Friday, October 26, 2012

Women's Rights Riddle

Here’s a riddle for you.  Conservatives believe that there is just too much federal government.  They want as little as possible, and they would instead desire a transfer of many federal powers back to the states.  However, most conservatives are pro-life, and therefore they want to overturn Roe v. Wade and make it illegal for women to have abortions.  Isn’t this the ultimate invasion of personal rights—way too much government interfering on a very personal issue?  How exactly does that work?  No, no, no, there’s just too much government….but…when it comes to women, the government should be in charge of your body?  That just makes no sense.

Honestly, I have very mixed feelings on the topic of abortion.  Ending a life, even after the first spark of it in a mother’s womb, seems wrong to me.  But on the same token, I can’t see any instance where the government should have any right to decide what is best for a woman.  In other words, morally I think that many abortions are wrong, but legally they should never be.  And if you want to argue with my logic, well, there are plenty of things that are morally wrong in this country, yet people do them anyway.  I personally think it’s morally wrong to not hold the door open for someone, but stand outside any convenience store for, oh, maybe two or three minutes, and you’ll see it happen a handful of times.  It’s morally wrong to gossip.  It’s morally wrong to bully.  Yet, sadly, those things still happen.  In reality, if we had moral police, I’d guesstimate that 95% of the population would serve jail time or at least pay fines.  I’m sure I would be for one thing or five or fifty.

But for a politician to say what a woman can and cannot do with her body is wrong as well, and I don’t see any reason that it can be justified—especially from a conservative standpoint.  You can’t say that there is just too much government and then say that women should be denied the right to choose.  You can’t have elected government officials—most of which are old white men—tossing around words like “legitimate rape” and that "pregnancy from rape is a gift from God" and promising to defund Planned Parenthood.  That just makes no sense to me.  It shouldn’t make sense to a lot of people.  Especially women.

I see a lot of women out there who are pro-Romney in this election.  Can you explain to me how you can vote for a guy who would much rather have abortion be illegal and who wants to make you pay for things like birth control, mammograms, etc.?  What, do you think women's health medicines and preventive screenings being free is unfair to men?  According to 2012 statistics at (found here:, 29% of all cancers in men are prostate cancer, while 29% of all female cancers are breast cancer, 6% are uterine cancer, and a 3% are ovarian cancer.  So that’s 29% of male-specific cancers, and 38% chance of female-specific cancers.  Looking at the estimated death rate, prostate cancer is responsible for 9% of all men diagnosed with cancer.  Breast cancer is responsible for 14% of women's deaths, ovarian cancer for 6%, and uterine cancer for 3%.  So of all the different types of cancers, 9% of men with cancer will die from male-specific cancer, while 23% of women will die from female-specific cancer.  Again, that’s 29% of male-specific cancers affecting men vs. 38% of female-specific cancers affecting women and 9% of men vs. 23% of women dying from it.  It seems to make sense to me that we NEED to have government programs in place to help women with these issues.  Wouldn’t you agree?

There are plenty of things that don’t make sense on either side of the American political spectrum, but this is one I struggle with more than many others.  Sure, Liberals may be, uh, liberal with our country’s money, but President Clinton sure wasn’t, erasing a deficit created by Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr.   Obama HAS increased the deficit, but he had to in order to keep us from falling into a Second Great Depression--one that came about as the result of a Conservative Republican's failed policies.  But Obama also created a universal, affordable healthcare law that will ensure that women get the treatments they need.  Romney wants to repeal that, defund Planned Parenthood, and who knows, maybe he’ll even take on Roe v. Wade.

If you are a woman, and you are planning to vote for Mitt Romney, I really want to know why.  If you are a father, or a husband, or a son, or a brother, and your daughter, wife, mother or sister has ever been the victim of a sexual crime, or even if she has just had some medical issues and has had to previously jump through hoops to get them resolved (including paying tons of money for preventative procedures), I want to know how you can justify voting for Mitt Romney.  Because I sure can’t.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ever So Ungrateful

Ungrateful --adjective -- 1. Not feeling or showing gratitude.  2. Not pleasant or acceptable.

I’m not an ungrateful person, or at least I try very hard not to be.  I appreciate everything I have in life.  My lovely little family--including my mom who raised me to be a fine gentleman, my beautiful wife who I adore more than anything, and my son who is my little Mini Me--they all bring a smile to my face each and every night.  And with Baby Ben arriving soon, I feel very VERY blessed.

And the same goes for my extended family—my siblings and their spouses, my in-laws, my aunts and uncles and cousins.  I’m much closer to some than others, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate each and every one of them.  I’m very grateful for my friends who have shared some great times with me over the years, and I realize I really need to do a better job with staying in touch with them.

I’m grateful for my employer too, who allows me to put food on the table for my family and gives me meaningful and mostly challenging work to do.  My coworkers are great as well, thanking others for help, showing appreciation where it is due, etc.  Some teams aren’t quite like that, with spiteful people that cause tension and drama, but there is little to none of that in my workplace, and I’m very thankful for that.

But…there’s always a “but”, isn’t there?…some people are, unfortunately, not very grateful for what they have in life.  Take, for instance, the guy from Nuts For You at the Hartslog Festival in Alexandria a couple weekends ago, who as we were walking along browsing the vendors, loudly stated to a coworker, “Stay here so that none of these retards walk into this fire.”  Apparently they had a pot or something on the street where they were roasting nuts, and he had removed the pot but hadn’t doused the flames and hot coals.  People were everywhere, and my three-old-son and I nearly stumbled into his open fire just as he was so eloquently calling us retards.  His fire was literally four inches off the pavement on bricks, and while I noticed that SOMETHING was there and walked around it to avoid it, I didn’t know that it was a FREAKING FIRE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET!  Why not put cones up to block it?  Or have someone stand there BEFORE you remove the pot?  And the fact that he indirectly called me a retard ignited a fire within me.  If we lived in a less-civil society, I’m fairly certain that dude would have met my wrath, and nobody wants a large man expertly trained in martial arts delivering some wrath.  But alas I just walked away, choosing instead to deride him here, in my blog.

But man, what a bozo that guy was.  Calling your potential customers retards?  I’m sure the higher-ups at Nuts for You would just love to hear about that!  And I have a feeling this guy probably loves Ann Coulter and sees nothing wrong with her recent use of the same derogatory term either.  I'm trying my hardest not to bring politics into this post, but ANYONE who uses such a nasty word should have absolutely no influence on anyone else's opinions, especially in a "civilized" society like the U.S., and yet Ann Coulter still has millions of fans.  THAT is disgusting.

