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Friday, January 31, 2014

The Grimm New York Congressman

The concept of bullying gets a lot of attention these days.  We have bully free zones in schools, for example, but maybe we need to extend that to governmental offices.  Reference the following:

New York Congressman Michael Grimm threatens to "break reporter in half"

The good Congressman reminds me of Biff from Back to the Future.

This one is pretty short and sweet, at least as far as I see it:  Congressman Michael Grimm is a disgrace to his party (whatever party that is, as it really doesn't matter), to the people he serves and to the United States Congress.  He should resign, like yesterday.  Think about it:  this guy is making threats to someone he doesn't know; what does he say to people he does know that upset him?

I know, I know, the "mean reporter"...blah, blah, blah.  Want to be a public servant?  Then get used to getting asked question on the spot by reporters.  It's a job requirement.  It comes with the territory. Grow "a pair" or step aside for folks who wear big-people pants.

Oh, and I'm not saying this from the standpoint of "think of the children..."; trust me, no children are interested in the antics of Congressman Grimm, or any other member of Congress for that matter.  This isn't about "the children", it's about a Congressman who is incapable of managing his emotions in a way that is even remotely acceptable this side of  civilized society.

Resign Congressman Grimm, resign.  Your apology isn't enough (but do check out the cartoon in the link).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Moving Day

...socializing two adult cats
...moving ginormously heavy new bedroom furniture
...disconnecting skeezy old washer texting updates from site A to site B 
...electrical tape, reams of it
...sweeping up in the basement
...coordinating with the plumber
...coordinating with the carpenter
...telling the painter he has 2 hours to finish his work
...finding that thing you never knew you had
...wondering "Why in the Hell did I ever pack that?"
...wishing you still had Scranton's stupidly liberal garbage pickup (for just one day)
...amazingly discovering food in the refrigerator
...self pat on the back when you get all the cords run in the bedroom
...wondering "why does it have to be 2 outside?"
...running the vacuum cleaner again, and again, and again
...finding the newly socialized cats hiding in all manner of places and spaces

...yes, today is moving day.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Living with Humans (again)

It's a countdown of sorts:  in about 48 hours I will once again be living with other human beings.  Now I've had some practice, what with vacations and the sort, but nothing of a permanent sort for well over over three years.

I'll note that, with regard to that last sentence, I had to use my fingers to count the time.  Big change has a way of contorting time like that; one's perception of a year before and after change tends to get skewed.  Well, time and other things get skewed.

Anyway, in the intervening time I have lived with my cat, JeanLuc.

He's not much of a conversationalist, but I'd like to think that he's a good listener.  He also takes a damn good picture.  Truth  be told, we have been joined by another cat, Tiger, just yesterday.

Tiger is basically the advanced party for the larger move scheduled for next Tuesday.  Think of him as being a feline scouting party of one.  Ms Rivers and I have pondered mightily on the mechanics of assimilating our two cats, and the decision was made to move Tiger in first for a few days so that he could become accustomed to his new surroundings and (new) cat-mate.  The two felines are only allowed limited interactions for the time being, with the hope that they can become accustomed to each other's presence before too long.  Initial results have been mixed; when they did see each other, Tiger basically chased JeanLuc.  But on the good news front, it could have been much worse, and the house layout is conducive to cat assimilation.

All told, I am sure all will go well.  

Tiger and JeanLuc will learn to like...if not then just tolerate...each other.

And I'll enjoy what it is like to be around other humans for extended periods of time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

