Not Cease from Exploration

Friday, August 30, 2013

Side Note - Scranton School District Posting

Reference this posting:

After this story broke, I did something I normally never do:  I commented about the story on the Scranton Time's website.  Now there were well over a hundred comments by the evening of the story, but what comment wasn't listed?  That would be mine.  Apparently I must have violated some rule or another.  Maybe I used my own name (from what I gather, one is supposed to use a pseudonym, you know, like "Carlos Danger").  Maybe I wasn't snarky enough.  Maybe, since I said the teacher was innocent until proven guilty, I was off script.

What did I post?  Well basically a truncated version of the above referenced posting.

What's also interesting is that in as much as the Scranton Times made a big splash with the story initially, I haven't seen any follow-up.  It could be that there is nothing to follow-up on; it could be that the story was a bit too much for the Scranton Times to handle.  Scranton is a small town, and people in the Scranton School District are mightily connected.  We shall see.

Yes, we shall see.  This is a great example of an area where journalism can make a difference.  The real issue in this case isn't the DUI allegation.  Hell, people around here get accused of DUI all the time; at most you read some small-type legal notice about some poor soul having to enter into some program.  No, the real issue here is that once again we have evidence of nepotism and glaring conflicts of interest in a local school district.  And no one so much as blinks an eye.  Well I did, and will.

Now in defense of the Scranton Times, they do, from time to time, talk about public sector corruption in it's many forms (including the family tree that constitutes the Scranton School District's organization chart).  But I don't think they do enough.  What can they do?  Well I (more or less) repeat my previous challenge:


Dear Scranton Times:

Please publish a list/chart showing the interpersonal relationships between past and current Scranton School District administrators (including past and present school board members) and other district employees.  Let's see, in black-n-white, all of the family relationships.  For bonus points, also consider listing the names of district employees who are related to local politicians.  How many people know, for example, that Scranton City Council's Janet Evans has a son who is district employee?


I will be waiting, all be it impatiently.


Sincerely, 


S. Elmer Albert

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Road Apples, #139

Welcome back Gort...It was nice to see Gort return to some blogging activities on Monday.  You can read his posting HERE.  In addition to just being a Hell of a good guy overall, Gort was very supportive when I first started this blog, almost 5 years ago.  Here's to many more future postings.  Sadly, despite Gort's best efforts, I wasn't able to call into WILK this morning to talk about his posting.  The reason?  A combination of being too busy and a desire on my part to not offend WILK or it's audience.

Violence in Wilkes-Boro...Is it me or has there been an epidemic of violence in Scranton's smaller sister city lately?  The latest incident involved the shooting of two small children (story link HERE).  It's hard to fathom how anyone could live with themselves after having done something this horrible.

Speaking of violence...it looks like there will be more of it in Syria.  While there is no doubt that only a monster would use poison gas, I'm not sure why we, once again, need to be the world's police force.

The House Sale Department...Work continues in the home sale department.  No offers yet, but then again I have't planted the St Joseph statue yet.  It's a great house folks...BUY MY HOUSE!!  Link HERE.  The multi-list number is 13-3922.

VMA's...Complaining about trashy performances on MTV's Video Music Awards is like standing in the middle of a landfill and complaining about the smell:  it just comes with the territory.  The fact that so many people have been talking/complaining about the performances on the VMA's is probably "music" to the ears of the MTV executives.  By the way, in what alternate universe is a 32 year old entitled to "Lifetime Achievement" award?

Elysium...I watched this over the weekend.  Bottom line?  Recommended.  Matt Damon is convincing in a fairly gritty role.  Sharlto Copley is simply outstanding as the bad-guy "Kruger".  More on Kruger below...



This is the same guy who played the relatively meek Wikus van der Merwe in District 9.

