Search This Blog

Saturday, August 31, 2019

When adults fail...

...we shouldn't use children as cannonballs and/or decorations.

Soon to be former Scranton School District (SSD) Greg Popil wants to send all of the students in the district to Harrisburg to protest for higher state funding.  You can read about it HERE.  This is a horrible idea on multiple levels:
  • How can a financially distressed school district afford to send 10,000 kids and teachers on a four hour round trip?
  • What happens to those kids who don't want to go?
  • What happens if parents don't want their kids used as political decorations?
  • Just where would you put 10,000 kids in Harrisburg?
  • How do you feed 10,000 kids in Harrisburg?
I could go on...and on...but the point is made.

Speaking of points, here's mine:  It's not the job of children to obtain fair funding for the SSD.  That's the job of the adult members of the Pennsylvania Legislature, individuals who should have known that this has been an issue for years, but yet have allowed it to continue (by way of background, the SSD receives far less money from Pennsylvania than other comparable school districts).  So far they have failed, miserably I might add, to solve this issue and yet basically no one in any position of authority has been publically willing to call them out on their horrible performance.  I get that these are powerful individuals, but I can't help but see the irony of students being evaluated on their work but yet we don't want to evaluate the adults on theirs.

Am I being too hard on our elected officials?  Is it not their fault that the Pennsylvania Legislature is dominated by members of another political party?

My answers to the above questions are "No" and "Too Bad".  I'm sorry that this is a tough problem to solve.  However, Pennsylvania's legislatures are among the best paid in the country.  It's time they earned their keep.

Some think that sending kids to Harrisburg to protest the SSD's state funding would be a great lesson in civics.  I think an even better lesson in civics would be for our local legislators...both from the PA House and the PA explain to the students why they are unable to solve this seemingly simple problem and why other elected officials believe that they are worth less in funding than students from, say, Erie Pennsylvania.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Children of the Corn

"He who walks behind the rows"


My late brother Chris and I would sometimes randomly quote movies we liked, including the above references to Stephen King's Children of the Corn.  Another favorite movie to quote was Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (a truly disturbing movie, for the record, which explains why we liked it so much when we were in our early teens).  Anyway, I was thinking of the "He who walks behind the rows" line as I was in Iowa, driving to Cedar Rapid from Fairfield.  The thought was so motivating that I actually stopped to take a few cellphone pictures.

This was something of an Iowa homecoming for me, as I had traveled to the state quite a bit during the years 2004 through 2014.  Iowa is, in some respects, the anti-matter New Jersey:  Not crowded, wide-open spaces, exceptionally friendly people and a big sky.  By "big sky" I mean this idea of a sky that is a kind of big dome over your head, circling around to the horizon in all directions.  When you live in a place with tall hills/mountains, it just seems like the sky just isn't quite so big.

Oh, and there is the air.

The air here feels different.  Mind you, that notion of different has a certain range of motion, in the sense that, for example, as I was driving by a General Mills facility there was a kind of funk the air, a sweeter version of what I experienced while driving by the manure facility on Tuesday evening in route to Ottumwa.  Outside of those human-induced invisible clouds of funk, the air in Iowa just feels better.  That's something I would never have noticed, say, ten years ago.  However, having developed asthma somewhere during the last decade or so, I've become acutely aware of how clean the air around me is, and how that might impact me.  The impact, by the way, isn't all that much, especially given things like rescue inhalers, but it's an annoyance...and source of future health pondering...never the less.

Iowa would be a perfect place for me if it was next to the ocean.  It's worth noting though that there are no perfect places.  What's more, future moving decisions will be driven more so by proximity to children than air quality.  What I will say is this:  Had I been born in Iowa I would likely never leave.

The trip, by way, was a good one.  I met lots of great people with my (still relatively new) employer and I have an open invitation to come back any time I am needed.  It's a good feeling to know that what you are doing is valued.

