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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Storyworth & Other Assorted Bits-O-News

It's been a while since I've posted, but not since I've done any similar writing.  That statement makes sense through the lens of Storyworth, a kind of project that will take most of this year to complete.  You can learn more about Storyworth HERE.  This was part of a Christmas gift from my youngest daughter, and I have to confess, I am enjoying it.  The premise is this:

  • Family members ask a weekly question
  • I write a response
  • At the end of the year the whole thing is turned into a book
This week's question, which I haven't started answering, is...

My answers to these questions generally run in the 600-900 word range.  Anyway, if you have someone in your life that enjoys writing, this makes a memorable gift...for both the writer and the people that get a copy of the book.

In other news:

  • Eclipse/Rapture...I was not raptured on Monday.  Hell, I didn't even get light-headed.  Thankfully, no one else did either (the rapture part, that is).  On a more serious note, maybe, just maybe, the idiots that spout this stuff should be publicly humiliated.  That would make a great website...tracking the stupid stuff public figures predict that never come true.  
  • Earthquake...I was working from home on Tuesday when we had an earthquake.  Details HERE.  I didn't feel a thing.  Ms. Rivers did, but then again I was in the work-zone, a not-so-magical place where I probably miss a lot of things happening around me.
  • Florida...Ms. Rivers and I spent a few days in St. Augustine, Florida, a week or two ago.  I enjoyed having time off in a warmer place, and going to Buc-ees is always a blast.  The place is definitely a bucket-list kind of thing, which sounds like an almost comically American stereotype (think "I aspire one day to visit the world's largest gas station").  Also on the docket was a trip to the self-identified Fountain of Youth.  I did drink water from the actual fountain, but I don't think that is going to stop my 60th birthday from coming in a few weeks.  As for the fountain water, the taste could best be described as being liquid scrambled eggs.  Finally on the Florida side of things, you can mark that as being one of the places I have no plans to ever live in, now or in retirement.  The winter weather is nice, but the one advantage we have up north is the exhilaration felt when Spring finally arrives.  It's as close to a legal high as I have ever experienced.
  • Scranton Times Death Spiral...The Scranton Times, a local newspaper, shut down reader comments a few days ago.  There was no article written about the change, just an email sent to those who partook of the seeming privilege.  I did, with some regularity, comment on articles, but only under my own name.  That was a rarity for the comments section, which was dominated by anonymous dog whistling keyboard komandos, spewing not-so-subtle racism and sports team politics.  Not the best presentation of Northeastern Pennsylvania residents, but then again this is what you get when you don't hold folks accountable for what they write.  A better solution would have been to require anyone commenting on an article to actually post using their real name.  This would make sense if the function was killed for reasons of common decency, but then again the actual reason was far more cost-cutting than anything else.  Yet another victim of the Scranton Times sale.  

As Billy Joel once noted, "and so it goes".  

More to come.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Re-naming a Stadium & White-Washing History

This will be short, simple and to the point.

Renaming Beaver Stadium to Honor Joe Paterno

Yes, there has been some movement among trustees of the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) to rename the school's stadium from the current Beaver Stadium to one that features former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Just to save time, this is at the root of the controversy:

Penn State Scandal

From the above link...

March 2, 2002 - Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary tells Coach Joe Paterno that on March 1, he witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in the Lasch Building showers. On May 7, 2012, prosecutors file court documents to change the date of the assault to on or around February 9, 2001.

March 3, 2002 - Paterno reports the incident to Athletic Director Tim Curley. Later, McQueary meets with Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz. McQueary testifies that he told Curley and Schultz that he saw Sandusky and the boy engage in anal sex; Curley and Schultz testify they were not told of any such allegation. No law enforcement investigation is launched.

May 6, 2016 - CNN reports the story of another alleged victim who explains how he was a troubled young kid in 1971 when Sandusky raped him in a Penn State bathroom. He says his complaint about it was ignored by Paterno.

July 12, 2016 - Newly unsealed court documents allege that Paterno knew about Sandusky’s abuse and that he dismissed a victim’s complaint.

