Sunday, December 9, 2018

Grapefruit League

(Photo from

I love grapefruit, which may come as a surprise to some, given the fact that I have the eating habits of a five-year-old.  Grapefruit though was something I grew up eating.  For the young Albert boys, it was bordering on an exotic fruit, given the limited food options (based on my mother's sensibilities) we had growing up.  With the previous three sentences noted, the last grapefruit I had was in early 2016.

It was in January of 2016 that I was diagnosed with a medical condition that necessitated my taking a medication that interacts poorly with grapefruit.  To the uninitiated, the seemingly kind and gentle grapefruit interacts with a ton of medications.  Don't believe me?  Check out THIS LIST.  It's kind of like discovering that your kind and gentle Uncle actually works for the CIA, interrogating suspected terrorists, or something along those lines.  I never had an uncle like that, but I have definitely missed eating (red) grapefruit.

Jumping back to the present day, actually this past Wednesday to be exact, I was feeling normal.  As in fine.  Outside of a challenging early afternoon phone conversation, the day was even going remarkably okay.  By later on in the work day, well, I started to feel a bit off.  What transpired next isn't suitable for my PG-rated blog, but here's a good-but-sufficiently-nebulous description for you:  "My body + Wes Craven Horror Movie".  At this point, I have to give my doctor's office, at Geisinger Mount Pleasant, tons of well-deserved credit:  I called the office and they were extraordinarily helpful, postulating on what likely was happening and providing good advice.  They also got me in to see my primary care physician the next day, which is nothing short of a small miracle in this day and age.  Two sets of blood tests and a doctor visit later and the jury is still somewhat out in terms of what is actually going on within my entrails, but I can gladly report that I feel fine.  More tests are likely needed, and I've run out of arms from which to draw blood, but I'm sure the good folks at Geisinger will figure that part out.

There is a silver lining to all of this:  I can eat grapefruit again, I think.  The medication that apparently offended the grapefruit gods has been removed from my daily intake, as it was making what happened above (i.e. Wes Craven Horror Movie) a lot worse.  The replacement medication I will be taking gets along much better with grapefruit. 

Friday was a day off, and outside of my doctor checking in with me, I spent the day shopping with Ms. Rivers.  Our final stop?  The grocery store.  I bought two grapefruits.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Scranton School Board: Yes, It Can Get Worse

Apparently, the individuals who are responsible for solving the Scranton School District's significant fiscal and educational issues had trouble even agreeing on who should be in charge.  See THIS article.

"The annual reorganization meeting, where directors elect leaders for the following year, included five nominations for president. After directors tried to beat each other by shouting out nominations first..."

Yes, they can't even effectively organize themselves.

It's a mistake to minimize this story as being "that's just how these things go" or "you don't understand the process"; the Scranton School District is insolvent right at this very moment.  This is an emergency, decades in the making.  The Board doesn't have the luxury of, to be crude for a moment, "pissing contests" over who gets what title.  This is akin to the officers of the Titanic arguing over who gets to wear what hat while the ship itself is sinking.

(from THIS page)

The taxpayers deserve better than this, but then again it's been the taxpayers who have elected successive and incredibly unqualified board members in the past.  While there has been some hope that new members would bring a degree of professionalism to the board, I can't get over the whole "...tried to beat each other by shouting..." aspect of this circus.  This is service to one's the expense of the greater it's very worst.

Will it get worse?  Yes, it will. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A List of 8 Things that Need to End

In no particular order.
  1. Twitter Articles.  I don't mean articles about Twitter, but rather articles from (in theory) legitimate news sources that consist of 20%-60%+ Twitter quotes.  I've literally seen articles that had something like two paragraphs of real content followed by dozens of Twitter references.  This is lazy journalism at its very worst.
    1. Devaluing Work.  "She's just a waitress" (something I overheard not that long ago).  It's time we stop, as a society, stratifying work by our perception of its monetary value.  Want to know who the hardest working folks I know are?  That would be anyone in a Call Center, Waiters/Waitresses, and most folks working at any Dunkin Donuts.  All hard work is noble.  The most valuable person in the world isn't Jeff Bezos or some Walton next of kin, it's a plumber when you have a furnace emergency in January.  We need to stop celebrating athletes (who are just entertainers playing a game) and the rich/famous for no reason (Kardashians, for example) and start recognizing the folks on the front-lines of the economy.  Oh, one more thing:  The default tip in a restaurant should be 20%.
    2. Facebook's Monopoly.  I noted this in another posting as well.  Facebook has simply grown too large, it has become too influential, and some of its practices are questionable at best (current reference HERE).  That noted, it's too late to turn back the clock on social media, as it's not an important part of the lives of many.  Where are the alternatives?  I've done some research, but nothing stands out. 
    3. Manufactured Election Hot Button Issues (that die out the next day).  This one is self-explanatory, but I'll offer an example...transgender bathroom scares.  Yes, nothing gets the professionally paranoid more riled up than talk about men using the ladies bathroom.  Personally, I don't care what bathroom anyone uses, just as long as they wash their hands and clean up after themselves.  In fact, in Sweden, some of the bathrooms are gender neutral; think "all stalls".  Anyway, the louder a politician yells about an issue right before an election, the more we should hold them (and their issue) in suspect.
    4. Insignificant Penalties for Animal Abusers.  Anyone who is cruel to an animal can very likely be cruel to a fellow human.  Now I'm not suggesting life in prison for killing a dog (for example), but I am suggesting real jail time, not a fine and a promise to be good next time around.  I'll note that I was once called "stupid" or something like that by a fellow commentator on a Scranton Times article.  Of course, that commentator was posting under a pseudonym.  Which brings me to...
    5. Anonymous On-Line Commentators.  Few things in this world are more pathetic than anonymous keyboard commandos.  The Scranton Times is full of them.  As a matter of fact, when it comes to the Scranton Times online edition and regular story commentators, I'm one of two who posts under his/her own name, which is kind of ridiculous.  
    6. Shopping on Thanksgiving, a.k.a. "Let us give thanks for greed".  There is no legitimate reason why a retail store should be open on Thanksgiving Day.  None.  Zero.  Why is it so difficult to put greed aside for one day in this country in order to allow the families of retail workers to celebrate Thanksgiving together?  You can find a list of stores that were both open and closed this past Thanksgiving HERE
    7. Expensive Engagement Rings.  You can find an interesting article on this topic HERE (Sometimes the younger generations get it right).  Look, if money is no object to you and you want to get an expensive engagement ring, well, more power to you.  However, that's not reality for most folks, and the money spent on an expensive ring could be used for so many different and more important things.  The whole custom was concocted by as a way to sell more diamonds (reference HERE) anyway.  

