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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oh, the things you learn

I go through these phases, like most humans do, where I think more deeply about how I feel about some things and what I've learned from life in general.  Heady stuff?  You bet.  But I know I am not alone in these intellectual parts.  My curse...or blessing, depending on one's that I am sometimes compelled to write about such things on this here corner of the Internet.  So, if you are fan of (what one blog post respondent once not-so-artfully described as "trite") deeper meaning, personal stuff, then this one is for you.  If you are not, well, I promise to post a Family Guy video next time.  Prom-night dumpster baby.  Fair?

Note that I write the above under the almost given assumption that folk (or folks) are actually reading this, thereby actually violating one of my core tenants, namely that I don't especially care if anyone is reading what I write in the first place.  You see, it can be so very complicated in my head at times.

Anyway, on to the "trite".

Over the past 18 or so months my life has changed in some pretty dramatic ways.  I'd like to think that I've changed in some pretty dramatic ways as well, although some of these changes are more "inside looking in" than outward facing.  Probably the biggest change, in totality?  The fact that I was capable of changing, period.  Now I am a smart enough guy to intellectually understand that we are all...assuming a reasonable amount of emotional sanity...capable of changing our lives for the better.  But one of my key learnings has been, and continues to be, that there is a tremendous gulf between intellectual understanding and practical application.  Looking back about 18 months ago, I could have repeated many of these same things to anyone that would listen, but my actions and re-actions were not of someone who could actually apply this stuff to his life.

What changed?  On one hand I forced myself to make some very difficult life decisions.  On the other, circumstances forced me to make some equally difficult life decisions.  In totality, it was as if my very being had been saving up change for decades, and then, like some liquid under pressure, it all came out with a force greater than I thought I was capable of handling.  It's ironic:  we think to ourselves "I am going to do THIS" but what ends up happening is that "I did THAT".  The analogy of a liquid under pressure is a good one here, as I was fairly sure for a small period of time that my vessel would end up breaking under the pressure.  Fortunately it didn't.  One of the things I've learned is that we are all remarkably durable vessels.

Now if all of this sounds remarkably cryptic, then well, you are paying attention.  It is cryptic, to an extent, and that's the way I want it.  This was my insanity, and I have no desire to bring anyone else down into my level. Besides, the folks that would end up getting mentions during this period don't deserve to be caught up by name in all this mess anyway.  They had to live through this once, and that's more than enough thank you very much.  There were heroes in all of this though, and while it would be more than fitting to tell every story of kindness and concern that I experienced during this period, I simply couldn't do it all justice.  I will mention just one example that happened early in November of 2010:  a certain executive at work noticed that I had lost a ton of weight and apparently looked remarkably peaked; now this individual isn't someone I would consider a friend, and no where in the Executive Manual does it say "give a crap about your former staff members", but she took the time to stop me one day and say "Steve, you don't look good.  Take care of yourself...a lot of people count on you" (or something very close to that).  She didn't need to do that, but she did anyway, and I will remember that small act of concern forever.  This also points to another thing I have learned:  one small act of kindness can be remarkably powerful.

I also experienced great anger during this period.  The details simply don't matter here, but what does is that anger isn't an emotion that I am equipped to process very well.  It blows apart my emotional circuitry if you will, as I am simply not an angry guy by definition.  I also felt tremendous guilt for feeling angry.  Note that I am neither going to apologize nor attempt to rationalize how I felt back then, but I do accept it for being genuine.  It's tough when you fancy yourself something of an emotional super-being, un-phased by tremendous pressures around you, and then all of a sudden your self-facade ends up getting torn down.   Another lesson learned: I am all too human.

By the way, the anger is done.  It simply didn't go away like a headache does after some Advil is taken, but rather I think I was finally able to process it in a way that made sense, and instead of just disappearing, I came to see and regard it as being a part of me (see above; I actually am human after all).  Yes, the most important element of that "processing" was the allowance I gave myself to actually be angry in the first place.  It has also been important to separate out the parts of that anger that were really directed towards myself.  Sounds simple, huh?  Well not so for me. As noted I will never be an angry man, and while I can't predict the future, I can walk away from my experiences over the past 18 months knowing that I am now better equipped to deal with something like anger far better than I was 19 months ago.  Winning.

