me, getting to the Cross Valley Expressway via Wyoming Avenue while in the dark took some effort, but I was able to figure it out.

Laundry King...Okay, I confess:  my washing machine is kaput and I really don't want to spend the money to get it replaced at the moment.  What to do?  Laundry King.  Yes, I am actually typing this at the Laundry King of Luzerne Street in West Scranton.  The "King" get props from me for being pretty damn clean and for having new equipment.  They also use this magnetic strip card setup that equals no hauling quarters around.  Another plus?  Simply outstanding WiFi.  It could be worse...far worse.

Most Lawyers...don't know an awful lot about pension plans.  Trust me.

Facebook....In other news of the slightly irritating sort, Facebook has made yet another in a series of "non-improvement" improvements recently.  This one has something to do with the news feeds...you know, this is the part of Facebook where you get to hear about how bratty...or wonderful...your friends children actually are.  This is also where you get to see things like:

"Millions of Americans suffer from ingrown toenails! Ingrown toenails cause countless billions of hours of suffering.  Most people with ingrown toenails suffer in silence.  Please change this to your status for an hour if you care about people with ingrown toenails."

For the record, I never do change my status of Facebook for such things, although some of the causes really are worth supporting.  I'm just not that much of a follower I suppose.  Anyway, I liked the way the old news feeds worked, but now I have no clue how they work.

I Want...a over roasting pan, one that is covered and made of cast aluminum.  Can I find one?  Nope.  Found a few that are made of aluminum, but none that were cast aluminum.  Must keep looking...

iPad...I have been contemplating getting myself an iPad next year.  The benefits?  Well very portable, very cool and lots of productivity applications.  The drawbacks?  I am not a big Apple fan and in all honesty, much of what I would do on an iPad I can do on the netbook from which I type this very blog.  Man, I never thought of myself as being the kind of person who "fell" for a product.  Maybe Steve Jobs really is a genius.

Speaking of Technology...After over 22 years of avoiding it, my own mini-judgement day has occurred at work.  Yes, I am finally getting a company provided Blackberry.  Okay, in the spirit of complete honesty I asked for one, but that's simply because I really can't effectively keep up with the volume of work emails I get during normal business hours.

Feedback...Every once in a while I get feedback that blog header is unappealing and that the picture(s) were better.  Well...okay...never let it be said that I don't listen (eventually).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Airplanes

This picture was snapped by Ms Rivers as she meandered her way home yesterday...



I know that there is nothing funny about flooding, but there is something ever so slightly humorous about airplanes in a public park.

A big thanks to the photographer for thinking to send this to me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"We were soldiers..."

Sometime back, I had a conversation at work with a friend who served in the active duty military.  As we went back and forth about various things, I ask him how he was able to do some of very difficult things required of him, things that were as far from his nature as swimming is to a bumblebee's nature.  His response:

"We were soldiers"

That phrase sticks with me every time I think about average people that end up doing extraordinary things.  Sometime the "things" are grand and heroic, such as many of the acts that occurred during 9/11.  Sometimes the things are far less grand, but just as heroic, as in the wife leaving an abusive husband.  Sometimes the things just fall under the "dirty-but-necessary" category of life, you know, the life changes we all have to make at some point and time, things that are not grand, not heroic, but personally and painfully difficult never the less.  

Personally I have not fought in a war, I have not saved anyone from a burning building, I have not had to do anything that risked my own life and safety.  But there have been times when I have felt like a soldier.  I did my duty, followed my orders, did some things that, had I actually contemplated them during the act, I probably wouldn't have done them at all.  I still did them though.

As we parse through all of the news related to the flooding in Northeastern Pennsylvania, I think of all the people who became soldiers at a moment in time...doing what they had to do, even though it seemed personally repugnant and against their real nature.  Like most soldiers, I suspect many will look back at what has happened not believe what they had to do when duty called.  That may be evacuating a life-long home, that may be giving up on precious belongings, that may be we walking though the liquid toxic waste that best describes the over-flowing Susquehanna river.  They did their duty though.

They were soldiers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughts, Hopes & Prayers

God speed to those living in the Wyoming Valley as the flood of 2011 winds down.  I've been glued to the TV of late and am amazed at seeing streets that I only recently drove in West Pittston now being under water.

If you are in the area, then stay safe my friends. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Poor Rick, the Gays are being mean to him




Rick Santorum's claim that gays have declared a "jihad" against him has been widely reported by the likes of Gort (HERE) and Justin Vacula, so I'm not going to retread the facts.  What I am going to do to is to note here what I've noted in other places.

