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Tuesday, October 30, 2012


There are times when my head just gets full. Too much stuff. Too many details. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why music exists, to be this kind of mental cleaner.  Yes, in my highly uneducated (from a music perspective) mind, music has a trans-formative power, an ability to right the mental ship, to give you perspective, to calm your soul. Heady stuff, I know, but so be it.

One of the songs that means something to me in this kind of trans-formative way is U2's Bad.  It speaks to me in ways that I'm really not sure I  can even explain, other than to say that I feel better when I hear it.  I can think of no better performance of Bad than at Live Aid in 1985.

So here you go, a great performance of a great song.

As I was dealing with all the storm related and other stuff over the past few days, I could ear the lyric...

If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would
Let it go
Dislocate my head.  Yes, sometimes we all need to let it go.  To surrender. Now I'm reasonably sure the song isn't officially about this sort of feeling, but who cares?  The beauty of art is that no two people experience it in exactly the same way.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Motorcyclist need to watch for Motorcycles

I see this sign and/or sticker around all the time these days, what with the popularity of motorcycles.  I agree with the basic sentiment, but allow me one diversion:  as a percentage of total population, I think there are more idiot motorcycle drivers than there are idiot car drivers.  We will keep the truckers out of this argument.

So many times as I find myself traveling either for business or personal reasons I inevitably am passed by some motorcyclist going something 90+ miles per hour on the highway.  Occasionally I will also witness the "wheelie", while also going something like 90+ miles per hour.  The worst?  That would be the idiot going 90+ miles per hour, doing a "wheelie", sans a helmet.  These folks prove that Darwin was right.

Also, I'm going to comment on the motorcyclist revving his/her big-assed Harley, at 2am.  These things should be banned from residential neighborhoods after about 11pm.  Sorry, but they are loud by design, and while I have no desire to interfere with anyone's freedom, I conversely ask that no one interfere with my right to sleep at a reasonable hour and not be woken up by a "rhummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm pahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" at a audio level high enough to deafen any healthy human being.

Where is all of this going?  I don't really know.  I just feel like this is an long-overdue rant.  If you ride a motorcycle, then good for you.  I just want you to GIVE the same level of respect and courtesy that you ASK for from others.  If you see one of your peers acting like an idiot, then call them out on it.

Oh, and for God's sake wear a f&^%king helmet!  Nothing amazes me more than listening to someone defend the "right" to go highway speeds with nothing between their skulls and asphalt.  Want to not wear a helmet and drive your motorcycle?  Fine, then in my universe you would:

1) Be forced to pay far more for health insurance


2) Be forbidden from receiving any and all government assistance for your health care bills in the event that your skull becomes road pate and you end up being a veggie for the rest of your life (if you are lucky that is).

Choices matter, and sacrificing the wind in your hair and bugs in your teeth in exchange for preventing a cracked cranium seems like a pretty damn reasonable trade-off to me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yeah (local high school sports) Team!

When was the last time, prior to last night, I attended a high school football game?  The honest answer is as follows:  I really don't freak'n know.  It has been that long.

And so the stage was set yesterday when I got the call from Ms Rivers wondering if I would be interested in attending yesterday evening's Wyoming Area vs. Northwest Area football game.  I confess that at first my answer was "no", as I was still at work, had to deal with an a setback on one of my projects, was facing a trip to CVS to score some 'roids for my asthma (which is acting up due to my lingering cold), and I had a business continuation planning (BCP) test for work to conduct at home.  In short, I felt stressed.  Fast forward about 20 minutes and I am leaving CVS, thinking to myself "screw it, I can leave the game, get home by 10pm and complete my test well before 11:59pm" (the BCP test had to be completed on Friday).   So, to make a long story short, I found myself navigating the backstreets of West Pittston PA, looking for a parking spot outside of Wyoming Area's football stadium.

Now for the record, I need to explain my knowledge of, and experience with, high school football.  That would be "none".  I attended Bishop Hannan High School in Scranton, which was notable for being "Tech with ties" (translation:  Scranton Central HS was to the Jesuit Scranton Prep HS...the "smart" Bishop Hannan HS was to Scranton Technical HS...the "dumb" schools) and for not having a football team.  I'll also note that, at the time of my graduation, I was 6'3.5" tall and weighed about other words I was more of a goalpost than football player.  Making this even more of a knowledge disaster, Ms Rivers is a graduate of Philadelphia's Girls' High, meaning that her knowledge of high school football is about as laughable as mine.  But man, we both know a hell of a lot about the pension business.  Anyway, the stage was set.