Other health news...in burning the candle at both ends, I really did manage to temporarily wreck my health.  Weeks of sleeping little, guzzling energy drinks to stay awake and then taking something to help me sleep at night took it's toll. The inevitable crash happened last weekend, as Ms Rivers and I traveled down to Wyncote to visit her parents.  Maybe it was being forced to relax, but I just felt horrible.  Tight chest, constantly feeling tired, and last weekend it included digestive problems.  Enough.  I'm glad to report that after having felt like crap last weekend, I've made the very conscious decision to pace myself better.  To get more sleep.  To swear off things that keep me awake and thing that put me to sleep.  Whatever will happen with the house sale will happen, but there's no sense in my killing myself in the process.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Scranton School District: Yes, It Is THAT Bad

A Scranton School District teacher was arrested and charged with DUI and child endangerment.  This is not a good situation, but hey, this person is innocent until proven guilty and she should be treated a such.

Article HERE.

What really bothers me about this story?  It's the fact that she is the wife of the Scranton School District's superintendent, William King.

Yes, you read that one correctly:  she ultimately reports up to her husband.

Please do tell me:  Outside of a family-run business (which, apparently, the Scranton School District now qualifies...), when is it ever appropriate to have one spouse report to another?

How do we know that principals do not court favor with Mr King by treating his wife with kit gloves?

How do other teachers know that Ms King's classroom assignments, number of students, and the like are not influenced by her husband (or people wanting to court favor with her husband)?

How can taxpayers be assured that Ms King is worth the salary we pay her when clearly she has direct, regular and personal access to the district's key decision maker?

What inside information has Ms King received that she has been able to use to better her career?

The answer to all of the above questions is unqualified WE DON'T KNOW.  And that is the problem.  This whole situation is a MESS and speaks loudly to why taxpayers have little confidence in the operations of the district.

As for me, I'd like to see two things come out of this:

  1. To the Scranton Times - Please publish an organization chart showing the relationships between Scranton School District employees and current/former district administrators/leaders.  I think the visual would be shocking.
  2. To the Scranton School Board - Please do the RIGHT THING and pass a real anti-nepotism policy. Yes, in such a policy, on occasion a good teacher may not get a job due to a family relationship.  So be it. However, under the current situation, just as many good teachers DO NOT get jobs because THEY ARE NOT related to someone of influence.  In the end, the talent argument in favor of nepotism (just saying that makes me feel, well, filthy) doesn't hold water.

I'm not holding my breath for either to happen.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ted Cruz declares that he is NOT a Canadian!




Just as Michael Scott unfortunately learned that you can't simply "declare" bankruptcy, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has learned that you can't simply "declare" that you are not Canadian.

Story link HERE.

It's actually kind of funny when you think about it:  a guy who panders to Tea Baggers (many being notorious as "birthers") now can't seem to easily un-Canadian himself.

As they say up in the Great White North...

Beauty, Eh!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Swimming Up Stream

Yesterday, the pressure felt steady but intense.  The "pressure" I refer to was mental...I have a lot of work to do in the office, I have a house to sell, etc...and physical...my chest felt like it was tightly wrapped in cellophane.  I keep telling myself that things will be getting easier, and maybe they will, but there's always that "X factor" in life that you can never plan for that somehow always keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Reflecting back, there are times when I wonder just how the Hell I made it this far. This especially came to light last week at work during a conversation I was having with our site EAP (Employee Assistance Program) person.  Linda, who is one of nicest human beings I have ever met, just wanted to make sure I was "okay" in light of my mother's passing. The resulting conversation punctuated just how difficult it was for me to be the good son.  My mother was never what you would call a positive person, and the every Sunday the time we spent together was far from "Tuesdays with Morrie". In fact, at times it was horrible. It was as if every Sunday I was dipped in negative goo, willingly, and was powerless to do anything about it. Caught between a sense of duty (as a son) and a need for self-caring, the good son always won out. I did my duty and paid something of a price.

As I explained to Linda, about 50% of the time I spent with my Mom she was in her "normal" mood, which was a kind of dull-edged pissed off. About 40% of the time she was downright nasty, complaining about everyone and everything. About 10% of the time my Mom could be supportive and caring. Now to her credit, that 10% usually came when you needed it most (such as when I was going through my divorce), but it was still by far and away the exception and not the rule. The worst part of all was that there was no predictability to her moods. But yet I soldiered on.

