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

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Obamacare" Ruling

Just a short comment on the SCOTUS ruling on "Obamacare"...

Funny, but Republicans oppose "Obamacare" because of the mandate to purchase health insurance.

Funny?   How so?

Well it's a not so secret fact that the concept for the mandate came from the Heritage Foundation.  Citation HERE (from the uber-liberal folks at FORBES).  The first government official to actually put a mandate in place?  Yup, that would be a Republican, in the form of Mittens Romney.  Citation HERE (via Mittens himself).  <==Insert Irony.

So why the cries from the Right regarding the individual mandate?  I suspect the reasoning is pretty simple:  because it was actually proposed on a national level by a Democrat.

Now in fairness, had George W. Bush proposed an individual mandate, I suspect that at least most Democrats would be using the exact same arguments being put forth by Republicans now.  Why?  Because this whole mess is as much an exercise in politics and political power as it is anything else.

As for me, I view the whole Affordable Care Act as overly complicated and providing too much of a give-away to firms in the business of health care delivery.  There, I said it.  On the other side, the Republican talking point of "unleashing the power of the free markets" is a LAUGHABLE JOKE.  Newsflash:  Free markets specialize in maximizing profit by minimizing costs.  Is that what YOU want YOUR doctor/hospital to be focused on?  What's more, if the free market is the be-all and end-all, why don't we "unleash the power of the free market" for things like police coverage, fire fighting and the military?  The answer is simple: sometimes the emphasis shouldn't be on profit (so says the private sector guy with a quarter century of business experience...unlike some of my strident conservative...but public sector employed...friends and relatives).

In the end, I am hoping for the best but decidedly un-optimistic for the future.

On a more positive note, Oxycontin addict and bloated talkshow host Rush Limbaugh apparently commented that he would leave the country if "Obamacare" becomes law (citation HERE).  Score!  However, just where would he go?  The vast majority of the civilized world has true socialized medicine, so that limits his choices to such garden spots as Mongolia and Somalia.  It might be hard for Rush to score his stiffy pills in Mongolia, so maybe a move isn't really in his cards.




Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Connected Life

I was reading some of the Facebook posting about the upcoming BlogCon and it just occurred to me how very much the Internet has become intertwined into our lives. Well, intertwined to a certain extent.  Maybe too intertwined.  

One level I find the whole Internet intertwining to be something that borders on magical.  Think about it:  for some folks, Internet tools have enabled people to connect on very personal and profound levels.  People have met life-partners on-line.  People have connected with lost friends, classmates and relatives (those three definitely apply to me).  People have used the Internet to amplify messages far and beyond what might have been possible otherwise.  And I write this as someone who, unlike my children and some fellow bloggers, knew the world BEFORE there was an Internet.  Can you imagine?  Some, sadly, can't.

On another level, let's all confess that there is a certain degree of silliness with the whole "Internet lifestyle".  As someone who lived through the 90's, I still chuckle to myself as a certain co-worker walks by, thinking  "there goes the guy who was sure we would all be buying our groceries on-line by now".  Yes, the Internet is home to more than its share of, shall we say, flying cars.  Also, the Internet didn't create the overly-introverted social misfit devoid of any real social skills, but man does it ever given them almost magical powers...becoming become a kind of crackhouse for those who make the choice to limit their engagement in actual, real, personal, human relationships.

Somewhere between these extremes is the reality of the on-line world.

What I find fascinating is the still nascent concept of "un-plugging" for periods of time.  A friend of my oldest daughter, a young man not quite 24 (I think) proclaimed that he was off the grid for vacation.  I read that and it almost floored me.  Such wisdom, at such a young age no less.  I read a great article a few weeks ago (sadly, I didn't keep the URL) where an academic who is steeped in all things Internet made the decision to go completely offline for a period of time just as an exercise in personal liberation.  Insert irony here:  I read his piece on-line.  Anyway, while two events doesn't make a trend, I think what happens is that the Internet does become a pervasive element of our lives, sometimes to such a great extent that it prevents us from seeing just how pervasive it becomes.  See reference to "crackhouse", above.

Now just where do I fit in all of this?  I am a fairly well plugged-in kind of guy.  At any given time I have two cell phones with me (personal and work), I have a Sony tablet, a netbook (currently down for repairs...if I ever get around to fixing it), a work laptop, a desktop computer and a gaming system that can go on-line.  Lots of tools, but do I use them?  The answer to that would be a "yes".  Probably too much.  In point of fact I probably spend too much time engaged on-line, but in my own defense, I am something of an information junkie, and the Internet is like having a library, television studio and newspaper following you around at all times.  See reference to "crackhouse", above.