After finding my partner in (un)knowledge, I proceeded to take in all that is high school football.  A few observations:

  • For a small town, this is a community event.  It is as much about having an evening out as it is about sports.  Hell, most of the horde of little kids running around couldn't care less about the game. Most of the people wandering around weren't really paying attention to the game either.  And all of this was okay.  It's really not that much about sports anyway.
  • I still don't get the concept known as "cheerleading".  I couldn't understand more than half the words they "cheered".  It think it's just an excuse to somehow include girls in the process.
  • High school football teams have small supporting army of folks.  It's fascinating watching the sidelines, as it is this odd combination of focus and disorder.
  • High school football is far more fun to watch that college or professional football. More mistakes, bigger plays.  The coaches take more chances.  As a sport, I can understand the attraction.
  • I don't know how people in the South can watch high school football games in warm weather.  It seems to be almost required that the air be cool for events such as this.
I did snap a few pictures with the camera phone, but must are, well, horrible.  I needed better gear, but none was there.  If there is a next time I'm going to bring an SLR.  If there is a next time.  There probably will be.  Maybe.

In the end, I was very glad I attended.  It was as much an exercise in Sociology as it was anything else.  It was also just nice to be outside on a nice Fall evening with my partner in crime.  A splendid time was had by all.

For the record, I did complete the BCP test, with time to spare.

Oh, and Wyoming Area won the game.  Details HERE.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blah, just blah

There are times when a blogger just shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard, and this is probably one of them.  Oh well...found it!

I don't get sick all that often, but I've now been working on the minor-but-annoying symptoms of a cold for something like a week and a half now.  It's getting old.  I'm trying hard not to cough too much, but 'tis not working all that well.

I don't have bad days at work all that often, but today was the exception.  Too many emails, too many changes, too much chaos, too many deadlines, too many times when I felt like I just didn't get it right.  So much having to talk to people.  I'll catch up tomorrow, but Thursday is an all day seminar that will require much in the way of small talk.  I'll end up being exhausted by the end of the day.  I haven't had a chance to get to the gym in almost a week and a half, and I feel like a slug.

I haven't been nearly as productive at home over the past few days either.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's just the OTC stuff I'm taking to counter the cold symptoms.  Man, I despise that "medicine-head" feel.

Making it all so very much worse?  All the political CRAP that permeates everything these days.  Two more weeks of this?  I think I'll end up insane first.  Oh, and I make the previous statement knowing full well that I'll probably be okay no matter who wins the election (and that I'm not going to vote for either Obama or Mittens).

Do I feel better now, having ranted?  Not especially.  One thing is for sure though:  tomorrow I'll just have to do it again. Cue the Kinks...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rev. Dr. Phil Snider

Well worth watching:  Rev. Dr. Phil Snider speaks about pending legislation in Springfield Mo. that would ban "special" rights for citizens who are gay.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Punkin" Patch

I love the pumpkin (or, as the NEPA natives say, "punkin") patch.  Always have, always will.  My annual Fall trek was this past Saturday, and Ms Rivers was kind enough to tolerate my incessant picture taking.

(tone wall & pumpkins...I love the all the shades of green off-set by the orange.

It's not really a pumpkin patch if they have to import the pumpkins, but still...

I love how the red Massey-Ferguson tractor stands out in the Earth tones of the field.  Wish the house wasn't in the background though.

I love taking pictures of stone walls.

Okay, not the punkin patch, but my new vehicle...but I like the color.

I'm heading to southeast Pennsylvania this weekend, hoping for more Fall foliage to appear in front of my lens.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Big (Science) News

Screw the debates, here's the really big news:  Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B!

Details HERE and HERE.

I can say with complete honesty that this is something I've been waiting to hear for a number of years.  Why?  The Alpha Centauri trinary system is only a hair over 4 light years...practically down the block in terms of galactic distance.  While this particular planet is far too close to Alpha Centauri B to support life as we know it, call it a harbinger of things to come:  if there is one rocky planet in the system, there could very well be others.

It could very well be that, within my lifetime, a planet capable of supporting life as we may know it could very well be discovered in a nearby solar system.  How cool would that be?

Fire up the Jupiter 2.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The farce that is Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. continues...

I've written about this before (reference HERE).  Basically the constituents of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr are not being represented in their federal government because a member of Congress wants to collect a paycheck but not actually show up for work.  This is, at best, shameful.

