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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Road Apples, #158

Pain in the ___...Well the age 50 colonoscopy has come and gone, and I'm very glad that it is gone.  It's not a difficult test to get; in fact the test itself is almost anti-climatic.  Why?  Well you get there, you get changed, the put in an IV, you sign some papers, you talk to a bunch of folks, you get wheeled into the procedure room, they give you oxygen (which makes you feel really good), you turn on your side, they turn on the "joy juice" into your IV and then you wake up and everything is done.  Now the getting ready for the procedure is the difficult part, but hey, it's pretty infrequent and the payoff is worth the cost.

Oh, and for me it only takes about a week for my digestive system to get back to normal.

On a related note, I can't thanks Ms Rivers enough for her help and support during the preparation time.  It's a process that can make one, well, cranky.

50 Shades of Porn...Much discussion has been had about the recently released "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie.  Me?  I think it's porn, period.  Mind you I have nothing against porn, unless it involves children, animals or adults who are not consenting.  It's (porn) not my cup-o-tea, but so be it, as I'm only the morality police for myself.  Anyway, "Fifty Shades" is porn wrapped up in a story designed to make it more interesting to some folks.  Still porn though.  Just as porn objectifies women (and men too), so does "Fifty Shades".  Just as porn provides a completely unrealistic version of human sexuality, so does "Fifty Shades".  Just as "Fifty Shades" attempts to portray things that hurt as actually feeling nice, so does porn.  Like I said, porn.

Let's hear from some experts on the subject:

Corey O'Brien...The countdown is in progress until we hear about the soon to be former Lackawanna County Commissioner's new private sector employment.  As I've already noted, I'm putting the odds at better than 50/50 that this new employment opportunity will somehow be connected in some manner to a certain Dunmore-based businessman who desires to build a mountain out of garbage.  Just a hunch.

Got Evaluations?...My least favorite time of the year is when the annual performance management process is completed via year-end performance appraisals.  I don't mind writing them, but I do mind receiving them.  Smarter people than I have written scholarly articles about why the process is antiquated, de-motivating, etc., but for me it operates on a much more basic level:  I don't find the discussions fruitful.  By the time this season rolls around, provided that my manager has done even an adequate job, nothing on my year-end performance appraisal should be a surprise.  So what's left?  Basically a "greatest hits" reel of the year's accomplishments, some constructive feedback that is more or less on point, and some information on compensation changes.  A better way?  How about consistent and honest feedback on performance spread throughout the year instead?  Then maybe we can go out for pizza and celebrate the past year.  Oh, and just send me an email with the money stuff.

The Quiet a book I am just about finished reading.  Highly recommended.

If you want an insightful look into:  1) How organized crime worked during the 50's-80's and 2) Why Northeastern Pennsylvania was (and still is to an extent) a pit of corruption...then you will find this to be a great read.

Wedding Planning...Yes, I am helping to plan a wedding (my own), and I will say that the process is mostly enjoyable.  I'm a detail-oriented/project management kind of person (as is Ms Rivers), so keeping track of the moving parts isn't all that difficult.  Among the things I have enjoyed so far has been planning the music.  We are having a piano player for the ceremony and cocktail hour afterwards, and then a DJ for the reception.  We've also been working on a list of music for something like a year already.  It's very easy how the skills that both Ms Rivers and I bring to the table compliment each other; she is a musical person in fact, as she plays the guitar (and I suspect a little piano as well), so she knows all the classical stuff.  I, on the other hand, have no musical ability what so ever.  But I do enjoy contemporary music, so I can fill in the music where the need is for something, say, post 1800.  Here's an example of how it all works:  We were talking about this traditional wedding piece, which I learned was Pachelbel's canon in D.  I just liked the song...Ms Rivers doesn't...but over and above that, I giggled for 4 minutes when I discovered that the composer's name is pronounced as "Pach - A - Bell" (honestly, I didn't know before this; I'm a science guy) of course I called him "Taco Bell" for the next hour.  Oh, and no, there will be no Taco Bell at the wedding...from a music or culinary perspective.

