Not Cease from Exploration

Sunday, December 10, 2017

#MeToo

The #MeToo in the title doesn't refer to me personally.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the #MeToo movement (background HERE), which isn't all that difficlt a task, given the daily disclosures of sexual misconduct by those in the media, entertainment and politics, all resulting in a wave of quitting that would make Sarah Palin proud(1).  Some of these self-inflicted wounds make me cringe; think Garrison Keillor(2).  Others?  Well, let's just say that Matt Lauer is a special breed of scumbag.

It's worth noting that everyone as a right to due process, and there are always two sides to every story.  However, when several people who don't know each other tell similar stories of abuse, well, there's at least room for discussion.  What's more, no one is entitled to be a media powerbroker, Today Show host, politician, Senate Candidate, etc.  Those are privelidges, not rights.  If you want to make a living in the public eye, well, you have to take both the good and the bad that goes with the gig.

Anyway, here's the central point worth making:  The #MeToo movement, in my mind, isn't about...

...men
...patriarchy
...sex

...it's about power.  If you think otherwise, well, I think you're blinded to the real issue at hand.  

Folks engage in this kind of behavior because they can.  They have taken to believe that, by virtue of their awesomeness (as they have been told), they can pretty much do whatever they want.  The power to do whatever one wants is ultimately corruptable.  The fact that more men engage in this kind of behavior is simply a symptom of the fact that more men in our society are in positions of power than women.  

I'm not excusing bad behavior by men, for the record.  As the father of three young professonal women, well, I worry mightly about their well-being.  What I am saying though is that there plenty of men who never engage in this kind of behavior.  Even men in positions of power and authority.   Using #MeToo as a blunt instrument to talk about men in general steers an important debate into an area that will result in nothing productive.   

What's the solution?  Well there isn't one.  This isn't a "do this and it will get fixed" kind of thing.  A big part of this whole mess has to do with American celebrity culture:  We worship the famous and powerful, and thereby give them license to whatever they want.  You see the headlines all the time.  Excusing bad behavior in one area opens the door to the perception of excusable bad behavior in another.  And there's a long way to go:  Roman Polanski (see THIS posting from 2009) is still celebrated by Hollywood and living a good life in France.

While I don't think there is a solution to this problem, I do believe that #MeToo is ultimately a healthy exercise, provided that it isn't too broadly focused.        





(1) Famous Quitters should be a Jeopardy! category.
(2) Mr. Keillor maintains his innocence, as of this writing.  See THIS link for more information and THIS link for a statement from Mr Keillor.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Landfill Expansion and an Imploding School District

What does the construction of a mountain made of New Jersey trash and the pending financial collapse of a school district have in common?

I was pondering the above while commenting on two articles in the Sunday edition of the Scranton Times-Tribune and this is what came to me:  Bread and Circuses(1).  

NEPA is the ultimate land of "Bread and Circuses". People will gladly be disinterested in what will harm their children (and their children's children)(2) just as long as they can get beer at the local quickie mart, nothing interferes with the local high school football game on Friday night, and they have politicians & well-off business people to admire (and name things after).

We see it all around us...you don't need to look too far to see the lunar landscapes of culm banks that can be found all over NEPA.  And in the countless buildings and things named for politicians and those wealthy few who greased politicians for years in exchange for favors that served narrow economic interests.  That's okay though because those in power figured out generations ago that the residents of NEPA can be bought on the cheap.  Just dangle the prospect of some trickle down power, money or influence and just about anything in the area can be overlooked.  

In the department of things overlooked, the Scranton School District (SSD) has been slowly sliding into receivership for years now, all while those who actually voted in the city continued to elect under or non-qualified leaders.  Now that the warning signs of impending doom have nearly made sports score sized fonts in the local newspaper, the leaders of the SSD are considering a few drastic steps, such as the elimination of some under-utilized educational programs.  To the best of my knowledge though, there have been no public discussions about tackling the costs of sports programs.  Pun intended.  Why?  See above: Bread and Circuses.

Speaking of high school sports in general and football in particular, let me clear up two misconceptions about that seem to abound when it comes to the local "gridiron":

(1) High school football does not pay for itself.  In fact, that's a fiscal impossibility.  Game attendance couldn't even cover the cost of maintaining the stadium any school plays in, let alone the costs of insurance, transportation, equipment, manpower, etc.

(2) Very, very few high school football players actually get college scholarships.  How few?  According to THIS ARTICLE, about 2%.  So much for "but football is needed because it's the only way some kids can afford to go to college".  

I have nothing against high school sports as long as they don't impede the actual reason for high schools to exist in the first place, namely the education of every student.

Finally, generations of NEPA residents have down-right admired the powerful and the connected.  It's almost Stockholm Syndrome worthy if you ask me.  I wonder what the local economy would be like if local politicians and other civic interests were as supportive of every private business as they are of those run, for example, by the landfill family?  The economy would be booming, as opposed to perpetually sitting at the bottom of Pennsylvania.  Thank god for Altoona.  I have nothing against that particular family, by the way; I just wish they weren't trying to build a mountain of out-of-state trash.  Yet there are supporters of the landfill expansion.  That particular family has done a lot for the region, don't you know.  

Maybe, just maybe, things might be changing.  Maybe a younger generation will see beyond the parochial interests of immediate gratification and understand that some things come at too high of a cost.  Maybe a few brave souls will step up at the Scranton School Board and make truly difficult...and no doubt unpopular...choices to reduce the costs of non-educational activities.  Maybe I'm dreaming, but hey, there's always hope.




(1) If you're unfamiliar with the concept of "bread and circuses", well, read HERE.

(2) Even worse that culm banks, the proposed mountain of trash will exist forever.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Raising Taxes on Struggling Students

I've never called a politician before, until today, and I did that three times.
The situation noted in the article below is simply shameful. As the proud parent of a Ph.D. candidate, words can not express how furious I am at this provision of the current tax bill. Raising taxing on future scientists...people who will cure diseases and make all of our lives better...all for the sake of lowering a corporate tax rate is short-sighted at best. We should be encouraging folks such as my daughter...not using the tax code to punish them.
This is the antithesis of "Making America Great Again".


I fully acknowledge that this is an issue for which I am personally invested.  I also acknowledge that, in all likelihood, my wife and I will likely end up with a lower tax obligation if the current bill in Congress becomes law.  That's of little consequence though when you consider the value that science...and scientists...brings to our nation.

I highly doubt that the two messages I left with Senator Toomey's office will be acknowledged.  But then again I can look myself in the mirror and say "I did the right thing".

A future scientist and her Dad, many years ago.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sometimes Help...and Hope...Comes in a Small Package

I had to be somewhat prodded into pet ownership in November of 2010.  I was (newly) living in an apartment by myself, and in retrospect, coming home to a completely empty place wasn't very healthy for me.  My oldest daughter Katrina had a friend who had two kittens that needed to be adopted, so, as she is skilled at doing, she convinced me to act in spite of myself.

