Not Cease from Exploration

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 - Time it was and what a time it was...

Thinking about 2014, as it will soon become something of the past.

Robin Williams...I get a tad bit sad every time I see a picture of Robin Williams.  Such a talented man, so seemingly full of life, someone who brought such joy to others.  His legacy will last for years to come.  If there is one lesson we can all take from his untimely passing though it's this:  it always looks good from the outside, but yet we never know what lies beneath.

The City of Scranton...is inching ever closer bankruptcy, and just about all that's left is the formal designation.  I've been saying this for years, and somehow I don't think it will be long before even the powers that be realize that:
  • There aren't enough assets to sell
  • They can't raise taxes high enough
  • It's not possible borrow oneself out of debt
This will not end well.  Ditto for the Scranton School District by the way.  It's not a good way to end a year, so here's to hoping that the bottom is truly hit in 2015 so that the upswing can begin in earnest.

Cha-cha-changes...With about two weeks left in 2013 I sold my home in Scranton and moved to a home in West Pittston that I purchased with my partner in life and crime.  I've learned a lot in 2014 about things like coal stoves, garbage stickers, the communal activity known as "taking your stuff the recycling center", the workings of small town government and how wonderful it is to have something of a fresh start.  This Christmas was the first, in my adult life, when I didn't actually end up going to someone else's house.

Working for a living...Work continues to roll on and on and on.  Lots of changes, some were good, and some of which were far more difficult to get past than others.  It's kind of sadly amazing in a lot of different ways in that we (as professionals) pride ourselves on our ability to deal dispassionately with what happens in our working lives, and yet the emotions that come with the connections we make at work will not be denied.   I'm all the more convinced that having a thick skin and the ability to chew one's pride (simply just swallowing it is not enough) are as essential as knowing how to use email these days when it comes to living the corporate life.

School...I went back to school, well one class at a time, starting in August.  Mind you I waited until I was nearly over with my second class before I would even admit that I was doing it.  Didn't want to generate bad juju you know.  Anyway, it's a lot of work and as a result it kind of forces me to look at how I spend my time and what I value.  I do have the feeling that, once it is all done, I'll really miss the experience, regardless of the amount of work that it entails.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) the "once it is done" part will not be happening for a very long time.

Dad...I can look at my three daughters with nothing but unbridled pride, and although one is now closer to home, another has moved away.  All three work hard though, all three are quick witted, and all three have good hearts.  If I can be known as anything in life, I'd like that to simply be "he was a good Dad".

Violence...Young black men getting shot or strangled, police getting assassinated, and fingers pointing in all directions.  We are all equally flawed, a point which I think many seem to forget.  As 2014 ends, I will not believe that all young black men are thugs, and I will not believe that all police are trigger happy fascists either.  Enough already with the institutionalized stereotyping!  Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt and deal with folks as individuals, not as members of one group or another.

Health (of the physical kind)...Hey, I turned 50 in 2014.  It's a good age to be actually.  I physically feel pretty good, and when I look at others in my similar age bracket I can point with some pride to the fact that I move well at the half century mark.  More importantly though, in 2014 I recommitted to taking better care of myself.  I owe it to some folks, but mostly I owe it to myself.  I know full well that the parts will start wearing out (they already have...), but unlike an automobile, the best form of prevention for our bodies is action, and I intend to be as active as I can  be for as long as I can be.

Politics...simply disgusted me in 2014.  Period.  The rampant cynicism that accompanies national political debates is nothing short of demoralizing.  No political party has a monopoly on the truth.  Both political parties are beholden to special (as in "not our") interests.  Both political parties rely on a silly, out of date dynamic that consists of demonizing others in order to appeal to an extremist "base".  If you want to tow a political line, then don't do it around me, as I will roundly and verbally trash you.  I don't care if your material comes from Limbaugh or Maddow, as it is all slanted crap.

Reading...I read a lot in 2014, but in some ways I didn't read nearly enough.  Now there is the daily and rabid consumption of the news via the written word, but that's simply business as usual for me.  Among other things, I read (most of) a history of the Popes, a terrific book on the relationship between the Papacy and the late dictator Mussolini, a right-wing Catholic tome about how the world needs to return to the Middle Ages (I kid you not...the mere concept was so outlandish that I just had to read the book), books on introversion, and a few more I am forgetting.  Going into 2015 I am finishing about the 10th book I've read on the topic of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a.k.a. The Mormons).  Yes, this is what I read for fun.