All is not lost though.  I can report, with some pride, that my significant other is decidedly un-plugged, and for that I am externally grateful.  I did though corrupt her in one way:  she started writing a blog for her sons.  Anyway, her stand is that she spends time on computers at work, so she has no desire to spend any extra non-work time on them.    I really, truly admire her for that, as it is both simple to understand (and for the record she has a complex job, so we are not talking about someone engaged in data-entry) yet profound.  Wow, she likes to deal with reality, not virtual reality.  And the Internet is, for all its glory, still a VIRTUAL reality.  That kind of thinking though has made me reconsider my own on-line time, and I have to confess that I am am slowly but surely spending less, but more targeted, time on-line.

We are going on vacation in a few weeks, and I have been strongly considering just what this means for my "virtual life".  By the way, it sounds pathetic that I even have a "virtual life".  Can I take that back?  Regardless, my thought is that I may bring one cell phone with me...my personal one...and my tablet...and that's it.  The tablet will be there in case I get any creative urges to muse about the sea, or some crap like that.  I can also just play Angry Birds with it.  See reference to "crackhouse", above.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Your Parents Lied: Monsters Are Real

The jury in Bellefonte, PA has convicted former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 of 48 counts involving the molestation of young men.  Story link HERE.

The word "glad" doesn't apply here, as who can be "glad" at this whole sorry state of affairs?  More correctly, I guess I can say that I am "relieved" that justice has been served in this case.  Or has it?

The way I see it, there is another monster in this case:  the monster of big-time college sports programs, where winning trumps everything, including, apparently, the innocence of little boys.  Let's not forget that most of these crimes were committed a decade or more ago.  Why did it take so long for this process to come to this conclusion?  You don't need to be Perry Mason to figure out that anything which would have disrupted the Penn State football program was verboden, period.  Apparently winning football games really was the most important thing at Penn State.

Sadly, I'm sure that the basic concept of what I've noted above continues to this very day, where God knows what is turned a blind eye to in the name of winning at sports.

There are times like this when I wish Dr Hunter S. Thompson were still alive.  HST would know how to tell this "like it is", in a way that would be both visceral and smart.  We need someone to call out the administrators at Penn State for being the weasels that they were for this whole mess.  We need someone to say that Joe Paterno failed, miserably, to live up to his own high moral standards by not immediately and decisively acting on Mike McQueary's accusation, instead of just "reporting it up"...ONCE...and moving on.  No follow-up, no further questions.  Too bad a boy was raped in HIS showers.  Besides, we all know that, in the case of Coach Paterno, there was not "up" to report it to:  he ran the place.

Maybe now some of my Penn State pride can begin to return, although this Life Member of the Penn State Alumni Society is still hanging his head in shame.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What it means to be a Dad.

I'm not going to claim that I've been a model for what I'm about to opine, but that's not the point.  As in most things in life, the real point isn't in the achievement but rather in the effort.

This past Sunday was Father's Day, and while it was a busy day for me, I did want to take a few minutes to openly think about what it means to be a Dad.  


Perfection
Being a Dad isn't about being a perfect person, perfect parent, perfect anything.  We are all equally flawed.  What it is about is the act of trying.  


Love
Being a Dad means that you love your children.  Simple, huh?  Deceptively simple actually.  When you love your children it means that you make them a central part of your life.  "Central part of you life" is different than "obsessing" though.


Time
Being a Dad means that you invest the one thing we all have, time, in your children. Sometimes your children need your time when it's convenient for you, sometimes when it's inconvenient.  In the grand scheme of things there is no inconvenient time, that is if you view your role as a Dad in the proper perspective.


Choices
Being a Dad means that you teach you children about how to make good choices in life.  There are always choices, and sometimes it's not as simple as choosing between "good" and "bad".  Sometimes the choice is between the lesser of two evils.  Sometimes the choice is between two seemingly equal good things.  The trick isn't in guessing right, but rather in having a reasoned ability to make choices and to live your life with your eyes wide open.


Perspective
Being a Dad means that you share your perspectives with your children.  You talk to them like they are fellow human beings, not nodules of flesh that you can control...because in reality you can't control them anyway.


Example
Being a Dad means that you set a good example.  Not a perfect example, but a good example.  You constantly strive to do the simple things in life, like being respectful, in the very best ways you can.