It's probably not a coincidence that I've chosen to write this posting about this topic now.  Today's date isn't all that significant to me.  I have been thinking about this kind of stuff now for quite a while, and maybe there is just enough critical mental mass now such that I can take a stab at articulating it in some manner. If you call this articulating.

Some other things I've learned over the past 18 months...

Chances - I've learned to take chances.  Period.  These would be, for the record, non-analyzed chances.  No calculus here.  Just taking a chance.  For some this comes easy; for me it never did and it still doesn't.  But now I have help in the form of a great partner and I am getting better at it.

Get Help - Speaking of help, there is nothing more pathetic than someone foundering but yet unable to reach out a hand for assistance.  I was fortunate in that in the midst of the worst of what I felt, I had the ability to get help.  Part of that was my leading myself, part of that was at the suggestions of others, but regardless, there is no wallowing in the false pride of isolation.

Myself - I've learned, to a far greater extent, to really and truly believe in myself.  I've learned that how I saw myself in the past was far different than how other saw me and that maybe...just opinions and self-observations were ever so biased towards the negative.  This is remarkable stuff, in that just about anyone who sees me (or reads a bio of me for that matter) would probably think that I basically have my "stuff" together.  The problem was that I didn't believe that at all...I do now, at least to a far better extent.

The Grass Isn't Greener - As I have noted in other postings, the grass is not greener "over there" and everyone has a story.  That perfect person or couple you see?  They have their own share of dysfunction and "story", just like you do.  It's very powerful when you finally realize that the world doesn't consist of just three types of people:
  1. The near perfect...
  2. the disastrously dysfunctional...
  3. and you.
We are all caught up in our own both unique yet oh so common dysfunction, and while there is no crime in acknowledging the truth, it is criminal to assault your own psyche under the false pretense that somehow you are uniquely broken.  We are all equally broken.

The Future Is Written...In Sand - I don't believe that any of us are predestined for anything, at least not predestined by anything or anyone other than ourselves.  Put another way, we really do control far more of our lives than we care to sometimes admit.  I suspect the feeling of predestination is something of a mental smoke-screen to avoid the difficult choices in life.  It was for me.

Attitude Matters, Most - I learned what was best said by W.C. Fields, who noted:

“Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.”

He was right.  How you show up to life is a major part of how you live life.

Post Script
I'm looking at the above and realizing that this has gotten very big, so perhaps it's time to stop now.  I've done what I've set out to do, which was to talk about a "then" of about 18 months ago and contrast it to a "now" of April 2012.  Maybe in October of 2013 I will revisit the topic, but for now I'm reasonably satisfied that I've said and made my peace.  I am, as the song says, alright.

Miscellaneous Pictures

Out and about yesterday.
The "Fordy-Fort" airport runway.

The last gasp of Dogwood blossoms.

A tulip.  I need a filter...

A roof on an island in the Susquehanna, as seen from the "Fordy Fort" dike.

"Fordy Fort" airport windsock.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Apologists for the Confederacy

Recently received anonymous comment on my posting Celebrating the Confederacy, the text of which is noted directly below.

"I have news for you there guy, I am from the South and I sure done appreciate you comparing my ancestors to Nazis, I don't know if your tracking but Hitler was all set for the purification of the people and making the perfect race and with that to achieve world domination now tell me again how the Confederacy and the Nazis are the same? try and get your facts straight before posting ignorant stuff on the Internet where you can offend more people that the people that will agree with you we people from the south still have our Southern Pride that doesn't make us racist so like my Father always said think before you speak because you just make yourself look more ignorant"

A few points in retort:

