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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Road Apples, #128

Road Apples...I just realized that I haven't deposited any Road Apples in a fairly long time.  This is yet more proof that John Lennon was right when he said "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans".

NEPA coming up, and I am undecided as to whether or not I will attend.  I am not sure men are allowed.  Oh, and I don't get the whole "squirrel" motif.  You can read more HERE.  I did find their Manifesto to be interesting though, and I absolutely agree that NEPA is in the technological dark-ages.

Neil Sedaka...Ms Rivers and I attended the Neil Sedaka concert at Misericordia on Friday night.  A few observations:
  • They guy still, into his 70's, has a great signing voice.
  • He can really, really play the piano very well.  He was really pounding the keys on some songs.
  • It's great to attend a concert where you really know the vast majority of the material.  Sedaka is a favorite of my mom, and growing up I heard a lot of it.  
  • Ms Rivers and I were, by far and a way, the youngest people there.  Quite the trick for being 48 (and the young age of Ms Rivers).
  • Both the crowd and the venue weren't all that large.  
  • He didn't play one of my favorite Sedaka songs, The Immigrant.  Oh it is, as something of a consolation prize.  The song itself was dedicated to the struggles John Lennon encountered in trying to become a permanent U.S. resident during the early/mid 70's.

(The time when strangers were welcome here has, sadly, long passed)

Vacation...This year's vacation was held in Lewes, Delaware (as alluded to in past postings).  I had a great time, and it was really nice to be by the ocean but not be subject to the over-the-top commercialization that you find in places like Ocean City and Wildwood.  I'm still gunning, eventually, for a small town near the ocean come my retirement years.  Taking notes Ms Rivers?

The Rest of the Summer...Summer 2012 seems like it is steam-rolling to a conclusion, whether we like it or not.  As for me, we are going to Camel Beach one day in August, but that's pretty much it for the fun stuff.  On the work front, I have a trip to Hartford in a week or two, just for the day, and a week long class in Boston towards the end of the month.  The latter is something I am really, really looking forward to, as attending it is a great example of strategic action on my part (at least as far it relates to what some laughingly refer to as my career).

Another Blog...I'm considering the purchase of another URL in order to capture and write more professional-related thoughts.  I got the idea, in part, from THIS PAGE.  I also have something of a desire to expand my presence, if you will, and create a space where I can challenge myself to be more directed and focused when it comes to my professional endeavors.  The only thing holding me back really is the fact that having the time to do it might be challenging.  Oh well...I can always buy the URL and park it for a while.  More to come.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Scranton ALREADY IS Bankrupt

If you define bankruptcy as being a state where a debtor has liabilities that greatly exceed assets and is no longer able to service their debt, then Scranton is...and has been...bankrupt for quite a while.  This isn't a question if determination, it's a question of reaction to determination.

The "whys" of Scranton's current fiscal condition are long and varied, but suffice to say that Scranton's costs have greatly exceeded revenues for a long time.  Some of these costs could have been avoided...

...such as borrowing money to fix parks.

Others have been an inevitability for decades...

...such as the generous pay and benefits earned by a city workforce that has not reduced in size proportionate with the reduction in city population (and tax base).

Regardless, the time for finger pointing is over with.

Personally I think it's time for Scranton to declare Chapter 9 Bankruptcy.  Some of my opinions on this subject have been formed by following a TERRIFIC blog written by Mr Gary Lewis entitled "Scranton is Broke" (click on the name to link to the blog).  Hopefully Mr Lewis will not mind, but I'm going to paste an excerpt from his July 19th posting (link to the full posting HERE):

To ensure that the city leaders have a full understanding of why Chapter 9 is the right choice, I have undertaken several actions:
  1. Identify the causes of the city's deficit (excessive CBAs, absurd debt, unfunded pensions)
  2. Identify major issues with the existing budget (PILOT payments, revised budget numbers for various line items)
  3. Identify "fat" (professional services, salaries, benefits)
  4. Recommend a solution (unfortunately, City Council President Janet Evans seems intent on promising to hold a public caucus on Chapter 9, only to reschedule at the last minute)
  5. Attempt to discuss my analysis with city officials (unfortunately, I was met with silence and blank stares)
  6. Shine a national light on the city's woes (NYT, The Bond Buyer, WSJ, CNNMoney, etc)

Item #1 is spot on.  Chris Doherty gets rightfully slammed for fiscal mismanagement, but I give him credit for one thing:  is has been the only Scranton mayor in my lifetime who actually had the guts to stand up to unionized city employees.  In Scranton, being the political town that it is, most mayors rewarded unions for political support by basically giving the farm away when it comes to collective bargaining agreements (the 'CBAs' noted by Mr Lewis).  Want a great example?  Here's my favorite:  Under prior administrations, the Chief of Police was a member of the police union.  Yes, you read that one right.  As a result, under a prior mayor we actually had a situation whereby the Chief violated the union contract, the union won a judgement, and the Chief received part of the settlement resulting from the judgement (which was really resulting from his violating the contract in the first place).  All of this because the police wanted the Chief to be a union member.