A bottom line of sorts, for me, is this:  At some point, Joe Paterno did follow the letter of the law in reporting the abuse allegation.  He did not, however, follow the spirit of the law.  He did just enough to try and move past the controversy in order to focus back on football.  Simply put, that's not enough.  As I noted in a Facebook comment, if what happened was some NCAA rules violation, then I'd be somewhat sympathetic.  But this was something that involved sexual abuse.  This was more important than football.  For coach Paterno though it was not.  

Joe Paterno had a moral obligation to put the welfare of children and young adults before that of his football program.  He should be held to a higher standard over and above simply compliance.  He did not do that, and that is unforgiveable.

Does this tarnish everything that Joe Paterno did at Penn State?  No.  He still has a library named after him, which is fitting given his reputation for nominally insisting that Penn State football players also be serious students.  I also happen to believe that his coaching record should not reflect the scandal, and attempts to somehow erase what he accomplished as a coach were/are a bad idea, as it punishes the students who played on all of his teams.

I don't have much of a voice when it comes to Penn State internal politics, but I'm not without one either.  As a graduate, Life Member of the Alumni Association, benefactor to the university (helping to fund a scholarship at Penn State Harrisburg), former board member of the Penn State Harrisburg Alumni Society and member of the Atherton Society, I think I've earned the right to express an opinion.  And express an opinion to the Trustees and Administration I will.

Joe Paterno does not deserve the honor of having a stadium named after him.  Doing so is an insult to the victims of sexual abuse and to those alumni of Penn State who view the university as far more than just a football team.  Penn State is better than this.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Just Browsing...

I love looking at real estate listings.  Granted that there actually is a practical, if not immediate, reason to do so, namely the purchase of a retirement home in a few years.  The bigger reason though is that I just find old homes to be interesting.  

The house shown below is old, but I wouldn't use the word interesting to describe it.

This was my late brother Chris' house.  The last time I was in that house was probably early February, 2017, as it was being prepared to be sold by his wife.  My thought was to just go through the place, with her permission (of course), looking for any old family things that could be saved, prior to the sale.  I don't recall what I found there on that day, as it was an extremely difficult visit.  Prior to this, I had been there late morning on January 5, 2017 when I found my brother after he had passed away.  At the time, there was no heat in the house, so his body was frozen.  My fingers can still feel the sensation of touching him, thinking initially that he was just sleeping.  

More on this is noted in prior blog postings.

Seeing the listing was kind of stunning for me.  I have stopped once or twice over the past few years (as recently as three weeks ago) just to see the condition of the place, as it slowly rotted away.  I don't believe that it has been actually occupied since it was sold in 2017; as best I can recall from Chris' wife, it was sold to someone from New York, but nothing was ever done with it.  Fast forward to now, and I did see a condemnation notice on the door from the City of Scranton, so perhaps the absent owner thought it best to cover his/her losses and get rid of the property.  Interestingly enough, there already is a pending sale for it.

The timing of this listing/sale in mid-January I suspect is a kind of synchronicity of sorts, given the history noted above.  Maybe this is a kind of karmic way of getting it all over with together.  Maybe this is a kind of ending chapter.

Whatever happens regarding the sale, I just have one hope:  That whoever buys the property fixes it up and that there end up being children living in the place.  I think little kids running around is precisely the kind of exorcism the place needs.  The house, and my brother's memory, would like such a thing.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Making 2024 Small

"How 'bout getting off of these antibiotics?
How 'bout stopping eating when I'm full up?
How 'bout them transparent dangling carrots?
How 'bout that ever elusive kudo?"
(Thank You, Alanis Morissette)

As I noted in a prior post, every end of year I think about what happened in the 12 months past, and what I want to accomplish in the 12 months to come.  "Resolutions" sounds so formal...and I'm not a really formal kind of I'm going to go with "goals"...and I've been thinking a bit more about this over the past week or so.  My track record in achieving these goals is, by all objective standards,  terrible.  Like Don Quixote though, I keep at it for reasons that mostly escape me but nevertheless seem like something of a noble quest. 

