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

Monday, January 30, 2012

Things I Wish My Father Had Told Me (so I am telling my daughters)

As I have noted before in this space, my father was not all that involved in my life when I was growing up, save for throwing me some money every once in a while. One of the outcomes of that particular circumstance was that I have always tried to be for my own children all that my father wasn't for me. In the most important sense I have already accomplished the greater part of this by virtue of just being around.  Secondarily, my daughters have heard, to the point of nausea, me offer countless points of life advice over the years. For whatever reason I feel compelled to spell the most important nuggets of this "wisdom" over the next few minutes.  That noted, here goes...in no particular order, for no particular reason.

Take Care of Yourself
Never forget that you are precious and unique, so much so that you have an obligation to always take care of yourself. Don't ever let someone else tell you that taking care of yourself is somehow a selfish act, because it is not!  What I am talking about is exactly what they tell you when you hear the safety notices after boarding an airplane: before you put the oxygen mask on someone else, first put one on yourself. Why? Well in fact the only way (in an airplane emergency OR in life in general) you will ever truly be able to help others is by first helping yourself. You are not a secondary creation...you are just as important as any other human on the planet today.  Be kind and be helpful to others, but never forget that you need to be kind and helpful to yourself.

Choose Life
Make the positive, affirmative choice to live your life. Don't sit by and passively wait for tomorrow to come, or for something good "to happen" to you.  As John Lennon once noted, "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans".  The good and the bad are both a part of life, and it doesn't make sense ruminate over either happening or not happening.

No "Thing" Will Ever Make You Happy
Real happiness doesn't come from the outside, it comes from the inside.  It isn't something that you can get in the mail, from a car dealership, from the mall or from someone else for that matter.  It also can't come from a pill or any other drug...if it did...if there were a "happy" pill....don't you think that everyone would be taking it?  No, real happiness in my opinion (based in part on a book I read that was written by Gordon Lingston, MD), comes from a very few but simple things:
  • Having something meaningful to do in your life (*)
  • Having someone to love (**)
  • Having something to look forward to (***)
(*) Don't have something meaningful to do?  Then find something!  The universe is full of wonders waiting to be discovered.

(**) Don't have someone to love?  Well first learn to love yourself.  More on that in a moment.  The rest will happen naturally.

(***) Don't take the "thing" in "something to look forward to" too literally, as I think it can be anything from a weekend off from work, reading a new book or even the Spring coming.  It's not complicated, and over the years I have discovered that some of the most remarkable things are also the simplest.

You Can't Really Love Someone Else...until you learn to love yourself first
It's an interesting concept actually:  I think we all want someone in our life to love and who will love us in return, but in reality we can't give away what we don't actually own in the first place. To be in a healthy, loving relationship we first need to be healthy.  That doesn't mean being perfect...physically or mentally...but it means that you are self-aware enough to understand that with love comes responsibility, first and foremost, to ourselves.

[Get the impression that these things are inter-related?]

Attitude Counts...the most!
One of my favorite quotes is from W.C. Fields and speaks exactly to what I have learned about attitude:

"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."

(from Thinkexist.com)

He was right.  How you feel...be it about yourself, the world, your job, what kind of day you are going to have...dictates everything else about your existence.  A related thought comes from the person I report to at work, a man who has a doctorate and has done extensive work in the area of individual performance.  He states that how you FEEL dictates how you THINK which dictates what you DO.  Feel=>Think=>Do.  Pretty powerful stuff when you consider that your attitude is one of the few things in life that you absolutely, positively, entirely control.  No one has the ability to climb in your head.  No one has the ability to change your attitude, not at least without your permission.

Make the choice to be positive.

Make the choice to see the universe as being full of opportunities.

As I noted above, Chose Life.

Keep the Past in the Rear-View Mirror
It's important to remember things in the past, but there is a difference between "remembering" and "ruminating".  To the extent that thinking about the past can help us solve the issues of today, well then I think it is certainly useful to keep it in mind.  To the extent that it serves no purpose other then self-flagellation, well then perhaps the mind is better spent on more productive endeavors.  The key here is that we can't change what has happened to us, but we definitely have a say in what will happen to us.  Keep the focus on the here and now, with an eye towards the future.

And finally...