Anyway, you can read the latest in the Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr saga HERE.

To repeat what I said in July about Rep. Jackson...

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

Monday, October 15, 2012

In Remembrance

We lost a co-worker at the office over the weekend.  While I can't say I knew her personally, I can say that she was someone who always said hello to me, always had a smile, always was in motion.  She worked hard and made a difference, and in the end you really can't ask for much more in a lifetime.  Even a short lifetime.

While I don't consider "Day By Day" to a song for grief, it was the song that was going through my head as I thought about what it means when someone leaves us before their time.

Rest in Peace Debbie.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Death for Blogging: What some adtults can learn from a 14 year old girl

I've been following the care of 14 year old Malala Yousafzai, and if you are a blogger you should too.

Article link HERE.

You can also link to excerpts of Malala's blog HERE.

An article on her current condition can be found HERE.

In Pakistan, a 14 year old girl blogs under her own name, risking death at the hands of the Taliban.  Why?  Because she has the courage of her convictions.  Contrast that to so many in the United States...even on local NEPA blogs...who lack the courage to take responsibility for what they write without taking anywhere near the same risks.  I am speaking, of course, about the countless "anonymous" commentators we have on the Internet.

It's amazing the lessons some adults can learn from a child.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Politicians aren't the only spinmeisters

From CNET...

Maybe Samsung didn't do all that much Apple copying after all.

In case you didn't know, Apple Computer won a massive victory in court over Samsung, basically saying that Samsung copied Apple's designs.  One of the chief sound-bytes from the case, widely reported across all media, was a quote from an Samsung executive who reportedly said:

"...make something like the iPhone"

to designers.  Sounds like copying, right?

Well hold on there for a moment.  It seems that Apple (& its cadre of lawyers) engaged in a bit of spinmeistering, the kind of stuff that both Presidential campaigns have done; you know, taking just a sliver of a sound-byte out of context.

Here's the actual quote from the Samsung executive, as taken from the article:

"I hear things like this:  Let's make something like the iPhone."

In other words, not "copy the iPhone" but rather "people say we should copy the iPhone".  That's the difference between...

"People say I write in the gonzo style of Dr Hunter S. Thompson."


"I copied the work of Dr Hunter S. Thompson and called it my own."

The Samsung executive goes on to say:

"When everybody talks about the UX (a Samsung phone model), they weigh it against the iPhone.  The iPhone has become the standard.  That's how things are already."

A further nail in the Apple spin-machine logic.

I'll let folks come to their own conclusions, to the extent they care, about this kind of stuff (they should, but that's another topic for another day).  My conclusion is this:  Apple is sleazy.  They portray this Hippster vibe of peace, love, Steve Jobs and granola, but that's really not what he company is about.  They are simply ruthless business people who don't care who dies making their products (Foxconn anyone?) and how much truth they need to stretch in order to make even more money.  They are a-kin to the worst Wall Street types, except they sell gadgets.

And iTunes sucks.

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Keep talking, talky person"

The title sentiment was found on this graphic...

...that I grabbed from the blog "dept of lindsey".  The phrase has become something of a favorite of mine lately, although some of the other points made in the graphic are pretty spot-on as well.

What's interesting about the whole "where you get your energy from*" discussion for me is that I really, really didn't think about this sort of thing all that much until about two years or so ago.  When faced with challenges...or when looking for energy...introverts tend to look within, and in 2010 I had more than my share of challenges.  Now I've suspected my own introversion for quite a while, and the 4 or so MBTI diagnostics I've had run since about 1996 all consistently show that I am about as introverted as a human can get.  That point has never been shocking for me, but I never really spent that much time thinking about it either.  I did a search of this blog (you can too, just type in "introvert" in the search box) and found that I really started to think...and write...more about this aspect of myself much more over the past 2-3 years.

So what?

Well the "what" for me has been a greater measure of self-understanding and appreciation.  I feel better about myself the more I understand about myself.  I know, the previous sentence is bordering on nonsensical, but it does have the benefit of being true.  How about this instead:  "Having a greater understanding of self leads to a greater appreciation of self"?  Now there, that sounds better.

In the end, I suspect part of life is this constant action to find out how we, as individuals matter.  It's trying to figure out how we can be better...and feel better...not necessarily for "the world", but maybe more honestly for ourselves.  If you don't like yourself, then where's the logic in sharing that which you don't like with "the world"?  The only person we are truly with all the time is ourselves, and it astounds me, in retrospect, how little I've thought of myself over the years.  I suspect that I am not alone in that regard.  "Talky-persons" simply hide the sentiment differently.