In the final analysis, it's my educated opinion that Scranton is incapable of solving its financial problems without external intervention.  More borrowing will only kick the can down the road.  The city's liabilities need to be restructured and the operations of the city will need to be streamlined.  City employees will have to accept changes in benefits, compensation and work rules.  City leaders need to be impeded in the future from amassing enormous debt.

Kudos to Mr Lewis for his blog; if you are a Scranton resident (or just have an interest in the city) I strongly suggest you check the blog out for yourself.  

Perhaps my friends at NEPA Blogs can make "Scranton is Broke" the blog of the week or month or whatever they do in that space.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Official Statement, Penn State President Erickson

From the Penn State alumni newswire.

President Rodney Erickson

Penn State President Rodney Erickson
Statement Regarding NCAA Consent Decree
July 23, 2012

The tragedy of child sexual abuse that occurred at our University altered the lives of innocent children. Today, as every day, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse.
Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the University takes a significant step forward.
The NCAA ruling holds the University accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the University community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.
The NCAA also mandates that Penn State become a national leader to help victims of child sexual assault and to promote awareness across our nation. Specifically, the University will pay $12 million a year for the next five years into a special endowment created to fund programs for the detection, prevention and treatment of child abuse. This total of $60 million can never reduce the pain suffered by victims, but will help provide them hope and healing.
The NCAA penalty will also affect the football program. There is a four-year ban on all post-season games, including bowl games and the Big Ten Championship game, and a future reduction in the number of football scholarships that can be granted. We are grateful that the current student athletes are not prevented from participation because of the failures of leadership that occurred. Additionally the NCAA has vacated all wins of Penn State football from 1998-2011.
We also welcome the Athletics Integrity Agreement and the third-party monitor, who will be drilling into compliance and culture issues in intercollegiate athletics, in conjunction with the recommendations of the Freeh Report. Lastly a probationary period of five years will be imposed.
It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes. We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative.
Since receiving Judge Freeh's preliminary recommendations in January, the University has instituted several reforms. Today we accept the terms of the consent decree imposed by the NCAA. As Penn State embarks upon change and progress, this announcement helps to further define our course. It is with this compass that we will strive for a better tomorrow.
Penn State will move forward with a renewed sense of commitment to excellence and integrity in all aspects of our University. We continue to recognize the important role that intercollegiate athletics provides for our student athletes and the wider University community as we strive to appropriately balance academic and athletic accomplishments. Penn State will continue to be a                       world-class educational institution of which our students, faculty, staff and alumni can be justifiably proud.
President Rodney Erickson

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rest in Peace Dr Ride

As recent events testify, our culture glories the wrong people... athletes, actors and the like.  It is a symptom of sometimes sick society that focuses on style rather than substance.  We should be teaching our kids not to look up to football players and coaches, but instead to people like the late Dr Sally K. Ride.

Dr Sally K. Ride dies at age 61

Go throttle up Dr Ride...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Statement from Penn State: Removal of the Joe Paterno Statue

As received this morning.  Personally I think this is a good idea that truly is in the best interests of the University.  Good move on the part of President Erickson, although I suspect there will be some Paterno-worshipers out there who will object.  Note to them:  your hero enabled a pedophile.  Deal with it.

Penn State Alumni Newswire - 7.22.2012

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Penn State president issues statement related to Paterno statue

Penn State President Rodney Erickson issued a statement today (July 22)
related to the removal of the Joe Paterno Statue. The statement reads in part,
"Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those victims of Mr. Sandusky
and all other victims of child abuse ... I now believe that, contrary to its
original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and
an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond."

Read the full story on Live:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Penn State & the NCAA Death Penalty

I hate blogging about sports.  I just hate it, and as evidence I can point to about a dozen or fewer posts in this blog about sports.  I like playing sports, but watching them, reading about them or blogging about them?  No thanks.  If the sport in question doesn't involve sweat on my part, then I'm not interested.  This noted, I am going to venture in this abysmal territory to talk for a moment about the National Collegiate Atheletic Association (NCAA) potentially invoking the "death penalty" against Penn State.

For the unitiated, the "death penalty" refers to the ability of the NCAA to suspend a college/university's athletic program(s) for at least a year.

Let me say up front that I am adamately opposed the the NCAA imposting the death penalty against Penn State's football program.  I say this as someone who has been extremely critical of the Univesity...MY prior postings.  In no uncertain terms I have stated that Joe Paterno was morally and ethically bound to act at the first hint of wrong-doing on the part of serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky.  He didn't act, a FACT that was spelled out in painful levels of detail in the Freeh Report. Joe Paterno a man who many, including myself, considered to be a role model for how big-time college sports should be conducted, put the interests of his own ego, his football program and the reputation of a university before the physical and emotional well being of children.  It doesn't get much worst than that, and while I could continue this rant, I think the point is made.  Also culpable are the other individuals named in the Freeh Report, including former president Spanier, a man who claimed to be in charge of a major university but now all of a sudden wants to claim he actually wasn't in charge of a major university.

Want to know who is NOT culpable in all of this mess?  It's the student athletes who currently play on the Penn State football team.  Unless someone has some evidence that any of them participated in this horrible business, they should be considered by-standers.  In fact, they, as much as anyone else, can play a role in beginning the process of redeeming the name of Penn State football.  They can't do that though if the program tactically doesn't exist.  In fact, for many of them, playing football at Penn State is the culmination of years of practice and study.  Denying them the ability to aspire to achieving their dreams seems to me to a punishment where none should exist. 

