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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Governor Brewer vetoes the "right to discriminate" legislation in Arizona.

As a follow-up to a recent blog posting (noted HERE), I was thrilled to learn this evening that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed SB1062, also known as the "right to discriminate" bill.  This was a bad law from conception through passage, and it would open the door to discrimination against any number of groups (not just members of the LGBT community).

Rather  than pontificate further, I'll simply let Governor Brewer's own words make the point...which they do, rather well I may add.  My favorite lines are noted in red bold.  Kudos to Governor Brewer for setting a positive example...not just with her veto, but with her explanation as well.

[Citation HERE]
Good evening, and thank you for joining me here today.
I am here to announce my decision on Senate Bill 1062.
As with every proposal that reaches my desk, I gave Senate Bill 1062 careful evaluation and deliberate consideration. I call them like I see them, despite the cheers or boos from the crowd.
I took the time necessary to make the RIGHT decision. I met or spoke with my attorneys, lawmakers and citizens supporting and opposing this legislation.
I listened . . . and asked questions.
As Governor, I have protected religious freedoms when there is a specific and present concern that exists in OUR state.
And I have the record to prove it.
My agenda is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona.
When I addressed the Legislature earlier this year, I made my priorities for this session abundantly clear...
Among them are passing a responsible budget that continues Arizona's economic Comeback. 2
From CEOs -- to entrepreneurs -- to business surveys -- Arizona ranks as one the best states to grow or start a business. 
Additionally, our IMMEDIATE challenge is fixing a broken Child Protection system. 
Instead, this is the first policy bill to cross my desk. 
Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated. 
The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. 
After weighing all of the arguments, I vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago. 
To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before. 
Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. 
It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want. 
Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination. 
Going forward, let's turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among ALL Arizonans and Americans. 
Thank you.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Forget the news; here's the trailer for the new Godzilla movie

If for no other reason than the facts that:

1) I'm tired
2) More than just a little frustrated
3) Nothing beats a giant lizard that breaks things

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Arizona's pending "it's okay to discriminate" law

A pending law is sitting on the desk of Arizona governor Jan Brewer that would basically segregate that state's society into two groups:  those who are gay and those who are not.  Details HERE.

Now on one hand, I conceptually believe that business owners should be free to do business with whomever they like.  However, the concept part of that just doesn't work in the real world.  Why?  Because the moment you allow someone to say "I don't like them folks, therefore I can treat them differently" to one group, you basically open it up to any and every group that is different than the business owner.

For example, a baker who believes strongly that black folks are cursed by God doesn't want to serve any African-American customers.  Would that be okay under Arizona's pending law?  It certainly opens the door to it being acceptable.  Mind you, the scenario I just presented isn't science fiction, as there are such groups in existence right now (see HERE for an example).  What's more, the whole pending Arizona law makes it every more wretched, as the business owner may not even have a way to knowing whether a customer is gay.  It's as if the customers will have to provide papers documenting their sexuality before someone will do business with them.

Now what about religious liberty?  Hey, I'm all for that; worship how and what you want, as long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else.  If you make the choice to believe one part of the Christian Bible (the whole "men don't lie down with men" part) but then choose to ignore other parts of the Christian Bible (pick'm:  don't eat pork, don't eat shellfish, you can kill your wife if you find out she wasn't a virgin when you got married, tax collectors are evil, it's virtually impossible for rich folks to go to heaven, you can own slaves...and the list goes on and on and on) then that's your business.  It becomes society's business though when those beliefs interfere with the lives of others.

In the end, American society isn't predicated on a specific belief system.  If it was, and that belief system was that of Fundamentalist Christianity, then the name "Jesus Christ" would be mentioned at least once in our founding documents.  But the problem is that said name isn't.  American society is, instead, predicated on the notion that everyone should be given a shot in life to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Our founding fathers noted that those rights come from the "Creator", and as a result were not subject to subjugation by man (not even the state government of Arizona).  Period.  No one doing business in the public square of America should have the right to say "my rights are better than yours".

Here's to hoping that Arizona's governor vetoes this ill conceived justification for discrimination.