What's that?

Well Rick Santorum is your classic bully.  Like any bully, he picked a "target" that he thought would not really fight back.  In his case the "target" was the gay community.  Why pick on the gays?  Well demeaning homosexuals is music to hears of some religious conservatives, those who somehow feel that homosexuality is a communicable disease.  It's a cheap way to get votes with a certain crowd.  Anyway, the gay community did something rather unexpected by Santorum....they decided to fight back.

Yes, those darn gays decided to actually fight back against the bully.

Like most bullies, Rick almost immediately started to cry.  He has whined about the Urban Dictionary definition for his last name.  He cried that his kids can't Google their father's name without obscene references appearing.  He is moans about the "gay jihad".

Sound familiar?  This is no different than the average junior high bully running back to his/her mom after the "target" decided not to take it any more.

So to Rick Santorum I say this:  You reap what you sow.  

"Administrivia"

A colleague at work used the word "administrivia" in an email today, and I have to say that, after reflection, I am rather disappointed.  Here is a definition for the word (in case you are too lazy to click on the link):


Noun1.administrivia - the tiresome but essential details that must be taken care of and tasks that must be performed in running an organization; "he sets policy and leaves all the administrivia to his assistant"


What about this bothers me?

Well it's example of demeaning the work of others.  It's saying that, if you do administrative work, what you do is "trivia", as opposed to the highly cerebral work of others.

Now for the record I really don't do much in the way of administrative work.  In fact, we have a professional on my team who is responsible for most of our administrative work, and she does her job very well.  That work though is not trivia.   As someone in the learning business, I've seen too many instances where a training class was sent completely off track...not because the content was inappropriate or the facilitator incompetent...but rather because some nuance of administration wasn't take care of prior to the start of the session.  Equipment working?  Markers?  Registration process completed? Materials available in sufficient quantity?

No work is trivia in my mind, and there is nobility in all work.  Is all work of the same value, relative to what should be paid for it?  Of course not, but that assumes that a dollar value is the ultimate measure of somethings worth.  My daughter saying "I love you Dad" has no dollar value, but I think it is priceless.  Your son getting an "A" on a report card has no real dollar value, but if it represents hard work and commitment on their part, I'd argue that such a grade has significant value.  The dollar only measures one aspect of value, and I'd argue that there are far other...and sometimes better...ways to measure value.

In the end, what's important is that all of us who have the privilege of doing work that relies on the administrative efforts of others not lose slight of the fact that we depend on that work and the people that perform it.  Lessor work implies lessor workers...and I simply don't buy that concept.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

On Labor Day

Before I get to the point at hand, I was thinking over the weekend about how and why my blogging output is down (a.k.a. I don't write as much), both in public and in private.  Part of me feels quasi-guilty, in that I set this darn thing up so I should honor it with at least some content.  Another part of me thinks that it is actually quite wonderful that I don't blog as much, because that means I have other things to do in my life (like actually living it).  Regardless, even if I don't post for a few days, I do take some solace in the fact that I can write at any time, for any reason, on any topic here in this place. Life truly is grand.

On to the topic at hand.


Do we even care about labor any more in this country?  The people that earn the most in this country fall, in my estimation, into three categories:

Those who "play" for a living.
This includes athletes, actors and other performers.  Basically they get to do fun stuff for a living and get paid millions for their trouble.  Not a bad big, but not exactly "labor" either.  Yeah, I know, jocks have to condition (well some of them do...I've seen pro golfers who look worse than me...), and I know that acting involves long days, but let's be real:  none of it is actually difficult labor.  Oh, and the payoff is pretty damn good.

(Cut-away:  This weekend Penn State won big and Notre Dame lost at home to an un-ranked team.  'twas a good weekend for sports in my book!  Let's go Irish!)

Corporate CEOs & Assorted Big-Time Business Types
This includes all those high-level corporate muckety-mucks who make something like a thousand times what the average workers at their firms do.  Worse examples are at companies like Walmart, where the average workers tends to qualify for Food Stamps.  As someone in the private-sector business world (unlike many conservatives I know, by the way), I get it that these jobs require long hours, smarts and some serious image work.  What they don't require though is a hell of a lot of labor.  Heck, these are the folks who pay for expensive gym memberships so that they can sweat, mainly because they don't sweat on the job.  Do some executives work hard?  Sure they do, but I personally don't feel that work is consummate with how much most get paid.   Again, not a lot of labor going on here, just big-assed payoffs.