If I were the guy in charge

Just a few thoughts about how my fantasy nation would operate.
  1. Healthcare.  Healthcare would not be free, for anyone.  Even if you have just a dollar to your name, a small part of that dollar should go towards your healthcare costs.  Anything having value is worth paying for, and part of me thinks that one of the biggest problems with our society is that we take healthcare coverage for granted.  We need to interject more personal responsibility back into the notion of healthcare.  If someone can find money for beer and smokes, then they can find money for getting and staying healthy.
  2. Defense & Defense Budget.  Taxpayers in the United States basically pay to police the world.  It's simply insane.  We need to spend enough to defend our own borders, and not much else.  See the following graphic from the Washington Post to illustrate the point:
  3. Religious Freedom.  Everyone should have the freedom to worship (or not worship) whatever they choose, without the government OR other folks interfering.  Specifically:  a) Religious Freedom stops at the tip of your nose; put another way, no one has the right to ram their religious choices down anyone else's throat...and...b) Religious Freedom doesn't give anyone license to harm small children, animals, the elderly or anyone else.  Oh, and let's be clear about something:  if the Christian Bible were the basis of our laws, then slavery would not only just be legal, but it would be encouraged.  And we'd be stoning prostitutes.  And not eating shellfish.  And countless other things.  So let's stop the selective reading of one group's religious text.  The Bible should no more be the law of the land than the Koran should be.
  4. Sexuality.  It's none of the government's business who you are attracted to, period.  As long as you are not physically harming me (or others or animals), then well have fun with the gender of your choice.
  5. Birth Control.  It's none of the government's business what you choose to do with your own body.  If your religion prohibits the use of birth control, well then see point #3.
  6. Abortion.  If your religion prohibits abortion, then don't get pregnant and then have one.  If your conscience tells you that abortion is wrong, then feel free to tell the rest the world about your views, as that's your prerogative.  However, people on both sides of the abortion debate need to calm down and understand that others of good conscience can and do disagree with them.  I no more want to live in a world where abortion is allowed at any stage of pregnancy than I do one in which is completely outlawed.  
  7. Marriage.  Marriage is really two things:  a) A Civil contract between two parties and  b) A religious institution.  One shouldn't dictate the other.  No religion should be forced to recognize a marriage which runs counter to its religion should have the right dictate the terms of a Civil contract between two consenting parties either.  See #3.
  8. Animal Abuse.  Abuse a cat or a dog?  I say that's assault, and we should treat it as such.  Let's not kid ourselves:  people who abuse animals probably are already abusing other humans, so let's deal with it on a 2 for 1 basis. 
  9. Death Penalty.  Do we really want to live in a country where a government can put its citizens to death?  I don't.  When you allow a government to kill people, then what isn't that government allowed to do?
  10. Drugs.  Drug laws should exist to protect the people who don't take drugs.  Put another way, the government should control drugs to the extend that such control will prevent a drunk/meth-head/stoner/ect. from ramming their car into my living room.  The government shouldn't control drugs simply because a few legislators or an agency has somehow decided that "pot" is more evil than vodka.  Mind you, I personally feel that the use or abuse of any mild-altering substance is just plain stupid, but I also personally feel that we all should have the right to be long as that stupidity doesn't negatively impact me or others.  I do lots of stupid things, but I try to not allow my own stupidity interfere with anyone else's life.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thoughts on Governor Chris Christie

(Photo from the State of New Jersey website)

In general, I like Governor Christie.  He comes across as a hard-nosed kind of guy, but we need more of that in elected officials.  Give me someone who is slightly gruff over someone slick any day.

Policies?  I don't know enough about the guy to judge his politics.  I do know that he makes some on the fringe Right nervous, which is a good thing.  Between that and upsetting those of the far Left, he must be doing something, well, "right".

I find the media's obsession with his weight to be shameful.  We get it.  He's heavy.  He's fat.  Heck, maybe he even smells like bacon fat.  Can we move on already?  When last I checked, waist size has no correlation to ability to govern.  In a media obsessed by looks, I find his looks refreshing, as imperfection is something we all can relate to.

Is he a bully?  Well when someone has to say publicly that "I am not a bully", it generally means that, well, they probably are a bully.  Bullies can be reformed though.  Maybe the butt-kicking he continues to endure from "bridgegate" will help in his reformation.

Speaking of "bridgegate", deflecting by talking about some other scandal involving Democrats is stupid.  Just deal with the issue at hand.  The George Washington bridge has nothing to do with an embassy attack in Libya.  Linking the two stinks of pathetic desperation.  If Governor Christie has been honest with the residents of New Jersey he has nothing to worry about.  If he did know about the bridge closing before all of this blew up then his goose is cooked.  American's only tolerate slick liars.  As noted above, Governor Christie isn't slick.

I hope Governor Christie weathers the storm.  I also hope he runs for President in 2016.