The actual kitten selection process was to take place in a parking lot somewhere that I now forget.  On the drive over, Katrina and I pondered the various possible names for a new cat.  I really wanted to name the cat "Bill" as in "Bill the Cat"...


...but Katrina assured me that this was a bad idea.  We pondered other names, eventually falling into several that mostly centered around Star Trek characters.  Why?  I have no clue.  The two finalist names were "Spock" and "JeanLuc".  I settled on the latter.

The actual meeting was quick.  Katrina's friend brought out a small carrier with two identical cats...brother and sister...who needed to be adopted.  Not being very confident in my ability to take care of one cat, let alone two, I passed on the opportunity to cat-parent twins.  Of the two kittens, I picked the one in the back, who turned out to be a boy.  He seemed to need me. That also helped make the whole JeanLuc thing work.  That day was November 27, 2010.


This was one of the smarter decisions I've made in my life.  Up until then, I hadn't realized how utterly horrible it was coming home to nothing.  Going through a separation and divorce, I went from a loud house to an eerily quiet apartment.  Starting on November 27, 2010, I had someone to come home to.  Yes, every workday JeanLuc would see me off in morning and be waiting at the front door...like a dog...when I came home.  He was someone who, on the surface, needed me...but in reality, it was me who needed him.

My life took a turn for the better on November 27, 2010.

These days, JeanLuc is a little heavier (well, in fairness, so am I) and a bit less active (that makes two of us), but he still often meets me at the front door.  


Like me, his (kitty) family has expanded, with the addition of step-brothers Tiger and Rambo.  Life now if a bit less dramatic and more predictable for both of us.  Here's to many more years together.  



Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lessons in Thanks

I normally don't like the idea of eating in a restaurant on Thanksgiving.  Why?  Well, I guess part of it has to do with the fact that I don't want anyone having to work on Thanksgiving, especially when it comes to serving someone like me.  It just doesn't seem right, as everyone should be able to enjoy the holiday with their families.  This year though, as a result of some changed circumstances, I actually did eat Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant, and, well, it was a great experience.

Part of the story here goes back a few years to that period when I was going through a divorce.  One bit of well-intentioned advice I received was basically that I should require my daughters to have Thanksgiving dinner with me.  That one was tough.  That whole first holiday season was difficult, truth be told.  I always hated the drill of having to run between houses on holidays, and the last thing I wanted to do was to subject my own children to that sort of thing.  A lesson of sorts was learned from that Thanksgiving, namely that giving thanks can't be forced.  Since then, I've tried to balance holidays like Thanksgiving such that I can see my daughters, with minimal stress to them, without stressing myself.  These days, my daughters spend Thanksgiving with their mother and family, and I typically see them in the evening or on the next day.  That's the plan this year, by the way.

Moving forward, I've tried to create new traditions.  Well, that's incorrect, as I've basically come to join my wife's family traditions, which usually means eating Thanksgiving dinner in Philadelphia.  This year was a bit different though, as most of her immediate family was traveling over the holiday.  What we ended up doing was finding a restaurant in southcentral Pennsylvania, where we joined my wife's remaining state-side sibling (plus husband and one daughter), and the aunt of my two stepsons.

(THIS place)

It turned out to be a great decision, for the official record.  It was a nice day for a drive to Annville.  The food was great.  Our server was terrific, and we left her a very generous tip.  It was also nice not having to clean anything up.  Yes, in a perfect world it would always be nice to have Thanksgiving dinner at home, but I don't feel bad about our choice this year.

The larger lesson here harkens back to what I noted previously, namely some sense of absolutes ("you must insist that your daughters...", "you should never..."), no matter how well-intentioned, aren't necessarily helpful.  In fact, the world...and our collective mental health...can do with fewer absolutes.  Save those for the things for when they are an absolute necessity.  For everything else, well, it's always good to keep an open, less rigid mind about things.

Lastly, this is still (with about an hour to go as I type this) Thanksgiving, so it's wholly appropriate that I note how very much I have to be thankful for in this life.  Compared to most, I have been incredibly blessed, many times over.  These blessings are so abundant that, in fact, they are far too easy to take for granted.  I need to work on keeping that perspective, and like most important things in life, that will continue to be more of a journey than a destination.


* * * * * *

A special note of thanks:  More people actually read these postings that I want to admit to, and for that, well, I am very grateful.  It's nice to know that I sometimes write things that others find worth reading.  It's an even better thought that sometimes I may write something that gives another pause, that may leave someone saying "wow, I feel that way too" or momentarily takes someone out of their day.  While I'd still write this stuff if no one actually read it, I'm very thankful that some actually do.     





Sunday, November 19, 2017

How Do You Spell Despair? C-A-S-I-N-O

Once a year for the past several years in and around November 20th(1) my wife and I venture forth from our home to that shiny beacon between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre knows as the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino.  This year was no different, and jaunt is mainly to get a good meal and walk around.  That's the plan.  Oh, and we waste about $20 in the slot machines, which for me consists of the following:


  • Insert money
  • Randomly push buttons
  • Lose money
  • Repeat

  • I genuinely do not know how to play a slot machine.  I really, truly don't.  You could sit me down side-by-side at a slot machine with a chimpanzee and we would pretty much be doing the exact same thing.  Now, this isn't a lacking on my part of the mental fire-power required to understand how to play these devices; spend any time in a casino and observe who actually does play slot machines and my point will be made.  No, this is what a complete lack of interest in gambling looks like.  I feel the same way about lottery tickets too, for the record.

    So why do it?

    It's kind of like that once or twice a year drink of alcohol I have...maybe it just serves to remind me that I don't like gambling, or drinking (alcohol) for that matter.

    Anyway, for me, the thought of the casino is always much better than the actuality of the casino.  I mean no disrespect, by the way, to the operators of the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino.  By all accounts and my personal observations, it's a clean(2), secure, friendly, and well-run operation.  It's just that I don't understand the underlying attraction, especially when you consider that this is a 24/7 operation.  What's more, there's just sometimes this sense of despair when you are at the casino.  I see these folks sitting alone at a slot machine, with a vacant expression of their face as they purposefully work the slot machine buttons(3).  I want to find a middle-aged lady who is sitting there alone and ask her "is that fun?".  Maybe it is fun.  Then again, people who play games of chance at any casino lose far more money than they ever win, which to me seems like the anthesis of fun.  

    Wratcheting this up a bit, remember that this is a 24/7 operation.  Yes, there are people gambling there at 3am in the morning.  I want to go, just one time, to the casino at 3am in the morning just to see this for myself, to prove that such a thing isn't just an academic construct or urban myth.

    One thing the casino is?  It's alive.  It's bright.  It's blinking.  It's a kind of modern glitzy.  Maybe for some folks, well, that's what the casino does for them: It's a place that's alive, and maybe that's something they really need.  Just writing that thought makes me think of despair though.  