I'll end this by posting something that George Takei wrote on this topic.  You can link directly to it HERE.

Dear Arizona,
Congratulations. You are now the first state actually to pass a bill permitting businesses–even those open to the public–to refuse to provide service to LGBT people based on an individual’s “sincerely held religious belief.” This “turn away the gay” bill enshrines discrimination into the law. Your taxi drivers can refuse to carry us. Your hotels can refuse to house us. And your restaurants can refuse to serve us.
Kansas tried to pass a similar law, but had the good sense to not let it come up for a vote. The quashing came only after the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other traditional conservative groups came out strongly against the bill.
But not you, Arizona. You’re willing to ostracize and marginalize LGBT people to score political points with the extreme right of the Republican Party. You say this bill protects “religious freedom,” but no one is fooled. When I was younger, people used “God’s Will” as a reason to keep the races separate, too. Make no mistake, this is the new segregation, yours is a Jim Crow law, and you are about to make yourself ground zero.
This bill also saddens me deeply. Brad and I have strong ties to Arizona. Brad was born in Phoenix, and we vacation in Show Low. We have close friends and relatives in the state and spend weeks there annually. We even attended the Fourth of July Parade in Show Low in 2012, looking like a pair of Arizona ranchers.
The law is breathtaking in its scope. It gives bigotry against us gays and lesbians a powerful and unprecedented weapon. But your mean-spirited representatives and senators know this. They also know that it is going to be struck down eventually by the courts. But they passed it anyway, just to make their hateful opinion of us crystal clear.
So let me make mine just as clear. If your Governor Jan Brewer signs this repugnant bill into law, make no mistake. We will not come. We will not spend. And we will urge everyone we know–from large corporations to small families on vacation–to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent.
And maybe you just never learn. In 1989, you voted down recognition of the Martin Luther King holiday, and as a result, conventions and tourists boycotted the state, and the NFL moved the Superbowl to Pasadena. That was a $500 million mistake.
So if our appeals to equality, fairness, and our basic right to live in a civil society without doors being slammed in our face for being who we are don’t move you, I’ll bet a big hit to your pocketbook and state coffers will.
George Takei


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Think you're tough? You got nothing on Pussy Riot.

It's one thing to be some rapid Tea-Bagger and proclaim that the President "is this" or "abused that", because in this country we kind of enjoy dissent.  What's more, that which one person here dissents against another embraces as down-right wholesome.  It's part of the larger fabric of things we take for granted living in the United States.

Now go over seas and see what happens when you try and fight the system.  Like in a place such as Russia.  I don't know about you, but I get the distinct impression that Vladimir Putin...

(image from Wikipedia)

...would just as soon kill someone who he disagrees with than anything else.  Heck, having worked  for the KGB for years, I am reasonably sure that he actually HAS KILLED people for similar reasons.  With his bare hands.  While simultaneously rescuing a Tiger.  Or wrestling a Bear.  Silly?  Maybe, but this un-silly part here is that Putin doesn't seem to the kind of person who embraces the virtues of free speech.

Enter Pussy Riot.

If you've not followed the exploits of Russia's (now) most well known punk band, then you can catch up on your reading HERE.  Your average American or English hard-assed rock-n-roller has nothing on these ladies.  What's the worst thing that ever happened, for example, to Ozzy with his run-ins with the law?  What, he spent a night in a drunk tank or maybe a few days in the clinker for urinating on a Texas landmark?  Awwww, poor man!  Three of these ladies have spent time in Russian gulags.  No celebrity defense lawyers, no defendant-friendly courtrooms, no presumption of innocence for these ladies.  If it weren't for the fact that they have a following in the rest of the world, I am reasonably sure that some of them would be dead already...and that is NOT an exaggeration.

So the next time you see some tough-guy rapper or heavy metal biker dude, just remember that it's one thing to look tough (or, in the case of urban "artist" Chris Brown, act tough by slapping around your 96 lb supposed girlfriend), but it's another to actually be tough.  It's one thing to sing or rap about danger, it's another to actually put yourself in harms way...for a cause greater than yourself no less.  I truly admire these ladies.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

(sniff) (sniff) What's that smell? Oh, it's just despair.

