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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015. It Was A Very Good Year

(from THIS page)

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for small town girls
And soft summer nights
We'd hide from the lights
On the village green
When I was seventeen

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year

It was a very good year for city girls
Who lived up the stairs
With all that perfumed hair
That came undone
When I was twenty-one
When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls
Of independent means
We'd ride in limousines
Their chauffeurs would drive
When I was thirty-five
But now the days are short, I'm in the autumn of my years
And I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs
It poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year

(Written by Ervin Drake)

In the blessings to be counted department, I have an abundance when it comes to the year 2015.  It was a very good year.

(2015:  I married my best friend!)

Now in reality I wasn't made much wealthier.

I didn't get much more "stuff".

I wasn't cured of any disease.

At times I found more questions than answers.

But yet I continue to discover that life isn't about getting things, be they money, trinkets or even answers.  No, life seems to be about living in the moment and enjoying what you see and experience as you walk your journey.  Life is also about second chances, especially those that you give yourself.

As I look forward to 2016 I'm hoping for more of the same.

Thank you for reading this corner of the Internet in 2015 and I hope you too had a very good year.  If you didn't?  Well tomorrow starts a new day...and a new year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It's Nearly the End (of the year)

It's been a busy couple of days.

I have a lot of time off over the holidays this year, which is good, as I have a lot do to.  A few finer point of detail:

Christmas...was wonderful this year.  It was relatively relaxing, and it was spent with my family.  What more could anyone ask for?

(wonderful gifts from my daughters)

The weekend...two of my brothers came over, along with Gary the dog.  Now, as I've noted before, I'm not really a dog person, but Gary makes a compelling argument for "man's best friend".

(Gary, my brother Rich's dog, waiting for cheese and/or pepperoni)

Sunday to Tuesday...was spent up at Ricketts Glen State Park with my wife's family.  It's a tradition of sorts, and outside of the fact that it's virtually impossible to sleep in a sleeping bag while having a pillow between your legs, it's always nice to connect with my in-laws.  I also got a chance to get caught up on some reading and engage in some chilly weather hiking.

(some of my favorite people hiking)

(waiting for Spring occupancy)

Today...was spent getting stuff done around the house, including putting up some art that we received for Christmas.  I also got a chance to finish the planning for the installation of new shelving in my home office. 

Now I'l confess that I had to think about whether or not to even write this post.  


Well I know that not everyone has a wonderful holiday, and I never want to be perceived as being one of those overly perky, "ain't I blessed and if you're not, well that just stinks being you" types.  Heck, I've had my share of less than, shall we say, "inspiring and relaxing" holidays.  But we all walk our own journeys in life, and where I am now is a result of where I came from, just as that's the case for others as well.  So if your holiday left something to be desired, well my wish for you is that your journey continues and takes you to a better place.  I know...there are better places out there to be just need to keep looking.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Here's to one day when we can all take a break...

...from the complexity of modern life
...from deadlines & goals
...from what we've done & failed to do
...from anxiety & stress
...from the bitterness, anger & cynicism of the world today

...and instead revel the simplicity of good times, family & friends.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

...and so this is Christmas

"And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?
Another year over, a new one just begun."

- John Lennon

(from THIS site)

It's already December 21st, and yet it doesn't seem like Christmas.  

Yes, a tree is up, and so are lights, but there's just so much else going on at the moment.  I'm struggling with an issue at work that I really had hoped would be resolved by now, but there are just some things that fall outside of our control.  In a way, it's a sort of cosmic reminder that we never really have things completely under control.  This particular issue is a kind of test package, if you will, for all that I've been working on low these past few years.  I speak specifically of trying to live in, and stay focused on, the moment.  It's a struggle, but yet I do see some progress in myself.  For that I am grateful.

We also had a death today in our work family.  I can't and won't try to do this truly nice person justice, other than to say that I had the privilege of occasionally working with her from time to time over the years.  That's a double edged sword of working for a single employer for such a long time:  I know, and have worked with, a lot of people, which means I see some leave...well before they should.  You can read a far better accounting of how this all has a deeper meaning in a posting on the blog "Lights Cancer Action!".  We are all ever so slightly diminished at work.

Now tactically I am ready for Christmas.  Gifts are secured and wrapped.  Holiday plans are made.  Guests have been invited, including Gary, my older brother's dog.  I just need to mentally catch up to the logistics.  Funny, it's usually the opposite:  I'm normally mentally there, just wanting for the logistics to catch up to me.

It all comes back to the concept of practice I  guess.

I've also been thinking about New Year's resolutions...also known the other 364 days of the year as simply "Goals".  More to come on that as the new year approaches.  I will share one goal now, seeing as though it has something of a more immediate impact:

I can't do all of this throughout the entire Christmas/New Year's holiday, but I can try.  #1 will be especially difficult for me, but I can think of few more noble endeavors.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reason #435 Why Donald Trump Doesn't Deserve Any Votes

As quoted on Fox News.

“And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. They, they care about their lives. Don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

No citation needed; simply Google it for yourself.  Oh what the heck, here's one:  Investor Business Times.

