Monday, April 27, 2015

Driving a Hole Through My Wallet

It's been 3 1/2 months since my daughter got her driver's permit, and we've got enough time under us that I am starting to take the steps to ensure that she is able to take her drivers' test shortly after the required 6-month gap between getting the permit and taking the test. It's quite a bit different than it was in 1979, when I got my license, I am finding. For starters, there are fees and costs associated with it that were not charged when I was a kid; I think I paid $80 back when she got the permit, which will cover the cost of the eventual drivers' test as well as the picture-ID learner's permit we got at that time. I guess I can understand that, although I think the cost is a little steep and that the state could just easily hit those that make several hundred thousand dollars a year with a higher tax rate as they could hit everybody with a 16YO kid in the state with a rather large fee.
But there are going to be other costs associated with it. For one, there is a 5-hour course that is now mandatory for prospective drivers to take before you can apply to take the test. We used to have drivers' education offered through our schools, and it used to be something you could take as an option (it lowered your insurance rate, and it removed some of the restrictions on your license that under-18 drivers dealt with, but it wasn't mandatory that you took it to even get in the door). And it sure as hell didn't cost $40 to $60 a shot. What a crock of shit this is; it is nothing more than another con job, another fee for an unnecessary service conjured up as a way to allow some parasitic clowns with no real skill base to siphon a living out of something that shouldn't be necessary. I don't really know why this is irritating me so much; it isn't like this state doesn't charge bogus fees for other things it shouldn't (like the infamous "court costs" scam that is the main source of income for many municipalities, from one traffic-light towns to New York City), and it isn't like corporate America isn't gouging us at every opportunity, either (bounce a check sometime, or try to decipher a phone or cable bill and figure out what some of the charges are and why you get charged for them). Maybe because it is so totally unnecessary and superfluous. I remember the five-hour course we had to take during the drivers' ed course I took in high school; it was an absolute joke--nobody drives that way, least of all the people teaching the course.
And my insurance is going to go up, significantly. I don't know the exact numbers yet, but I've been reliably assured that I am looking at an increase of close to $700 a year. Since I am currently only paying $450 a year--yeah, that's a lot. I suppose some insurance company actuary has some chart ready to whip out whenever questioned about why teens are higher risks (don't get me started on the entire idea of insurance and the insurance industry and how much we pay for all that; it's not quite another grift or con job, in that insurance companies actually do pay out, albeit grudgingly and slowly, should something you are paying to be insured against happens, but the idea that there is an entire industry that basically makes a living off people's fears is something morally nebulous at best), but I really question whether a 200% increase is justified--is a 16 or 17YO driver three times more likely to get in an accident as I am? And I really don't pay a lot for insurance; my last ticket was (knocking on wood) nearly a decade ago, and I haven't been at fault in an accident since the 1980's. I really can't imagine how some of these poor bastards keep a car on the road when their children get their license.
As far as her driving...I've learned some things, mostly about how much of my own skill set behind the wheel that I take for granted now, that I must have learned through trial and error but have no recollection of the learning curve. Sabrina does reasonably well navigating through city streets and urban driving. She is a little slow to stop, works the brake a little bit too hard, but so far at least, isn't generally a lead-footed driver (note to parents; having a 4-cylinder car really helps in this regard). She has learned turning quickly, too. Learning to drive in winter and spring has also very quickly taught her how to avoid potholes and other assorted obstacles without becoming a menace to other drivers and pedestrians. But going on the highway needs some work. She entered 17 West from the mall exit the other day--and almost killed us by moseying on out into the drive lanes at 30 MPH and making several cars swerve around us (note to self: screaming "Speed up!"at the top of my lungs tends to freeze her, not get the desired result. Work on a Plan B). She still is not comfortable traveling at 55 to 65 MPH, and she gets resentful at other drivers blowing by her at speeds at least 20 miles an hour over the limit. She takes a long time to decide to change lanes, and even longer to actually get over into the other lane... A lot of it is lack of practice; she drives around town most every day, but has only been on the highway about a half-dozen times so far. And I am trying to remember that I wasn't born knowing how to merge into traffic and other nuances of higher-speed driving. But at the same time, the stakes are a lot higher at higher speeds.
