Friday, January 31, 2014

Off To The Governor’s House

As I mentioned yesterday, I was out of the office all day today. I still got up at the same time, left the apartment around the same time, but instead of heading east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike I made my way west. While the travel time was twice what I am used to in the morning it was a smooth trip with little traffic on the road. In fact, I made it to Hershey in well under two hours.


What brought me to Hershey? While I don’t go to a lot of event of this type, more than some, a lot less than others, I was given a unique opportunity during this meeting of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. While I had to drive to the Hershey Lodge, it was only a temporary stop during the morning as I was soon on a limousine bus on my way to the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
 
  
We arrived at the Governor’s Residence in the middle of numerous discussions started as soon as the bus began to move. As we chatted our way toward the main gate we all put our points on hold as we had our names checked off by security.


Once in the door, we checked our bags, got our nametags, and were warmly greeted, one by one, by Governor Corbett. By the way, the Governor seems to be getting in shape for the campaign tour.


After a quick chat, it was time to get a cup of coffee and walk around the house a little bit. iPhone in hand, I took some photos of the many rooms including the stairway…


…the two sitting rooms…



… the formal dining room…


…and a couple of pictures of the Governor’s office (this is what I would like my office to look like).



Heading back to the reception area I noticed that US Senator Toomey had just arrived so I made my way over, introduced myself, and exchanged a few pleasantries. While I may disagree with Senator Toomey on some issues, I give him credit for being consist and his office credit for always responding to correspondences in a timely manner.



Not wanting to hold up the building line, I went back into the reception area, poured a second cup of coffee, and stood around one of the small high top tables and had a nice conversation with Lieutenant Governor Cawley 

 
Noon snuck up on all of us and before we knew it, we were all retrieving our coats and bags and we making our way back out the door, through the gates, and onto the last bus heading back to the Hershey Lodge. When we arrived, we picked up our lunches, sat around the tables, and either worked on our computers (including me) or continued conversations started early this morning. Following an abbreviated meal, I took advantage of the quiet time while everyone was in the first session to get some work done. Once a number of items were taken care of I joined them in the middle of the second session. I only attended one more after that, got a few more last minute items done on the computer, and made my way back out the door to meet my wife for dinner before heading home. But, before I left, I pulled out my phone and took one last photo of the event.

 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where Is H. G. Wells When You Need Him?

Excuse me, can I get a lift?

Did you ever have a day at work that just seemed like you were stuck in quick sand? That was the kind of day I had at the office when, no matter how much I got done, there always seemed more things that needed to be taken care of as the hours passed. It wasn’t until about six in the evening when I could feel the frayed end of a rope between my fingers and I was able to pull myself away from my desk.

We all have these kinds of days regardless of profession and, like many other things, there are pros and cons to this occurrence. While the pace of the day and frustration of the growing pile can wear on you, the fact of the matter is that the day goes much faster when you are constantly jumping from one project to another. Of course, that presents and entirely new problem in that when you look up at the clock and see that the day has passed you by, you are left wondering what the heck happened and feel like you didn’t get enough done.

I am also curious to see what the carry over is going to be like in the morning. Normally I wouldn’t think much of the overflow, the fact that I will be out of the office all day (I am taking a theoretical “day off”) could turn a busy day into a bit of a cluster. If it were a simple day off I would have cancelled it but it is rarely just a day off and I have made a commitment that will keep me from my desk. Tomorrow will just have to be one of those days when my laptop will just have to travel with me.

While some may say that is unfair or just generally complain about the situation that is not how I feel about the situation. Yes, I would like to have a day off when I don’t have to think about these things, when I could leave work at work and just enjoy the day, but that is not the career I chose. As I have said before, I have to be busy, I have to feel like I am getting something done all of the time. Sometimes that need is satiated by action while other times it can just as easily be quenched by thought.

The only thing I have to figure out is how to add hours to the day so I can have the best of both worlds… enough time to get everything done at the office with enough hours left over to accomplish all of my other side projects and even more time left over to spend some quiet time with my wife. But, unless someone had a time machine, Delorean, or time turner for sale, I am going to have to make do with the limited hours of the day. So now it is time to rest and prepare for the avalanche that will inevitably break away from the mountain in the morning.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

“The economy, stupid”

You may have noticed yesterday that when I spoke about the State of the Union address I glossed over a huge topic. That was not a mistake, I chose to focus on the other items that came to my attention rather than having economic issues dominating the post. And that is exactly what it would have done. With all that is happening (and, more accurately, not happening) with the economy it would have overwhelmed the post.

If you have never watched the documentary “TheWar Room” I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. If you have seen it but it has been a while I think it is time for you to watch it again. Regardless of your political affiliation, it offers fascinating insight into the daily operations of a presidential campaign and shows just how effective a simplified message can be and how much power can be harnessed by hammering home a single, unified message that resonates with people.

I have written on this topic before but, now, when looking back and applying that messaging to the current political climate it is interesting to see how much things haven’t changed. In 1992, a long shot candidate won the democratic nomination for the Presidency. Facing an incumbent President with an unmatched war chest, Bill Clinton had to find a strategy that would turn the election tables. While Clinton is known for his speaking ability, it was a simple trilogy of tenets that served as the backbone of his campaign.

1. Change vs. more of the same.
2. The economy, stupid.
3. Don’t forget health care.

James Carville scrawled these three principals on a white board in the Little Rock, Arkansas campaign headquarters known as “The War Room.” These points kept the staff and the candidate focused. By hammering these basic points both in supporting Clinton and criticizing Bush, Carville was able to bring the rain that would lead to the electoral landslide in November.

