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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

After The Ball (May 2019 Primary Edition)

A few choice election comments, admittedly coming from the Peanut Gallery.

Scranton School Board
I am genuinely sorry to see Tom Borthwick not win a seat for the Scranton School Board.  Sorry for the Scranton School District (SSD), to be more precise.  Tom is genuinely a good man, someone I've known for many years, and the energy he brought to the SSD was unlike anything I'd seen from other candidates or board members.  There is good news though in Tom's election results:  He'll be spared the headache and heartache that is coming with a mandatory state takeover of the SSD.  I know that in Tom's mind that is not a foregone conclusion, but it is in mine.

In the end, this just simply means that someone or something else will benefit from Tom's talents.

Scranton City Council
I was thrilled to that Dr. Jessica Rothchild won a seat on Scranton City Council.  I do, however, wish that the Scranton Times spent as much time referencing her significant academic/intellectual qualifications as it did her sexuality.  Don't get me wrong...I'm thrilled that Dr. Rothchild can publically represent a community that has, until fairly recent history, had to be on the margins of acknowledged public life.  I'm not thrilled that she was almost exclusively referenced as "Jessica Rothchild, LGBTQ Activist".  I had more than several mental rants where I was screaming "...but she has a f&%king Ph.D. too!" at the computer screen after reading a Scranton Times article.  Maybe I'm sensitive to that point because I have a daughter on the verge of earning a Ph.D., and I know all too well how challenging it can still be for women in the sciences.

Why is the above such a big deal?  Well consider this:  In fairly recent memory, the SSD had two presidents that didn't even graduate from high school.  This is not an area that has always valued academic achievement, and based on the Scranton Times reporting, well, there may still be some work to be done.

Anyway, Congratulations Dr. Rothchild! 

Lackawanna County Commissioners
It looks like the adults will be taking over next January, as incumbent county commissioners Patrick O'Malley and Laureen Cummings we denied a place on the fall primary ballot.  Another great choice (not said sarcastically, by the way) by local voters.  If pandering could get an elected official frequent flyer miles, well then Commissioner O'Malley would have accumulated enough points for a trip to Hawaii, taking the Duggar family along with him.  Round trip.  In the first class.  I'm less questioning Commissioner O'Malley's intentions as I am his habit of serial glad-handing (especially when it came to the issues of property reassessment).

Commissioner Cummings, based on the many conspiracy theories that she actively sells on her public Facebook page alone...

(Wasn't Obama supposed to take everyone's guns?  Oh, wait, wasn't he born in Kenya too?)

...doesn't deserve the honor of public service, as it requires respect for all constituents, not just those who happen to agree with you.  In Commissioner Cummings' world, you can't be for any regulation of firearms without wanting to ban all guns; you can't have any differing views about abortion without being labeled a baby killer.  That's a level of toxicity that we can all do without.  Instead, I offer the following philosophy as an alternative, courtesy of musician Vince Gill:

DAN RATHER: "Do you like the way country music is going today?"
VINCE GILL: "I do. It's not my cup of tea, but I don't know if I was Merle Haggard's cup of tea when I first got going. And I don't know if Merle Haggard was Roy Acuff's cup of tea. I don't know if Roy Acuff was Jimmie Rodgers' cup of tea. You know what I'm saying? To me, to be "that" guy that looks back, you sound like a curmudgeon, you sound like you're bitter, you sound like all those things. I love seeing kids come along and being moved by what they're moved by. I don't care that they're not moved by the same things I am. I love seeing young people just out there doing what they love. There's not a rule book that says you have to like this, or it doesn't count or you're not as good. I'm not gonna be that guy. There's a lot of it I'm not crazy about but it's not personal. They don't have anybody cheering for them harder than I do."

More of Vince Gill, less of Laureen Cummings.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Birthday Wish (to the other side)

As I was thinking about my brother Chris today, on what would have been his 54th birthday, the whole rebel artist trope got stuck in my head.  As a teenager, Chris had, for example, the requisite book of Jim Morrison poetry...not that the poems were all that great...because nothing screams rebel artist quite like "Jim Morrison: An American Poet".

(Probably not more than 300lbs between the two of us)

Another quintessential rebel artist was John Lennon.  I remember the morning of December 9th, 1980, when we found out on Good Morning America that Lennon had been assassinated the night before.  Since I'm not much of a Doors fan, well, I think a good remembrance birthday dedication compromise between Chris and I would be something by Lennon.  So here we long ago...wasn't it a dream?

Until we meet again.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Sensitivity and the Fine Art of WFH

"WFH" is a kind of business short-hand for "work from home".

