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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Meeting the "Shake Off The Grind" Thanksgiving challenge

Preface:  I want to note before anything else that this was exceptionally difficult to write.  More like "pain in the butt" to write.  But I'm glad I did.

I subscribe to frequent emails from a great website/blog/personal development resource called "Shake Off The Grind".  You can link to it HERE.

Now with Thanksgiving coming, I have a "I am thankful for..." posting basically written.  Then I received this challenge from Shake Off The Grind.  After reading it, I thought to myself "what the heck" and I'm going to take the challenge.  For purposes of simplicity, the challenge asks you to be thankful for some very specific things:

  1. List 5 people in your life you are grateful for.
  2. List 5 things you're grateful for about your home, community or where you live.
  3. List 5 things about your physical body you are grateful for.
  4. List 5 life experiences you are grateful for.
  5. List 5 personal skills and talents you possess that you are grateful for.

So here goes nothing.

5 People in my life I am grateful for
(Disclaimer - I'm going to limit this to people who are actually alive)
  • I am grateful for the joy of being the father to my oldest daughter, Katrina.  She is exceptionally bright, musically talented and passionate about her vocation.  In a world full of people who just "telegraph it in", she strives to make a difference.
  • I am grateful for the joy of being the father to my middle daughter, Korin.  Like her sister, she is exceptionally bright, shares my love of Science and has a wonderfully wry sense of humor.  
  • I am grateful for the joy of being the father to my youngest daughter, Rebecca.  Like her sisters, she is exceptionally bright, possessing a wonderful singing voice, and is the hardest working 20 year old I've ever met.  
  • I am grateful for my partner, Christine Elizabeth.  At my darkest hour I looked up and she was doesn't get much better than that.  Chris, our life together is a blank canvas, and the world is full of paint.
  • I am grateful for my brother Richard, who helped me at every step of the way as we got the house ready to sell.  Could I have done it without him?  Sure, but he made it far easier.

5 things I am grateful for about my home, community or where I live
  • I am grateful to live in the United States of America, a place where, while politically dysfunctional, you don't get shot/imprisoned/water-boarded for actually saying the government is politically dysfunctional.
  • I am grateful for the community of folks that comprise my employer, especially those with whom I work with in the Scranton office.  We have some of the best and brightest that NEPA has to offer. 
  • I am grateful for having had a home wherever I ended up roaming.  When I think about the challenges that some face just finding shelter, I am reminded of how blessed I have been in my life.  As the saying goes, "not all who wander are lost".
  • I am grateful to live in the area known as Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Be it ever so humble, there truly is no place like home.
  • I am grateful for the virtual communities of which I have been (and continue to be) a member.  I've met some wonderful people and learned a tremendous amount about subjects far and wide.

5 things about my physical body I am grateful for
  • I am grateful that my body is durable.  Despite the nutritional abuse I throw at it, my parts all seem to function well.
  • I am grateful that I have physical stamina.  Despite my inability to get much more than 6 hours of sleep a night, I am always able to get up, get going, and take care of business (and on most days that includes about 30 minutes of cardio).
  • I am grateful for my sense of smell.  While I can't see all that well and my hearing is getting worse as I get older (harmed in no small measure by too much loud music over the decades), my nose can still pick up the stench of peanut butter from a room away.
  • I am grateful that I still have (mostly) a full head of hair.  There is nothing wrong with being bald, and to be honest, if the choice came down to mostly bald or totally bald, I'd say "shave it all".
  • I am grateful for my eyesight.  Yes, while it isn't the best in the world, eye doctors have marveled at how well I've managed to adjust to not seeing well, particularly when it comes to depth-perception.  I tell people that I probably don't really know what "good" eyesight is anyway, as I only know what I have always experienced, which is okay with me.

