Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Won the Powerball!!!!

I won the Powerball!!!  Not the $550 million jackpot, but I am $4 richer this morning.  Yay!

Seriously though, I know why I bought Powerball tickets.  It was probably 20% peer pressure, 30% dreaming, 30% for thrills, and the remaining 20% because I can’t add.  Did I have my hopes up?  No.  I’ve played the lottery and gambled enough times to know better.  But despite all the websites and articles talking about better chances of other things occurring, like being drafted in the NBA or becoming the President of the USA, I always figure that someone has to win it.  And two lucky people, one in Arizona and the other in Missouri, did.

Lucky?  Yeah, I guess.  As much talk as there was about the infinitesimal odds of winning, equally the idea of winning the lottery being a curse was discussed.  Apparently all of these past lottery winners were interviewed, and none of them were any happier now than they were prior to winning.  Most were substantially less happy.  Because, as the adage reminds us, money doesn’t buy happiness.

As I've stated in previous posts, I’m not a material possessions kind of guy.  I never go out and buy something because it’s new or fancy or cool.  OK, maybe cool, especially if they are toys for my kid, but that’s about it.  Both of my vehicles were pre-owned upon purchase.  We don’t have fancy furniture or tons of valuable jewelry.  My house is on the smaller side of most residential dwellings.  And I’m fine with that.  Someday I’ll need newer stuff.  I’ll almost definitely need a bigger house.  And when those times come, I’ll shop around and make some purchases.  But until then, I’m happy with what I have.

In my office at work I have a Zen calendar with a thoughtful proverb for each day of the year, and I’ve taped some of the more meaningful ones to my monitors.  These are just two of them:

The one on the left is rather obvious.  And my home is a prime example.  If someone broke in while I was away on vacation, they’d be very disappointed.  Even if they brought a U-Haul, I doubt they’d have much more than a few thousand dollars worth of stuff.    Definitely not worth the time and effort and risk of setting off my deadly booby traps.

As for the proverb on the right, I think of the Sphero toy I bought for myself a year or so ago.  I was so excited to get this thing—basically a ball that you can remotely control from your phone or tablet.  The video demos of it seemed so neat, and I pictured myself having days or weeks or months of fun with this thing.  And then, after spending the $130 for it, I played with it for maybe an hour.  Then a few days later I turned it on and played with it for fifteen minutes.  I chased my son around the house with it a couple of times.  It was neat, but not as thrilling as I expected.  And then, well, I think it has sat on my dresser for the past eight months.  It may be fun to play with if you had cats.  A dog would probably eat it though.  Other than that, eh.  Nothing special.

Sometimes expensive things are worth the money.  For a year or so, we had a very crappy Dodge Caliber.  The transmission in it was like a wind-up toy, and it was cramped and cheap inside.  We purchased it because we wanted a four-door AWD vehicle for when my son was born, and we regretted it soon after.  Yes, it got us around in the snow, but the gas mileage was horrible.  So after putting up with it for about a year, we bought a GMC Acadia.  Substantially more expensive, yes, but we immediately knew we had made a smart decision.  Aside from the superfluous XM radio (albeit great for listening to Penguins, Penn State, and Steelers games while travelling back and forth from Harrisburg), we loved some of the other features of this car.  Heating and A/C controls in the back to keep the little guy warm (and Daddy cool).  A rearview backup camera and alert system—which let me tell you is totally worth it, because backing my truck up is a P-IN-THE-A now that I’ve been spoiled by this thing in the Acadia.  And the automatic rear lift gate is great when carrying a wheelchair with both hands.  So yeah, spending a little money is sometimes worth it.

But most times, I think it’s probably not.  At the park where I go running during my lunch hour, I often see this lady there walking her toy poodle.  She drives a white BMW 740Li, and she walks around with her nose in the air wearing these gaudy track suits.  Her ankle-biter also wears a track suit and holds its nose in the air as well.  She has this attitude about her—like she expects park traffic and other walkers/joggers to move out of HER way when she walks, and she doesn’t even clean up after her animal (and I’ve almost stepped in it several times).  But her silly $70,000 car is what causes me to shake my head, especially as she bounces it over the speed bumps and pot holes in the park.  I’ve ridden in a few BMWs, Mercedes, a Dodge Viper, and even a Bentley once.  Nice cars, but so impractical and not worth it.  I suppose if you are into cars, owning one of them would be fine—I’m thinking people who are into racing and restoring classic cars and that sort of thing.  I’m personally not high on collecting or working on cars, but everyone has to have a hobby.  But I doubt this lady at the park collects cars, and that BMW she drives is probably nothing more than a status symbol.  Look at me, I’m rich.  Hey lady, you’re not impressing me one bit with your vehicle.

So if I’m so against material possessions, why on earth did I play the lottery?  Well, if I won, I probably would go on a mini spending spree.  I mean, what else would I do with all that money?  I’d probably upgrade my housing situation to accommodate our new little bundle of joy arriving in a few weeks.  Something slightly larger with a rec room (man cave), another bedroom or two over what we have now, and definitely two or three more bathrooms--a house can never have enough bathrooms.  I repeat, a house can never have enough bathrooms.  But I’d also want a big yard with some woods and a cleared area well away from the road that we could blacktop for basketball, hockey, skateboarding, or whatever.  And after our housing upgrade, I’d pay off all of our debts (crazy that I’m 35 and still haven’t quite fully paid off my college loans--guess that's what I get for transferring schools and switching majors).  Other than that, I may buy a new wardrobe, and I’d definitely buy my wife twenty or so pairs of new shoes and some purses/handbags/clutches to match because she likes that kid of stuff.  Some people collect cars.  My wife collects shoes and purses.  To each their own!  And lastly I’d probably get myself on the season ticket list for the Steelers and Penguins (if the NHL ever comes back).  Seeing my favorite teams play live substantially more often than a blue moon would bring a smile to my scruffy face.

But then I’d go back to school.  I’d delve into law and/or medicine.  I’d definitely…finally…get my MBA.  I could easily see myself spending a million bucks on college courses.  I’m curious like that, I guess—always wanting to know how things work or what this or that means.  You know, like the difference between an affiant and a deponent?  Or how muon-catalyzed fusion is different from beam-target fusion?  Most of the people in the world are probably fine not knowing the answers to those types of questions, but I’m not one of them.  So I’d spend some money to educate myself more.