Respect
Being a Dad means that you model respect for others.  It's easy to be respectful to those with whom you agree, but you take it one step further:  you teach your children to be respectful even in disagreement.


Sacrifice
Being a Dad means that you teach the value sacrifice, but not to sacrifice blindly and stupidly.  For example, sacrificing in order to get your child a pony is stupid.  

Entitlement
Being a Dad means that you teach your children the difference between a "want" and a "need".  Giving your children everything they want teaches them that they are entitled to everything they want...which runs counter to how the actual world works.  One day you will be dead and then no one will be there to entertain the every want of your children...and you will have failed.


Work
Being a Dad means that you teach your children the value of hard work.  Any hard work.  You teach them the that there is nobility in effort.  You teach them that there is a reason why sloth is considered a sin.


Learning
Being a Dad means that you teach your children the value of learning.  Mental sloth is just as bad as physical sloth.


Living
Being a Dad means that you demonstrate a desire to live your life...not just talk about living your life, but actually living your life.  Giving up everything for your children and failing to have a life of your own teaches them that they too must give up everything for their children.  Where does it end?  By that logic no one ever gets to life a fulfilling life!  The better option is to have a well lived life that your children participate in...so that they can learn by example how to live well themselves.












Monday, June 18, 2012

Road Apples, #127

Blog Geek...I once in the while find the urge to make subtle changes in stuff on the blog, which was the case yesterday.  Most of said changes are just to amuse myself.  Once in a while it is to amuse someone else.

Scranton...I have been fighting the urge to write about Scranton's financial condition, as smarter people than I are writing about the whole mess.  I may just give in to the urge.  Anyway, I read one morning in the Scranton Times that City Council President Janet Evans is refusing to have council write its own recovery plan until:

1) The Mayor acknowledges that she is smarter than he is...
2) The Mayor appears at a council meeting to be questioned by the lady who invokes Jesus all the time...
3) She gets her disability pension from the Scranton School District...

Man, this is degrading already.  I think I need to quit while I am ahead.

Battleship New Jersey...It was great visiting Philadelphia weekend before last.  As a kid who put plastic models of ships together, I was on one level prepared to visit the New Jersey...I knew the basic ship layout, the armament (16" main guns, 5" secondary guns, etc.)...but on another I wasn't really prepared.  The ship was, I guess, actually smaller than I suspected.  Maybe that's because I'm bigger now than I was when I used to put those models together.  When you consider that something on the order of 1600 sailors at a time served on the ship it seemed even smaller.  It was also saddening as well, in that the front deck of the ship is in need of repair.  Even more sad?  Looking across the Delaware river and seeing the Olympia, slowly rotting into the river.  Ah, the joys of growing up.

Furniture Madness...I am donating my computer desk and hutch (both made of lightly finished pine) to my oldest daughter Katrina.  I've had both for maybe 8 years of so, and it was just time for a change.  Besides, I wanted my daughter to have some nice stuff, unlike me, who just starting out I had, well, nothing.  As far as a replacement is concerned, well there is a not-too-distant-future trip planned for the IKEA, where I have a rather interesting looking office set-up already picked out.  Think something like this:


Of course the down-side to all of this is that I had to disentangle all of the wiring associated with my technology set-up.  Well, since I actually like doing that sort of thing, maybe it's not such a down-side after all.

Work News...We have visitors from other offices coming to work today and tomorrow for thrice annually staff meetings and such.  It's always nice to have folks come to Scranton, even if some of them believe that the area is a back-water hell hole filled with gun-toting hillbillies.

Monsignor Lynn Verdict...Still no verdict in the curious case of Monsignor William Lynn.  Reference HERE. I have been following this the trial started, and it's fascinating stuff.  Personally I think Monsignor Lynn tried to do the right thing but is now being used as a scapegoat for the hierarchy in the Diocese of Philadelphia.  This case should be required reading for every Catholic, as it is very instructive as to how the Church actually works.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Blog Header

I try not to get excited about "internal blog workings" stuff, as for the most part most folks don't care.  In fact I don't really care all that much, a point I have repeated often times in this blog.  Anyway, I bought a copy of Photoshop Elements a few weeks ago, and I have to confess that it makes the process of creating new blog header photos much, much easier.  That translates to me changing them more often, as my limited span of attention applies to what I see as equally as it does to what I do.