If you support Donald Trump, please take a moment and really ponder the above statement.  Really think about it for more than five seconds.  Engage your mind and your conscience.  How do you feel about it?  What does it make you think?  Can you really support someone who wants to KILL the wives and children of terrorists?  

This means killing the pregnant, the elderly, babies and toddlers.  

It means killing women who may have actually been forced to marry "Jihad Johnny".  

It means killing children who can't even say the words "Dad is a terrorist", let alone understand the implications of what that may mean.    

On this one, single, statement alone Donald Trump shouldn't be supported by any American, regardless of party of ideology, for President of the United States.  

Please don't kid yourself about Donald Trump:  This isn't a "conservative vs. liberal" issue, or a "Republican vs. Democrat" issue.  It's an issue of basic moral decency.  Donald Trump wants to lower this country down to the level of the terrorists we are fighting.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

3 Things We Should Be Teaching In School (Right Now)...

...but we are not doing, nearly enough.

I spent almost my entire school career, kindergarten through 12th grade, mostly either worried about the past or the future.  No one, and I really do mean no one, taught me the value of living in...and focusing on...the present moment.  Having spent a significant amount of time actually reading about and studying this topic now for a few years as an adult, I can only imagine how I would have benefitted from learning this lesson as a young adult.  The lesson itself isn't difficult, but it's having the guidance to help in practicing it that makes all the difference.

How much better prepared academically would students be if they had the tools to actually be present, both physically and mentally, when lessons are taught?  What if instead of students be afraid of an upcoming test they could focus on mastering the material in the moment?  I think the possibilities are many.

Perspective on Competition
This is America, where we talk about "winning".  Want to know why I almost never play games?  Even board games?  Because I don't like competition.  I've found, from my childhood onward, that when I'm placed in competitive situations, my natural reaction is to obsess on winning, to the exclusion of everything else.  However, in the real world, especially when it comes to personal relationships and business, most of the time you can win without someone else losing.  That lesson though wasn't taught to me in school.  Instead I was brought up on an institutional diet that compared me to other students in a mindless kind of competitive sport.

Where this shows up mostly is in the area of conflict.

You see the by-product of this today in political campaigns, which are just about at the pinnacle of senseless competition:  "My candidate needs to win, and yours needs to lose; it doesn't matter if my candidate says some pretty stupid soundbite-esque nonsense...I just want (him or her) to WIN!".  When winning is everything we all end up losing, because life isn't a game.  Life isn't about the finish line, goal line, home plate or anything else of the sort.  Life isn't about me "beating" you.  Life is, to extend the sports talk, mostly about learning to enjoy the game.  We need to teach children that competition has a place in this world, but the world itself is not simply a big competition.  Yes, play games for the enjoyment, but extending a game philosophy to life in general, as we tend to do in the United States today, is disastrous.

Emotional Intelligence
As someone who teaches adults about Emotional Intelligence (EI), I can not express in words just how positively this can impact someone's life.  Having an awareness of one's own emotional state in real time, being able to consciously regulation your reactions, being able to recognize emotions in others and having the skills to build/manage relationships is truly life changing stuff.  I know that many good teachers help their students with these skills (either directly or indirectly), but I really do think this needs to done more overtly in our educational system.  Don't just take my word for it, as noted author Dan Goleman writes extensively about the topic in his book Emotional Intelligence:  Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

Goleman has written several books on the topic of EI, and while this isn't the "go to" book for business people, it's my favorite in part because he does talk about EI and children.  I think one of the reasons why we don't teach this in school is because it doesn't fit into a paradigm of grades and competition.  All too often we don't challenge people to look inside, as opposed to outside, for answers because that inner awareness is simply too difficult to master and to measure.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Road Apples, #166

Deep Thoughts...I love the blog written by A.J. Dick.  In fact I love just about every blog posting written by A.J. Dick.  His last posting is well worth reading as a counter-point to insanity of some.  You can read it HERE.

News of the Good...By this Sunday (December 13th) I will officially be 50% of the way towards completing my Master's degree.  It's a nice feeling.  2016 will be tough in that I'll have a few difficult classes to go, but it's all (mostly) down hill from here.

Bad News on the Doorstep...I feel saturated with news of death and violence.  It's like an evil fog that is floating everywhere.  Just when you think it couldn't get any more insane, well then Donald Trump says something else.  Speaking of lunatics...

Ted Nugent...says that the United States should be "cleansed" of liberals.  So say the author of such classics as Wango Tango and Cat Scratch Fever.  It reminds me of one simple fact:  The loonies on the Right are worse that the loonies on the left, mainly because they are better armed.  Also, when last I checked, bullets do more damage than organic granola bars.

That Moment...when you buy a new book only to discover that you already own that same book.

Speaking of Books...Now that I don't have to spend time during the week reading a textbook for school I can ramp up the leisure reading.  First up is to finish this book...

...which is a good thing, given that I had to order it from the publisher in the U.K.  Actually I am about 70% finished with it.  Highly recommended, although, again, very difficult to find.