5 life experiences I am grateful for
  • Age 16, 4H Camp - The first time when I experienced the possibilities that life had to offer was when I worked at a 4H summer camp.  I learned the value of hard work and of how wonderful independence could be.  I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that this first "real" job afforded me.  
  • Age 20, Penn State Harrisburg - While 4H Camp gave me a taste of independence, that feeling was magnified 20 fold when I spent my junior and senior years of college at Penn State Harrisburg.  For me, this is a sacred, special place, as evidenced by the small number of people who are close to me that I've taken on the "pilgrimage" to PSH over the years.  I make it a point to go back to the school from time to time and I am honored to be able to financially support the university in a small way.
  • Age 24, becoming a Dad.  I became a Dad at an early age, and on one hand it was exceedingly frightening having so much responsibility at such a young age.  On the other?  It is simply wonderful being young enough to see your "children" become fully functional adults.  Parenthood changes everything in your life, I will add ultimately for the better.
  • Age 25 (and a half), starting to work for my current employer.  I am very grateful for the opportunities that have been created for me to grow personally and professionally.  I am also very grateful for the ability it has given me to support myself and others.
  • Age 49 (in progress).  I am grateful for the experience to date of selling my home and finding a new place to live.  While it continues to test many things (patience, ability to sleep, finances, etc.), this is one of those "once in a lifetime" things that I will look back on fondly in years to come.

5 Special talents or skills I am grateful for
  • I am grateful for my inquisitive nature.  From an early age I was reading any and every non-fiction book in the house.  And I continue to do that to this very day.  I owe a special dept of gratitude to my late mother for instilling in me a desire for lifelong learning.
  • I am grateful for having a desire to write.  Note that I didn't say "being a writer", because I firmly believe that, for example, Garrison Keillor is a writer; I, on the other hand, am a person who writes.  And I write, at times joyously.  
  • I am grateful for the ability to be graceful under pressure.  
  • I am grateful for having my own sense of visual composition.  There are times when I capture something in a photo and then I end up marveling at what has just occurred.  
  • I am grateful for having a positive outlook.  This wasn't always the case, but I am living proof that we all have a shot at redemption.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #14

The countdown begins.

Barring one of the largest financial services firms on the planet actually lying to me, the last hurdle between myself and the sale of my house should be removed some time mid-next week.  On one hand I am relieved, on the other I'm exhausted.

Call it "house fatigue".

I thought I would be excited at the prospect of the changes to come, and deep down I am. It's just at the moment I'm really, really tired.  As I've noted before, there's been a lot of effort to get this far, where the effort part encompasses just about everything.  Oh, and I also have the rest of my life that continues to happen around me.  Did I mention that I'm not sleeping all that well most nights?  Mind you this is "not sleeping all that well" by Steve (as in minimal) standards.  Nothing like waking up at 3am thinking about the next series of tasks you need to perform.

Anyway, I'm also tired of complaining about it.

The truth is that it really is the home stretch.  The side of the house that my mother formerly lived on is about 95% ready to go.  I just need to get my brother to handle a few last details.  My side?  Well it is, once again, a maze of boxes and stuff.  But it's boxes and stuff that are on their way out, as in out of here.  Yes, it looks bad. but in reality the looks are deceiving.  And outside of a bed and a couch, I can pretty much move the rest of the stuff by myself, with the moral support of a cat, a hand-truck and a Nissan Rogue.  After all, I moved in here by myself with the help of a Chrysler PT Cruiser, so anything is theoretically possible.  Sadly and believe it or not, the PT Cruiser actually had more cargo room than my Rogue.  Too bad it was as piece of crap (from a reliability perspective).

When I think about it, I actually have less than two weeks here when you factor in Thanksgiving and some work commitments I have for the week after next.  In the scheme of things, that's a blink of an eye.  After vacating here, it's off to a week of temporary lodging (sans cat) until (hopefully) the closing on the new home on or about December 13th.  Could there have been any worse timing for all of this?  Probably not, but then again you don't always get to call the shots in these sorts of things.

When it's all said and done there will be a deep sigh of relief and then sights set on new adventures.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dear United States Senators from the Democratic Party

Congratulations in having "gone nuclear".  Now please don't cry when the tables are turned and the next Republican President wants to nominate the equivalent of Joseph Goebbels to some federal judgeship...and you are powerless to stop it.

Like little kids at Christmas, you will eventually learn that the having is not nearly as sweet as the wanting.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"All in all I'd have to say, its been a rather dismal day"

The title comes from a song by the 1970's soft-rock band Bread.

It was a  rather dismal day, yesterday that is; why?