The 2012 GOP presidential roster was a loose connection of fringe candidates (see Rick Santorum) and a guy that mostly only Scrooge McDuck and C. Montgomery Burns could relate to; no wonder they lost to a man who really isn't qualified to be President...but is...and not only that, got elected twice.  That says more about the Republican candidates than it does Barack Obama.  The GOP needs Chris Christie as a presidential candidate, if for no other reason than to prove that most Republican voters really aren't either toothless hicks or aloof millionaires.  I can't relate to a sanctimonious Rick Santorum or a guy who owns dancing horses and a car elevator.  I think I can relate to Chris Christie, even if I ultimately don't vote for him.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Things I'm doing differently in 2014

Unlike some, I actually rather enjoy the process of setting New Year's resolutions.  I really do.  Now I don't view them as really being anything more than part of life's normal planning process, but that doesn't matter, as the net impact is the same:  it's about challenging yourself to be do live some aspect of your life better.  I realize that I may be a little bit late to the game on this one, but who cares?  Dates are, for the most part, very arbitrary things anyway.

Without out further explanation, here are some of my goals in 2014.

  1. To Consciously Disconnect One Day a Week - Once all of the moving stuff is completely settled at the end of the month, I'm going to take one day out of the weekend and pretty much put the phones away.  Personal and work.  I may check it once, perhaps, and I am not sure which day, but I will have one day during the week when I will not be a walking connection to the Internet.  One day when the only way you will be able to deal with me will be through one of the old fashioned ways.
  2. To Dramatically Reduce Multi-Tasking - I have a number of habits (such as almost constant note taking, using my phones, etc.) that I employ basically as an excuse to keep my mind on 4 different things at once.  It's a neat trick, but I need to stop that, and I need to make the conscious decision to be present.  "Present" as in actually attuned and focused on what I am doing at that moment.  I owe that not only to those I work with, but for my family and loved ones as well.  Mostly though, I owe it to myself.  I deserve to not have my mind working in constant swirls, as it's ultimately both unproductive and stressful.
  3. To Practice Calm - I will make a conscious effort to be calm, to not allow myself to be dragged down by negative thoughts, and to listen to what my body and my mind is telling me at all times.  My goal is to try and appreciate that in life, every moment truly counts, so way allow myself to get mentally bogged down?  I know, easier said than done, but that's why this is a goal.
The above relate to creating a better place in which my head can reside.  I know that's rather odd sounding, but it's kind of like cleaning up the mental air that I breathe.  Right now I have a lot of mental pollution that impedes my ability to truly live life to the fullest.

The next two relate to my body.
  1. To Eat Better - I have to treat my body better.  I need to be eating more fruits and vegetables and less red meat.  I need to stop treating what I eat as something that doesn't matter, because it does.
  2. To Exercise More - There have  been far too many reasons why I have been able to put off going to the gym on a regular basis.  That needs to stop.  I need to find a new routine.  Now more than ever, as I turn 50 in a few months, it's essential that I become even more active.

These are boiler-plate kinds of things, but they are still important.

The last two relate to building my mental stamina.
  1. To Read More and Better - I read a lot, every day, but like my eating, I tend to read a lot of things that represent the equivalent of empty calories.  I need to focus more on reading things that either make me really happy or which make me a better person.  Now the category of "make me really happy" is pretty darn broad, but that's okay. 
  2. To Really Pay Attention to My Career - I'm not all that interested in promotions and the like (I know, that's the equivalent of sacrilege in the business world, but so be it), but I am interested having a bigger impact at work.  I need to better focus my energies on those things that will have the biggest impact on the people I work with and serve (be they an executive or someone in the mail room).  This means doing more of the things that energize me and it means really, truly engaging in self development.  It's time to start practicing what I preach to others.  It's time to stop hoarding for some future date the encouragement, trust and support that others have given me.

Noble stuff, to be sure, but certainly very attainable.  Besides, for all of these things, there isn't a single goal to be accomplished; no for all, it's about journey.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

LA Times: For Scranton residents, bankruptcy is an inviting option

Everyone but the politicians (and the municipal union officials) get this basic fact:  Scranton is already, functionally bankrupt; all that's left is the legal designation.

How widely known is this?  Well they know it Los Angeles.

LA Times Article:  Scranton & Bankruptcy.