Maybe that increased insurance rate is going to be necessary, after all. And I can tell you that once she does get a license, she will be expected to get at least a part-time job to help cover the costs. That's kind of the point of having a license; it increases your options all over the map. And by time she actually takes the test, softball and other time-consuming activities should be done with.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Book Review: THE LIFE OF THE AUTOMOBILE

This is a pretty ambitious book by British academic Steven Parissien--nothing less than a history of the car, world-wide, from its beginnings in Europe and America in the nineteenth century to today. And by and large, it does hold the interest of the reader. Those that are really into cars--that know models on sight and appreciate nuances about vehicles--will like the book more than I did, but I still found it pretty interesting to read of the individual manufacturers' histories, who did what when (I had no idea, for example, that the Renault that started the famous French car company was a Vichy collaborator and ended his life in a Fourth Republic jail), and what has happened in Europe over the decades. I did find a few things not so interesting, too, though. One is that the writer is British, and uses British jargon to describe cars--"bonnet," "saloon,"windscreen" (Americans use hood, sedan, and windshield, respectively), among many examples in the text. Another is, since the writer is British, there is a disproportionate (to American eyes) focus on the British auto industry, and entire chapters are devoted to people and companies I knew nothing about and don't feel particularly enlightened for having read about. I also think that there aren't enough pictures included in the book; if one is going to gush about design and style innovations, it would be nice to see what is being described, not just read about.
I obviously had more interest in the latter part of the book, which talks about cars and events I personally remember. And the sections of the book about American auto executives such as Lee Iacocca and Roger Smith (of Roger and Me, the movie that shot Michael Moore to stardom, fame) are priceless precisely because the author is viewing them through non-American eyes. It is became clear to me that I have not been following auto-related news very closely in the last decade or so; I had no clue, for example, that Fiat now owns Chrysler, and that the Big Three are now the Somewhat Large Two, that Toyota is the biggest car company in the world and Hyundai and Volkswagen are bigger than Ford, and that Nissan is owned by Renault. I remember when I was first entering the ranks of drivers and how many different models and manufacturers of cars there were, and I note now, as I look around for the not-far-off day when Sabrina will have a car, the relative paucity of options. GM doesn't seem to have half of what they used to, I still don't like Ford, and despite the prevalence of Toyotas on the road, I don't like the way they look and I don't trust the way they drive--the only one I ever owned fell apart as soon as it hit 120,000 miles. And the car company that made the best car I've ever had, Subaru, didn't even get mentioned once in the book, an omission that I find both curious and ultimately intolerable. Maybe Subaru doesn't have a presence in Britain, but still, they are a legitimate player on the world stage.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

#ChangeTheEnding

It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't easy. But it was relatively quick, and the New York Rangers are on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth year in a row (something which has not happened since the 1990's), winning four of five games against former nemesis team Pittsburgh by identical 2-1 scores.
I would love to tell you that I saw nothing in this series that makes me worry about a second-round match-up against Washington (who lead the Islanders three games to two, and who are likely to win). But that's not true. The Rangers were pretty sloppy at times against the Penguins, and frankly were lucky that Evgeni Malkin was not 100% (he was pointless in the series, both literally and descriptively). Lundqvist is himself again, and some of the players that entered the playoffs as question marks (most notably Dan Girardi) played well. But there are some serious problems among some of the other veterans. Dan Boyle is 38, and looks it most of the time. Martin St. Louis has not won a battle for the puck since January, it seems, and has become a turnover machine. And I really hope Rick Nash understands that the aim of playoff hockey is to put the puck in the net, not just on it; he sure looks to me like he is afraid to make any sort of move with the puck, but is firing as soon as he gets it on his stick. Kevin Hayes had the overtime winner in Game 4--and on virtually every other shift in the series looked as if playoff pressure was constricting his arms into Play-Doh.
And last night, Mats Zuccarello took a puck to the face and did not return; more ominously, there was not an update provided after the game. And if he can't play going forward for any length of time--well, the only spare forward on the roster right now is James Sheppard, who should be playing ahead of Tanner Glass anyway, but neither one of them is in the same zip code as a player as Zuccarello. Kevin Klein, who was supposedly going to be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs, still hasn't come back--and I'm not sure if he is going to play if and when he is ready, because Matt Hunwick has played really well in his absence. But the Rangers need to have a viable fourth line in order to be go all the way, and while it is debatable whether a fourth line with Glass on it is viable, a fourth line with Glass and Sheppard is certainly not good enough to play meaningful minutes against good teams.