Well first, since I love cats, it was painful to do what had to be done. The "it" was having my late mother's elderly cat, Sarah, put to sleep.  Sarah was about 19 or 20 years old, completely deaf and had a cataract in one of her eyes.  She also was very frail.  I kept her at the house for as long as possible, but with a closing on the property potentially coming soon (or maybe later...keep reading), I had to act.  Having her go live with someone else was not an option, as given her greatly diminished senses, any other environment would have been hazardous to Sarah.  There just weren't any other viable choices, and it quite literally broke my heart to take her to the Vet.  But I had to do it.  It was the longest 10 minute car ride I've taken in a very long time.  My only consolation is that Sarah, with her skin-n-bones, arthritis ridden body is no longer in pain.

Rest in peace old girl.

Then there is an issue that potentially impacts the closing date for the sale of this property that resulted in too many phone calls, far too much note-taking and far too much uncertainty.  For me, the biggest point of contention is that I've been living with basically a shell of my belongings for months now.  I'm tired of it, and while I'm not a consumption-oriented person, I would like to have the benefits of what I've accumulated.  Those benefits do me no good sitting in a Moosic storage unit.  You can make that plural, as I now rent two of them.  I am sure that it will all get sorted out in the end, but that doesn't diminish the suck-factor of it all.

Here's to days to come when I don't have to get treasured pets euthanized and I don't have to worry about being homeless.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Scranton's revenue problem is not the problem

Well, the initial turd hit the fan blades last week:  the Mayor of Scranton proposed increasing property taxes and the garbage tax (from $178/year to $300/year).  All told, I believe that the Scranton Times figured the total increase to be in the neighborhood of about 400% on the average city taxpayer.

It will not be enough.

Consider Pat.

Pat has a problem managing credit.  Specifically, Pat has managed to get so far into debt that Pat can no longer afford to make all of the credit card payments that come due.  Yet Pat continues to spend, using, of course, credit cards.  So what does Pat do?  Pat gets an evening job at the local Kwik-E-Mart.  The extra income is good, and Pat manages to get current on all of the credit card minimum payments.  But there is a problem:  Because Pat puts all of what is earned into bills (including making minimum credit card payments), Pat has no choice but to continue to use the credit cards for some of the daily expenses of life.  What's more, Pat still likes to buy non-necessities using a credit card.

Anyone think that the solution to Pat's problem is yet another job?

Of course not.  All the extra cash in the world will not solve Pat's problem, because Pat doesn't have an income problem.  Pat simply can't manage to live within a budget.  Pat is in capable of managing expenses.  Pat has an expense problem.

Pat is the City of Scranton.

The credit card bills are the debt the city has incurred over the years.  Include in this the insane award given to police and firefighters that will have to be of course adding to the city's debt.  For the record, the award was the direct result of Scranton's mayor following the advice of the Pennsylvania Economy League (PEL).  While I know it will not happen, it should be PEL that picks up the cost of this ill-decided "award".  Keep in mind though that Scranton was functionally bankrupt even before this award is factored into the mix.

All of the other bills incurred by Pat...utilities, rent, etc...are Scranton's operating expenses.

In the absence of fundamental changes in how the City of Scranton is managed, any additional revenue Scranton manages to pry from its residents will simply be sucked up like light into a black hole.  There will never be enough revenue to solve the city's problems precisely because the system isn't designed to mange simply incurs them.  The city's budget exists in large part to do just two things:

1) Pay employees
2) Make payments on incurred debt

Scranton's viscous cycle is that #2 is helping to pay for #1.  As #1 increases (with no end in sight, particularly under Mayor Courtright, who relied heavily on unionized city employees to get elected), #2 will  increase a well.  Where does it end?  Well what will ultimately happen is that the city will no longer be able to access credit.  It will not be able to do #2, then #1 falls to pieces.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #13

It's getting to be crunch time, for real.

In theory, in less than a month from now I will be in my new home.  Note the words "in theory".  Separating theory from reality I have a few (what I hope are) minor issues to work out, including figuring out exactly when I need to move into temporary lodging between house closings.  This is driving things like when I need to get a van to move the rest of my stuff out, when I need to take JeanLuc the cat on this kitty vacation, and countless other details that are so numerous that I actually have a checklist.  Evernote rules, for the record.