Yes, there are structual problems with how Penn State is governed.  Yes, the WORSHIP of football at Penn State at least contributed to a culture where institutional reputation became more important the lives of children and that MUST change.  Yes, specific individuals need to be held accountable for their actions over the past 14+ years.  All of these problems though can be addressed without punishing the innocent by-standers that comprise the current Penn State football team. 

Children were harmed at Penn State and that is unforgivable, but let's target the punishment at the right people, namely the leadership of Penn State.  Punishing football players does nothing to heal the very real wounds that were created by Jerry Sandusky and enabled by Spanier, Paterno and others.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gone Fission

One of the neat things that one does while on vaction is indulge.  One of the neat things about being a real, full-fledged adult is that you can sometimes Indulge in things that you actually want to do.  Nice combination.
Well today I indulged in the guise of fishing (not "fission", but I love way that sounds).  Now that doesn't sound all that remarkable, exept for the fact that I don't think I've gone fishing in something like, maybe, 30 years.   I have nothing against fishing by the way.  Well almost nothing.  As a general rule in life, I don't like to kill things unless absolutely necessary.  "Things" include all manner of critter, from wasps (not WASPS, although I will not kill them either) to stink bugs, to worms, to furry animals, to scaley animals to, well, fish.  These just aren't words...they are actions.  For example, people in the office know that I will not kill that stink bug flying around the window, but rather will always do a catch-n-release.  Sometimes I think they just don't tell me about such things anymore, just so they can in fact kill the critters behind my back.  Anyway, I don't believe that I should be destroying something that is alive.  I accept the contradiction of eating meat, but in fact that is someone else doing the killing.  By the way, I have nothing aginast hunting if the hunter in fact consumes that which he kills.

Philosophy on killing critters noted, it does present something of a problem for an activity like fishing.  So why did I go?  Well one of my traveling partners this week is a dyed in the wool fisherman, and seeing as though this is an activity that I haven't partaken of in so very long, it seemed like a fun indulgence.  I was right by the way, it was fun.

We signed up for a half day fishing expedition out of Lewes, Delaware, on a boat with about 15 others.  They supplied the boat, the bait and the rods/reels.  I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of having fishy smelling hands by the way, as I am almost anal retentative about hand washing. But so it was, I baited my own hooks (cephalopods, chopped into pieces + smaller millow like fish) and actually handled a fish or two.
How successful was I?  Well I actually did catch ONE fish during the half day on the Delaware Bay.  The victim was Bluefish, of a size that I can't even begin to estimate, other than "modest".  My partner in crime caught far more:  several Bluefish, Sea Trout, Dogfish, and a Pufferfish.  Okay, I will not be ending my day job to become a professional fisherman, but still, I have to confess that it was fun. 

I did, by the way, basically suck up the moral quandry of not wanting to kill stuff.  My travel partner brought back one Bluefish and a Sea Trout; my Bluefish was donated to the crew of the boat, who basically keep whatever the fishing noobs don't want to keep (including the Pufferfish, which in these parts are not poisonous and are "good eating").  I would have preferred to release Mr Bluefish back into the wild to be caught again, but it just wasn't in the cards, and in life one must be flexible.

As I get older, I am faced with the question that many older gentlement must eventually face:  golfing or fishing?  I have a few years yet to decide, but I'm leaning more towards fishing at this stage.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Technology - Talking Tablets

One of the great things about vacation is that I can simply ponder to degrees that even astound me.  That says a lot, as I do enjoy pondering.  This noted, one of the things I have been pondering lately is technology.  Not technology is some grand psuedo-sociological manner, but just technology in the sense of what least for me...and what does not.  For me, this is grand stuff.

About 8 months ago I purchased a Sony S tablet.  In fact, it's the device I am using to create this posting.  Well the Sony S tablet and a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard (to be precise), plus a few other accessories.  In these few months I've come to a few conclusions about what tablets can do well and where there are limits.  Now I'm speaking purely of an Android experience, but some of these thoughts are easily transferred to other platforms, such as Apple.  As noted below, all tablets have certain physcial limitations.

What a tablet can do well...
...present media.  My Sony has a great display (Sony products typically have great displays) and pictures are sometimes breathtaking when viewed on my 9 or so inch screen. Audio sounds pretty good on the tablet.  Video can be very good, as long as it is accessed from a file; on-line streaming video can be problematic for any wireless device.
...reading books.  I only have a few titles on my tablet, but the screen and shape of my tablet is almost perfect for reading.
...light duty web surfing.  Just don't push things to the limit or expect too much in the way of page interaction.
...provide applications that can be helpful.  I have a ton of apps on my tablet, some of which (such as my HAL 9000 app) are just for giggles, others (such as Evernote) are actually useful.  The coolest app for my tablet?  It can function as a universal remote control.  There are tons of very cool & time-wasting games that really are optimized for a tablet form. small and convenient.  My tablet is an awesomely portable device.  Collectively my tablet, keyboard and one or two other accessories take up less room than my work-provided Lenovo Thinkpad. 