Since the end of last week was filled with snow storms and such, Ms Rivers and I decided to go out for a Valentine's Day dinner a bit late this year.  The location was the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino, located roughly between Scranton and Wilkes-Boro.  You can link to the casino's website HERE.

Now I don't really gamble, so going to a casino isn't something I've done very often.  In fact, I can probably use up one hand and an extra finger to count up the number of times I've been to this type of establishment.  I do find them interesting though.  Here are a few general and random thoughts on this latest experience specifically, and casinos in general.
  • Smoking & Gambling - I can see why the casino operators insisted that they be given an exemption to indoor air quality rules.  Why?  Because smoking and gambling go together like, well, smoking and gambling.  Think about it (as Ms Rivers noted), the casino is probably one of the last places someone can sit indoors and smoke their lungs out.  Nothing like seeing someone blowing money twice as effectively as they could anywhere else.
  • The Smell - Despite what seems like a monster HVAC system that could probably cool Uganda, the smell of hundreds of people smoking in the casino hits you like a ton of bricks when you enter the place.  Now the casino operator does do a decent job of abating the smell in the non-smoking section, but it's still pretty much everywhere.  I feel bad for the people that work there.
  • 24/7/365 - According to our waitress, the casino at Pocono Downs never closes.  It's kind of remarkable when you think about it:  there are people there gambling at 3:30 in the morning.  I almost want to go there at 3:30am just so I can ask someone "Why the Hell are you here?".  Additionally, it makes me also wonder just what someone who is disposed to going to a casino at 3:30am did before they had a casino to go to.  
  • Money, Money, Money - And not the ABBA song* either. This place must make money hand over fist.  With the odds severely stilted against each average gambler and so many playing, I can see why casino gambling truly is the revenge of Native Americans against the White Man.  
  • "If You Have a Gambling Problem" - I love the "If you have a gambling problem..." signs that you see in a casino.  That makes about as much sense has having a "If you have an over-eating problem..." sign at an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Or a "If you have a steroid problem..." sign in a major league baseball locker room.  Or a "If you have a problem with science and rational thought..." sign at the Creation Museum.  Or a "If you have a problem wearing clothing that is grossly inappropriate while shopping..." sign at your average Walmart.  Or a "If you have bribery problem..." sign at either the Luzerne or Lackawanna County courthouse.
  • Cash Advance - You can get a cash advance at the casino.  I'm not sure how that would work, but I'm intrigued at the thought of someone actually gambling money that they didn't even have in the first place.  It's simply remarkable. There were ATMs all over the place at the casino as well, and I really wanted to see what kind of fee they would add on for the privilege of giving someone their own money.
  • The Advertisements - In the casino, you see these advertisements showing some senior citizen or poorly dressed guy holding up cash, with the tag line "Cappy from Shanty Town just won $2,000!".  Personally I'd like to see, in smaller print below that line, the following:  "Cappy lives off of his social security and a meager pension.  Cappy has gambled away over $5,000 at the casino since it opened.".  Truth in advertising.
  • The Food - One thing you can't really criticize the casino about is the food.  The dinner was had, at the Rustic Kitchen, was simply excellent.  Even their food court looked neat.  The logic is pretty smart as well:  after a hard fought few hours of playing the one-armed bandits, what better place to blow some cash than at a nice restaurant?  As Mr Spock would say, "Logical, flawlessly logical".

For the record, I'll note that I have nothing against anyone who actually wants to gamble, be that at 3:30am or any other time.  For me, it just doesn't make sense, as I simply don't find it fun or exciting to lose money hand over fist.  For others?  Well on some basic level I can understand the's must be this combination of danger, excitement at the prospect of winning and all the flashiness that abounds in the place.  Self-deception?  Well maybe, but a little bit of that isn't all that bad every once in a while.  Gambling, like most things in life, is probably okay in moderation.

(*) Since I brought it up...

From Penn State's Board of Trustees - Eric J. Barron named President-elect

Received yesterday from Penn State.