Over two decades have passed since that stunning election and yet the same three points resonate today. However, this time the tables have turned, a Democrat is in the White House (can we still say white house or is that now deemed racist), and the Republican party is in need of a lesson in messaging. So, why don’t we take a page from history, from the radically changed opposition, and use their own three points against them? I find myself asking that very question on a daily basis.

All of the problems that the country is currently facing can be distilled into these three principles. We are facing more of the same policies and tactics that have shut out the press, dictated policies, and questions regarding the Constitutionality of many decisions. All of this while we face an increasing healthcare crisis that is crippling the ability of doctors to offer the service and attention that was once a source of pride in their practice. And questions have come to the surface as to the negligence that may be caused by the forced reporting of certain medical records so as to limit the freedom of people seeking assistance.

Of course, there is the economy. Most of our problems are rooted in the heinous economic policies currently running rampant. The debt ceiling has been treated with such disregard that inflation is becoming more of a probability rather than a farfetched possibility. Unemployment and underemployment has become a matter of false facts with fewer jobs being created than the number of people coming off unemployment while reports state that the unemployment rate continues to fall. Yes, like many financial decisions made in Washington, 1 + 1 = 3.

Even many of the economic policies that seem like great ideas the first time we hear them are nothing more than utopian fantasy. A prime example would be raising the minimum wage. Of course people want to get paid more but what happens when the other dominos fall. When the person making $8 per hour gets bumped up to an hourly rate of $10, what do you think the person who was originally getting paid $10 per hour is going to want? That’s right, they are going to want a bump in salary to at least $12. The dominos continue to fall and while some businesses may be able to support the radically increased overhead costs, many if not most small businesses will either have to decrease staff or close their doors completely. This is not the path to economic growth and a stronger middle class.

Some of the issues that don’t seem related to the economy are actually a part of the crisis as well. People today are polarized by one of the rights that the majority of the country exercises, firearms ownership. While not the determining factor in the debate (by a long shot), the limitation of gun rights has had a detrimental effect on many states. In addition to the hours spent by politicians and law enforcement (salaries paid by the people), many manufacturers have moved factories, offices, and other resources from one state to another because of limitations placed on the people (Magpul moving out of Colorado exemplified this issue). Also to be considered is the increased costs faced by government and law enforcement agencies due to the refusal to sell to certain states and departments which is their right as privately owned companies (see Ruger, STI, Barrett, Smith & Wesson, and others).

There are many issues that this country faces and it is going to be a painful recovery when we are finally able to right the ship. Can it be done? Yes! Change may be difficult but it is not impossible and as long as we have hope there is nothing that can keep us from returning to prosperity. While the times have changed the challenges remain the same and while we have not been able to prevent the repetition it is never too late to learn from the past.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The State Of The Union Is…


It is many things but nothing that I would call strong. Actually, scratch that. The state of the union is strongly divided.

While the address by President Obama this year was annoying and, at some points, downright stomach churning it was still better than it was last year when the television barely escaped in one piece. In that regard, things have gotten better since this same time last year. That may be the only positive development that I can really see that this administration has made in the past twelve months.

Like many of the President’s pubic addresses when the prompter is working properly, his performance was excellent. That part is undeniable and many people enjoy hearing the President speak just like many people like the forced overdramatic performances in B movies. But, just like the fiction found on film, the promises and pledges made are theatrics and nothing more.

The state of the union is divided. Too many people are out of work and any have given up trying. While the jobless rate seems to be going down it leaves me questioning how many people stopped looking? How many people are no longer counted?

Many minutes were dedicated to the calling for equal pay, for helping the African American community find work, for a higher minimum wage, for amnesty, and for many other things. Is this really where we should be focusing our efforts? Is this where we should be funneling our dollars? I don’t see this as a means to equality, this is a road to complacency. We need to be a nation of equal rights, equal freedoms, and an opportunity to pursue our own happiness.

No one ever said that life is fair. This nation was not founded as a coop. Embrace opportunity and work hard to make your life better. Does that mean you will live like the Jones’? No. Some will have more than others but many have more than they need. Are you really going to be better off paying higher and higher taxes, having money taken out of your pocket, in order to fulfill the promises of a government that insists on supporting the weight of the nation under the false premise that we need to give unequal amounts of money to some in order to ensure equality?

However, the most dangerous phrase of the evening which was used on a few occasions was “with or without congress” when referring to the actions that ‘need’ to be taken. It is this statement that should ring loudly in the ears of all who are listening. This is a frightening action and a threat of unilateral action that has the potential to be more damaging to the state of our union than any external force which threatens our safety and our freedom. This is a phrase that no President, regardless of party, should be using especially one with approval ratings as low as they are at this point. And, given the status that the United States still has in this world, it is a statement that endangers the safety and security of our allies especially Israel.

The state of the union, our union, is many things but, at this point, it is not strong, it is not stable, it is not safe, and it is not prosperous. We are in a state of division with a chasm that is growing faster than the national debt. It is with this reality in mind that we need to focus on and fight for change in the political system. It is through our efforts and our voices that we can fulfill the opportunity for change that has been given to us by the Founding Fathers. We all have an equal vote and an equal opportunity. It all comes down to who wants to work harder to change the state of the union and restore the strength that was once present.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Did You Stop Today?