Never, Ever Stop Learning
Maybe it's because of what I do for a living, but the older I get the more passionate I become about wanting to continue to learn.  I want the same for you.  There is a tinge of the ironic here:  when we are younger our minds are more capable of learning, they are more elastic.  The problem though is that we get conditioned to almost not like learning.  We get frustrated with school, we get bored by the methods used to teach us, etc.  Regardless, as we grow older, we certainly know more, but our minds aren't nearly as naturally elastic as they were when we were children.  This doesn't mean we stop learning...it simply means that we need to work harder at learning.  Here are some things I want to learn over the next few years:

  • I want to finally learn how to play a few chords on the guitar.  
  • I would really love to learn some Italian phrases.
  • I want to learn more about traditional Human Resources work (as opposed to the unconventional stuff I do for a living).
  • I am interested in learning more about organizational design theory.
  • I am learning more about Episcopal faith.
Just to name a few, and these things come on top of what I dabble in all the time, such as computers/technology (I will get the Linux netbook working...), cars, electrical work, reading and (to state the obvious) writing.

Never stop moving...forward that is.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Road Apples, #119

Happy Belated Birthday...to my older (by 15 months) brother Rich, who turned 49 on the 14th.  Hehehehe, he's old.

Katy Perry...who is getting divorced from horse-faced comedian Russell Brand, has a cat named "Kitty Purry".  I swear this is true, as I read it in Us magazine.

The Republican Primary Race...is getting interesting.  Never have I seen such a group of tragically flawed individuals, one of which will end up running against a President with a mediocre record.  This is George W. Bush vs John Kerry, all over again.  Let's pretend I am a traditional Republican...white, middle-aged or older, Protestant...who do I vote for?  None of the candidates look like me.  Heck, the two most conservative candidates are Catholic for God's sake! Don't they worship the Pope?

SOTUS...Just curious, since when did we start referring to the State of the Union speech as the SOTUS?  Probably about the same time we started calling the Supreme Court the "SCOTUS".  Boy, and I thought my employer was acronym happy!  Anyway, I didn't watch the speech lat night.  Actually I never watch the speech.  Well make that virtually never.  I much prefer to actually read the text, that way I can get the ideas without the bombastic theater associated with the presentation.  Besides, I loathe campaign commercials, and EVERY SOTUS in an election year is really just a campaign speech.  Unless you are Rush Limbaugh I guess, who probably just sees that in SOTUS by Democrats.

Speaking of radio's favorite Hillbilly Heroin addict...El Rushbo was quoted as saying that "Ron Paul sounds like an Islamic terrorist" the other day.  You can read a citation HERE.  Now I disagree with Ron Paul on some fronts, but this is just ridiculously silly.  I guess anyone who thinks that maybe minding our own business in the world is, in Limbaugh's eyes, a terrorist.  The near constant avocation of military force by someone who went out of his way to avoid serving in the military is laughable at best.  Yes, that's right all you "Ditto Heads" out there...Rush Limbaugh is a "patriot" (according to geniuses such as Sean Hannity) but somehow someone like John Kerry (who besides looking like Frankenstein and sounding like Thurston Howell III, served his country with honor and distinction in Vietnam) isn't.  Strange days indeed.

Travel...I've been traveling on business quite a bit lately, and I have to admit that it is getting quite tiring.  Anyone who thinks that traveling on business is....

...cool
...glamorous
...exciting

...needs to get their head examined.  Trust me, even when it is a day trip, spending 7 hours at full alert as you play "Mad Maxx" with trucks on I84 isn't fun...it's exhausting.  I'm not asking for pity here, as in some respects it is great that I have a job where I get paid to do such things, but it's also not the best part of my job.  This is all part of the package though when you work hard at your profession and have any measure of success.  By the way, this is one of the areas where I part ways with some of the left:  I do believe that anyone can succeed, but it requires hard work and determination.  It also requires some luck, but luck is often times not quite so random a thing in that it seems to come to those who, as it turns out, work hard.  So while traveling on business isn't all it's cracked up to be, it's a far cry from where I started as a kid, growing up in the Midtown Apartments.  Here's to enjoying life in about the 40 (as opposed to the 1) %.


Monday, January 23, 2012

We're not really just a bunch of jock obsessed coal-crackers in NEPA...

...although you would not know it from the front page of today's Scranton Times, which was a full page color picture of the late Joe Paterno.

Forget the fact that we are inching towards a possible conflict in the Straights of Hormuz, as the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln crossed Iran's "do not cross" line. (see HERE).