    A final thought:  Casinos in Pennsylvania have a privilege that they...and only they...enjoy, namely that indoor smoking is allowed.  Within 10 seconds of entering the building...more than a hundred feet from the gambling floor...I can smell the tobacco smoke.  After about an hour and a half, I feel myself starting to get a horrible headache from it.  I wonder just how the workers there tolerate that sort of thing, well at least the workers that don't smoke.  That previous statement is a bit of a contradiction by the way, because if you work at the casino, even if you don't smoke, you are actually smoking.  The air is that bad.  That must be one heck of a waiver they must sign upon the start of employment.  








    (1) Why November 20th?  Well, it's something of a second anniversary, of sorts.
    (2) "Clean", as long as you don't consider the air.
    (3) Purposefully, unlike me.

    Sunday, November 12, 2017

    Zen and the Art of Managing Photos

    One of the things in life that I find both calming and satisfying is organizing things.  That may sound odd, but I think it feeds into the fact that what I've spent most of my professional life doing doesn't always deliver quick and tangible results.  Taking a pile of something disorganized and turning it into something that's useful and makes sense?  Infinitely satisfying.  And so it is this weekend that my major project was to re-organize my 29 gigabytes of photographs.

    I had all of my photos in a folder on my desktop computer (backed up monthly onto a Western Digital 1 terabyte portable hard drive), but the organizational system left a lot to be desired.  In fact, I had trouble finding things and ended up not filing a ton of pictures.  Now, after about 4 hours of work, everything makes sense, and the organizational rules I put in place will make it easier to add more photographs in the future.  I was also able to eliminate a few hundred duplicate photos in the process.

    Granted, the above isn't all the exciting to anyone but me.

    The impetus for the above re-organization?  Probably threefold actually:

    1. Not having my old photos well organized actually discouraged me from taking more pictures.  
    2. I always enjoy looking at old photographs (not of me) anyway.  
    3. I've been given some additional photographs of my father, so it made sense clean things up a bit.  

    (Dad, late 40's I think; courtesy of my half-sister Theresa)

    There is a fourth reason as well:  I'm trying to be more purposeful with my non-working time.  That sounds like a Harvard phrase for "less lazy", but it's actually not.  I feel as if I am missing opportunities in life sometimes.  Yes, we all need "down time", but I'm not at my best when I feel as if I lack a direction or purpose.  I need to have something to accomplish.  Thinking back over 2017, I was at my best when I had graduate school (which was also maddening on many, many levels) work.  At my worst?  I'd have to say that was when I would sit in this office, just looking at a computer screen, mostly trying to avoid grieving over the loss of a 28-year-old job and 51-year-old brother.  A failed strategy, and while I don't claim that organizing photographs is a cure, I think it's part of a larger acknowledgment of sorts.

    (My Penn State college ID, 1982)

    So yes, in a way of sorts there is a connection between grief and old photographs:  I sometimes find both equally embarrassing, but hiding either makes little sense.




    Sunday, November 5, 2017

    Famiglia

    Two photos, two weddings, 23 years apart.



    Hardly the Corleone family, I give you that much.  But if we were the Corleone family, well, I'd definitely be Michael.

    I've been thinking about family quite a bit lately.  In fact, I may be thinking about family even more in the weeks to come.  I have some work to do in that regard.

    Anyway, I was talking to my older brother the other day about family stuff, and while we're only 15 months apart, his memory for days long since past is far better than mine.  Astoundingly better, in point of fact.  That's both a conundrum and a shame.  The conundrum(1) part?  Given that there isn't that much difference in our ages, just why in the heck can't I remember as much as he does?  It's seriously surreal.  The shame part?  There's just a lot that I've missed...including people and places.  It's not as if I have vague memories; in fact, I basically have virtually none.  It's as if I was born being 5 years old (and even then I don't remember all that much).  

    (Back to when I apparently wasn't busy remembering things...as in any things)

    Some recent feedback centers around the notion that I may(2) be guilty of "intellectualizing" all too often.  I'm still pondering that one in general, but when it comes to how I've approached things like my family, especially as it relates to my siblings, well, it's tough commentary to refute.  Maybe it all goes back to the notion that I was raised in what amounted to Scranton Campus of the Vulcan Science Academy(3)...without Vulcans and Science...but with lots of yelling at young men for aiming at, but serially missing, the toilet.  

    With apologies for the overt Star Trek references.




    (1)  I'll be honest:  I really like the word conundrum, so using it twice in this posting is kind of neat.  Conundrum (make that 3 times), as a word in the English language, isn't used nearly enough, in spite of the many conundrums (make that 4 times) we face in the United States today.
    (2)  An easy one:  The term "may" is me being overly kind in this context.
    (3)  Translation:  Growing up, there wasn't much tolerance for the expression of emotions.  Basically, my mother had two emotions:  Pissed Off and (Not) Pissed Off.  The boys?  We were just allowed one.  




    Tuesday, October 31, 2017

    Preface To A Broken Wing

    The posting you see below (the six *'s) was written by me on September 30th, pretty much unchanged until now, except of course for the fact that you didn't see it then.  In fact, no one saw it, mainly because I didn't publish it until now.  It, along with about 60 or so other postings, sat in my draft bin.  I'm like that when it comes to this writing stuff...

    ...sometimes I get these ideas and quickly write them out, only to lose interest.
    ...sometimes I work diligently to finish a posting, only to think "that's too ______"

    The September 30th posting, as written below, was the latter.  In this case, the ________ is probably best described as "visceral"; as a result, I didn't want anyone to read it and somehow worry about me.  Why?  I simply don't want that kind of attention.  Odd, given that I put myself "out there" via public Internet postings, but never the less I've never wanted that kind of attention.  I never wanted to be that "weak" person, that "needy" person, that "vulnerable" person, or that kind of person that my mother would have probably mocked in some fashion for their perceived frailty.  Yet, in spite of my need to "win", to be "in control" to be "good enough", there have been times over the past year when I've felt as if none of those things applied. 

    So why am I publishing this now?

    The answer is simply this:  It's honest, and if anything, I've always tried to be honest in this microscopic corner of the Internet.  Yes, you can call me many, many things, but dishonest about how I feel with regard to a particular topic?  Nope.  I'll also note that a friend posted something on social media on Sunday that moved me...it was simple...and I admired this person's honesty.  If they could be honest, well, it feels rather cowardly that I can't.  What's more, I need to break this whole "October Bad Juju" thing once and for all.

    Finally, and going back to the idea of "visceral", I think it needs to be okay for me...for everyone really, but especially for me...to not be okay sometimes.  Maybe this, in some small manner, is a kind of statement to note that sometimes those of us who seem the best assembled may, in fact, have a few loose parts from time to time.  It's okay to not win all the time.  It's okay to not be in control every once in a while.  Just facing this is "good enough". 