Moving on, I was on Twitter yesterday, doing a search of "Altoona" trying to determine which Halloween and Trick or Treat activities might be fun to participate in this week/weekend.  We had already been planning to go to the Safe Trick or Treat night at PSU Altoona last night (which involved entirely too much standing in line), and we were also planning to walk around the neighborhood this evening with some friends.  But I was curious to see if anything else was happening--maybe a haunted house or something local that could be fun, even just for my wife and me tomorrow night perhaps.  But as I was surfing through a few dozen tweets, I ran across this nice little gem:

This person is apparently young herself, a senior in high school from her bio, and so perhaps I can blame her crude remark on immaturity.  That doesn’t do much to lessen the sting of her comment though.  You know, when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for Trick or Treat.  I loved the idea that I could just walk around and get free candy.  In hindsight I probably should have laid off of eating so much of it, but it was a feel-good time of the year.  And aside from one insensitive jerk who wouldn’t give me and my group of friends candy because we were too old (I think I was 12 at the time), I can’t ever remember any bad experiences from Trick or Treat night.

But wow, Keelie, you must really hate your job to be posting something like this.  It didn't take much searching of your profile to discover that you work at Orange Julius at the Logan Valley Mall, which I'd pretty much already guessed because the LVM was the only place handing out candy this evening, trying to promote a safe environment for children to enjoy some fun without wandering through traffic.  But honestly, Keelie, if I had taken my son to the mall tonight and saw you with your candy, I’d have gone straight to your supervisor with a print-out of your tweet.  Because you REALLY don’t deserve that job, even if it is just making orange smoothies.  YOU are ungrateful.

I don’t think that all people are ungrateful.  I do think it’s a growing trend though.  If you are unhappy about something in life, it’s easy to think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.  People are always complaining about their jobs or friends or family or injustices or politics (and I’m one of them!).  I think we all have to just take a step back from time to time and realize that our lives could be so much worse.  We could be broke, or homeless, or targeted for death because of our race or religious views.

While we are thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, we need to realize that a person is standing on the opposite side of OUR yard looking at our grass, and it’s very green compared to the dirt patch they live on.  You know, because THAT’S where the “dirtballs” live.  Right, Keelie?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Quick Post on the Last Debate and Upcoming Election

That debate last night was rather boring.  I felt like Romney was just trying to find something to pick at with Obama’s foreign policy, but the two seemed to be more in agreement on most things than not.  Obama took jabs at Romney for some comments he made about who the biggest threat to American security was (Russia and NOT al-Qaeda), and Romney criticized Obama for not putting in crippling sanctions against Iran sooner, but other than that it was rather ho-hum.  Of course, I went to bed at 10, so maybe I missed something in the last half hour or whatever.  If I did, shame on me!

But I came away from it thinking that Obama is a better leader for our country than Romney.  Yeah, people think he hasn’t done enough in his 3.75 years in office, but I really have to disagree.  And here’s why: on 9/11/2001 the World Trade Center Twin Towers were destroyed.  I was in Manhattan a few weeks ago, and the Freedom Tower is a beautiful piece of architecture, but it is still being built—eleven years after the worst tragedy in our nation’s history.

When Obama took office our economy was on the path to becoming the worst economy in our nation’s history.  We were inches away from slipping into a depression.  We were fighting two wars, people were losing their homes in droves, unemployment was sky-rocketing, auto manufacturers were ready to close their doors and put hundreds of thousands out of work.  The economy that Bill Clinton had built had been destroyed in the eight years that George W. Bush was in office.

I think people give George W. too much flak.  Ok, maybe he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box, but he had a lot on his plate.  Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t have gotten into a war in Iraq, but it was bound to happen sooner or later—just like some sort of conflict in Syria and Iran will happen sooner or later as well.  And with 9/11 and Katrina, George W.’s presidency was one heck of a wild ride.  It’s like the country had one gushing wound after another, and all he had to work with was band-aids and a little iodine.

I don’t think anyone realized the repercussions that all the trauma and turmoil of the 2000’s had on our country.  And we really do live in the moment.  Quick, think back—who won the World Series in 2009?  The Yankees did.  Who won Season Nine of American Idol?   Lee DeWyze.  Do you even remember watching any of those?  Could you even tell me who the runner-ups were or any highlights from those two contests?  Probably not, because we tend to forget things so easily—things that happened just two or three years ago.

Obama has had 3.75 years to rebuild our economy from the brink of destruction.  In the grand scheme of things, that's NOT a lot of time.  And the people that complain that Obama hasn’t done enough for the country are the same people who switch lanes on the freeway over and over, hoping that one lane will move faster than the other.  I watch those people and get so irritated.  Look, you impatient morons, don’t you realize that people JUST LIKE YOU are doing the same thing in front of all of us, causing us all to be backed up?  Or worse yet, the ones that drive up the shoulder or past all the merging traffic to cut in line way up at the front.  Yeah, what’d you save, like two minutes?  Patience is a virtue, people.

And that’s what I think about Obama.  I think that if he gets another four years to work with, when his presidency is in the history books, people will look back and see that he really did do a wonderful thing for a country that was slumping on so many levels.  And I'm afraid that if he doesn't get that four more years, Romney may take us backwards again.  And I'm just not comfortable with that.

Friday, October 19, 2012

You're Probably Not as Clever as You Think!

Let’s face it, the world is full of nearly 7 billion people.  That’s a lot of anything, but that’s particularly a lot of human beings.  The average IQ is like, what, 90 or 95, maybe 100, and so unless you are Kim Ung-yong with a recorded IQ of 210, you probably aren’t the smartest person in the world.

But hey, I’m not trying to burst your bubble.  So what if you aren’t the smartest person?  Does intelligence really even matter all that much?  Not really, in the grand scheme of life.  Especially if you are a fan of reality TV, like me, because I swear some of those dumb shows make you LESS intelligent.  But there is one important area where intelligence matters: when you are trying to play games or fool someone, especially when it comes to your employer.

I mention this because I’ve been informed of or have noticed a few prominent incidents lately where people have been faking illnesses to get out of work.  Sure, this happens all the time, no shocker there, but what’s particularly amusing about these incidents is that these people are going to great lengths to fool others into thinking they are actually sick when they really aren’t.

In my first case, the person was overheard two days ago saying how she woke up with the worst sore throat in the world.  Nobody gives this lady sympathy, because she is always calling off sick, and she has exhausted all of her Paid Time Off for the year already, so the comment was pretty much ignored.  Then, sure enough yesterday morning, she called off sick.  No surprise there.  And no surprise in the fact that when she came in the door of the office this morning, she was coughing like a stray cat with a two pound hairball stuck in her throat.