    Sunday, November 25, 2018

    Road Apples, #176

    A Memorable Thanksgiving...Thanksgiving should always be memorable, mostly because we get to spend it with family and friends.  That was true for this me this year, but with an added twist:  We had a flying squirrel visit us for Thanksgiving.  By way of background, we had a large Thanksgiving dinner in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania with my wife's family.  The actual festivities were held at a beautiful old church hall that my father-in-law (a retired Episcopal priest) was able to procure due to his having previously acted as a temporary pastor.  Anyway, after much chasing and general Keystone Cops-esque tomfoolery, our visitor was safely captured and returned to the wilds of Jenkintown.

    (Photo courtesy of my sister-in-law Julie's Facebook feed)

    Hopefully, our little friend will go about what flying squirrels normally do and avoid church halls in the future.

    Bohemian Rhapsody...We saw the Queen movie Bohemian Rhapsody on Friday night, and it did not disappoint.  In fact, if you are even remotely familiar with the band's music, I'd highly recommend that you take the time to see the movie.  A lot of great stuff is being said about the lead actor, Rami Malek, and all of it is deserved.  I will note though the actor who played Brian May, Gwilym Lee, was uncanny in his resemblance to the guitarist.

    I know there has been some backlash centering around how the movie treated Freddie Mercury's sexuality (see THIS article as an example), but it seemed to me that the film made a very reasonable attempt to show Freddie Mercury as the complex individual he likely was.  While I can't relate to his sexuality, I can absolutely relate to being someone who is wildly uncomfortable in personal interactions but very comfortable and confident when on a stage (in my case, in front of a classroom).  In any event, Freddie Mercury was a son, a cat-person, a rock icon, a loyal friend, a lover and many other things, all of which the movie tried to show in the course of fewer than two hours...and I think they did a great job. 

    Christmas Shopping...It's only a few days after Thanksgiving and, as usual, I am almost completely done with my Christmas shopping.  Now lest anything think that this is because I am masterful at planning (well, actually, I'm pretty good it), the reasoning behind my holiday buying habit is far more practical:  For a long time I basically didn't have enough money to buy all the presents I wanted to get for others, so I had to start shopping very early (typically in the summer) and buy a little over time.  I may not have that underlying need now, but the practice continues.

    Bombas...I admire businesses that give back to the world in a significant way.  One such company is Bombas, a company that makes and sells socks.  You can read more about them HERE.  For every pair of socks you buy from Bombas, they donate a better pair to a homeless shelter.  I've purchased a number of socks from myself from Bombas, and they make a great product. The fact that they help others in the process is all the better. 

    October (in the rear-view mirror)...October is the worst month of the year for me.  Always has been, always likely will be.  Looking back on last month, October once again delivered fully on its reputation.  There is a larger post on this topic that's to be written but suffice to say I got through it, and maybe for the better.  The odd thing is that there was just one part of the month that was particularly challenging for me, but other parts were actually very enjoyable.  

    Self-Checkouts Are Horrible...Don't use self-checkouts. Just don't.  They seem to me to be just another example of how some retailers are trying to further de-humanize retail, squeezing even more profits out by reducing entry-level jobs.  I'm not the only one who feels this way; see THIS article.

    To end this on a high note...

    Thursday, November 22, 2018

    Giving Thanks

    We all have reasons to be thankful.  All of us.  I get it times things become difficult and the pressures mount; things don't work out for us, and the future looks more cloudy than clear.  I've been there, by the way, in more ways than I care to mention in a posting about gratitude.  However, while we live and breathe there is always a reason to stop, reflect, and be thankful for the precious life we have been given.

    Here are a few things I am thankful for in my life.

    The gift of being a father.  
    Anyone who meets me for the first time knows that it takes exactly zero encouragement to get me to talk about how proud I am of my daughters, and how blessed I am to have two wonderful stepsons.  If I were to die tomorrow, the very best thing anyone could say about me was that "Steve was a good Dad", and that would be enough.

    The gift of my wife.
    My wife, also known in these posts as "Ms. Rivers" literally saved my life.  Just when it seemed that almost everything in my life was falling apart, when I was at my very lowest, she was there to help pick up the pieces and help me build a brand new life.  She was also my Master's degree research paper editor, is my fashion consultant, health advisor, and person who makes me optimistic about the future.

    The gift of my family.
    I value family now more than I ever have in the past.  That's not to say I am actually good at things like staying in touch, but I am trying to do better.  The fact that I was able to spend time with my adopted-through-marriage family this past summer is just an example of how important and enriching family connections can be for all of us.  

    The gift of friendship.
    I am not an out-going kind of person, and while I've learned professionally to talk to just about anyone, I don't have a ton of people I would call actual "friends".  Those who I do consider my friend though are important to me, and they help me in ways they probably don't understand.  I hope I return the favor every once in a while as well.

    The gift of my health.
    Look, when the personal odometer starts to get extra mileage on it, well, some parts start to wear.  That's as true for cars as it is for me, as it is everyone else.  I'm lucky though in that there is nothing I am facing with my health that isn't treatable, and there is nothing that limits what I can do in my life.  Thank you to all of the professionals that help me stay healthy, both physically and mentally.

    The gift of learning.
    I am thankful that I am still inquisitive, that I am still learning new things, that I still find things in the world to explore.  There is never an excuse for me to be bored.

