Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Another Summer



The Pointer Sisters covered Santa Claus is Coming to Town for the first A Very Special Christmas album way back in the late ‘90’s. At the opening of the song, they say “Another year has gone by.” More and more, that line keeps running through my head as we keep hitting those yearly milestones again and again each year.This time around, it’s another year of school ending for Erin, and another June that has arrived, which means another summer of Hersheypark and the second year of setting up our small pool. Another summer of dealing with ants in the house and finding toads and snakes out in the back yard. Another summer that I am sure will feel that it went by way too fast. But at least for right now, there are those fun times we still have the opportunity to look forward to. Those times when we can finally take a breather from the grindstone and sit back to relax for a change.

Going to Hersheypark is one of those annual family traditions that come Hell or high water we feel we need to keep going. It’s unfortunate that our ability to take those days trips is going to be much more limited this year than in years past, but it’s that one thing we can look forward to each year as our deserving reward for all the blood and sweat we put in to our jobs year in and year out, and for all the trials and tribulations Erin goes through each school year. That daily grind, day in and day out, 5 (sometimes 6) days a week, time spent away from each other and time and energy spent trying to earn enough to make sure we can pay the bills and put food on the table. It’s seems that whenever we manage to get ahead, something else happens to set us back again, even just a little bit. This time around, it’s the dog being diagnosed with Addison’s Disease. It’s something that John F. Kennedy had, and can be contracted by dogs as well, though it is rare, and rarer still in male dogs. Just our luck, it seems. It requires a daily pill, and a monthly shot that sets us back $150 each time (more if we were not giving Marley the shots ourselves). It just means we have to work a little bit longer and a little bit harder now to cover that additional expense. That’s just life in the real world, and another hurdle that has to be leaped.

But we have the summer. That really is the one time we can look forward to those couple of trips to Hersheypark to just be able to forget about everything else and enjoy the family time together. Obviously, in our line of work (retail) we can’t even count on the holidays. But it’s that one week of vacation and those couple of extra day trips we manage to squeeze in somehow that keep us going each year. Sometimes I wish we had the ability to just drop everything and go whenever we wanted to, but that’s life in the real world. We just keep looking forward to each summer when that opportunity presents itself once school comes to a close.

We managed to get our first trip in this past Monday, and, despite the heat, it allowed us the breather we needed from the grindstone of our daily responsibilities. A little breather for a few hours, at any rate. It was nice, though, now with Abby getting to the age where she can really appreciate the park and the rides. It made for great times and a few great videos I have to find the time to work on now. As relaxing as it was though, I still am reminded that there are others that are not as fortunate as we are. There are those others who don’t get the opportunity to go to an amusement park, or to the zoo, or to the aquarium, or to the beach, or even to a local playground. By nature of my involvement with Extra Life, I am always reminded or thinking about the kids who don’t have the chances that Erin and Abby have, of being able to get up and go to school every day, and of being able to have that experience and the experience of taking those all to rare family trips to relax together. I realize that even with our daily struggles, even when we have bad days at work, there are others who always have worse days. So I am thankful that, even if there are only a few days a year where we can truly escape the “real world” for a time that we do indeed have that ability given to us.

I am so glad for the Boo that her hard work has paid off and we can reward her with special occasions like this. I have to say that Erin might work harder than any of us. I was never a great student, and struggled with a lot of things with the exception of the liberal arts part (reading, writing, etc), or whatever it may be called now in the asinine “Common Core” age. But Erin really has put a lot of effort in this year to getting her work done and trying to improve her grades to make Second Honors. She takes a lot of the responsibility upon herself since the CC makes it difficult for pretty much any one with Common Sense to figure out how to answer some of the work that is brought home from school. Day in and day out she trudges along and manages to continue to succeed. With all the work she has done these last 9-odd months, she above all else deserves the reward of Hersheypark more than any of us. She has shown a genuine improvement in herself over the years, and I am so glad that we still have the ability to send her to the school we have chosen for her. It is truly making her a better person for the experience. I was never a big fan of school (really there probably few kids who are), but at the end of the day I wouldn’t have traded that experience in for any other. At the end of the day, it prepared me for dealing with the real world, and gave me the ability to be able to do what I do so I can give the same opportunities to Erin and Abby that my parents gave to me. I am so glad that we can continue the decades long tradition of making the family trips to Hersheypark one of those opportunities. The days spent at work and school make it worth so much more.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

100 Days

Another Memorial Day has come and gone, signaling the “start” of yet another summer season. School is winding down, and vacations are in the planning stage. We have thus far survived the first 5 months of what I can only think of as a Reality TV Presidency. That’s the thought that struck me over the weekend as we had another interesting week of Tweets, scandal, and shenanigans in our Political system. It just really seems to me that Trump is just treating this as another one of his Reality ventures. The last five months certainly seem to fit the mold of today’s shows. At the very least, Trump made the attempt to keep the campaign promises he made in his first 100 days in office – for better or worse as they may be. Not many politicians can be held to that claim. He certainly gave the Executive Order plenty of use, if nothing else. That got me to thinking, if I had the ability to hold the highest political office in the United States, what would be my big points of contention I would want to take on in my first 100 days of office?