And then I may start or own a business.  I live in a county in Pennsylvania that is notoriously lacking in entertainment, particularly for younger people.  I’d maybe open a Dave & Busters or something of the sort.  I’d consider putting in a new movie theater, because watching a movie at the Carmike Park Hills Plaza 7 is almost as bad as setting up my TV on my front lawn.  In fact, we do almost all of our big-screen movie watching in State College or Harrisburg with their stadium-style seating (and where you can't hear the movie playing in the room next door).  I’d additionally put some money down for some walking/bike paths throughout the county—maybe encourage people to get out and about.  And I might invest in a local tech company to try to retain some of the young talent that leaves the area in droves after graduating from high school.

And of course I’d donate a lot of money to charities.  I’d probably focus on bullying prevention, breast and pancreatic cancer, MS, cystic fibrosis, and kids with physical and cognitive disabilities.  Those are ones that are closer to my heart.  After that I’d give some money away to friends and family, and of course that’s always the tricky part because “friends” and “family” would probably be coming out of the woodwork asking for handouts.  I’d probably give more to the people who didn’t ask for it over those who came begging, but each and every case would be different and evaluated appropriately.  No matter what, anyone I know or have known (more than just as a passing acquaintance) could probably expect something.

Above all else though, I wouldn’t let the money change me.  I know that’s easy to say now, having never won more than like a hundred bucks at a casino, but I think that kind of attitude runs deep within me.  I look at some of the closer people in my life—a former coworker who is a prominent philanthropist, some immediate family and cousins and friends.  Some of these people are very well off, yet you’d never know it by talking to them.  They don’t flaunt their money or their achievements or anything else, for that matter.  They are down-to-earth people, and these are the people who have helped to mold and shape and guide the person I am today.  And so whether I had $10 or $100,000,000 in the bank, I think I’d still be the same happy, go-lucky guy I’ve always been.

Could you say the same?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Escaping the Black Friday Hole

It's Tuesday evening and I'm still trying to escape the black hole that I found myself stuck in over the holiday weekend.  I always end up in this veritable prison of ignorance during extended periods of time off.  My routines are thrown askew.  I start adding fifteen minutes or even a half hour to the amount of time I spend sleeping.  I don’t pay much attention to the news.  I feel like days go by and I’ve missed so much—but perhaps that’s the point of time off and holidays and vacations.  Tune out and enjoy quality time with my family.  Right?

But as I was in the midst of my 5-day stupor, I did have one realization that was irritating on a number of levels.  And it involves Black Friday.  It seems that every year businesses are moving up their hours, hoping to prolong the spending sprees that occur on this day.  I caught a brief snippet of the local news on Friday, and a lady was commenting on how she and her daughter began their shopping extravaganza at 4 PM on Thanksgiving.  Really?  Really?!?  Four PM???

Black Friday began as the first day of shopping season for Christmas and Hanukah and Kwanzaa gifts.  The name began in Philadelphia in the 50s or 60s, but it became more popular nationally in the late 70s.  For DECADES stores did not open until 6 AM on this day.  It wasn’t until just a few years ago that stores started moving up their times to earlier hours of the morning.  Last year, for the first time EVER, stores opened at midnight.  And of course this year we had a number of them opening on Thanksgiving Day.  


But even before that, many stores had holiday stuff up weeks or months prior.  Wal-mart, the classy business that it is, had Christmas decorations on its shelves even before Halloween.  If the case is to be made that Black Friday is the first day of holiday shopping, well that’s just silly.  Retailers want your money, and they’ll take it any time of the year.  Why wait until this day to do your shopping?  The sales?  Free shipping?  I can guarantee you that you can find most of the stuff you just bought somewhere else for cheaper any time of the year.  All you have to do is use your noggin and search a little.  And all that other stuff you bought--the HDMI cables for your flat-screen TV, the 10 boxes of Keurig coffee to go with your new coffee maker--all that stuff probably WASN'T on sale, but you had to buy it or else your initial purchase was worthless.  Right?

And as for that lady and her daughter who were out at 4 PM on Thanksgiving, I guess spending time with the rest of the family wasn’t as important to them as trying to find the best deals.  Has our society really fallen to the point where buying gifts (and not-gifts) is more important than spending quality time with loved ones?  I’m not very big on material possessions, and so perhaps that’s where my disdain comes from.  But seriously, I’d rather spend eternity playing board games or tag or watching Kung Fu Panda with my son than spending even a minute in a throng of greedy people fighting over merchandise.

And what’s worse is that we just had a presidential election where one side tried to convince us that our economy is in the toilet.  It’s no wonder that side lost.  If people are willing to sacrifice their time with the family to go out and spend, SPEND, SPEND on pointless baubles and trinkets, I think it’s safe to say that our economy is doing just fine.  I was told of instances where people who (and I have to quote this because it’s from their own mouths) “are living paycheck to paycheck” went out and spent over $1000 on Black Friday on things like flat-screen TVs, tablets, phones, etc.  These same people tried to say that Obama has been running our country into the ground.  They said that he was responsible for gas prices and high unemployment and everything else that is wrong with this country, including their personal financial situations.  And yet they spent over a grand on crap that they don’t need just because some store advertised it as being on sale?  That just makes me want to scream!

Next year I wouldn’t be surprised to find stores opening at noon on Thanksgiving for Black Friday sales.    And before too long, it will be called Black Weekend, considering we already have a Cyber-Monday.  And it’s never going to change.  Unless we have a screen plastered to our faces or a phone or gaming controller glued to our hands, we are bored.  Whatever happened to going for walks?  Reading books?  Engaging the mind in arts and crafts or playing games or just TALKING to others?  No, until we can get off of our butts and enjoy the beauty of the world outside of our little shells that we live in, we will always crave the crap that is on sale on Thanksgiving weekend.

Will it ever change?  No.  But maybe if you are reading this, you might.  Next year, spend your time with your family and loved ones.  No, don’t just spend it.  Cherish it.  Because all that crap you bought this year will be easily replaceable next year if lost or broken.  But your friends and family?  They can never be replaced.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Destroy…a Billion Dollar Business

Yes, I’m playing off of the name of Trent Reznor’s new band, How to Destroy Angels.  I love Trent Reznor, and Nine Inch Nails is at the top of my list of favorite bands, but I’m not quite sure what to say about HTDA.  “Strange” probably best describes it.  I need a beat to my music, and so perhaps that’s why I have mixed feelings for his new band.  Trent, please work on some beat-driven hard music.  Your wife’s vocals are cool, and I could listen to Lucia Cifarelli (Kapt’n K’s aka Sascha Konietzko’s wife) sing all day long with KMFDM, so I’m totally into female vocalists.  But please give us a tempo that we can bang our heads to!