Projects...I'm actually going to take a few months before my next graduate class to work on some projects around the house.  Two big ones in particular:  1) Ripping up the wallpaper and then painting in our half bathroom on the first floor and 2) Installing some serious shelving in the home office.  I simply have more books than I currently have room for books.  Not to mention a small radio collection.  And a Bill the Cat doll.  And a few other things.  There will be photographs.

(an old photo; it's now far more crowded)

Cat Rescue...We rescued a cat in November.  It's kind of like a "kitty witness protection program" kind of deal, but suffice to say it was a cat that was in danger because he had been kicked out of his home by his "owner".  Now I have no designs on being a cat rancher, but few things boil my blood more than the abuse of animals.  Abuse, by the way, can come in many forms, including abandonment.  Anyway, our new addition, "Adolph", is doing very well.  Socialization with his fellow housemates JeanLuc and Tiger has been completed, and squabbles are minimal.  He's also been professionally groomed and treated by a good local veterinarian.   Tres gatos in the limit though.

Resolutions (also known as Goals)...I love New Year's resolutions.  I really do.  It's time to start thinking about them to boot.  I think I've done a lot of work in the mental health department this year, so maybe 2016 will be more focused on the physical end.

Muhammed Ali...made a statement recently about the the shootings and Islam.  It's worth reading (reference HERE), if for no other reason than the fact that Ali was, and will always be, champ of the world.

"I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.
We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.
Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people's views on what Islam really is."
In the end, any and every religion can be perverted by evil folks as justification for what drives most bad human behavior, namely a lust for power.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dear Donald Trump,

Apparently you want to ban all Muslim travel to the United States because a very small percentage of Muslims do horrible things.  Fair enough.  In keeping with the precedent you are setting, I would like to make the following modest proposals myself.

Irish - Some folks from the Republic of Ireland, members of a club called the Irish Republican Army, have done some terrible terrorism in their day, especially to our very good friends in England.  As a result I propose banning all immigration from the Republic of Ireland.

Saudi Arabians - The 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia.  As a result I propose ending all military and economic cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Slovenians - According to the United States Department of State...

"While no terrorist organizations are known to be active in Slovenia, its central location and short Adriatic coastline make it an attractive potential transit country for trafficking in drugs, persons, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by criminal and terrorist organizations."

...given the potential for harm to U.S. interests, I suggest all Slovenians be put under immediate observation.  I suggest starting with your wife, Melania.

Israelis - There have been several documented instances of Israel working against U.S. interests and even putting U.S. lives at risk.  They include the case of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard and the attack by Israeli forces on the U.S.S. Liberty (which resulted in the deaths of 34 American servicemen; citation from Fox News HERE).  Attacking a U.S. ship and killing our servicemen should be an act of war.  I say let's declare it on Israel.  Now.

Conservative Christians - A real, all American terrorist organization we all know and love is the Klu Klux Klan.  Members of this group self identify as conservative Christians.  In fact, the director for the main KKK group actually identifies as a "pastor".  Given the very real harm the Klan has caused in the past, and continues to cause now, I suggest that all conservative Christians be put on a watch list.  You never know who might be under those Walmart sheets.

Thank you Mr Trump for trying to make America "great again" by keeping out all of those funny colored foreigners who don't even accept Jesus and won't gamble in your casinos (well the one's that haven't declared bankruptcy yet).

- S. Elmer Albert

* * * * * *

Post Script - The above is ridiculous, but millions of people aren't going to read it.  Sadly, the same is not true of Donald Trump.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

There's so much death...'s as if you can't watch or read the news without hearing about about more people dying in senseless acts of violence somewhere.

So many questions that can't be easily answered, and yet it's those easy sound-byte answers that will fill the airwaves for yet another round of posturing by talking heads.

Enough already.

Enough of the violence.

Enough of the "we just need to arm..." or "we just need to ban..." answers.

No amount of arming or banning will solve our problems.  Rather, we've allowed our civil society to become remarkably uncivil.  It's no longer sufficient to disagree with someone like the it's almost required, in many circles, to HATE him.  It's no longer sufficient to be's now required to HATE Planned Parenthood.

(cartoon from Pat the way, this was published 6 years ago)

I know, I'm singling out one side here, but so be it.  Just as Muslims have a special obligation to call out the extremists in their religion, so to do the reasonable folks on the political and social Right in this country.  For far too long far too many on the Right have accepted increasingly vile levels of rhetoric from the likes of folks like Rush Limbaugh to go unchallenged.  Rhetoric from people like Rush Limbaugh contribute...I would argue the climate of hate that exists in this nation.

It's time, right now, to dial back the hateful rhetoric, whether it's spewed by a presidential candidate or some advocacy group.  Political Right or Political Left, it doesn't matter.  We can disagree without hating our opponents.  We can seek justice without out resorting vengeance.  We have to realize that the only way to stop killings is to stop killing.

We should protect ourselves, but we can't do that at the expense of senselessly harming others.  What good is our safety and security if it deprives someone else of theirs?