As for me, I'm moving forward.  I'm working on being a better person.  I am constantly trying to improve.  The challenge has been and continue to be this notion of being able to accept failings as opportunities, not as some kind of damning universal absolute that leaves a scarlet letter on one's soul.  Sean's not the only one trying to re-build...I suspect we all are, all be it consciously or otherwise.  When we stop is when, well, everything stops for us.

(*) Introversion vs Extroversion is described as where one get's energy in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a tool used to quantify personal  preferences.  A "personality test" if you will\, although I don't think that phrase does MBTI justice.  It's a terrific tool when used as part of a personal self-discovery process or when a group may benefit from a better sense of  the strengths & preferences of individual members.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My life is (nearly) complete: I got to see a DeLorean.

One of the greatest cars ever made was the DeLorean...the same car used by Marty McFly for time travel in the Back to the Future movies.  While shopping for a car yesterday at Nationwide Car Sales in Wilkes-Boro, I was astounded to find none other than a DeLorean in the showroom.  Apparently the car belonged to the owner of the dealership (who also owns Ken Pollack Nissan and Ken Pollack Suzuki) and was not for sale.  The vehicle was completely restored and had a hair over 1,000 miles on  the odometer.  Since I was spending a fair sum of money on a car at the dealership and since we had some time to kill with the paperwork associated with buying a car, photos were taken.

Up close with a classic car.  The stainless steel exterior is way cool.

Gull-wing door!  The doors actually don't take much side room to open; as you can see the driver-side door is actually really close to the wall, but yet opened with room to spare.  Pay no attention to the stranger in the background.

Sadly, this DeLorean did not have a Flux Capacitor.  The gas fill is actually right in front of the windshield.

DeLorean interior.  Cutting edge stuff for 1981.  You end up sitting so low in this car...literally just a few short inches off the actual ground.  

Manufactured June 1981.  Some of the dealer guys told me that the DeLorean used a Volvo engine.  

The actual vehicle I ended up buying:  a 2011 Nissan Rogue.  I am really happy with the choice.  

While I have been looking at/reviewing cars for several months now, yesterday was the first serious day of car shopping.  We stopped at Nationwide, as Ms Rivers had previously purchased her car there.  We ended up looking at three different vehicles (all were AWD, all were 2011 model year vehicles and the Toyota & Nissan both had a locking differential for really bad snow):
  • Mitsubishi Endeavor - Really big, but handled reasonably well.  Had a ton of storage space.  I really didn't like the dash/controls (the radio was just a bunch of random buttons on the dash).
  • Nissan Rogue - Loved how it handled...drove like an upscale sedan.  Controls are excellent, and I love dark red.  Had the smallest cargo space of the three we drove, but it also though was head-n-shoulder above the others in handling.  Controls are excellent.  The front seats are very comfortable.
  • Toyota RAV4 - Packed more cargo room into a seemingly small space than the Nissan did.  Handling was great, but the vehicle felt somehow lighter than the Nissan.  Controls were decent, although it had fewer display options than the Nissan did (didn't have, for example, a "distance to empty" reading).  
In the end, I sacrificed some cargo space for far better handling.  Note that Consumer Reports rates both the RAV4 & the Nissan as being very reliable.  Coming from a very logical mind this next statement may seem out of place, but I'll say it anyway:  I also really liked the color of the Nissan.

Many thanks to my partner in crime, Ms Rivers, for helping me with the decision making process.

New car and a DeLorean:  'twas a good day.

Mittens and Big Bird

I like Big Bird.  In fact, there have been times when I have actually felt like big bird:  too tall, big nose, big feet, awkward, etc.   We have, in fact, much in common.  I have also been a member of my local PBS affiliate, WVIA, for a very long time.  So if you are angered by Mittens proposal to kill funding for PBS, then I have a suggestion for you:

I have this sneaking suspicious that if everyone who is creating "memes" about Mittens & Big Bird actually became a member of their local PBS affiliate then PBS wouldn't need the government's money anyway.  If that happened, Social Conservatives* could then spend more time trying to save Americans from that pox on society known as "the Arts".  Or fluoridated water.

For the record, while I do like Big Bird, my favorite Sesame Street character has always been Oscar the Grouch.  As a very young boy I had a poster that showed Oscar's home underneath the trash was way cool.