To end this on a high note, here is the piece from Taco Bell, I mean Pachelbel...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Please Support Friends of Lackawanna

To the very best of my knowledge I have never, in the over 8 years this blog has existed, asked anyone to support a particular cause.  Well, that changes today.

If you are able, I urge anyone residing in Northeastern Pennsylvania to consider supporting the group Friends of Lackawanna and their opposition to the creation of "Mount Trashmore" in the borough of Dunmore.  You can find out more about Friends of Lackawanna at...

...their website,

...and their Facebook page,

This is more than just the creation of a garbage mountain in a borough or two, by the way.

This truly is a case of "David vs. Goliath", with Goliath being a landfill owner that has had far too much influence on politics and policy in all of NEPA for far too long.  This is precisely why I strongly believe that every little bit of support is needed to help Friends of Lackawanna fight the creation of an actual mountain made of garbage.

Our parents and grandparents and their parents may have had to allow generations of business interests to pretty much do whatever the Hell they wanted to both the residents of NEPA and our land, but it has to end.  History can not be allowed to repeat itself time and time again.  It's time for residents of NEPA to say "enough is enough!".  We shouldn't be content with the theory that laying down for interests such as those owning the landfill will somehow provide for some small benefit that will trickle to the rest of us.  That didn't work so well back in the coal mining days, and it surely will not work now.

So, please consider taking a stand against the creation of Mount Trashmore.

If that support is financial, well then that's great.

If you don't have the money to spare, then consider writing to the Department of Environmental Protection to voice your opposition to expansion of the landfill.  Also consider contacting your local elected representatives and letting them know that the coal baron days...and their modern day equivalent...are over.  Information on contacting the Pennsylvania DEP, as well as local representatives, can be found on the Friends of Lackawanna website.

Thank You.

Steve Albert
West Pittston, PA

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Top 10 Cool Things About Getting A Colonoscopy...

...because, well, I am getting one and since I can pretty much just sit and write anyway for the next 18 hours.

10.  It's the ultimate detox.
Forget all that rubbish you hear about miracle cure detox diets on talk radio and from folks like Dr Oz.  Schedule a colonoscopy and then experience the real thing.

9.  Your muscles get a great workout.
Unfortunately it's the muscles in mostly your lower abdomen, but a workout is still a workout.

8.  It's an excuse to try all of those flavors of Gatorade.
The last time I drank Gatorade was also the last time I had a colonoscopy.  I will die before I drink orange Gatorade again.  This time I am trying the lemonade variety.

7.  It's an introvert's dream.
No one will want to around you as you prepare.

6.  You get to satisfy that curiosity about what plastic tastes like.
Reference the ingredients in MiraLAX.

5.  It's a great way to jump-start that weight loss program.
You can literally say that you "started from scratch".

4.  You can get out of doing just about anything.
"Sorry dear, I'd love to help clean the basement, but at the moment my bowels are twitching more than an epileptic with Tourette's Syndrome."

3. You get to make cool jokes to the medical staff.
There are only so many times when you can say "Doc, this colonoscopy stuff is a pain in the ass!" with it being both funny and factually correct at the same time.  Conversely, the medical staff can have fun too.  I can see the doctor saying  something like "Look! Is that OJ's other glove in there?".

2.  You get to catch up on some reading.
Granted that some of that reading will happen in the bathroom, but still, there's nothing like finally being able to finish that book on the history of the Papacy.

...and drum roll please...

1.  Because it can save your life.
All kidding aside, getting a colonoscopy can save your life by actually preventing colon and rectal cancer.  Don't take my word for it, but instead believe THESE GUYS.

So if you are age 50+ or if you have a history of colon and/or rectal cancer in your family, please talk to your doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Would Jesus spend $8,340 on a hat? (and related thoughts)

Preface & Acknowledgement:  An acknowledgement for data and inspiration related to this posting goes out to the blog Another Voice and it's author John (Jack) A. Dick.  If you are looking for a progressive Catholic voice, please do yourself a big favor and check out Jack's blog.