But on the other hand, the mark of a really good team is being able to win games when it isn't playing really well, and even more so when the other team is giving its best shot. I'm not sure the Penguins played as well as they were capable of, because of Malkin--but everyone else seemed to have brought their "A" game. As much as I hate him, Sidney Crosby played very well; Steve Downie, of all people, looked like Cam Neely most of the series; and Chris Kunitz likely saved his Pittsburgh career with a decent set of games. The Wilkes-Barre Penguin defense actually played very well, and Marc-Andre Fleury played well enough to win most playoff rounds.
But there are reasons for optimism going forward. Fleury was spectacular; the Rangers could have easily had four or more goals in every game. Some players are really stepping it up, too--Stepan, Staal, Hagelin, Miller, Moore. And I do think that the Rangers are in the Capitals' heads a bit, too; the Rangers absolutely dominated them in the last game of the season, even when they had nothing to play for and the Capitals did. I have noticed, though, that Washington is winning without a great series from Ovechkin, and that is sort of worrisome. But Caps fans could think the same about the Rangers winning with a single goal from Nash.
So the journey continues on. I love the #changetheending hashtag; it is a perfect reminder of how close the team came last year, what the ultimate goal is--and how good this team really is. As the team moves on, I did some research, and found out that the winning of at least one series in four straight years is not a record--the team won at least one series in five consecutive seasons in the Duguay/Greschner years from 1979-83. I was a huge fan then, too, and I can tell you that with the exception of the first year in that streak, when the team found themselves in the Cup finals against the Canadiens, there was never a realistic sense of expectation around those teams about winning the Cup. Those five teams were trying to win against the best team of all time (the Islander dynasty) with John Davidson (good but not great), Ed Mio (journeyman), and Steve Baker (who?) in goal. The current Ranger goalie is of somewhat better quality...and relative to the rest of the league, their top players now (Nash, Stepan, Kreider, even a very old-looking St. Louis) are better than the Duguay/Anders Hedberg/Mike Rogers types that were leading those teams. But the best thing about this Ranger team is that their defense corps goes (if Hunwick continues to play well) seven-deep. If Klein is healthy, Hunwick likely is in the press box--and Hunwick would have been the best defenseman in the Penguin lineup in the series just concluded. Man-for-man, Washington can't match the Rangers on the blue line, either (the Islanders can, which is why the Rangers had such trouble with the Isles this season, but as I said, I don't think the Islanders are coming back against the Caps). If Boyle is able to actually shoot the puck on goal in the next round (he missed at least four wide-open nets in three different games against the Penguins), the Rangers should have a decided advantage against Washington.
And for all the ugliness of the series, let's not forget that they gave up eight goals in five games. A 1.53 goals-against average is going to win a best-of-seven series every single time. You could make a case that this series would have been a rout if not for Fleury in the other net just as easily as one could make a case that the Rangers didn't play all that great. And while the Ranger offense was somewhat mercurial during the season, the defense was not. Cam Talbot played a third of the season, and his numbers were actually better than those of Lundqvist. The team's true character is that they, first and foremost, keep the puck out of their own net. I think they are going to be fine.
We're a quarter of the way home,

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Bit of Relapse Mode

No, not on drugs; let me be quite clear on that immediately. But I am approaching four months now of excellent dietary habits, which has resulted in a weight loss of at least 20 pounds since the first of the year (I've been plateaued between 186 and 190 for a month, for reasons that will be clear in a moment). I've always maintained that it's easiest for me personally to lose weight between New Year's and Easter. I can resist the temptation to eat a lot, and I can control what food is available to me, much better if I am in the house more or less all the time when I am not working, and in the winter, that's pretty much where I am almost all the time.
But with the spring comes distractions and breaks from routine. The first temptation is Easter and the family gatherings associated with it; my mother, even approaching eighty years old, still cooks for a small army every time anyone is over there for dinner. And then, with warmer weather, start the barbecues and gatherings at friends' homes, and while I try not to overeat, at the same time I am not made of stern enough stuff to resist hamburgers, hot dogs, cake, and stuff like that, not if there is a table full of that stuff. With Sabrina in full softball season, it is often seven o'clock or better before she is home, and it is so tempting to take her to McDonald's or Subway rather than make her wait for me to cook something when we get home. And then as activity increases around my job, I find myself at events or on the road, and it's hard not to eat lunch at eateries that don't specialize in healthy fare or small portions. And it's like a dam breaching: one is too many, a thousand is never enough.