Sunday, August 25, 2019


"Aqualung" is the name of a song by the band Jethro Tull*, popular when I was a teenager.  It could also be, tongue and cheek, what happens you "vape" too much, at least according to those who defend the practice.  The quote marks around the word "vape" are there because I think the very term sounds ridiculous.  Anyway, in this context, Aqualung would be from inhaling too much water vapor, which proponents of "vaping" claim the practice actually involves.  If all "vaping" involved just inhaling water mist, well then they would have a point.  Then again, if that were true I wouldn't have a posting to write.

All of this comes about as are a result of a series of well-publicized health issues that at least on the surface appear to be tied to "vaping".  Examples include:

I could go on, but the point is made.  Since I've been reading these articles over the past week or so, I decided to do a little digging into how those who defend "vaping" view this information.  The chief "pro-vaping" theory out there is that, at least for those who have recently died, the cause of their demise likely has to do with these folks inhaling some kind of synthetic THC (the active ingredient in Marijuana).  Along with that theory comes a heaping-helping of claims that this is all a plot on the part of Big Pharma and/or tobacco companies to suppress "vaping" as an alternative to smoking tobacco (or, in the case of "vaping" Marijuana, the health benefits that seem to follow every Internet discussion of that particular plant).  In these cases, it's easy to get caught up in the confusion of it all.

Maybe it's worth just a minute or two of time to take a step back and taking a broad view of this whole "vaping" thing.

First, is "vaping" objectively better for someone than smoking cigarettes?  It sure is.  Then again, eating a diet consisting solely of deep-fried pork rinds is also better for you than a diet consisting solely of Hemlock.  Both will get you killed; all that differs is the timing.

Second, our lungs are designed for one thing, and one thing only:  Breathing the air that exists around Planet Earth.  That's it.  Nothing else.

Granted, if "vaping" only involved breathing in water vapor, well, it would probably not be all that harmful.  The problem is that we all know that the addiction fun of "vaping" comes from the stuff that is also heated along with the water vapor.  That stuff, by the way, is effectively unregulated.  Yes, Johnny Cool over outside the office building could be "vaping" pure vanilla flavoring or he could be "vaping" vanilla-flavored benzene.

The other important element that I think gets lost in the whole "vaping" discussion is the role of addiction.  Specifically, it seems that most folks who "vape" are actually using it as a delivery mechanism for the poison nicotine.  Oh, and yes, nicotine is poisonous, so when someone smokes or "vapes" they are actually introducing small amounts of poison into their body with each inhalation.  As if that were not enough, nicotine is also highly addictive.  How's that for a combination:  A highly addictive poison.

The bottom line is that "vaping" is bad for anyone.  It is simply not safe.  You could argue that it is safer than smoking cigarettes, but that's ultimately an argument of the lesser of two evils;  what's lost on some though is the fact that both choices are still, in fact, evil.

If you smoke, please stop.  I sincerely mean that, as this world needs all of our talents; none of us are truly expendable because of an addiction that offers nothing in return.  If "vaping" can help you stop smoking, well then that seems like a reasonable way to end one deadly habit, as long as it just doesn't replace it with another.  If you "vape" please at least ween yourself off of the nicotine and purchase your supplies for a reputable dealer.  Better yet, just stop.

(*) The song Aqualung isn't a favorite of mine, but it does bring back some 70's fueled-memories.  A really great Jethro Tull song is "Teacher".

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Cutting Cords

The post below was written on August 11th, but I haven't gotten around to hitting the publish button until now.  Call it lazy blogging I guess, or call it "no one cares about this but you anyway Steve".  Either works fine for me.  Part of the lack of blogging units problem is the fact that I'm actually doing well.  You read that right:  I am actually doing well.  I'm adjusting well to a new job with a new company and new co-workers.  I'll also confess that it's nice to feel comfortable about what I do for a living again, as that hasn't been the case for a while now.

To that last point, and maybe this is a larger posting topic, but the last few months have been a reminder to me of two things:

1) We are all more than what we do for a living, but yet that still matters.  At least it still matters to me.  It's a tough nut to crack when you find yourself in a position where you're not happy in your professional circumstances.  It's also something you don't necessarily see until you are on the other side of those circumstances.

