Monday, September 30, 2013

Darn You YouTube!

I find YouTube to be a great social media site to find videos on a wide variety of topics. It really doesn’t matter what you are looking for whether it is a how to project, movies, political speeches, classroom lectures, or simply a cat barking like a dog you can, for the most part, find it on YouTube. In fact, I think I have looked up at least one thing in each of those categories.

However, there is a dark side to YouTube. It is an aspect shared by many sites both of a social nature and otherwise. The downside is very simple; YouTube can be a tremendous time suck if you are not paying attention. And that is just for those of us watching the videos, who knows how much time some people invest in their visual projects (I know for a fact that a few people to whom I am subscribed invest hours and sometimes days to every post they make).

YouTube is a primary example of the potato chip effect… you can’t just watch one video. You can goes days or weeks without visiting the site but on those occasions that you find yourself pressing play it takes a tremendous amount of self control and will power to keep within a proper portion. Admittedly, on a few occasions I have gone on the site with the intention of watch a single video and an hour or more later I left feeling bloated, lazy, and unproductive.

Social Media in general can cause intellectual obesity where you are taking in a lot of information but it is not the right information, it is not a health mix that we need to sustain our minds and think at optimal efficiency. Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn can have the same effect, all in varying degrees but to your detriment nevertheless. Moderation, just like many things in life, is the key to the healthy use of social media.

However, there is an aspect to this site that is frequently overlooked. YouTube is a tremendous asset for preserving memories both of current events but also the accounts of older family members about your own heritage. This is a tool that needs to be leveraged by genealogy researchers in over to add depth to the leaves on the tree and voice to past generations. You can make videos public or keep them private with only family members having access through a direct link. Use this as a tool not just for entertainment but for education of others and the preservation of history.

Don’t let social media be a burden. Use it to enhance life rather than replace it. Be the one to live life rather than watch someone live theirs. Enjoy what this world has to offer and share it with others because experience is the best way to increase your knowledge and broaden your understanding off all that surrounds you and everything that makes you who you are.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Foundation Of Our Work

I arrived at the Holiday Inn in Kulpsville, Pennsylvania just as the sun was coming up. Coffee was not an option. (Photo by Rick Trivane)

Yesterday was training day. Not the Denzel Washington type rather a day comprised of proper procedures, deadlines, and requirements in order to apply for Rotary Foundation grants. Nine hours later and I am finally able to apply for and utilize funds to help the community. Needless to say, this is a useful and necessary ability for every club and one that I hope to apply in the near future.

However, there was much more to the day than simply information. Much of the time was spent inspiring those in attendance with the accounts of fellow Rotarians who have seen their work come to fruition. From securing medical equipment for a community in desperate need and ensuring that fresh water is available to people who live without running water to founding a new industry in West Africa that allows the people to support themselves with skills taught by committed Rotarians. All of these projects took hard work, dedication, and funds provided, in part, by the Rotary Foundation.

A room full of Rotarians.

It really is awe inspiring to see the work that has been done and to meet the people that have brought those projects to fruition. It is what keeps me motivated to continue to raise the funds needed for our own educational projects in West Philadelphia. Yesterday in particular it pushed me to sell more tickets for our fundraiser and brainstorm with other clubs about what we might be able to achieve in the near future by working together.

Hearing about the projects, listening to the long time Rotarians in attendance, and learning from the district and international leadership is a means to give us all a common experience. Regardless of the communities we each live in and the focus that each of our clubs may have, we are all Rotarians and we are all taking the steps in our own ways to better the world. We all may have different backgrounds and varying years of Rotary service, from Rotary International Past President Wilf Wilkinson with nearly 50 years to someone like myself with just over a year, we are all equal. We are all contributors to peace in this world.