    So yes, what you read below was honestly how I was feeling on September 30, 2017.  It's not now how I feel now, by the way, but many of the things that drove me to write "Broken Wing" are still there.  Now I know, that previous sentence sounds all too cryptic, but so be it.  I write this as October is about to end, and by and large, it's been a good month.  That's another reason to write this posting by the way:  "Broken Wing" and this preface are a kind of bookend, if you will, for the month that turned out well. 

    * * * * * *

    Broken Wing (September 30, 2017)

    It's time for something of a confession.  Of sorts.  Heck, I'm starting this and not sure even what "it" will end up being; I just know that I need to write this, so fingers are hitting the keyboard.

    (My late brother Chris, acting like an ass, date unknown)

    As I start to write this, tomorrow will be the first day of October, and I am anxious about it.  Pretty odd, huh?  I pride myself on being a rational person, someone who likes to think like a scientist(1),  someone who uses reasoning, not emotion, to view the world.  Yet over this past year or so, some of that logic has failed me.  There have been times when I've felt like a bird with a broken wing.  Am I to be in this perpetual state of damage?

    The signs are all around me:
    Some days are a struggle to get through. 
    I have much to be thankful for(2), but yet I don't always feel it.
    I'm not sure much brings me joy.
    I've allowed piles of crap to sit in my office since January; I'm only now starting to clean up.
    I have an exceptionally difficult time relaxing, even when I'm not working.
    I have allowed my eating to get dramatically out of control.

    I'm illogically afraid that another layoff (a-la "Retirement") or some other major jolt is just around the corner.  Welcome to October.  Will this be the one that finally breaks me?  It's not a paralyzing fear, for that, well, I could probably handle.  Instead, this is more like a small gnawing kind of feeling.  A leprosy of the soul.  It may go hiatus for a day or two, but it almost always returns, rotting away at my innards.

    I replay my "retirement" 20-second video notice in my head.  I have a kind of deep sorrow regarding my late brother.  As I've noted here before, in a way I am grateful that I (and not one of my other brothers) was the one who found him; on the other hand, and this won't be a shock, but that was a horrible experience.  I am both sad and angry that he's gone, but yet grateful that he's not suffering.

    It feels as if so much has been taken from me over this past year.

    I've done my level best to try and sort this whole mess out, but maybe it's time for a different kind of approach.  I'm just not sure yet just what that different kind of approach will be just yet.

    For the record, this isn't a "cry for help" and I am in no way, shape or form a danger to myself, others(3), small animals, most insects or any other of God's creations.  Even at my most damaged, well, at worst I try to subconsciously harm myself via eclair and grease overdose.  The latter almost sounds comical, but it happens to be true.

    I can envision a happier future:  Being physically healthier, giving myself the benefit of the doubt, not vegetating so much in the evenings.  It all feels though like it's ever so slightly out of reach.

    At the start of October, well, it feels like my worst month may have already won.  We shall see.

    * * * * * *

    (1) Which makes me all the more proud that I have a daughter who is becoming a scientist.  
    (2) A kind and supportive wife, a job that pays my bills, colleagues at work who are a pleasure to work with, physical health (sometimes in spite of my best efforts), and the list goes on.
    (3) One exception:  I am a danger to NAZIs and other such types.  Just saying.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2017

    The Entire Scranton School Board Should Resign

    Here's the least damning thing recently reported about the Scranton School District (SSD) by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale:  Scranton effectively has the most debt-ridden school district in Pennsylvania.

    Again, that's the least damning thing noted in the A.G.'s recent performance audit of the SSD.

    It get's worse from there; here's a telling quote from the A.G.:

    “It is long past time for the dysfunctional Scranton School District board and the staff to start acting like responsible adults, and to be blunt, get their heads out of their asses and focus their energies on doing what is right for the district’s 10,000 students and thousands of taxpayers,” 

    You can read more about Auditor General's report on the Scranton Times website (link to the article HERE).

    You can read the entire report produced by the A.G.'s office HERE.

    There's nothing I need to embellish in this mess, as the facts stand out on their own.  I do wonder if some of the accusations merit a further criminal investigation, such as over $600,000 paid to a mechanic...who was not a district employee...who also received SSD paid medical coverage (for himself and his spouse).  Then there's the busing contract, which virtually everyone, including the A.G. but except a majority of the SSD Board, has known to be a fiscal version of a dumpster fire.

    Regardless, there's one step the SSD Board should take, unanimously I will add:  Resign.

    The entire SSD Board should resign, effective immediately.  All of them are complicit in regard to the SSD's perilous states, both fiscally and from a leadership perspective.  All of them either knew or should have known what was happening in the SSD.  All of them failed to appropriately raise the condition of the SSD to the crisis level that's described in the A.G.'s report.  The fact that Pennsylvania's Auditor General has to shame the SSD's leaders into doing their jobs is more than sufficient justification for a mass resignation.

    Speaking of complicit, the SSD's unions can't escape blame here, as they knowingly engaged in the politics of the board, routinely endorsing candidates that weren't qualified to count money in a second-rate Bingo Parlor, let alone manage a multi-million dollar budget.  Yes, the objective of any union is to look out for its members, but educators and support professionals in education have an additional calling, namely the care and betterment of children given to them during school hours.  Board politics and hiring practices over the years benefited union members...which is a fact that no sane person in Scranton would dispute...but these same practices will ultimately harm the SSD's students through the budget cuts that are coming.

    Finally, the ultimate "buck stops here" moment in this hot mess lies with the voting age population of Scranton.  As I noted in a related Facebook posting, institutionalized government graft is a part of Northeastern Pennsylvania's culture.  It's effectively seen as okay...in an area with limited economic opportunities, connections to government graft became for many Scranton residents an accepted form of upward mobility.  The problem though is that the greed driving the engine of government graft is unsustainable; eventually, so many pieces of the pie are taken that there are only crumbs left to educate students.



    Saturday, October 21, 2017

    October @ Mid-Point

    Well, it's October 21st, which means that the month is more than half over.  What has happened so far?  Close to not much.  In fact, while some things are busier that than others, by and large, it's been an uneventful month so far.  For the record, part of me hesitates to even write this, as what happens if October views that statement as being something of a taunt?  I mean there is still part of the month to go, which means all manner of negative things could still happen.  I could, for example, catch leprosy.

    In case none of the above makes sense, you can go back and read this posting.

    I actually have quite a bit planned for the balance of the month.  Today we traveled to Renninger's Farmer's Market in Kutztown for a few hours of inhaling the smell of smoked swine.  This place is an experience.  Seriously, the smell of smoked meat is almost to the point of over-powering; one time both Ms. Rivers and I had to temporarily leave the building, as it was that strong.  I can thank my oldest daughter for introducing me to Renninger's when she was a student at the very wonderful Kutztown University.

    (among the delights that can be found at Renninger's)

    This coming weekend, Ms. River's parents are coming up to visit, and there are plans a-foot to hike up the trail (not down...that's for amateurs) at Ricketts Glen State Park.  That's becoming something of a Fall ritual, although I don't know if we've done it enough to actually and officially use the title "ritual" properly.  Even though I'm wildly out of shape, I'm still looking forward to the experience.  My hiking partner is Ms. River's mother, and I'll do my best to keep up with her.