2) Things work out, at least some times.  I'll always struggle with that one, in part because I am not a patient man.  I am certainly persistent, but not patient.  Maybe that's part of what folks try to convey through religious faith, namely this notion that there is some bigger reason to this all.  I know, I've mentioned that before, but maybe part of what I'm doing is trying to convince myself that all of what I've experienced somehow means something.

Anyway, that's where I'm at.  On to the main posting.

* * * * * *

Main Posting
Two noteworthy cords were cut recently:  The Superintendent of the Scranton School District and with my cable.  Both seem to be a step in the right direction.

Goodbye Dr. Kirijan.
You can read about Dr. Kirijan's departure from the Scranton School District HERE.  I've never met the (now former) Superintendent, but suffice to say, the Scranton School District (SSD) is a "hot mess", and as a leader, she carries some responsibility for the current state of affairs.  Case in point:  In addition to being banned from negotiating with the teacher's union and not blinking an eye at a no-bid multi-million dollar busing contract, Dr. Kirijan was the force behind SSD Directors and others having to sign non-disclosure agreements ( can read more about this on Tom Borthwick's blog).  An NDA in a public school setting is outrageously ridiculous, as the only information held by a district is, by default, the property of the public anyway.  We're not talking about protecting trade secrets here by any stretch of the imagination, but instead, this is an attempt by an administrator to exercise control in precisely the wrong area.

There have been other criticisms of Dr. Kirijan over the years, with some being more valid than others.  Regardless, Dr. Kirijan and the SSD are better off without each other.  Kudos to the SSD Board for taking the initiative to end her contract.

On an unrelated and personal note, it feels good to be working in Scranton again.  No matter where I go, no matter where I've lived or will live, Scranton will always be my home.  Driving into the city makes me feel a kind of connection that I've been lacking over the past 2+ years.

Speaking of personal...

Goodbye Comcast Cable
Ms. Rivers and I have joined the ranks of those have cut the cable cord, at least for television.  By way of disclosure, we still have cable service, but now just for the Internet.  I've been scheming to do this for a while, but my attention has been elsewhere until recently.  In a way, this makes a ton of sense for us, as we don't really watch all that much television to being with.  What's more, every time we changed Comcast packages to save money, we'd end up with more sports channels that we never watch and fewer channels that we would watch.

The replacement plan in all of this as been to get an upgraded Internet service and then use SlingTV for the broadcast stuff.  For the benefit of the curious, in addition to getting back a few channels we lost last year (including Comedy Central), we've reduced our monthly cable bill by nearly $50 (and climbing, as our last Comcast package was creeping up every few months).  This may not seem like much, but anytime you can get something you were missing and pay less for it, well, it's a good thing.

I did, by the way, get the sales pitch to stay with Comcast.  I asked if they could provide channels a-la-carte, and they said no*.  Sales pitch over.

(*) Technically incorrect, as they could provide just the channels we wanted, but they just don't want to.  Why?  As I understand it, the only way the golf channel (for example) is economically viable is to force folks (formerly) like us to pay for it, even though we never watched it.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Two Mass Shootings

Two mass shootings this weekend. What will our elected officials do about it?

Well, after 20 LITTLE CHILDREN* were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School nothing was done. NOTHING. What makes anything think it will be different now?

This country lost part of its soul on that day; what's happened since, including this weekend, is a reminder of that fact. More families grieving because our elected officials didn't care enough to act after 20 little children were slaughtered.

Just to be perfectly clear, I am not advocating any specific policy solution(s), other than to say anyone who feels that "the solution to gun violence is more guns" is part of the problem. We have enough guns in this country already. What I am saying is that someone in a position of power has to DO SOMETHING.

Congress and the President that they can take their "thoughts and prayers" and shove them up their collective rear-ends. I am tired of the pandering and inaction. I am tired of mass shootings and the politicians that enable them through inaction.