    I can also add, as a final note of sort, the gift of laughter.

    "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly..."

    Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2018

    When Protection Is Needed From Protectors

    I have the utmost respect for the police.  No one else in civilian life puts their life literally on the line every single day they go to work, and for that, they deserve our respect.  It's with that in mind that stories such as this...

    ...are particularly troubling.  It seems readily apparent, at least from the article, that the young lady in question was assaulted, in public, by an off-duty police officer.  The fact that the assailant is a police officer, by the way, is very relevant in this case.  We have to hold police officers to the highest possible standards of conduct precisely because of the respect they deserve.  The badge is diminished, needlessly so, whenever an officer fails to live up to what are basic standards of conduct and decency, such as by punching a wall and grabbing your partner's arm so hard that it leaves a bruise (refer to this public social media posting by the victim).

    Then we have the response by the officer's attorney (from the above-referenced article)

    “These are mere allegations which he takes very seriously. [name] is presumed innocent and is looking to appropriately addressing these allegations in court.”

    My hope is that "appropriately addressing these allegations" doesn't involve any kind of implication that the victim somehow "had it coming".  While I'll give the defense attorney the benefit of the doubt, the reality is that far too often someone is victimized twice in cases such as this:  Once during the original assault(s) and then in court.

    No one "deserves" to be manhandled like a like a calf at a rodeo.  No one deserves to live in fear that they will not be believed because of the fact that their abuser holds a position of public trust.  No one is responsible for the (alleged) substance abuse and anger management issues of another.

    My hope is that the young lady in question moves on with her life.  Based on her posting (see above), she seems to be on track to do just that, at least for now.  Life is far too short and far too precious to live in fear.

    My hope for the officer in question is that he gets the help he deserves.  Yes, that he deserves for all of those times he has put his life on the line in service of the public.   Until then though, he shouldn't be wearing the badge that represents so very much, including the protection of others.

    Sunday, November 18, 2018

    Old Facebook Photographs

    Facebook has simply grown too large, it has become too influential, and some of its practices are questionable at best (current reference HERE).  That noted, it's too late to turn back the clock on social media, as it's really become an important part many lives.  Where are the alternatives?  I've done some research, but nothing stands out. 

    Anyway, I was looking over some old photos I've posted on Facebook over the years.  There were a few that brought back some memories and others that are just good photographs.  Here are a few I'd like to share.

    Posted in 2013:  Pretty much the only photograph I have of my mother smiling.  This photograph was probably taken in the late 1950's.  I posted it shortly after she passed away.

    Posted in 2013:  Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia.  This was an intriguing place, and I took a ton of photographs.  You can learn more about Eastern State Penitentiary HERE.

    Posted in 2012:  My 1974 Chrysler Newport, parked at my apartment at Meade Heights, Penn State Harrisburg, in 1985-1986.  I loved that car, in spite of the less than 10mpg I would get in local driving.  The car literally died as soon as I got home from my last trip back from college in 1986.

    Posted in 2010:  A church being remodeled in Pittsburgh.  I love this photo, in spite of the obnoxious overhead wires.  I don't normally shoot photographs in black and white, but this one really worked.

    Posted in 2010:  A hawk sitting on a branch at Lake Scranton.  I was walking around the lake right after a rainstorm, and this beautiful creature was sitting on a branch about 20 feet away from me.  My wife loves this photograph so much that she had it printed and framed, where it hangs in our dining room.

    Posted in 2010:  A salamander at Lake Scranton.  I took this during the same walk where I took the hawk photograph.  I love the contrasting color of the salamander and the dark soil.

    Posted in 2009: Me at college in 1984.  This was taken in Wrisberg Hall dormitory by a fellow student who was taking a photography class.  I had built a wall of stereo equipment because of the fact that room-mate seemed a bit, well, unstable.   This is one of two photographs in the posting that I did not take.

    Posted in 2009:  One of the best photographs I have ever taken.  The location was the Kinzua Dam.

    Sunday, November 11, 2018

    My Brother, the Veteran

    (Chris and Steve, somewhere in the late 70's)

    In the year before he passed away, my younger brother Chris would occasionally tell me about some of his experiences serving in the United States Navy.  He was a "Hospital Corpsman"(1), serving at Norfolk, Virginia, and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina(2).  These were never pleasant conversations.  Now I'm not sure what role medication(3) played in these conversations, but I always did my best to listen to Chris, because clearly, there were things he experienced that deeply troubled him.  For the record, I'm not going to comment on what he told me, mostly because that doesn't really matter in the context of this story.  What does matter is the fact the served and that service changed him.

    As I've noted several times over the years, I did not serve in the military.  That was, in sense, an example of privilege on my part.  Now we like to talk in this country about the "privilege" of military service, but I think that's a misplaced sentiment.  I didn't have to serve precisely because so many in the United States, like my brother Chris, voluntarily served.  They paid a debt so that the rest of us didn't have to.  More than anything else, that's what I think Veterans Day is really all about: Some small repayment towards a debt that will forever be outstanding.

    Now we all make big decisions in life, decisions that change us at some basic level.  Sometimes those decisions are more a function of a default than anything else(4).  Sometimes those decisions are really and truly a matter of choice.  My brother Chris' service in the United States Navy was truly a matter of choice.  He simply did not have to serve in the military, but I don't think he knew what else he could or should do after graduating from high school.  He was also desperate to get out in the world, to see what was beyond the confines of Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Granted that the stories of debauchery, as told to him by the Navy recruiter, probably helped Chris make the decision.  Regardless of the motivation though, the two things that Chris was the proudest of in his life was his daughter Miranda and his service in the United States Navy. 