Welcome, Eric J. Barron, president-elect of Penn State

Today, Eric J. Barron was named the 18th President of Penn State and will assume responsibilities for the presidency on May 12, 2014. Dr. Barron has served as the president of Florida State University in Tallahassee since 2010, and has held several notable positions within government and higher education, including dean of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences from 2002 to 2006. Below is information related to his appointment by the Board of Trustees.

Penn State Trustees name Eric J. Barron president, effective May 12

Image of Eric J. Barron
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The 18th president of Penn State has been named by the University's Board of Trustees. Eric J. Barron, a former dean at Penn State and current leader of Florida State University, will begin as Penn State's next president on May 12, 2014.
After an exhaustive search, Barron was appointed today (Feb. 17) during a special meeting of the University's Board of Trustees on the unanimous recommendation of the 14-member Trustee Presidential Selection Council, chaired by Trustee Karen Peetz. Barron will succeed Rodney A. Erickson, who in 2012 announced his intention to retire before June 30, 2014.

History of accomplishment

Barron, 62, has served as president of Florida State University in Tallahassee since 2010. In this role, he oversees Florida State University's 16 colleges that offer more than 275 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, professional and specialist degree programs, including medicine and law. Serving nearly 41,000 students, Florida State is one of the largest and oldest of the 11 institutions of higher learning in the State University System of Florida.
Before his presidency at Florida State University, Barron held a number of notable positions within higher education, including dean of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences from 2002 to 2006, having become a member of the Penn State faculty in 1986.
"My wife, Molly, and I spent 20 years at Penn State, where I served as a faculty member, center director and dean. In that time, I learned what it meant to continually strive for excellence – to make every year stronger than the year before," Barron said. "I also came to understand the power of this community, we are unbeatable when we are working together for a common purpose. It is an honor to lead this great University."

Scholar, educator, administrator and researcher

"In Eric Barron, we have found a president who is energetic, innovative and dedicated to maximizing the potential of our great institution," said Board Chairman Keith Masser in introducing Barron to the board. "Dr. Barron has a track record as an accomplished educator, highly respected researcher, an effective administrator and an internationally recognized scholar. It is clear that Eric Barron is not only familiar with our University, but also has the experience and knowledge to lead us forward, continuing our path of excellence."
Trustee Peetz agreed and said that Barron's credentials and proven leadership abilities brought his name to the top of the list. The executive search firm Isaacson, Miller contacted nearly 400 individuals regarding the position, as well as tapping into another 150, who were asked to suggest individuals who might be available for the position. Of particular interest to the selection committee was Barron's role leading a doctoral research university that also has a law school and a college of medicine, as well as his strategic plan to take Florida State University into the top 25 ranking of national public universities.