While the sale part is creating complexities, I will say though that the purchase end has been fairly stress free.  The owners of the property Ms Rivers and I are buying from seem like very nice people, and they are open to potentially closing early when and if all of the stars that must align actually do so in order to make that happen.  I actually get a chance to meet the former owners, as they have agreed to give us a tutorial on how to operate the wood/coal stove that is located in the first floor living room.

Among the details I am working on during the days ahead will be to clear out the rest of my stuff from the existing property.  Now much of that was done in July and August as I got the property ready for sale, but I did afford myself a few remaining luxuries, such as a desk, television, couch and bed.  Within about two weeks or so most of those will be gone as well.  Have I mentioned that I also need to acquire some additional storage space in order to make this all happen?  The current storage unit is about as crowded as bus in India.

Making this stuff somewhat easier is the fact that I don't have much business travel left in the year.  Maybe one overnight in early December and that's it, well at least until the second week in January.

It will be nice when things settle down, but part of me wonders what it will actually be like.  "Be like"?  Well not so much as in how it will feel to live somewhere else, but more so how it will feel to not have the constant stress of...

...constantly worrying about titles, deeds, lawyers, buyers and paperwork
...coordinating my brother Joe's move
...getting service providers here to do those last minute fine-tuning things
...those impromptu calls by your real estate agent trying to solve some issue
...having most of the temporal things you hold dear locked up in a storage unit
...worrying about how your pet will do while he is being boarded

...this stuff is not for the faint of heart.  I'm thinking that the next move after this will be to a retirement community.  Or a funeral home.  Well God willing not a funeral home.

Time magazine's fat joke

I speak of this.

We get it, the New Jersey governor is overweight.  But seriously, a national magazine has lowered itself to making a fat joke on it's cover?

Shame on Time magazine.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Joy of Editing

One of the things I actually enjoy about writing is editing.  Well to be a bit more specific, I enjoy editing when I actually have the time to do it effectively.  For me, editing is almost magical.  It's a way that you can turn something on the left side of average into something that's pretty darn good.  Editing is about clarity, it's about purpose, it's about functionality.  Editing is something of a luxury.

Why a luxury?

Well, if you read half of my "stuff" you probably come to the conclusion that I don't do enough editing.  There are mistakes here, typos there.  It can be a mess.  But this is, at least from my perspective, part of the very nature of blogging.  Part of it comes down to writing style and habit.

The writing style part of me can best be described as "stream of consciousness".  This posting is a good example.  When I write, what you see for the most part is what is in my head at that very moment.  I try, very hard, to not over-engineer what I am writing.  By over-engineer I simply mean that I don't over think or over write my thoughts.  I just pretty much let the thoughts/words pour out over the keyboard, sentence fragments and all.  Yes, what you see here is what is in my head at the moment my fingers cruise the keyboard.  Scary, huh?

The writing habit part has more to do with time.  More than half of what you see in this blog is written in the morning, mostly before I go to work.  I tend to wake up with tons of stuff in my head, and writing creates the perfect opportunity to do something with the stuff.  Being a morning person, I am at my very best during the hours after just waking up, so this is when the writing actually happens.  The only downside to writing at this time is that I usually am very pressed for  time.

I do edit my postings, but I usually don't have very much time for editing.  Thorough editing becomes this luxury that I can only afford on rare occasions.  Those occasions are mostly the rare postings that I write over time for special occasions.  Now at any given time I have about 6-10 postings in draft; of the 6, maybe 3 will eventually see the light of day.  Some of these postings are just abortive attempts at being profound, some are just plain stupid, others are thoughts that I just can't seem to complete for one reason or another.  The postings that do make it to the publish button are usually the best edited stuff I write.  By "best edited" I am referring more to a Lord of the Flies kind of thing (best held in the perspective of someone like me who just causally writes).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Jenny McCarthy Anti-Vaccine Body Count

Someone actually took the time to create a web-page to track the damage being done by the likes of anti-vaccination "crusader" Jenny McCarthy.