Celebutards, Inheritance Cases and Just Stupidly Lucky Types
This is where I file the likes of every Kardashian (I don't care if I spelled that wrong), the Hilton children and many others.  These people do not work for a living, and I don't care how many "businesses" Paris Hilton says she has going at any given time.  Zero labor going on here.


How very sad we have become!  Well sad in a sense I suppose in that we, as a society, seem to reward so much some that actually produce so little.

On the other hand, there are many who still toil for a living and manage to live a decent life.  These are the folks that I suspect John Mellencamp was thinking about when he wrote the line...

...an honest man's pillow is his peace of mind
(from "Minutes to Memories")

This pretty much described my Mom during her working years, by the way.  My mother worked her butt off raising her children, and what we learned from that, in part, is that there is honor and decency to be found in hard work.  It was what one was supposed to do.  Working hard just isn't something that you do in order to pay your bills; rather, working hard is something that you do precisely because it helps define you as a human being.  In point of fact I like the fact that I have to work for a living.  Now would it be nice to earn some more money?  Sure it would, but you know what?  In the final analysis. it's not how much you have in the way of money that defines you and determines how happy you are...it's how you view the world that makes the biggest difference in your own personal happiness.  This is one of the biggest...all be it indirect...lessons I learned from my mother.

What I learned about labor growing up, coupled with what I have learned...and continue to learn by the way...as an adult can be summarized in a few statements:

You can view labor as a struggle or you can view it as your vocation.

You can envy the possessions of others or marvel in what you have earned (no matter how small).

You can see the future as filled with struggle or you can see it as full of possibilities.


So here's to all those out there who work...who labor...for a living.  These are people such as a surgeon in a five hour long operation, a pest control guy ridding a dwelling of termites, a teacher trying to explain why Algebra is an important subject (it is...I use Algebra all the time), a Call Center representative explaining where your check is, those folks who work on a road crew when it is 90 degrees outside, that Compliance person helping you obey the rules, and your friendly neighborhood "pension guy/trainer/organization effectiveness person".  Here's to the thousands of vocations, high paid and not-so-high paid, where people struggle because it is the right thing to do and because labor helps define them as persons.

Here's to the glory of labor.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Road Apples, #110

WILK...I've made a concerted effort to listen to WILK's morning news show a bit more of late.  One conclusion I've reached?  Well it was "Webster" that apparently wrote all the bits during the old Rock 107 Morning Show.  What's more, radio bits work a bit better if you have people that can alter their voices just a bit (i.e. Fred Norris).  Not so for Joe Thomas and Nancy Kman.  Personally I think it would be a gas if Webster did the entire show in his "Jonesy" character.  Come on Webster...give it a try...it will be funny...I promise...

According to Rush Limbaugh...Democrats are always evil and Republicans are good.  It's true, he said so.  Rush is always Right.  Now all you Limbaugh fans out there repeat after me:  Bahhhhhhh, Bahhhhhhh.  Feel better now?

NEPArtisan Postings...I actually thought of something to post about, but now I have to find the time to actually do it.  That's the good news.  The bad news?  It will probably piss some folks off (or is that another good thing?  I am not sure), but that's okay.  For the record & speaking of NEPArtisan, I liked the "less than political" recent posting (see HERE).

Dick Cheney...Exactly how many biographies can this guy write?  Hasn't he already written, like, six of them already? For the record I don't really care that he sends his own fellow administration members down the river, but I do I think every time he opens his mouth President Bush ends up looking better by comparison.  God save me from being a bitter old man like this guy.

Water in the Washington Monument...Story link HERE.  Rush Limbaugh immediately blamed it on "the Socialist agenda of Barrack Hussein Obama".  By the way, I am resisting the urge to now slam a Democrat now...unless something specific strikes me...just for sake of being bi-partisan.  Yes, there many Democrats that I find wretched, but for some reason the Republicans are more fun to talk about at the moment.

Internet Big-Time...Well I finally got a reference in a NEPA Blogs posting.  There must be a minority quota for non-Wilkes Barre postings that needed to be filled.  You can see the reference HERE.

Andy Palumbo...wrote a great piece on the fact that my childhood parish, Holy Family, is being demolished.  It's kind of sad when the things that were part of your life as a younger person end up going away.  You can read the posting HERE.