It’s hard to act sick.  I used to do this at home when I was a kid, particularly on Sunday mornings when I didn't want to go to Sunday School.  I’d tell my mom I was sick and couldn’t go, and then I’d cough and act all lethargic all day.  Or at least try to.  By 10 AM, when my mom hadn’t heard a cough out of me for an hour because I’d simply forgotten about my ruse, she knew better.  And thus was the case with this lady today.  A half hour or even an hour would go by and she wouldn’t cough.  Oh sure, for the first half hour of the workday she did, especially as people walked by her work area.  But then it stopped—until the company’s president or her supervisor would walk past, and then the coughing spells would begin again.  After lunch-time, she went through another coughing spell, which could have been misconstrued as real, but then it was discovered that someone was meeting in the conference room down the hall from her office, and so she HAD to act convincing.  No more coughing for the rest of the day though.  Surprise, surprise.  And she does this EVERY TIME SHE CALLS OFF.

Lady, you’re not as clever as you think.  People who are sick, especially with a cold as you claim to have, cough ALL DAY.  Or are you just sick of people?  Maybe it’s the people that you work with who are making you cough?  I think you are just sick of your job.

My next case has to do with another lady who has had a recent rash of calling off work (or simply not showing up).  She’s going through some personal issues, and that can happen with anyone from time to time, but this lady’s call-offs have been borderline extreme.  Like 10 to 15 times in the past 3 months.  She sounds depressed, comes to work without makeup, thinks everyone is against her, etc.  Yesterday, for the third time in a month, she just didn’t show up for work.  At around 11 AM, she had a doctor’s note sent over saying she was sick, and she claimed she contracted the same illness that a couple of the other staffer’s had.  It was so bad that her supervisor had to call the doctor to confirm.  Then today she didn’t show up, saying she was coughing up phlegm all night and going to the hospital, despite the doctor having cleared her for work the previous day.

The funny thing about this lady is that, while sick, she has actually checked in at places on Facebook on days that she’s missed work.  Not doctor’s offices, but restaurants and apparel and jewelry stores.  Because, after all, we ALL go shopping while we’re sick, as if retail therapy is better than rest and medicine.  Seriously, lady?  Checking in at the mall on Facebook is worse than being covered with red ink after robbing a bank!  You may not be friends with your coworkers on Facebook (although this lady IS, yeah, you read that right), but you don’t think people will be looking at your daily social media activities while absent from work, especially with your track record?  You may think you are pulling a fast one and getting doctors to sign off on your "sickness" (one time my doctor asked me if I needed a note to take time off after severely spraining my ankle—I politely declined, as I could certainly SIT AT MY DESK with a sprained ankle).  But lady, if you’re going to post your whereabouts on Facebook, you might as well just hand in your two-week notice.  Don’t you think that HR has a file on you?  Don’t you think that your absence has an impact on all of your coworkers who have to cover for you?  For all you know, people may be collecting screen shots of your Facebook posts.  Really, if you don’t want to work, just quit.  There are thousands of others out there who would be thrilled to have your job.

Finally I’ve noticed a growing trend of people working from home to make up for lost time due to illnesses.  They’ll remote into their computers in the evening, logging hours and “making up the time.”  It seems to be a growing trend happening at companies all over.  And this just cracks me up more than anything, and here’s why: any good computer guy worth even half of his degree or certification could tell you that your network activity, particularly the sessions and files you have open, are easily viewed and or logged on the server.  It’s not Big Brother (at least not yet), because these are simple tools that allow network admins to troubleshoot issues and create user rights and access permissions and things.  But my point is that when you call off sick and are trying to make up time, or even if you are just trying to get in “extra hours” to make yourself seem busy to your supervisor, it’s probably a smart idea to actually WORK.  Merely signing in won’t do it, especially if you sign in and leave your computer for an hour while you are watching Grey’s Anatomy.  I admire the fact that you are trying to "seem" busy, but you're not as clever as you think.

I dealt with a guy once several years ago that worked from home more often than not.  He had productivity issues even on the days he actually worked in the office, so naturally his supervisor asked me to keep an eye on him.  And sure enough, when he’d “work from home”, he’d sign in at 8:30 AM, then not touch his computer for three and a half hours, sign out to lunch, sign back in an hour later (I could picture him with like a timer on his phone or home computer or whatever to alert him when to sign in and out).  I swear I caught him doing this twice a week, fake working, before he was eventually let go (for a whole slew of reasons, not just that--although shouldn't that be grounds enough?!?).  But really, buddy, you aren’t as clever as you think.

And as a side note from a veteran IT guy’s viewpoint, it’s pretty much impossible to do something on a computer nowadays without having someone else know what you are doing.  Firewalls and web filters capture all of your web surfing.  And if it’s not some IT guy at your office, your Internet Service Provider sure as heck knows what you are doing.  Clearing your history and cookies in your browser isn’t going to cut it.  You know, I once worked for a company where, every other day or so, my coworker and I would come in and find that the history was cleared on the main production computer.  We suspected the owner of using it to look up questionable (objectionable?) web sites, but boy were we ALL surprised when the office manager asked us to come in and work on a Saturday, and as we were punching in on the clock in the break room, we heard all this commotion over in the computer room and rushed over to see who was in there.  When we opened the door, the owner was in there, he was MAD, and he repeatedly asked us why we were there.  We told him the office manager had asked us to come in to do some work (it was the busiest part of the year), but the owner was on the phone arguing with her for a good ten minutes before storming off.  We knew what he was doing in there, as he didn’t have time to clear his adult-website-filled history.  AND we found his wallet and belt on the floor under the desk.  How gross is that?!?  Of course, he NEVER mentioned this encounter to us again.  I don’t blame him—I would have walked away or even quit had he brought it up again.  And I ended up leaving that place only a month or two later.  Ewww.

But anyway, I really think a lot of people give themselves way too much credit for scheming out little ruses and things.  Really, I can’t say this enough: YOU ARE PROBABLY NOT AS CLEVER AS YOU THINK YOU ARE.  And it doesn’t take even a person smarter than you to flesh out your schemes.  Sometimes you make yourself completely obvious in what you do.  So bottom line, don't even try it.  You just make yourself look foolish.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Romney, the Bully - Part 2

I’m a day late with this, I know.  At least I’m not a dollar short, which I say because of a funny incident that happened over the weekend.  We were at a festival in Alexandria, Pennsylvania, and my son was being cranky.  We walked to the one end of the festival, and a guy there was selling yo-yo balloons.  We asked if he wanted one, he repeatedly said no, so we then walked all the way back—and what did he do but, you guessed it, started whining for the yo-yo.  My wife chided, “Adam, you’re a day late and a dollar short.”  And he replied, in his oh so whiny voice, “I’m NOOOT a day late and a dollar short!”  Very funny coming out of the mouth of a 3-year-old.