Granted, this is not the most flattering picture of the city, and I don't think that the properties shown on the webpage are actually in Scranton.  However, the basic facts are true:

  • The city's revenue comes no where near matching operating expenses.
  • The city has to borrow to meet operating expenses.
  • Basically no one (other than a union-owned bank) will lend the city money. 
  • The city can not afford court judgments against it.

If the above isn't the very definition of "municipal bankruptcy", then what is?  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Road Apples, #144

Posting Numbers...I by and large don't talk about "hits" or any sort of stuff regarding the blog.  Yes, I do have statistics, but I personally find it distasteful to talk about that kind of thing.  I heard a more seasoned blogger once refer to things like that as "blog whoring".  Anyway, I do find it remarkable that when I put certain words in posting titles (words like "Rush Limbaugh" or "Penn State") my numbers are significantly higher than, say, "Road Apples".  It's always been that way.  You will note that I only rarely write about the topics that generate high traffic.  Why?  Because that would run counter to the reason why I do this in the first place:  to entertain me.  Entertaining everyone else is a side benefit.

West Pittston Observations...I don't have many.  It's been too darn cold to observe much of anything.  I will say this though:  It's a beautiful little town.  Now it would be nice if they actually had a garbage pick-up, but I understand the rationale behind not having it.  It also focused the reality of one aspect of (formerly) living in Scranton, namely that residents there don't actually pay the real cost of trash collection.

Global Warming...I've heard more than a few knuckleheads talking about "now's where's all the global warming?" as it's so bitterly cold outside.  As true knuckleheads though, they miss real point behind the science of climate change, namely that global warming is causing extremes in the weather.  Going from 50 degrees early Monday morning to minus 3 degrees this morning is precisely the point.  Get used to it folks.

Bathroom Madness...We are having a second full bathroom put in the house, and the work commenced on Monday morning.  Pictures to follow.  I love looking at the guts of a house; it's remarkable to see what goes into creating a structure like a home.  The people who build such things have a talent, much more so than some of what is admired in this day and age.

Buying Pot in Colorado...or wherever the heck is now legal seems to be quite the news item these days.  I guess long lines of stoners makes for a break from the usual news of cold weather and dysfunctional politics.  On the subject of the use of Marijuana I'll note the following:  Unless you are a Chemo patient where having the munchies would actually help you get better, then I think that people who use Pot are idiots.  Dolts, if you prefer that word.  It's simply dumb.  Yes, I know there are other medical uses for the plant, but I don't buy much of what the stoner culture sells to willing ears on the subject.  For objective medical advice not tainted by too many Cheech & Chong movies, I suggest WebMD.  Now do I think it that Pot is worse than, say, booze?  Not necessarily, but then again I don't drink alcohol either.  One messes up your lungs (inhaling any burning plant matter will do that), the other your liver; either way, it's a steep price to pay for a minor escape from reality.  As for me, I always found a good book and some music offered more than enough reality respite, thank you very much.

Bill now the Mayor of the City of Scranton.  Good luck.  As I've noted here many times, while I hope for the best, Mr Courtright's tenure in public office isn't one marked by taking chances, making tough decisions or doing anything that smells of innovation.  He seems to be a "steady as you go" kind of guy.  If Scranton were in decent financial shape, didn't owe 20+ million to police & firemen, and wasn't suffering from a slow population decline, then I'd say that Bill Courtright is right for Scranton.  Reality though is somewhat different, and the last thing Scranton needs is a leader who is afraid to rock the boat.  As I have said many, many times before, this will not end well.  Scranton is functionally bankrupt now; all that's left is the legal definition.

Surgeon General's Report on Smoking...NPR had a terrific article this morning on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Surgeon General's report on smoking.  It's worth five minutes of your time to read (HERE).  Proof positive that government can do things that the private sector can't; in fact, if left to the private sector, we'd still have advertisements from Tobacco companies featuring doctors touting the benefits of smoking.  Anyway, if you smoke, I'm sure there are people in your life who love and depend on you, so please quit.  No habit is worth your life.

Monday, January 6, 2014

An open letter to fellow Penn State alumni

Dear Fellow Penn State Alumni, 

It was never going to happen, despite a desire to "Billieve".

Coach Bill O'Brien was not going to be the next Joe Paterno.  In fact there was never any chance he would be; instead, he went for the money (details from Penn State HERE).  