  1. Anonymous Comments in General - While I really do appreciate comments, I appreciate it even more when someone has the courage of their convictions such that they comment under their OWN NAME.  I write what I write using my own name.  You can see my Facebook page by clicking on my blog badge.  I don't hide my feelings or who I am.  
  2. Confederacy was like the NAZIs - My logic in comparing the two is noted in the post.  Evil was personified in the Holocaust.  Evil was also personified in the notion that African American slavers were nothing more than animals fit to be sold at auction like cattle.  The moral equivalency doesn't require a "one-to-one" match...just a relatively similar EVIL intent.
  3. Facts - What facts does "Anonymous" offer?  That Jefferson Davis didn't try to take over the world and therefore the Confederacy wasn't evil?  That's ridiculous!  
  4. Southern Pride - I have no problem with "Southern Pride", which is why...if you actually read the posting...I specifically refer to the Confederacy, not "the South". And I am the "ignorant" one here?
  5. "Doesn't make us racist..." - Anonymous...if you don't want to be referred to as racist, then dump the RACIST SYMBOL, period.  Celebrate your "southern pride" by drinking mint juleps and roasting a pig.  My point was, and is, this:  if a guy flew a NAZI battle flag in front of his house you would probably think that he was anti-Semitic, correct?  Why then is that rag (the Stars-n-Bars) somehow immune from the connotation that it carries?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Road Apples, #125

Election Day...Today is election day and I do hope that one and all went out to vote.  Too many people have fought and died for our rights, including the right decide who will represent us.  This is very serious stuff, even if some of the candidates aren't.

Speaking of election results, you can see them (for NEPA) HERE.

Doctor Appointment...Well it was back to the good Doctor McKenna today to get my blood pressure and lungs checked.  Joy!  For the past 10 years I have been fighting a battle to keep my borderline blood pressure in check, and although I am still hopeful that I can dodge yet another bullet, I also know that the day will probably come when I have to acquiesce to the inevitable fact of medication.  On the good news side, I lost two pounds and my lungs sound excellent.  To the latter, I will note that my doctor did ask "do you still have the cat?".  My answer is noted directly below...

(taken with my new 70-300mm lens)

In other health news, I am finally getting up to a decent amount of time on the new, medieval torture device of an elliptical machine we have in the fitness center at work.  With the old machine I could easily do 40 minutes; with this new machine I am thrilled to knock out 15.  For the record I am also putting in 30 minutes on the stationary bike as well.

Pinterest...I am fighting the urge to open a Pinterest account. I don't know why.

Newt...Not the amphibian type, but rather the thrice married variety.  Anyway, the Daily Beast is reporting that Newt will exit...errrr suspend...not really quit but not keep campaigning...the GOP nomination race.  I have never really thought that Newt was in this for the win, if for no other reason than the fact that his campaign seemed sloppy and disorganized, which is odd given his experience in politics.  Me?  I think he has been in it to either sell books, or keep Callista busy.  Who knows.

Faux News...As the George Zimmerman trial approaches, look for a slew of "white guy beaten up as revenge for Trevon Martin shooting" stories on Fox News.  Count on it.  In fact they will probably fill the space that would have been occupied by "Rupert illegal wiretap" stories.  The folks at Faux are nothing if not predictable.

Walmart Follies...Speaking of things to look for in the news & predictions, look for Walmart to take a pounding over the next year related to very well founded allegations of bribery in Mexico.  This will not end well for Walmart.  The US Government takes a dim view of foreign corrupt practices by U.S. businesses; hell, they even have a law against it.  What's more, the Feds are far more lenient when there is this case, it was New York Times disclosure.  As they say in Spanish...malo.

Anti-Smoking Adverts...I think these are very well done.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Please consider voting for Kevin Haggerty

To the best of my knowledge I have never used this blog to specifically ask anyone to vote for any particular candidate.  Have I mentioned how I will be voting from time to time?  Sure, but to outright ask for a vote?  No.  But I'm going to make an exception this time around.

By way of background, Kevin Haggerty is running against incumbent Ken Smith in House District 112.  If you live in Lackawanna County and are wondering who your state representative is you can click HERE.