Forget the newly tightened race for the GOP Presidential nomination.

Forget the E.U. voting on sanctions on Iran.

Forget just about anything else that happened in the world.  No, in Scranton, the single most important thing happening...so much so that it blew out all other news reports and was, by appearances, an equal event to the 9.11 attacks...was that a football coach died.

Now I am full of Penn State pride.  Unlike most Penn State fans in NEPA, I actually attended the university and proudly have my Penn State Bachelor's degree proudly hanging in my humble abode.  I am a life member of the Penn State Alumni Society, I have a Penn State license plate, and I proudly served on the Penn State Harrisburg Alumni Society Board of Directors.  I also want to add that from my youngest years I have been a Penn State fan.  Oh, and I have contributed financially to the University for many years (but not in 2011...that was another post).  In short, I am a Penn Stater, and I should care as much...if not more...than most.

I also grieve for the Paterno family.  Coal Region Voice has a great posting on Paterno HERE.  But I realize that the sad passing of a beloved coach is just that:  a sad passing.  It is not the most important thing happening in...

...Scranton
...Pennsylvania
...the United State
...or the world as a whole

Unfortunately you could not discern that fact from today's Scranton Times.

Today the Scranton Times did us all disservice by once again effectively talking down to the residents of the area.  The front page of today's paper basically treats all of us as if we are star-struck pre-teens.  The cover page was the equivalent of the National Enquirer, giving us pop culture (of which sports is a part) instead of real news.

What's that they say about "bread and circuses"?

We deserve better from our local newspaper.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Barry Goldwater

From a Facebook posting by Justin Vacula, Joe Moreno.


All I can say is "Very Well Put".

By the way, substitute "preacher" for "mullah" and "these Christians" for "these Muslims" and you would get the standard talking point for many on the ultra-right.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"You will never..."

There are few things in this world more motivating than being told "you will never....".  It is almost a dare to success, and for me, it's an important reminder that I've accomplished much in a relatively short life.

As is the case with many things in my life, the details aren't nearly as important as the underlying moral of the stories.  Recently one of these stories came to pass, and after the dust settled, I was reminded of one of those "you will never..." comments from a while ago.  I'm not treating this as one of those moments for gloating, because that kind of thing is useless...it's the equivalent of the sugar high in that the supposed great feeling always leads to a crash afterwards.  No, I am going to take this moment to contemplate some of the things that I've learned about myself.  A few of these lessons include:
  • The Long Run...When faced with big life decisions, always vote for the option that offers the best outcome over the long term.  In addition to long-term payoffs usually being better, there is something wonderful to be said about incremental steps being made towards an important goal.  Success snowballs with long-term goals.
  • Be Positive...I really, really wish someone would have sat me down years ago and simply said "You know what? Your own attitude is one of the few things in life that truly belongs to you.  Make the choice to be positive." I know this now, but it took a long time to figure it out.
  • The Grass Is Not Always Greener...No one really has it all.  You know that person you see walking down the hallway (be it at school, work, the shopping mall, etc.) who seems just "perfect"?  Well they are not.  Assuming that they are human, they have their own stories and issues, just like you or I.  Yes, some folks have learned to carry themselves well, and others have learned the whole positive thing that took me a while to figure out, but they still have their share of issues in life to handle.  I've learned...now...to never assume that I am so defective as to be an abomination to the species. 
  • Moss Gathers on the Immobile Stone...I am at my best when I am doing something; I am at my worst when I am sitting around doing nothing.  I suspect that this is true for most folks.  
I know, none of this is really all that significant in the revelation department, but so be it.  I promised myself that, at some point, I'd do a few small things to celebrate a recent milestone and writing this helps to keep that promise.  Check.

On the final album recorded by the Beatles, Abbey Road*, the last listed song is actually a combination of short song snippets referred to as "the medley".  The last words sung in the medley go as follows:

...and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make

Fitting, huh?  Now to be fair, this isn't the last thing you actually hear on the album.  On the vinyl LP there is actually a bonus, unlisted track called "Her Majesty".  It's a perfect coda of sorts: a statement about "the end" followed by something that basically says "don't take it all so seriously".  That's as important as just about anything else I've noted here...in any posting.


(*) Abbey Road was the last Beatles album recorded, but it was not the last released...that would be "Let It Be".