Janusz Korczak Memorial at Yad Vashem (Jerusalem, 2009).

Today marked the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day, determined by the United Nations in 2005 (yes, it took that long), is one of the many days throughout the year when we, Jews and non-Jews alike, should step back, take stock, and embrace all that we have in life. Heck, just enjoy the fact that we have a life that we are living. Even when we have gone through tough times whether financially or physically, I have always made a point to stop. That is the first thing that we all need to do on this day.

We need to take notice of how the Israelis recognize the souls lost during that black hole in our history when they stop (even in the middle of the highway), stand, and remain quiet as the sirens pierce the morning across Israel on their Holocaust Memorial Day (which falls in April/May). It is this act of stopping, of inaction, that accentuates the need for action. Action not just of our minds to remember but in our bodies to act against the evil in this world. We must ensure that the environment is never again fostered to allow something such as this to happen again.

I am not going to proceed by outlining what I believe is right or wrong. You should know that for yourself. You need to stop and look around. Get involved in your community. Get to know your neighbor and know what is happening in the news, in the government, in the schools. Know your rights and be aware of all the actions and inaction that surrounds you. Knowledge is what we need to have to ensure this never happens again not just memory.

Maybe the most important aspect of ensuring that the vicious cycle of history is not continued is to stop and think. Think for yourself rather than letting someone tell you what is true, what is right, what is wrong. If you stop and pay attention to the world you will see that there are many things happening that worrying in this world. Again, I am not going to tell you what to look for, you can probably surmise my views by simply going through previous posts.

However, I think there is one constant that should be embraced… Freedom. Are you living a life that embraces the freedoms that you have and is concerned over the freedoms that have been taken away? Is the ‘interpretation’ of freedom crippling your ability to be free? These are the basic questions that you should ask yourself and what you should do everything in your power to ensure that your freedom is not lost. So stop, think, appreciate what you have, and ensure that you are truly free.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

You Don’t Need An Amazing Race To Enjoy Traveling


I am sure it is no surprise to read but I really enjoy watching various travel shows on television. Sometimes I even find myself watching movies not for what is happening right in front of me but because of what can be seen in the background. I guess it is rooted in the desire to simply see the world and all the different places and cultures that surround us all.

Of course, there are some shows which revolve around travel that I have mixed feelings about. I find myself watching Amazing Race pretty much every season that it happens to be on (I have no idea how many they are up to at this point) and I enjoy some of the places that they send people. However, the way that people react to the places they are sent (for free) and how they treat people in their home country is deplorable. Yes, there are some places that I wouldn’t consciously choose but it also isn’t my money that is being spent.

As I watch this show, I also feel bad for some of the people running around. It doesn’t seem as if there is really enough time to enjoy where they are and all that they are seeing. Traveling is not just about what you do while you are someplace it is about just enjoying the surroundings and, when applicable, the culture. This may be why I prefer shows like Rick Steves and similar series focusing on the places not challenges.

I also enjoy reading about these different places. Both destinations that I have experienced myself and places I have never been. While travel books offer an interesting, and polished, perspective (Bill Bryson is a great example if this) that isn’t my primary source of travel reading. With so much information out there through social media, that is where I like to read about various locations both locally and far away. Blogs offer a great recap and almost review of people’s travels and Facebook can be an interesting mix of real time accounts as well as open discussions about someone’s journey.

With all those resources at our disposal, it amazes me when someone doesn’t have any desire to travel and explore different places. Even just talking to someone you know who is calling from their vacation can invoke both the memories of trips you have taken but can also kindle the need to just go out and see something new. Or, as was the case tonight when my mom called me from Florida, it made me look forward to some of the small trips already written into my calendar. So, thanks for the blog post idea mom!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Waking Up To Brisket

I woke up this morning still not feeling well but I couldn’t keep myself in bed past 9:30 as I was already beginning to feel a little achy and my nose was not being receptive to oxygen. Once I was able to get on my feet, stumble to the bathroom, and clear my head I caught the slightest whiff of brisket in the air. As it turns out, my wife was having, as she puts it, a domestic day. Brisket was only the beginning of the cooking for the day as a duo of soups were also on the menu.

I don’t understand why my wife gets in these moods but I find it best to stay out of her way and just enjoy the outcome. It was nice to not have to make lunch and dinner on the weekend especially when there is still a hint of plague on my breath. However, while I was only asked a couple of times for small things, I did offer to assist her in the kitchen and even provided some time saving appliances long forgotten in the closet. Plus I didn’t have to worry about my wife losing a finger by finding a few easier and safer cutting options.

With a full dose of cold medicine in my system, I did make the decision to venture outside a few times. Not surprisingly, it was snowing again. Actually, the weather was a bit bipolar today as the snow started and stopped on several occasions throughout the late morning and early afternoon. By the time dusk came around the cars and streets were covered with an additional two inches of fine white dust. Just enough to cover your shoes and spin the tires.

With the arrival of early evening, dinner was ready to go and my wife’s sporadic study sprints had come to an end. As we sat down to eat some split pea soup (my mom’s recipe) and brisket (two separate courses not one strange concoction), I noticed the reversal of roles that my wife and I had throughout much of the day.
 