Gay Human Rights...I'm taking the words "gay rights" out of my vocabulary, as 2014 taught me that these are really "human rights".  Now if your religion believes that gays are going to Hell, well then that's the prerogative of your religion, but that prerogative ends at your church doors.  Period.  Oh, and if you want to benefit from doing business in the public square, then you have to serve all of the paying public, not just those who think just like you (of course bearing in mind that a business owner can enforce rules related to basic civility...think of the "you have to be wearing pants to come into my store" rule, which is sometimes NOT enforced at WallyWorld).  Put another way, it's not discrimination when you are told that you can't discriminate.

Health (of the mental kind)...There are things I need to work on, as 2014 had its challenges.  Now I'll note right off the bat that it's never the folks (like me) that admit their challenges that we all need to worry about, so I am safely in the clear in that regard.  I do wonder though why, at age 50, it's still so easy for me to get distracted, why it's so difficult to focus at times, why I have such a difficult time sleeping well and why there are times when I struggle to see what's right in the world around me.  These aren't "new" issues for me, but rather issues I have had to deal with all my adult life.  

Learning...There was a lot of learning going on in 2014.  In addition to the school and house stuff noted above, I'm also becoming proficient in Apple's OS, I learned how to replace a window, I got plenty of practice in the art of digging out bushes with a pick axe, I spent quite a bit of time learning about conservative Catholicism, and I got much better at photo editing.  Much, much more to come in 2015.

Faith...For someone who reads a ton about faith, religion and religious philosophy, I really don't practice much in the way of a formal creed, especially over the past year.  I do know what I believe in, well kinda-sorta, and maybe just as importantly, I know what I don't believe in.  Perhaps my lot in life is to aways be more of a seeker than a finder, at least as far as that concept applies to the Higher Power(s) in the universe.  As the saying goes, "Not all who wander are lost".

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Just tax the University of Scranton"

A familiar comment you hear relative to Scranton's never-ending march towards municipal bankruptcy was noted recently on a Facebook thread:

"I know I might get slapped down for this comment...but we need the University to start paying taxes.  Look at the amount of properties they have amassed over the years..."

Now the issue about the University of Scranton having to pay property tax is complex, to say the least. As I understand it, the exemption technically resides at a state level, and is based on a 1985 court ruling (Hospital Utilization Project v. Commonwealth Pennsylvania), whereby there is a 5 point test to determine if an organization should be exempt from property tax.  That test defines a public charity as an organization that:

• Advances a charitable purpose;
• Donates or renders gratuitously a substantial portion of its services;
• Benefits a substantial and indefinite class of persons who are legitimate objects of charity;
• Relieves the government of some of its burden; and
• Operates entirely free from private profit motive.

You could argue that the University of Scranton both does and doesn't meet the above test, but that's not my point.  Rather, my point is this:  To say that the law should be changed to allow for taxation of an organization like the University of Scranton creates more questions than it problems it solves (in my opinion).  For example, if the University of Scranton has to pay taxes, what about Scranton Prep? What about the Hebrew Day School and every other private religious school? What about churches? An Atheist could easily argue that many churches in fact do far less for the community than the University of Scranton does. Do we want to just exempt small property owners, so that large property owners like the University are taxed? If so, how would the Diocese of Scranton, as a whole, be treated?

At the end of the day, I'm not arguing for or against taxing the University of Scranton, but rather what I'm saying is that a government simply can't single out one charitable organization for taxation without creating a whole host of other questions that need to be answered.

I will say the following though:  The refrain of "Just tax the University of Scranton" is just another way to avoid dealing with what REALLY is the central issue facing the City of Scranton, namely incompetent leadership, a budgetary expense structure that has not changed along with the city's population, unrealistic (including pension promises made to employees that are simply impossible for the city to keep) compensation/benefits for city employees and a punitive tax structure.