* * * * * * * * * *

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is something of a hero to conservative Catholics throughout the United States.  Spend more than an hour or so listing to Ave Maria Radio or ETWN and you will no doubt hear his name mentioned in the most favorable and venerable of terms.  In fact, Cardinal Burke was recently referenced in the Catholic press for his support of "boys only" altar servers (citation HERE).  Anyway, I'm not commenting on boys-only altar servers today, although I will note that I was, in fact, an altar boy for something like 10 years, and while we didn't have female servers back on those days, if we did maybe we would have been better behaved.  Maybe.  But so I digress.

Regarding Cardinal Burke, there is one thing that bothers about him and those like him:  They profess to be representatives of Jesus Christ on Earth but yet they act more like Earthly royalty, complete with expensive robes, gloves and crowns.  A more detailed description of just some of Cardinal Burke's wardrobe costs can be found HERE, but to give you an idea of the total effect, check these visuals out:

(Credit to the Riverfront Times)

(Credit to St Peter's List)

As you can see, Cardinal Burke likes to dress like a Prince.  

Now let's compare that to the typical visuals associated with Jesus Christ:


So tell me, does Cardinal Burke look more like Jesus Christ or maybe French royalty?

Now you could say something like "yeah, but so what!".  Which in a way I agree with.  So what.  But here's the rub:  It's hard to believe that someone wants to speak for Christ and "His Church on Earth" given all we know about Jesus and how he lived, would actually want to look and act like French royalty.  

By my reckoning, Jesus Christ lived a simple life on Earth and emphasized not the kingdom of man but rather the Kingdom of God.  But yet when you look at Cardinal Burke, and those like him, what comes more to mind is an Earthly Prince.  Therein lies just one of many contradictions I see in the conservative Catholic Church, namely that it claims to speak for Jesus but pretty much insists on looking (and acting at times) like Louis XIV.  This would be the Jesus that wore simple clothes and sought out tax collectors and lepers and chased the money-changers out of the temple.  Cardinal Burke?  I'm thinking that the man almost never gets his hands dirty and would more likely be one of the money changers.

So why does Cardinal Burke look like an Earthly prince?  I don't know the man, but I suspect that it has to do with that very human of vices, namely ego.  I guess that he simply likes to look really, really important.  Again, like a Prince (of the Church).  It's okay to have an ego that pushes you to wear royal trappings.  It really is...unless you imply that you speak for a Heavenly God who likely has no need for such things.  

So no, I don't think Jesus Christ would be wearing a $8,340 golden hat.  The crown Jesus wore was made of simple thorns, thank you very much.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Corey (O'Brien)'s Big Adventure

As reported many places (including HERE), Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O'Brien is resigning his elected office, effective March 10th.  According to Mr O'Brien, a new private sector employment opportunity is awaiting him.

Now I normally wouldn't spend too much time on a topic like this, although I have written about Mr O'Brien in the past, particularly his peculiar "this guy is terrible so don't vote for him" to "this guy is wonderful so please vote for him"...within the span of about a month...relationship with his fellow commissioner Jim Wansacz.  Got sincerity?  I'll also note that Mr O'Brien gets a small part of the collective blame for the abysmal state of NEPA's economy, something he shares with other elected officials.  How abysmal?  Well NEPA has had the highest unemployment rate in all of Pennsylvania for an unbroken steak of many, many years.  At the end of the day though, Corey O'Brien always struck me as a guy who would have fit in far better in political service circa 1950, where vindictiveness and blatant political showmanship were both far more tolerated and encouraged than they are today.  See THIS one example, of many.

Anyway, on to the point I really want to make about this story.

It's not been a very well kept secret that Mr O'Brien has been looking for new employment opportunities for a long time.  The fact that he isn't at the moment telling the public where where he will be working is intriguing.

My best guess?  I'm thinking there is a better than 50/50 chance that Mr O'Brien's new employment will have something to do with...or connected to...Dunmore businessman Louis Denaples.  If I'm wrong, well I'll gladly cop to that fact.  If I'm right?  Well let's just see.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Scranton - Fraud or Stupidity?