Much of my time is spent working, cooking, and generally trying to get something done either at work, at home, or somewhere else (usually lodge). Today, my wife was the one shuttling between the kitchen and the office as she made enough food for at least half the week and studied for her grad class. While I got a couple of minor things done here and there, the majority of my day was centered on recovery. It’s nice to change things up every once in a while.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Pushing Through Level Four

 
Have you ever noticed just how different of a person you are when you’re sick? Some get mad, some become mean, and others just kind of stair off into space. Today I was a different person. I wasn’t really any of the aforementioned, my sick demeanor is more along the lines of dull tunnel vision. Basically, when I’m sick I lose much of my creativity (you can probably tell at this point) and am unable to multitask. I have to focus on one thing at a time. Anything beyond that project simply wouldn’t process.

This doesn’t happen every time that I feel under the weather. It happens more on the top end of not feeling well when I have to motivate myself to move. Basically more on the plague end of the spectrum rather than the sniffles. For those of you unfamiliar with the sickness scale (similar to Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias’ five levels of fatness), here is the breakdown:

1. Sniffles – You cough once and feel that is enough to call out sick from work. Also applies to hangovers.

2. Sick – The time when you might want to consider taking something. This is when you usually start going through the list in your head of who you can blame for what you know is inevitably going to happen.

3. Crap on Toast (also known as crap on a cracker) – As the name suggests, at this point you are more than likely spending more time than you would like passing legislation through colon congress while weighing the nuclear option from your seat in the oval office. This also applies when you eat too much sugar free candy (especially Gummy Bears).

4. Plague – You have nothing left and your body seems to laugh when you take any sort of cold medicine. While you are no longer in solitary confinement in the porcelain prison, it takes considerable effort to just get up let alone get out the door.

5. Dead – This is when you have no other option than to call out of work and stay home moaning like a wounded cow. If you can only eat broth and really soft foods you might be dead. Stay home.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, it is now the weekend and I have the luxury of dying without missing any work. However, if you were expecting to read about any exciting trips this weekend there is a good chance that will not be happening. It will give me time to thing though and you know how entertaining that can be so stay tuned for a couple posts resulting from an overabundance of time to think and cold medicine.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Is It A Beautiful Day In Your Neighborhood?


There are many television programs that seem fascinating as a child but as we get older we either begin to realize how bad they are or we think about how much they have changed and the fact that Elmo must die. Even some of the good shows that we remember watching when we were younger seem to lose a little something when we either get the adult jokes (hello Fraggle Rock) or we watch them again and see how horrible the acting really is. However, there is the occasional program that, even years later, you look back and no matter how cheesy, simple, or dated they are, they still hold a special place in your memory.

There are also very few instances that I have experienced that makes you appreciate those programs even more and have a greater respect for the show. Unfortunately, this frequently happens when we watch a modern version, which is crap, and you realize how good the original was. Then there are instances, like the one I had this evening, when I watch a program that outlined the history of the program and the man behind this long standing television series.

If you watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood today you would think that it is all an act, that no one can be that friendly and sincere in their daily life. Watching "Mister Rogers & Me", you really come to realize that Fred Rogers was one of those few people who refused to see the faults in people and made a conscious decision to see the good in us all. He really believed that we are all special in many diverse ways (insert your own joke here).

While there is no replacing the positive influence that your parents and family have on who you are, especially in my case, you can’t help but think that shows like this had some impact on us. Don’t get me wrong, I can be as cynical and combative as the next person, but I also try to see the good in people. I enjoy talking and getting to know people not really caring about what they do for a living but who they really are. I guess that is why I can talk to just about anyone and for long stretches of time. I guess, to a certain extent, I treat everyone as a neighbor.

That is the true legacy of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It isn’t in the ratings, awards, or longevity. It is in the small changes for the better that the show has made in many of us years after the last time we watched it. It is about how we see ourselves and how we treat one another. We may have different views, divergent opinions, and strong disagreements but that doesn’t comprise all that we are. That doesn’t mean we can respect each other and treat one another as neighbors.

Of course, if you don’t want to be my neighbor this picture is for you….

 
…and if you refuse to respect my opinions as I respect yours this picture is definitely for you…

 
In case you missed it, the word of the day is sarcasm. Learn it, embrace it, and let Trolley take you to the Neighborhood of Make Believe so we can all see sarcasm in action through the use of hand puppets. What can I say, I'm not Mister Rogers but it is still a beautiful day in the neighborhood, isn’t it?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Say Goodbye To Baseball Bats


I know the title has some of you thinking about the meaning behind the statement but it really is very simple. I have decided to take the advice of the President and will start doing anything I can to save lives. After all, “if it saves one life, it’s worth it.” And so begins the campaign to ban baseball bats or, at the very least, require a background check in order to purchase one. It only makes sense to start looking at sources of unregulated weapons (especially if they’re black and scary looking) to ban or control first before going after other items (themselves innocuous) used in crimes.

Essentially, a criminal can walk into any sporting goods store, Wal-Mart, or thrift shop and buy a weapon without showing any form of idea, without filling out any forms, and without a background check having been completed. Even children can buy bats at numerous retailers, even the tactical black models. How long are we going to sit on the sidelines quietly and wait for these kids to recreate the meeting scene from “The Untouchables”. This unregulated market needs to stopped and only professional athletes paid to play this sport and certified trainers should have access to these items with such deadly potential.

Of course, this is only the first of many initiatives. Knives are also an unregulated weapon which children and the mentally unstable have easy access to and the same can be said for household cleaners, fast food, and power tools. All of these things have been the cause of death on countless occasions. Also, while tobacco, alcohol, cars, and prescriptions are regulated to a certain degree, they are still prevalent aspects of daily life which also cause a substantial amount of deaths every year. Ban them all and save thousands of lives. Maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of lives.