Where a tablet falls short...
...Productivity.  I know that some will argue this point, but the simplest of copy and paste actions are more difficult on a tablet.  What you can using a mouse with an incredible degree of precision and speed is much clumsier with a tablet, no matter who makes the tablet.  Even the smallest of fingers is far less precise than a laser-guided mouse cursor.  This is a very, very big deal to me, as I had hoped that my tablet would actually replace the need for a laptop and/or netbook.  When it comes to things like writing, the process is less efficient on a tablet, and I do a lot of writing (both for work and personal reasons).  Now there are limitations to my tablet that are self-created by me in the sense that I probably haven't expended enough learning curve energy, so I will not mention things like spell-check.  Also, there are voice-to-text apps out there, but anyone who does any writing ever will tell you that sometimes the greatest efforts in this kind of endeavor are not in the creation but rather the editing, where voice-to-text isn't all that useful.  Yes, predictive text is helpful, but it is mostly for the "hunt and peck" types out there (as opposed to those of us who actually learned how to type).
...form factor.  What is small and portable on one hand is also sorely lacking in input options in the other.  Mouse comment already noted, even a good keyboard such as the Logitech that I am currently using is less efficient and effictive than the wireless keyboard I have for my desktop.  Forget the virtual keyboard that all tablets come with...sorry, but fingers that are attached to hands that can palm a basketball simply don't work with on-screen keyboards.
...manage files.  One of the things I used to do on my netbook (my pre-tablet portable device) was use it to manage files.  I could edit photos from one flash drive and save them to a portable Seagate drive where I keep all of my backups.  It was great stuff.  That kind of thing is physcially impossible with a tablet that barely allows you to connect a single flash drive, provided of course that the device is not required to be powered by the USB port.  I can hear the counter argument now:  "Man, but what about clouds?  You should be saving documents to a cloud!".  Yes, I do use cloud storage, but there are times (such as right now) when I don't have a great Internet connection and as a result the "cloud" is mainly just vapor.

The verdict?

It depends on what you really want to use a device for,  a conclusion that I know isn't very inspiring.  As I used to tell my daugthers, tools are designed to be used certain ways; for example, you can use the body of a $150 Lithium Ion cordless drill to hammer nails, but that doesn't mean you should use a $150 Lithium Ion cordless drill to hammer nails.  This noted, if you want a device for reading books, looking at photos, surfing the web, updating Facebook (just don't expect to do anything complex using Facebook) or checking your email, then a tablet is a great device.  If you want a portable device for anything other than the most rudimentary forms of productivity, then I suggest getting a laptop or netbook.  The latter is best if you really care about a small form factor. 

As for me, I susupect that at some point I will probably get a very small laptop in the future.  I'll most likely keep the tablet, but I don't think that I will be using it as much as I thought I would when the thought of purchasing it first popped into my head.

Vacations Past

Preface:  I am on vaction this week, and writing on my tablet (even with the bluetooth keyboard) is, shall we say, "less than optimal".  That noted, I apologize in advance for any and all typos, misspellings and occasional errant symbols that just appear in the text. 

Ending my first full day of vaction 2012, I was remembering vacations of the past, and none were more my adult life or in childhood...than those to Atlantic City when I was a boy.  There was something truly magical about those vactions, which maybe in the course of writing this I will somehow be able to articulate in some fashion.  Maybe.

A few basic facts about these childhood jaunts:

First, I'm not sure how many times we went.  It could have been once or it could have been twice.  I'm just not sure.  40 or so years will do that to you.  For ease of writing, I am going to refer to the plural.

Second, they were to Atlantic City, NJ.  This was Atlantic City NJ BEFORE casinos.

Third, we were least financially.  I know, some folks talk about how poor they were in childhood, and I am not going to claim anything remotely Appalachian sounding, but we really didn't have much.  As in "living in a housing project" not much.

The above noted, I am amazed in retrospect how much effort it must have taken to pull these vacations off.  Planning tools available to my mother consisted of the telephone and the U.S. Mail.  No Internet.  No GPS.  To my mother's credit (and through the eyes of an 8 or 9 year old) these trips were flawlessly executed.  The fact that we were able to go in the first place still astounds me.

I remember being told about going for the first time.  It was really, really exicting.  The kind of feeling that only a kid really can achieve.  We adults are just too serious and logical in how we think about things in order to be that excited.

The actual trip down was via bus.  Martz bus to be precise.  For me, that was nearly as cool as the the ocean.  I don't remember what I did for the duration of the trip, but I do recall:  a) Walking over to the bus station in downtown Scranton (it is now Kildare's bar/restaurant), luggage in tow & b) Pulling into Atlantic City and being told "Welcome to sunburn city" by the bus driver.  Man that was cool.
I think we took a cab from the Atlantic City bus terminal to the "hotel" we stayed at, but I am not sure.  I don't think that the town itself was all that safe back then, as I don't think it is all that safe now.  Some things never change.