I went to a friend's birthday celebration Sunday, after eating pizza Saturday after Sabrina's all-day tournament. And then Tuesday I was out and about with the new program volunteer, and we were in Johnson City at lunchtime, and--well, Wegmans was right there and they have so many lunch options... And then yesterday the volunteer was around at lunchtime again, and Wendy's was right there and it's been so long since I had fries...and I could barely stay awake all afternoon.
But the real danger sign came last night, after dinner. I hardly buy snack and junk food anymore; Sabrina likes her Tostitos and salsa, and if I have a coupon for something she eats occasionally, like Price Chopper ridged potato chips, I will use the coupon. So far, I've been very good about resisting the Siren call; there has sat a box of unopened Pop-tarts since January in the cupboard, to take one example. But last night, after dinner, I was still feeling a little food craving--even after a Wendy's lunch. And I ate some potato chips.
And as I enjoyed every savory, mouth-watering chip, I thought to myself, "This is what the first stage of relapse feels like." And then, five minutes later, as I could feel the salt clogging my arteries and the pile of mush in my stomach shifting uncomfortably, I thought to myself, "This is what the rest of relapse feels like." The degree of self-loathing, of feeling disgusted with myself, of a lot of work going down the drain--it was all  present. I'm a little afraid to get on the scale this morning, to be honest. I hope it's something manageable, like 190; I fear it's going to read 192 or 193. And I am glad that that Sabrina's Saturday tournament is out in Newark Valley, where there should be no food vendors--and also that I have other commitments and won't be there for the entire day, too.
My goal of goals was to get to 170, and that looks very unlikely. But I would at least like to break through 180,  and that was looking very possible there for a while. It still is. But I have to stay out of places that sell lunch, and I definitely have to keep the cupboard door shut after I am done eating my meals.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Rational Analysis of Start-Up NY

I am drawn like a magnet to a refrigerator door to any news story that portrays our esteemed governor in anything less than a fawning positive light. So I immediately perked up like the pot of coffee that was brewing when I saw a note on our local newspaper site (one of the five free articles I get this month, and since it's the 23rd of the month, you can tell how much of what is published every day is actually worth reading and why I refused their 99-cent trial offer, but I digress) that reported that the Spoiled Little Bastard was feeling the lash of criticism over the centerpiece of his economic "recovery" program, Start-Up NY.
For those that live in other places, and indeed for those of us too rightly disgusted by any noise that comes from Albany to pay a lot of attention to what passes for public policy in this state, Start-Up NY was Cuomo's attempt to, in his words, counteract the image of New York as a high-tax, business unfriendly state, and also attempt to "solve"  the problem that few if any of the tens of thousands of students that attend college in this state get jobs in the communities they go to college in, by setting up hundreds (literally; there are 356 of them) of zones located near 62 colleges across the state that, should a business begin operations within the zone, will not have to pay taxes for ten years.
After a year of operation, the program has spent $53 million on advertising. It has produced $1.7 million dollars in investments in the zones, and 76 jobs. Critics are having a field day with those paltry numbers, and also because it effectively penalizes existing businesses. The SLB is counseling patience, claiming that 93 companies have been approved for the next few years of the program and that they have pledged 2100 jobs and $91 million in investments in those businesses.
While in general I am one that tries to look past the immediate present to the long term, in this particular case I am on the side of the critics, and not just because this is something that involves one of my least favorite homo sapiens on earth. In no particular order:

  1. This whole thing smacks of a Time-Warner promotion. I find it obscene, frankly, that I get seven channels of television and high-speed Internet for my $90/month--while Time-Warner's introductory packages for new customers promise more or less full cable, the same Internet speed, and a landline phone for $30/month. I have had an account with Time-Warner since they were Newchannels, sometime back in the 1980's; you would think that the long-time customer would be getting a better deal than some yo-yo off the street. But sometime in the last thirty years, that normal business ethic got perverted somehow, and this entire "Start-Up" bit seems a rather typical example of a business model that hasn't worked well.