I know what you’re asking, but why would I chose to go after baseball bats and not guns? Well, they simply aren’t as big of a concern. Contrary to the rhetoric being bandied about recently, those statistics are trending in the right direction and, therefore, should not be our first priority. After all, at least you have to pass a background check to legally buy a firearm. But why take my word for it…

As was reported by the U.S. Department of Justice and Pew Research Center, gun crime statistics continue to steadily decline while gun ownership, especially in recent years, has experienced a sharp rise. According to DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. gun-related homicides dropped 39 percent over the course of 18 years, from 18,253 during 1993, to 11,101 in 2011. During the same period, non-fatal firearm crimes decreased even more, a whopping 69 percent. The majority of those declines in both categories occurred during the first 10 years of that time frame. Firearm homicides declined from 1993 to 1999, rose through 2006, and then declined again through 2011. Non-fatal firearm violence declined from 1993 through 2004, then fluctuated in the mid-to-late 2000s.

Additionally, Pew researchers observed that the huge amount of attention devoted to gun violence incidents in the media has caused most Americans to be unaware that gun crime is strikingly down” from 20 years ago. In fact, gun-related homicides in the late 2000s were “equal to those not seen since the early 1960s.” Yet their survey found that 56 percent believed gun-related crime is higher, 26 percent believed it stayed about the same, and 6 percent didn’t know. Only 12 percent of those polled thought it was lower.

In the end, if you really want to save a life, turn in your baseball bat and buy a gun.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thoughts During The Afternoon ‘Rush’


Yes, that is a guy stopped on the side of the road,
under the overpass, with his motorcycle.

Not long after arriving at work this morning the predicted snow began to fall and the anticipated totals began to rise. It started with a few flurries but within an hour of starting the flakes were falling fast and furious. By noon, it had gotten to the point when we knew we had the option to leave or potentially get stuck at the office for the long haul. Needless to say, we packed up our desks and shot out the door.

As soon as I pulled the car out of the spot and I could hear the powder back beneath my tires, I knew that it was going to be a slow ride home. Unfortunately, I underestimated the sluggish pace. We all had the same idea and so the ‘evening’ rush began just as I was merging onto the highway. I found traction on the highways but a mass of cars which I can’t remember the last time I experienced. Three and a half hours later I slid into the apartment parking lot and backed into an unplowed parking space.

It was a lot of time to spend on the road when the anticipated journey was supposed to be an hour. With the radio reports repeating the same stories and no real need to hear about the obvious state of the weather and traffic conditions, I decided to take care of a few calls. It didn’t take long before those numbers had been run through and everything that I could take care from behind the wheel was resolved.

It was at this point when the drive became very dangerous… with little else to do I began thinking. When you know the exact route that you are taking it becomes more of a subconscious task which frees up your mind to just wander. The kind of thinking where there really isn’t boundaries or logic to the progression of thoughts. You just go from one idea to another from things that happened during the day and projects that need to be completed to opinions of idiotic press conferences and overreactions by the media.

Yes, I am referring to the uneducated presentation by California State Senator Kevin de Leon and the never ending Governor Christie saga. Both of these politicians, while in drastically different ways, are clearly uninformed and seem to evade acknowledging reality. One seems to revel in ranting about Casper the evil rifle while the other seems to not know what the heck is going on in his own administration. However, I would prefer a politician overlooking something rather than someone who seems hell bent on banning something that he clearly doesn’t understand at all and seems to have no desire to ever understand.

Of course, I also had some lighter thoughts while driving above the asphalt but, for some reason, nothing seemed to stick in my mind. But, you can clearly see the diverse directions my mind tends to go by simply reading through the posts on this blog. Sometimes there are moments/posts when everything is concise and makes perfect sense while other times I just ramble. The trip home today was basically a combination of the two.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Are You Ready For Some Football?


While everyone is focusing on the upcoming super bowl, I have been treating these weeks as I would any other. Football never had that much of an appeal to me. I used to enjoy watching the Eagles on occasion but never felt I was missing out on anything if I didn’t put the game on. And now, with all the rules changes, additional penalties, and a seeming increase in showboating, it really has lost the little attention I paid the sport.

Of course, that is a major issue across all sports. The rules are changing and removing some of the aspects of the game that kept it interesting. Hockey has fallen into this same model. While football has increased the prevalence of penalties, slowing the game down and, possibly, causing more injuries due to the hesitation of some players during plays, baseball seems to be implementing changes that are having a greater negative impact on the way the game used to be, the traditional game of baseball.

The most recent changes have taken the human element out of the game. The expansion of instant replay and the manager’s ability to challenge is something that I don’t have a big problem with. However, when it comes to umpires, monitoring the strike zone is something that should have never happened. Part of the game and part of the pitcher’s job is to know what kind of strike zone that particular umpire has. Some used to have massive strike zones like Eric Gregg and pitchers would take advantage of that fact. Others would have high or low strike zones. It is the pitcher’s and the batter’s responsibility to adapt to the situation.

Speaking of strike zones, whatever happened to pitching inside? The art of the brush back has been completely lost on the current generations of pitchers and I can’t really blame them. If you throw a pitch inside you run the chance of getting thrown out of the game. Put a shrinking strike zone on top of that and it’s no wonder why offense remains so stout throughout baseball.