Anyway, in watching the second debate, I couldn’t help but notice how much my post from the other day regarding Mitt Romney was dead on.  The man is still just as much of a bully as he was before.  I realize Obama and Romney were debating—arguing—and that rough demeanors need to be present in that type of format, but Romney just wouldn’t let certain subjects go.  He continued to talk over the moderator, refusing to shut up at times.  I was watching this on CNN with the continuous plus/minus meter of how the voters were responding to the dialogue, and each time Romney talked over or tried to steer the debate in an already exhausted direction, the meter dipped well into the negative.  I really don’t think he realizes his tone and language can be taken as demeaning at times.

Unless you pay no attention to the Internet (how’d you end up here reading my blog??), you know all about Romney’s “binders full of women” comment.  If you look at the facts, apparently a women’s rights group ran a study and found women in leadership roles lacking, and so they put together some candidates and gave them to the Massachusetts government just when Romney became the governor.  Like they said to him, "Here, do something about this."  He didn't go out and put together "binders full of women" on his own.  And I appreciate the effort he made in making positions available to women, but did he have binders full of candidates from other minorities?  Did he have a binder full of gays and lesbians?  It just seems like such an odd thing to say.

I don’t think Romney doesn’t mean well.  I think he is an OK guy.  I think everyone is an OK guy or lady until they prove me wrong, and even then I'm always giving people second and third and fourth chances, but that's just one of my character flaws, I guess.  But as for Romney, I just don’t think he realizes how critical he sounds.  His former lieutenant governor, a woman (from a binder?) named Kerry Healey, came out in his defense today and explained his eccentric verbiage.  But that's just part of the problem right there--it seems like Romney is always explaining himself after saying something crass (like his 47% comment).  And he did the same thing all through the second debate.  In fact, I think I only noticed him on the offensive against Obama during two incidents—one regarding gas prices and Obama’s decision to cut oil leases on federal land and another at his wording after the attack on the US embassy in Libya.  Both times Romney aggravated me, with the first going after something that has LITTLE effect on the GLOBAL price of gasoline (especially when the US is producing more oil now than ever), and the second implying that Obama was trying to politicize the murder of Americans in Libya.  Obama fought back, and his line of finding Romney’s suggestion “offensive” won me over.  You could tell Obama was ready to go all gangster on Romney, and yet Romney would not let up, even after the moderator flat out said that Romney had it wrong.

Romney had some firepower on his side going into the debate, and he could have easily won it had he gone about it the way he had with the first.  But his aggressive, bullying side seemed to come out, and I think that’s why he lost.  And I think that’s why he’ll lose the election in a couple of weeks.  Nobody likes a bully.  Especially me.

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  If you didn’t read my post from October 10th, go back and check it out here.  No kid needs to be bullied.  It quite literally ruins lives.

I made myself a Stop Bullying t-shirt on  This is NOT a non-profit, and the proceeds do NOT go to bullying prevention, but unfortunately I couldn’t seem to find any bullying prevention awareness sites that sold t-shirts, so I made my own.  If you want one, feel free to buy one here or make your own.  Or if you know of a great site that sells them with the proceeds going toward bullying prevention programs, please let me know!  Let’s put an end to this!

And as for Mitt Romney, I wish him all the luck in his future endeavors.  But as for being a President, I just don’t think his personality and character are what we need in our leader.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

People Who Know Drama Better Than TNT

On behalf of my beautiful wife, Lisa Salaymal-Strohman, I’m writing a post based on an observation she has made in relation to some of her social networking friends.  She has many, so if you are reading this, it’s probably NOT about you.  But if you are the paranoid, everything-is-always-about-me type, maybe you’ll learn something.

So my wife is constantly updating me on the drama she reads in the social media updates.  One case in particular is a little frightening.  The ex-wife of a friend of a family member (isn’t social media great in the way we have “friends” who aren’t really friends) has been in the midst of a broiling dispute with an ex-boyfriend for quite some time.  This guy is a real bozo—a convicted criminal and troublemaker extraordinaire—and they were apparently jawing back and forth and basically letting the whole world view their strife.  It was great entertainment for a little while, but then things got ugly when the guy started getting her very young son involved, posting pictures of him and making not-so-well-disguised threats.  She continued to provoke him, questioning his manhood and detailing his criminal background, and apparently it escalated to the point where he tried to break into her house and was arrested.

This woman is good-looking, I’ll give her that, but she’s a drama queen, sitting on her throne with this air of haughtiness, as if she can do no wrong in anything she does, whether it be her appearance or personality.  Yet she repeatedly prodded this guy, and instead of stopping when her son became involved, she increased her foolishness even more.  A line was crossed, and either she was too caught up in it to not realize, or else she’s just not that bright.  Either way, this girl seems to live on drama.

But it’s not just her.  My sister had a friend who repeatedly dated the “wrong guys.”  She was living with a guy for well over a year, and despite the fact that he threw an air conditioner through a window of their RENTED apartment (of course SHE was the only one on the lease), she stayed with him.  Then he ended up in jail for one crime or another, and she finally dumped him—and moved on to a guy with similar issues.

I know a lady who is like this in her workplace.  She is constantly gossiping, pushing people’s buttons, asking inappropriate questions, writing long and ranting emails.  She has a little group of women that she shares her inappropriateness with, and they just go along with it and laugh and enable her.  This lady has family issues, financial issues, you name it (and everyone knows because she details every second of her existence), and yet she’s completely clueless as to how she’s perceived by her superiors.  She’s always questioning why she didn’t get a bigger raise or bonus, and she can’t fathom that it has anything to do with her personality.

Funny, I just re-read that last paragraph, and it actually describes a number of people I know either directly or indirectly.

And back to my wife.  She sees this phenomenon called “perpetrating the fraud” happening all over social media sites.  People will put up posts saying they are going to “take a stand” or “confront” so and so or such and such, but it never seems to happen.  Even more to the point, people will try to instigate fights with close friends or coworkers, then see them in person the next day and act as if nothing happened.  I remember doing this decades ago with my cousin using the online service Prodigy (yeah, before the Internet).  We got into a little spat over an online game we were playing, and it progressed into sending each other 2-4 page messages calling each other names and pointing out each other’s flaws.  Then we’d see each other in school the next day and act like nothing happened.  But in my defense, we were like 12 years old.

I know we all need a little action in our lives, but, at least for me, that’s what movies and television and books are for.  That’s why reality television is so popular.  People watch Jersey Shore because it’s funny, yeah, but the incessant fighting is what draws people in.  It’s the same with soap operas.  People just LOVE drama.

But for those people that welcome it—no, NEED it—in their personal lives, I just don’t get it.  Does airing your grievances on social media for the entire world to see satisfy some deep urge inside of you?  Does dating the wrong type of person make you feel like you’ve accomplished something?  Does putting your personal and professional life in danger give you a thrill?  It all just seems so silly to me.