When all is said and done, complex problems seldom are solved with sound-byte answers.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Everything Holiday Greetings Christmas Hanukkah Kwanza Non-Sectarian Time (and stuff)

I know many people get needlessly upset over the words used to express holiday joy, so I've tried to be as all-inclusive and non-offensive as I possibly could.  So whatever you may be celebrating, or not celebrating, I hope it is enjoyable and filled with family and friends.  Unless you don't like your family, in which case I hope it's just filled with friends.  Or something like that, kinda.

As for me, I'm doing something I have never, ever done before:  I am staying home on Christmas.  Yes, I don't have to go anywhere.  We will have some folks coming over, which is wonderful.  I'm just glad though that for once I don't have to run around from place to place.  It will be a remarkably nice change of pace.

As I ponder things deep and wide over this holiday, I am truly grateful for many things, including the folks that take the time to read my stuff.  Yes, even you Cletus.


(From the folks at the VW Bug Facebook page.)





Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Memory #1 - Children

As difficult as being a parent can be, there is simply nothing that can compare to the feeling you get when you are around children at Christmas time.


Now for the children there is the wonder at receiving gifts, but as I've grown older, I've come to realize that the real wonder is in giving from the heart.  It's not as much about getting that next new game/toy/gizmo/etc., sorry marketing executives, but rather it's about giving of yourself.  If there could be only one lesson that Christmas teaches us, it's that the truly greatest gifts sometimes cost the least.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

North Korea, here's your long distance dedication.

On one hand, I guess we could actually thank the government of North Korea for saving us from another Seth Rogan film (especially all of the promotional interviews that go with the release, where we get to hear Mr Rogan tell us time and time again how much he likes to smoke pot).  And yes, building a film around killing the leader of another country isn't such a great idea.  On other hand though, decisions about what society should consider as being appropriate are best made through discussion and debate, not blackmail.  What's more, I have no doubt that cyber-blackmail has just become the weapon of choice for every bad actor in the world.

Noting the above, and with a tip of the hat to the late Casey Kasem, here's my long distance dedication to the government of North Korea.


Christmas Memory #2 - We were the Beatles

I come from a family where there were four boys that were a year apart in age.  In addition to our sister Michele, my brother Rich is a year older than me, and my younger brothers Chris and Joe are one and two years younger than me.  Growing up with siblings so close in age has both its advantages and disadvantages.  On the plus side, there is always someone to play with, and we were basically our own little gang.  On the minus side, we are pretty different people...certainly now as a adults, but even back then as well...and that meant that there wasn't always perfect harmony in our collective behavior.

(from the left - Steve, Michele, Chris, Joe & Rich)

I actually found the above picture as I was thinking about writing this Christmas series.

Probably the best time though to have siblings close in age was when it came to Christmas.  As I noted in a prior posting, while we were poor, my Mother did always manage to get us some (seemingly) great gifts.  In the gifts, even then, my Mother somehow managed to reflect our own little budding personalities.  The gift I am holding, for example, is (I think) some kind of tool set; to this very day I'm not shy about trying to take things apart, and every once in a while I also manage to put them back together.  My brother Chris is holding the guitar, which he kinda/sorta/a little plays, although it's never been something he seriously pursued.  Sorry, but I can't see if Joe has a toy, and I have no clue what Rich is doing with the toy robot (although I do remember that toy robot).  So much for deep analysis via old photo.

Anyway, we were our own little version of the Beatles  back then, and to a far lesser extent even now.  Not a musical Beatles mind you, but rather the kind of band of brothers that the Beatles represented.

My brother Chris, ever the rebel, would have to be John Lennon.
My brother Rich, being kind hearted and a good judge of character, would have to be George.
My brother Joe, who always manages to find a kind of happiness wherever he lands, would be Ringo.

And I would have to be Paul, if for no other reason than the fact that I've managed to be fairly driven in life and I have something of a head for business.


While things certainly weren't all sunshine, smiles and rainbows growing up, Christmas was always special.

And yes, I am hoping to "get the band back together" at Christmas time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Memory #3 - The G.I. Joe Command Center

Growing up our family struggled financially.  My mother was a single parent and received almost nothing in the way of support from my father.  That noted, I give her credit for always trying to make Christmas something memorable.  Now being a young boy, there were many things that I wanted, including the G.I. Joe Adventure Team Headquarters, which looked something like this:


Yes, it was basically a Barbie Dream House, except for the fact that it was inhabited by dolls that toted around guns.  These were the "real" G.I. Joe's, by the way, complete at 12 inches tall and having the fake hair and Kung-Fu grip.