Anyway, I need to comment on a major issue of today—something that is affecting my happiness levels.  Before I get there, let me tell you a little story.  It takes place in Harrisburg, PA, where my in-laws loved to frequent a Vietnamese restaurant.  They knew the owners, the food was good and similar in taste to how they prepared it themselves, and eating there cut some stress on busy weekends when my mother-in-law could not spend the time cooking a huge meal for all of her children and their families.

One day we went to this restaurant, and things had changed.  The pho tasted bland.  We noticed the owner scrambling around the place as if he was doing all of the work—waiting on customers, working the register, cooking, cleaning, etc.  My mother-in-law asked him what was going on, and he stated rather bluntly that his cooks all quit.  Apparently they weren’t getting paid enough and were being asked to work long hours.  I think some of the wait staff had quit as well, so this guy was running the place all by himself.

As you can imagine, shortly thereafter the place closed down.  And we moved on.  There were plenty of other restaurants out there.  We missed his place, sure, but what could we do?

Then the place opened again a year or so later with new cooks and wait staff.  The owner promised it would be so much better.  And of course we began eating there again.  And the owner was right.  The pho was great.  The goi cuon was fantastic.  The guy had done a phenomenal job with hiring new cooks that were quite talented.  And we were very pleased each and every time we ate there.

But alas, it did not last.  After about a year, we noticed another downturn.  The food didn’t taste so great.  The pho seemed watered down.  The veggies weren’t very fresh.  We waited forever for service.  Something was wrong—again.

And again my mother-in-law asked the owner if he was having problems, and again his cooks had left him.  And again, he decided to shut the place down.  We heard that the cooks that had left struggled to find jobs.  They were in the States on work visas, and many returned to Vietnam.  The owner lost a ton of money.  We were, once again, disappointed.

I can’t say one way or the other who was to blame.  Perhaps the owner should have paid his workers better.  Perhaps he shouldn’t have required them to work ten hour shifts.  For those workers that ended up back in Vietnam, sure they were back home with their families, but the reason many of them came to the U.S. was to earn money for their dependents.  The exchange rate between Vietnamese dong and the US dollar is crazy.  For 5000 dong in Vietnam, you can buy a bowl of pho.  In US dollars, that’s the equivalent of 24 cents.  So imagine if a guy working in the US sends over $500 to his family.  That’s over 2000 bowls of soup—enough to practically feed a family of 4 for over half a year.  And these guys were making that much in about a week.  Yet they wanted more money.

And so now all of them are out of work.  The owner isn’t making any money.  Neither are his workers.  I heard that the guy was trying to reopen again, but seriously, who is going to go back?  Nobody will want to start eating there regularly again.  And even if some seats are filled with patrons, it won’t be like it was before or the time before that.  Maybe if the owner had at least kept the place open, things might be different.  Yeah, many Vietnamese people may notice that the food is sub-par, but at least they could keep making a profit.  At least other patrons would be able to enjoy the food.

Business owners are in it to make money, but you can’t make money when you alienate your customers.  When you keep closing up your business, you lose your loyal patrons, and then you have to rely on spotty income—which never works out well.  For this restaurant owner, the business-sense was severely lacking.

Does this story sound familiar to any hockey fans out there?

I can’t even begin to explain how disappointed I am with the NHL and the NHLPA.  I’ve been a hockey fan my entire life, but more so in the past few years since the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Prior to the birth of my son, my wife and I would attend 3-4 games per year.  We love Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, and company.  We love teasing relatives and friends who root for different teams.  Since the 2005-2006 season, I’ve tried to watch every single game—missed a few due to travels or important errands, but Penguins games were absolutely a mainstay on my TV whenever I was home.

This year, with my son being old enough to actually watch and enjoy the games, I was hoping to take him to see the action live.  My wife is 7 months pregnant, and so we were really looking forward to squeezing a game in between October and December of this year, because who knows when we’ll get to go back with our new baby.  I’d been planning this all year.

And then the NHL and NHLPA became a bunch of greedy jerks.  Seriously, hockey is a joke of a sport in the US because of these labor issues.  In 1992, a strike postponed 30 games.  In the 94-95 season, teams only played 48 games because of a lockout.  In 04-05, the entire season was cancelled.  And now we’re looking at no hockey at least until probably January, and even then we might have nothing.

NBC put down some money for Sunday hockey games.  The Islanders will be calling the new Barlclays Center home.  The Penguins have Consol Energy Center that is only two years old.  Millions are made off of the sale of jerseys and gear.  And billions are made from ticket sales.  And yet the NHL owners would rather lock out the players and rob themselves of all that revenue than give in a little and keep the season alive.  And the players don’t care because they’ll just go to Europe and play there.  And with 75% of the players coming from other countries, who can blame them?  They aren’t making the money they would have made in the NHL, but they are still playing hockey.

But who is hurting the most?  Not the owners.  Not the players.  It’s the fans.  And seriously guys, if you expect to have the same fan-base when you come back—after your 4th work stoppage in the past twenty years, you are the dumbest businessmen on the face of the planet.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Being a tech guy, I run into acronyms like Pennsylvanians run into deer.  They are everywhere.  And I understand the need for them.  Rather than saying, “I used the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol Microsoft Management Console to change the leased Internet Protocol  addresses to reservations” –wow that’s a mouthful!—you can simply say “I used the DHCP MMC to change the leased IP addresses to reservations.”  OK, that still probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to non-networking people, but you can see why acronyms are important.  Otherwise all of those “Computers for Dummies” books would be two thousand pages long rather than their average thousand!

But acronyms can fool people.  I remember back in the days of WBS (WebChat Broadcasting System—think Twitter of the 90’s) when I began reading many of the acronyms that are still used today.  Like ROFL.  I always thought it had something to do with a dog barking.  Like raaafffalll.  I finally asked someone (I think that was pre-Google) and discovered it meant Roll On Floor Laughing.  Now that I think about it, maybe it does have something to do with a dog.  Nobody I know rolls on the floor when they laugh.  Except maybe a dog.  Or a baby.

And just like it, we had LMAO or LMFAO.  Not the band, although that’s a clever name for a band with clever songs.  But when I first saw that one, I pictured some elderly French-Asian woman (perhaps I was looking into the future at my Vietnamese mother-in-law) screaming something.  Like Le Mao!  I guess I never realized how much people laugh while using the Internet.  They roll on the floor laughing.  They laugh their a**es off.  The F stands for a certain four-letter word that I will not mention, by the way, in case you are reading, Mom.