First and foremost, Executive Order #1 would be to eliminate Daylight Saving Time nationwide in the United States. I wrote another blog post about DST a while back, and the complete uselessness of the system in today’s modern world. The disruption it causes just serves no benefit to us whatsoever, so on Day 1, that’s the first thing to go, no ifs, ands, nor buts, about it.

Next up would be non-essential businesses opening on National Holidays. It’s long past time that we take some of our personal and family time back from the grindstone. It’s only a matter of time before those who work in the Retail Industry lose what little they have left of Thanksgiving, let alone some of the other holidays. There is absolutely not one single business that would be put out of business by remaining closed on National Holidays. So Executive Order #2 would be to close all non-essential businesses in the United States on all National Holidays.  Furthermore, none would be permitted to be open later than normal business hours on the day before the holiday (with forced closures on Midnight, regardless). In addition, no business would be permitted to open prior to 6:00 AM local time on the day after the holiday, regardless of normal business hours.

Finally, my third Executive Order would be to ensure all non-essential businesses are closed when there is a State of Emergency declared that covers their local area. Once again, there is absolutely no reason for any business to put the lives of their employees and customers on the line during a Snow Emergency or other similar event or natural disaster. I just find it incredulous that time and again, whenever an event like this crops up – especially the snow emergencies we have here in the Northeast – that the higher ups sitting in their offices will claim (and state) that the safety of their employees is first and foremost, yet there is no inclination whatsoever to tell the managers to close down those businesses in the affected areas. Once again, there is absolutely nothing that any retail business sells that is essential for anyone to have that requires them to put their lives, and more importantly the lives of others, at risk by going out in such conditions. For the most part, there is plenty of advanced warning so that people can be prepared ahead of time. If you don’t take advantage of that – then screw you, due without until the emergency is over. It’s not like anyone is going to be trapped inside their homes for days, let alone weeks after whatever storm system has passed. Forgot to get your milk? Well, you certainly won’t forget next time, will you? And quite frankly, my life is a hell of a lot more important than your damn gallon of milk.

Yeah, I think those are the three things that would need to be done in the first 100 days of a new Presidency. So, all you politicians out there who have aspirations of running for President in the future ... guarantee me that you will tackle these issues during your term of office, and you’ll get my vote any day of the week!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Purple Hair Challenge



Before I get to the topic at hand, I just had to comment about the wild and wacky weather we had this winter season. As much as I like a good winter storm, I never expected to have one bring us a White Saint Patrick’s Day. Although I did find it fascinating that once again we got another smaller snow storm right around March 9th this year as well. This was something I had noticed 20 odd years ago – it seems that when we get snow later in the season, such as February, March, and every once in a great while April, it seems to hit around the 9th of each of those months. Obviously this is just my perception, but still, it’s always one of those things that seemed to perk my interest whenever those storms come to town with a bit of snow the last couple of decades. It would be fascinating to do a bit a research and see a record of snowfall in this area and how often it does fall around the 9th of the month in comparison to other days.

But that’s something for another time, when there is more time, I suppose. What I wanted to do this time around was get an early start on talking about Extra Life for 2017. I have to thank everyone again for all the support you have given me over the last four years. It’s a great feeling to know that being able to do something so simple can have a great impact on so many, especially when those affected are kids. Combined, all of us who supported the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2016 raised nearly $200,000 for CHOP and all the kids who need its services. By comparison, my $250 raised doesn’t seem like a lot, but it was all put in perspective for my by a fellow Extra Life Stream Team member not too long ago. He had mentioned that there are specialized baby bottles that allow infants born with cleft lips or other mouth deformities to be able to nurse. These bottles only cost a couple of bucks, so in the end, when someone donates a dollar or two, they are helping to buy these bottles for the kids that need them to survive. It hammers home the point for me, that every dollar really does make a difference and my #1DollarAtATime campaign went a long way to helping a lot of kids. So I’ll be hyping it up again for this year’s fundraising, but I still want to do more.

