Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Poetry in the Scranton School District

Call this one something of a nearly perfect* avatar for an operationally and ethically challenged school district.  Yes, apparently the Scranton School District has a vermin problem, over and above that which currently exists at the Administration Building.

(photo from Wikipedia)
The commentary in this case basically just writes itself.

On a more serious note, this actually is a serious problem.  One of my first real jobs in life was working in a summer camp kitchen, where one of my duties was emptying and re-setting mouse traps.  From that experience I learned three things:
  1. Mouse traps DO NOT catch mice by their tails.  
  2. There is never a shortage of mice.
  3. Mice only stay when there is something for them to eat.
I really do hope that the SSD can manage to at least solve this one problem, which is arguably more difficult than finding a copy of a (no-bid) busing contract.

Finally, the idea of glue traps being used to catch mice bothers me.  It just seems like a very inhumane way to dispose of the critters.  I know that there likely aren't too many alternatives, but it still does bother me. 

(*) A more perfect avatar would be the Scranton School District having a rat problem.  Oh, wait, perhaps it does.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

As Irish as Paddy's Pig

When my daughters were younger, I used to tell them that everyone but them was Irish on St. Patrick's Day.  They knew that wasn't true, by the way, mostly because their great-grandmother was about as Irish as Paddy's pig.  Part of that was just a Dad trying to be a smart-alec.  That part they got, all too well.  Another part of it was the fact that, for a variety of reasons, I just wasn't really all that fond of being any part Irish.  I know, that's an unpopular thing to say in these parts, but growing up was tough (side note, you can read another growing up story, this time about my wife, HERE), and there just wasn't all that much to be proud of, Irish or not.

Fast forward to the present, and thanks to the miracle of modern genomic testing, well, I might have been really lying to my kids. 

Yeah, well, it gets better...

Now there is a bit of face-saving here in the fact that I also have a strong genetic link to England, specifically London...

The testing, at this stage, can't tell the difference between the British and Irish parts of my genetic code.  I know, that probably sounds like blasphemy to any green-blooded Irishman, but this stuff gets more sophisticated all the time, so who knows what they will be able to tell me in the future.

As a kind of final note, I do read where some folks have concerns about their genetic data being used by pharmaceutical companies and law enforcement.  To that I offer I following:  I don't really care.  Well, I do care in a positive sort of way in that if my bits-n-pieces of genetic data can be used to help identify disease treatments, well, I'm all in.  As for law enforcement, well, last time I checked getting in fights with your siblings wasn't something that was prosecuted using DNA evidence, so call me unconcerned at this stage.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Crime Pays (Scranton Edition)

Preface:  I don't normally mention people by name in this blog when I am being critical, usually referring to by their position or a pronoun.  That rule is being put aside for this very special case.

* * * * * *

As reported in the local media, the former Chief Financial Officer for the Scranton School District, (SSD) one Greg Sunday, recently entered into plea agreement related to acceptance of free automobile repairs from a pseudo-district mechanic.  The repairs totaled over $8,000.  Mr. Sunday is also implicated in similar repairs being made for others connected to the SSD. An article related to this story can be found HERE.

Details of the plea arrangement, agreed to by the presiding judge, are as follows:
  • He pleads guilty to a lesser charge 
  • He will need to make restitution for the amount of the repairs
  • He will receive probation for 3 years
  • He must continue to cooperate with officials who are actively investigating the SSD 
You can read a short piece of the plea deal HERE.

What's particularly important to note that Mr. Sunday will continue to receive his $70,000+ per year pension.

Details above noted, this whole arrangement is despicable.  Mr. Sunday is effectively getting away with fraud and theft with the smallest of slaps on the wrist.  He will no doubt move on after this whole sordid affair and relocate to Florida, where he will enjoy his publicly funded retirement (he is not even 60 years old) in anonymity. 

Mr. Sunday said that he was "lackadaisical and complacent" in his actions.  That's infuriating.  Is that what white-collar criminals call stealing these days?   The restitution he will be making basically amounts to an interest-free, multi-year loan for car repairs.  Go down to your local auto repair shop and see if you can arrange such a deal for yourself.  

Had Mr. Sunday been an 18-year-old who used a shank to steal $150 from a local quickie mart he would be in jail now.  

In theory, Mr. Sunday is cooperating with law enforcement to nab others who similarly received free car repairs.  I would call these "bigger fish", but the reality is that as CFO, there were few in the SSD "bigger" than he was.  What is the likelihood that these other "fish", once charged, will also cop to plea deals?  We shall see.  

In the interim, I offer the following closing thought: Greg Sunday got away with theft (the SSD paying for car repairs), conspiracy (his work in approving similar repairs for others) and lying (to the press, to Scranton taxpayers), and effectively pays no real, substantial price for his actions.  Justice has failed taxpayers in Scranton.  

Monday, March 4, 2019

Moving Books

Over the course of about three weeks, I've moved about 30 or so of my own books from my work office to my home office.  In the interests of not having to haul tons of stuff all at once, it was simply easier to do it in small batches.  I actually have some other of my own personal material to move back, but the heavy lifting, if you want to literally call it that, is mostly done.

There are a couple of "why's" behind this work.  The easiest one is also the simplest one:  My responsibilities at work have changed pretty dramatically over the past 8 or so months, and now I just don't need any books at work.  It's actually kind of sad to say that, as I've acquired a ton of books over the years, all in service of my own professional (and personal) growth as well as serving as a reference for my day job.  Nowadays, I would simply stare at the books at work, knowing that they were just taking up (work) office space.  I'm a firm believer that "book" should be a verb, as books are best when actively used, not sitting on a shelf as a reminder of past professional glory.  These days, well, my work is far more process-related than anything else.

By the way, some of the books (note Emotional Intelligence by Dan Goleman) represent almost pivotal moments in my professional development.  I look at that and immediately think of 2010.  Other books are like a kind of "spoils of war" from my graduate degree (Handbook of Employee Benefits, for example).  Granted that I don't necessarily reference these books all the time, but it's almost comforting having them near.

Anyway, there are other reasons for moving the books back as well, some of which just don't make for an interesting blog.  Maybe that will come to light in the weeks to come.  We'll see.  In the interim, it's nice to be surrounded by my literary friends at home.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Scranton's St. Patrick's Day Parade...

...is on Saturday, March 9th.  Nothing says "Family Friendly Event" quite like people getting drunk at 10am.  For the record, it's 10am because many years ago the local District Attorney had to request that bar owners not start to serve alcohol in the 7-8am range.

Just to get it out of the way, I basically don't drink alcohol.  I may have a glass of champagne on a special occasion, but that's about it.  That noted I'm not anti-drinking; the feeling of being drunk and then hung-over just doesn't appeal to me.  None of that's really relevant here though, because the real issue I have with the Scranton St. Patrick's Day Parade is the notion that it's touted as a "Family Friendly" event.  It's not.

I know people who enjoy the parade and related activities, and for them, the good out-weights the bad.  Let's just be honest about parade day though:  It's disproportionately about alcohol consumption.  For some that borders on cute.  For the guy who almost got run over by a pickup truck as he drunkenly waltzed down Mulberry Stree?  Maybe not so much.

If you're going to the parade next Saturday, well, enjoy yourself and be careful out there.  As I have advised out of town visitors coming for the parade, watch where you step, because you never know what (or who) may be in the gutter in front of you.