Looking toward the future

"This is certainly a pivotal time in the history of Penn State, and Eric Barron is the eminent leader that our University needs to take us to the next level of academic excellence and national prominence," said Peetz. "Dr. Barron has remarkable experience in so many facets of higher education and within the communities of which he has been a part. He has demonstrated strengths in fiscal matters, strategic planning, leadership and communication, and his track record for partnering with the community is stellar."
While leading Florida State University, Barron directed the university's rise to a U.S. News & World Report ranking as the most efficiently operated university in the nation.
From 2008 to 2010, Barron served as director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), a prominent federally funded research and development laboratory in Boulder, Colo., devoted to service, research and education in the atmospheric and related sciences. Barron had previously been a scientist at NCAR from 1981 to 1985.
Before his NCAR directorship, Barron was dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas-Austin, from 2006-2008, where he oversaw the task of building a school that just four years before had received a single gift of $282 million for the purpose of creating a school of geosciences. A major research university, the University of Texas at Austin is the largest institution in the University of Texas system and is home to more than 50,000 students.
In the previous two decades, Barron was a familiar figure at Penn State. From 1986 to 2006, he served in various positions at Penn State, including professor of geosciences, director of the Earth System Science Center, director of the EMS Environmental Institute and dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. He also earned the title of distinguished professor of geosciences at Penn State, and was named winner of both the Wilson Award for Excellence in Teaching (1999) and the Wilson Award for Excellence in Research (1992) in recognition of both his scholarly distinction and his outstanding teaching. Barron came to Penn State after one year on the faculty of the University of Miami.
He is a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society and the Geological Society of America. Barron is a highly recognized scientist and has received a number of national awards as a scholar, researcher and distinguished lecturer, including NASA Group Achievement Award and NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.
His expertise in the areas of climate, environmental change and oceanography, among other earth science topics, have led to extensive service for the federal government and the international community. He has served as a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is a member of its science advisory board; a member of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, director's advisory committee; and chair, Committee on Ocean Infrastructure Strategy for U.S. Ocean Research in 2030.
Barron brings to Penn State nearly 35 years of experience in academic administration, education, research and public service, as well as fiscal management within large and complex institutions.
Barron, who was at the board meeting Monday, said that he looks forward to again working with Penn State faculty, staff, students and alumni in advancing Penn State's core mission.
"I am thrilled to take on the leadership role of one of the nation's most prestigious universities," Barron said. "Penn State, already well-known for its high academic standards, its innovative research, global vision and unmatched public service, is well-positioned for the future and for creating more opportunities for students, as well as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
"The appointment of Dr. Barron as Penn State's next president ensures an excellent future for our University," said Dean Ann (Nan) Crouter, chairman of the University Presidential Search and Screen Committee, an 18-member group composed of students, faculty and staff. "He has been an outstanding faculty member, highly regarded researcher and an administrator who understands the roles and dynamics of the academic community. He has a remarkable record in building enrollment while ensuring academic excellence and diversity, and his desire to be inclusive in his decision making is something that is very important to our community."
A native of Lafayette, Ind., Barron received a bachelor of science degree in geology from Florida State University, a master's degree and Ph.D both in oceanography from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla.
The president-elect and his wife, Molly, an educator, will live in Schreyer House on the University Park campus. The Barrons have two grown children, Emily and James.
For more information about Dr. Barron, visit

Monday, February 17, 2014

Interracial Marriage is Evil (or so says Brother Donny Reagan)

This is worth the 16 minutes of you life it will take to watch.

Basically what Brother Reagan is giving us is the old "separate but equal" argument, as applied to the mixing of the races in marriage (as opposed to mixing them in education).  For those unfamiliar with concept of "separate but equal", this is what some misguided folks used as logic when arguing for public school segregation decades ago.  The theory was that no harm was done in having separate schools as long as the black and white children (I don't know what they did with the yellow, red, and other colors) had schools that were basically the same.  Of course the flaw in this logic was so large that you could drive Hummer (an H1, not those smaller ones) through it:  the schools for white kids were far better funded, resourced and the like than those for black kids.  Yes, they were separate, but they never were in fact equal, and the argument was really just a thin disguise for "we don't like those folks".

Fast forward to now, and Brother Reagan is again using the "separate but equal" argument to apparently protect American society from the evils of interracial marriage that produces *gasp* hordes of mulatto children.  After having watched Brother Reagan's rant twice (and reading a transcript of it, where the word mulatto appears a dozen + times), I still can't figure out what's actually wrong with mulatto children, but maybe that's besides the point.  I'll get to what I think the actual point is in a moment.  It does seem as if, in Brother Reagan's world, there aren't very many things worse than a mulatto child.  Me?  Heck, I think that all children are wonderful.  It's when they turn into adults that things get messed up.

Now is Brother Reagan a racist?  Well I can't answer that with 100% certainty because, in fact, I don't know Brother Reagan; all I've seen is one mildly sweaty clip from YouTube.  For all I know this could be some glorified act.  In the video he does claim to be staunchly non-racist, well as long as the races don't "do the nasty" and produce those hordes of mulatto children.  Of course his argument about not being a racist doesn't really hold water, as I've heard many an authentic, sheet wearing Klansman proclaim that "I'm not a racist, I just want black and white people to be separate for the benefit of both".  Brother Reagan isn't treading new ground here; he's simply reading a dialogue page that's well worn in American history.