  2. For a state that is supposedly very "anti-business," New York is the state where the so-called business/financial capital of the entire frigging world is located. Wall Street is in New York State, for God's sake. If the tax burdens were punitively high here, so high that no business could survive, then the presence of the most economically dynamic city in the world, or at least in this hemisphere, would be inexplicable. Ergo, the tax burden here isn't as "burdensome" as many think. 
  3. Taxes go to support not just a government and bureaucracy. They pay for an level of society. And to anyone that looks at economic/tax data with an unblinkered eye unbiased by ideology, it's hard to escape the conclusion that places with relatively higher tax revenue are better places to live than those that do not. On every level, from municipality to continents. New York has higher taxes than, say, South Carolina--and we have a much better educational system, a much better safety net, a much more diverse and open cultural context (from state involvement in the arts to better parks and recreational facilities), less awful justice systems, higher levels of child welfare services (from better Child Protective Services rates to day care for working people to summer programs to dozens of other things that have some degree of public money involved), to name just a few benefits that higher levels of taxation bring...people are going to bitch about taxes no matter what level they are at. Some of the earliest recorded examples of writing are laconic recordings of merchants bitching about royal taxes in ancient Sumeria 5500 years ago. And quite honestly, the same people that bitch the loudest about taxes are often the same people that are the most avid consumers of services underwritten by tax money. I remember, a decade ago when she was actually a semi-functional part of society, when MOTY got a bumper sticker that said, "Work harder. Millions on welfare are depending on you." This was a woman that, at the time, was having DSS pay for her day care, that was on food stamps, that was getting WIC for her then-infant (she was also someone that was ineligible for straight public assistance because of a conviction for welfare fraud, but I digress). And I see this to various degrees all around me even today. There's a lot more that your tax dollars go to then just public assistance recipients. 
  4. My father had a small business, of one sort or another, for nearly fifty years, and I was a partner with him for fifteen of those years. And I can tell you that a whole lot of other considerations go into making a business successful than the taxes one has to pay. A business has to be selling something that someone wants, and those that want it have to be able to afford to pay for it. Those are the two things that matter the most. Other secondary considerations are location, security, ease of access, and supply. The amount one pays in taxes is not completely off the list of factors that make a success, but it's very, very far down the list.
  5. This idea that taxes kill business is a staple of conservative ideology. Like so much of conservative ideology, there isn't any evidence that supports the notion--but it doesn't stop people from spouting it like it was true. Indeed, the SLB himself said yesterday that it's "inarguable that a tax-free zone is going to attract businesses." Well, it is very arguable, for the reasons just listed above. But what does Cuomo know about businesses and what makes them work? He was born wealthy and privileged, and the only ideas he has about business come from other people from wealthy and privileged circles. I wasn't a fan of his father, but you never heard this kind of drivel coming from Mario Cuomo--because whatever his faults, and he had many, Mario Cuomo grew up in circumstances that weren't isolated from the world you and I inhabit, and actual reality at least intruded onto his thought processes...We really need to start calling "Bullshit!" every time someone in power starts talking like this. It probably won't make a difference, because the wealthy and privileged have gamed the political system so that it benefits them--and a low-tax environment benefits no one but those who already have a pile of money. This ideology that we have followed as a nation for 35 years is as intellectually and morally bankrupt as Marxist-Leninist creeds--but there seems to be no shortage of people that support those that spout the same tired and wrong talking points even though there is absolutely no evidence that the ideology works. 
And the advertising money is just the icing on the cake, and is perhaps the quintessential example of what's wrong with the ideological basis of today's "policies." Advertising is another one of those vocations that adds nothing to the general well-being--in fact, you can make a case that it rewards people for disguising the truth and making a virtue of dishonesty. And it is instructive that this long-term, multi-million dollar initiative has benefited those that make their living in a parasitic, non-productive "livelihood" before there is any (theoretical) benefit to actual working people. Wait, that's not true--I'm sure some "consultant" made some ridiculous amount of money for conceiving this idea to begin with. 