The place where we stayed?  I could be wrong, but I recall that it was called the Surf and Turf motel.  By Atlantic City standards of the day it was way down on the boardwalk, way to the left of Convention Hall.  Very far from the real attractions of the day, including Steel Pier.  Location didn't matter though when you are 8-9 years old this is your first vacation.  This was the beach!  The room we had was an efficiency, meaning that it had some rudimentary form of a kitchen, of sorts.  Note that this was in the universe prior to the wide-spread use of microwave ovens.  In the context of what I consider to be a good place to stay these days, knowing that I travel quite a bit with a corporate credit card (and by virtue of the fact that I am typing this from the dining room of a beautiful condominium in Lewes, Delaware), I'd say the place was a dump.  But it didn't matter back in mid-70's to an 8-9 year old.  To me, it was a palace.

I remember the first time  we (by that I should have mentioned already that the "we" was my mother, and my three brothers) got a chance to go to the actual beach was nothing short of a mad-dash across hot sand for the first of us to get to the ocearn water.  I probably won.  Well, maybe my brother Chirs did...he as always faster.  Anyway, it's amazing the things you do remember:  for me, one of the strongest memories was the first taste of saltwater in my mouth...and how horrible it was.  I also remember picking my feet up once while in the ocean and seeing a fairly large crab getting kicked up in the resulting artificial current.

I also remember walking along the boardwalk.  The smells of things you just didn't enounter in Scranton.  The sights of things we really didn't have the money to do anyway (such as ride the rides on Steel Pier).  None of us were upset at not going to the amusement stuff, as we had the ocean for amusement and, believe it or not,  cable television!  Back at home, at the time, television consisted of four channels:  16, 22, 28 & 44.  That was it.  The place was big, I was small, and the rest really didn't matter all that much.  It was all just wonderful stuff.

In retrospect, Atlantic City of that era was a dump.  The sounds and sights of decay were everywhere, although at the time we neither noticed nor cared.  Remember, there is a reason why gambling came to Atlantic City...I mean over and above organized crime.

What I have forgotten all of these years later are details about the trip back, how I felt leaving and simiarl stuff.  What remains really are fond memories of experiencing something completely different.  That may be one of the reasons why, to this very day, I truly love going to the beach.  I don't really swim in the ocean all that much, and truth be told I find sand to be annoying.  But just the mention of the word "beach" conjures up memories of Atlantic City, when I was young and the world was both bigger and simpler.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A little politics, a little vacation

Politics...The presidential election is months away and I'm already sick and tired of toadies on both sides of the isle claiming that the opposing candidate is the very spawn of Satan.  Enough already.  I've already "un-liked" several Facebook sites that basically just had these kinds of postings, as it's all just more pollution that I can do without. I did, however, leave the feed from Gary Johnson in tact.  I like this guy, even he stands a snowballs chance in Hell of winning.

Like I said, enough.  Let my own personal moratorium begin.  I'm standing firm against the temptation to engage in national partisan political debates.  The very act of arguing about Democrats vs. Republicans is like trying to argue about ice cream flavors.

Vacation...In news of the more pleasant, I'm leaving for vacation later today, with Lewes, Delaware being the destination for the next six days.  Plans include beach time, some fishing, plenty of reading, long walks, learning from the past, enjoying with gratitude the present and contemplating the future.  It's all good.

Blogging?  I'm not so sure.  Part of me wants to really disconnect for the week.  Practically speaking that will probably not be possible (as I need to be hair-line connected to work), but I can make the decision to keep any on-line connections to an absolute minimum.  I like taking the opportunities given to us from time to time to step away and take stock of the stuff we collect in life.  Bottom line?  I may not be on at all, or I may be on every day.  Who knows?  I'll let the ocean breeze tell me what to do.

It's no secret that this year's vacation is to the beach.  Neither Ms Rivers nor I have been to the beach in a long time, so it was an easy choice to be made months ago when we were hatching our plans.  I'll confess that my beach vacations have not historically been all that relaxing for me, but that was never because of the inherent nature of the beach/ocean.  The ocean was practically designed for someone like me, an almost perfect kind of place where you have things that appeal to all the senses: smelling the ocean, listening to the waves, seeing the sand stretch on, feeling the ocean breeze on your chin.  It's a place where life seems to permeate everything.

So here's to early morning walks, listening to the rough surf and just generally enjoying the simple but finer in things that life has to offer.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Penn State: They Didn't Fail to Fail

I've written countless times on the Penn State scandal, so I'm not going to simply rehash reality.  I've also read about a dozen different commentaries on the release of the Freeh Report, the best (in my opinion) of which was in Sports Illustrated.  You can link to it here...

Penn State Leaders Can't Hide Their Guilt...

While the Freeh Report itself is long, the basic conclusions are not:

At Penn State, institutional reputation truly reigned supreme over all other considerations (with the exception of that consideration called "Joe Paterno").

At Penn State, no leader wanted to "hurt" Jerry Sandusky's feelings.  It didn't matter the feelings...and bodies...of the young victims he hurt.

Joe Paterno cared more about his football program than he did a child who was raped in his showers.

Like I said, pretty simply stuff.

Where to go from here?  As I've noted in the past, I am a life member of the Penn State Alumni Association, and I have no plans to resign that connection.  I also did contribute to the University again this year (I didn't last year), but I wrote my check out specifically to Penn State Harrisburg.  I will the University's annual fund. All of my contributions to the University, until the day I die, will only be made directly to Penn State Harrisburg.