I remember simply being thrilled to get this for Christmas, and I am sure that my Mom was thrilled that the whole headquarters thing folded up nicely into a square kind of package.

By the way, unlike the radio, I am not even remotely tempted to buy one of these things.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Memory #4 - The Chipmunk Song

Yes, I am referring to this song...


It was inevitable that, around Christmas time, this 45rpm record would be dug out from among the others that my Mother had laying around, and I am reasonably sure that we played the heck out of it.  Over and over again.  And over again.

Of course after Christmas it would disappear, along with the radio.

By the way, there is something of a parody of the song that can be found HERE.  Please do not click on the link if you are a member of PETA or otherwise object to the consumption of Chipmunks.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Memory #5 - The Radio

It was kind of shaped like a squat can of beans, except for the fact that it was mostly clear (you could see the transistors), it was blue-ish in color and it had a light inside of it when powered on.  Now I suspect that it was laying around the house year-round, but for whatever reason I only, as a kid, noticed it around Christmas time.

With a bit of researching, I was actually able to find the make and model of the radio.  It was a GE Blue Max P2760 Blue Police Light AM Transistor radio.


The purpose of the radio?  Why to listen to the broadcast of Santa's progress, as reported by the good folks at NORAD.  These days, but the way, NORAD broadcasts this on-line; you can find it HERE.

For whatever reason I remember the house being dimly lit when the radio was being used on Christmas Eve.  That was, I suspect, all part of the plan, namely to make four little boys sleepy on Christmas Eve.

On another note, while I don't collect radios, I do have two vintage radios in my office.  The first is a terrific Sony table radio that actually works really, really well.  The second is an actual Kmart brand radio from the early 60's that I'm quite frankly afraid to even power up.  The Blue Max will be joining that small collection, courtesy of a seller on Ebay.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hate Mail

I get some hate mail from time to time.  I guess it's a cost of doing business when engaged in this kind of activity.  I do, however, struggle with what to do about it.

Do I just completely ignore it?  The drawback to that is it denies me some decent content.

Do I publish and mock it?  I don't like that option for two reasons:

  1. It just encourages the writer(s).
  2. Despite a desire to respond on my part, I really don't want to be brought down to that level of negativity.

Take this little gem that I received on November 25th:

"...it will be the last thing your liberal ass can post on the #### internet. on "

(Just a snippet, and with the swear word redacted by yours truly.)

Again, what to do?  I could very well republish the posting that offended "Anonymous" (they are always anonymous, by the way) on spite, but why the heck should that person get to decide what I write here?  My $10/year, my content decisions.  Besides, again, why give in to that level of negativity?

Maybe what I should do is simply say the following:

* * * * * *

Dear Anonymous and Offended Reader, 

You do realize that your comment was directed at a blog posting, right?  Maybe you thought I was somehow affiliated with a real news organization.  Sorry to disappoint, but I'm just a schlub who likes to write and this is the Internet, home to a billion cat videos.  That's it.  I'm not making public policy here, and in point of fact I don't take much of what I write here seriously, so why do you?  Life is too short.

Here's my advice to you:  Channel that anger into something more productive, like whittling or playing Neopets.  And for God's sake, if you're going to threaten me, please at least use your real name, if for no other reason than the fact that "Cletus" is easier for me to spell than "Anonymous".

Best Wishes for a Joyous Holiday Season, 
Steve


p.s. - I still don't think there is much in the way of difference between the Confederate battle flag and the swastika.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Happy Holidays and/or Merry Christmas

I know a few folks who get themselves into a bluster over the phrase "Happy Holidays".  Words like...

"Jesus is the reason for the season!"

"Political correctness strikes again!"

"War on Christmas!"

...get thrown around like excuses at the end of just about every Boston Red Sox season.

Me?  I don't get it.

Why on Earth would anyone want to offend someone else ordinarily, let alone during a supposed time of joy?  We don't wear signs on our foreheads that say "I'm Jewish" or "I'm an Atheist" or "I'm a Christian", so how would we know what holiday someone celebrates towards the end of December anyway?

I'm perfectly fine saying either "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", and you can say either to me and I will not mind in the least.  In fact, either will make me happy.