    Back to the subject of service and change.  The first time I saw Chris after he joined the Navy he was truly a changed man.  I envied him.  He was confident.  His life was together.  I think that he found the discipline of military life beneficial.  While Chris was a smart guy, prior to his military service he was wildly undisciplined, which caused tremendous tension between him and our mother (someone who valued discipline over about just about everything else).  That tension never really disappeared throughout his life though.  I think that the military also gave him a kind of purpose in life that, outside of being a father, he never seemed to have again.  More than anything else though, I think that Chris' military service gave him an identity that he carried forward to the end of this life.

    I am glad that his identity as a veteran is a part of this final resting place.

    Rest in Peace Sailor.

    * * * * * *

    (1) I always thought it was "Med Corpsman", but the Internet seems to disagree; citation HERE.
    (2) In support of the United States Marine Corps.  
    (3) Prescribed or otherwise.
    (4) "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice" - Rush

    Monday, November 5, 2018


    Vote on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6th because...

    ...the politically powerful count on you not voting is a protected right under our Constitution not voting, you're allowing others to decide your fate many have fought and died to give you this right

    ...big political contributors have too much influence 

    ...we can do better

    ...the richest and the poorest are all equal at the voting booth's time for a change President of either party should be above checks & balances can say no to fear and hate offers the smallest investment/biggest return available

    ...well-off old white guys shouldn't make all the rules get the government you vote (or don't vote) for one has to know who you voted for anyway

    ...politicians lie to you and think you're too stupid to notice

    ...your one vote literally could change history

    I truly believe that, as a nation, we are at a crossroads:  Do we choose fear and xenophobia, or do we choose to believe that we can do better?  This is above and beyond politics; it's about who we are as human beings and what kind of nations we choose to call home.  

    Please vote in tomorrow's election.  If you haven't voted in a while don't worry...just show up and the poll workers will help you.  Vote because you...and your vote...and our nation...matter now more than ever.

    Sunday, November 4, 2018

    A Weekend Pause

    On the road in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

    Ms. Rivers and I usually go away for a weekend in the Fall.  Nowhere fancy mind you...the basic rules are that it's for a weekend and it has to be within driving distance.  The allure of air travel has long expired for both of us, and there are simply too many other things going on, making anything longer than a weekend impractical at best.  That latter point is one of the many things Ms. Rivers and I have in common:  Am almost ceaseless list of things we want to accomplish.

    This weekend's trip was decided in theory a few months ago and decided in practice last Monday.  That's how this stuff rolls sometimes.  We choose Lancaster because, well, because it's Lancaster.  I've also only been to Lancaster once before.  That trip was in 1987, and I drove with my fellow Maxwell's buyers to get a train to New York City in Lancaster.  Suffice to say, I didn't see all that much.  For the record, at the time I lived in York, which is something of a slightly smaller sister city to Lancaster, but without some of the charm the Red Rose City enjoys.

    Timing is everything.

    I really needed this trip.  Really and truly.  This should be one of the best times of my life, yet I've been fairly unsettled for a while now.  In life perspective is everything, so what better way to gain perspective than a temporary change in scenery?  While Lancaster has had its share of problems over the years, beautiful scenery isn't among its challenges.  This is a beautiful place, and the thought of living somewhere that afforded the ability to walk to a farmer's market for fresh food is alluring.  Ms. Rivers and I have spent more than a few minutes over the past months and years thinking about where we'd like to live our retirement years.  Decisions are still pending.


    We spent late morning and most of the afternoon on Saturday wandering about downtown Lancaster.  The city has a wonderful farmer's market and tons of small shops that remind you of Philadelphia, all be it on a smaller scale.  One such place we stopped was Art & Glassworks.

    Walking into the shop, the first thing Ms. Rivers noticed was all of the beautiful glass the shop had on display.  The first thing I noticed?  That would be Nicky.  You see, Nicky is a 19-year-old male cat that keeps watch over the shop.  Nicky and I spent about 5 minutes getting acquainted as Ms. Rivers attended to more serious shopping business.  Any business that has a cat is worth patronizing in my book, so if you are ever in Lancaster (either at their stand in the Farmer's Market or at their store) please visit Art & Glassworks.  And pet Nicky for me.  He's a good cat.  I'll also note that, in addition to petting a cat, we did get some shopping done, so it was a win for both Nicky and the shop owner.

    Jesus was not live on stage.

    We picked this pamphlet up at the hotel(*), and I thought it was almost bizarrely funny.  Now I know from a Facebook posting that others have actually seen this show and enjoyed it.  However, I just think it's a bit odd to claim that Jesus is "live, on stage".  If, in fact, Jesus was live, I would hope that it wouldn't be on a sage in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  There's a lot of bad stuff happening in this country at the moment, and if there is such a thing as divine intervention, well, we could use a little bit of it right here and now.  We are truly an un-tended flock at the moment.

    The Last Sears?

    On the slow road back home, we stopped at a mall in Lancaster, and low and behold there was a functional Sears.

    I'm not sure how many of these are actually left but suffice to say the answer is somewhere between "few" and "not many".  As a sign of just how dismal the whole situation is, we could have waited about 14 minutes for the store to open, but we thought "Meh, why bother?".  That pretty much sums up Sears.

    The Final Stop.

    The final stop on the drive home was the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg.  The stop itself was figured out this morning, mostly based on the intricate science of "well, why not?".  Nice place. 

    Walking through the museum I was reminded of what this country has been through, and likely what it still has to go through.  In spite of a bloody war and over a hundred years of time passages, some of those old wounds have yet to heal.  Let's hope it doesn't take another war for us to find our "better angels".

    * * * * * *

    (*) We stayed at the Cork Factory Hotel on New Holland Avenue in Lancaster.  Overall it was a nice place, but apparently, it does a very robust wedding business.  That's good for the hotel, but not necessarily good for the other guests who can't find parking or a table for dinner.  Speaking of dinner, we needed reservations to eat at the hotel's restaurant.  Now I've stayed at some fancy hotels over 30 or so years, but I can't recall a lone hotel restaurant that required reservations.  If you want to get married in Lancaster you should check the hotel out.  If you just want a weekend getaway?  Well, better not make that in June.