    (from a hike in September 2013)

    After that?  Heck, October is nearly over.

    All of the above is rather ironic in a sense, in that I pride myself on being solidly logical, rational, reasonable, etc.  But yet, almost by habit, I suppose I do have superstitions of sorts.  What is superstition anyway?  Maybe it's a half wish, half blind explanation for the things that we are either too lazy or too preoccupied to mentally grasp.  Maybe it's a kind of mental short-hand for general anxiety, with the subject being a kind of avatar for things that are likely too dark to describe in polite company.  Either way, I still do pick up that stray penny I see on the ground.  And I'll likely continue to have some latent misgivings about October.


    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Harvey Weinstein

    There is about 16 metric tons worth of hypocrisy in Hollywood these days when it comes to Harvey Weinstein.  Yes, the industry that regularly produces a product that very often deals in misogyny and violence also kept mostly quiet while one of it's "power brokers"1 was effectively running rampant over women seeking a career in motion pictures.  And now some in Hollywood are "outraged".  I'm kind of thinking that the "outrage" is about 20 years too late.

    I've read quite a bit about Mr. Weinstein, but the best, most succinct piece I've come across is from John Oliver.


    Lest anything think that this is all a jab against "hypocritical Hollywood liberals", I'll note that the Republican President of the United States is on record as endorsing sexual assault.  Oh, I forgot, that was just "locker room talk".  Maybe then Mr. Weinstein was just engaged in "bedroom antics" then. 

    The real issue here is that some men with power of sorts (be it in business or politics)...not all men, but certainly some...feel compelled to express power by degrading and assaulting women.  It's not mentally hard to create a connection between "lust for power" and "lust for other things".  Those things seem to go together all too often.  Maybe it's time we stop creating idols out of those who do lust, regardless of what they are lusting after.  I'm not sure what's worse though:  The shameful treatment of women or the blatant enabling by others2.



    (1) I hate the term "power broker". 

    (2) It should be noted that many of these enablers are also women, making a kind of double hypocrisy.

    Monday, October 9, 2017

    Witching Hours (and Days)

    8:12am | Peabody, MA
    I'm sitting in the lobby of a Hampton Inn (in some quarters also known as a "Hamster Inn"), located in Peabody, MA.  The free breakfast has been consumed, my Boston brand mint tea is finished, and I'm basically waiting for the rest of my traveling compatriots (Ms. River & my younger stepson) to complete their morning rituals.  The intent is to get on the road today, headed southwest back to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

    Peabody, by the way, reminds me somewhat of central New Jersey.  The place sports continuous traffic, with a kind of non-descript, not-quite-industrial, look to it.  For the uninformed, Peabody is north-west of Salem and Boston.  No offense intended to New Jersey.  Or Peabody, which, by the way, is pronounced "pee-bidy", not "pea-body"(1).

    This was our second mini-vacation of the year; the other was a trip to Vermont a few months ago.  I'm becoming something of a fan when it comes to the short vacation, mainly because it works well with my attention span (re:  Short).  One of the benefits of living where we do is the fact that there is a lot to see within a reasonable driving range.  I'm sure that's not the case everywhere...sorry residents of Idaho.  This trip entailed two days:  One in Salem and the other Boston.

    I've been to both Salem and Boston before, although the former many, many years ago.  Boston?  I was last here about three or so years ago, but this time around we spent a fair amount of time in the Italian section of the city.


    I enjoy walking, so hoofing about Boston was something I well tolerated.  The fact that there was a ton of good food also made it worth the time.  My weight/general health may somewhat disagree with that second sentiment, but hey, I can always work on that aspect of things.

    The time in Salem was fun as well.  We took a cruise out onto the bay, which Ms. Rivers always enjoys.  I don't think that I'll have to work too hard to convince her that a retirement closer to the water would be a good idea.  The actual town of Salem is cute, especially this time of the year.  Its kind of like an extended, over-commercialized version of Haloween, except this one is for adults.  I could see where some of the more religiously conservative would be offended by the soft-selling of what they consider to be devil worship, but these days there is plenty of real evil in the world, so perhaps the "buy my trinkets" version isn't so bad after all.  Besides, I do think that there is a larger moral story to be found in Salem.


    Part of that story, at least in my mind, centers around the need for a hard separation between church and state.  It's easy to take that for granted, but then someone like Roy Moore runs for United States Senate. Alarmist?  Perhaps, but then again hanging witches was considered pretty reasonable in the 1600s.

    Another parallel story is playing out in the midst of this micro-vacation.  Over the past two weeks, I did two things that were important to me:  I cleaned out & did some necessary filing in our home office and reconciled my checking account (for the first time since January).  I am somewhat ashamed of both things, but I mention them here for a larger purpose.  Simply put, the past 12 months haven't been the easiest for me.  I don't want or need to get into those details(2) but the fact is that I allowed some things to get out of control.  Stacks of paper and an unreconciled checking account were a kind of avatar of sorts.  I will also note that someone in my extended family pointed out that some of what I've written on the blog over the past few months could be interpreted as being indicative of my not feeling well (my words, not theirs).  That made me angry...at first...and then the fact that they were basically right settled in my head.  Anyway, last weekend I spent an evening filing and cleaning up the office.  This weekend I went through nine months of bank statements and reconciled my checking account (I discovered my balance was low...how's that for a procrastination reward?).  Does this make me feel better?  I'm not sure; then again, I wasn't entirely sure how I felt before feeling "better".  What matters more, I suspect, is the fact that I'm writing this in the first place.  Moving on.

    I suspect that any moment my traveling companions will be down here, in the hotel lobby, wanting me to actually interact has a fellow human being.  That's a point Ms. Rivers made the other day (subtext:  It's rude to be playing on the phone while at a meal table...and she's right), so I'm going to close this chapter of the posting now.  With a bit of luck and light traffic, I'll be finishing this up from home this evening.

    8:05pm | West Pittston, PA
    The ride home was uneventful and traffic was more or less light.  That's somewhat surprising, in a positive way, but I'll take it anyway.  In other news, I can honestly say that I haven't been a complete slug since coming home, as I've managed to clean out two litter boxes and wash laundry.  This is in addition to unpacking from the trip and watching a few Star Trek Discovery short videos on YouTube (I'm still not sure whether I'll actually watch the show).

    This week ends on a curious note, as on Friday the 13th of last year I was "retired" by my former employer.  There was a certain symmetry to the timing, I will give you that much.  This will be the only specific mention I'll make of it, as I've already said enough on the topic.  On one hand, I am almost glad that it happened, in the sense that I think it has left me a better person.  Adversity will do that sort of thing.  On the other hand, I still have a feeling of remorse about the whole darn thing.  And a feeling of failure.  I suspect I'll have those feelings for a long time (cue The Beatles:  "Boy, you're gonna carry that weight, carry that weight a long time").  Like most things in life though, it's not as much that it happened but rather what I've chosen to do about it that matters the very most.