And now we get to the real issue that bothers me about modern sports. Eliminating collisions at home plate is completely ridiculous. As a catcher, you know what may happen. You signed up for it. You made the decision to play the sport professionally knowing the risks that are involved. Football and hockey have had similar regulations put in place to eliminate certain kinds of contact. What the heck did these athletes think they were getting into when they decided to pursue this career?

There is something wrong when you can watch more hard contact in NASCAR. I think we should sign all these millionaires up to play a full season of rugby and see if they continue to complain about the violence that exists in their sport. In the end, toughen up and earn the absurd amount of money that you are getting paid to play a game!

So, going back to the original question, am I ready for some football? Eh. Not really. Not sure I am ready for spring training either. The real question is, where can I watch some rugby?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Working On My Schedule… Again!


Weekends are usually the time when I catch up on sleep. As you have probably seen with the majority of my posts, I am up late writing and posting. It is an odd schedule but one that allows me to accomplish everything I want to do during the day. However, the work week is a little tenuous at times with regard to the limited sleep that I am able to get.

While this has not been too much of an issue, there are some weeks when the morning sneaks up on me and my eyes refuse to acknowledge the reality of morning. I have never been a morning person but my motivation to take advantage of as much of the day continues to drive me to keep long hours and push the limits of my body to achieve as much as I can with the time I have during the conscious hours. But, as has been proven in recent weeks, motivation sometimes gives way to the need for rest. I don’t like it but that is what happens.

The first few weeks of this year have also brought about the need to schedule the first half of the year. I have received many invitations and been informed of numerous events that should be interesting to both experience as well as share with you afterward. As it stands now, those events will begin this week and, as long as I have the time, I will be experience as many of these moments as I can. While they won’t take me very far from home, they are certainly an eclectic mix of activities.

Additionally, there are a few applications and schedules that still have to be implemented into my calendar. I’m sure my wife is thrilled to be reading this even though I do my best to keep her up to date with my seemingly crazy plans. For those of you that are married, I’m sure you are quite familiar with this kind of conversation. For those of you not in a relationship, start learning about how to balance your schedule now. With that said, I am doing everything I can to maintain balance and allow myself to not only rest but, more importantly, spend time with my wife.

Balance is my goal but now, with all the schedules and invitations pouring in, the hard work begins. I try to embrace every opportunity that comes my way but I know that I can’t just keep going full speed every day. Sometimes you need to step back not just to rest but appreciate all that you have experienced. While that is part of the reason for keeping this blog, there also needs to be time when I can just reflect without sitting in front of the computer or hovering over a blank page. Those are the times, away from the calendar chaos, when I can better appreciate everything in my life and enjoy some quiet time at home.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Writing With The TV On


Have you ever tried to write while watching a movie? When struggling to find an idea it can be difficult especially when it is the beginning of “Throw Momma From The Train” when Billy Crystal’s character is struggling more than you are at that moment. It is a little painful to watch not for the actions of the character but because you can see yourself and sometimes remember yourself going through those same motions. “You’ve been on 'The night was’ since July.” It is not a pleasant thought but that is the reality of writing.


I guess there could be worse movies to have on the television. “Funny Farm” comes to mind as a prime example. The internal hell that Chevy Chase goes through in that movie is darn funny (this is when Chevy Chase was funny for those young people that don’t know any better). But it also touches on the jealousy of inspiration that comes so easily to others. We have all been in that situation when we hear a line or read a story and have that ‘I wish I had thought of that’ notion float through your mind.

Those can be disturbing moments if you let them percolate in your mind. What we have to realize is that we all have those moments of clear creativity when everything just fits together but, most of the time, we are either not aware of the spark or don’t write it down quickly enough to keep the ember burning until you can get it down on paper. However, when you catch those moments it can be something of a mesmerizing experience when the world falls away and all you can see is the images and actions that your words are etching into your eyes and embedding in your ears.  

Those instances may be rare for many of us but it is still enough to keep us going. Sometimes it is an entire story that just blindly falls onto the pages while other times it can be a word combination that you have never heard before. Sometimes it is a matter of finding a different perspective while other times that tiny ember can be found in the smallest crevice or the minutest detail found in a crystal of rock salt borrowing through the whining ice on its journey to the gray tar patch in the middle of the pockmarked road. Inspiration is in details and perspectives. Once those are established the action can be introduced organically. Of course, scotch helps too.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Promotion


After dinner this evening I was sitting and thinking about the day. I was also thinking about past jobs and different times in my life. It was at this time when I came to the realization that with all the jobs that I have had and all the places I have worked I have never received a promotion… until now. While this may bother some people it is something that is happening at the right place and at the right time of me. If I had been in this position in the past I don’t think that I would have appreciated it as much as I do now.

I have had many raises in my professional career but I have never been promoted during that time. While raises are nice there is something about changing your title that, for me, means more. There is only so much that money can do to recognize effort, when you know that you are progressing through the ranks in your chosen profession it really makes you feel that you are being recognized for all the work and long hours that you have put in. If I had to choose between the two I would pick the promotion. The money will come but the recognition is what keeps you pushing harder and harder. Although I will say that getting both would be the preferred choice.

I guess this is the perspective that you develop over the years. A way of looking at things, of appreciating where you are and what you do that at times is lost on the younger colleagues that I have seen come and go over the years. Like many of us in our zealous youth, more is expected than what we really deserve. However, what used to be kept in check so that we may be brought back to reality seems to now be more determined and stubborn than ever before. Too many young people are expected to be handed everything in the workplace, too many of them think that everyone should be equal, too few put in the time and energy in order to earn what everyone else has had to work for during their career.