    Saturday, October 27, 2018

    10 Years of Stuff: A Blog-O-Versary

    I started writing on this blog 10 years ago on October 27, 2008.  Just in case I would forget, the above is what I have Dymo tagged to the top of my home computer monitor.

    In thinking about what to say in this posting, one thought that occurred to me was this:  In terms of things I've been doing in my life (outside of biological imperatives, parenthood, etc.), the blog is really the second longest vocation I've ever had.  That says a lot, I think.

    Anyway, I'd like to tell you interesting and inspirational stories related to the blog, but that even bores me, so I won't.  In fact, I've never tried to be interesting or inspirational in this space;  instead, I'll save the interesting and inspirational stuff to professionals.  For me, the "gladly amateur blogging state" is good enough.  That's not to say that there isn't anything to tell at the ten-year mark.  To that point, here are a few road apples.

    The most popular posting I've ever written... about radio commentator, (hopefully) recovered drug addict, and thrice-married ladies man Rush Limbaugh.  You can read the posting entitled Rush Limbaugh Audience Demographics, HERE.  Why has that posting been so popular?  Well, my number one source of traffic is, and I suspect that the (hopefully) former drug addict (I'm not making the drug addict thing up...citation HERE) is a popular search topic.  I also suspect that many who landed on my posting were very disappointed at what they found.

    The most interesting comment I've ever received...
    ...was a death threat.  I'd show it to you, but I think it's been long deleted.  Anyway, someone didn't appreciate the observation that using "Southern Heritage" to justify the display of the Confederate battle flag is basically the same as using "German Heritage" to explain away the display of a swastika (original posting HERE).  Here's the offending graphic I created.
    The ball is in your court, Cletus.

    The easiest postings to write are...
    ...none, at least not by category or subject.  Some posting just seem to flow out, others have to be forced out, kicking and screaming.  Some postings can take a year to write from original idea to finally hitting the publish button.

    The most difficult postings to write are...
    ...about politics.  This is why I don't post much on that subject.  The country has gone to a very dark place, and while I'm happy to taunt racists and their sympathizers (see above), there's too much "you are evil because you don't believe in ____________" these days.  It's just not worth it.

    The best part about writing a blog is...
    ...the abundance of "blog groupies".  I'm just kidding, and the very idea is only slightly more absurd than claiming the existence of "Dungeons and Dragons groupies" or "a Scranton School District anti-Nepotism policy".

    Actually, the best part about writing the blog, at least for me now, is the fact that over the course of 10 years I actually have something that may outlive me, something that someone can go back to and say "that was Steve Albert".  It's not a bad feeling actually.

    The worst part about writing a blog is...
    ...the guilt I feel when I don't post something at least once a week.  That is the serious, actual answer.

    The number of postings I have published is...
    ...currently 1940, with 87 postings in draft form.

    Just to take this a bit further, the most productive blogging year I have had was 2010, which yielded 411 published postings.  The least productive was 2017, with 82 postings.

    The number of "hits" the blog gets is...
    ...something I am not going to share.  Why?  Because this isn't about "hits" or competing for an audience or any of that nonsense.  I compete against no one, and quite frankly, I'm happy if one person other than me actually reads this stuff.  I will say this though: The site average between 4,000 to 6,000 page views per month.

    Life in October 2008 was...
    ...pretty different than now and difficult.  This isn't to say that the world for me is now sunshine, smiles, rainbows, and kittens, but it is certainly a different world.  I began the blog in part as a way to maybe process out-loud some of what was running through my head.  Some of that stuff was pretty visceral, as evidenced particularly by the postings from late 2010.  The blog has been, in a way, a kind of therapy sometimes needed more times than others.

    Speaking of "sometimes", sometimes the best way to denote the passage of time is to think about major life events, and this blog is full of them.  Between getting divorced, the death of my mother, having an angel appear in my life just at the right time...

    (October 2012; one of my favorite pictures of Ms. Rivers)

    ...and the death of my brother Chris, there's a story in all of these 1940 postings.

    The posting I am the proudest of... the one that I wrote about my brother Chris; you can read it HERE.

    In the clearing stands a boxer
    And a fighter by his trade
    And he carries the reminders
    Of every glove that laid him down
    And cut him till he cried out
    In his anger and his shame
    "I am leaving, I am leaving"
    But the fighter still remains
    (Paul Simon, The Boxer)

    In a way, I still can't believe he's gone.

    What I've got planned for the future is...
    ...unsure.  I do know that I still enjoy writing, so it's unlikely I'll be closing up the blogging shop (like so many local bloggers have) any time soon.  Talk about things like fate, destiny. etc. are basically above my pay-grade, so I'm not going to claim any kind of manifest destiny for the blog or for me.  I also know that life in 2028 will likely be far different for me than it is in 2018 so there will be more stories to write, more angst to expel, more draft postings to get moldy, and more surprises at just what some folks find interesting.

    The closest I can get to describing how I feel about the blog comes from a song called "The Guitar Man", written by David Gates.  While Mr. Gates' toenail clipping have more talent than I do, the underlying thought of just having to "play" (or in my case, "write") seems to be appropriate.

    Thanks for reading.

    Sunday, October 21, 2018

    The Ritual of the Hike

    Humans are hard-wired to favor rituals.  Predictability in our environment and actions calms our deep reptile fight or flight brains.  We feel somehow safer and more secure when we can anticipate and participate in that which is familiar.  With that science in mind(1), yesterday was part of a ritual for me:  The annual hike up Ricketts Glen State Park(2) with my mother-in-law.

    I'll spare the deep philosophy on this one, and instead simply focus on the beauty of the experience.  If you live in Pennsylvania and have never been to Ricketts Glen, well, put it on your bucket list.  It's a real, genuine treasure. 

    By way of staging, my mother-in-law and I hike up to the top of the park from the parking lot at its base.  There are two major trails to choose from, the Falls or the Bulldozer, and we've alternated from year to year.  Both trails start and end around the same place, and both can be a bit of a challenge when walking up, although I personally find the Bulldozer trail to be a bit more taxing.  This year we took the Falls trail, although I suspect future October hikes will almost always be on Bulldozer trail, mostly because it involves less climbing over and through rocks.