Linda, by the way, was amazed at this micro-story. A quarter century of Sundays more or less stolen from me, all out of a sense of duty. This was in addition to countless other times when I would come over during the week to do things for my mother, such as helping her with a federal tax problem in late 2012.  Anyway, all of this this makes me either a great son or a moron. Maybe a little of both.  Regardless, I am still acclimating to having my Sundays returned to me.

It all does fit together in a way.  Maybe part of this "swimming up stream"  feeling stems not just from the tactical things I am doing; maybe part of it stems from that feeling that I am looking back and seeing a part of my life so polluted.

* * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * * 

Post Script.

It's Sunday morning, and I write this in a lovely home in Wyncote, Pennsylvania.  It wrote the above yesterday, on my cellphone, while (continuing) to feel physically really damn bad.  Now I have the benefit of having gone to bed at about 9:30pm last night and waking up this morning at about 6:20am or so.  I slept reasonably well and reasonably long, two things that have escaped me for months.  

I suspect that there will be more to come in the "Mom decompression" department.  

And I need to work on some other things as well.

And it's Sunday, with nothing negative to (not) look forward to.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #6

I have paint everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  In places that one shouldn't have paint I have paint.

I'm not sure what's the higher number:  my blood pressure or the concentration level of acid in my stomach.

I am often times exhausted but yet I have trouble falling asleep.

Focus?  I normally have the attention span of a retarded gnat.  Lately it's been worse.

I am living in a mostly vacant home and my belongings mostly fit in a 5'x10' storage unit.  And I think I kind of like it.

I watch about an hour of television per week.  Now that Falling Skies is over, it may be down to zero.

I have gotten so good with caulk that I can now sculpt with it.

Sleep?  Maybe 5 or so a night.

I can't look at a carpet without seeing stains.

I have to remind myself that I normally don't have a short fuse.

Can I get a quantity discount when buying Febreze?

I now officially feel guilty about leaving work before 6pm.

I've given up on weighing myself.

Vegetables?  What are they?  You mean the green things you eat?

My cat will sometimes sit on my lap, I swear, just to calm me down.  And for the record my cat, like most cats, really doesn't give a rat's behind about any creature other than himself.

I have four different kinds of paint cans in my closet.

I've officially gone into home-repair overload.




Yes, I am selling my house.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #5

Well today is the big day:  my house is supposed to officially be on the market for sale.  Papers have been signed and dated.  The real estate agent is engaged.  I am fully prepared to shamelessly try and help the selling process by and any all means.  This doesn't, however, mean that all is "well".  In fact, my head is a virtual bag of cats, swirling an turning full of thoughts and feelings, most of which probably don't make much sense in the larger scheme of things.  But why should this event have any less of an impact on my mental state?  Hell, I can over-think crossing the street, so it's not like I need an excuse.

Anyway, here's a random collection of thoughts running through my head as I head into the great unknown of "das Haus verlassen".

  • Time - Just how long will it take to sell the house?  It could take a week or it could take 9 months.  According to the agent, typically the longest she sees houses in the market is about 9 months.  For me, that would put me into April 2014.  Scary thought.
  • Money - Also according to the agent, the single most important element that influences the sale of a house is the price.  People don't sell their house primarily because they want too much for it.  As for me, I'm pricing the house at below what we paid for it in the early 1990's.  I could list for more, but I'm not interested in making a buck...I am interested in selling a house.  I don't have a mortgage on the property, so there is no amount I need to make; in fact, I want enough to pay off some bills and have money for a down-payment on a new place.
  • Effort - I am working my ass off.  Seriously, and I don't have a small ass.  I've painted more, cleaned more, straightened more, fixed more than I've ever done in my entire life.  God bless my brother Rich, who has been here a few days a week helping out.  When this is all said and done, I'm going to get him something he's always wanted but would never buy for himself.
In a way, all of the effort I am putting into this is rather therapeutic, as if I didn't have 10,458 things to do, I might just spend too much time pondering just all that this change means.  A few years ago, I had one goal for myself:  do big things.  Change my life.  The trajectory I was on could never be sustained; I have no doubt that, in the absence of big change, I'd be struggling at this very moment to maintain my very sanity.  Not that the path over the past few years has always been easy; early on, it was incredibly difficult.  Life, however, is truly an iterative process, if you have a plan that is; not that I always has a well defined plan (other than "change my life"), but I'd like to think that I've known the direction to take, even if the goal was a bit fuzzy.