Speaking of my mom, she’s been an Internet user for quite a while, but she’s just started texting on her cell phone in the past year or so.  She uses it, at least when she texts to me, the way she should.  She doesn’t forward dumb pictures or bother me incessantly.  Basically she sends me important info like grocery lists, doctor’s appts, breaking news, etc.  I don’t really care much for texting, and I’ve made that clear, so that’s probably why.  But she does text my younger sister more frequently.  The other day my mom was telling my wife that she kept getting LOL in the replies from my sister.  She was a bit disappointed when she discovered that it meant Laugh Out Loud.  She was under the impression it meant Lots Of Love.  Even when she figured out that she was initially wrong, she still thought it meant Lots of Laughs.  *Picture me looking down, my forehead resting on my hand as I shake my head thinking WTF?!?*

The best one was my wife though.  She’s a bit more tech-savvy than most—probably why I was drawn to her, because after all, we did meet through an Internet site (a post for another time, perhaps).  But my wife kept seeing the acronym NSFW.  Not Suitable for Work.  Meaning don’t open this attachment or picture or whatever, because your boss might see and you might get fired.  But no, my wife thought it meant something else.  Because every NSFW attachment or link or whatever typically was alarming, she actually thought it meant No Such F****ing Way!  Hilarious, right?  No Such F***ing Way doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Then again, neither does ROFL or LMAO when you think about it.  LOL!!

My advice: if you don’t know what it means, just ask someone.  Because it’d be far easier to just ask a question, get that What-Are-You?-An-Idiot? look out of the way, and then get the facts and know rather than if you were to start using it in the wrong vernacular, or even worse, using it to try to sound intelligent.  I know a guy that does this, and wow does it drive me nuts.  He was on a call one time with some colleagues, and these people were referencing a piece of software they had developed.  Mid-way through the call, he asks, “Is it a GUI interface?”  The people paused for a second—I could just picture them looking at each other with puzzled expressions—and then slowly replied, “Yes, it’s all GUI.”  GUI, by the way, stands for Graphical User Interface.  Windows is a GUI platform with it's pretty graphics as opposed to DOS or UNIX where you have to type in text commands at a prompt.  Pretty much everything that has been sold to consumers in the past decade is GUI, and so the question was downright odd.  So that was strike one against this guy.  Then when the callers began to demo the software, a cloud solution we accessed through our web browser (definitely GUI), the guy asked if it was done using HTML.  As in HyperText Markup Language.  There are all sorts of programming languages out there like Java, PERL, PHP, ASP.NET, but one of the things they all have in common is that they work in conjunction with HTML.  HTML is to a website like words are to writing.  You can make simple sentences (a website) using words (HTML) like "the boy chased the dog."  But all of those programming languages I just mentioned allow you to do some pretty amazing things--think compound and complex sentences, alliteration, metaphors, etc. in my example).  So in other words, asking if the website was HTML was like asking if this blog is comprised of words.  Maybe if you weren’t all that tech-savvy you wouldn’t know, but this guy was acquired because he was supposedly a tech-genius.  Strike two.  Ultimately the guy struck out in my little acronym baseball game, but I can't entirely remember what the last one was.  Something about hiring a DBA (Database Administrator) to do work that my 3-year-old could do or something.

Anyway, bottom line, if you are afraid to ask, just Google it.  And if you still don’t know what it means, don’t pretend that you do, because you don't want to look like that guy above.  And if you are really stumped, you could always send me a tweet or a message.  Because I probably know, and if I don’t, I’ll find out for you in a few seconds with my magic handheld Internet brain--aka, my phone.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Life-Lesson from My Dentist

So I’ve always had pretty good, strong teeth.  Actually, all of my bones are strong.  The only bone I’ve ever broken was my skull, which was the result of an unfortunate accident involving a 4-year-old on a big wheel (me) riding under a neighbor who was trying to build a tree house out of bricks.  Somehow my little cranium saved me from a brick falling twelve feet from the sky, although I did spend a couple of months in the hospital with a depressed skull fracture.  But other than that, all of my bones have stood the test of time, including my teeth.

I had braces in junior high because my adult teeth decided to sprout up this way and that.  I thank my parents for spending the money on me then.  Braces aren’t a whole lot of fun, and I don’t have fond memories of when I had them, but at least they corrected a moderate overbite and forced all of my teeth back in line.

All my life I’ve gone to the dentist semi-mostly-regularly.  I think at one point I allowed maybe eighteen months to pass between visits, but for the most part I’ve tried to go every six months or so.  My company reimburses a certain dollar amount for dental and vision, and I was essentially free to go to any dentist I wanted.  I tried out a couple before settling on a great dentist that left my teeth feeling the way a potato probably feels after its skin has been removed, but then that guy just up and retired and sent me looking elsewhere.  My wife and I started going to Dr. Cioffari (in Altoona at that time but shortly thereafter moved to Duncansville), and we’ve really liked him ever since.  He’s relatively quick with his cleanings, and the staff there is nice and courteous.

So in January of this year, Dr. Cioffari decided to do X-rays—which were the first I had done since seeing him, and it had probably been three or maybe even four years since I’d had them done last.  The results were not good.  While my teeth, on the outside, looked all clean and healthy, in the tight spaces in between them I had nine cavities.  Nine.  NINE!  You see, I brush my teeth every morning.  I USUALLY (I use that word loosely) brush again either at night or during the evening hours after a meal.  But flossing?  Eh.  That was just overkill in my opinion.  But, apparently I was wrong about that one—a feat which seldom happens.  Because even though I was brushing with my Oral B super advanced alien technology automatic toothbrush, I wasn’t getting those bristles in there between my teeth.  That’s what flossing is for, duh, and of course my flossing routine was less common than full moons.  In reality I knew I needed to floss, but my hastiness/laziness with regards to my morning bathroom routine just didn’t include the critical step of flossing.

So aside from being scolded by my dentist, another valuable lesson was gained by this discovery.  Some things look all fine and dandy on the outside, but inside—where we can’t see or otherwise perceive—they may be close to rotten.  This isn’t a new lesson, of course.  We all know how shallow certain people with exceptionally good looks can be.  That apple we took to lunch may have a huge rotten chunk lurking underneath that skin, and while it’s always a little surprising (and disappointing and disgusting) when we bite into it, we know bad apples happen pretty often.  Should we be surprised?  Probably not.  And those flowers you see over there, the ones that resemble tulips?  Yeah, that’s an Autumn crocus, a plant that contains colchicine, which is an arsenic-like poison that can cause multiple organ failure within 24 to 72 hours after ingestion.  So don’t go picking that one.