I am proud of what I have earned and I am going to make certain I keep working hard to reinforce that decision. It has been a long journey filled with hard work and sometimes just getting by, but also one that has been tremendously rewarding and that has lead me to places and to make decisions that I would have never entered my mind a decade ago (or five years ago for that matter). While it has not been the easiest path to my first promotion I don’t think I would change a thing… that may be one of the first times I have ever used that overused phrase but it seems to sum things up nicely.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Processes and Common Sense

Not all steps are this easy to see.
Everything I do during my day has its own distinct process. Whether I am at work, in the lodge office, or simply writing a blog post everything is done in its own way with its own set of steps. Some of these processes are pretty clear cut like pitching a story to the media while others are a bit more obtuse.
Many of my workday activities are rather regimented. Well, at least that is how I keep myself organized. I know the basic structures of different projects and forms and know how things need to be arranged to make sense for various companies and publications. I know the basic bullet points that need to be addressed and I know the steps that need to be taken when pitching, proposing, and revising.

There are also other times when what seems simple is actually something with numerous unseen steps that need to be taken in order to achieve the desired result. The majority of projects that I must complete on a regular basis for the lodge fall into this category. While at times it can test my patience a bit, it is an understandable process that needs to occur to ensure that everything is carried out the way it should be and any errors are caught early in the process. Even some of the most basic communications where dissemination seems obvious needs to be handled in the right way.

The creative process is something that I can’t really say has steps. At least in my case it is something that just seems to happen. It is a thought process that just happens. You could start with a basic questions like “what’s for dinner?” and end up somewhere around monkey monkey underpants (some of you will get the reference). Even when coming up with pitches or work related blogs, the same ‘unique’ process applies. I have tried to distill this process into steps but my mind simply won’t let me put it on paper. With that said, I have taught enough lessons to know how to spark the creative process but where that takes someone is completely up to them.

Most of my work flows in and out of the creative process which, at times can be tiring but as long as I properly manage the tide I am usually able to keep things going day in and day out. However, sometimes it is good to step away from the process for a few moments which is why I like working with my hands and putting thing together. I also like traveling and exploring because it is a matter of observance rather than creation. Even the act of studying is relaxing for me as the process begins and ends with facts.

However, the common thread across all my ‘jobs’ is that of common sense. I have seen many people attempt each of my daily duties in one form or another and have tried to do so with limited or no common sense. Smart people but they floundered in their rigid habits and lack of comprehension. It just goes to show that life and experience can’t be found in a textbook or in a set of instructions. You need to apply your mind, your personality, your own processes, and your experiences to your job(s). Without those basic applications, you are bound to find yourself a best confused and if someone is really out of touch they will find themselves without a professional home.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tour Guide


In addition to the usual lodge work that was conducted last night, I also had the opportunity to do something that I had never done before… give a tour of the lodge. I had received an email just over a week ago from a man inquiring about the lodge and freemasonry in general. As soon as I was able to set aside a few minutes later in the day, I sent him a reply with an application as well as a very general overview of the process. Of course, I welcomed him to give me a call any time so that I may answer any questions that he might have in a more efficient and personable manner.

A week passed and I had not heard back. Sometimes men change their mind, sometimes they get busy and time gets away. Fortunately, in this instance it was the latter. Upon circling back a week after my first email, he responded saying that he would call over the weekend. While I do my best to avoid work calls on weekends, lodge calls are different. This past Sunday we spoke briefly over the phone. I answered a few questions that he had and invited him to stop by last night since I would be there for a little while in the evening to get some things done.

I left work a little earlier than I usually do, around quarter to six, and managed to get to the lodge just after 6:30, nearly the exact time that I said I would meet him. I opened up the door, turned on the lights, and began the ‘tour’ by introducing him to a couple of the brothers whom I would be working afterward. Beginning at the top we started with the lodge room. While there weren’t many questions asked, I tried to go over and anticipate some of the basics throughout.

We came back down the stairs, through the entryway, and into the main auditorium. While the details of the building need a bit of touching up, the space itself is impressive and his reaction reminded me of my first experience of being shown around the lodge in the deep heat of summer in 2012. However, while the first tour of the lodge is impressive, as many of you know, it’s usually the second time through the doors that is life changing.

Because the space in the basement is currently being used, we skipped that part of the building but sometimes I think about how men reacted to touring the building when all levels were utilized by the lodge and the pool tables and bowling alleys in the basement were used on a regular basis. Anyway, we finished up by chatting a bit near the front door and before long, the prospective brother was on his way out the door to meet his wife for dinner. Meanwhile, the rest of us resumed our usual Tuesday night routine and began pushing through what needed to be taken care of that night.
 

These are the bowling alleys in the basement of my lodge.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Are You Balanced?


I have gotten into the habit of stopping by the lobby in the morning on my way to work to pick up and packages and mail that arrived the previous day. It is a system that seems to be working so far at least as a means to keep our mailbox from overflowing but it also has its shortcomings. In addition to sometimes not having enough time or simply forgetting to stop by in the morning, there are weeks when the mail enters the black hole that is my work bag and doesn’t resurface until the end of the week when I try to clean it out. Sometimes the stockpile goes a little longer and doesn’t get addressed until the excess weight is substantial enough.