I am very grateful for the Penn State education I received, as it truly did change my life for the better.  But that's it.  In life it's painful when you discover that you've been lied to, and Penn State...and very specifically Joe Paterno...lied to us all.  In respect for the dead I would normally say something like "May God have mercy of Joe Paterno's soul", but in this case the sad truth is this:  Joe Paterno showed no mercy to the children who were raped by Jerry Sandusky.  Neither did an entire university.

Steve Albert
Penn State, class of 1986
Life Member, Penn State Alumni Association
Past Board Member, Penn State Harrisburg Alumni Society

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Statement from the Penn State Board of Trustees, Re: The Freeh Report

From the Penn State Alumni newswire.

July 12, 2012, SCRANTON, PA - Today's comprehensive report is sad and sobering in that it concludes that at the moment of truth, people in positions of authority and responsibility did not put the welfare of children first. The Board of Trustees, as the group that has paramount accountability for overseeing and ensuring the proper functioning and governance of the University, accepts full responsibility for the failures that occurred. The Board, in cooperation with the Administration, will take every action to ensure that events like these never happen again in our university community.
The focus of all of our actions going forward will be on driving a culture of honesty, integrity, responsible leadership and accountability at all levels and within all units of our institution.
Judge Freeh's report concludes that certain people at the University who were in a position to protect children or confront the predator failed to do so. There can be no ambiguity about that. The defenseless victims and their families are at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers. We are deeply sorry for the failure to protect these vulnerable young boys from the pain and anguish they suffered. At the same time, we are filled with admiration for the bravery shown by the young men and their families who came forward to ensure that justice will be done.
While today's issuance of the Freeh Report provides some level of clarity for our community, it does not undo the pain that the victims of Jerry Sandusky have experienced, and continue to experience. We will continue to offer counseling to Mr. Sandusky's victims, listen to them and take affirmative steps to address the harm they have suffered.
Beyond our campuses, the University is undertaking a number of actions to help build greater awareness of the societal issue of child sexual abuse. We are partnering with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and have also created the Center for the Protection of Children at the Hershey Medical Center. Penn State University intends to be a constructive leader in preventing, reporting and responding to such abuse. This is a problem that plagues our nation, and we have a special duty to increase awareness, prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse.
Judge Freeh's investigation was intended to identify where failures occurred and what changes should be made for the future. As the Freeh report noted, the University has already taken steps to begin addressing some of the shortcomings.
The Board of Trustees acknowledges that it failed to create an environment of accountability and transparency and did not have optimal reporting procedures or committee structures. Beginning in March 2011 and continuing until the publication of the Grand Jury presentment in November 2011, the Board failed to make proper inquiry of President Spanier and others regarding the Sandusky matter. As a result, the Board was unprepared to deal with the events that occurred in November 2011.
The Board has begun taking a more active oversight role and has implemented specific oversight committees, focused on Risk, Audit, Legal, Compliance, Academic Excellence, Governance and Human Resources. Furthermore, the Board is committed to greater transparency and communications with the entire University community.
Additionally, the University Administration has strengthened policies and programs involving minors, child abuse and mandated reporter training; ensuring a process for prompt reporting of abuse and sexual misconduct; hiring a new, full-time Clery Compliance Coordinator and providing Clery Act training for employees; and establishing a position of, and commencing a national search for, a director of University Compliance. Further information can be found here:
In the weeks ahead, the University will carefully review and consider each of the report's recommendations. Tomorrow at its regularly scheduled meeting, the Board of Trustees will consider a series of immediate next steps. President Rodney Erickson has appointed three members of his senior leadership team to coordinate and implement operational changes suggested by the Freeh Report.
As the Freeh Report notes Penn State "is an outstanding institution, nationally renowned for its excellence in academics and research." Nothing in this report detracts from the many significant accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students and alumni. We also remain proud of the accomplishments of Penn State's student athletes over many years, and we reaffirm the fundamental premise that academic excellence and athletic achievement are wholly consistent and complementary goals.
With the release of the Freeh Report we are beginning to correct our failures, promote healing and build a stronger tomorrow for Penn State. We are continuing the process of addressing the most painful chapter in the University's history so that we can heal and move forward.

Response to Karla Porter's Blog: When a Company Comes to Town.

My comment to a great post on  You can read the original posting HERE.


Great topic Karla.

NEPA, for a variety of reasons, has a strong distrust of the private sector when it comes to employment.  Part of me believes that there is an almost hereditary memory, if you will, back to the coal mining days when Coal Barons raped and pillaged the land and its communities.  Regardless, when your largest employers in a region are the government (and you are not home to, say, an Air Force base) then that says a lot about a community.  The ironic part is that the large number of governmental jobs (be they local, state, or federal..."Da Depot") in turn reinforces the notion that the best jobs aren't be had in the private sector.  It all seems to be a vicious circle of sorts that will eventually come crashing into itself one day when "Da Depot" closes (which it will...).  

Speaking of the "Da Depot", ever notice that when there is even a slight threat to Tobyhanna Army Depot the local chambers of commerce come rushing in Marines on a beachhead?  It's been my experience that they DON'T do the same when there is a similar threat in the private sector.  Trust me, I know.  Reason?  I'm not sure, but see above for at least a partial explanation.  When the people who supposedly push for private sector economic development seem more interested in government-sector jobs, well maybe that leads to what you are discussing regarding Neiman Marcus.

