Tuesday, November 10, 2009

11.3%


That's today's unemployment number for Philadelphia. Unfortunately for me, not only is that the closest major city to me, but I am one of the many that comprise that statistic.

But I'm not bitter....much. Okay, a bit, maybe. Seriously, the company was not doing well at all (maybe it still isn't) and I was simply one of the many fingers it elected to sever in order to save its dying hand. A hand that I prehensiley thumbed for a decade, I might add.

And I don't consider myself "funemployed". I had never even heard of that until long after it would have been applicable. Admittedly, July and August were great. I made it a point to do absolutely nothing that could be mistaken for job hunting. It's been seven years since I took off two weeks in a row. This was something to be carefully savored as long as, well, as long as is appropriate...however long that is.

Loving life and living large, I lazed through the rest of the Summer, dipping into the severance package like a bag of chips -- you know, the ones you just can't stop munching because each one tastes like more.

So now that the party is over and the bag of chips is considerably lighter -- and the damn dip has gone sour -- I've begun the great machine that will propel me back into my chosen profession.

Unless, of course, I finally get the call that they really need me to play drums for the Led Zeppelin reunion tour.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Adam's World

If you missed Adam Lambert performing Gary Jules' version of the Tears For Fears song "Mad World", you missed a musical moment. It was haunting and brilliant, and he made it look easy.

Unfortunately, it seems Freemantle Media is being very selfish with their Idols this year and removed all video clips of the performance from YouTube. However, a few enterprising music lovers have posted the audio portion with a still of Adam in place of the video.

Enjoy while it lasts.


Monday, March 2, 2009

No School

The Northeast is blanketed in snow today. How refreshing that my company, in its wisdom, has been declared closed due to the worsening conditions.

Not that it made a big difference to me, the official status of the office. It isn't worth risking life and limb to get to work through the teeth of inclimate weather.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gympanzee

I've never liked the label "gym rat". It just seems a bit distasteful to be associated with some kind of rodentia because one spends a lot of time pumping iron.

I'm a primate, after all, and if I'm going to have a label applied to me for my exercise activity proclivities, I'd prefer something a bit more simian -- like "Gympanzee". I like the sound of that, although I'm not sure I'd actually say it out loud to describe myself.

So I've finally started back into a workout routine after taking an embarrassingly long break. I'm convinced health clubs love people like me -- the ones who pay their monthly dues but don't show up to put wear and tear on the equipment.

And they knew I wasn't going to cancel my membership. That would have been admitting that I wasn't going back (which wasn't the case). I wouldn't put out hundreds of dollars a year for nothing, now would I?

But it was worth it to be able to jump back into the routine as soon as I decided it was time. Now I just have to stick to it -- and I can be pretty sticky when I want to.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Farewell, Number Six

In Memoriam: Patrick Joseph McGoohan (March 19, 1928 - January 13, 2009)

Perhaps best known for his role as the nameless secret agent in the British series "The Prisoner" (in which he wrote, directed, and starred), Patrick McGoohan was a familiar face in film and television for five decades. One of his recent film credits include the role of King Edward Longshanks in 1995's "Braveheart".

He will be sorely missed. I leave you with the iconic opening sequence from "The Prisoner", which also stars one of my favorite automobiles, the Lotus Super Seven.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out With The Old

I don't like going so long without posting, but I've been going through a major upheaval at work and it has all but consumed me over the last two months. In short: Business has fallen off, my friend and boss was let go along with several others, and our entire office was moved across town to integrate with one of our sister companies.

Amazing that something so agonizing and painful could be summed up in so few phrases.

In any case, I'm ending the year in a new office (with a window -- something I haven't had in nine years) and beginning the new year as a smaller cog in a larger machine.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quotable


"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Phabulous

10,235 days.

That's how long it's been since I watched the Phillies win their last -- and first -- World Series. I was living in Ohio at the time. It was tough being a Philadelphia fan in the midst of Indian territory.

I'm looking forward to the parade. Too bad I probably won't be there. My company just isn't quite hip enough to save us all the trouble of catching the "Red Flu" and close for the afternoon. No, it's month end -- when all the groups must lay their numbers at Accounting's altar so the books can be closed on schedule.