It was recently revealed that six Scranton municipal retirees have been receiving double pension payments.

You can read about it HERE.

According to the Scranton Times, the total of the overpayments exceeds $474,000.

Now how, you may ask, could this get any worse?  Well, this being Scranton city government, it actually does.  Again, according to the Scranton Times, one of the double payment recipients happens to be the wife of a gentleman who was, at the time the payments were authorized, president of the pension board.  Citation HERE.

Yes, apparently the president of the pension board wasn't aware that his own wife was receiving a double pension payment OR he was aware but yet didn't know that she was ineligible for the double payment.

Let those facts sink in for a moment.

Done pondering?

Here's the bottom line:  Either someone (or "ones") committed fraud in this case by misrepresenting the eligibility of these individuals OR this was a case of gross stupidity/extremely poor administration on the part of the plan administrators.  Either outcome speaks VOLUMES about the governance of the City of Scranton.

Regardless, there needs to be an investigation by an impartial law enforcement agency into this whole mess.  That could be the FBI or it could be the State Police.  What it shouldn't be is anyone connected with politics (including the county District Attorney's Office) or governance in northeastern Pennsylvania.  This is not a minor administrative issue by any means, especially when viewed against the backdrop of Scranton's extremely under-funded pension plans.  It also begs the following question:  What other "mistakes" have been made with regards to pension payments?

Is Scranton actually even capable of self-governance?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pete Rose and the Baseball Hall of Fame (a.k.a. Charlie Hustler)

Reference THIS article.

I fully expect that, eventually Pete Rose, a man who not only gambled on baseball...while he was playing and managing baseball...but lied about it profusely, will eventually get into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  At that point, I suggest renaming it the Baseball Hall of Shame.

Yes, let's ponder that one for a moment:  In the surreal world of American professional sports, apparently "banned for forever" doesn't actually mean "banned for forever".  Why should it?  This is a game where a union exists to protect millionaires (players) from other millionaires (owners) while at the same time turning a blind eye for a decade or more to rampant cheating via the use of performance enhancing drugs.  Surreal?  In point of fact Major League Baseball, it could be argued, has no shame at all, so why not put Rose in Cooperstown?

Well here's why Pete Rose should be banned for life from the Hall of Fame Shame:  Because he lied... his fans major league baseball the public at large.

He lied because of the hubris associated with being "Pete Rose".  When you believe that you ARE baseball, it's not much of a stretch to believe that baseball's rules do not apply to you.

If Pete Rose is allowed in the Baseball Hall of Fame, what in turn will be the message, especially for younger fans of the game?  That you can basically do whatever the heck you want, including lying to everyone about an extremely serious matter, and as long as you say "sorry" enough it will somehow be okay?  Or maybe the lesson is that the rules apply to everyone, unless you happen to be Pete Rose.

Call me crazy, but I think integrity matters.  Even in the world of professional sports.

In the end, Pete Rose isn't sorry he bet on baseball...he's sorry that he got punished for betting on baseball.  One need only look the years of vehement denials for proof of that last statement.  Now if professional baseball can't distinguish between these two concepts...sorry for gambling on baseball vs sorry for getting caught gambling on baseball...then I suspect he probably should be in the Hall of Fame Shame.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Things You Realize (as an older adult)

Random thoughts on what I've seen and experienced as I continue to grow up.

Some People Just Give Up
Yes, it seems that some folks just plain give up.  They give up learning new stuff, they give up laughing, they give up physically moving, they give up caring.  Now I just can't understand why some folks just plain give up, but they do.  The even sadder part?  Every grain of my existence tells me that everyone, each and every one of us, has things to contribute up until the time we die.  And maybe, if we are really lucky, even after we die.  Giving up just seems to deprive the world and ourselves of so much.  Maybe giving up is just about the most selfish act we can engage in as humans.