Of course, I’m probably not the best one to judge.  The highlight of my week happened earlier today when I had three cavities filled.  I’m in bed every night at 9:30 PM.  I sold my motorcycle a month before my son was born because I felt riding it was unsafe (not because I was reckless on it, but because other drivers don’t pay attention to motorcycles—a fact I learned the hard way when twice I had someone pull out right in front of me, both times causing me to brake hard and maneuver quickly into another lane).  But you get my point.

Maybe there’d be a lot less crime if we weren’t so hell-bent on experiencing drama in our lives.  My wife and I were watching The First 48 the other night, and there were two rival gangs in Miami—kids in their teens—who lived two blocks away from each other.  They were all friends when they were young, but as they grew into middle school, they began having a beef with each other over something as silly as reputation.  You know, my block is better than yours.  Then one of them was shot and killed, and the young man who pulled the trigger put together a rap song and uploaded it to YouTube, basically bragging about killing the other kid.  And then one of the victim’s cohorts shot and killed the first killer’s uncle.  Mayhem in the streets, all because of reputation built off the need for drama.

I’m not a pessimist.  People reading my blog would probably argue that point, but I really don’t enjoy going around observing and pointing out what’s wrong with society.  I relish in what is right though, and I just wish everyone could do the same.  It’s one thing to observe the negative.  It’s something else entirely to live it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mitt Romney, the Bully

In light of my bullying post from yesterday, this is why I don’t like Mitt Romney.  The guy could be a humanitarian, philanthropist, work in homeless shelters or orphanages, walk little old ladies across the street, whatever, but when I read this story a few months ago:, I was instantly turned off.  I especially don’t like his response, specifically the part where he says, “You know, I don’t remember that particular incident [laughs].”

I’m sure you are fibbing about that, Mitt, just trying to CYOA for political reasons, and I’m sure you remember it quite well.  Unless, of course, you bullied so many students that they are all a blur to you.  But even if you really don’t remember this particular incident, you know who did?  John Lauber, the person you bullied.  According to his sister, it haunted him his entire life, up until he died of cancer in 2004.  Mitt, you came from a wealthy political family, and you used your influence and power to bully—no, torture—another student.  And you laugh about the incident now, saying you don’t recall it?  Come on, man.

If you, the reader, didn’t read my post from yesterday, I suggest you do.  Perhaps then you’ll understand why I would NEVER vote for Mitt Romney.  I may or may not agree with him politically, but any person who bullies another person and laughs it off like it was nothing should NOT be a leader, ESPECIALLY the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Bullying Pandemic - Stop It Now!

Twice in the past two days I’ve noticed cases of bullying in the workplace.  In one instance, a couple of people were being called out for wearing too much perfume and/or cologne.  In another, a person was being called out in the form of a joke for having an untidy work environment.  The first case was shared only between a few people, but the second was shared across the entire organization through an email.  Both were intended to be amusing.  The targets of their comments were not amused.

According to Wikipedia, "bullying may be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally.  Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person."

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness month.  Most people think that bullying is something that only happens with children.  And really, children are the ones who are most vulnerable and really should be the primary focus of bullying prevention initiatives.  But I think most people who are bullies are that way their entire lives.  And the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) website agrees, citing, “children who are bullies may continue to be bullies as adults, and are prone to becoming child and spouse abusers.”  Bullies will leave high school, move on into college or the job market, and yet they’ll never “grow up” or stop with that attitude.  Their only desire is to take criticism or focus off of their own perceived inequalities and attempt to point out the flaws of others, hoping that their social circle will agree and give them that tiny amount of satisfaction.  And that microscopic amount of power they then hold over their targets is undeniably exquisite to them, like a juicy steak or a cold beer after a hard day's work.  They thrive on it.  Some even need it like an addiction.

I, like umpteen million kids in the world, was a victim of bullying in junior high school.  I was short, kinda pudgy, and I had a very small group of close friends who could be labeled (shout-out to my post from yesterday) as “nerds.”  In one very traumatizing incident, I was sitting at a table outside a restaurant at an amusement park with a neighbor and some of his friends, all of whom were older than me, and my neighbor accidentally spilled his Pepsi all over the table.  He then (intentionally) pushed that spilled Pepsi in my direction, dumping a huge portion of it onto my shorts.  I was furious, but I had no idea that the torture was only just beginning.  A few minutes later, as we met up with more of HIS friends, he declared that I had urinated on myself.  They began calling me "Pee Pee" because of this--all except two of them (thank you Apollo and Rich), but for YEARS afterwards I was called “Pee Pee” by my neighbor and all of his other friends.  In the hallways at school.  In public.  A few prank calls even.  It was absolutely awful.

One particular kid, Brian, was the worst of the group.  This individual must have had horrible self-confidence, because he bullied anyone and everyone he could.  He called me this derogatory name for years—all the way through high school despite the fact that I had grown 5 inches taller and packed on 50 lbs of muscle between 7th and 11th grade.  I guess he thought I was a coward or something and wouldn't stand up for myself.  He was a complete and total jerk.

Now let’s jump ahead a few years.  Shortly after I turned 21, I began to frequent a bar called Irwin’s that a friend’s dad owned.  I had a new group of friends who I’d met while in college, and their network of friends went well into the hundreds.  On one particular raucous evening, I was there with a bunch of my closer friends have a jolly old time, and I saw this Brian sitting at a table with a couple of dopey-looking girls.  He was hitting on them extensively, they looked pathetically amused by his attempts, and I decided that I’d try to be a stand-up guy and bury the hatchet with him.  I approached him, he turned to me, and I said, “Hey, Brian, how’s it going?”  His response was, “Hey, PEE PEE!” as he laughed and looked over at the girls, hoping they'd laugh with him.  They didn't.

I’ll never forget that night.  It was like a Western saloon where the piano player stops playing and everyone freezes, knowing excrement is about to hit the fan.  Irwin’s was MY hangout, and here he was disrespecting me in the childish ways he was known for.  And it was quite comical now that I reminisce.  I immediately had four HUGE friends behind me waiting to drag him out into the parking lot to beat the pulp out of him, but I just looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Brian, don’t you EVER call me that again.”  And then I just stood there, staring at him with the Devil in my eyes.  Waiting for his response.  Waiting...

He was laughing at first, of course, but the girls with him immediately got up and fled (they were apparently smarter than I’d credited initially), and yet it took Brian several moment to realize the predicament he was in.  I literally had to hold back one of my friends from punching him in the face—this particular friend was better-known throughout town as a person who liked punching other people in the face--and Brian knew him well enough to know that fact.  Brian panicked, and he started almost crying, repeatedly saying, “I’m sorry man.  Are we cool?  Are we cool?”  I just stared at him for a good ten or fifteen seconds, feeling the adrenaline pump through my veins as I debated back and forth with myself as to how I should handle this situation.  Finally I just shook my head and walked away.