Any deviation and, well, mayhem would ensue it seems....the Sun rising in the West, cats and dogs sleeping together. And we wouldn't want that.

I'll just have to attend the parade the next time they are World Champions. They can wheel me to the curb for a better view after they wipe the drool from my chin after I have my Metamucil.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pants On Fire

I haven't been posting a lot recently. And to that a friend asked, "What's the matter? Politics not pissing you off?"

It is, actually. And as such, I offer the following rant:

I hate that political campaigning -- especially the race for the Oval Office -- is a business of lies and deceit, fear mongering, and the deployment of weapons of mass distraction. No matter what a candidate says, their opponent will accuse them of lying, even if they aren't, and even if their accusations are lies themselves -- as if saying the same thing over and over again will make it the truth.

To wit: Obama has repeatedly described his tax plan that will give relief to 95% of Americans -- the middle class ($200K per year and under). The only ones to see a tax increase would be those earning over $250,000. Yet a current attack ad by the GOP has several people saying that "I'm Joe the plumber", and "Obama wants more taxes from me to pay for his spending?". Summing up with "Higher Taxes and Trillion Dollar Spending".

What? Is no one listening or does no one care? Are there really that many middle class Americans who are peeved that they might not be able to buy a $250,000 business because of Obama's proposed tax plan? Frankly, I wish I were one of them.

But I'm not, and neither are most voters. The unfortunate thing is that the sheep will buy into the GOP bullshit that Democrats will just tax and spend. Well, guess what? The policies of the last eight years have screwed this economy and this nation, especially the middle class, and now someone has got to pay. Period.

Who's it going to be? The middle class? Again? Still? Haven't the rich been getting richer long enough? We are in serious debt. Only taxes and thoughtful governmental spending will get us out of it.

McCain says he won't raise taxes on anyone. It's the typical GOP battle cry. Well, thanks....the rich and the corporations love that, while the middle class continue to get socked with the lion's share of the bill with no relief in sight in a McCain administration.

It's all part of the American Illusion that the Republicans are constantly selling. You know the one -- We could all be rich some day in this great nation, so don't you dare raise taxes on anybody, especially the rich, because you won't want those taxes on your wealth once you've ascended to the Inner Circle".

Wake up call. Most of us will never realize that part of the American Dream and earn hundreds of thousands a year. But enough of us buy into this fallacy to keep the rich laughing all the way to the bank while our economy flounders, our currency retreats, our armed forces bogged down in a seemingly endless exercise in the cradle of civilization, and our standing and respect in the eyes of the world shrivels.

And speaking of respect, I lost quite a bit of what I had for John McCain when he pulled his hat trick and decided on Sarah Palin as his running mate. Even the Europeans are mocking her. She is, without a doubt, the most frighteningly ignorant and unqualified candidate ever to be involved in a Presidential race since Warren G. Harding. And she scares the shit out of me. That she should be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office for any reason is unconscionable. God forbid. And yes, that is an impassioned plea to the Almighty for His divine intervention.

I shudder to think of what this nation could achieve if every voter were actually informed and cast their ballot based on the real issues and what was best for everyone -- not just believing the lies and giving in to baseless fears.

Which brings me to another point about the Republicans vilifying Democrats as being elitist and intellectuals -- like that's a bad thing. I mean, really....let's not do anything rash like put someone intelligent, educated, and well-spoken in the highest office in the land.

And what's wrong with being elite? We want our elite pilots to fly our fighter jets and our elite athletes to compete in the Olympics. I'd like an elite politician to lead this country. I don't want someone I can share a beer with. I happen to be an intellectual (sorry, but it's true) and I want the leader of the free world to be in a league far over my head, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, too many voters will just take the shortcut to thinking and cast a vote based on fantasy and misinformation while believing that they will just let the system "work things out" and everything will be fine.

Guess again. We ARE the system. And if we don't make thoughtful, informed choices to put people in place that will represent our interests and further the greater good for the greatest number, then the system doesn't work. Or it works against us, and we'll soon be griping all over again about how bad is the economy, the healthcare system, the housing market, the foreign policy, gas prices, ad nauseum....

I'm looking forward to this election being over. Although I'm a registered Republican, I consider myself an Independent or Centrist and am voting Democrat. The GOP hasn't been doing a very good job representing me or my interests lately.