So what is the point to all of this?  Call me crazy, but I don't really think Brother Reagan's seemingly racist rant is the issue here; rather, I think this is really just about control.  Ponder this for a moment:  being able to tell someone who they can or can't (or should vs shouldn't) marry is a pretty powerful chunk of influence over the lives of adults.  Brother Reagan uses uses his interpretation of the Bible to do just that, and in that respect he's hardly engaging in novel behavior, as this something that religion has been doing for, well, as long as there has been religion.  Sometimes this is a good thing, as in "don't kill people"; in the case of Brother Reagan, well, I'm not so sure it falls into the good category.  In any event, Brother Reagan is sure not pulling any punches when it comes to his desire to control the intimate lives of others.  Oh, and he's also implying that a child can be somehow defective because of the color of his/her skin.  Pick your poison, any of this (or even the whole racist angle) is pretty disturbing.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The score from West Pittston

Blog author news from West Pittston.

Wood/Coal Stove
One of the attractions of the new house was a wood/coal stove.
Growing up in a housing project, having something like a fireplace was, well, almost beyond comprehension.  As a result, the thought of having one for the house was an attraction, but it wasn't a requirement.  The fact that this house did have it, and it looks nice, was even better.  Getting it to work right?  Well that's a bit more tricky.  The folks from the wood/coal stove place (you can link to their website HERE) tell us that it takes about a year to get used to the thing.  They are right.  After filling the house full of smoke on Sunday, we got it lit.  And it was working well until Wednesday, when it went out.  Poof.  The prognosis to date?  It was smokey on Sunday because we didn't take a certain plate out at the top of the unit.  And we used quasi-wet wood.  It went out because, most likely, I wasn't doing the clean-out thing right.  Anyway. we re-lit it on Thursday without creating a smoke cloud that would make Beijing proud.  And it seems to be burning well now.  

For those keeping score, we're going to call this one even.

Bathroom Conversion
We bought the house with the idea of converting a small bedroom into a second upstairs bathroom/laundry room.  The work on it is basically done, although we still have to get the roof vent completed, something that can't really be done in the midst of snowstorm or 0 degree weather.  It does look nice, and before/after pictures will be forthcoming.  Budget wise, the project was right on target and we managed to get a few other small repairs done along with the major renovation.

We'll call this one slightly ahead of the game.

Garbage Collection
In Scranton you basically pay a few hundred a year (it was $175, but I think they just doubled it) for garbage pick-up, and for that, you basically throw anything away.  A 78 Plymouth Volare?  Sure, as long as you can chop it up into garbage bag sized pieces.
Not so here down in lessor Wilkes-Boro.  We are paying over $3/bag for garbage collection, and the bag can't weigh over 30 lbs.  I'm not sure if the private hauler we use actually has a scale handy, but no sense tempting fate.  Assuming three bags of trash a week, that's close to $500/year for trash collection.  For the record, I think the per-bag system makes more sense for everyone, as a senior citizen shouldn't be paying the same amount for trash collection as, say, one of those breeder families.  Precisely because a flat rate garbage collection is unfair is the reason why it will always be that way in Scranton.

We'll call this one a qualified behind the curve.

We have a wonderful neighborhood, and the days of going for long walks after dinner are only weeks away.  Oh, and it's relatively flat here to boot! I can't wait to get the bike out of storage.  That's a bike you pedal, not one with umpteen hundred horsepower.

Definitely ahead of the curve.

A frustration.  We have a spot for one car in front and two or three in the back, provided that the back wasn't full-o-snow.  It looked a lot more promising back when we could see grass.

Behind the curve on this one.

While I'm about 10 miles from work, I have to say that I truly enjoy the commute into the office on work-days.  It's relaxing.  Outside of that, we are close to a grocery store, car wash, several restaurants, and a (kinda run-down) Dunk'n Donuts.  Speaking of DD, they should have never stopped these commercials...

...and I'm not just saying this because I have a daughter that works for DD.  And so I digress.

Ahead of the curve on this one.

Work Space
With the new house I get a dedicated office space, which is way cool.  It's basically done, with book shelves, IKEA desk furniture, tech-a-plenty, including a state-of-the-art Linksys wireless router.  Oh, and once the polar vortex returns from where it came, the office has its very own covered porch.  Score!