    (1) I had something of a bet with my wife regarding the pronunciation, which she won and I lost.  She still pronounces a "cubby" as a "cooby".  That must be a Philadelphia thing, you know, like "wudder" instead of "water".

    (2) I actually wrote a fairly long blog posting about it, that I decided at the last moment to not publish.  I know, "why is that even relevant?".  It was one of those things that I think I needed to do for me, but then again I had the foresight to get a good night's sleep before hitting the publish button, which turned out to be a good idea.

    Like these tiny endnotes?  You can thank the late David Foster Wallace, who used something very similar in Consider the Lobster (which I still haven't finished).

    Sunday, October 8, 2017

    5 Myths About Adulthood

    Thinking back to when I was much younger, I had this notional idea in my head about what it would mean to be an adult.  Looking back now over a few decades of having been an adult, it's easy to see where things just haven't lived up to the vision I had as a child/young adult.  Here are five specific examples:

    1.  Freedom
    Myth - You can do whatever you want.
    Reality - You can't; by and large you don't want to anyway.
    Being able to do "whatever you want" doesn't mean you can actually do whatever you want.  For me, I think the biggest obstacle in adulthood is energy:  By the time I do all the things I need to do, such as my professional life, home responsibilities, etc., I basically don't have the time or the energy to do a lot of extra stuff.  If anything, I have to work really hard in order to be able to do at least some of the things I enjoy.  Sadly, sometimes it's easy for me to forget just what some of these things actually are.

    2.  Money
    Myth - Earning money makes your life far better.
    Reality - Your overhead is considerably more than you ever imagined.
    As a child (like most children) I only chose to see the having side of money.  Rightfully so, I didn't have much of a window into the other side of the financial equation, namely just how expensive life truly can be, especially when young children are involved.  Having to worry about paying bills is a kind of cancer that eats away at someone.  I've known both the worrying and the "I'm doing okay" side of things, and one is definitely better than the other.

    3.  School 
    Myth - School is boring and stupid; it will be far better to have a job.
    Reality - School is a far, far easier gig than having a job.
    This one is a slam dunk.  School was far, far easier for me than being in the working world has ever been.  Even my least challenging job was harder than my most difficult school experiences.  I want to note though that there is a corollary of sorts to this:  At least some of the work stuff has been far more rewarding than school.  This also loudly makes the case for adults to try and find "work" that they actually enjoy.  With me, well, I know what I enjoy, but I just have to find a way to do it more often.

    4.  Relationships
    Myth - "All I want is for someone to love me and it will all be okay."
    Reality - People...and relationship...are far more complex than you think.
    Young adults are such idealized romantics, and isn't that a wonderful thing?  Actually finding someone that you want to spend the result of your life with though is hard work, and for some, it should be even harder, because getting into a relationship can be far more difficult than getting out of one.  It's a kind of catch 22 actually:  When we are younger, at least some of us are in a hurry to find someone to spend the rest of our lives with, but yet that's when we are the least experienced with relationship and basic self-knowledge (we don't really know what we want ourselves in a relationship, let alone be able to articulate it to someone else).

    5.  Health
    Myth - Our bodies are indestructible and we can do whatever we want.
    Reality - Our bodies tend to wear like car tires.
    I never would have imagined how hard just living can be on the human body.  What's more, and in retrospect, I could have never conceived just how corrosive something like stress can be to my physical health.  It's nothing short of astounding.  As a younger person, I more or less took my health for granted.  These days?  Well, I can't.  Like some of the other points noted above, getting older means having to work harder (in this case, at my physical health).


    Tuesday, October 3, 2017

    Of Guns and Dead Children

    On December 14, 2012, 20 children (and six adults) were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School(1).  That's an important date and fact to remember as we all process the most recent mass shooting in Las Vegas.  Why?

    Well, I by no means wish to minimize the tragedy in Las Vegas, but the simple fact is this:  As a nation, we did BASICALLY NOTHING after 20 children were slaughtered.  Yes, we really did nothing.  What was done?  Well, among other things, the gun manufacturing industry, via its proxy the National Rifle Association, advocated for the purchase of more of its product through the arming of school personnel(2).  Yes, the solution to gun violence is more guns.  That's what we call in the business world "Marketing Genius" in action.  

    By the way, I'm advocating for any specific form of gun control.  I've simply stated two facts.

    In the end, I firmly believe that NOTHING will be done in response to the Las Vegas shooting.  Nothing.  That decision was already made in the in the days, weeks, and months after December 14, 2012.  Sadly, it will have to get much worse...worse than the slaughter of 20 children...before anything is done.  As much as anything else in this nation's history, that will be a permanent stain on our collective morality.






    (1) Citation HERE.
    (2) Citation HERE.

    Saturday, September 30, 2017

    New Beatitudes for the Angry Religious Right

    You can read the actual Beatitudes, as recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew, HERE.

    Here is my version, crafted for the angry religious right (regardless of the actual religion).

    "Now when the preacher saw the potential for more money he went on television and began to teach to those who are perpetually gullible.

    Blessed are the rich,
    for they shall buy into the kingdom of heaven.

    Blessed are angry, 
    for they shall find comfort in the pain of others.

    Blessed are the boisterous,
    for they shall be called winners.

    Blessed are the gluttonous, 
    for they shall feel success in their excess.

    Blessed are the spiteful, 
    for they shall see that mercy is for suckers.

    Blessed are the cold of heart, 
    for they shall know that compassion is only for losers.

    Blessed are the warmakers, 
    for they shall be called conquerors of men.

    Blessed are those who discriminate in the name of the lord, 
    for theirs is the kingdom of Earth."


    * * * * * *

    To end this on a more positive note:

    "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."
    Philippians 2:3


    Saturday, September 23, 2017

    A Letter to United States Senator Pat Toomey

    The text of an email I sent to United States Senator Pat Toomey on September 23, 2017.

    * * * * * *

    Dear Senator Toomey,

    I am writing you today to ask that you not support the Cassidy-Graham legislation pending in the United States Senate.  My reasoning for this request is both simple and straightforward:  I have two siblings who would not have medical insurance coverage without the benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  More specifically, neither sibling would be able to afford the cost of private medical insurance without the subsidies provided by the ACA.  I am sure that, in the United States today, they are far from alone.

    Given the above as my ask of you, I have a question that I sincerely hope you will answer:  Why would you...or any other member of Congress for that matter...support any legislation that would result in fewer people being able to afford health insurance?  Regardless of politics and political affiliation, that seems to be inherently wrong, as I am sure that you, like me, are thankful for the healthcare coverage that our employers provide.

    In the case of my siblings, one works in an industry that does not provide employer healthcare coverage and the other is disabled (but does not qualify for coverage through Medicare or Medicaid).