Contrary to the abject horror the Republicans are anticipating if Obama is elected, it should be a tremendous benefit to have a Democratic President backed by a fully Democratic Congress. It might actually be possible to get this country back on track quickly and decisively. Granted, the possibility also exists that we could just as quickly make monumental blunders, but I'm counting on the former rather than the latter.

So, get thee hence and read -- a lot. Go to the candidates' websites and inform yourself on their issues; their foreign policies, their healthcare plans, and their economic goals. Then temper that information with some reliable third party data (preferably non-partisan).

And vote! In the words of Bob Schieffer's mother, "It will make you feel big and strong".

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quotable


They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. -- Andy Warhol

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Behind Blue Eyes

In Memoriam

Paul Leonard Newman 1/26/1925 - 9/26/2008


It seems I had just lamented the loss of a gifted musician only to follow it up with the loss of one of the finest actors of our time. Paul Newman was not only an Oscar winning and seven time Oscar nominated actor; he was also a great humanitarian, entrepreneur, director, and racing enthusiast.



I've enjoyed his films ever since his debut in 1954's "The Silver Chalice". It seemed that, no matter what character he portrayed, I believed him.


There are thousands of tributes to him on the Internet and I've poured through a few hundred of them. Of those, I've selected three. The first is a scene from "Hud" - An Unprincipled Man




The second, a photographic tribute set to a remake of one of my favorite songs.



And finally, I couldn't resist this tribute to Paul that includes two more of my favorite screen legends -- Marlon Brando and James Dean.



Thanks for the memories, Paul. You are sorely missed.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quotable

"Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt."

Herbert Hoover
31st President of the United States (1929 - 1933)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Declination Zero

Well, it's here. Fall has arrived as of 11:44:18 EDT this morning. At that moment, the sun was directly over the equator -- crossing into the Southern hemisphere -- at the equinoctial point on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator and the ecliptic intersect.

Suffice to say that if I were a Druid, I'd be planning a party -- just not the no-holds-barred debauchery that goes on for the Solstice.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Great Gig In The Sky

In Memoriam


Richard William Wright 7/28/1943 - 9/15/2008


Today we bid a sad farewell to one of Pink Floyd's founding members, Rick Wright. Not only did Rick's musicianship contribute enormously to Pink Floyd's sound, he also wrote, among other things, two commercially popular tracks from Dark Side Of The Moon; Us And Them and The Great Gig In The Sky (his current gig, presumably).

So in his honor I post this, his greatest gig, for your listening pleasure.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

When Falls The Coliseum

Rome shall fall.

My wife was reading aloud to me snippets from a disturbing article she came across online. It was reporting on ten large US corporations (huge might be a better word) that are in trouble and will be laying off staff to stay competitive, cut costs, regain profitability, and basically hold on to their reason for existence.

The corporations in focus are set to lay off tens of thousands of employees -- some numbers nearing hundreds of thousands. I don't remember all of them, but I remember a few; RiteAid, Blockbuster, Merck, IBM, Ford Motor Company.... The list goes on.

IBM? Ford Motor Company? These long-standing pillars of American business are institutions in their own right. And they're crumbling. Case in point: Ford sold only 155,000 units last year. Back in the day, 155,000 units was what they might sell of only one particular model -- out of many. Now it's their total sales.

And what's happening to the combined several hundred thousand jobs that Americans are losing? Well, some are being eliminated completely. Others -- and you knew this was coming -- are being out-sourced to India and Asia.

I have no qualms with anyone, no matter who and where they are, earning a living. But I take the greatest possible exception to big corporations putting countless Americans out of work just so the bean counters can avoid any red ink on the bottom line.

At the risk of sounding nationalistic, I'm a firm believer that American corporations, based in the US, employ Americans. Cheaper labor overseas? Maybe so, but I happen to believe that many Americans would spend a little more for a high quality product made in the USA - and if everyone's working, instead of looking for work, they would be able to afford it.

This is one of the political issues I'm keeping an eye on. At the moment, I'm officially a Swing Voter, but the candidate that can really bring jobs back to this country may just win my vote -- one way is to remove the tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas.