    Anyway, enough of me, and on to the visuals.

    At the beginning of the Falls trail.

    Moss on a log.

    Steps made from rocks.

    Waterfalls...of which there are many.

    Some of the waterfalls less dramatic, but never the less still beautiful. 

    One of the better shots I took.

    Orange mushrooms on an exposed tree root.

    On a final note, one of the best parts of this annual event is the fact that I get to spend time with my mother-in-law, Elizabeth Rivers.  In addition to being a dedicated hiker, she's also a published author(3) who has a new book of poetry that will be released in the not too distant future.  It's rewarding to know that, even in my 50's, there are still people who inspire me.

    * * * * * *

    (1) See

    (2) You can read more about Ricketts Glen at -

    (3) Find her book on Amazon at -

    Saturday, October 13, 2018

    What They Don't Tell You About Getting Older

    WebMD has a terrific service whereby they send you educational quizzes and slideshows on health-related topics.  It's well worth subscribing to, even if you're just casually interested in being healthier.  A recent topic is entitled "14 Surprising Facts About Getting Older".  I haven't looked at it yet, and likely won't until after I'm done with this posting.  It will be interesting to compare notes, eventually.

    Anyway, here is my listing of things they (whoever "they" are) don't tell you about getting older.

    Item #1:  With Age Comes (Some) Wisdom
    I don't feel "old smart" yet.  In fact, I'm not sure how much smarter I am now than I was, say, 10 years ago.  Rather than smarts, I think what you gain with age is an experience.  You simply live through more stuff and provided that such things don't drive you insane, well, you're able to somehow leverage it for the better. 

    Item #2:  You May Outlive People You Care About
    I have a confidant that tells me that losing a sibling is like joining a kind of exclusive club, although it's a club you really don't want to join.  As some may know, I lost my younger brother in January 2017.  I do think about him often, and, well, I'm not sure I will ever be "over it".  At one point in time in my life, I would wonder how some folks just seem to hang on to grief for what seems like so very long.  Now I know.

    (Albert Boys, August 1970:  Chris, Steve, Rich & Joe)

    Fun fact:  The very first thing my brother Chris said to my (now) wife Chris was, in fact, a midget joke.  With apologies for the use of the word "midget".  Yes, that was my brother Chris.  Not to be outdone, the first thing wife's Dad (an Episcopal priest), along with her Uncle Dick (a retired corporate lawyer), ever said to me was a Dolly Parton joke.

    Item #3:  Pain
    Some things just are physically painful when you get older.  Osteoarthritis is something that just seems to happen as a result of an active life, and I've had, to date, an active life.  In my case, it's in my right big toe.  So if you see me walking funny, well, that's why, although it does somewhat look like I am interviewing for a position at the Ministry of Silly Walks.

    Item #4:  You Get Tired
    I just get tired more easily.  It's as if in my head I'm still 25 years old, but the physical machinery, well, that's a bit older.  It would probably help if I slept better, but alas, sleep and I don't have a very good relationship.

    Item #5:  You Think About Things (you never would think about before)
    N.B.:  I am healthy and not going anywhere.

    The above noted, as I've gotten older, I've actually thought about my own funeral, burial, etc.  In fact, one of these days I'm actually going to write stuff down.  Be forewarned, as this might be the first funeral ever to feature ABBA.

    Item #6:  Some Things Don't Change...
    When I think back to where my head was, say, in my early 20's, I wasn't quite sure what I actually wanted to be when I "grew up".  A few decades have passed, and I honestly still can't fully answer that question.  I do know this much though:  I enjoy helping people.

    Item #7:...But Your Life Can Radically Change
    At age 40 I never could have conceived of what my life is like now in my 50's.  When you're (or make that "I was") younger, you lack the perspective in many cases of just how your life can be turned on its head.  Sometimes for bad, sometimes for good.

    Item #8:  You Want Less Stuff
    I'm simply less interested in stuff.  In the past, well, I loved "stuff".  I have a small hardware store's worth of tools to prove that point.  Now?  Rampant consumption has just lost its luster.  In fact, I'm looking for ways to actually have less stuff.

    Item #9:  "Modern" Music Will Stink
    I don't know when I made the transition, but at some point, it became clear that more modern music is simply horrible.  Try as I might to actually enjoy, say, Arcade Fire, I just don't get it.  And I don't even think Arcade Fire is actually "modern" anymore.  Electronic Dance Music (EDM)?  It honestly sounds like something the government would use to torture ISIS prisoners.  I'd much rather listen to the Pretender's album Learning to Crawl for about the 80th time.

    Item #10:  Connections Will Matter More
    The older I get, the more value I see in staying connected with others.  Granted that I'm pretty horrible at it...a fact born out of decades of (lack of) practice...but never the less, I now see the value of connection more than I ever have in my life.  I'm working on getting better.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    Mental Health Awareness Week - Kevin Love's Story

    In further support of Mental Health Awareness Week, I found a terrific article that is worth anyone's time to read:

    The article was written by professional basketball player Kevin Love.  You can read more about Kevin and his background here.  For the record, Kevin is not some minor player in NBA who has nothing better to do than write articles while he sits on the bench; rather he is a 5 time NBA All-Star.  The fact that he is using his notoriety to spread the word about an important, but uncomfortable, subject is commendable.

    Two quotes that stuck out for me:

    "It really makes you think about how we are all walking around with experiences and struggles — all kinds of things — and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them. The reality is that we probably have a lot in common with what our friends and colleagues and neighbors are dealing with." 

    "I’m trying to face the uncomfortable stuff in life while also enjoying, and being grateful for, the good stuff. I’m trying to embrace it all, the good, bad and ugly."