Some People Never Stop Competing
Probably on the polar opposite end of giving up, some folks seem to be on a perpetual quest to be better than you (not just me, but you too).  Granted that I see less of this in my own generation as I grow older, but it is never the less true.  It's as if these folks are on a perpetual race against the rest of the world, not really ever stopping to realize that there is an end to the race and once there, the result is always a tie:  we all get to die.

Never Trust Someone That Animals Don't Like
Now I'm not talking about all animals, as there are some plain mean cats and dogs out there (made mean, most times, by horrible owners, but so I digress), but rather the following generality:  Animals are sometimes better at judging character than people.  Know that somehow who dogs wouldn't go up to and cats always run away from?  Well that's someone who we probably shouldn't go up to and someone we should probably run away from too.  

We Sabotage Ourselves (far more than others do)
"We have met the enemy and he is us"...something one far smarter than I said (and yes, I could look up the author, but at the moment I'm simply too lazy to do so), which is completely true.  Yes, we all do catch bad breaks here and there, but by and large the real enemy is not from without, it's from within.  I speak from experience, as I'm far harder on myself than I would ever dream to be on anyone else.  I see my own harshest critic every morning in the mirror, and it's not pretty.  It's as if I get to have the Drill Instructor from Full Metal Jacket subleasing a section of my brain.  Not pretty, but yet it's a struggle to silence him, let alone actually consider an eviction.

Life Snowballs
What you do when you are younger matters when you are older.  Make a habit of being kind in your 20's, 30's & 40's?  It seems to pay off when you are in your 50's.  Well at least as far as I can tell.  Granted that it's hard as heck to see this when you are younger, but trust me in that creating a positive reputation now always pays off later.

Fashion is Stupid
Sorry, it just plain is, provided that the purpose of "fashion" is to look like someone else.  There are times when I think that the very concept of fashion was created by uber-slick marketers, on a quest to solve the following question:  Now how do we get people to buy uncomfortable stuff that they really don't need?  By the way, if your definition of "fashion" is to be comfortable looking the way you want to look, well then that works for me.  If you want to look like a Kardashian?  Then I think you need medication.

We All Self-Medicate
I think we all self-medicate in one way or another.  It's just a question of picking a self-medication that does the least damage.  Heck, sometimes the medication is actually good for us.

Pity Beats Anger
There were times in the past where some folks would make me angry.  Yes, actually angry.  Now granted that I seem incapable of being angry at anyone or anything for much longer than an hour (with rare exception), but yes, anger is an emotion I am capable of feeling.  Yet, as I grow older, it's not as much anger as it is pity I feel for some folks.  I'm not angry at that loud, boorish man spouting his flat-Earth, no-nothing political nonsense; rather, I just have pity on him because some folks just just seem to be caught in a non-virtuous cycle of negativity.

Smiling on the Inside Matters (more than smiling on the outside)
I don't walk down the hallway with a smile on my face.  Why?  I just don't think that my face is built for grinning.  It doesn't seem to physically come naturally.  Often times though I am smiling on the inside.  Trust me, I am.  Give me that any day over someone who is smiling on the outside but not on the inside.

Music (and Art) Matter
Music and other forms of art...take your pick...just seem to have the ability to connect things inside your head that wouldn't be connected otherwise.  It's as if the sound waves have this magical ability to penetrate the most hardened thoughts, feelings and emotions.  In younger days I knew the feeling that I got from music, but I never made the connection about, well, the connection.  Chalk another one up for the wisdom that comes with age.  I do regret, by the way, not actually learning to become more musical as a younger person.  I suspect though that there is still time.

...and speaking of regrets...

Regrets are Stupid
Of course there are things in life that I regret.  However, I have learned to be very good at not being consumed by those feelings.  I can think of fewer things in life that are a bigger waste of mental calories than ruminating over the past.  Harry Truman was right...

"All my life, whenever it comes time to make a decision, I make it and forget about it."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Penn and Teller on Vaccinations Causing Autism

This has been making the rounds, and given the measles outbreak that is unfolding over several states, it's worth 90 seconds of your time.

With apologies for the rough language.