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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 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'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 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 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 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 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 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


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 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.