7.28.2014

Are Grandparents Passé?


We were dropping one of our teenaged granddaughters off at the airport and she was eager to get to her gate, even though the plane didn’t board for another 55 minutes. I wanted to say something and she took the time to listen.

We had just had a houseful of grandchildren (with two more coming in August). For us, it would be a perfect summer of visits by grandchildren. In fact, five of the seven visited without parents, which was our preference even if the parents didn’t show up for other reasons.

I told our departing granddaughter that we were delighted that she visited us and we hoped she’d come back next year. I explained that bother her grandmother and I had lived with some of our grandparents when we were young and we thought it was normal that grandchildren spent time with their grandparents.

My wife and I both suspect that today’s grandchildren don’t think the same way our grandchildren thought. Grandparents? Aren’t they the ones who send me money on my birthday?

To be fair to our grandchildren, they are scattered about the country in two time zones and getting to central Pennsylvania is not the easiest thing to do. And my wife and I did live with our grandparents so their presence was natural to us. I had friends whose grandparents lived in town and they saw them regularly.

I do wonder about today’s grandchildren. Do they think their grandparents are passé? I’m glad ours don’t.

6.17.2014

Kicked to the Curb

The double doors on the right are the ones that need to be automatic. There's another set inside that's equally difficult to handle, although they are kept open in the summer. If you have a cart, you have to back out the doors.

Except for the people who could walk there, the move of the state liquor store from downtown Bellefonte to the Weis Market store near Interstate 99 on the road to Zion has to be considered progress. Not only is there plenty of parking, but the selection has improved so much that I refer to it as North Atherton Street Light.

But unlike the abundant store in Patton Township, the Zion Road store lacks two important things—a curb cut so you can push your cart to your car in the side parking lot and automatic doors so you can get out of the store in the first place. In fact, the store has extra-heavy double doors that you have to back through if you have a cart. You would think that a request for automatic doors would get an automatic “yes we can” response. Not from the monopolistic PLCB.

I was told via e-mail by Charles Mooney, the director of the Bureau of Regional Operations, “the glass front and door system was accepted in an ‘as in’ condition in order to reduce our relocation expenses.” However, the PLCB will look into my request for a curb cut.

It’s just another example of how the folks in state government, the bureaucrats as well as the elected ones, do their jobs backwards most of the time.

The message for those of us who shop at the Bellefonte state store: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

6.02.2014

Technology Serves Me Well


When I retired, my colleagues gave me a gold watch. Yes, really. Not to sound ungrateful, but you’d think that in the 21st century they might have come up with something different.

And then to add insult to injury, I stopped wearing a watch. After all, I had a cellphone and could easily check the time there—if and when I needed to know what time it was. Besides, there’s a clock on my computer and the cable company’s box tells me the time. If I want, I can click on a button on the remote and the time will appear on the screen.

Just before I retired, I entered the digital age of photography with a prosumer camera. That’s one that’s better than a point and shoot, but not quite what the big boys and girls use, although I would start upgrading quickly and now I’m using a fairly good digital single lens reflex camera.

But this is about the time, not photography.

The other Sunday my wife and I were headed home from our favorite breakfast spot when we spotted a 40-or-so-foot water spout in Bellefonte. I pulled over and went to look. At first I thought it could be the local fire companies cleaning out a hydrant. But when I saw it was a serious rupture, I called 9-1-1, was informed that I was the second caller, and then took some photos with my iPhone.

I also keep a basic digital camera in the car and after getting enough shots with the iPhone—enough just in case the spout ended—I crossed the street to my car and retrieved my digital camera. The water main break, far from ending quickly, spouted for the next 90 minutes and I took about 200 photographs. A lot of them are duplicates. After all, how many ways can you photograph a broken water main?

I shared them with the local newspaper and gathered some basic information for the paper. Later, the editor called and asked me how long the break lasted.
I had no clue.

In the old days, the first thing you did when, for example, you heard a fire alarm, was look at your watch and write down the time. Do the same when the all clear sounds. But I am rusty at this reporting stuff and never did that at the water main break, although I did get the name of a police officer and of the minister whose church services were cancelled because the break.