Now I don't fault Neiman Marcus for wanting to build a low cost distribution facility in NEPA.  In fact they should be welcomed with open arms.  But there are valid questions to be asked about the kinds of industry being attracted to NEPA and the efforts (or lack thereof) to diversity the economy...which includes fostering the vigorous entrepreneurial spirit you rightfully noted.  To the best of my knowledge the local chambers of commerce don't do much when it comes to diversification or entrepreneurship.  In fact, the local Small Business Development Center is run by the University of Scranton (in cooperation with the federal Small Business Administration and the PA Department of Economic Development)...anything appear to be missing in that equation?

We have low paying jobs and a high unemployment rate in NEPA in part because we tolerate it...

...we tolerate elected officials who seem more interest in self enrichment than community enrichment (Bob Mellow & countless others).

...we tolerate local chambers of commerce that seem interested in protecting existing businesses from labor competition and maintaining an economy that is overly dependent on the public sector for jobs. 

...we tolerate and perpetuate stereotypes about ourselves that are not self-serving.  We are defeatest and we don't question authority nearly enough in NEPA.  It's no wonder it took the FBI to take down the judges in Luzerne County, Bob Mellow and countless others...we kept re-electing these people who were harming our communities!  For example, Bob Mellow should have been thrown out office the moment he, as as sitting Senator, started serving on the board of the local "Blue" (a business he played a part in regulating as a member of the PA Senate...conflict of interest anyone?).

In the end, all of this will continue until we demand something be done about it.  Period.  

For the record, I'll be cross posting this on, as I am never one to not recycle content.

Thanks again Karla for the great topic & I apologize in advance for any typos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

To be a member of Congress is to represent your district.  If you can't do that and don't show up to work for weeks at a time, your constituents suffer.  That's simply wrong.  Congress isn't like other jobs where, if you are absent, someone else can pick up your "slack"...your absence means that your constituents are not represented.

It's with the above in mind that NBC reported the following (video HERE).

While I have tremendous sympathy for Congressman Jackson and whatever issues (be they physical, mental or both) he is trying to resolve, he shouldn't get a pass on propriety.  Nor should there be an expectation of absolute privacy in the arena of public service.  For over a month Congressman Jackson's constituents had no idea where he was or why he wasn't showing up for work.  They didn't need to know the details of his personal challenges, but they did have a right to know why they were not being represented in the nation's highest lawmaking body.

In the end, serving in Congress is a responsibility, not a right.  Show up to work or resign the seat.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Maybe you can't "Pray the Gay Away" after all.

Article reference HERE.

"But the ex-gay movement has been convulsed as the leader of Exodus, in a series of public statements and a speech to the group’s annual meeting last week, renounced some of the movement’s core beliefs. Alan Chambers, 40, the president, declared that there was no cure for homosexuality and that “reparative therapy” offered false hopes to gays and could even be harmful. His statements have led to charges of heresy and a growing schism within the network."

For the record I don't especially care what anyone thinks of homosexuality.  I really don't.  What people choose to do in their personal relationships is precisely that...their choice...and not mine.  I do, however, draw strong lines in the sand when some try to paint others as somehow being "defective" or undeserving of basic rights (such as the right to survivor's benefits, visitation rights for the ill, medical benefits, etc.) simply because they are different.  There's a word for that:  discrimination.

Given the above, I find the very notion of "pray the gay away" to almost be funny...the "almost" part comes into play because in reality it's not funny when someone paints another as being so defective that they somehow need divine intervention to be "repaired".  Note to file:  if God didn't want gay people He/She wouldn't be creating any of them.


PS - For the record (and in the "pray the gay away" department) Michele Bachmann's husband is the gayest sounding supposedly straight man I've ever heard.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A comment I made to Tom Borthwick's pots on NEPArtisan.  You can read the original posting HERE.

* * * * * * *

Nice posting Tom, although I think the traditional ways of thinking about public education have to change, as the model we have is simply unsustainable.  Costs over time simply can't rise faster than the ability to pay for them.  In keeping with this, you commented that taxes haven't been raised in five years, which is commendable.  However, if you take it for granted that taxes have to rise in order to pay for education, where does it end?  There simply isn't an unending supply of money.  Once taxes are increased, they are increased, for all intensive purposes, forever.

Yes, I realize that there are budget shortfalls during downturns in the economy & I realize also that Governor Tom Corbett is a short-sighted putz...but...we need to think beyond the "spend more, tax more" model.

I'd start at the basic premise of public education.

What is the mission of public schools?  What value does it seek to provide society?

From there, I'd critically evaluate/create/add programs that support that mission. it educational programs or policies (such as the length/timing of the school year).  If something doesn't directly support the mission, then I say it shouldn't be part of the public school system. Period.  Build public schools from scratch, no assumptions, no other rules, just a passion for achieving the essential to society mission they need to perform.

Simply rehashing the same "tried but failed" they old (traditional school years that are really tied to agriculture...exactly how many of your students have to work in the fields over the summer Tom?) or new (teaching to tests, a-la No Child Left Behind) nothing short of insanity.