    Sunday, October 7, 2018

    Mental Health Awareness Week, October 7-13, 2018

    I read somewhere (probably on the Facebook) that Monday, October 1st was a significant date relative to suicide prevention.  That turns out mostly to be a figment of my imagination, although October 7th to 13th is National Mental Illness Aware week(1).  Anyway, since none of us should need a special day or week to talk about mental health and related issues, I will now.

    Throughout my life, mental health issues have been something of an almost constant backdrop.  I'll get into my own confessions, if you want to call them that, in a bit.  Probably the most visceral feelings I have on the subject though relate to suicide, something that I've had to face with individuals close to me several times over the years.  I can't accurately put all of those feelings into words, something that's odd for me, but that's because there is simply too much to parse.  The one feeling I can share is "helpless"; you simply feel helpless when someone you care about attempts to end their own life.  That feeling gets magnified significantly when someone you care about is actually successful at the act.

    The above isn't intended to minimize the feelings that drive someone to attempt self-harm.  If anything, those kinds of comparisons ("...yeah, but I feel worse...") have no place in any frank discussion about mental health.  This isn't an arms-race or sports game that needs to be won; if anything, it's a race that we should all want to lose.

    Acknowledging that helplessness is a product of having to face significant mental health issues, the bigger question is this:  What can be done about it?  That's far tougher to answer than it is to ask, but as I was thinking about writing this posting, it occurred to me that maybe I haven't done enough in that department.  Maybe I need to do more.  Maybe we all need to do more.

    Speaking of me, I've been pretty transparent in this blog about the times in my life when I've had to struggle with my own feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, anxiety and similar symptoms.  In fact, sometimes I've probably been too transparent, but so be it:  I'm convinced that secrecy is basically one of the things which literally fertilizes mental health issues in this country.  That makes something like Mental Health Awareness Week all the more important.

    So, what's next?  Well, I'll share three thoughts, all culled from my own life experiences.  I claim no special knowledge or education here, just a few lumps earned from a life well lived.

    First and foremost, one thing I am absolutely sure of is the fact that all of us struggle with mental health issues from time to time.  Don't buy into the notion that "he (or she) really has their stuff together" because it's a lie.  It's a bold-faced lie.  In fact, it's probably the biggest lie some of us tell ourselves.  We all have our own moments of doubt and pain (to quote Mick Jagger).  That person who seems to always be composed, calm and rational may sometimes be a raging storm of conflicting emotions underneath. I know this because sometimes that person is me; I'm simply a better actor than you.

    Second, I'm convinced that mental health is far more like a muscle than it is a clump of grey matter.  Like a muscle, we need to stretch and push ourselves emotionally in order to get stronger, to become more resilient.  That's the best argument I can think of against the notion of emotionally running away from our troubles or sitting on the figurative couch while the world passes us by.

    Finally, we can't fall into the trap of believing that we need to go it all alone.  That's another lie of epic proportions.  There is always help if you need it.  Always.  Sometimes that help can come from places we don't expect.  Many times there are people in our lives who are just waiting for us to ask them for help.  We just need to have the courage (and/or humility) to ask.

    I'll close this posting with a few resources that might be helpful.

    NAMI - The National Alliance on Mental Illness (1)

    Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 800.273.8255

    VA - Mental Health Assistance for Veterans

    Mental Health


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Mental Health Resources

    Thursday, September 27, 2018


    7 is the exact number of unique page views my last posting received before I pulled it off-line.  Quite frankly, that's 6 too many page views.  I'll afford fellow blogger Sean Gowden the difference between the 6 and 7 views, as I owe him a debt of thanks.  More on that in a moment (or two).

    I'd like to say that I never take down postings, but that's simply not true.  Between late 2016 and early 2017, when I was in full job-search mode, I actually took down a large number of postings, 98% of which had to do with former Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino.  This is a deeply Roman Catholic area, and I didn't need to hamper my job prospects with social media content that may have upset a recruiter or hiring manager.  As a side note, I could bring those postings back, but then they would all appear as new (all be it very dated) content.  Anyway, while I've taken down postings for practical purposes, I've never taken anything down because I was embarrassed or ashamed of what I wrote.  Until now.

    Words like "ashamed" and "embarrassed" are maybe a tad bit too strong in totality, but they do describe how I felt about the content after the fact.  Even more surprising is the fact that what I posted was actually a watered-down version of something that was, well, even worse.  Yes, that was the *edited* version.  For one of the few times in my life not being popular has been something of a blessing.

    So, what's behind all of this?  Two things really:
    1. I'm struggling a bit on the career front.
    2. I'm the person who gives, not gets, advice.
    "Struggling" is not a term of art here; my struggle could be someone else's day of sunshine, smiles, kittens, and rainbows.  To paraphrase many guests at Rudy Guiliani's first wedding, "it's all relative"(1).  What's more, my career has always been a refuge, a place where I knew what I was doing and could control my destiny to a great extent, even when the rest of my life was in shreds.  This fact makes it all the more difficult for me to acknowledge that, at this very moment, that refuge no longer exists.  In a sense, I feel a kind of loss.

    As to the second point, well, I think it speaks for itself.  As a statement of absolute fact though, it's pretty much rubbish.  We all need help from time to time. Sean was kind enough to point that out to me in a posting comment.  Suffice to say, "Physician, heal thyself" is far harder to execute than you think, even when you're not an actual physician.

    What to do about all of this?  Well, I did debate(2) the idea of simply closing up the blog shop, but I just don't want to do that, especially after nearly 10 years.  Then there is the whole blog hiatus thing, but I've always found such proclamations to be silly:  Either have a blog and create content or delete it.  All told, simply owning up to things and pressing the reset button made the most sense.  Hence this posting.

    What's next?  Well first and foremost, get this posting out of the way.  Second, I'm officially funneling any career-related-angst-fueled energy I may be experiencing into other activities.  Being transparent and authentic is good and noble, but in reality, there needs to be a (more thoughtful) time to every purpose under heaven.

    Cue the music...