There is no Coliseum in the United States, but some of its metaphorical pillars that have stood for a hundred years are toppling and all we seem to be able to do is cover our ears so we don't hear the crash. It's as if the warning flags have been waving for so long that they've become tattered and unrecognizable.

It's time to reclaim our standing in the world before it really is too late. We've been resting on our laurels and now we can no longer see past them. Will we literally out-source ourselves into destitution to the point that we no longer produce anything in this country except overpaid executives? And what about the farther reaching effects of our imploding economy? It's time to take our fingers out of our ears.

And when Rome falls -- the World.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Oh, By The Way....Which One's Pink?

I've been listening to a lot of Pink Floyd lately. It seems to have a soothing effect that I can't get any other way. I don't have a lot of opportunity to listen at home, but my vehicle has a six CD changer and my drive to work averages forty minutes.

Perfect.

One way to or from is sufficient to listen to an entire album. Of course, it will require a round trip to complete The Wall, which is what I listened to on the way in today. The remaining four slots are populated by Meddle, Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals.

I'm not sure what dug this hole that can only be filled with Floyd -- maybe the barely organized chaos of my day to day needs to be countered by steady rhythms, haunting lyrics, and timeless guitar as only Pink can provide.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Wizard of Speed and Time

This always made me smile. Back in my college days, this film short was a huge cult classic -- stop-motion animation at its best. At least, for a low budget 1979 film it was at its best. I found this on YouTube. There are a couple versions -- slightly longer and updated -- but this is the original. Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

OBX Haiku



Sand between my treads


Atlantic in my rear view


Off-road on the beach


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Check Engine

I hate idiot lights. It's like your car's way of saying, "Excuse me, but I've got an issue here that you couldn't possibly understand. How about taking me to someone who has a clue?"

I actually have a clue, but that's about all. One time, the light came on the morning after I got gas at a station I had never patronized. "Bad gas!" Maybe not -- it went out half a tank later, only to return after the next fill-up at my normal place.

Today its illumination mocks me with its silent, ominous mystery. I'm taking it to a mechanic before the light just changes into what it really signifies -- $$$ -- the Check Wallet light.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Summer's Almost Over!

How many times have you heard that? I've been hearing it for weeks -- usually from the sun worshippers who have been waiting all year for summer to arrive. It seems that they're no sooner showing off their base tan before launching into woeful lamentations about Summer's end.

These doomsayers need to be bludgeoned with the large, desktop version of the Audubon calendar in my humble opinion.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'm still referencing the Gregorian calendar. It looks like roughly thirteen weeks between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox and that means that Summer is barely half over -- or half begun.

So how about a little optimism? Another seven plus weeks of calendar Summer, followed by nice weather and, if we're lucky here in the Northeast, an Indian Summer to bring us well into the Fall.

There we are. It's mid-Summer. Buy more sunscreen because it's not nearly over yet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Missed Memory Minutes

I can be an insufferable purist about a few things -- especially movies and television shows. Show me the message that "this program has been formatted to fit your screen and edited to run in the time allotted" and I'll be excusing myself to another room to catch up on my reading.

To me, that message means that the entire program will not be shown as it was originally intended. I grumbled somewhat about this in a previous post. Pan&Scan will literally cut out a third of what the director wanted me to see while advertising quotas eat up time that used to be the now missing moments of the story.

I experienced this empty frustration anew last night when I decided to back up from my computer screen and passively enjoy a trip down Amnesia Lane with the crew of the Enterprise.

"The Trouble With Tribbles", written by David Gerrold, is among my top ten or so ST:TOS episodes. It's light, humorous, clever, and fun. And fortunately doesn't take itself too seriously.

Unfortunately, I know the episode so well that I was aware - and irritated - every time a scene was clipped short or a sentence or two missing from the dialog in order to allow for the requisite advertising minutes. As we already know, nothing is sacred -- least of all forty-something year old TV shows.

Go figure -- in 1967 there weren't as many things to cram down our throats as there are today, so twelve minutes out of the hour was sufficient to inundate us with those "must have" products. Now we need about twenty minutes an hour to pay the piper on network TV.