What's the issue?  Well in a nutshell, it goes like this:  Ms McCarthy (famous, I think, for being on MTV) alleges, along with a few others, that childhood vaccines cause Autism.  Now I have worked with children that had Autism, so I have...all be it limited...experience in how challenging this can be for a parent.  I have absolutely no doubt that the parents of Autistic children feel a unique kind of frustration at not knowing how or why their children have been so afflicted.  These parents truly are special folks, as raising children is hard enough, let along children with special needs.

The above noted, I'll be pretty direct in coming to the punchline:  there is ZERO evidence that childhood vaccinations cause Autism.  None.  Zilch. Nada.  Don't believe me?  Believe these folks:


The Journal of Pediatrics

WebMD - Study Linking Autism to Vaccinations Was Faked

I could go on, and there is scientific-study based information from major universities, the American Pediatric Association, the World Health Organization and countless other groups that all point to one single fact:  Childhood vaccinations save lives and they don't cause Autism.  Period.

So why does the non-science of vaccinations causing Autism survive?  It's in part because people with large public platforms, such as Ms McCarthy continue to spout their unsupported views.  Part of it is the wealth of false information and pseudo-science that thrives on the Internet.  Part of it is born out frustration with "the system".  Part of it is a basic lack of understanding about how science (and the difference between evidence vs. opinion) works.  In the end though, if this were just a case of celebrities just being eccentric then I wouldn't care all that much, however, in this case REAL HARM is being done.

Now I'm not completely naive here in that I do realize that vaccinations are powerful medicines.  Heck, I am just getting over a two week minor cold brought on, maybe, by my having received a flu shot.  However, two weeks of a minor cold are preferable to all that goes with full-out influenza.  What's more, I don't actually know that the flu shot I got caused my cold.  Cause does not equal effect.  I had an Arby's brisket sandwich for the first time the day I receive the flu shot.  How do I know that the sandwich didn't cause my symptoms?

In the end, we all need to make decisions in our lives based on the best possible information available to us.  If you are a parent and you are wondering about getting your children vaccinated against preventable diseases, who should you believe?  There is evidence to support the fact that vaccinations don't cause Autism.  And there are opinions to the contrary.  Chose wisely:  facts vs. opinions.

Oh, and consider the source for some of those opinions.

My thanks to co-worker Sean Gowden for bringing the Anti-Vaccination website to my attention.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day 2013

Photos from our trip to Arlington National Cemetery this past summer, remembering all who have served and honoring all who have died.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #12

Activity is swirling around me like Cheerios waiting to go down a sink drain.

Have I mentioned before that I'm pretty much never going to do this ever again?  By "this" I mean selling one house and buying another.  Now I know that other folks do this all the time, but for me, there are times when it is insanely stressful.  Fortunately those times are few and far between.

In other, real (as opposed to simply stuff concocted in my head) news, there was an issue with a prior mortgage on the property I am selling, specifically a mortgage for which there was no record of a payoff...back in 1992.  Yeah banking system!  Anyway, it appears that, thanks to the work of my terrific attorney (which a research assist from yours truly), that issue is about to be resolved.  Assuming the bank in question fesses up and admits to never filing the necessary paperwork 20+ years ago, I now have a clear path towards closing on this property.  That creates a clear path to closing on the property that Ms Rivers and I are purchasing.  

I'd take a moment to celebrate, but that moment could be used for other purposes, like cleaning and stuff.

Part of this equation is my youngest brother Joe moving to live with other brother Chris.  With the mortgage mess almost settled, we are planning on making that change soon.  My brother Chris is a good man for taking Joe in; whether the arrangement works out in the long term is open to debate, but kudos to the Albert Boys for taking care of each other.  
(The Albert Boys, circa August 1970; from left: Chris, Steve, Rich & Joe)

As I may have mentioned before, another point of stress for me is what to do with JeanLuc Albert (my cat) during the days between closing on the existing property and the new property.  Where I will be staying I don't have the option of bringing the Spudster* along, so he will need temporary lodging.  I did some on-line checking and found three nice looking places for him...basically kitty resorts.  Each place allows for visiting hours, but I don't think I could bring myself to visiting him and then leaving.  Call me a big softee, but that cat means a lot to me, and it's hard enough dropping him off for a week.