Way ahead of the curve.

The final judgement:  doing well, thank you very much.  Now I just have to practice, a-hem, "Hayna or no?".

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day 2014

Maybe the actual meaning of Valentine's Day is this: Remembering what's truly important in life.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Don't Mourn for Philip Seymour Hoffman

One of the "ah ha!" moments of my life was when I learned the following:

Barring mental incapacity so great as to create a need for institutionalization, adults are responsible for their own behavior.

Ponder that one for a moment:  adults are responsible for what they do.  It's a pretty simple axiom, but yet I have found it to be profoundly important in my life.  As I've noted here on a few occasions, I've had mental health issues within my family that I've wrestled with over many years, and it wasn't until the above was presented to me (and even then it took me a while to fully grasp the implications) that I was able to finally begin to understand and deal with these kinds of issues in a constructive manner.

By the way, the first (of many) places I encountered this thought was in THIS highly recommended book.

All of which leads me to the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Reference a link HERE.

While it's certainly tragic that someone of the late Mr Hoffman's talent has died, the reality is that he killed himself.  Yes, he had some help in the guise of smack dealers and likely assorted other enablers, but at the end of the day his death was at his own hands.  Note that I think we can all assume that Mr Hoffman was a bright man who intellectually understood the dangers of hard drug addiction.  Yet barring evidence that he was physically strapped down and injected by others against his own will, he made the decision to stick needles in his body full of toxic crap, mostly likely to deal with whatever pain...mental, physical or both...that he felt.

We all experience pain in our lives, and Mr Hoffman could have reached out in many different (and constructive) ways to deal with his pain, but apparently those attempts were unsuccessfully.  With his career, I am sure that he was most likely able to afford the best private addiction and mental health care available.  He didn't make that choice though when it mattered the most.

So it goes that I do not believe it is right for the public to mourn the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  That sounds cold, but so be it, as it is genuinely how I feel about the subject.  I do feel badly for his children and others that were close to him in life, as they must be feeling a tremendous sense of loss.  That loss though falls squarely on the deceased shoulders of the late Mr Hoffman himself.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was murdered by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Bill Nye/Ken Ham Creation Debate

Reference THIS article/event.

Here's what I think:

Scientists and others should ABSOLUTELY NOT be required (or allowed) to go into churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship to teach the theory of evolution as some form of counter-religious dogma, because science is no substitute for religious faith.

Religious folks of any and all stripes should ABSOLUTELY NOT be required (or allowed) to go into public schools and teach their views of creation as being some form of science, because science relies of facts but religion relies on faith.

We can in fact have religion taught in places of worship and science taught in places of learning.  One need not threaten the other, despite the show put on by Mr Nye and Mr Ham.

Monday, February 3, 2014

10 Reasons Why "The Good Old Days" Weren't So Good (in NEPA)

Thinking back to when I was a kid in the late 60's and 70's, it's clear that the "good old days" weren't so good.  Here are ten reasons why.

1.  Black Lung.  Nothing like dying of  "coalworker's Pneumoconiosis" whereby you choke to death on coal dust embedded in your lungs.  This sounds like horrid way to go, and yet when I was a kid I heard a awful lot about it.  Sadly, you don't hear so much about it any more, mainly because those affected have probably been killed by it.

2.  The Neighborhood Beer Garden.  In the old days in NEPA you had "beer gardens".  Pleasant sounding, don't you think?  Conjures up images of little Irish Fairies floating around flowers and such, doesn't it?  I mean who wouldn't want to go to a garden?  Of course conjured up images are different than reality:  these were bars, all to numerous, where the over-worked would drink themselves into oblivion and then go home and either beat their spouses and/or children or simply sleep it off...until tomorrow, when they would do it all over again.

3.  Beating Children.  Speaking of beating children, I knew kids growing up who where were actually beaten by their parents.  Fists and all.  These days we call that "child abuse", but sadly, when I was younger, it seemed to be much more frequent.  For the record, while growing up I was s%#t scared of my mother, she never laid a hand on any of her children (to the best of my knowledge).