(Looking out my home office window)

I'll say it right from the beginning:  I don't like working from home.  As I may have mentioned before*, I almost never work from home.  At my former employer, I think I had WFH days maybe three times over almost 28 years.  I had opportunities, mind you, but I just don't like it.  There is something about driving to and from the office that I find mildly productive and, in a way, relaxing.  On the drive to work, I can think about what I want to accomplish first in the day.  On the drive home, I can use the commute time as a kind of decompression chamber.  What's more, I am far too comfortable in my own head, so it's a challenge for me to interact with others in an office setting.  Not working from home just seems to work for me.

Make that "worked" for me.

For the past few weeks, I've been WFH three days (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, to be precise) a week.  I'm doing my best to make it work (no pun intended), and slowly but surely I'm adjusting.  Why the need to adjust in the first place?  Well, there's the fact that I actually no longer officially support (by way of job/title/responsibilities) anyone in my office.  In fact, since last July, my team has been a virtual one, with none of my co-workers actually working out of a company office.  Then there is the sheer economics of it all, as in I save driving 48 miles a day by not trekking into the office. 

The above are some solid reasons, for sure.  They are, however, not the driving reasons.  To put it delicately, my current office location is a difficult place these days.  The company has been re-allocating resources, and with that, there is a fair amount of what I will honestly call despair.  It's a difficult environment for me to be in, in part because I can literally feel much of the negativity.  Granted that I am the last person on Earth to spout new-age stuff, but even the least sensitive person in the world could feel the negative tension in the air.  Yes, I get the need for businesses to change and adapt, and this isn't intended to be a screed about the corporate practices in 2019.  However, actions have consequences, be they the actions of a15-year-old boosting chocolate milk from Turkey Hill or those of a multi-national corporation shuffling jobs across the planet.  In the end, and merits of change theory aside for a moment, it's just not healthy for me to be in the office.

Why go in at all?  While I no longer have any direct reports, I still have 3 former team members in the office, so I owe it to them to at least provide some kind of moral, if not practical, support.  It may not be much...that is what I am able to give...but I owe it to them to give something.  Loyalty is important, especially in dark times.  We have nothing if we don't have each other.

Is there a bigger story in all of this?  Absolutely, and maybe I'll tell it one of these days.  Until then, I'm going to continue to craft some kind of WFH routine.  I'm not shooting to love the WFH thing, just maybe make it more palatable.

(*) It's hard to remember what I write here, in all honesty, as "here" is over two thousand postings, so you'll pardon me if I can't remember every word in every former posting.  Honestly, I am lucky if I remember what I had for lunch yesterday.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

May is Mental Health Month

(A small part of my library)

There are literally months for everything these days, so the fact that May is Mental Health Month probably escapes most people, including me (up until recently).  Not to slander other month-worthy topics, but I can think of very few things that we need to talk more about in this country than mental health.  I know I talk about it on this blog quite a bit; in fact, there are about 78 postings tagged to 'Mental Health' so far.  Make that 79 after this one.

In the interest of complete transparency, I will note that I think about mental health quite a bit.  That would be my own, family members, co-workers, friends and the subject in general.  As I've grown older, I've come to realize just how much mental health has been an underlying theme in my life.  I'm not going to get into any details that might compromise others, but suffice to say I have had people very close to me deal with significant issues over the years.  Part of my own struggle has centered around a central question: 

Why me?  Why am I (seemingly) okay when ________ isn't?  What makes me so special?  

The above are not necessarily pleasant thoughts.  Rather, at times I've suffered from a kind of survivor's (literal survivor...) guilt.  I know, I should be grateful for what I have in the mental health department, but that doesn't make the sting of dealing loved ones who struggle any easier.  On one hand, every time I've helped someone in some small way in this area I seem to get a bit more enlightened, a bit stronger.  On the other hand, well, I've had far more failures than successes when it comes to others, at least in my own mind.

"When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.*"

Part of the challenge, at least for me, is the fact that I try and process the world around me using logic and reasoning.  That's all well and good, except for the fact that logic and reasoning are of little help in an arena that is inherently illogical and at times unreasonable.  That's something I tell others all the time but yet I have to tell myself even more frequently in some circumstances.  Sometimes I hear that self advice but yet still don't follow it.  Maybe that's one of my mental health issues.

So what does all this mean, other than the intemperate ramblings of an exceptionally amateur person that writes?  Maybe the answer is as simple as this:  We need to talk about this stuff more often, regardless of whether or not you find yourself being the patient or the caregiver.  In point of fact, for most of us, well, we usually end up being both.  That makes the dealing with the whole stigma thing about mental health issues all the more important, as we can pretend these issues don't exist in our lives, managing to fool everyone in the world except the person that matters the most:  Ourselves. 

You can learn more about Mental Health Month by following THIS link.

(*) Grace Slick, White Rabbit