    I am deeply troubled that, in Congress today, the problem being solved isn't one of providing medical coverage for those that can not afford it; rather, it seems that the emphasis is instead on budgetary and tax policy.  It's as if somehow some believe that we can't both provide health care coverage to those who needed it AND have a better functioning tax system.  The two are not mutually exclusive.

    Again, and to be very direct, in the absence of the ACA, two members of my immediate family WILL NO LONGER HAVE healthcare coverage.  That's not an exaggeration, it's not an example, it's not hyperbole, it's not a partisan talking point...it's a simple fact.  Senator Toomey, they will no longer be able to afford healthcare coverage.  Period.  I ask that, as you consider your vote, you think of individuals (across Pennsylvania and the United States) such as my family members and vote with their interests in mind.

    I respectfully ask for your reply to this correspondence.


    Steve Albert
    West Pittston, PA

    Sunday, September 17, 2017

    Road Apples, #174

    LinkedIn...I did something recently that I've had as a goal of sorts for a while now:  I created a posting specifically for LinkedIn.  You can view it on my LinkedIn profile or on this site (HERE).  Why?  I think it's a way for me to bridge, in a way, what I (at least try to) do professionally with part of the "personal" me (this blog); I've always wanted to have something that did both, perhaps in the ultimate hope that I could steer my career more towards what I enjoy doing.  As for frequency, well in a perfect world, I would post more professional content in LinkedIn on a monthly basis.  We'll see how that goes.

    Feel free, by the way, to connect with me on LinkedIn; you will find my profile HERE.

    Earworm...I almost always have a song running through my head.  Pretty odd, considering my complete and utter lack of any musical talent, but factually true never the less.  Anyway, and for some odd reason, a few days ago I had the song "Someday" by Sugar Ray playing in my head.  I kid you not.  For the record, I really don't like that song, which makes me wonder why, in the name of all that is good, it would be in my head anyway.  Regardless, having that song pinging around in my head did lead me to a conclusion of sorts:  Sugar Ray is basically a less edgy version of Nickelback.

    Anyway, here's something of a counter-agent:


    Chicken Pops...An update:  I continue to be very tired, all too often.  I know, boo-freak'n-hoo!  It basically turbo-charges the normal, every-day stress that I (and really everyone) find myself under.  Hopefully, things are on the up-swing.

    Tech Review...I recently purchased a Samsung S3 smartwatch.  You can read about the product HERE.  The good?
    (Image owned by Samsung; link HERE)

    • It actually looks and feels like a higher-end watch, not something from an old Dick Tracy cartoon.
    • Terrific, intuitive functionality. 
    • The heart-rate monitor...a very big deal for me...is impressive.  Among other things, it includes the ability to tag heart rates.
    • Outstanding integration with my Samsung Galaxy phone.  When paired, it's basically as if I have a single device.
    • The inductive charging stand looks...and functions...better than the traditional cable set-up. 
    The not-so-good?
    • It's a bit bigger on my wrist than what I'm used to wearing, even bigger than THIS watch.  Then again, what I usually wear, a Fitbit Charge HR, is very light.
    • The notifications can easily distract me, but that says more about my attention span than the gear itself.
    I'm saving the Charge HR, by the way, for weekend duty.  All told and so far?  I'd highly recommend it.

    Seasons...It looks as if the upcoming week will be warm.  Typical "Indian Summer" kind of thing.  It's all a warning...or promise...of sorts, of the last gasp of a summer soon to be departed.  I'm good with it either way.

    Retail 101...Granted that I haven't worked retail in a long time, but there has to be some kind of metric employed by retailers to measure the speed of checkout.  An especially challenged company?  By far and away it's the Bon Ton.  Sales associates seem to need a Ph.D.'s worth of knowledge to figure out how all of the sales, clearance, flyer coupons, Internet coupons, etc. all work.  The sum total of all that miscellaneous "stuff" sometimes makes the checkout process painfully slow.  While it's pretty aggravating, I do my best to remember as I'm standing behind someone with 4 articles of clothing and 8 coupons, that those pricing policies aren't set at the local store.  If anything, I feel very bad for Bon Ton sales associates as they wade through what seems like untenable amounts of confusion (and customers upset that it takes ten minutes to buy a dress shirt).


    Sunday, September 10, 2017

    Six Professional Lessons Learned



    Before anything else, I want to note that anyone can be a professional.  It's not about what you do for a living, but rather it's about how you see yourself and how you act as you go about your business.  To that point, I've met some exceedingly professional individuals in the trades and some extremely unprofessional folks with fancy titles and degrees.

    On to the point(s) at hand.

    I've been in the workforce now for almost 30 years, and I'd like to think that I've learned a few things along the way.  Here are six things that come to mind as being particularly important.  I don't pretend for a single moment that I've mastered these things myself; to the contrary, I likely fail often at all of them.  The point though isn't so much acknowledging failure as it is acknowledging and living in truth.  With that in mind, here's my list.

    First and Foremost:  Be A Decent Human Being
    Organizations don't have souls.  They are an artificial construct of the law and social behavior, designed to create order for a purpose.  Human beings, on the other hand, have souls.  They also have hopes, needs, aspirations, and feelings.  It astounds me to no end the degree to which some folks, and I've met plenty in my lifetime, will make the conscious decision to put an artificial construct...a thing...an organization...before that of a human being.

    Now don't get me wrong:  In organizations, sometimes tough decisions need to be made.  I've laid people off, and it's happened to me (well, technically I was "retired").  That action in and of itself is not the point at all.  Rather, what's at stake here is how one human treats another human, especially during times of duress.  In fact, it's during the tough times that we need to work HARDER at showing empathy towards our fellow humans.  I don't buy for a single moment the notion that tough decisions in a professional environment need to be made and executed in a sterile, unfeeling manner.  That's a cop-out of the highest order, one that devalues our fellow human beings and ultimately poisons our own souls.

    What we all need to do is always work at simply being a decent human being in our professional lives, in the good times and, as noted above, especially during the bad.  Be kind.  Be considerate.  Spend as much time talking to the maintenance staff as you do that leader you want to impress.  Listen to your co-workers.  Hold the door open for someone who has their hands full.  If you see someone struggling, offer to help.  This isn't hard:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Second:  Keep Your Word
    Return phone calls.  Answer emails.  Honor your commitments.  If something keeps you from honoring a commitment, apologize and try to remedy the situation.  The magnitude doesn't matter because what's small to me may be big to you.

    Third:  Value Diversity (especially diversity of thought)
    There are few things sadder than seeing the leaders of an organization...be it a group, a senior leadership team or a board of directors...look like they are all brothers from the same mother.  No good interests are served by surrounding oneself with those who look and think like you.  Diversity isn't just some nebulous concept created by rich liberals; it's a basic tenant of biology.  Inbreeding is dangerous for both procreation AND organizations.  