Anyway, Kevin Haggerty is, by my estimation, a maniac.  He is genuinely, passionately nuts.  I know...I've talked the guy.  I've had to defend postings on this blog against his comments.  Throughout it all, one addition to his being nuts that is...stands out:  the guy has an enthusiasm that you just can't fake.  He wants this job and I'm convinced that his insanity is just what is needed in Harrisburg.

Why?  Well Pennsylvania's Legislature if filled with amorphous blobs of human flesh that seem to exist solely for purposes of self-gratification.  It is, by my estimation, the most dysfunctional legislative body to ever grace the entirety of human existence.  This is precisely the kind of place where HD-112 incumbent Ken Smith fits right in:  a place where actions have no consequences and following the leader is more important than following your conscience.  Enough already!  If ever there was a time when it was justified to take a chance with a candidate it's now.  What's the alternative?  More of the same?

Now by way of disclosure I will note that while I've been invited...several times by the Kevin Haggerty to various events and fundraisers, I've not attended a single one.  I've also not donated a single penny to his campaign.  I owe nothing to the man, and he certainly owes nothing to me.  All I really want is someone to represent me in the Pennsylvania Legislature who will do more than just take care of himself.  I want a representative that will do more than simply peer out of his office to proclaim what he thinks people want to hear ("Methadone clinics are bad!  Not in my back yard!") while simultaneously doing NOTHING to move the Legislature out of the moral and ethical sewer it created for itself.

Ken Smith is a follower who takes care of himself.  He seems to want your vote because, well, being a legislator is apparently easier than running a restaurant.

Kevin Haggerty is, as noted above, a nut.  But he is a passionate nut.  These days it's worth taking a chance on a passionate nut, if for no other reason than the fact that Harrisburg could benefit from a few passionate nuts.  We've seen that alternative and it does not work.

Please consider voting for Kevin Haggerty on primary election day.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Years Eve, 2009

Blogger Clean-Up:  New Year's Even, 2009
Note:  I am doing some clean-up on the blog and I came across this draft posting from December 31, 2009.  I'm not sure why it failed to make the cut, but reading it now I actually don't think it is all that bad.  Here it is, unedited and up until now not having seen the light of day.

* * * * * * * * * *

Well it's New Years Eve, and I'm sitting here in front of my netbook waiting for my daughters to let me know that they don't need a ride home from the various festivities that they are attending. Some could argue, quite bluntly, that my circumstances "suck", but I'd disagree. I look at it this way: I'm children are healthy, I'm healthy, I'm gainfully employed, I have friends I can rely on, and I still have my wits about me. In the end, I'm not doing so bad after all.

It's all about pespective.

One of the things that I've learned through a lot of trial and error (mainly error) in my life is that in this game, it's all about perspective. Life is like this enormous Dopler Effect at work...sure, it may seem like the road posts are moving faster when you approach them and slower as your pass them, but in reality you are still going the same speed no matter what. So it may seem that others are going faster than better...having more fun...and hell, maybe they are sometimes...but in the end it's all in the reality we create for ourselves. My sadness could be another person's joy: I could complain about not being at a fabulous New Years Eve party, but that would sound pretty hallow when compared to the person who is spending tonight in a shelter.

So you know what? I'll take a New Years Eve in my office, smelling scented candles, watching the occasional cat wander by looking at me as if to say "what, you're still here?" with the full knowledge and appreciation of the fact that it could be a hell of a lot worse. In fact, it's not all that bad, truth be told.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Camera Lens

Just in time for Spring, a gently used 30-700mm lens for my Sony Alpha.  
Now to learn how to use the darn thing. 

Governor Corbett & Education

A great posting on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and his jihad against public education can be found here:

Coal Region Voice:  Tom Corporate

Check it out.

I've often times wondered just why Tom Corbett seems to be so dead set against public education.  While I don't have much in the ways of firm ideas on the subject, I do have two suspicions.

Suspicion 1 - It's really just about politics
I have this suspicion that Tom Corbett really doesn't give a flying monkey about public education.  It's not really all that important to him.  What he does care about is politics and political power.  In conjunction with increasing your own political power, political hacks also like to reduce the political power of their adversaries.  I can think of few groups more hostile to the agenda of conservative Republicans than that of the PSEA.