My point here is not that nice pretty things may not be so nice and pretty on the inside.  We know that.  Or at least we say we do.  My point is that it’s important to not lose sight of that lesson.  Let’s be aware of everything we encounter, especially with regards to things that we perceive to be so great on the exterior.  Nothing and nobody is perfect, and that includes the people and things we revere and idolize.  In other words, we all know the lesson, but knowing it and learning from it can sometimes be miles apart.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Political Lesson from My 3rd Grade Project

I was in 3rd grade and had to do a project on medieval times.  It was a rather important project, and all of the kids were so excited to show off what they’d done.  Some had written plays with elaborate costumes.  Others had written stories.  I didn’t do anything.  I literally kept putting it off until, a week after it was due—on a Friday—my teacher called my mother and told her I was getting a C because I hadn’t turned it in.  My family had plans to travel and visit some family that weekend, and we had to cut our visit short and come home early so that I could work on my project.  My mom was furious, and my dad wasn't happy, but being the VERY COOL dad that he was, he had this idea of melting lead tire weights and pouring them into a mold like medieval blacksmiths would have done.  So early that evening I made a mold of my hand in sand, my dad melted the weights with a blow torch, and we poured the molten lead into the mold and waited overnight for it to dry.  The next morning, I had an awesome (if seriously unhealthy) lead hand that I took to school and wowed my teacher and fellow students with.  I also wrote a short report detailing the process.  And I got a B+ for my efforts—would have had an A if I’d gotten it done on time.

I’m recalling this story now because a similar thing has happened with our government.  Our elected leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, have pushed back dealing with the Bush-era tax cuts and other spending cuts to the point where we are at a fiscal cliff.  If these issues aren't addressed, everyone's paychecks are going to shrink, spending cuts will affect everything from defense to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Nearly everyone will feel an enormous pinch.  And even worse, Congress must reach a decision with a lame duck session, which if you don’t know refers to a Congress with members who have lost their elections for an additional term or are retiring or who have reached their term limits.  A lame duck Congress can be good or bad, because sometimes these people who are on their way out will use their last few weeks to do something good—like keeping America from plunging over this cliff.  But given the divide between hardcore TEA Party conservatives and tree-hugging liberals (or any liberals) in Congress, I’m not all that optimistic any new laws will come out of Capital Hill in the next few weeks.

Most Democrats want to deal with the fiscal cliff now.  They want to get some laws passed that address the Bush-era tax cuts—allowing them to expire for the wealthiest but remain for everyone else.  They want to piece together new laws that will adequately cut spending where money isn't needed but not hinder places where it is.  They want to keep the economy from plunging over the side of the cliff and into a recession again.  Well that’s all fine and dandy, except WHY WAIT UNTIL NOW?  You have like six weeks to get some serious legislation written up and voted upon.  Talk about procrastination!

Most Republicans would rather extend these extensions for an extended period of time.  Sounds ridiculous, right?  Yeah, that’s because it is.  Look, we didn’t elect people into office to keep pushing back all of our problems because nobody can agree on what to do.  So you don’t want the Bush-era tax cuts to end for the wealthy?  Fine, how about just giving them half—going down from 3% to 1.5%.  That’s a compromise, is it not?  Why do you say no, no, no any time a Democrat proposes something, then turn around and criticize the president and other Dems for not getting anything accomplished?  You are like Cartman on just about every episode of South Park.  "We play by MY rules, and if you don’t like it, I’m going home."  Yeah, that’s NOT what we elected you for.

Congress, you deserve a C so far.  And if your Daddy doesn't come to the rescue, you may be looking at an F.

Sue me for thinking this way, but I firmly believe we should expect more from our elected officials than antics similar to what a 3rd grade student would do with his medieval times project.  I mean, who in their right minds would keep putting something off until a time when it could barely, painfully be addressed?  Or were the elections more important than dealing with the issues?  That’s probably the case.  I’m thinking both sides of the political spectrum figured they’d see changes after the elections, and whatever those changes were would aid them.  But now that our status quo is the same as it was a month ago, well, now what?

Hey, do you know who parades around, who stands up on a stage and touts individual achievements, who discusses all that’s been accomplished and waves to thousands of cheering fans until, that one important day, a vote is held to see who becomes the winner?  I’m not talking about the President or Congressmen and Congresswomen.  I’m talking about beauty pageant contestants.  Funny when you examine the similarities between those occupations, isn’t it?

I’d never want to be a politician.  Not because of the resulting stress due to so many of our country’s issues need to be addressed.  And not because of the political bickering.  I wouldn’t want to be a politician because of the time and money and effort wasted on attaining or holding on to a political seat.  I love fixing things, and I’d love taking a crack at fixing the country’s problems, but when politicians become celebrities, that’s one area where I’d turn and run away.  I couldn’t stand up there and lie about my record or attack a fellow candidate’s record just for a few votes.  I couldn’t deal with the makeup and the hair and picking the right suit and the right tie for certain occasions just because it'd go over a certain way with voters.  I just couldn’t do it.  And yet that’s what far too many of us judge our leaders on, is it not?  Politics should never be about a person’s place of birth, religion, skin color, appearance or anything like that.  It should be about a person’s ability to resolve complex issues under pressure.
So let’s hope our politicians can get past the right vs. left, conservative vs. liberal, Republican vs. Democrat, TEA vs. Coffee attitudes and get some laws passed.  And if they don’t, let’s please, please, please elect people in two years who don’t just talk eloquently but who have proven track records of resolving tough issues.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nothing Lasts Forever In the Cold November Rain

November is always one of those months that just seems to fly right by.  My son has four days off from school with Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving, so work and school zips past.  Daylight Savings Time ends.  We vote.  Everyone is looking forward to the holidays.  It’s the heart of football season.  With all that action, it’s like the month is gone in a blur.

November is a fun month for me.  Movember (Moustache November), otherwise known as No-Shave-November, happens this month, and of course I use it as an excuse to lock away my razor and clippers and just let my facial hair go.  We’re only 9 days in, and I’m looking very Brett Keisel-like already.  What do you think?

November is also NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.  It’s a time for all writers to sit down and attempt to pound out a 60,000 word novel in a month.  You can sign up for free on their website,, and from there you can track your progress, participate in group write-ins, find support, etc.  Last year I started my last novel, Terminal Restraint, as a NaNoWriMo book, and while I didn’t get it finished until the spring of 2012, it was a great way to kick off and get those creative juices flowing.  If you are a new writer or are just looking for some advice, check it out.