Already this year I have raised $35 of my $250 goal. I am hoping to keep bumping up my goal, as I did last year, all throughout the remainder of the year, and want to try to do more to reach my ultimate goal of $1000. That’s where the Purple Hair Challenge comes in. As I have watched and talked with many other Extra Life participants over the years, many of them have come up with ideas to enhance and encourage their fundraising efforts. Some host giveaways for games and other things, while other perform stunts after meeting a certain goal. I want to try to do both this year. I can’t really afford to do much in the way of giveaways, but I have an idea that I have been kicking around, and will reveal in an upcoming blog post. For this entry, I want to talk about my “stunt”.

Quite a few Extra Lifers do things like shave their heads, the ice bucket challenge, wax their backs, etc. so I figured I would join in the antics this year. So for my 5th year of fundraising for CHOP, if I can raise that $1000, I will dye my hair purple. The only stipulation is that I would like to meet that goal before I begin my 25 hour marathon on Friday, November 3rd. That way, I have enough time to get it dyed before the marathon and show off the efforts of my challenge – and the generosity of all involved, live on stream. This would be the first time in my 40+ years of life that I would actually dye my hair a different color, so I’m kind of excited about the prospect of being able to do something slightly wild and crazy. I hope I can count on everyone reading this to help me meet this challenge – even if it’s only to pass this blog entry on to other people you know, and mention the guy trying to get purple hair.

It’s also important for me to note, as I have done in the past, that everything I raise in my efforts goes directly to CHOP and their kids. That’s one of the other reasons I am so proud to be able to be a part of something like this. Everything we do is a complete and direct benefit for the kids of the hospital we have chosen to represent as a participant. I’m glad to be able to do something like this year in and year out, because I never know when something could happen, and it’s our family or the family of someone we know taking their child to CHOP. I never want to see that day come when Abby or Erin need the hospital; or Connor or Fin; or Ally or Cate; or Nick, Joey, or Cate. I don’t just do this for the kids who need the hospital now; I also do it in case the unthinkable happens and one of my kids needs CHOP and I want to make sure they have the best care possible. If I need purple hair to do it, then I don’t mind at all!

http://www.extra-life.org/participant/RealMillenniumGroup

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hail to the Chief



What an interesting couple of months we’ve had since my last entry in this here blog. There just never seems enough time to write them like I had originally planned. Well, I’m not making a resolution about it, because I just don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. A belated happy 2017 everyone!

The biggest question for myself was what I was going to write about when I finally took the time to sit down and write another blog for my Outhouse reading pleasure. Certainly I haven’t been lacking for subjects – I had wanted to give one more update on my Extra Life efforts for the year (thanks to all who helped me raise $250 for CHOP in 2016! As a group, all CHOP supporters raised almost $200,000 this year!). There’s also that little movie set in the Star Wars universe titled Rogue One that came out about a month ago. I posted my initial reaction on Facebook after seeing the movie with Erin on opening day. Long blog short, to reiterate it ranks as one of my top (if not the top) movie in the franchise as of right now. But like Extra Life, there’s more I can say on that topic, but just am not prepared for it, and I wanted to get a blog entry in while I am enjoying an extended weekend and have the time to sit and pound on the keyboard for a bit.

What really got me motivated, however, is that bit of unpleasantness we have been witness to over the course of the last 12 months and more. Oh yes, the wonderful Electoral Process we have here in the United States of America. I’ve already said my piece about the candidates and the process in a few entries over the course of 2016, so I don’t have much to add to that, but a few things surrounding the inaugural really got under my goat, and I just have to get it off my chest, so for good or ill, here we go!

There’s no doubt that Representative John Lewis has done a great service for this country, and more importantly for the African-American community over the course of his life. All due respect goes to the man who put his life on the line to support those basic human rights that for some reason we all still have to fight and struggle to achieve at this point in the 21st Century. However, I take serious issue with his comments (and those of many others to be fair at this point) regarding the Russian’s and the “interference” with the 2016 election. To say that now President Trump is not a legitimate President because of this “interference” is just as asinine as the Birther movement against President Obama has been over the last eight years. For Mr. Lewis to say that what the Russians did undermined the fair and democratic process in this country is disingenuous, especially in terms of the information we received out of the DNC this summer. The Democratic insiders did more to undermine the fairness of the electoral process than the Russians ever could do without Putin personally voting for Trump. It’s that kind of Political bullshit that caused Trump to win the election in the first place.

At this point in time, there is absolutely no evidence that the Russians hacked any voting machine in this country to give Trump the votes he needed to win the election. Therefore any cause that the Russians gave for people to vote for Trump over Clinton is wholly based upon the actions of both political parties. 