    How can we live in diversity?  Give people permission to challenge you.  Give yourself permission to challenge others.  Above all else, don't fall into the ego trap of believing that no one can teach you, because it's at that point when your ultimate failure actually begins.  Don't walk away from that person who always seems to have a different opinion than you...instead, walk towards them.

    Fourth:  You'll Sometimes Get In Trouble For Doing The Right Thing (but do it anyway)
    I've done a few things in my nearly thirty-year professional life that have likely harmed my career...one especially comes to mind...and that's okay, especially in those instances when I knew my intentions were good and for the benefit of other humans (see the first point).  The simple fact is this:  Sometimes you'll be punished for doing the right thing, but that's the cost of doing business the right way, so do it anyway.

    I want to believe that, in the end, doing right for the sake of right ultimately does provide a reward, even if that reward is as simple as a John Mellencamp once noted in a song:


    Fifth:  Never Stop Changing
    We can choose to change with the world around us, or we can choose to passively watch as the world passes us by.  The former will keep us interested and engaged; the latter will almost always yield bitterness and fear.  When we think about it that way, it's actually not too difficult of a choice.  Like most things though, I think what holds us back...well, I know it holds me back...is fear.  That's ironic:  We're afraid of change, but yet we should actually be afraid of NOT changing. 

    Sixth:  We Are All Equally Flawed
    We are all, each and every one of us, equally flawed.  No one has it completely figured out.  That person at work who seems to have his/her "stuff" together?  More likely than not, they are simply better at maintaining appearances than you or I.  Life is ultimately a very democratic thing:  We all have challenges, we all have fears, we all have hopes, we all have aspirations.  That goes equally for security guards and CEOs.  Labels and expensive suits are simply wrappers, a kind of plumage if you will, designed for a specific purpose but still masking a naked bird underneath.  Of the six things listed in this posting, this one is the most difficult for me to consistently master.  I was simply raised to, almost by default, always assume that the problem facing me at the moment is both unique to me and wholly my fault anyway.   Neither is usually true.

    * * * * * *

    A bonus:  Always assume positive intent.  That's not so much a separate lesson as it is a kind of lubrication for the other six.



    Tuesday, September 5, 2017

    October

    As I start writing this, it's Labor Day, September 4th.  That means that it's less than a month to go until October.  Dreaded October.  What's so "dreaded" about October?  Well, the month has not been friendly to me over the years, a point I've made time and time again.  In fact, some of the most angst-ridden stuff I've written, going back years, was in the month of October.

    Just how bad is the month for me?  Well in 2016 I decided I wasn't going to have any more of October's negative mojo, so I embarked on a campaign to "Make October Great Again".  I even had a graphic.  My thought was that I would flood the month full of positive stuff, rendering its powers merciless at my onslaught of all things good.

    Then, well, I was "retired" from a company I had which had employed me for nearly 28 years.

    Once again, October was not to be denied.

    I've thought about bringing the "Make October Great Again" campaign back, but then I got worried that something else not-so-great could happen...for example, I could come down with scurvy...or trench foot...or lose my job again...so it's likely that won't be happening anytime soon.  I'm not one for tempting fate.  Especially when it's called October.

    So what's left to do?

    Well, I am trying to fill the month with plenty of things to do.  Some are fun, such as a hike up to Ricketts Glen State Park (with my mother-in-law), others will be more strategic, such as studying for my SPHR designation.  I've got less than a month to go, and I've still got a lot of time to fill, so I had better finish my planning.  October looms.

    Lastly, and as I've noted countless times before, I actually want to like October.  The weather is ideal, I enjoy Halloween, and I like getting the yard/house ready for the winter.  It just doesn't seem to like me all that much, but maybe there's hope.  Come on October, work with me a bit on this one.

    (October at the Kinzua Dam)



    Saturday, September 2, 2017

    Useless, Useless

    It's said that John Wilkes Booth, as he emerged from a burning barn (after also having been shot by Union soldiers) looked at his hands and said "useless, useless"*.

    I've always been fascinated by that quote, and lately, well, I've been thinking about it more than usual.

    Why?  Well, I think it's just a part of the fact that it's been a difficult year.  Now I have gotten recognized over the years by friends and co-workers for my ability to (mostly) remain calm and collected in difficult situations, but there's a reason why that's the case:  I didn't grow up in an environment that encouraged emotional expression.  So you see, (mostly) being calm and collected is relatively easy for me.  Like many seeming "strengths" though, it comes at a cost.

    The truth is that I'm not good at expressing most emotions.

    Now with the above, I know that I join the ranks of about 98.6% of all men, but this is more than just trying to meet a social norm.  Growing up, there was a kind of punishment of sorts associated with being anything outside of a basic okay.  I think for my mother, it was everything she could do to keep the ship afloat, so anything that might rock that ship, anything that distracted from the mission of just getting through things, was strongly discouraged.  On one level I understand that; on another level, well, I'm am both appalled and confused.

    As a parent myself, the appalled part is readily apparent to me, and I'll note that having three daughters greatly helped in that department.  They simply never would have allowed me to get away with the "everything must be okay or else" manifesto.  In a way, the students were the teacher.  Children have an absolute right to feel a wide range of emotions and have those emotions acknowledged.  Now I was not a perfect parent, and I failed on many occasions as a father, but emotional suppression for my own benefit and/or convenience wasn't among my sins.

    Confusion over my own emotional expression has a kind of radioactive half-life that I continue to unpack, a third of the way into my 50s.  Yes, I do get angry, but I also almost always feel a great deal of guilt over that anger immediately after the fact.  On the other end of the spectrum, I'm sometimes afraid to feel joy, as to me it feels like a kind of gaseous thing that, once uncorked, would dissipate, never to return.  In between the two, a calm demeanor hides sometimes more wide swings inside my head that I don't normally cop to, but since I'm already in the hole with this posting, I might as well be all the way in the hole.  No sense doing this self-expression thing half-assed.

    N.B.:  This is, in part, why this whole blog thing has existed for so long, namely that I have plenty of things in my head.

    So where to go from here?  I know I need to work on this stuff.  Heck, I've known I need to work on this stuff for a very long time.  And I'm trying**.  I can't say with a whole lot of certainty that I expect any success from my efforts, and despite what I've noted here on so many prior occasions, this is one instance where there should be a kind of destination (as opposed to just the journey itself).  However, I'm going to keep on trying.  Maybe I'm simply hoping for a kind of self-help version of the "Golden BB".  Maybe all of this has happened before*** and will happen again.

    Maybe tired people shouldn't be allowed near keyboards.

    Maybe I should simply write more about politics.  Or cats.



    * * * * * *

    A few end notes:

    (*) Citation HERE.

    (**) I've actually read quite a bit about this topic in the past, and I am currently reading Running on Empty by Dr. Jonice Webb.

    (***) After having written about 75% of this posting, I checked and discovered that I've actually posted on this topic...using this same title...before, in 2009.  See HERE.  That's probably not the first time this has happened before (see above), but it's also okay,  I think it a adds a kind of veracity to the posting.