Suspicion 2 - He philosophically is against public education
I confess to not knowing much about the governor's background, but I do know that he want to private colleges (Lebanon Valley College and St Mary's Law School).  This could help to explain his genuinely negative attitude towards Pennsylvania's public colleges and universities.

Regardless of the motive, it's pretty clear that the governor feels that the state should be supporting education less.  Now that's not a political is a factual statement.  Governor Tom Corbett believes that there should be less money going towards the education of our children.  Pretty frightening stuff on the surface.  His supporters may claim that there is actually enough money going towards public education, and that instead of ripping him the debate should be more focused on greedy public employees (i.e. teachers) who are more self than student motivated.  He may have a point there, to an extent, but I don't know of a single occupation where there are not a few rotten apples.  What's more, while public education may in fact have too many barriers to removing those bad apples (in the form of employee protections in union contracts) I simply refuse to believe that teachers are any less prone to bad performance than, say, any other occupation (such as gas company executives).  Why do I "refuse to believe"?  Pretty simple:  I've met too many teachers over the years who have been nothing but entirely dedicated to their craft.  Teaching remains, for the most part, more of a calling than an occupation.

In the end, I do believe that there is tremendous waste in how the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania spends money.  However, a true leader would seek the waste out and cut it, rather than simply cutting with a budget meat cleaver and passing the buck on to local education administrators to figure out the details.  Case in point:  Scranton.  Who leads our local school board?  A bus driver prone to gaffs such as naming his campaign director to an open board position.  This is who Governor Tom Corbett is passing the budget buck to these days.  This will not end well.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Road Apples, #124

Sunday Writing...Okay, I am planning on rambling and writing, writing and rambling.  This wasn't my original plan for this next posting, but like most "best laid plans", what I've thought about writing and what I am actually going to write about are two completely different things.  Good thing that this whole thing is for my enjoyment anyway.

Rental Cars...I'm traveling to Hartford tomorrow, and as I picked up my rental car this evening I was pleasantly greeted by a Nissan Altima. Score!  No Chevy Impala!  Now I have nothing really against the Impala, well except for the fact that it's rather boring.  On the plus side, the Chevy does have a large gas tank that can make the Hartford round-trip without a re-fill.  I also like the standard Chevy radio.  The handling though on the Chevy is very nondescript.  Not sporty.  Not luxury.  Just, well, rental car.  The Nissan though (and I've rented Nissan's before) handles extremely well.  Very quick, great steering and the cruising range is enormous...even longer than that of the Chevy.

Titanic...If you are even casually interested in the Titanic disaster, then you have to check out the current edition of National Geographic.

Ken Smith for State Representative...If you live in NEPA and are in the district of representative Ken Smith, then make sure you read THIS article.  Ken Smith is a nice guy, that's for sure.  But "nice guy" isn't in and of itself a qualification for legislative service.  The reality is that someone who is incapable of managing his own (and that of his business) finances is not capable of managing the public's finances.  Period.  Vote for Kevin Haggerty week after next.

Observatory...Ms Rivers and I visited the Thomas Cupillari Observatory at Keystone College this past weekend.  It was a very, very cool experience.  For all my science geek-i-ness, I've never been to an observatory before.  I got to see spectacular views of Venus, Mars, and Saturn.  I also saw a few star clusters, two binary star systems and a trinary star system.

The view of Saturn alone was worth the drive.  This place is a hidden gem for residents of NEPA.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Random Thoughts on Belief

What is a guy to do after a half day of intense training on capacity planning, problem solving via the long-distance office tether (aka Blackberry) and 5 hours in the car?  Why write a random posting about things I believe.  Why?  Why not.

I believe, whole-heartedly, that everyone deserves a shot at redemption.  Everyone.  Maybe this comes from growing up Catholic, where I was taught that every sin could be forgiven via Confession.  Maybe it comes from what some believe is a mistaken belief that people are inherently good (see below).  Maybe I really am an optimist.  But I do believe in redemption.