What's not so fuzzy?  That would be the immediate goal at hand:  sell the house, and begin the next phase of my life.  Time to kick the tires and light the fires.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Paintman (das Haus verlassen, #4)

When you in the process of making yourself homeless via selling your home, even temporarily, there is often times significant painting involved.  With this in mind, and with apologies to George Harrison, I present my own version of "Taxman".  To see the correct version, click HERE.


PAINTMAN

(one, two, three, four (cough), one, two)

Let me tell you how it will be
There's lots of paint all over me
'Cause I'm the paintman, yeah I'm the paintman

Should this can of paint appear too small
Don't worry I won't use it all
'Cause I'm the paintman, yeah I'm the paintman

When I paint outside, I'll paint indoors
When I paint the ceiling, I'll paint the floor.
When I paint door, I'll paint the sill.
I'll paint so much I'll get terminally ill.

Paintman....

'Cause I'm the paintman, yeah I'm the paintman

Don't ask me what I'm painting for
If you don't want me to paint any more.
'Cause I'm the paintman, yeah, I'm paintman.

Now my advice those selling a home
Paintman
Don't try to paint it all alone.
Paintman
'Cause I'm the paintman, yeah, I'm the paintman.
And I'm painting for no one but me.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vacation by the Numbers

1200
Approximate number of miles driven during the week.

700
The approximate number of feet we drove to get up to the top of Mount Defiance.
(At the top of Mount Defiance; in the distance, on the left, is Fort Ticonderoga)

176
Net number of photos I took during vacation.  Most were with my Sony Alpha.  The actual number of photos taken during the week was over 200, but I tend to delete a few as a I go along.

(The view from the hills of Vermont, looking South)
26
Approximate gas mileage obtained by the 2013 Chrysler Grand Caravan we rented for vacation.  Overall, I'd give the vehicle a rating of 7 (out of 10).  On the plus side?  It had a ton of space, an intuitive touchscreen audio system and a way cool back-up camera.  On the negative side?  The drivers seat was punishingly uncomfortable...it was oddly not centered with the steering wheel...and the brakes started to overheat as we descended down the mountain side in Vermont (not good for a vehicle with about 9500 miles on it).  

12
Number of insect bites obtained by your's truly; note that "0" is the number of bites obtained by Ms Rivers during this same period.  Neither one of us used a repellent, which leaves me guessing as to why flying critters love me but despite her.  Perhaps flying insects are afraid of compliance officers as well.

(Has nothing to do with insect bites, but just a cool picture of a fern shadow on a rock)

7
Number of states passed through during vacation.  That would be Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.  I had to point New Jersey out on the map to convince some doubters (check it out for yourself:  if you take I84 from Scranton towards Connecticut, you pass through a tiny sliver of New Jersey before you enter New York).

6
Number of extended Rivers family members that we met at or after Fort Ticonderoga.

(Rows of cannon at Fort Ticonderoga)

5
Number of days left until the house goes on the market for sale.  Not that this has anything to do with vacation by the way.  Anyone want to buy a house?


The number of times I lost...but then found...the cap for the 55mm lens of my Sony Alpha.

3
Number of Revolutionary War battle & related sites we visited; specifically this would be Saratoga, Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Defiance.

(British line, overlooking the Hudson, at Saratoga)

2
Number of Bald Eagles that I couldn't take a picture of in-flight because I brought the wrong camera to the lake on Tuesday.

1
Number of rainy days we had during the week...not bad actually!


Lastly, many thanks to Chris' aunt and uncle, Margaret & Jack Carlson, for allowing us to stay as guests at their house New Hampshire and for sharing their lake, their cats, their birds and their garden with us.