Friday, January 13, 2012

Modern Music

While my youngest daughter is home on winter break, she often works from 6am to 2pm.  On those days I take her to work, which necessitates getting up early to get my day started.  On some of these mornings I have MTV playing in the background, and shockingly, they actually play music in the morning.  Yes, actual music videos.  Well, I suspect that it depends no your definition of "music".

I know, I'm going to sound like an old guy, but so be it.  I honestly don't think much of the a-typical urban rap stuff sounds, as it is neither unique or even slightly interesting.  The visuals are equally boring, as once you've seen some scantily clad 18 year old "dancing" in a video, you've seen them all.  By and large the artists in these videos look and sound the same, as there are only so many ways you can do the "tough guy rapper" look.  Oh, and the grills look really stupid.  I will point out that one of the artists I've seen at least looks quasi-classy...that would be the rapper known as "Pitbull".



Actually his look kind of reminds me of the Rat-Pack, sans tie, circa 1962.  The music?  Not so thrilling, as his gimmick is the same as what every other rapper rants about, with the addition of frequent references to Cuba, where Mr Pitbull apparently hails from.  But hey, a jacket and dress shirt is better than a puffy black winter coat or 345lbs of gold chain (while bragging about "bitches").

Now in fairness, I do have some more urban music in my collection.  I like Alicia Keys/JayZ "Empire State of Mind" song.  I also have the Kanye West tune "Gold Digger", as I may have noted in the past.  Note that while I like the "Empire State of Mind" song, I absolutely love the Newark parody...


If you've ever been to Newark then you will definitely get this one.

So despite what you may read here, I am going to try and keep an open mind about music.  Actually I've been trying to listen to more classical music, and with my new Klipsch earbuds, I am actually really enjoying some stuff.  Ms Rivers must be proud of me, but I'm also not making any promises.

To end this rant, here's something very fitting:  one of the greatest rock-n-roll bands in the world singing about, well, rock-n-roll.  Ladies and gentlemen, time for some maximum R&B...


Watching Keith Moon and Pete Townshend reminds you of just how glorious music used to be, back when it involved instruments, singing and...well...talent.

Rock is dead they say....long live rock!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Say what you want about the man & his morals, just don't "dis" capitalism

I find stories like this to be fascinating...

GOP: Anti-Romney Ads Go Too Far

Here is what is being said:

Mitt Romney can carpet bomb Newt Gingrich over his morals, his record, his basic level of sanity...and that's okay!  Hell, Mitt claims to not even be behind the ads.

Question the antics of Mitt Romney during his tenure at Bain Capital?  Why how dare they!  They are going too far!  Newt should be ashamed of himself!

Just how hypocritical can they get?  Newt Gingrich didn't invent negative attack ads in this campaign; Mitt Romney's surrogates did that in Iowa, thank you very much.  While there is some truth in all these advertisements (Yes, Newt did serve one of his former spouses divorce papers while she was being treated for cancer. Yes, Bain Captial has made big profits from firms it pushed into bankruptcy), the claims of outrage by the likes of Santorum, Hillbilly Heroin Addict Limbaugh, the Wall Street Journal, etc. fail the propriety test in an almost laughable manner.  Particularly galling is the notion by Romney that somehow he had nothing to do with the anti-Newt ads in Iowa.  Yes, he had nothing to do with the ads run...against his opponents...by a SuperPac that supports him...that is run by his former campaign staff...and funded by people who also contribute to his campaign.

Oh, and this is the party of "Family Values".

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I get a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather...

Mental health break this afternoon in the form of half-day off.  Now there is plenty for me to do in the office, but I do have all of this time off available to me, and since my travel schedule was changed for the week, I decided that it might make sense to enjoy some down time.

Apologies in advance if anyone thinks that this kind of blogging is "trite" by the way.  Wait, scratch the "apology" part.  Note to one and all:  I publicly proclaim that I don't especially care if anyone reads this stuff.  However, if you do read it and find it at least a bit amusing, entertaining, (cough) insightful, then all the better.  If you don't...well...then don't read.

Anyway, back to being trite.

I've had a few things I've wanted to write about over the past few days...I even have an idea for a series of postings...but these days I am long on ideas but short on time.  Part of it is just my profession, as my job requires a fair amount of my physical time (case in point yesterday:  I was in the Scranton office at 6:05am, got back from the Hartford office at 8:30pm), and what physical time it doesn't take is sometimes absorbed  by mental time (meaning that I am thinking about work stuff).  Then we have to factor in the outside stuff I engage in, and there you have it:  not a lot of time.