People are Good
I believe, with every ounce of my existence, that the natural state for human beings is to be good.  Now good people can do bad things, but that doesn't invalidate the goodness that resides in them, as we all should have a shot at redemption (see above).  Is there such a thing as a bad person?  Sure, but I really do think that is by far and away the exception, not the rule.

There is "Stuff" We Can't Understand
I believe in the notion of a higher power in the universe.  I love science and I enjoy math.  I also understand that the universe is not similar to a giant quadratic simply can not be solved, no matter how smart we are now or will be in the future.  Forget the notion of a sky wizard...this is where I see God fitting into the grand scheme of thing.

Want vs Need
I believe that, in my life, I seldom have gotten what I wanted, but I have always gotten what I needed.  This is, as much as anything else, my personal proof of a higher power in the universe.

Answers are Nice, but Questions are Better
I believe that sometimes what is important in life isn't getting a bunch of answers, but rather is in figuring out the right questions to ask in the first place.  The act of asking a question is both liberating and powerful.

Diversity of Thought
I believe that the most important kind of diversity we should strive to obtain in our lives has nothing to do with race, age, gender or anything else of the sort that can be quota-tized.  No, the really important thing here is in diversity of thought.  If we can accept others for how they feel and think, then things like skin color become inconsequential.

John Lennon was Right
I believe that really all you do need is's just all the other stuff that makes life confusing.

Technology is Nice, but...
I believe that technology is at its best when it is inconspicuous, when it is a part of the background, when it is simply a means to a greater end.  Some obsess far too much over having the latest toy or gadget and forget that today's "thing" is tomorrow's flea market bargain bin special.  When Facebook can connect you to that sibling that you haven't spoken to in 6 years it is serving a wonderful purpose; when Facebook gives you the mistaken impression that you really do have 586 "friends" then I suspect it is probably doing you more harm than good.

Looking Outside
I believe that introspection is great, wonderful and necessary, but it has its limits. I know that sometimes I can get so caught up in the swirl inside my head that I forget to see what is around me...I forget to look outside.

Long Term
I believe in taking the long view for most things.  Not that I am always successful mind you, but there is something magical in achieving something that was years in the making.  Americans are too obsessed over the short term.  We want things in 120 characters or less.  Life doesn't work like that, sorry.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Repost: At the Garden of Gethsemane

In retrospect, there are very few things I write here that I actually re-read, ever.  What I've re-posted below is the exception to that rule.  It being Easter, it seems fitting to re-post this, knowing full well that any of us on any day may in fact face our own Garden of Gethsemane.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

At the Garden of Gethsemane

One of the most insightful (at least for me) biblical stories is found in the Gospel of Matthew, and deals with Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane. In case you are not overly familiar with the story, it takes place the day before the Crucifixion of Christ. The details aren't so important to this discussion, other than Christ goes to this garden to pray, knowing that he would be betrayed by Judas, turned over to the Romans, and ultimately put to death.

Now what's so insightful about that?

Consider This: According to Christian teaching, Christ...being God...knew that by going to Gethsemane he would ultimately be put to death. At any point he could have changed his path and spared his own life, but he chose not to. He consciously sacrificed his own life, if you believe in Christian teaching, for the greater good of all mankind.

Consider This: To this day, people make conscious choices that ultimately lead to their death. For example, Father Mychal F. Judge, a Franciscan priest, went into the south tower of the World Trade Center after it had been hit by an airplane to minister to the wounded. While history doesn't record whether or not he thought he would die, it's pretty clear he knew what he was doing was exceptionally dangerous.