Reality is setting in, even for Penn State football fans.  This includes the facts that:
  • College football isn't about honor and integrity; it's about business and money.  It has more to do with building bank accounts that it does building character.  Want proof?  Look no further than to the lies told by Bill O'Brien to potential Penn State athlete-students during recruiting trips. 
  • Even in "going for the money", keep in mind that the football coach at Penn State was (and probably still will be) the highest paid public employee in all of Pennsylvania.  How much sense does that make?  The coach of a vehicle for entertainment (and remember football is just that, entertainment) is paid more than the people who teach future doctors and nurses how to save lives.  Yes, there is a ton of glory in that one.
  • The days of a decades long coach will never, ever happen again.  Never, ever, period.  Success at Penn State will breed offers from other schools and the NFL.  Get used to the revolving door boys and girls.  Maybe, if the school is lucky (tongue firmly planted in cheek), some spawn-o-Bowden will coach the team.  "Bowdenieve" anyone?
  • The fantasy of the "student athlete" is slowly fading away and is being replaced by the reality of the "athlete who is nominally also a student", even at Penn State.

All is not lost though, as the cult of football survived Joe Paterno's (at best) indifference to child molestation, and it will survive the departure of Bill O'Brien.  Why?  Because the worship of sports isn't about rational thought, ideals or anything high-minded of the sort.  It's about escapism, in one of its truest and best forms.  We Americans are nothing if not lovers of fantasy and adventure, and college football at Penn State provides a little bit of both for a few weekends starting ever "school" year.

For the Glory

Steve Albert '86
Penn State Alumni Association Life Member

Sunday, January 5, 2014


"A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff."
- George Carlin

I finally now see the true wisdom in the late, great George Carlin's classic bit about "stuff".  Here's more, for those interested.

Now for the record I am not moving just to get a bigger place for my stuff.  Yes, while in moving I actually have more room, the reality is that I am shortly going to be sharing the space with Ms Rivers, who will be moving here at the end of January.  She has some stuff too, so my task between now and when she moves in is to better manage my stuff.

In my old place I did't really have a ton of storage, so I had a ton of stuff around my work area.  In fact, when I look back, I previously only really had two rooms I used with any regularity:

1) My office area, where I spent most of my waking (at home) hours.
2) My bedroom, where I spent most of my non-waking hours.

I do have an office in the new house, but it is actually smaller than the space I had at the old place.   Smaller yes, but nicer, complete with it's own covered porch.  That's a nice addition, but pretty useless when it's about 10 degrees outside.  But so I digress.

Luckily for me, I suffer from whatever is the opposite of claustrophobia, meaning that I am actually more content in close quarters where I can reach things.  That's my new office.  Everything is within reach, mostly, and I am kind of tucked into a corner.  I'd post a picture, but it's mostly still a disaster area, as I manage the following piles of stuff:

  • Work files that I reference at home.
  • Good stuff that I no longer want to keep (hoping to get brothers to take).
  • Wall hangings that I don't want to put up until the rest of the stuff has been organized.
  • Stuff to be thrown out.  
The last category is the smallest, thankfully, as I tried to do my best to purge things before moving.  Nothing makes less sense than moving something that you will end up throwing out anyway.  I need to get through all the office stuff soon, as I have a closet in one of the bedrooms that is massively in need of a rehab before Ms Rivers moves in with her stuff.

The last frustrating thing about my current stuff situation?  I don't have any dressers.  Well that will change, as Ms Rivers and I bought a very nice bedroom set manufactured by Vaughan-Bassett (real wood...not some pasted together beaver-board stuff...manufactured in the United States), but it's going to be a few weeks before it gets here.  That's the price I am paying for getting something decent, but until then I'm making due with some hanging stuff and other stuff (mainly just long-sleeve casual shirts) sitting in tubs.  Tubs are great vehicles for holding stuff, by the way.

Well I have to get back to organizing and putting away stuff.  Before more stuff arrives.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 - Creating days to remember

Sometimes a song...the combination of words and music...can say far more than just words (or music) alone.  For whatever reason this song seems to be pinging in my head as I contemplate the new year.

I hope for one and all (and especially for my daughters, Katrina, Korin and Rebecca) is that, in 2014, we create days we will remember.