In very sad cat news, my late mother had a cat, Sarah, who is both very elderly (about 19) and sickly.  She has also not done well since my mother passed away and has lost a ton of weight.  My youngest brother has been taking care of Sarah over the past few months, but he can't bring her along with him to my brother Chris' house (Chris already has 4 cats).  My older brother Rich already also has a plethora of pets.  As for me, I have JeanLuc, who will eventually be joined by the cat of Ms Rivers, Tiger.  We're worried that Tiger will not acclimate well to JeanLuc, as he (Tiger) previously had a very poor living experience with another cat years ago, so we have our work cut out for us in just getting the two cats to live well together.  Fortunately, JeanLuc really likes other cats, so I'm hoping that with some thoughtful transition work, we can get JeanLuc and Tiger to like (or at least tolerate) each other.  However...and getting back to Sarah...she's just too old for this kind of change, and I'm afraid that any kind of move will add emotional stress to her physical pain.  While I strongly dislike the notion of having Sarah put to sleep, I don't know that there are many other open to us.  

Feline heartbreak aside, I also still have a lot to move in order to make the residence switch work.  I also need to rent an additional storage unit to temporarily store my bed, desk and a few other things (including power equipment) during the intervening week.  Oh, and have I mentioned that I'll be doing almost all of the moving work myself?

Living the sporty life...

(*) For the record, I have about a dozen different names for my cat.  It's important that every cat have multiple names.  Anyway, the names include his "formal" name of JeanLuc, as well as JLA, Spud, Spudster, Spudinator, BigGuy, General Sterling Price, Friend...and the list goes on.  No wonder he barely knows his own name.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Scranton Times - A Victory for the Status Quo

The Scranton Times editors explain why Bill Courtright is not going to change much of anything in Scranton as the city's next Mayor.  I pretty much agree,

Yes, you can argue that the paper is "anti-this" and "anti-that", but when it comes to Mayor elect Bill Courtright they are right about the following:  he has no plan. "Getting Scranton back on track" is a slogan, one that says nothing about reducing the cost of governance in Scranton.

As I have often times repeated:

Scranton is functionally bankrupt.

The University of Scranton will not be giving the city millions of dollars.

Commuters will not willingly pay for the privilege of working in the city; in fact, they will fight the commuter tax tooth and nail.

The state and/or the federal government will not be coming to Scranton's aid.

Scranton's homeowners (who already have a lower household income than most in NEPA) can not afford massive property tax hikes.

Scranton's wage tax is already the highest in NEPA and is the second highest in Pennsylvania (only Philadelphia has a higher tax).  Citation HERE.

Scranton already has oppressive business taxes, including one that forces business owners to pay even if they lose money.

The well is dry folks.  There is no more money to be had.  The city's problems lies on the expense...not the revenue...side of the ledger.  Done.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Road Apples, #142

Don't be an idiot - Vote!...From what I can gather from some light reading this morning, there are a lot of idiots out there.

Speaking of Voting | Scranton's New Mayor...I did not vote for Scranton's new Mayor elect, Bill Courtright.  Mark my words fellow Scranton residents:  Mr Courtright is a nice guy, but he is incapable, at an almost genetic level, of thinking creatively.  He will not solve Scranton's festering fiscal problems.  He is shamelessly beholden to the city's employees, and as a result, things will get worse.  As I have noted before, Scranton doesn't have a revenue problem, it has an expense problem.  You can't have a revenue problem when you have some of the highest taxes in the land.  Again, this is going to get worse.

Blog-O-Centric...I am somewhat surprised in my overall posting views over the past few months.  Seriously, I don't know why some folks would like to read this stuff, but apparently they do.  That's not to say that I don't come up with a few good ones every now and then, because I do (I thought yesterday's posting, for example, was pretty clever).  Regardless, while on one hand I don't do this for the attention or the "hits", I am appreciative of anyone who takes the time out of their busy to day to read my thoughts.

House Insanity...Simultaneously selling your house and buying a new one is a pain in the back-side (I would have said "ass" but Gort has used up all of the swear word energy in the blog-o-sphere already).  When all is said and done I will be naming names of all the great professionals who have been helpful in these multi-processes.  Lord knows that you do need help in all of this.  Needless to say there will continue to be many angst-filled postings as the my countdown towards temporary homelessness continues.