The above noted, I did create a new blog header this morning.  All of my blog headers, by the way, are based on photos that I've taken in one place or another.  I really, really enjoy photography.  I don't claim to be great at it, but I will say that I do get compliments from time to time.  This new header is of a garage in Wyncote, Pennsylvania.  The combination of the greenery contrasting with the black of the roof was nice from a color perspective, and the addition of the canoe was just a clincher for me.  It screams "summer".  The folks that own the garage...and the canoe as well...are great folks as well.

Here's the pre-edited photo...


The garage was built into the side of a hill and it has a stone exterior.  My guess is that it is well over a hundred years old.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ten Facebook Foibles

For some reason I have been thinking about Facebook.

  1. Family Feud - Seriously, there are some parts of life that don't require blow-by-blow updates on Facebook. Please do share your life events, but I'm thinking we don't need to know all about your most intense personal drama.  Rule of thumb:  if you wouldn't want it plastered on a billboard in I81, then you shouldn't want it on Facebook. Unless of course this is all a part of some master plan you have devised for world (or at least personal) domination.  Then it's okay, as long as you keep it interesting.
  2. It's Spelled H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y -  Speaking of drama, I am amazed that some folks get so upset when others comment on their postings...you know, the postings they posted themselves.  Newsflash:  if you don't want feedback, then don't post it.
  3. Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam - I don't mind the occasional posting about selling something, but if you are going to use my wall as part of your business strategy, you had first better make sure that I either:  a) personally own & love your products (in my case that would be, for example, Klipsch audio or T-Town Bakery) OR  b) are paying me a handsome fee for advertising services.  Otherwise I will block your postings and drop you faster than an unexpurgated copy of National Geographic at the Duggar household.
  4. Help! Wait, Don't Help! Help! Wait, Don't Help - If you ask for help from others on Facebook, then by all means don't be shocked when others offer it.  When they do offer it, have the decency to be thankful for the assistance, even if what is offered is as effective as Turtleman's toothbrush.
  5. I Don't Want To Play [insert Facebook game name here] With You - I just don't.  Sorry.  No offense.
  6. Feedback - Please do provide me with feedback if something I've written has bothered you.  Note the word "me".  Note the absence of the phrase "veiled references to something I may have said, disguised as a general comment to everyone".
  7. Petitions - I am immune to the guilt* associated with most petition drives, even for the best of causes, so please don't ask me to participate.  
  8. Obscure = Better - I think most folks appreciate the weird, strange and odd on Facebook.  I do.
  9. If It Requires My Personal Stuff To Run, Then I Don't Want It - If in exchange for getting news from Yahoo, socialcam, hipstercam, catcam, or whatever else is out there I need to trade my personal information, well then I guess I'll be left out of the party.
  10. Calculus Was Easier To Figure Out Than Timeline - I can't stand the Facebook timeline.  I am determined to be the last person with the old profile.  I simply don't want to invest the time into trying to figure out how to read the damn thing.  Oh, and I love the little widget I have for Google Chrome that converts FB Timeline into English.

(*)Yes, even though I was raised Catholic.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Eye In The Sky

I saw THIS ARTICLE on Drudge and immediately the Alan Parsons Project song came to mind...




Beware the government?  Hell, I think we need to beware of everyone.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blasting Mittens for earning a living

Much is being made of Mittens and his tenure at Bain Capital, and much of it is being spewed by people, who, I hate to say it, have no clue how private enterprise works in this country.  Oh, and no, I am not going to educate anyone on how businesses secure capital.  Maybe there is a YouTube video on it somewhere.  Besides, I only educate when I get paid to do it...mostly.

What I am going to rant, for a moment, about is the perception by some that somehow business/free enterprise is "evil".  The Left drives me nuts in this regard, especially when they close their eyes to corruption in their own ranks.  Sorry, but I don't think that big union bosses are any more pristine than any other power-brokers in this country.  The fact is this:  free enterprise works and it is responsible for virtually everything we have in this country, including the money we as a society have to help those who are less fortunate.  It is not a perfect system, but it is far more perfect than anything else we have been able to come up with as a species in terms of economic management.

Yes, by the way, I very much do participate in the free enterprise system.  I have never worked in the public sector but I do respect everyone who works hard in their chosen profession, be it public or private.  I do, however, find it disingenuous that some career public sector folks love to malign the business community when it's our work that pays for their freight.  I'm not claiming that all regulation is bad, that capitalism is perfect and that Ayn Rand is some kind of genius.  What I am claiming that business is no more or less inherently evil than government.

Anyway, demonizing Mittens for his work at Bain is just simply wrong.  Was he "in it" for the money?  Of course he was!  Did he make a lot of money?  Of course he did!  Big deal. I know plenty of folks on the Left who enjoy their paychecks.  Besides, venture capitalists aren't all Repbulicans, and demonizing the way that businesses secure funding makes no real sense, as it's simply not an ideological issue. I think Bill Clinton touched on this last week, as did Corey Booker a few weeks before.

There are plenty of issues where Mittens can rightfully be criticized.  Plenty. However, criticizing the very nature of his work at Bain is, at best, a cheap shot and it only plays into the hands of opponents of the President who want to paint him as anti-business.  The Obama campaign and its surrogates can do better.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sandusky & the painful part of justice

Jerry Sandusky's accusers must use their real identities in court.

Article link HERE.

The cheap-n-easy argument here is that the accusers should be allowed to be anonymous, but in my opinion that's simply not okay.  As painful as it might be for the victims, I simply have a tough time with the concept that  anyone can be accused of such a horrible crime in court by an anonymous party.  Yes, I get it, very few individuals would want to stand in a court and admit being raped, particularly by someone of the same sex.  However female victims of sexual assault routinely have to face their attackers in court and be subject to cross examination.  None of this is pretty, but in my non-legal mind it is an essential control to guard against false accusations.

My personal opinion of Jerry Sandusky's guilt or innocence is not all that important.  What is clear to me though is that Penn State's football program was painfully broken, as at a minimum it created a culture where questionable behavior was not allowed to be questioned.  Ironically Jerry Sandusky's lawyers will be able to question accusers in court, even as Jerry Sandusky's conduct was apparently was little-to-never questioned over the course of a decade or more at Penn State.

More dark times for my alma mater.




Sunday, June 3, 2012

From the NCFE Fan Club

New comments from my posting Apologists for the Confederacy:

"no it not u negger lover"


"no its not you nigger lover" 


Both were authored by that well known social critic known as Anonymous.




Oh, and for the record (and directed to Mr/Ms Anonymous), that would be "Mr Nigger Lover" to you.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Is Facebook More Harmful than Helpful?

An interesting opinion piece I read yesterday...

http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/30/tech/keen-technology-facebook-privacy/index.html?hpt=hp_bn11

A few thoughts of my own:

  • Friends - Facebook (FB henceforth)  is redefining what the word "friend" means.  According to my oldest daughter's FB page, she has 394 friends.  Does she really?  I don't mean to pick on her, but I think that in pre-FB days, a "friend" was a  term used to define a relationship that evolved from an acquaintance.  It was someone you actually, physically knew and had a personal relationship with on some level.  In FB land, "friend/acquaintance/someone-I-barely-know/someone-I-don't-know" all mean basically the same thing.  Has FB cheapened what it means to be a friend?  According to my own FB page I have 101 "friends".  In point of fact I actually have probably 20 people in my life that I could actually call a "friend".  And the person I am closest to isn't even on FB.
  • Privacy - Most people do not understand that FB makes money by selling information about account holders to advertisers. Wait, change that to "don't want to know that FB makes money...".  FB is a business.  Like Chevron.  Like Ford.  Like GE.  Like Bain Capital.  It doesn't exist to bring people together or make the world a better place.  It exists to make money for the people that own it.
  • Connecting People - FB does have the ability to bring people to together.  I could site experiences of my own, but I wouldn't be doing more than stating the obvious.  The question though is this:  is the price of these connections too high?  Do people even understand the cost of these connections?  Ask the average FB account holder how much FB costs and they will no doubt say "nothing", which in a direct-cost model is correct. Most businesses in this country, in my experience, don't always do a good job of measuring indirect costs...most people?  They don't even understand the concept.
  • Sharing - People share an awful lot of information about themselves on FB.  Probably too much.  I struggle with this all the time.  I am also extremely careful, believe it or not, about what I post, what I reply to, and what pictures I share.  Even then I constantly question what I am doing on FB and there are times when I wonder if I should just pull the plug on it.
This isn't a simplistic question about whether FB is "good" or "bad".  People are good or bad.  FB is a tool, like a hammer.  I can use a hammer to help build a house via Habitat for Humanity; others have used a hammer to bash in the head of someone they didn't like.  In the end, I suspect that it's all about making informed choices.  My question is this:  when it comes to Facebook, are those choices really all that informed?