Yes, if you fervently believe in the mission of PBS and you are opposed to Mittens' proposal to cut funding, then by all means make your voice heard.  But also put your money where your mouth is and join your local PBS affiliate.  Simply complaining while failing to shell out a few bucks for something you support is best.

(*) Note that PBS funding really isn't an issue for fiscal conservatives, it's one for social conservatives.  If it really were a fiscal issue and it were ranked in order of "biggest buck for cut" by the federal government, then PBS funding would be about #1569 in line for funding elimination.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Road Apples, #131

Voter ID...Pennsylvania's poorly conceived and politically motivated voter ID law will not be enforced for the November general election.  As I have said several times, this is a solution in search of a problem.  The law should be repealed and the issue studied.  Where there is a history voter fraud perhaps a photo Id should be required.  Note, however, the sequence:  "Problem Identified" then "Legislation enacted".  If you can't identify and quantify the problem, then don't pass a law to fix it.  Simple.

Tom "Frank Drebin" Corbett...can't be a happy guy now.  Even my uber-conservative brother thinks the guy is going a poor job of governing Pennsylvania.  One get's the distinct impression that the governor either...

...doesn't realize how his policies come across to the majority of Pennsylvania residents


...doesn't care how his policies come across to the majority of Pennsylvania residents

Either alternative is far from ideal.  Whether it's corporate welfare (Shell made nearly 6 billion dollars in profit this year...during the months of April to June alone...and they need a kickback from US????), playing pass the buck with education funding (lower state funding and the difference is simply made up by local taxes) or the politically motivated voter ID law, clearly this guy has some mixed up priorities.  If this were any other state I'd say that his chances of getting re-elected were slim to none, but then again this is Pennsylvania.  We must maintain our "8 years of a Republican followed by 8 years of a Democrat followed by 8 years of a Republican..." pattern, no matter what.

Debating the Debate...I'm not sure I'm going to watch tonight's "sound-byte fest", also known as the Presidential debates.  Most people don't understand that the commission that sets these debates is basically a conglomeration of both Republican and Democratic political hacks who carefully orchestrate an event that excludes BOTH alternative candidates (such as Gary Johnson) and deeper discussions about the issues that matter.  No, these debates are more a beauty contest than anything else, save for the occasional major gaff that could in fact turn an election.

Mold in Scranton Schools...Much as been reported about mold in one of Scranton's public elementary schools.  Conventional wisdom and basic science teaches us that mold is the result of prolonged exposure to moisture.  But this is only partially true on Scranton.  In my (current) city, mold has a third cause:  gross incompetence.  It's no secret that the Scranton School District (like many in the NEPA) has been run at least partially like an employment agency for the connected.  One needs only look at the Scranton School District's off-again, on-again, and off-again anti-nepotism policy for validation.  One other bellwether:  in a business that employs, say, 1,000 people, how many (or what percentage of the workforce) ends up getting terminated for poor performance?  Say about 2-3% per year?  Now let's ask the same question about the Scranton School District.  I'm thinking that, over the last 5 years, virtually no one in the district has been terminated for cause.  That must mean that everyone is doing an outstanding job, right?  I know a moldy school on Prescott avenue that seems to provide evidence to the contrary.

Bottom line:  The Scranton School District has been poorly managed (word "managed" used intentionally, as opposed to "leadership") for decades.  There will be no accountability for this latest moldy school, just as there was no accountability for the last moldy school.

Speaking of the Scranton School District...I was honored to stop by Tom Borthwick's "Borthday" party and campaign kick-off last Friday.  I'm not going to claim that Tom will the savior of the district, if elected, but I will say that he is genuinely passionate about education.  I can't say the same thing about most (if not all) of the current board directors.  The Scranton School District needs less of the politically connected crowd making decisions, period.

Cars...Thanks to the crew at Jack Williams Tire & Auto in Moosic for selling me some great new tires for the Kia Rio.  I had bought tires at a competitor about a year or so ago and they were already failing.  I was very happy with the experience.  In other car news, Ms Rivers and I will be looking at cars this coming Saturday.  An initial, serious shopping expedition, if you will.  I'm thinking either the Nissan dealership in Wilkes-Boro (I love driving Nissan's when I get them as rentals, and the Rogue is the about the size I am looking for) or the Suzuki dealership in Pittston.  Could I possibly stretch this whole process out any longer?