I’m not really participating in NaNoWriMo this year, only because I’m about 40% of the way through my next novel, and I know I won’t have the time to get it finished by the end of the month.  I also have this idea for a new novel floating around in my head, which can be very distracting for a writer, because I’ve wanted to take a break from my current one and start working on this new idea.  I did that very same thing last year and the year before, and having all of these half-completed novels floating around isn’t really conducive to being an author.  So for now I plan on finishing the one I’m working on and then moving on to the next.  Hopefully you’ll like both of them!

November also marks the end of election season.  I still keep reading about Romney supporters griping about the election results.  Nothing will assuage their angst at having lost the election, but I’m surprised by some who continue to point out the flaws of the Obama administration.  And now that we have a very real “fiscal cliff” issue looming, I’m still amazed by the number of conservatives and Republicans who are unwilling to bend on allowing the Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthy to end.  These tax breaks were put in place after Clinton’s years, and it’s not like these wealthy Americans need them or are going to be taxed any more than they were in the 90s.  For example, if you are single and make over $203,000, your tax rate is going to go from 33% to 36% (see here:  So you’d pay about $6000 more per year in taxes if you made $203,000.  Look, if you make that much money, you can afford to pay that much more to help reduce the deficit.

I know, I know.  Why should I pay more of MY money when others are getting free government handouts?  Because, unfortunately, there are far fewer people with your abilities and skills and years of service out there that can make over $203,000, and there are far more people who LEGITIMATELY need things like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and food stamps.  And it's not like your entire $6000 is going to pay for some lazy person's delivery pizza and marijuana habit.  A portion of that is going to the military and homeland security, some is going to infrastructure, some is going to education and space programs, etc.

And let’s face it, if you make that much money, chances are very high that you didn’t grow up with many disadvantages in your life.  Bill Gates wasn’t a poor boy who scavenged around for computer parts to learn his trade.  His father was a wealthy lawyer and his mother was a board member of First Interstate BankSystem and the United Way.  Donald Trump’s parents could afford to send him to the New York Military Academy where he got his start, earning honors and then moving on to Fordham University and then the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school with a steep tuition.  While Trump's road wasn’t quite as laid out for him as Gates’, not many families earning less than $40,000/year can afford to send their kids off to military school.  Right?

I’ve heard others say that Obama wants to do away with the upper class.  Now how exactly is he going to do that?  Employers can’t start giving everyone $100,000+ salaries.  And government handouts are rather piddly.  People on social security and food stamps don’t make that much.  Most make between $5000 and $15,000/year.  Even for single mothers with five kids, the government isn’t just forking over huge amounts of money.  Nobody is ever going to become rich off of the government, and no rich person is ever going to become poor because the government taxes them too much.  So it’s not like any government program can wipe out the upper class and turn everyone into middle class citizens.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I didn’t mean to go into a political rant with this post, but I did have to get that out there in light of the naysayers and people who are still upset over Obama’s reelection.  I’ve got news for the Republican party though—this election brought out a ton of minority support for the other side, and I’m thinking it may be a growing trend in many elections to come.  So for all of you who support the extreme, right-wing, TEA party conservatives, your days of power could be over, and you really need to look at moderating some of your views.

Back to November, the one thing I love most about the month is that it contains that lovely little holiday known as Thanksgiving.  Halloween is great with the scares and parades and the dressing up and the candy, and of course Christmas (the commercialized version) is fun because of gifts and Santa and Christmas lights and all that jazz.  But Thanksgiving is downright awesome.  It’s the only day of the year where we don’t have to work in the middle of a week, can eat a ton of great food, and can sit around watching football all day.  It’s a glutton’s paradise.  Now who can argue with a day like that??

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some Post-Election Observations and Thoughts

So I fell asleep watching the election coverage last night.  My wife had fallen asleep earlier, and she woke up around midnight and turned the TV back on.  I vaguely remembered hearing that Obama had won, which was pleasing, but when I woke up this morning, I can’t say I was satisfied.  I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with the state of our government.  And really, nobody should.  Government, like us, needs to change and evolve with the times.  If we went strictly by the Constitution, as some of us would like, women and minorities wouldn’t be able to vote, we could be thrown in jail or ostracized for practicing different religions and speaking what’s on our minds, etc.  That’s not the kind of government a society like ours needs.

I’m not saying the election didn’t turn out the way I’d wanted.  It did, for the most part.  But I just hope the two parties can now come together and make some positive changes for America.  Let’s get more people back to work.  Let’s get the economy booming again.  Let’s get energy independence and better education for our offspring.  Above all, let’s work together.

My wife and I were listening to the radio this morning, and this guy was complaining about how everyone he’d talked to was voting for Romney until he stopped at Sheetz and saw a girl in her twenties buying subs and soda and candy.  She said that she and all of her friends voted for Obama, and then apparently she pulled out an Access card (food stamps) and used it to pay for her items.  And of course this guy was all up in arms about this.  But my wife recognized a flaw (lie?) in his story.  You see, I don’t know how it works in other states, but in Pennsylvania you can’t use your Access card to buy prepared foods like Sheetz Made To Order (MTO) subs.  You can’t use it at McDonalds or other fast food joints.  You can’t use it to buy tobacco or alcohol.  You can only use it to buy groceries.  And my wife knows this well because she worked in a group home taking care of people with severe mental health and mental retardation diagnoses, and she would take them out shopping for food.  These women worked simple jobs (like putting nuts and bolts in plastic bags) so that they could use their earned money on personal items and trips to places like McDonalds where they could not use their Access cards.  And so this guy’s story was a bunch of baloney.

I’m not surprised that someone would embellish to try to prove a point like this.  Entitlement is a huge reason why certain people vote Republican as opposed to Democrat.  They think there is far too much of it, and they don’t want to see their tax dollars going to pay for someone else’s laziness.  And I get that.  Believe me, I do.  I had a friend who never wanted to work a day in his life and jumped around from job to job.  He had a relative who was on disability for mental issues, and so he went and did the same.  He was “diagnosed”, quit working, and started collecting checks from the government.  And man does that bother me.  I hung out with him enough to know that his “issues” weren’t severe (or even existent), and yet he got the doctor to sign off on his inability to work.  And by work, I mean pushing carts around and cleaning and stocking shelves.  So yeah, I GET IT.