In the final analysis, some of us will be faced with our own "Garden of Gethsemane", where we need to make a choice between self-preservation or preservation of the greater good. Ultimately that is the most personal of decisions that anyone can make, and furthermore I doubt any of us are prospectively capable of saying what we would do if put into that situation. There is, however, no greater love that can ever be expressed than through the thoughtful and conscious act of sacrificing oneself for the greater good

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Road Apples, #123

My Annual Republican Moment...occurs every year when I have to write out a check to pay the balance due on my federal taxes.  This years moment was particularly painful for a variety of reasons.  I know, I suppose I could be more creative here, but I have two over-riding principles that I like to apply regarding my taxes:
  • I don't want a refund! Loaning the federal government money for a year is insane.  They don't need the cash and I can use the pay.
  • I do believe in paying my fair share...but you know what...I really want everyone else to as well.
All of this comes with success I guess...not that I claim to be successful by the way.  I do, however, pay an awful lot in taxes (I pay now more now in taxes than my total gross pay during my first few years out of college).  Speaking of insane, the complexity of the tax code boggles the imagination.  If Mittens would stop talking about women needing their nether-regions probed before abortions and start talking more about simplifying the tax code then I might even vote for him.  Note the word "might".  Oh, and someone as a vice-president running mate with slightly more in the way of qualifications than Sarah Palin would be desirable as well.

Travel...I picked my youngest daughter up from school in West Chester yesterday, I am bringing her back on Sunday.  I am driving to Hartford Monday afternoon and from Hartford to Boston Monday evening.  On Tuesday I am driving back from Boston to Scranton.  I need frequent driver miles.  I also need an audio book or two.

Living Will...One of  the personal items I have been working on since the beginning of the year is a Living Will and Durable Health Care Power of Attorney.  This is not easy stuff to think about, but I suppose as I grow older these kinds of thoughts just naturally creep into the cranium.  I also have one over-riding reason for doing this:  I don't want my children to be put in a position of being forced to decide whether or not to unplug me something terrible should happen.  This is important stuff, and if you don't have arrangements such as this, I strongly recommend that you take action.

Next up in new Will.

Working Late?...This is an interesting read (link HERE).

Tim realizing that he is not in Kansas (or is that Pottsville?) anymore.  Evidence HERE.  I'm thinking that Matt Cartwright stands a very good chance of removing Mr Holden from office, which would probably be fine with me.  Mr Holden is a Republican, period.  That's fine with me and I've voted for Republicans, but it does irk me that he claims to be a seems so, well, dishonest.  Put another way, there is much about Congressman Paul Ryan that I both agree and disagree with, but I do really admire the fact that he puts his ideas out there in a way that is very unmistakable.  Love him or hate him, but you know where Paul Ryan stands.  Tim Holden...well...he has this sort of "wolf in sheep's clothing" thing about him that is just so dishonest.

Unhappiness...I saw this a few weeks ago and just had to share.

More true words have never been spoken.

Breaking News...I know many have been waiting on the edge of their seats for this, so I am very glad to report that "the Situation" has in fact left rehab.  Yes, you heard me, "the Situation" is now clean and sober.  Reference HERE.  Note that "clean" doesn't mean, for example, chlamydia free.  You can thank me for this news nugget later.

The Shining...Mr Rivers and I were watching The Shining last night, and I am ashamed to admit that I didn't know it was directed by Stanley Kubrick. Bad Steve! After seeing the opening credits you can then begin to see how very "Kubrick" this movie really is; case in point:  the chapter titles that begin each part of the movie.  The rolling camera that was used while the boy ride his big-wheel and in the maze were also classic kind of Kubrick stuff.  Great movie.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Post BlogFest ("Here we are now, entertain us!")

Like most dyed in the wool introverts, I tend to process information to the degree that it turns into the equivalent of babyfood mush (i.e. I tend to ruminate over it until there is no real substance left, just, well, mental mush).  So it goes with the BlogFest held last Friday in the thriving city of Pittston, as now, a few days out, I have put my arms around a few things.

First and foremost, a tip of the hat to all those who work to put these things together.  Personally I'd rather pull my own teeth than be involved in the planning of social events.  It's just not me.  That doesn't mean though that I don't see the value and work that goes into this kind of stuff; quite to the contrary, the folks who have energy around this kind of thing do us all a service.  Hell, if it were not for their efforts, I'd have one less trite thing to write about.  I'm not going to mention any names, as I would no doubt forget-n-offend someone, so suffice to say that the organizers did a great job.