(L-R) Rotarians Frank Hollick, Rotary District 7450 Paul Harris Society Chair, Wilf Wilkinson, Past President Rotary International and Sean Teaford, President-Elect Rotary Club of Bala Cynwyd-Narberth. (Photo by Rick Trivane)

These kinds of events are an opportunity not just to ensure that we have the proper training but that we are able to discuss with other clubs about the work that we are doing. We are able to find a common ground and in many instances find partners in our endeavors. This is a time to do the behind the scenes work that makes our projects so effective and ensures the longevity and sustainability of our efforts.

These are the types of moments that reinforce my decision to spend a rare day off in a conference room at a Holiday Inn. This is what gets me out of bed at five in the morning and out the door by six. This is why we give so much of our time and energy. Knowing that we are able to accomplish such great things not as individuals but as a part of something greater than ourselves is the reason why we are Rotarians.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Social Media Disturbances

There were a couple of messages on social media that caught my attention this week for all the wrong reasons. According to a message I received through LinkedIn, I am uninformed because I do not accept the communist ideas as expounded by Marx. On the other side (actually much of the same side), according to someone on Facebook, a person whom I have personally met on numerous occasions, I am a Nazi because I do not support socialized medicine. Essentially, they are both communistic idealists.

First, let’s address the LinkedIn blather. I received this in my inbox and, while I don’t mind being picked for funds , this one is a train wreck:

“Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar (Alliance against poverty) is a pressure group in favour of distribution of wealth in a fairer society. We advocate and give voice to anyone who needs our support on a number of social issues that can include education, minimum wage, basic income for everyone and their fair economic adjustment in view of inflation, purchasing power and cost of living, precarious employment, third age pensioners, disabled persons, health, single parents, the unemployed, and, social housing.

“The Alliance against Poverty is not subject to any political or religious bias, and, its members are determined to work collectively towards a social and overall well-being, as a basic fundamental right, in order to live a satisfactory and decent life, whether they are living within poverty lines or not….

“…Karl Marx - economist and sociologist ( born in 1818 ) among others mentioned the need to have a system to take care that the work earn enough money to have to eat , and for Marx this basic need was part of patter that prescribed that wealth should be distributed equally amongst the members of society.

“Unfortunately as sometimes happens even today the day , the politicians did not implement the communism based on principles of solidarity alone, and countries using a communist ideology such as Russia and Cuba seem to have suppressed their notable communist policies in view of the rise of civil wars and the intentional or non-intentional use of the inappropriate political model to support the original philosophy that favours equality in wealth distribution. Wealth distribution remains highly unfair towards the poorer members of society even in modern times, with the increasing numbers of unemployed persons during the double dip (2008).”

The last paragraph should have read something along the lines of “Unfortunately, as sometimes happens even to this day, politicians pander to the people and feel the need to implement government run programs that sap the motivation and incentive from a society. While hiding under the cover of ‘equality’ they hinder the individuality of the people and quash any means to better themselves in the best way that would benefit themselves, their families, and society as a whole.” Equal distribution is not a means to utopia, it is a way to ensure conformity. That is not a tool that should be applied to any society which ascribes to the practice of freedom.

In looking at the profile of this person, I am left with a great sadness for this misguided young person. Too many of those in the younger demographic fall prey to such doctrine. With that said, Facebook quickly reminded me that this is an epidemic that is not just limited to ill informed youths.   

Soon after this Marxist tidbit was read, I went over to Facebook to check on a few messages. In my stream I was confronted with the following post by someone who shall not be named (and no it was not Tom Riddle): “Personal opinion: I believe that the anti-Obamacare crowd is whacked beyond the Nazis. To paraphrase the eminent historian John Lukacs, the Nazis had their half-truths. The tea-partiers don't have diddly-squat!” Needless to say, we have a winner for the WTF Award for the week (also a strong contender for the annual prize).

Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling this person a communist or a socialist. Rather, it is the vulgarity of what they see as a societal norm which brings me to draw the comparison with the previously mentioned message. Essentially, their message is that because I am against the a federally run healthcare system (because we know the federal government is efficient, always on budget, and knows how to shop around for the best deal) I am both a member of the Tea Party and a Nazi. While at first I was shocked by this assertion, I quickly realized that it really isn’t surprising. They are simply regurgitating the messaging that is found on a weekly basis spewed on many of the unbiased news liberal editorial channels.

So, because I don’t fall in line and goose step with that crowd I am the bad guy? Frankly, I would rather have my own opinion based on my own personal experiences and study of the subject rather than simply believing in a program that had to be passed before anyone was told what was in it. This doesn’t mean that all social programs are bad, some are necessary to the health and well being of society, but some are grandiose schemes put in motion by intellectual and societal dictators that live in their own utopian minds with little contact here in the real world.

We can be a self sustaining people if others would get out of the way and let us live. If you would take the time to embrace what you have rather than focusing on what the Jones’ have we would all be in a better place and a better state of mind. Maybe then we could actually work on the problems of our ‘modern’ society rather than encouraging strife and burdening this and future generations with ‘solutions’ that cause more problems than they solve.

I know that won’t happen any time soon and maybe that makes me the idealist in this situation. While I adamantly disagree with the fudge that is smeared on these social media sites, it is their opinion and I believe that is a freedom that needs to be protected even those they don’t support the freedoms that I enjoy and feel should be protected. All I can really do is feel sorry for the state of the people and hope that we return to a time when we can live up to the aspirations that the founders had for this country and for us as a people.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Back To Normal

The baseball season is winding down and things seemed to have returned to normal. Like in my formative years, the Phillies are near the bottom of the division and the Braves are playoff bound. Another year and another losing season.

However, given the recent success of the organization, this season has a certain sting to it. I am not one of those people who can just flick the switch and start watching football like the summer never happened. Baseball has always been and will always be my favorite sport so a bad season doesn’t sit well with me and will continue to fester until spring.

While baseball may have always been my sport of choice it doesn’t mean that I was any good at it. I did not have the athletic gene passed down to me. But it is a game that I have studied my whole life, mostly when I was younger, and I have a deeper understanding of the details of the game than most. Basically, I can tell you more than just a player stinks; I can explain why a player stinks.

With that said my passion for the game has wavered some over the last decade. While most fans were enthralled with the homerun records and the strikeout pitchers I was watching as the game I treasured was changing before my eyes and not for the better. The grittiness of the game was beginning to disappear, the strategy became more black and white, and the norms of the game began to morph into a sport focused on entertainment rather than athleticism.

This year I began to see things revert to some of the old ways which got me to pay a little more attention even though the Phillies looked like they should be playing in Williamsport rather than South Philadelphia (I even started posting blogs during the second half of the season). While pitchers still can pitch inside without being tossed, they seemed to be relying on pitching rather than striking batters out. And not just pitching, pitching to the situations and not being afraid to put a ball just beyond the black.

We are still a long way from what the game used to be just a couple decades ago but that will hopefully change in the near future. Maybe the league will realize that pitching inside is part of the game. Maybe the strike zone will once again be larger than a thimble. Maybe coaches will abandon the absurdity of the pitch count. Maybe we can go back to reality.

Some things have changed in the batter’s box too. Homeruns seem to be a natural occurrence again. Hitters seem to realize that there are two sides to the field not just the pull side. And players seem to be taking pride in base running again.

These players also have a lot to work on. It used to be a shameful feat to strikeout more than 100 times in a season yet not countless players pass that mark without flinching. Running out a routine ground ball should be a given not a surprise as it is today. These are pervasive on the field and I don’t know if these will change.

So, just a weekend series to go before I start thinking about spring training. I don’t know if I will be able to root for anyone in the playoffs but I will certainly be paying attention to what happens. Do I think the Phillies will return to the winning ways of the last decade? I doubt it but I can still hope (remember 1993?). But even if they lose, and lose badly, it will always remind me of my childhood and something that can do that for you can’t be all that bad.