Anyway, a part of what I want to accomplish in 2024 can be thought of as "Thinking Small"

Thinking Small
Given my pending birthday this year, I actually think I am reasonably healthy.  Granted that there are a few chronic things going on (heart rate issues, for example), but all things considered, I think I am doing okay.  This noted, I need to do a better job of managing my weight.  That's not for reasons of vanity or anything else of the's strictly because I want to be as healthy for as long as possible, mostly because there is still a lot in my life to be done.  First on the docket for this goal is to simply think smaller in terms of what I eat.  As in just eating less.

Managing weight is basically a simple math problem:  Calories in, calories out (burned).  For me, a big part of this is that I simply sit too much.  Especially when I am at work.  More on some work stuff in a moment.  But I can't afford to be desk bound for hours at a time either.  This is an easy thing to write, but hard to do (for many reasons...), and I don't have a way to solve for this yet.  But I am going to figure something out.  

I need to re-envision, if you will, my relationship with what I do for a living.  I don't want to work less, I don't want a simpler job, and I don't want to be "comfortable".  What do I want?  It's not a question of want in as much as it is a need...I need a greater mental and physical balance in my life.  Some might call this "work-life balance", but that doesn't do this justice.  Besides, I have an entire posting in my head on the subject of "work-life balance", so I'm not going to hash that out here.  Instead, I just need what I do to earn a living to not exhaust me, mostly because it shouldn't.  Yes, what I do is important, and I get to work with great people; however, I'm not curing cancer, stopping crime or preventing the fall of Western Civilization.  

I need to find a spot where I work hard, help those I work with, and have more time for the rest of my life.  Simple, huh?

As a side note, my retirement from the full-time workforce isn't imminent, but it's also not that far away.  Do I have a date in mind?  Yes.  Am I going to share that?  No.  One of the smarter things I learned from nearly three decades working with very smart people at Prudential is that you never give an employer too much advanced notice of your retirement.  Why?  The moment you do, you give your employer license to possibly treat you not as well (Think "He's going to be leaving anyway, so __________."). 

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
I've already started working on this goal. What is it, you may ask?  Well, I need to let go of some things.  Most of these things are physical stuff, as in I have DVI to HDMI converter cables for some reason.  As in I have a ton of old books that I don't ever plan on reading.  As in I am right now looking on a shelf where I have old notebooks.  Heck, I don't even know what is in these notebooks.  I am simply awash in stuff.  There is also some mental stuff in the back corners of my head as well that could probably do for, if not a purge, then a re-assignment to the mental equivalent of a Siberian Gulag.  

"Time the past has come and gone
The future's far away
And now only lasts for one second, one second"
(Time, Hootie and the Blowfish)

Time is speeding up as I get older, a point which I think is ultimately at the heart of what Einstein was trying to prove with his Theory of Relativity.  It's only been over the past 2 or 3 years that I've actually been aware of this fact.  Nevertheless, I have things to do, and it's getting to the point where those things need to be larger in my life and less about the nuts and bolts of what I'm doing between 8am and 5:30pm-ish most days.  There are pictures to be taken, words to be written, things to be torn down, things to be built, cats to be petted, people to help and walks to be had with Ms. Rivers. 

None of us are promised time, by the way.  It all can end at any given moment for reasons of the tragic (struck by a drunk driver) or the dramatic (nuclear holocaust created radioactive cockroaches) or the mundane.   We just don't know, so it's all the more important to treat the time we have with the sense of reverence that it deserves.

Simply put, I think we all need to do a better job of honoring our time.  

Recent events have left me thinking "why me?" once again.  This, by the way, is not a question of "why did this terrible thing happen to me?", but instead, why am I the one who is still standing?  Think of it as being a kind of survivor's guilt that's tough to explain to someone else who hasn't been through certain kinds of terribleness.  Anyway, as I ponder this sort of thing most every early January, I've come to the conclusion that it all comes down to one word: Persistence.  Either I've been blessed with this personal quality or I'm just too pig-headed to back down from things.  Both probably are true.  While this has certainly served me well, I'd gladly give a bit of it up if it would be/have been available in some small measure to certain others.

So, long ago, was it just a dream?

Time to march into 2024.