I really am not sure what happened to him later on that night.  I know he left, but I seem to recall a couple of my friends jawing at him out in the parking lot, and I wouldn't have been surprised if one of them got right up in his face and gave him a piece of mind.

And then I ran into Brian in State College, PA several months later, and at this point I was going through my “body mod” faze and had several facial piercings and my tattoos on full display.  He was with a couple of friends and was getting on the parking garage elevator to ride up to his car, and I got on and stood only a few feet from him, towering over him, saying nothing.  The couple he was with got off on the second floor, and they must have known something was wrong with him because the girl asked if he was OK.  He just nodded and said nothing, the doors closed, and we both rode to the third floor in complete silence.  At one point I looked over at him briefly, chuckled to myself, but said nothing.  As soon as the elevator doors opened, he was gone.  If he had a tail, it would have been tucked between his legs.

I still see him from time to time.  He pops up on some of my social media friend's networks.  I saw him a couple of times at a local gym, although I don't think he noticed me there.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive him for the years of torment he put me through, and I doubt he realizes how lucky he is in that I'm not a violent person.  It's kinda funny, because a recent, newer acquaintance of mine knows him well and said that he ALWAYS would try to pick fights with people at bars, and he'd always rely on his friends to bail him out if he ever got into trouble.  I guess he still hasn't grown up.  Very pathetic, Brian J.  Very pathetic.

Most kids these days don’t have the advantages I had.  I was smart—smarter than every single one of the kids who bullied me.  I was tall.  I lifted weights regularly.  I learned three forms of martial arts.  I developed a strong social network to support me.  Most kids these days don’t have that.  In fact, most kids have to put up with it for years on their own with no way of standing up or fighting back.  Some are lucky and can overcome the challenges of bullying, like Whitney Kropp of West Branch, Michigan, who was elected to the homecoming court as a prank (and not a very good one—reminds me of that scene from The Other Guys where Mark Wahlberg’s character learned to “dance sarcastically” to make fun of the artsy kids).  Anyway, if you don’t know about Whitney's story, you can read all about it here:  Fortunately for her, the bullying situation went public, and the community got involved, but not until she was bullied for years prior.  All because she was different.  But she's apparently doing better, and that's great.  Great for you, Whitney.  My heart bleeds for you.

Bullying is a pandemic.  It’s universal.  I see and hear about it occurring in Vietnam through my in-laws.  Kids all over the world put up with it on a daily basis.  It’s a huge problem that often ends with very real and disastrous results.  Documented evidence suggests that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were bullied.  The same goes for James Holmes.  I’d be willing to bet that a majority of mass murderers were bullied at some point in their lives.  And we cry foul, asking where were these homicidal kids parents.  Not that I am in any way justifying what they did, but nobody asks where the parents were of the kids who bullied them.  There's a cause to every effect.  Maybe if people had treated them with dignity and respect, the horror they created could have been averted.

We, as parents, as adults, need to intervene now.  We need to talk to our kids about bullying.  We need to recognize when we, the grown-ups, are bullying.  Like that office employee who poked fun at his/her coworkers for wearing too much cologne and perfume, we need to recognize that something so trivial as that can create tension, aggravation, stress, etc.  Our kids and grandkids learn from us, and there’s no excuse for someone of any age bullying someone else.  Absolutely none.

Stand up the next time you experience a bully, whether you’re the victim or a bystander or a member of a social circle where one of your friends is bullying someone else.  Don’t let this pandemic continue to destroy lives.

Here’s some great info regarding bullying:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Labels Aren't Just Used For Nutrition!

I have a Zen Calendar on my office desk that I bought at 5 and Below on a whim.  Zen is pretty cool, although much of it is a little too mystical for my liking.  This calendar occasionally has some Taoist words of wisdom as well though, so that makes up for it I guess.

Today’s wisdom was great: 

I love this.  And here’s why.  The world is an awfully complicated place, and yet we are constantly oversimplifying in just about everything we do.  It more commonly happens within our relationships with people, but let me step back and explain this from a very basic standpoint first.  You have a pen on your desk.  Anyone who is reading this is now visualizing a pen.  Does your pen have black or blue or red ink?  Is it a ballpoint pen or a gel pen or something else?  Does it have a rubber grip, or is it a cheap piece of plastic?  There are quite literally thousands of different styles for pens.  Yet they all are explained away with one word?

Now let’s think about people.  Let’s lump all the fat people together, and I can do this because I’m fat. =P  Now let’s use some logic (flawed logic, but logic nonetheless) and say that all fat people are lazy.  Well, we could be correct with this statement, but that's rather unlikely.  I’m probably the last person you could ever call lazy.  I jog two miles a day four times a week.  I try to write 5000 words a day.  I work from 8:30 to 5, which routinely involves solving technical puzzles and riddles that would boggle most people’s minds.  In the evenings I entertain a three-year old.  I may be lazy in journaling what I eat and following dietary guidelines, but does that make me lazy as a person?  And what exactly qualifies a person as being fat, anyway?  I most certainly am fat, obese by doctor’s standards, so I’m not counting myself in this.  But if someone is, say, six feet one inch tall and a hundred and ninety pounds—right on the border of being overweight according to a standard BMI chart, is he/she fat?  I could point you to thousands of athletes who are six foot one inch tall, weigh well over two-hundred pounds, and would never be considered fat.  Fatness, to me, is in the eye of the beholder.  It’s a label.  And it’s not a very nice one.

I’m not going to go on and on about how people bully others with labels here—I’ll save that for another time—but you get the picture.  Labels are so misleading.  Except maybe when it comes to relationships—if a person says he/she doesn’t want to label a relationship with terms like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or whatever, chances are that person is looking to dump you as soon as someone with nicer, ahem, labels comes along.  Labels mean EVERYTHING in relationships.  Am I right?

But labels are pervasive in our world.  Try reading a technical journal some time, especially one relating to a Microsoft product.  You’ll read about things such as Active Directory, Hyper-V, group policies, DNS, NAT, blah blah blah.  I’m really quite shocked to see immigrants who learn English as a second language (ESL) then jump into the IT field and become successful.  As if English isn’t hard enough to learn alone, they then have to master technical jargon.  Add in a programming language, which can be just as mystifying, and it’s just all that more impressive.  No wonder so many people complain about immigrants taking all of our jobs.  Far too many of us have too much difficulty mastering English alone, and we were even born here!