The saddest part?  Our they on school boards OR union heads...don't want to think this way about public education.  There is too much invested in the status quo.  I'm particularly harsh when it comes to school board members, most of whom are unqualified to do their jobs and only do it for sake of political/personal power.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Declaration of Independence

A full transcript.  You can find this also via the National Archives.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


So there is the situation:  I had an appointment at a healthcare provider scheduled for last Monday.  A few days beforehand they called me to reschedule.  Fine, so I rescheduled for the following Monday (yesterday).  The appointment time was on the early I had to engineer my schedule accordingly.

Fair enough.

So my day is completely turned on its head:  I had to come in extra early, hit the gym before hitting the office, worked through lunch, and finally dropping everything I was doing so that I could leave by 3:30.  I think I was on the phone up until 3:29.

I arrived at the healthcare provider's office at 3:46pm.  One minute late, but I didn't think they minded.  Pulling into the parking lot I spied more than a few cars, but it didn't immediately cause me any concern.  Going up to the receptionist I promptly set signed in and proceeded to read the miscellaneous magazines spread out for all to read.  Good to hear that some Kardashian is having fun with some rapper.  Check.

And I waited.  And waited.  And waited.

I did see the doctor come out to talk to one of the patients in the waiting room.  Small talk it seemed.  I think they knew each other.  The visit seemed to last about 15 minutes.

And I continued to wait.

I'm not sure why I didn't say anything...probably just too disgusted...but finally, 45 minutes after signing in, I get the preliminary check-in and then sent back to the examination room.

And I waited.  And waited some more.

25 minutes later, the doctor comes through the door and apologizes for the wait.  Funny thing is that I don't think she realized just how long I had been waiting.  I needed to talk to the doctor about a particular problem I am having, so I didn't feel like alienating anyone.  I didn't want any distractions from solving this problem, so I just kept stewing.

The exam proceeded, and about 25 minutes or so later I am out the door.  All told, I completely re-arranged my day in order to convenience this particular provider.  I waited 70 minutes for about 25 minutes of actual healthcare.  I was also none too happy.  No, I was disgusted.

I have do some unfinished business with this particular provider, but after that's finished I think I will be taking this business somewhere else.   The sad part?  Professionally, this particular doctor is pretty good at what she does.  I really am impressed with the care I receive.  I can't, however, easily accept how disrespectful her practice was to me.  Had someone come out and said to me "Mr Albert, we are really sorry about the wait..." I would have been fine.  Had the doctor not come out to talk to her friend in the waiting room maybe she would have seen me 15 minutes sooner.  Had I known that I could arrive at 4:30 for a 3:45 appointment I would have been far more accepting.  Regardless, I don't think there will be a next time.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bjorn Again (office)

I easily spend more than half of the time when I am at home at my desk.  Actually it's sort of always been that way.  In the past, my home office was the closest I had to a "man cave".  Since moving in 2010, I have less space, and with just Jean Luc the cat and I, it works out just fine.  I do have a room for eating (I hesitate to call it a dining room, as that sounds far more impressive than the room actually is) and an extra room upstairs, but by and large I spend most of my time awake time in the room with my TV, a couch I rarely use, and a desk.

For space that I use quite a bit, my work area has always been something of a hodge-podge of oddly collected things.  Not  such of a plan or design as a "whatever I can acquire" kind of operation.  As evidence I offer the following...

Now in fairness, I had a larger desk, but it has been donated to the great cause known as my oldest daughter, who is furnishing an apartment in the far off land known as "Missouri".  Anyway, this is what has passed for "my old desk" over the past few weeks.  Functional, but not very impressive.

Enter the place where shopping becomes an experience, a place where you can find the very finest in Nordic ready-to-assemble home furnishing, IKEA.  With the able assistance of Ms Rivers (who I might add is not necessarily a fan of IKEA, as her tastes in furniture are, shall we say, a bit more "classic"), a trek was made to another far off land know as "Conshohocken", which happens to be the home of the second closest to Scranton IKEA.  The closest IKEA is actually in New Jersey, but I figure that taxes on everything in New Jersey are higher, so scratch that idea.

With a list in hand and the GPS to provide precise directions, we arrived at the IKEA and quickly found the desk and related components in the bowels of the Swedish flag colored store.

What you see on the cart includes the desk "Expedit" series (you can see it HERE), a related bookcase, a desk lamp and a file cabinet (HERE).  Note that it was actually bigger than it appeared on the cart, and getting all of it into a Toyota Camry required some ingenuity.

Fortunately we didn't need the backseat for anything other than Swedish ready-to-assemble office furniture.

Once home, I was  far too tired to do much of anything, so the actual "assemble" in "ready-to-assemble" took place on Saturday.

All told, I probably spend about 5 hours assembling the stuff, which I have to confess wasn't all that difficult, although I added a few of my own touches to the process.  It also helps that I have an more than a fair assortment of tools and drivers, so there isn't a need to rely on the cheesy Allen wrench that is provided in each package.

Today has been spent cleaning, moving, organizing, cleaning, discarding old stuff, cleaning and cleaning.  While I'm not ready to declare victory yet, things are taking shape.

It's big, it's white, and it's what I've wanted for a long time:  something functional and coordinated.  As I noted above, I spend a lot of time at "my old desk", and while my new desk isn't old, I am looking forward to having extra work-space.