That's the problem with the "business" environment in a nutshell. Consultants and advertisers are at the front of the line, get the first crack at the buffet. And that is an ass-backwards of promoting the interests of our society as a whole. Start-Up NY is not working, is not going to work--and by the time that it's failure will beyond argument, those that pushed the program into existence will have long since migrated to other pastures and away from any possible accountability. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Empire Strikes Back

You didn't really think Walmart was going to passively accept the strikes and generally negative publicity surrounding recent disclosures about their business practices and the awful way they treat their employees, did you? One of the least surprising news items ever came out of California this week, when the five Walmart stores that saw strikes by workers due to such Gilded Age regular business practices as forced (and unpaid) overtime, cutting hours to keep employees ineligible for benefits, and unfounded disciplinary measures were closed "temporarily" for six months by the chain, allegedly for "plumbing repairs." Employees were given a day's notice, offered reduced hours at other stores at lower wages, and told that unemployment claims would be fought. In the communities where the stores are located, not a single work permit for repair work has been filed, and employees of all five stores report that the "plumbing" was working just fine in every store the day before the announcement.
If you had any lingering doubt, Peons of America, that we are in a war for our very existence, wipe that doubt away. Big Corporate America does not care about you, they do not care about me, they don't care about the law, and they don't care about anything except making more mountains of money for themselves. They will actively resist being held to any sort of legal and moral standards that will result in even rudimentary fair treatment for its own workers, much less those that buy their merchandise. Walmart is one of the more open and more egregious offenders, and its recent struggles notwithstanding, is determined to continue to exploit its own and other countries' workforces to maintain the multi=billion-dollar fortunes of the Walton family.
In a related development from the sports world, I see that Los Angeles has decided to build a $1.7 billion stadium designed explicitly to lure the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles. The driving force behind the stadium has been the Rams' owner--who is a Walton in-law, who hasn't even tried to play ball with St. Louis in that city's efforts to negotiate a new lease for the team's existing stadium, who hasn't even pretended to be willing to accept St. Louis' offer (which is obscenely tilted in favor of the Rams, by the way). And of course, the proposal approved yesterday is long on rhetoric and amazingly, horribly short on details--basically, "Trust us; it will turn out somewhere."
Sure it will. Right out of taxpayer pockets.
Legal action has been talked about regarding the closure of the stores, but I am pretty sure that nothing is going to come of it. And while the country has never been the democratic, will-of-the-people utopia that we like to bullshit ourselves and others around the globe that we are, there was a time, forty to eighty years ago, when we were not, as a country, so blatantly the plantation of the rich and moneyed. The game is so thoroughly rigged now that the pretenses are becoming increasingly ignored. The staggering amounts of money being talked about as "necessary" to run for President next year have not only become commonplace, but they have forever removed the office from the vast majority of voters' interests. The political and legal systems are almost completely tilted in favor of those that already have a great deal of wealth and affluence.
And I really fear that the game is over. I have no idea of how long the corporate elite are going to be willing to continue with the democratic charade. The legal system, for the wealthy, has already been effectively neutralized; incarceration for financial crimes past a certain scale has not been taking place for nearly two decades now. I really do believe that at some point soon, should there be an election result on a national or congressional level, that has a slight change of fundamentally changing the status quo, that the trappings will be dispensed with. Indeed, it might happen sooner than you think. If the worker unrest spreads across the country's other Walmart stores, I have no trouble believing that Walmart will resort to private security forces to physically intimidate workers, protesters, or both.
The struggle to organize labor was long and bloody in this country, something that was often glossed over in the history curricula of my youth (I seriously doubt it is even being examined in any detail today). The period when I was growing up was the one generation in the nation's history when labor seemed to have gained somewhat firm and equal footing--but that proved to be illusory. One of the most unheralded truly significant developments of my lifetime was the Reagan Administration's breaking of the air traffic controllers' strike in 1981; it was ground zero, the beginning of the long, long slide downward for most of the American workforce, the point where the ground shifted.
Looking backward through both USA and world history, the reason that the economic structure of society was relatively labor-friendly in the period 1945-1980 was the result of the Depression. In this country, we made a decision to step back from what was essentially Social Darwinism rather than go to a totalitarian response to the great crisis; those societies that utilized the repressive response found themselves defeated in World War II (and later,the Cold War) and had to at least transparently adopt the mores of the victor. The trouble was that most of us assumed the victory was permanent--but the forces of wealth and power that brought us the Great Depression had not faded into extinction, and instead have regrouped and taken back control.