Of course, we live in a now, now, now and a me, me, me society, where most people want things done yesterday and often only worry about their own concerns.  When speaking to people like this, you can’t exactly use a hundred different words to describe something simple like a pen.  But you can think with an OPEN MIND.  When the reverse happens—when they talk to you about a pen, or a fat and lazy person—you can understand that their labels are simply that.  Labels.  Utterly inefficient words used to describe something that is clearly a thousand-fold more complex.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Wrong Way to Manage

I’m fired up.  I’ve been seeing this problem lately of other people’s inability to stand in someone else’s shoes.  Far too many people in this world can’t seem to recognize that others may have a differing point of view that may be just as valid as theirs.  More importantly, people don’t ever want to hear that they may be incorrect in their assumptions.

Today I was alerted to a situation whereby someone in a position of power had an issue with an underling.  The underling, apparently, had not done what he/she had been asked to do.  Rather than directly approaching the underling and asking why, this person performed the task his/herself, then admitted this to me, saying, “I want to see how long it takes for un-named person to complete the task.”

I’m sorry, but that’s not a good way to foster the potential in others.  It’s catty, deceitful, and wrong.  I’m not at all surprised by this situation today, as this person is a habitual micromanager and loves to illegitimize the work of others.  This person also repeatedly shirks ethics and moral obligations, but that’s a whole other story that I won’t get into now.

Why are people like this?  Why can’t people just approach a situation as reasonable adults, discuss the reasoning behind their conflict, and come to some sort of understanding or agreement?

I’m not saying I’m perfect.  My wife told me yesterday that we no longer had Hershey’s Syrup to make chocolate milk for my son.  I still checked our pantry anyway.  She derided me for this, but I could have sworn I saw some in there the day before.  What I saw was barbeque sauce.  Oops!

But I’ll at least admit my mistake.  I won’t play games, especially if I hold a position of power.  Games, after all, are for grade school children.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

After Debate One, Who Do I Vote For?

Watching the debate last night, I was struggling with the two positions offered by each candidate on taxes.  On one side you have Romney, who doesn’t want to raise taxes on the richest Americans and wealthiest corporations because he’s afraid that if we do, they will just cut jobs.  Then you have Obama, who wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest to cut down on the national debt.  Both sides make logical points.  But here’s what I don’t get:

My family pays 25% of our income to federal taxes.  Mitt Romney pays only 13%.  Mitt Romney made 250 times what my family made last year.  If he had paid what we pay, 25% rather than 13%, that’s $2.4 million going back to the federal government to pay down the national debt.  I’m pretty good at math, but even if I weren’t, I could still see a problem here.  AND, Mitt Romney’s former company is the poster child for shipping jobs overseas.  So despite all that he said in last night’s debate, I have a hard time believing his tax plans will work for people like me and my family.

And at one point I heard him say he’d dig through the government and cut tons of programs, including subsidies for PBS (even though he “likes Big Bird").  He’d cut anything that required us to borrow more money from China.  So what happens to all of those government jobs?  I agree that government spending is too high, but slashing programs means putting government employees out of work, and that means higher unemployment.  Mr. Romney, you may take that money you’ve saved to pay off a portion of our national debt, but now you’re looking at, what, 10% unemployment?  Then what?

But Obama, man.  What are YOU doing?  Mitt Romney hit you hard when he pointed out that the past four years haven’t really been all that great for people like me and my family.  I understand you had a lot on your plate when you took office—probably more than any other president in the history of our nation—but your rebuttal fell flat.  I really want to vote for you, because again I really don’t trust Mitt Romney, but you have to show me something.  Yeah, we have better healthcare now because of you—and going off on a slight tangent, I loved how Romney pointed out that Obama was referencing bipartisan studies that proved Romney’s plans were wrong and right, saying five studies will show it one way and five others will show it another, and then HE attacked Obamacare by referencing studies himself.  Uh, did you not just say independent, bipartisan studies can’t be fully trusted?  But regardless, fixing healthcare was important, but not as important as getting Americans back to work.  And I know Republicans don’t want to work with you—again I loved (sarcastically) how Romney promoted his state healthcare plan as being bipartisan but then shot down Obamacare for being only supported by Democrats, when Republicans aren’t willing to even pass gas, let alone laws, in favor of Democrats (yes I just threw in a fart joke—sorry!)  But despite all of that, Obama, you’ve got to do more to convince America that your plans are better.

Look, I know it takes time to get stuff done.  I have a wall in my house that’s needed patched and painted for over three years now.  It looks ugly, and it devalues my house, but I’ll get to it eventually.  But, hey, that bare drywall isn’t keeping me from putting food on the table.

I don’t like Romney.  I don’t trust him.  I think he’s lived a privileged life and has no idea what Middle Class America needs.  I do like Obama, but his performance last night wasn’t great.  I won’t be voting for Romney, that’s pretty much certain.  But unless Obama can explain what he’s done so far and lays out a timeline for his plans to get the American economy back on track, I may just be a very reluctant voter come November.

And one last comment I have to make…why is it that so many Caucasian males are Republicans?  Just watching CNN’s coverage of the debate last night with the meter for male and female opinions while each politician spoke, males predominantly favored Romney and females favored Obama.  In looking at polls, Obama has the female, black, Hispanic, gay/lesbian votes, and Romney has white men.  In reading message boards and my social media sites, a majority of white guys out there think that Obama is ramming government down their throats, and they want their freedom and believe he is taking it away from them.  Seriously?  Why?  Because you are required to have health insurance now so that you can’t be a deadbeat and raise healthcare costs for others when you need to go have your gallbladder removed and can't pay for it?  Honestly, what other freedoms has he taken away?  Unless you are filthy rich—and considering that our economy isn’t doing all that well, there aren’t that many of you—his plans are better aimed at putting more money in your pocket.  And if you lost your job, he stretched out unemployment benefits to give you a hand.  I just don’t quite get where this animosity toward him comes from.

Here’s a fun fact.  Caucasians make up 74.8% of the U.S. population as of the 2010 census.  Males make up 49%.  That means that white males, on average, make up 36% of the US.  There are 538 members of Congress.  Of them, 85% are white, and 83% are male.  That means, on average, 70% of the members of Congress are white males.  That means that, proportionally, there are twice as many white males leading our country as there are people who live within its borders.  Does anyone else see the problem here?  Our government is elected BY US, the People, and yet we have filled it with way too many people from the same gender and race.  I’m sorry, but white people, myself included, do not know what it’s like to live as an African American or an Asian American.  I learn this just about every weekend I spend in Harrisburg with my Vietnamese in-laws.  And men, by far, have no idea what it’s like to live as a woman.  My wife and mother were talking about child birth the other day, and while I was only half paying attention (I’ll admit I’m a WHITE MALE), I heard my mother saying that when she was in labor with one of her children, the doctor said to her, “Stop complaining, the pain isn’t THAT bad.”  You know, because men give birth all the time, right?

Here’s another fun fact.  Most drug and alcohol counselors are former addicts themselves.  Why?  Because they’ve been there.  They can relate.  People go to support groups for help from others who have been in the same situation.