    * * * * * *

    (1) The former mayor of New York and current POTUS advisor's first wife was actually his second cousin.  Honestly, she was (citation here).
    (2) In my head, for about a day.  Side note: I don't like odd numbers, which means that I'll write pretty much anything in order to have an even number of footnotes.

    Sunday, September 16, 2018


    Being something of a Beatles fan, I've read several interviews with the late John Lennon where he is asked "what's the best song you've ever written?" or "what's your favorite Beatles song?".

    Something of a surprise is the fact that Lennon has answered "Help!".  

    The surprising part of that answer is that "Help!" is from what could be described as coming from the early Loveable Mop Top era of the band. Remember, John Lennon has written some, shall we say, significant songs in his life. Titles such as "Imagine" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" come to mind.

    Side note: Contrary to what's noted in the songwriting credits, for most of their career together John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote separately, with the other simply helping in spots.  How can tell the songwriter of a Beatles song? Outside of material that was written for Ringo or George, it's the song's lead singer.

    Anyway, I never really thought that much about the song Help!, well outside of the fact that it's a catchy tune from a fun movie (of the same name) until I heard/read John Lennon talk about it.  You see, Lennon was literally crying for help in (and with) the song. That's why it was among his favorites: It was honest.

    Oh, and just to make all of us feel just a bit inadequate, Lennon wrote the song in his early 20's. In my early 20's I was still in school, with not even the raw ability to comprehend just how deep a sentiment a simple song like Help! could convey.

    So, what's the connection here? Why even post this?  Well, I am not very good at asking for help. In fact, I hate it. I was always afraid to ask for it growing up, lest it is perceived as being some kind of weakness that my mother could then exploit.  That carried through to my adulthood, especially so after losing my job in late 2016.  If there ever was a time when someone should ask for help it is with a job search, but yet by and large I didn't.  Maybe that partially explains the career pickle I now find myself in, which is another post for another day.

    I am trying though.

    The loss of both a 28-year employment and a brother in short order have had a profound impact on me, more so than I have ever truly admitted.  It got to the point where, after several very difficult months in 2017, I really did need help.  Sometimes circumstances overwhelm our abilities to self-correct, a fact that I should have realized far sooner than I actually did.  In any event, I'm still availing myself of help, and it has been (at the risk of being duplicative) helpful.  

    The first moral here is that the biggest lies we tell are those that we tell ourselves. Just ourselves.

    The second moral is that we all need help from time to time.  All of us.  There is no victory in trying to solve problems that are above our emotional and intellectual pay grade.  And there is always a pay grade above us, no matter who we are and what we do.  This is a lesson I'm likely to continue to learn for the rest of my life.  Luckily though, I have a secret weapon:  A wife who knows me and cares enough to tell me the truth when I'm too stubborn to admit it to myself.

    Sunday, September 9, 2018

    Fear of Having Peaked

    I don't readily admit to being afraid of anything.  In fact, I think I've noted this point in many prior postings.  Yet something has been nagging at me for the past month (or probably longer) that I've only now begun to understand.  That revelation?  I'm afraid that my best days, from a professional perspective, are behind me.

    Side note:  I've already established that (physically) my best days are behind me, but that's okay because that's true for all of us who are over, say, age 40.  

    This fear isn't completely unfounded, as I can point to several things that prove I've been on something of a professional decline of late.  A decline that exists at least in my head, which is probably the point of this whole posting.  Maybe I have peaked, and maybe that's okay.  Well, that's what I want to tell myself.  The more positive alternative is something along the lines of "no, your best days are in front of you".  Kind of like a tree-lined street in Stockholm, Sweden.

    (Just an excuse to share a picture of Stockholm)

    I honestly don't know which of the above (past peak/peak is yet to come) is actually true.  I do know what statistics tell us.  That answer is, by the way, 48.  At about age 48 men typically reach their earnings peak(1).  There's even a chart:

    (From the website

    There are, by the way, multiple sources that point to this very same set of conclusions.  As something of a "science guy," I do find some comfort in this finding, the kind of comfort that comes from not feeling entirely singled out.  In case you are curious, that comfort, at least for me, lasted about 12 hours.  

    I'll note that this really isn't even about money.  In addition to having married well, I've tried to live responsibly, keeping most of my expenses (excluding expensive, once-in-a-lifetime cruises) to a minimum.  No, this is more about pride, about the sense that I have capabilities that may be withering.  It's about circumstances, not economics.

    In the terrific book Drive(2), author Daniel Pink makes the case that personal and professional satisfaction hinges on three things:
    1. Autonomy - Being able to act independently
    2. Mastery - The sense that you know what you are doing
    3. Purpose - The idea that what you do has a deeper meaning

    I actually had the opportunity to hear Daniel Pink speak on this very topic a few years ago at an ATD conference.  Assuming again that this whole mental pickle I find myself in really isn't about money, then is it about missing one of the three things noted above?  That's a question I can't fully answer at this stage.  If anything, maybe this is about purpose (or lack thereof).

    Like much of the more introspective stuff I write (and speaking of purpose), the process is as important as anything else.  Just typing this out has a kind of purpose to it.  Hopefully, that purpose isn't seen as seeking pity or anything of that sort.  The interest on my part is simply getting this set of thoughts out of my system.  It's about maybe someone reading this and thinking "yeah, I've felt (or feel) that way too".  It's about trying to organize, make sense of and give another voice to the incessant thoughts in my head around this topic, one that has been occupying too much mental real estate of late.

    The intellectual and rational me know that this whole mess is far more in my control than it is out of my control.  It knows that success is more than just what you do to pay the mortgage.  It knows that I could get run over by a bus tomorrow morning and it would still be noted in my eulogy that I came from little and did well for myself.  I'd like to think that part of me...the intellectual and rational ultimately what rules the day.  That's just not how we human work though.  It's simply not that simple.  Maybe the underlying fear here is less about being past my peak and more about a sense of lacking control over this part of my life(3).     

    Maybe I should have been an electrician. 

    * * * * * *

    (1) Citations:

    (2) More on Daniel Pink's framework can be found at:

    (3) See a related posting here: