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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rafael Cruz & a very dangerous precedent

Don't like legislatipn that was passed by Congress and signed into law years ago?  Well if Congress follows the logic of Senator Rafael Cruz, the answer is simple:  threaten to shut down the government & not pay the bills which Congress itself has already agreed to pay until the law is undone.

It's really very simple.

If you are a Republican, contemplate the following scenario:  it is the not too distant future we have a Republican President and a narrow Republican majority in Congress.  The Republican President shepherds a bill through Congress and signs it into law.  Legislation is enacted.  Four years later, the Democrats take control of one of the two houses of Congress and immediately declare that they will hold the government hostage until the previously enacted law in overturned.  No negotiation.  No legislative process.  Their way or the highway.

Does the above make sense to any Republican out there with even a quarter functioning brain?  Of course it doesn't.  But yet this is the precedent that Senator Cruz is setting for America, one in which we we no longer use the legislative process to change laws, but instead allow extreme political ideology and posturing for future office to determine whether or not the government is allowed to function.

Rafael Cruz is wrong.  Very wrong.  Don't like Obamacare?  I'm not necessarily a fan either.  But no one cause is so important that it justifying shutting down a government...unless that cause, apparently, is sucking up to the fringe* of American politics in a vain attempt be elected President one day.

(*) According to Gallup, about 22% of the voting population affiliates themselves with the "Tea Party".  27% view themselves as being an opponent of the "Tea Party".

Monday, September 23, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #8

It's been an odd weekend.  Really odd.  I got a call earlier in the week about a potential buyer for my home, so I took Friday afternoon off to get the house ready.  Then there was Saturday morning, which started at "God Awful Early O'Clock" and consisted on more cleaning and the like.  Bug-out time was 10:40 am, upon my return some time after noon, there was definitely evidence that a real, actual potential buyer had been here:

  • A usually unlocked door has been locked.
  • My bedroom door was open.  Note that this thrilled my cat, as he is not allowed in my bedroom due to my extreme cat allergy.  I noticed that, on my bed, there was a cat-butt sized indentation on the quilt. 
  • The showing real estate agent left her car for me in the kitchen.
Speaking of my cat, he was thoroughly and completely wigged out upon my return.  Now I don't have what one would consider a lap-cat, but he was all over me for a few hours after returning home.  I think we (the cat and I) are far too used to each other's idiosyncrasies.

I do hope that the house sells before too long, as the whole sale process takes so much in terms of mental and physical energy.  Now on the plus side, it is most definitely one of those "gifts of patience" that you get in life from time to time.  You know, these are the moments when you really want something to happen now, but in reality you have no choice but to wait...and wait...and maybe wait some more.  And so it goes, I am waiting.  I know that in this day and age (unlike the mostly pre-Internet era when I bought this house) most home shopping is actually done on-line; the actual home showing seems to be more of an affirmation of what a buyer likes or confirmation of the worst.  In my case, let's hope for the best.

What's equally odd about this whole situation is that as I am trying to sell, I am also looking for a house.  I do need somewhere to live when this place belongs to someone else.  Having that "buyer mentality" I think has helped me in my sale preparations.  My biggest objective in getting this house ready has been to have it be worth the price I am asking for it.  By and large I think I've accomplished that, and then some.  In point of fact this house is actually worth more than what I am asking for it; the discount is intended to reflect the fact that I want to sell the house sooner rather than later.  I'm keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed.

Anyway, I'm ready to do this whole sale-preparation thing again, and again, and again...if needed.  As they say in he movies, "fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride".  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Road Apples, #141

Mail Chimp...There is a business called "Mail Chimp".  I heard of this business while listening to public radio, where they underwrite content during the program Morning Edition.  I'm not sure whether I think the name "Mail Chimp" is brilliant or incredibly stupid.  I do know that I am giving them free advertising simply by writing about their name, so perhaps it's closer to brilliant than it is to stupid.  Regardless, you can check out the Chimp HERE.

The House of Representatives & Obamacare...Well after at least 40 votes to de-fund "Obamacare", the House of Representatives has ratcheted up the game and will basically not allow the government to pay its bills...bills they agreed to pay by the way...unless they get their way.  Personally I am hoping that, when this tactic fails (which it will), The Tannest Man in Congress will next demand that "Obamacare" be de-funded else he will hold his breath until he get his way.  I know, that sounds silly, but then again passing a budget but then refusing to pay for it is just as silly.

Obamacare...Speaking of "Obamacare", I don't consider myself a fan.  I've never considered myself a fan of the plan actually.  What I find fascinating is the fact that many conservatives who adamantly oppose it don't realize that underlying concept of requiring the purchase of private health insurance was first proposed by the uber-conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation.  According to Fox News (yes, Fox News):

"The mandate, requiring every American to purchase health insurance, appeared in a 1989 published proposal by Stuart M. Butler of the conservative Heritage Foundation called "Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans," which included a provision to "mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance."

Read more:

While I don't agree with parts of Obamacare, I have little sympathy for those in power who sat around for decades and ignored the problems in our health care system and did NOTHING to fix it.  What would I like to see?  First, Republicans need to stop the silly-assed attempts to un-do history.  Second, the President needs to be open to making changes to the law.  Finally, both parties need to agree that any solution needs to insure that individuals have personal accountability for their health care while acknowledging that health care isn't a luxury, it's a basic human right.  I'm not holding my breath.

Rick Santorum...has endorsed Governor Tom Corbett for re-election.  Now I am sure that will resonate with voters...maybe the 18 of them in Pennsylvania that care what Rick Santorum has to say about anything.

Mulligan for Mayor...I am voting for Jim Mulligan for Mayor of Scranton, and I encourage others to do so as well.  Why?  Because voting for his opponent is the same as voting for the status quo.  Yes, Bill Courtright is a nice guy, but I am absolutely, positively convinced that he will bring nothing different to the office.  Nothing will change.  Municipal unions will still be running the show and Scranton will still be teetering.  Enough already.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, and it's time in Scranton for a different result.

Speaking of Scranton...I love Scranton.  I really, really do.  Scranton is a great place to live, which is precisely why I find the local political scene to be so repugnant.  For far too long, Scranton's government has existed for the sake of itself and for city employees.  We lose sight of all that's well here because of the ineptitude of a few in "power".

School Strikes & School Districts...I've been working on a posting related to school strikes for a while now.  I just can't seem to finish it though.  Not sure why.  Maybe because the whole issue is so, well, "soiled".  You get that when you combine inept school district directors with greedy union leaders.

Foodstamps...are used by about 1 in 7 Americans.  That's too many.  But addressing the underlying problem by simply cutting the program is wrong-headed.  Yes, I do absolutely favor weeding out graft in the program, but using a chainsaw to lob an amount off the top runs risk of harming those the program is designed to help.  What's more, if Congress is REALLY interested in reducing the budget deficit, why don't we first start looking at our military spending?  Over 40% of the world's military spending is done by U.S. Taxpayers.
(credit Huffington Post)

The above equates to about $700 billion in 2010.  What did the Foodstamp program cost in 2010? Less than 10% of defense spending, or about $68.3 billion (reference HERE).  If we don't want to be the world's police force, and we can't afford our government, then it's time to look real hard at where we spend our money, largest expenditures first.  By the way, here's the whole budget picture for 2010:

Note that, in theory at least, Social Security funds itself (well actually the government has borrowed money from Social Security, but that's another topic for another day).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #7

This home sale stuff is interesting and instructive.

Interesting because it's one of those things in life that many of us have to face, but until you actually go through it (or, in my case, are going through it) you really have no idea what it's really like.  It's certainly a process kind of thing, but more so than that, it's a study in patience.  Well it is a study in patience for me at least.  It's one of those things in life that I can say "yes, what has happened up until this point has prepared me for this moment".  I don't make that statement lightly by the way.

Higher powers at work?  Well, as I like to say, answering that question is beyond my pay grade.  Suffice to say I am grateful for all the instructions that life provides, be they in learning how property is marketed (or not necessarily marketed...) and sold or in other things.  I am even more grateful for the opportunity to further exercise the aforementioned patience skills.  I was never a patient person.  Nope, not at all.  I don't think of myself as a "Type A Personality", but those objective (and not so objective) outsiders who have had dealings with me almost universally say that this does describe me.  The words "you're a typical type A..." still ring in my ear during a therapist session back in late 2010.  It also brings back memories of my mother telling me, also back in late 2010, "Steve, you don't like to lose...".  I am not sure I agree, but it's not a good recipe for patience.

Regardless, one of the things you learn when you make a big changes in your life is that patience is a necessary cost of doing business.  It is also a benefit.  At the moment I think I've finally come to the benefit part.

Instructive?  Well see above.  I think that any big change in life affords the opportunity to learn, and if anything I have always tried to learn from the places I find myself in, be they physical or mentally.  That's probably the biggest "gift", if you want to call it that, which I have been blessed with as an attribute (as opposed to the too wonderful to describe gifts of children, a supportive partner, a good job and countless other things that have been added to my life).  While having a smaller nose and better functioning eyes would be nice "gifts" to have, if I had to choose, I'd keep the ability to learn.  Instructions in life mean nothing if you are unwilling to learn from them.

So I am going to continue to exercise patience.  I am going to savor the opportunity to learn.  And hopefully I am going to sell this house.  Soon.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Surprise: News Anchors REALLY DO Wear Pants

We have proof:

First Person:  The Studio

Now lest anyone thinks that my concern about "pantalones" in the media is over-blown, please check out the following:

My faith in the media has now been restored.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blog Whoring (well, not really...)

I don't really think this posting constitutes actual blog whoring (see definition HERE), as I am writing this on my own blog, but it is as close as I will ever get to the act.  Anyway, below are some assorted weird and odd statistics about this here blog.  They are all "inception to date" or whatever the heck Blogger construes that to actually be.

Where the audience is from:
48.7% are from Germany
34.3% are from the United States
  5.0% are from China
  3.0% are from Russia
  2.0% are from the UK

Comment:  Bürger der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Ich danke Ihnen für Ihre Unterstützung.

How they access the blog:
43% use Internet Explorer
28% use Firefox
13% use Chrome
  8% use Safari
  4% use Opera

Comment:  Let me be perfectly one should be using Internet Explorer, ever.  Well unless someone is paying you to use it.  Or you have to.  Or you are too lazy to download a real browser.

Where my traffic is referred from:
32% comes from Gort42
31% comes from Google
17% comes from Mark Cour's blog
  9% comes from NEPA Blogs

Comment:  I am very grateful to my fellow bloggers for linking to this site.  A special call-out to the good "people" at (not really a good thing, see HERE). which was the source of 1.7% of my referred traffic.

My most popular postings:
Rush Limbaugh Audience Demographics (March 19, 2010)
NEPArtisan posting (June 19, 2010)
Road Apples 99.9 (May 23, 2011)
Obligatory Blogger/Political Post (May 27, 2010)

Comment:  I guess I should write more about Limbaugh if I want to generate more traffic.  Of course I'm not actually interested in generating more traffic, so that thought is pretty much out the window.   Oh, what the heck, here are two small bites, for the road...

 Also, clearly 2010 was a good year for the blog.  Note for the record that it wasn't a good year for me though, but I'm glad that at least the blog had a good time.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rickett's Glen Hike - September 14, 2013

A few shots from the hike at Ricketts Glen this past Saturday.

I probably took 50 or 60 pictures, so picking out 5 that Blogger will let me share was difficult.  

The hike itself was invigorating.  The air was clean, if not a bit chilly at the top and the terrain challenging from time to time.  I will confess to having mildly sore knees by the end of the day.  But all told, it was the best possible way I know of to get sore knees.

A special "shout out" to Chris' mom, who proved that the key to living a great life is, in part, to stay active.  She was there the whole way up, up hill, as folks younger than me were going down hill and complaining.  Inspiration 101.

It would be nice to do this again just as the Fall foliage is at its peak.  You can read more about Ricketts Glen HERE.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Very Big Science News

(photo from JPL-CalTech/NASA)

Mankind has finally ventured beyond the bounds of our own solar system, into the larger universe that surrounds us.

Up until now, interstellar space travel was only something written about in Science Fiction.  On or about late August it became Science Fact.  This is very exciting stuff!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What I've struggle the most with...

In the "deep thoughts" department, I found myself thinking ("I know, what a revelation!  What, Steve thinking?") the other day about the things in life I've struggled the most with over these decades of relative consciousness.  There were lots of parts mentally spread out, but when assembled, they made a relatively simple picture:

For whatever reason I believed I was different.  Not the "good" different, but the "bad" different.

Yeah, yeah, I could blame a lack of parenting, the Catholic Church, fluoride in my drinking water, the Democrats (oh, sorry, that's on Rush Limbaugh's list) and countless other things, but in the end, I own this.  That comes with adulthood, by the way:  we own how we feel, (for the most part) we own our circumstances in life and we own what we do with ourselves. 

The ironic part of this is that, in hindsight, the whole line of thought about being different is incredibly not supported by any facts or logic.  Yeah, sure, I've had my share of ups and downs, but Hell, we all have.

We all have.

That's another revelation.  Introverts, such as myself, have this tendency to look inwards.  That produces all manner of cool stuff, but it comes at a cost:  we lose perspective.  We measure the world based on a single yardstick, namely the one we have in our own heads.  If we grow up to believe that our yardstick is shorter than average, then the standard by which we measure ourselves will inevitably come up short time and time again.  Needlessly so, I will add.  

As I've said here before during one of these quasi-rambling "private but yet public" thought exercises, I've learned that we are all equally dysfunctional.  We all are.  What's truly important isn't the stuff on the outside that we do, say or have, it's the stuff on the inside.  It's all very circular actually:  how we feel directs how we think; how we think directs what we do.  If that previously mentioned internal yardstick is perpetually short, then we tend to be dissatisfied with what we do, which then starts the whole cycle all over again, burdened even more so by past perceptions of failure.  

Pretty heady stuff.  The good news, it seems, is that this internally focused dialogue can also be changed.  I'm not claiming that the solution is for introverts, such as myself, to "stop thinking", but rather to spend more time thinking:  thinking about the internal dialogue itself.  

As for me, I've come to realize over time that I am different, but not "bad" different:  just different,  We are all different, by the way, and I've made my peace with it.  Am I perfectly at peace?  Hell no, but that's okay, because no one else is perfectly at peace either.    Yes, I still find myself having that internal dialogue of "you f-ed that one one up Steve", but at least now it's not the only dialogue going on in my head.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Facebook Graphics: Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients

I see these graphics on the Facebooks all the time, and for the most part I don't give them so much as a passing thought.  However, mostly for my own ammusement, I'm going to give this one a passing thought (or two).

For the record, I don't believe that drug testing "Welfare" recipients is unconstitutional.  Also, for the record, I don't believe that there is a federal program called "Welfare" any more; the current program is called "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)".  However, I do believe that it is:

1) Potentially a waste of money, if done haphazzardly.
2) Harmful when children are involved.

To point #1:  I'd like to see a cost/benefit analysis of a potential drug testing programs.  What would it cost, and how much would be saved in terms of denied benefits?  I imagine the testing could be done in a random manner, and if there was competitive bidding for the testing contract(s), then maybe the overhead would be sufficiently low.  But there are a lot of "if's" that last sentence, and let's face it:  governments are not known for either efficiency or the low bidding of contracting.

To point #2:  What happens if, under a testing program, an adult with children is denied benefits?  Would not innocent children be negatively impacted?  If parental benefits are reduced, but benefits maintained for the children, then what's to stop the parent from taking money designated for the children and using it to buy beer and menthol cigarettes instead of food and clothes for the kids?

In the end, the issue here isn't one of constitutionality, it is a matter of common sense and compassion.

It is common sense, in my book, for those receiving governmental support to basically be held to a minimum standard of "you can't break the law".  The real question is this:  so if you catch them breaking the law, then what happens?  That's where the issue of compassion comes into play.  I don't have a ton of compassion for people that make the choice to use illegal drugs, as adults are responsible for their own behavior.  Children, however, are NOT responsible for the behavior of their parents, and they should not suffer because Mom and/or Dad are mentally weak and therefore feel compelled to take drugs in order to escape reality.

This is a classic "knee-jerk emotional reaction" kind of thing.  We can do better.  Now what would "better" be?  Well I don't really know, and to be honest, any solution drummed up by an idiot writing a blog probably wouldn't be all that helpful anyway.  However, at the core of any solution is to first identify the real issue to be solved.  In this case, I can guarantee you just one thing:  the REAL issue is absolutely, positively isn't "angry taxpayers".

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Road Apples, #140

Wills, Part I...I am finally getting around to having a new "last will and testament" created and filed.  I had thought about doing this on my own, as I did for my advanced directive (a.k.a. Living Will), but the laws in Pennsylvania make the former a bit more dicey of an endeavor.  Luckily, the attorney handing my mother's estate gave me a very good price for my documentation, so he got the nod.  I'm at the draft review stage, and the Executor and back-up have been named (one knows, the other doesn't...and will not know...unless "it" happens).  So far, so good.  I'm only going to have even one minor out of the ordinary item, namely I want a donation made to Penn State Harrisburg (in the event of my demise).  Maybe they can build a bench in my honor.

Wills, Part II...It's something of an interesting study in human behavior as I help work through my mother's estate.  Why she did what she did, in some instances, makes perfectly logical sense.  In other instances?  It almost borders on being cruel.  Regardless, this whole thing is instructive for me, yet another example of what not to do in life, and in death.  We never stop learning from our parents.

F. Scott and Zelda...I've been reading lately about my least favorite author and his wife, a pair that make Khloe and Lamar look like a bunch of Mormon missionaries.  You can get a sample HERE.  Drunken binges, marital infidelity, insane asylums, professional, they had it "all".  For the record, I still have no desire to ever even attempt to read The Great Gatsby.

Marian McPartland...died last month at the age of 95.  I am not a fan of Jazz, but I was a fan of her public radio show "Piano Jazz".  She had a great life's story and a wonderful demeanor, one that came through in all of her interviews.  You can read her AmIAnnoyingOrNot profile HERE.  She was clearly not annoying.

Health News...Last night was the first night I've gotten a decent night's sleep in, well, weeks.  Why I'm having trouble sleeping is beyond me.  Well, truth be told I've always had mostly a hate relationship with sleep for most of my adult life.  It's unproductive and I detest the notion that some folks view sleep as a way to escape from reality.  As someone who can't seem to keep reality out of my head for any stretch of time, I find the concept of hiding from it in bed to be the ultimate expression of "weak". Anyway, even I readily acknowledge that a certain degree of sleep is required for basic human health, and I've been failing in that regard.  Hell, I've even contemplated some kind of "natural" remedy for sleep, but let's hope it doesn't get  to that point.  I am hoping that a combination of eating better, exercising more and trying to screw my head on a bit better may do the trick.  I still hate sleep though.

Blog-O-Versary...I have a 5 year blog-o-versary coming up in October.  Now how to celebrate?

House Hearings on Syria...I watched a bit of the House of Representative hearing on Syria, and was basically disgusted by the fact that many of the Republicans on the panel decided to get in a few Benghazi shots in the grilling of Kerry, Hagel and company.  Not that Democrats would be any better if roles were reversed, mind you.  But what's next?  Maybe we can find a way to tie Food Stamps to Benghazi.  Or maybe the failing Philadelphia School District.  Or unemployment.  Or maybe increasing rates of Autism in children.  Seriously guys, there are times when making political points simply is pointless.  This is one such time  There are enough real issues to discuss and debate about Syria, so let's leave the "gotcha" stuff for talk radio.  For the record, after the GOP Reps got off their Benghazi rants, I actually found their questions and points made to be pretty spot-on.

Sony is my LEAST Favorite Tech the moment.  Why?  Well I accidentally deleted Evernote from my Sony S Tablet, and wouldn't you know, the current version of Evernote will not work with the older version of Android on my tablet.  From what I gather, Sony has no desire to upgrade the tablet either, so now I have a machine that can't run something I got the tablet for in the first place.  Before I declare a total failure I am going to see if Sony can somehow remedy the situation.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day 2013

Today is Labor Day, a day on which I'm not quite sure what we celebrate.  "Labor" is something of a nebulous concept after all.

Labor as in "labor unions"?

Labor as in generic work activity?

What constitutes "work activities" anyway?

Regardless, and to avoid any further over-thinking, I'm going to simply say that, for myself, today is a day to reflect on the value of hard work.  There is a real nobility in working hard to support oneself.  Even more nobility when that labor supports others.  Even more than that, labor is at its very best when it supports others who then learn to support themselves.

I think we lose sight of the value of hard work.  Too many fall for the "get rich quick" mentality of lotteries or, even worse, wealth via lawsuit.  Too many people become famous not for what they produce, but for simply the act of being famous.  Forget that nonsense spewed by the likes of Pat Robertson (and his ilk):  the real sign of degradation in American society are those blatantly heterosexual Kardashians, not hard-working gay folks who just want to marry their best friends.  Our priorities are all messed up sometimes.

For me, I am at my best when I am working hard.  It doesn't matter what I am working hard at; it could be working around the house with my hands or working on something in the office that involves more of my head.  Conversely, I am at my worst when I sit here, stewing over this, that or the other thing.  If ever there was a truism for my life, it's this:  I simply and truly enjoy working hard.  It's my hope that my daughters carry this forward into their adult lives.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

No War.

It's time to take a stand.

It's time to say ENOUGH to the United States acting as the police force for basically an ungrateful world.

It's time to stop spending my tax dollars...and yours...hurling multi-million dollar weapons at a bunch of bad actors.  For the record, Bashir al-Assad isn't even the worst of them.

It's time to stop being inconsistent.  Where was the bombing campaign when Pol Pot was killing over a million of his fellow Cambodians?  Or the Kim family, as they systematically kill just about every North Korean who doesn't serve in the military?  The list goes on.  Our "moral outrage" is immorally inconsistent.

It's time to stop being the world's conscience.  We don't have the right.

It's time for us to STOP acting on behalf of "humanity".  When last I checked, there is plenty of "humanity" outside of North America, so if "humanity" is truly offended by the actions of the Syrian dictator, then "humanity" can act.

It's time to help ourselves as much as we help the rest of the world.  I have no doubt that there are roads in Iraq right now that are in better condition than I84 going into Pennsylvania.

Yes, any dictator that uses poison gas to kill his own people should be held accountable, but hurling a bunch of cruise missiles doesn't guarantee accountability:  it just guarantees lots of dead people (some no doubt innocent), which defeats the purpose of acting in the first place.