Oh, and there is no "War on Christmas", but rather there is a "War for Ratings" by certain television commentators who simply want to create some holiday hate during what should be a season of hope.  Yes, the fictitious "War on Christmas" is really just a "War for Money" in the form of higher ratings.  Call my cynical, but you can also call me honest.  This is simply the wrong season to be engaging in social issue wedge politics.

 There was a great chart that I saw on-line that sums this up nicely.  Credit to Rachel Held Evans for putting this together.



So the end this on a happier note, here's a favorite Christmas song of mine.  Enjoy!


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Little Slices of Death

"Sleep, those little slices of death - how I loathe them."

- Edgar Allan Poe


I don't consider myself a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, but man, he was right about sleep.

For the record, I almost never sleep well.  In fact, for me to actually get through a full night and not wake up once, twice, three times maybe is a small miracle.  "Restful sleep"?   That happens to me with the level of timing more akin to cicadas than people.

Now I know I don't get enough sleep, but for me that's like saying I don't get enough dental work.

Every little sound at night wakes me up.

Slight temperature variances both me at night.

The whole activity seems, well, so wasteful.  Now I know that there is benefit to sleep, and in fact I will cop to the fact that at times when my head is full of stuff at the end of the day, sometimes sleeping helps to clear things out.  Score one benefit to sleep.  However, even then I find the benefit more in waking up than in actually snoozing.

I can probably count on one hand...one freak'n hand...the number of times in my life when I've gotten such a great night's sleep that I actually wake up feeling refreshed.

Some of this is a self-inflected wound by the way.  Too many energy drinks, I know, but that's in part because I don't like coffee.  So what if Red Bull's chemical composition closely resembles the atmosphere of Titan, as it does taste better than that bitter, repugnant coffee people drink.

One thing I don't do, well at least not very often, is to actually take chemicals to help me stay asleep. I gave up on that actually working, as about 75% of the time it just makes me feel sluggish in the morning without actually delivering the coma-esque sleep I'd like to experience once or twice a decade.  Nothing like waking up in the middle of the night, groggy as heck, but not  getting the benefit of actually feeling better in the morning.

Now I think I at least have solved the mystery, all be it for me, of how to fall asleep.  By and large taking a large dose of Melatonin does help put me to sleep, and I am glad to report it does not make me groggy in the morning.  It's only negative?  It has about a 30 minute window to work; meaning that if I take it and I don't fall asleep within about 30 minutes, I might as well have had M&M's instead.

Have I mentioned yet how much I hate sleep?


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ferguson & the B.S.

I know, this may not be all that popular, but so be it.  I've been watching, reading and thinking about what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri, and a few truths stick out for me:

TRUTH - Black males are treated differently in this country by the police.  Call it what you want, including racial profiling, but it's a simple fact.  The way to solve this problem though is by holding the elected officials who run police departments, be that at a local and a state level, accountable.  Police chiefs answer to mayors, and state police commissioners answer to governors.  If either doesn't take a tough enough stand on racial profiling, eliminating bad actors, and making police forces representative of communities they serve, well then a change should be made using the voting booth, not the Molotov Cocktail.  In my mind, black males should have the highest voting rate in this country, because they have the most at stake these days.

TRUTH - The only two people that actually knew what happened in the Michael Brown shooting are the late Mr Brown and Officer Darren Wilson.  Mr Brown can't tell his side of the story, but Officer Wilson has, and that's the best we've got.  Like it or not, Officer Wilson has a right to due process, even if it appears that the late Mr Brown didn't get any.  Again, none of us reading this posting (unless you happened to be on the grand jury that heard the case, and even that's debatable) know all the facts of the case, therefore none of us are qualified to pass judgement.  I know that's painful sounding, but what's the alternative?  There simply isn't a scenario out there that will satisfy everyone.

TRUTH - Burning businesses in Ferguson, especially minority owned businesses, as an expression of outrage over the shooting of Mr Brown is an example of stupid, thuggish behavior at it's worst.  It's proving fodder to the lowest of racist scum in this country.  Those who are peacefully protesting the shooting of Mr Brown should be incensed at the violence being perpetrated in response to the grand jury verdict, and hopefully they are.