Speaking of House Stuff...At the risk of sounding sappy, one of the things I worry about the most in the process of having my current house sold (in the works) and buying a new one (also in the works) is the fact that there will be a temporary period in time where I will need to find a place for my cat, JeanLuc to live.  Now this interim period will probably only be a week, but I really and truly do worry about what I will be doing with "JLA".  When you go from a house full of people to living on your own, that critter that greets you at the door of your new residence when you come home from work (even if it is just to con you into a few cat treats) means a lot.  I have to work this one out.

Weird Dream Department...I am fascinated by dreams.  Not necessarily my own, because for the most part they suck, but mainly because I have to believe that what we dream has to mean something.  While else would we dream?  For example, last night, I had a this odd dream that I forgot where I parked (I was driving an unusual vehicle) and I left the vehicle running.  It was very, very stressful, and I ended up almost waking myself up with the thought "don't worry, it's just a dream".  Maybe it's all a function of the stuff swirling around me at the moment.  Maybe it was extra peppers I put in last night's dinner.  Maybe I'm simply going mad.  Wait, scratch that last one, as while I know I'm an odd duck, crazy isn't one of my characteristics.  If anything, there are times when I think going a bit nuts would actually be healthy.

Tea-Baggers...There will no doubt be much spinning in Teabagland over the Virginia governor election loss.  I can see it now:  "See, the Tea Party can almost win a major state governor election!".  All for naught though, as a loss is a loss, and while the actual vote count was very close in Virginia, it's important to remember that the Tea-Bagger in question was running against a political hack on the Democratic side...and...he still lost.  Had the Virginia GOP nominated someone who didn't have Fred Phelps-esque social views, they would be celebrating a victory at this very moment.  You know, like they are doing in New Jersey at this very moment.  The way things are going, the Tea Party is the best insurance out there that Hillary Clinton will be elected President in 2016.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Don't be an idiot - Vote!

It's idiotic not to vote.  Simple.

By not voting, you are basically letting "those who show up" make decisions for you.  In what other venue would this be acceptable?

Would the average WalMart shopper allow the cashier to decide what brand of toothpaste should be purchased that day?  Okay, I know, bad example (having teeth does not necessarily equal shopping at WalMart),  but the point still stands.

The reality is that something like 30%+/- of eligible voters will actually show up at the polls today.  Yet our communities are far more important than shopping expeditions to WallyWorld and decisions about taxation, land use, community development, and countless other points are far more important that toothpaste.

In the end, voting matters.  Each and every vote does count.  There are people out there...I will add evil people...that count on voters NOT showing up.  Don't allow these folks to win.  Don't allow others to make decisions for you.  Don't treat voting as being some inconvenience, subservient to a shopping expedition to a place where actual pants are optional.

Don't be an idiot - Vote!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures is a title of an album by the Canadian band "Rush".  It has a clever cover, in that it's a picture of people actually moving pictures, not "moving pictures" as in that old term for movies.

(from Wikipedia)

I've been doing some of my own moving pictures over the past few days.  For reasons that escape me, I have been anointed the keeper of the pictures and other documents (such as letters) that my mother accumulated over the years.  And by years I really mean years:  there was stuff just randomly strewn in a plastic box that ranged from 1937 until the 2000's.

Now I have looked over "the box" a few times in years past.  Times when I was looking for something in particular.  Times when I maybe just felt like re-living the past for reasons that were probably as sad as they were pathetic.

Anyway, recent tours through the box afforded me the ability to gain just a little more clarity of some aspects of my mother's life that she would have never told me about when she was alive.  Note the words "some clarity".  There were dozens of black and white photos from the 1950's featuring an infant, who I strongly suspect is my sister.  Note the words "strongly suspect".  My mother and my sister had a strained relationship, to which I will say nothing more, other than the fact that I have a tremendous amount of respect for my sister.

I probably will still need to spend more time in the box, particularly since I will be moving in December.  I pulled out a few things out for scanning/archiving, and I probably will be doing more of that as well.  There are also things I will need to destroy.  Other things that I will force my brothers to take.  One decision has been made:  all of the old family photos have been boxed up and are headed to my sister in Gettysburg.  I hope that the reflection they provide brings some sense of happiness.  Or clarity.  Or at least maybe a bit of finality.