I know, cry me a river.  It's hard work striving to live a full life.  Note that I said "striving".

Speaking of blogging, I was looking the other day at old blog postings that go back to the mid-2000's, some of which I think I'd like to resurrect here.  That's an idea that's been on the burner for a while, one that I need to pull the trigger on one of these days.  Also, in the spirit of complete honesty, I usually have one or two drafted postings that are sitting in the wings for various reasons.  One such is actually ready to go, although a certain event has to occur first before I can finish and publish it.  In time.

Looking forward, I'm reasonably sure that the professional side of my life will end up hitting a more reasonable stride one of these days/weeks/months.  Well more like I will learn to create a more reasonable pace. As I get older I have become increasingly aware that we do in fact control far more of our environment than we previously believed.  Most importantly, we absolutely control our own attitudes.  In the end that matters the most.

On the personal front, well, there are always variables in life when you have kids, even "kids" that are now legally adults.  Now matter how complex my life can be, it's far better than it could be simply by virtue of the fact that I have wonderful children.  That will not be changing.  Other personal stuff?  Well, stay tuned. For me, 2010 was a year of making big decisions/changes.  2011 was a year of executing on those changes.  2012 will be even more change, but it will be all good.  I'd rather face the uncertainty of change, knowing that it offers possibilities, than the certainty of a sameness that offers...well...just sameness.



"Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid."
- Marcus Aurelius

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Iowa really is "out there"

Want proof positive as to just how disassociated religious conservatives are from reality?  Then you need only look at the results from the Iowa caucus voting (from the Drudge Report, this morning):



Rick Santorum?  Seriously?  I can understand the appeal of Mitt Romney.  The guy is a proven leader, even if you don't like his ability to switch polar opposites on just about every issue known to the American voter.  But Rick Santorum?

Smug

Arrogant

Holier-than-Thou

Genuinely Homophobic

It's a good thing that the Iowa caucuses are predictors of, well, almost nothing.  Why?  Because if they were a genuine barometer of where the GOP votes are going...and Rick Santorum potentially becomes the nominee to run against President Obama...then it will be four more years of a Democratic President.  Mark my words.  Rick Santorum is unelectable in the Fall, period.

Just how out of touch is he?  He was recently quoted as saying that states should have the right to outlaw birth control.  Yes, ban birth control.  Reference HERE.  So all you haters of intrusive government out there,  what say you about a government...Federal or State...that has the right to tell you what you birth control measures you and your partner can use in your intimate relationship?  Seriously, someone out there want to defend this?  I can understand that some one's religious convictions could prevent them from using birth control, but is it the business of any government to simply dictate these choices to you?  This is just a single sample of just how "out there" Rick Santorum is on many issues.

Mark my words:  If Rick, then 4 more years of Obama.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

I'd have to say that the past two weeks have been hectic at best.  Now given the range of things that people experience around the holidays, "hectic" isn't all that bad in the grand scheme of things.  Yes, there are some things I could do without...the annual ritual of major car repairs for example (last year:  oldest daughter's car; this year middle daughter's car)...but ya know what?  It's the "things" in life that actually matter the least anyway.  Besides, I'm sure Phil Vullo & company don't view the "major car repair" thing to be all that bad from their perspective.

Perspective:  yes, in the end, it's all about one's point of view anyway.  The "what" is basically everything I suppose.

As I am sitting here thinking about 2012, there are some of what I would call "tactical" things I want to accomplish, but that kind of list is for another time and another place.  For now, my New Year's resolution is more one of perspective:  namely to keep it.  At my worst I sometimes get almost overcome in the minutiae of whatever is happening in the moment.  It's kind of like my head is underwater...but yet it's because I am sitting in the water and the overhead water is just a wave.  The trick, at least for me, is to remember at those moments in 2012 that:

a) the waves always pass
b) worst case I can simply to chose to stand up & let the wave pass under (instead of over) my head

Easy to remember, but more difficult to apply.  But hey, the important stuff is seldom easy in life, now is it?  What matters is that we can always try, as long as we are alive and kicking (segue to video...).




Here's to having perspective as we all stare down a new year.