TRUTH - Most people will view the events in Ferguson through the lens that they've already established.  Conservative?  Well then, it's those "black people burning up their own neighborhoods again!".  Liberal?  Well then it's "Minorities have justifiable rage at white society keeping them down!".  In reality and despite what many would like us to believe, this isn't a simple issue that can be easily codified and solved.  Sorry about that short-attention span members of American culture.  Too many black men...young and old...are treated as suspects even though they are perfectly innocent, yet it seems that too many black men (mostly young) glorify misogyny, violence and drugs as cultural expressions, even if they don't participate in such things.  I get it in that it's difficult being a black male, yet on the same token, there's got to be zero tolerance for the "I am really mad at the shooting of Michael Brown, therefore I need to steal a TV" reaction because the tolerance of bad behavior simply validates the worst of stereotypes.  On the other side of the equation, too many white folks, men and women, want to believe in the fairy tale of a color blind society.  Sorry, but it's not a question of minorities simply having to "work hard to get ahead"; in reality, they have to work harder than whites to just maintain parody...forget about getting ahead...and most whites aren't willing to work that hard themselves.

TRUTH - The news coverage of what has happened in Ferguson has made it worse.  Conservatives bobbing their heads in agreement to Fox News commentators or liberals doing the same for MSNBC talking heads is just another expression of the "it the other group's fault" mentality that we've created in the United States.  The average American has been conned into picking sides in an ideological war that doesn't actually exist, except for in the minds of power-hungry politicians and (right or left wing) social issue bomb-throwers.  If you are getting your news from only one source these days then you are really not getting the news...you're simply looking for and receiving validation for the world view that you already have burned into your head.  Sorry, that's just the way it is.  Do yourself a really, really big favor:  Diversify your sources of information across all of the ideological spectrum.  Why?  Simple because no one group, ideology or cause has a monopoly on the truth.

TRUTH -  In the end, violence only begets violence.

TRUTH - Ferguson is an avatar for a nation that really doesn't want to face it's on-going race relations issues.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Road Apples, #156

Fan Mail...I really have to get around to posting some recent "fan mail".  Nothing unexpected, other than the usual "anonymous tough guy" stuff.

First Mac Posting...This is the first posting I'm writing on my Mac Mini and new 25 inch HD display.  It's taking some getting used to, but so far so good.  Both the display and the Mac are creating the need to make some adjustments; for example, with a larger display I have to move the monitor back a bit more, and with the Mac the mouse buttons are different.  All in good time though.  On a related topic, by old Acer (well it's really not that old, and in fact I just upgraded it about a month or two ago) is being moved downstairs for others to use.  It's taken me days to clean all old files out of it and get it ready for it's new home.

Ferguson...I wrote a posting on the violence in Ferguson, MO, but in typical fashion I haven't gotten around to finishing it.  No bother, as I'm sure it will not make me any friends anyway (see item #1).  I will say this though:  Anyone who views this situation through a mono-chrome lens...i.e., one where the phrase "those people need to ________" (where "those people" are the police, the protestors, etc) is prominently featured....are simply using Ferguson to simply validate their own world view.  The reality is this:  the situation isn't as simple as getting "those people" to change.

Classroom...My second gradate program class is coming to an end in two weeks, and while I'm sad to see the learning end (and I am learning a TON), it will be nice to not have the pressure of reading and studying week to week.  I can declare a victory of sorts, as I got my first "100%" on a graduate program test/quiz over the weekend.  I've scored just as well on several papers, but this was a first for an actual examination.  Test taking is 75% about strategy, 25% about actual learning.

Happy Almost 1 Year Anniversary...On December 13th I will celebrate my one year anniversary living in "lessor Wilkes-Barre" (aka West Pittston).  Like most things, I've had my share of trips up and down the learning curve, but all and all I am impressed.  Living in a small town is different than living in a city, that's for sure.  Over and above the location though, it's nice to truly have a home.  That's a feeling I've not really had much of before, and it's heartening to know that, at age 50, there is always room for "firsts".

Speaking of Home...My middle daughter was home from graduate studies at UMass for Thanksgiving.  It was nice seeing her...and it was equally nice being reminded that, despite being probably too hard on myself for too many reasons, I seem to have done okay as a co-parent.  Having three hard-working, inquisitive and decent-human-being daughters is a very good thing.