This is why I'm happy to pay for HBO and Showtime. Maybe I can start a letter writing campaign to get them to show old TV shows in their original format. I'll bet they'd be surprised just how many people would go for it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Beach Bound

We're headed for the First Town in the First State -- Lewes, Delaware. I took the picture above at one of my favorite spots on the planet, Cape Henlopen, Delaware, shortly before sunset near the inner Harbor of Refuge lighthouse.

It will only be a long weekend, so it will doubtless be as unsatisfying as it is wonderful.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hiatus Terminus

A fortnight later and everything is pretty much how I left it. I won't call it writer's block because that's lame, but as soon as I think of a term considerably less lame, I'll apply it.

We're celebrating four years of marital bliss today -- albeit with minimal fanfare. She's taking a pilates class after work and I'm getting my hair cut. We're headed to the beach for a long weekend, however, and will do the majority of the celebrating between re-applying sunscreen.

It's been a busy couple weeks that just ended with our finding out that our cat is diabetic. Poor little guy. At least we know not to blame him for his *ahem* inappropriate behavior. He'll need to be on insulin, which means two injections per day for the rest of his life. If he lives another ten years, that's 7300 injections, $6000 for insulin, and about $2000 for needles....plus the additional visits to the vet.

We had been considering pet health insurance. Don't think we aren't kicking ourselves for not acting a bit quicker on that.

And he has a mild urinary tract infection that we're treating with antibiotics every day. Oh, the many faceted joys of pet ownership.

I plan on posting more regularly again. Of course, I'll have to be careful that the wind doesn't kick up and get sand in my keyboard.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Price Of Speed

I heard a rumor. I don't usually comment on rumors, but the source is pretty informed and reliable and has no history of relaying bad information.

It seems that some ISPs are going to start identifying "bandwidth hogs" (users who do a lot of downloading, uploading, streaming of video and audio, etc...), throttle their available bandwidth, and then inform them that they can reclaim their original performance for an additional premium.

Say what? For example -- If I pay WhizBag Cable $40 a month, I get about 1 MB per second download speed no matter what I do or how much I use the service. I'm a higher end user, so I stream video (think CNN, YouTube...) and download music. A lower level user is paying the same $40 a month, but only uses email and occasionally surfs the web.

Of course the price that the lower end user pays will not go down, but in order to continue using the bandwidth that I've been paying for, I now have to pay a premium as the penalty for making full use of what was available to me. Apparently my usage has been subsidised by the folks who don't use the Internet as much.

The argument was made that it's going to be like the Turnpike -- the more you drive, the more you pay. That analogy doesn't work for me -- even if it's applicable from a certain point of view. I just see this as yet another way to be nickel and dimed to death by the service providers (any service). I realize this is all an intrinsic part of free market capitalism, but it doesn't mean it's right.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tell Me A Story

A friend and blogger bud recently posted about the thief who lives in all of our homes and steals our time -- that thief being the television. I must confess a mild addiction to the damn thing, but in all honesty I enjoy a good, well-told story. And since I don't know any real storytellers of the oral tradition, I read, watch TV, and go to the movies.

Whether many of the stories being told deserve our time and attention, let alone airtime, is another matter completely.

But a thief? You cannot, sir, take anything from me that I will more willingly part withal...except my life... - Hamlet Act II, Scene ii

In my case it's my time and attention, not my life -- even though I'm willingly parting with little slices of my life to sit sedentarily and tan my retinas in the glow of the television's CRT. How many hours? It depends on the time of year and what's on. Summertime is great because I don't have to schedule my life around a half a dozen (or more) shows that I want to see -- although TiVo lets me watch the shows when I want, I still need to carve out the time.

I sometimes deliberately avoid what looks like good quality programming so I won't get roped into yet another good story. At least I know myself. If I see the pilot episode and enjoy it, I'm probably hooked. If I make it a point to miss the pilot, then I can rationalize not ever watching it again.

It's kind of like my mindset about going to the movies. Get me to a movie after its already started, even just five minutes, and you won't get me into the theater. I want the full experience or none at all. And yes, I'm one of those people that watches the credits -- all of them. And no, it's not because I'm looking for my second cousin's name who's a Key Grip.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Matt Who?

A friend sent me this link to the website Where The Hell Is...Matt?
I confess that I'm not exactly sure what this project is all about other than maybe that dancing guy on the Internet.

But I guarantee it will bring a smile -- and who can't use more of those?