But then I look at the little elderly ladies that lived in the group home where my wife worked.  I look at my own mother, who can’t walk unassisted due to severe spinal stenosis and who uses a wheel chair to get around.  Yes, there are jobs out there that people in these situations can do, but they aren’t the kinds of jobs that can pay for mortgages, automobiles, etc.  My mother worked retail her entire life, and just standing behind a counter waiting on people became entirely too painful for her.  Some people legitimately lack the mental or physical capacity to do meaningful work, and so without government programs such as food stamps and disability, they’d be unable to pay for anything.  Caring for those people should be a government responsibility, and if you disagree with me, I have to wonder what you would propose instead.  Should they receive no money and just be cared for by others, pushing that responsibility onto those who CAN work?  Or should the lives of the disabled be miserable because of their handicaps?

Even if this girl at Sheetz used an Access card, this guy had no idea what her life is like.  She could have been buying the items for her disabled mother, as my wife and I do for mine.  She could be a single mother to two or three kids with a deadbeat father who doesn’t pay child support.  And daycare isn’t cheap—it’s $30 per day for our son.  Think about that for a second… if you are working a minimum wage job, making $58 for an 8 hour shift BEFORE taxes, and then $30 of that goes to daycare, that’s leaving you with $28 a day to pay for everything else.  That’s $600/month BEFORE TAXES to pay for food for your kids, a house or apartment to live in, utilities, transportation, etc.  And if you’re in the unfortunate situation of where you have no family to help you out, what do you do?  And so even if this girl at Sheetz used an Access card and voted for Obama, this guy had absolutely no right to judge her.

Moving on, then I saw another post where the person said that everyone was tired of Obama’s excuses, and that every time he tried to do something, it was vetoed by the Senate.  He went on to say that now that the Senate is Democratic, there are no more excuses.  I’m just stunned by this.  First of all, the Senate doesn’t veto anything.  Laws are created in Congress and must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before being forwarded on to the President to be signed into law.  If the President doesn’t like it, he can veto it.  The Senate does not veto anything.  Secondly, the Senate was already comprised of a Democratic majority prior to the election.  It was the House that was Republican, and the House still IS Republican.  Nothing has changed in the grand scheme of things aside from more minorities (thank goodness!) having been elected.  So I don’t know where this guy is getting his news and education from (Fox News, maybe??), but wow.  Wow.

Finally I saw someone post a message indicating that she was very upset with the outcome of the election because it meant that death panels could now deny people proper medical care.  Again, I don’t know where people are getting their information, but her post sparked a huge discussion about Obamacare and how it won’t work.  Ok, there are no death panels, so wherever people are getting that information from, they need to turn the channel or browse to another site (like here:  Second, Obamacare is already working, and if you want to know more, just ask me and I’ll tell you.  I have very real data proving that it is working.

People are bitter.  It’s understandable.  For some I’m sure it feels like their team lost the Super Bowl.  And of course everyone is a critic.  Everyone has their own idea of how things should be.  And very few of us will ever be one-hundred percent satisfied with the outcomes of elections and the actions of our elected leaders.  And we really just all need to realize that fact.

But now it is time to move on.  If someone proposes an idea, we need to evaluate it and offer our own ideas—not flat out reject what has been given to us.  We need to see things as humans, capable of understanding middle ground and not seeing everything as a one or a zero, black or white, right or wrong.  In order for us to move forward, we need to stuff away the talk of liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans and Greens and Libertarians.  We need to simply all be AMERICANS, working together to make our country a better place for ourselves and our children.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Political Ads(Lies) and Voting!

Tomorrow is Election Day.  Man I’m glad.  I’m so freaking sick of watching political ads on TV—most of which are negative and some even blatantly wrong.  I’m surprised by the audacity of politicians and how they flat-out lie about what their opposition has/hasn’t done and misconstrue facts.  I could literally write a 100 page paper on all of the lies put forth by all of these annoying ads.  And even if they aren’t lying, they are skimming over the positives of their opponents and only pointing out the negatives.  Why don’t we have more laws in place to regulate what politicians can and cannot say to the public?  It's no wonder little girls are crying every time they see these ads on TV.

And what's with the creepy voices used by the narrators?  Seriously, those creepy deep voices could make ANYTHING sound horrible.  Just picture one of those guys doing an advertisement for Chuck E Cheese.  "Where a kid can be a kid?"  He'd make Chuck E Cheese sound more sinister than a retreat with Jerry Sandusky (Too soon or inappropriate? Sorry!)  Anything those guys say sounds negative, and the problem is that too many people believe them!

Why does it seem like very few of us actually do the fact-checking ourselves?  I was having a conversation earlier about how Mitt Romney is going to create 12 million new jobs, and that Obama can't and won't do that.  According to two different studies done by Moody’s Analytics and Macroeconomic Advisers this year (Google it!), 12 million jobs will be gained in the next four years regardless of who is president.  Why?  Well, mostly because Obama initiated a recovery by saving the auto industry and reforming health care, and that recovery will be responsible—not any further action by the winner of this election.  I listen to Romney’s statement and keep picturing some ancient caveman perched atop a giant rock telling people at the end of winter that, if they follow him, he’ll make the temperatures warm again and melt all the snow and make the plants grow.  And of course this caveman isn't saying HOW he plans to do this.  He just knows, based on patterns, that it's going to happen, and he's trying to convince the others to follow him knowing he'll look like a genius if they do.

There’s another ad with a woman saying how she voted for Obama in 2008 hoping for change, but that hasn’t happened and she is worse off now than she was when he was elected.  So let’s think about this...  When Obama was elected, the auto industry was in a nosedive.  Unemployment was skyrocketing.  Banks had just received their bailout prior to Obama taking office (signed into law by GW Bush), which if you don’t recall costed $700 Billion dollars.  Lots of people pin that on Obama, but that was already a done deal by the time he took office.  And it didn’t create jobs, and it really only gave the banks who participated in risky banking practices (think subprime mortgages) a cushion so that they wouldn’t fail.  And I don’t know this as a fact, but I would assume that automakers, with their manufacturing jobs, would employ a lot more people than banks.  And when you think of manufacturing jobs vs. banking jobs, it’s fairly obvious that bankers tend to make more money—and thus would be better off had they lost their jobs.  So Bush bailed out the white-collar guys who were up to no good, and Obama bailed out the blue-collar guys who were just trying to put food on their tables.