American history is more conflict-riven than our history books tell us, but it is true that we have had less of it than most of other Western societies. But we are also a lot younger than those other societies, and the way the world is going, we may have our unrest and attempts at revolution yet. Certainly people like the Walton family are not going to change willingly, and those that currently benefit from the entire system as it stands are not going to go quietly into the night.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Different Take on Random Notes, April 2015

One day. That's all it took--one day back at the office, before the alarm went off way too early and it's taken me two cups of coffee and a good forty minutes before I can even consider thinking about writing. And all I am going to write about is how tired I am.
I could write about other things, but I am choosing not to. I have lots of thoughts about my daughter's mother and some of the things she did and said this weekend, but the bottom line is that if she ever is going to turn it around, she needs to be in the fellowship, and the last thing I want to do is make it any more uncomfortable for her to be there than she already is, and so she doesn't need me doing an analysis online of her progress. Every journey has to have a starting point.
There's a part of me that would like to write about what's going on with my relationship. I actually shared some in the meeting Sunday morning about it, and that's a sign that I am growing more comfortable with it, but I've also still, after all these years, got a superstitious streak, and I've noticed over the six years of doing this blog that every time I seem to write in detail about someone I'm interested in or dating, it all falls apart rather quickly. I don't really think that's going to happen in this case, but why take the chance? I will say that moving to a new phase, taking it to another level, is on the horizon, and while it is going to be challenging, I also feel more hopeful than I have in a long time about the future.
There's a part of me that wants to be writing about the Rangers, who took a 2-1 lead in their playoff series last night--but I've only been able to watch about three periods total of the three games, and so I would be talking out my ass if I claimed to know what was going on in any fashion. I'm glad that they're ahead, and I think that quality is going to win out, but they still have to play the games.
There's a part of me that wants to talk about returning to work yesterday. After thirteen years and about thirty "returns" from time off, I'm still not sure which is worse--coming back and having to deal with eighty-five things the first day you're back, or coming back and everything went so smoothly in your absence that you wonder whether they've discovered you're expendable because they don't seem to actually need you. Yesterday was more of the latter (although part of that was being very diligent about making sure all loose ends were tied up before going on vacation). I should be busier today, and I am sure that by Friday I will be very glad to see the weekend come. But yesterday felt a little odd.
There's a part of me that wants to discuss gardening and planting--but the thunderstorms last night kind of put everything on hold, and the wet, non-sticking snow we are supposed to get later this week makes me happy that I did not go get some plants last week like I debated doing. The last couple of years, I haven't been able to put anything in the ground until a week or better into May, and it looks like that's the way to go this year, too.
There's a part of me that wants to write about the trolls that fill the comments on newspaper and television station sites--but I try not to make a habit of rewarding attention-seeking behavior from alleged adults. But there is a new name in the Troll Hall of Fame; if someone has the misfortune to know or be related to Eddie Ramsey--you have my sympathy.
There is a part of me that wants to decry the nonsense emanating from Washington, and the lack of noise coming from Albany, and the school budget that got passed, and the people running for school board, and the boycott many parents across the state are participating in of the standard tests that No Child Left Behind and Common Core mandate. But I don't have the heart or the stomach to do so this morning.
Part of me wants to bore you with my progress report on my diet--but eating out after the softball tournament Saturday and attending a cookout/birthday party Sunday added five pounds back in a hurry. I'm sure that the number will go down this morning and throughout the week as what has become my normal intake of food resumes--but these fluctuations give a new meaning to "one is too many and a thousand never enough."
And I see I've spent a hour writing about things I'm not going to write about, and my coffee is cold and my daughter is about to get up. And I suddenly feel less tired than I did when I sat down here. Thinking is somewhat stimulating, I find; one reason I write every morning is that it snaps me out of the waking doldrums long before I leave the house. My most productive hours of the day at my job are usually the first two I am there. That is partially because I get to the office 60 to 90 minutes before almost anyone else I deal with regularly and there are no distractions--but it is also because I am fully awake when I get there.
Anyhow, time to make a muffin and hope that the drip in the water heater doesn't lead to a catastrophic failure before I get out of the shower. Sometime in the last couple of days, I have to talk to the landlord about it, but thus far, it still is working.