4.  Blind Obedience.  Be it to a church in general, clergy specifically, a labor union, an employer, or to a politician, back in the old days it seems that adults were much more likely to be blindly obedient.  Now I do understand that the opposite of that is equally troubling, namely rampant cynicism, but back then many simply believed everything told to them by certain figures in authority, and our area was all the worse for it.

5.  Disgustingly Polluted Rivers.  As a kid I remember walking down to the Lackawanna River and smelling just how awful it was; the smell was akin to diesel fuel.  It was wretched, and for the most part, that seemed to be okay.  I am glad that has (mostly) changed.  Now we actually give a crap about our rivers.

6.  4 Television Stations.  Growing up we had just four television stations:  16, 22, 28 & 44 (ABC, CBS, NBC & PBS).  Now I don't really watch that much television myself, but it is nice to have some choices.

7.  Shamelessly Corrupt Politicians.  In retrospect, everyone knew that the likes of Dan Flood and Joe McDade were crooks, but yet almost everyone was fine turning a blind eye, as if they were stealing for us.  Note to file:  they were actually stealing for themselves; we just got the crumbs that fell off the table.  Unlike the other items on this list, sadly this one still continues to a certain extent.

8.  City Steam Heat.  Back in the old days, many cities (such as Scranton; I'm not sure about Wilkes-Boro) had centralized heating systems, whereby steam would be pumped directly into homes and businesses for heating purposes.  Growing up we had this in a house we lived in on Pine Street.  Sounds like a great idea, huh?  In  theory yes, provided that steam was the only  thing that came in along with the pipes.  It wasn't.  These were basically cockroach (or as we would call them "waterbugs") superhighways.

9.  Ethnic Enclaves.  Forget the Serbs and the Croatians, for in Scranton you had the Irish and the Polish (or the Irish and the Slovaks, etc.).  As if where your parents or grandparents came from actually, really mattered all that much in the grand scheme of things.  These differences were petty and stupid, and actually helped politicians take advantage of dim-witted voters by appealing to ethnic sensibilities.

10. Cars.  This isn't specific to NEPA, but I'm going to mention it anyway.  I learned how to drive in a 1976 Chevy Nova.  My first "real" car was a 1974 Plymouth Duster.  Want to know what the worst car in the world is in the snow/ice?  That would be a 1974 Plymouth Duster.  Cars "back in the day" by and large were horrible in all but dry pavement, guzzled gas (I had a 1975 Chrysler Newport that got less than 10mpg city) and handled like tractor trailers.  These days most cars handle decently in bad weather (I have an AWD Nissan that can climb goat paths in the snow), have lots of options and are much more fun to drive.  Oh, and they get much, much better gas mileage.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

Between 6,000 and 8,000 people in Scranton (Pennsylvania) have been without water since Thursday, as a 36 inch water main supplying a portion of the city (and some surrounding areas) failed.  The local water company has been working around the clock to get the leak fixed, and it appears that a repair was made earlier today.  Water service is slowly being restored, but consumers are being asked to boil all water before using it.

A few thoughts:

  • The line in question was installed on or about 1920 and was designed to last up to 130 years.  I read a report that this same line may have failed once before, in the 1950's.
  • NEPA is notorious for wild swings in weather.  We can go from 60 degrees to -10 degrees in the winter.  
  • The topography in Scranton is best described as "challenging", as the city basically sits on two sides a of a valley.
  • The area's history of mine subsidence can cause havoc for underground lines.
  • Water supply systems, like any and every form of public infrastructure, wear over time. 
  • Unlike a bridge or a road surface, it's not easy to check on the viability of underground water supply lines.
  • This failure isn't the fault of the Mayor, the water company, the NSA, the Illuminati or fluoridation.  Stuff breaks, period.
  • Even with a failure every now and then, we are truly blessed with wonderfully efficient water and sanitation systems in this country.  Spend a week in a hell-hole like Egypt and you will know what I mean.

Bottom line?  This whole event has been horribly inconvenient for many, many people, but in the end "stuff" just happens.  The outrage needs to be saved for things that we should all be outraged about, such as A-Rod and/or NSA spying.