The nonsense going on now just makes the Democrats look like spoiled children crying and stomping over their feet because they didn’t get the toy they wanted. At the end of the day, they didn’t lose the election because the Russians unfairly released negative information about one party without releasing similar information about the other party (none of which was ever proven to be falsified information as far as I know). They lost because the Republicans courted the right people in the right states which the Democrats ignored. The Democrats lost because of the political shenanigans prevalent in both parties, and like the New England Patriots, they were the ones who got caught with their pants down, even though they weren’t the only guilty party.

The Democrats ultimately lost because they were more concerned with Glass Ceilings than they were with ensuring they had a candidate that was the best possible alternative to what the Republicans offered up. This country has been more than ready for a female President for many years. We just needed one that was a good candidate for the job – from either party. The ones we have had so far, are by no means close to being that. There is absolutely no way that Trump should have been close to winning this election. The Democrats lost because of their own actions not because of the actions of the Russians.

You want a good conspiracy theory for this past election – I got one for you! I fully believe that Joe Biden, despite the untimely death of his son, would have been prepared and would have gone through with running for President if he thought it was the best thing to do for his party and the country. Despite being an insider himself, and still being a Sanders supporter, I found him to be more in tune with the needs of all Americans than the Clinton’s ever have been. I would have supported and voted for either Biden or Sanders in the general election. However, it is my firm belief that in addition to the death of his son, the Democratic party made it clear to Biden that they wanted Clinton to be the nominee and they ultimately cemented his decision not to run. I think that if the Democrats weren’t so hell bent on the Glass Ceiling, they would have and could have convinced Biden to run for the nomination. He would have won in a landslide.

Now we have to live with the results of the typical Political bullshit and corruption that goes on in Washington for the next four years. Like I said in my previous blogs on this topic, what we have witnessed is many Americans giving a big middle finger to the Political Establishment and the Media for decades of self-serving nonsense. The Establishment and the Media only have themselves to blame for this outcome – no other country or entity is responsible for results of this election. It would be my hope that they all grew up and learned a valuable lesson from this, but unfortunately, as history has shown, the only thing the political parties will take away from this is the motivation to further entrench their own interests and desires over that of the common American peasant. Mr. Lewis’ comments are only proof positive of that attitude.

At the end of the day, President Donald J. Trump may not be the person I voted for, nor the person I would want leading the country, but as an American who exercised one of the most basic rights available in our Democracy, he is my President and will be my President for the next four years. I wish him all the best and all the luck that he can make our country a better place in which all of us can live. At the very least, if he can be the one who truly changes some of the typical business as usual in Washington, than I would consider that a success and a positive step forward in our process of Democracy.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What a Long Strange Trip


Well, it’s been two days and the world hasn’t melted like it did in Escape from the Planet of the Apes. So there may be some hope yet. But hey, at least we can look forward to Miley Cyrus and a few other of our wonderful celebs packing her bags and heading for Canada. At least it’s over with and we no longer have to be bombarded with political ads and mailings every 30 seconds or so, at least not until the mid-term elections come around. But at least we had quite the pay off in terms of a nail-biter on Tuesday.

I think this may have been the most intense and interesting election that I have watched in a long time, especially since I didn’t have an interest in either of the candidates. I ended up pulling an all-nighter awaiting the next turn of events throughout the night, and completely fascinated by the fact that, as the night went on, it became clear that not only did Trump get a lot more support than many had anticipated, but that he could actually pull out a win. I never would have thought it possible, but there it was and here he is, our President-elect Donald J. Trump. I must say I did take some bit of glee in the looks on the faces of most of the commentators, especially the MSNBC liberal troop after it was certain that there would be no glass ceilings shattered in 2016. I think that may have had some influence in how the results of this election turned out.

As I mentioned in previous blogs on this subject, I went into the voting booth with the firm intention of voting for the person I thought could carry out the position of President of the United States the best – Bernie Sanders. Now a lot of people will say that I wasted my vote, and that irks me more than anything else. The ability to elect our leaders is one of the greatest opportunities our form of democracy and freedom provides for us – I find it much more onerous that people continually fail to exercise that right – even if to hit that “Abstain” button that each voting booth contains. That sends more of a message than just sitting it out. But the point is that we are electing someone to essentially become the leader of the Free World. Just like any job, I feel it is my duty to make sure I choose the person I think is the most qualified for that job. Neither Hillary Clinton, nor Donald Trump met those qualifications in my mind. Choosing the “lesser of two evils” is just completely asinine. To me, neither were lesser nor greater evils. Neither one was fit to lead this country, let alone the world, so neither was going to get my vote. The true wasted vote is the one cast for either of these candidates.