But this ad with this woman saying she's worse off now drives me nuts, because she makes it seem like America is a pit of despair compared to when Obama was elected.  As my wife has pointed out, America is not worse off when we can spend millions of dollars on things like Halloween decorations.  Americans are not worse off when we can afford to (and rightfully should) hand out $10 or $20 each to the people in NY and NJ struggling after Superstorm Sandy.  People aren’t losing their houses at record paces any more due to foreclosures.  Unemployment is coming back down.  Did you know that when GW Bush took office, it was 4.2%.  When he left office, it was 7.8% and rising.  Obama started with 7.8%, it went up to 10%, but then as his policies began to take effect, it dropped back down to 7.9% where it is now.  So unless Romney does something drastically different than GW (and we still aren't clear on WHAT he will do), is it going to go right back up again?  AND we even went through one of the worse recessions in our nation’s history when Obama took office.  Obamacare has slowed—and in some industries REVERSED—the trend of annual premium increases in health care costs.  Don’t believe me?  Check out my post from August 3, 2012.

So lady in this stupid ad, I really have to disagree with you.  America IS better than it was 4 years ago--or at least it's heading in a much better direction.  We aren’t all the way there yet, granted, but it’s hard to accomplish anything in 3.79 years with half a Congress working against you.

After Superstorm Sandy knocked out my power, my basement filled with water because my sump pump stopped running.  Water was coming up from the ground, and when the power came back on, my sump pump started running again and started pumping it out.  I kept checking it every half hour, and it looked like nothing was happening the first few times I opened the basement door.  And boy was I anxious.  But I didn't go pull my sump pump out and buy a new one because the one I had wasn't working fast enough.  I'd just bought the thing a year ago, and I knew it worked well.  We just had too much water to deal with.  I knew it would get that water out, and after a few hours and with the help of my dehumidifier, my basement was dry again.  No change to routine.  No added costs.  Just patience.  And honestly, if I had bought a different sump pump, maybe a red one that resembled an elephant rather than my blue one that resembled a donkey, I'd probably have left that one in too if I knew that it was working properly.  But considering that I had a red, elephant sump pump in there a few years prior to my current one, and that one really crapped out and flooded my basement to the point where I needed a new water heater, dehumidifier, etc.--well, you get my point.

You can tell who I’ll be voting for tomorrow.  But even if you don’t agree with me, please get out and vote.  I find it even more alarming, aside from all of the lies and mistruths in political ads, that we live in an apathetic society where less than two-thirds of us actually vote for our leaders.  If you hate what Obama has or hasn’t done to our country, get out there and do something about it.  And if you do or don’t believe what these politicians say in these political ads, at least get out there and let your voice be heard.  It doesn’t take much time (typically only 10 minutes for me), and it’s one of if not the most important thing you can do as an American citizen.

And if you think that voting is a waste of time because you are just one tiny little vote out of so many millions, just think about this: in the event of an Electoral College tie, which can happen under nearly three dozen different scenarios, the newly elected House of Representatives chooses the President, and the Senate chooses the Vice President.  And considering how close those contests are, and considering that each state has numerous Representatives that are elected LOCALLY (meaning I live in Central PA and therefore can't vote for the Representative from Philly or Pittsburgh), it's critical to get out there and vote.  Because if there is an electoral college tie, and if the House remains a Republican majority and the Senate remains a Democrat majority, Mitt Romney will be President and Joe Biden will be VP.  But if the House switches to a Democrat majority and there is an electoral college tie, Obama remains President.  In other words, your single vote for your local House Representative really could end up deciding who is President or Vice President.

So go vote!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cynicism After Sandy

Wow, Sandy.  You really packed a wallop, didn’t you?  Good thing I was on top of my game as far as disaster recovery plans go.  The business was spared the wrath of your fury, although several employees didn’t quite fare so well.  One had half the shingles of her roof torn off.  Another was without power for two days.  I, too, lost power thanks to a tree branch falling on some wires, and of course my generator pull-string broke when I tried to get it started (so much for my home DR planning), and so my basement filled with water with no electricity powering the sump pump.  Thanks, Sandy.  You had my anxiety at heart attack levels.  But we all made it through safe.

In the aftermath, central PA did OK.  Yeah, I’ll be busy cleaning up my basement this weekend, but at least now we have power, heat, water, etc.  Life for us has returned to normal.  That can’t be said for others to our east though.

I can’t believe what has happened to towns in NJ.  I have friends and family living in NJ who still are without power and are struggling to find gas and basic necessities.  Sandy was just too much.  Guys, I know you have a lot on your plate right now, and reading this probably isn’t high on your priority lists, but if you need any supplies, LET ME KNOW!  I’ll gladly ship over water, food, toiletries, etc.!

I have to comment on some of the Facebook threads and posts I’ve seen over the past few days.  A few hours before the storm hit, one Facebook “friend” actually made fun of the people who were stocking up on supplies, saying something to the effect of “Do you actually think Pennsylvania will be hit by a hurricane?”  This guy, at least I thought, is rather intelligent, but he obviously has no clue how close Pennsylvania is to the eastern seaboard or how hurricanes work.  He must not watch TV or surf the Internet weather sites.  Or maybe he does, and if that’s the case, his cynicism will be his undoing.  A couple blocks up the road from me, an enormous tree was pulled from the ground from the winds of Sandy.  Yeah, I was one of the ones that ACTUALLY thought a hurricane was going to hit Central PA, and I'm glad I prepared, especially if one of those trees had hit our house.  And yeah, maybe I am a “retard” for nearly walking into that fire in the street at the Hartslog Festival in Alexandria a few weeks ago (read my October 25th post if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

Another post I saw was from a wife of a volunteer first responder who was crying foul at the people who refused to evacuate, going on and on calling them idiots for having to put her husband’s life in harm’s way just to save them.  While I agree that the people who refused to evacuate, just like the guy in my last paragraph, probably should have heeded the advice of others, no person should be writing negative comments like that toward survivors in a time like this.  Yeah, perhaps they should have evacuated.  And perhaps people in the Amazon should have caught more butterflies so that they couldn’t flap their wings which created the slight breeze which turned into a heavy wind which became Hurricane Sandy which destroyed half of the NJ shoreline.  Perhaps the NJ coastal town municipal workers should have built hundred-foot-high steel walls to keep the waves back.  Perhaps those survivor’s parents shouldn’t have procreated.  People will find fault in anything, it seems, but what makes us a flourishing civilization is our ability to overcome the adversities we are challenged with as communities and groups regardless of how we ended up with those problems.  If you want to be negative and cynical about others in times like this, maybe you should just go live on an island somewhere by yourself.  Just make sure it’s not anywhere that a hurricane will destroy your home and leave with you with nothing, because then you’ll be the one needing help.

I encourage everyone who is reading this to donate money to the Red Cross or the upcoming benefits that will be held.  Send money through text messages as soon as they start posting the numbers.  And for God’s/Heaven’s/Christ’s/Allah’s/Tao’s sake, STOP BEING SO DAMN CYNICAL!