Today was one of those days. While it had only been a week since I last went through all of the mail, the stuff that could wait (items that did not require a check) had begun to put a noticeable bulge in my bag. So, not wanting to lug around the extra weight or bulk, I began sifting through the correspondences, solicitations, and promotions. It was a process that took place throughout the day whenever I had a minute here and there to tear open an envelope or two (usually when I needed to come up for air for a very brief time).

One thing I noticed was the number of items that I had missed, or entire days that had slipped by, that required the assistance of my check book. Nothing major and all well within a reasonable time of the deadline/due dates but an annoyance nevertheless. This added an extra step to the process as the occasional item that required a response and/or a check was put aside to be dealt with later in the day. This was the second round of sifting and sorting.

Again, when a minute or two was discovered during the late afternoon, the forms were filled out, replies were filled in, and surveys were taken. Lastly, the checkbook was pulled from its safe place where it lay cowering in the corner like and insecure puppy. As to not frighten it too much, I filled out the few checks needed and put it back in its safe place to recover for the next time it needed to be out in the light.

The work day done, it was time to head to the lodge for an early and, hopefully quick, evening of office work. A tax form, multiple calls to government offices, the signing of about a dozen checks, and 90 minutes later I headed out the door and made my way home to recover. I honestly can’t remember ever having to sign that many checks at one time in my life and it really made me think about how much money I was sending out that day. Then I had to stop because it was making my head hurt. But that is all part of life and part of my new responsibilities at the lodge. Essentially, what it really means is that I now have to keep two sets of books balanced.

Monday, January 13, 2014

One Of Those Days


It was a rough Monday. The dragging that I pushed through last week seems to have intensified over the weekend making for a difficult day at the office. I would have called out sick by now but there are simply too many things that need to get done tomorrow. Just because you’re sick or you take the day off doesn’t mean that work stops or deadlines get pushed back. This is an expectation that I have seen too many people have of their jobs, especially the younger/new people starting off. While not the case in every situation, it is slowly becoming more prevalent in the work place.

To be honest, I touched on this in my early years. While there were many days that, in hind sight, I could have pushed through there were also times when even now I might not be able to function properly to do my job. On the other side of the equation, I have seen people and you could say that I am guilty of this now, when people should have taken time off but refused to do so. Sometimes things work out but other times I have seen the detrimental effects that this mentality can cause. While I am not at that point, it is pretty close, and I will have to be careful and toe the line making sure that at the first sight of going over I take the time off and recuperate.

The really interesting thing for me though is when things are going really well, everything else seems to disappear. Pain, problems, illness, and other distractions just fade into the background and all I am focusing on is keeping the good day going. Even during the longest days there seem to be moments when this fluidity is present. However, the most accurate determining factor that I am not doing well, that something may be getting the best of me, is when the flow seems more like molasses than water.

Maybe it is time to slow down, even just for a night or, at most, a day just to catch my breath a little bit. Maybe it is time to do something besides work and make an attempt to relax. Well, who am I kidding, maybe it is time to get some other work done other than the ones that usually fill the daytime hours and occupy my evening thoughts. Sometimes the best means of relaxation is completing a project that has been populating your to do list for months (for some people it can even extend to years). Of course, if that is the case you will be reading about it here. And if I finally have to give in an rest for a day, you will also be reading about that too… or at least the random thoughts that occur when I spend a day off with nothing to do.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Alright, Alright, Alright…

This time every year, the awards shows block off an entire evening on network television to tell me about all the shows I didn’t watch and all the movies I didn’t see in the previous year. There are a few programs that I recognize, and occasionally they seem to humor people like me with nominations for the shows that I enjoy. But usually it looks a bit odd like “one of these things is not like the other” (much like Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech verses everyone else’s).

Despite my seemingly lack of connection to most of what is found on television or in the theaters, these shows are rather entertaining. If anything for the reactions of the people who really didn’t expect any recognition. Not for what they say but for the shock on their face at the news and the slight horror of having to get up on stage and thank everyone without a script having been written beforehand. The Golden Globes this evening was a prime example.

Watching The Andy Samberg and Amy Poehler win awards this evening was worth watching. Both of these Saturday Night Live Alumni looked to be in genuine shock when their names were called and even Seth Meyers, who announced Samberg’s win, were filled with a childishness glee (in a good way) when the reality finally hit them. While we were all watching this unfold, Poehler getting a massage from and making out with Bono and Samberg high fiving Leonardo DiCaprio on his way to being mauled on stage by Meyers, the evening seems to take on a surreal quality for the two of them.

On the other side of the spectrum is the simple fact that as you watch the camera cut to different stars, you are faced with the aging, some gracefully and others not so much, of some of the many stars that you grew up watching on television or in the movies. It makes you wonder how much longer they are going to be performing. While some may seemingly go on forever you know that some others, no matter how much you enjoy their work, are probably going to be gone soon. While many were nominated this evening, Michael Douglas and Jon Voigt to name a couple of winners, it is an interesting dynamic to watch the transition to a new crop of actors in the prime of their careers, DiCaprio and Matt Damon seem to be the two that most accurately fit that description.

As you can see, even if the majority of your entertainment comes from life and nonfiction programs (or even those things we call books) you can still get a kick out of watching the Hollywood social experiments known as awards shows. And while this evening proved entertaining and even as a means of prediction for the other two majors, things will surely be a bit more interesting with the raised stakes that come with the Oscars and Emmys. Based on tonight, this should be interesting.