At the end of the day, the elections that our Constitution calls for are to allow us to move our country and society forward; to grow and progress to a more positive future. The problem is that the positions that our government created were supposed to be performed in the service to that end and to be a public service. However, those positions have become a type of career that they were never meant to be. As such, our government has stagnated for the better part of a century or more. One of the primary objectives of the career politician that our system has allowed to arise is to ensure that the system is molded to be of the most benefit to those who are elected into those positions. It is no longer about progressing our society, but about advancing political ideologies and agendas. Because of this any vote cast for a candidate who is a member of a political party is the true wasted vote as it allows the stagnation to continue. Of course we don’t always have that much of a choice when since, as is no surprise, most viable candidates have to be a member of one of the current political parties. However, we have seen a trend that tries to break out of this mold, which started with the Tea Party, and continues with candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump that aren’t afraid to act of their own accord and not tote the usual party line. There will not be an ideal candidate for a long time to come until we can get more of the “revolutionaries” and individual thinkers into the lower offices and work on changing the system, but when someone does come along that has the potential to get genuine change done, then we need to support that candidate to the fullest.
Therefore, I voted for the person I thought could fulfill those objectives, even though he was not on the ballot. I would do so again, even if my one solitary vote could have been the difference in who ultimately won on Tuesday … err, Wednesday morning. Ultimately, it’s quite easy to understand why someone, including myself, could not in good conscious support Trump, even though he is one of those outsiders that I want to see running for political office. There were several reasons that reinforced why I would never vote for Hillary, her position as one of those career politicians notwithstanding.

I mentioned the issue with the e-mails in a previous blog, and that extends to the fact that she still thinks she did nothing wrong despite being goaded into admitting it was a “mistake.” It’s quite clear that she still things there was no wrongdoing in putting an entire government network at risk of security breaches. Beyond that was the hypocrisy she showed between her campaign message and the political ads released by her campaign. First was her infamous “deplorables” comment. I don’t care how fast she backtracked on that, it appeared to me at least, to be one of the first times where she looked genuine when speaking instead of putting on the typical false face of a politician. Despite that fact that she was toting a message of being “Stronger Together,” she had just insulted what turns out to be about 25% of the country. That comment told me that we are all stronger together – just as long as you think and believe the same way she and the rest of the Democratic Party does. If you don’t then there is no place for you. The other instance was the constant harping upon Trump’s past comments and attitude regarding women. Make no mistake, he’s an misogynistic moron for what he said and may (or may not) have done, but quite frankly, the acts of former President Bill Clinton were certainly not much better, and quite frankly worse, since at least one we know of occurred while he was in the Oval Office. That is more disgraceful to me than anything Trump has said. Personally speaking, I don’t know one woman who would have tolerated Bill’s “indiscretions” throughout the years, nor one man who would have not gotten kicked to the curb for the same. To me, that bespeaks a lot of her desire to maintain some form of political power than of setting an example of how a woman should be treated in a relationship.

Of course there’s that whole incident that came out during the DNC about some shady business of ensuring that Hillary would be the nominee instead of Bernie Sanders. That didn’t necessarily influence my support (or lack thereof) of Hillary, but most certainly reinforced my disdain for the system of political parties in this country. Ironically, had Bernie Sanders been the nominee I fully expect that the results of the election would have been much different. In fact, I think had either one of the candidates been someone else, we would have seen the election decided much earlier, and it is only because the choices we had could only have been worse had Sarah Palin been the Republican nominee, we saw what ultimately transpired this past Tuesday. I look forward to the time when I can cast my vote for a female candidate who is imminently qualified for the position of President, and that woman will be one where we don’t have to hear about asinine glass ceiling because that time is long past – this country has been ready for more than a decade for a woman president. We just need one that will actually do the job of servant of the people rather than servant of a political party and special interests.

But here we are. We’ll have a new President come the new year. Let’s hope that Mr. Trump can assuage whatever fears people may have of him and lead this country into the greatness that he claimed for the last year and half that he would do. I, for one, am interested to see how things play out. It could be that the campaigning was simply a shrewd political act to ensure he got the support he needed at the time he needed it. Only time will tell. Life goes on and nothing changes the fact that tomorrow I will have to wake up and go to work to try to earn enough of living to support my family and try to pay the myriad of bills that will arrive in the mail regardless of who is running this country.

In the meantime, I guess Canada better get to work building a wall. After all, I am sure they have no desire to be overrun by our slew of celebrities fleeing the country.