Second, I am always somewhat disappointed that the "blogging community" (wait...excuse...I think I just vomited in my own mouth) is so heavily stilted towards the in Luzerne County.  It's not for a lack of topics, interest, or ability that the balance of local bloggers are from land down south.  In fact, while I don't think that this is an indicator of blogging ability, the percentage of adults with a college degree is actually higher in Lackawanna County (23.52%) than it is in Luzerne County (20.02%).  Reference HERE.  Anyway, after seeing this disparity of bloggers, God must have made the decision to loan Lackawanna County Justin Vacula to even things out.

Third, speaking of Justin Vacula, I had the privilege of spending some time talking to him on Friday evening.  This is a bright guy, no doubt, who takes his blogging work very seriously.  That's one of a handful of things we don't necessarily agree on, by the way, but so be it.  If we were surrounded by people that thought just like us, the world would be one big GOP Presidential convention.  Anyway, I also spent some time talking to Karla Porter, which was thoroughly enjoyable.  I really admire the way Karla thinks about human workplace dynamics "stuff" (I could use more haughty language, but it's too early in the morning for that).  If you work in Human Resources, Organizational Effectiveness or related fields it is worth your time to check out Karla's professional blog.  I would be remiss if I didn't also mention getting the chance to talk to Tom Borthwick, son of Mary, who recently was completely and totally RIPPED OFF by the political hacks that run the Scranton School Board (read THIS).  Spending time talking to Tom gives me some solace that maybe there is hope for the future.

Did I mention that the pizza at Rooney's was pretty good?

I'd share the Gene Stilp pig picture again, but I've been warned by my partner in crime not to do so.

Finally, in terms of regrets, it would have been nice to spend a few minutes chatting with D.B.Echo, but he was busy doing his host-y kind of thing.  That's okay, as these events seem to creep up from time to time anyway.  It appears that this guy didn't make it, which is too bad, as it would have been nice to shake his hand again.  I can think of few bloggers who write stuff that pisses me off and fascinates me, all at the same time.

The photographer for the Hayna Herald was snapping pictures and asked some of us if we were bloggers, what we wrote about and the like.  My answer was "whatever the hell I want to", which I confess is slightly worse sounding than being called a "quasi-political blogger".  Very well & so be it, as my answer does have the benefit of being true.  This blogging stuff is good for me, and being cajoled into attending social events is as well.  I also think that it is good for the area.  As some who are far more insightful than me have noted, this kind of information sharing, be it trite or serious, has real benefits.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

From the Pennsyltucky File

Over the past year or so, Ms Rivers and I have made a trek to Cabelas, which in addition to having... indoor trout stream
...many stuffed animals
...more guns than the Japanese army

...and some very nice clothing, has the ability to outfit your entire life in camo.  See below, with apologies for the pathetic ability to my Palm Pre to take decent pictures.

You want camo pants?  Hell, I think they even have camo business suits.

More camo garments for the discerning rural man-about-woods.

And let's not forget a wide assortment of little camo tent/huts/migrant farm worker dwellings.

Please don't take my lame-arsed attempt at humor to be in any way critical.  Heck, I even own a pair of camo shorts.  Instead, I think it's pretty fascinating how this kind of life-style is so well accepted in Pennsylvania, which really is far more a rural than an urban state.  Growing up in a housing project in Scranton I was never exposed to this kind of thing, ever.  Case in point:  I think I was 40 when I first got to shoot an actual, real gun (several actually, all involving real bullets).  Anyway, while I will never be a hunter...I really don't like the notion of killing things (well maybe except for house centipedes)...I do really, truly appreciate all that hunters have done for the greater outdoors in Pennsylvania.  Yes, while groups like the Sierra Club certainly do good work, I suspect that it's hunters and hunting supported groups that have contributed the most to ensuring that there are plenty of outdoor places for all of us to enjoy.  

There is a bigger lesson in all this silliness.  As a non-hunting person, it is important that I acknowledge that people who think differently than I do can never the less have goals in some areas that are similar to my own.  Forget just hunting, as it is this way in life in general:  we can disagree about some things in life, but still seek common ground in the others.  Now if only some in government could learn this simple lesson.