So why is it that we don’t have more diversity in Congress?  The 15th Amendment gave blacks the right to vote in 1870.  The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920.  Yet here we are, nearly 100 years later, and we still, overwhelmingly, have more men vote than women and more whites vote than any other race.  I suppose one could argue that women have less interest in politics than men, and that more immigrants nowadays are non-whites, meaning that there are far fewer Asian or Hispanic citizens.  But I don’t buy that.  When you have people like Todd Akin—who seemingly has no clue how the female body works and publicly aired his ignorance to the entire nation—still in a tight race against Claire McCaskill, A WOMAN, for Missouri’s senate seat, THAT’S A HUGE FREAKING PROBLEM!

Bottom line: white men don’t have all the answers, people.  If we did, dance floors across the nation would look absolutely ridiculous, fashion would be non-existent, fantasy football draft day would be a national holiday, and going to the doctor once every five years would be the norm.  I don’t think that’s the kind of country we want to live in.  Am I wrong?

Monday, October 1, 2012

What Happened to You, New York?

With the exceptions of Boston and Baltimore, I’ve made numerous trips to some of the major cities along the east coast over the years.  It comes with the territory of having Vietnamese immigrants for in-laws.  They are always flying back and forth to Vietnam, going back to see their parents and siblings and other family.  And plane tickets are far cheaper when leaving from international airports like JFK and PHL, and somehow I always seem to get suckered into dropping them off or picking them up.  Well, not really suckered, but I have to complain a little, right?

This weekend was no different, and we made the 2.5 hour trip to Harrisburg and then the 3 hour trip to JFK to wish my brother-in-law farewell as he and his wife and daughter will be visiting for about a month or so.  We arrived in Manhattan at around 9 AM, ate dim sum at Grand Harmony in Chinatown, then met up with my in-laws at Pho Bang and had some goi cuon.  Yum yum!  From there it was off to JFK.

We parked behind my mother-in-law’s car to help unload, and I have to say that the TSA peons were complete a-holes Saturday morning.  Pardon my French…er, English.  My brother-in-law, who had polio when he was younger and is slightly hobbled, was struggling with their bags, and my wife’s parents aren’t very spry.  My brother-in-law’s wife was holding their 16 month old, and so it only made sense that I stopped there to help.  Yet those TSA nincompoops would not leave us alone, repeatedly telling us to move.  It didn’t matter that we were unloading from both cars either.  And it wasn’t even busy.  I understand that these guys have a job to do, but we were literally parked there for less than 3 minutes, and at least 3 times the one elderly, grumpy guy came past and told us to move.  I don’t think he quite realized that I was with them (because why would a big white guy be with a bunch of little Asian people outside of the Korean Airways terminal), but that didn’t matter.  Three minutes, buddy.  And we were literally parked there to unload, exactly as the sign stated.

We then drove around and parked and went inside to see my brother-in-law off, and luckily none of the TSA staff harassed us while in the terminal.  When we left, we took the Verrazano Bridge from Brooklyn to Staten Island and then made our way back through Jersey and into PA.  My wife’s parents, though, decided to stop back in Chinatown to do a little shopping.  We would have joined them, but we were tired after having gotten up at 5 AM for this little trip, and we’d already spent half of the morning there waiting for them to meet us.

One amusing thing to note—my son had fallen asleep just before entering the Holland Tunnel, and we woke him up in Chinatown, where he was extremely confused.  He’s accustomed to being around people who don’t speak English, and yet Chinatown is just so wildly different from anything he’s ever experienced.  I had him up on my shoulders as we walked past the fishmongers and little shops.  Considering I stand an entire head above most of the people  on the streets there, he had prime view of the wonders of Chinatown.  I must have heard him ask me, “Daddy, what’s that?” about a hundred times in the half hour or so we were walking around.  I can’t wait until WE make that trip to Vietnam!

Anyway, when my in-laws stopped in Chinatown on the way back through, my mother-in-law apparently jumped out of the car, intending to then have my father-in-law find a place to park (or just drive around the block over and over) while she shopped.  My father-in-law has lived and worked in NYC since he came to the US when he was 17, and so he is by no means a tourist.  However, as my mother-in-law got out, a parking cop spotting them and the PA license plate of their car, ran over, and issued him a ticket for “standing” in a “No Standing” zone.  He explained that he was just dropping his wife off, didn’t even have the car in Park, and was driving off, and yet the guy didn’t care.  He even mentioned something about them being from Pennsylvania.  And the ticket was $115.  Can you believe that?!?

That's the first time I've been to NYC and have witnessed jerks with badges.  I'm sure it happens a hundred times an hour, but I've never actually seen it.  And I mean, we went to Philly one time for my brother-in-law to resolve an issue with his green card, and after getting all the way down there (this was maybe a year or two after September 11, 2001), we discovered that they had implemented a policy where everyone needed an appointment—no walk-ins.  The guard at the door, Chazz, was a complete jerk to us, and after yelling at us that we should have checked it online (they’d just done this a year or so before WITHOUT needing an appointment), I asked for his name.  He kept asking “Why?  Why?” and when I began to write down the info on his badge, he got right up in my face until I asked for the name of his supervisor.  I called a little later and issued a complaint, and of course I was told they’d “speak with him” and basically blew me off, but that’s the kind of behavior I expect out of Philly.  My brother went to UPenn, I’ve been there enough, and there’s a reason they call it the “City of Brotherly Love.”  People are rude there.  It’s normal and expected.

But not New York.  In all the times I’ve been there in the past decade, I’ve never experienced traffic cops and TSA people acting like that.  Again, perhaps we were targeted for our PA plates, and if that was indeed the case, that’s really not cool.  Shame on you New York!

One more side note about our crazy weekend:

Yesterday was another brother-in-law's (my wife has 4 brothers) wife's bridal shower, and afterwards we met my wife at my brother-in-law's new house in Mechanicsburg.  Nice little row house with three bedrooms, a beautiful kitchen, two and a half baths, a garage, and an office.  We then left from there, got on the turnpike, and about halfway home we stopped at the Blue Mountain rest stop where I took my son in to use the restroom.  As we were sitting in the car waiting for my wife to finish up a call with Sirius XM, she looked up and said, "Look, James Franco!"  I turned, expecting to see the famous Spider-man actor, and instead I saw this hulking man with a beard--Franco Harris.  Still pretty cool to see him, but we laughed as I pointed out the folly of her observation.  Coincidentally, after taking my son in to pee, we were washing our hands right next to him, and when none of the towel dispensers worked and I told my 3-year-old to dry his hands on his pants, Franco Harris looked over at us, shook his head, and smiled.  I did NOT tell him I'm a big fan, but I think he knew by how often I kept looking at him.