But then it hit me. The date and time are embedded in all of my photographs and I quickly checked the metadata of the first photo I took and the one of the trickle at the end of the crisis. I also could have checked the time of the phone call, which I did today and see that there was a minute’s difference between the call and the first photo.

Everything I used to do by hand was done for me.

Ain’t technology great?

5.22.2014

Our Craven Governor


Pennsylvanians will elect a governor in November. If history is any indication, the voters will give the incumbent, Tom Corbett, a second term.

But Corbett’s not doing well in the polls, and in the primary the other day, his lieutenant governor got 26,000 more votes than he did—and both were unopposed. In my county alone, more than a thousand Republican voters (1 in 7) wrote in someone else’s name.

Corbett has a lot of baggage going back to his time as the attorney general pursuing pedophile Jerry Sandusky. People feel he mishandled that investigation or prolonged it for his own political advantage as he ran for governor.

But Corbett’s problems are much deeper than that. He doesn’t know how to lead.

He ran on the Koch brothers’ platform of not raising taxes, but near the end of his first term, he raised the tax on gasoline for all the right reasons—to fix roads. However, people saw that as breaking his pledge not to raise taxes. Corbett’s real mistake was making the pledge in the first place.

He was for voter i.d. and against same sex marriage. But when the courts struck down both, he chose not to pursue appeals. Either he’s a man of his convictions or he governs by sticking his wet finger into the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

But even before he lost in court, the wind was blowing against him; he just wasn’t smart enough to figure that out. And when he lost in court, he caved. His principles went out the window.

I’m personally glad he didn’t waste money appealing. He was sure to lose. But if he had been a real leader, he wouldn’t have found himself in the conundrum of turning on his principles in the face of adversity.

It’s an election year and I’m betting Tom Corbett will be redefining himself for the next few months. But one definition we won’t get is the one on leadership. He doesn’t know what it means.

5.14.2014

Another GOP Failure

Once again the New York Times Wine Club has made me an offer I can’t refuse—and once again I must refuse. That’s because Pennsylvania is one of the 21 states that wine clubs are not allowed to ship to.

I’m a 9th-generation Pennsylvanian who except for four years of service in the Navy and 10 years in New Mexico have lived in Pennsylvania most of my 70 years. And I’ve been hearing for decades how the Republicans want the state to get out of the liquor business.

So I figured that with a Republican governor and a Republican legislature it was finally going to happen.

Nah.

When my wife and I returned from New Mexico to Pennsylvania in 2011 and registered to vote, we decided not to register Republican, which had been our lifelong registration. Instead, we went with no affiliation.

After the George Bush years in Washington, we considered the Republicans a lost cause. They say they’ll reduce the size of government, but when they have the chance, they don’t. Washington. Harrisburg. Doesn’t matter. Promises made, promises not kept.

At least the Democrats usually carry out their promises—even when it’s things I don’t want.

I want to be able to order wine from clubs. The Democrats won’t give up their grip on the state store system and the Republicans will never deliver.


In vino veritas means nothing in Pennsylvania.

4.30.2014

Mob Rule?

Let me say from the get-go that Donald Sterling, the now banned owner of the Los Angeles professional basketball team, is a jerk. Forget what he said to his girlfriend about not bringing blacks to games. As many have pointed out, he has a long history as a landlord of discriminating against minorities, a fact conveniently overlooked by the National Basketball Association.

You can be a nasty landlord for decades, but the NBA doesn’t care. It’s only when you say something racist in private that the NBA commissioner acts.

The reaction to Sterling’s comments were swift and downright self-righteous. Nothing like condemning a billionaire who’s married but appears in public with his girlfriend, she of black and Mexican ancestry.

One of the reactions that caught my eye was the threat by the players’ union to boycott playoff games. Get this guy now or we’re off the court. No due process. Just do it. This is the same group that would demand due process for any union member accused of something.

It’s also troubling that the indignant reaction to Sterling focused on private speech. Now this is not a First Amendment issue. That involves the government and the NBA is not the government.

But still people were demanding Sterling’s head over something he said in private. The people who wanted something done because of something said have not thought this through. If you can go after Sterling, who’s next?

By the way, did anyone notice that in discussing the ban, the commissioner of the NBA said he hoped that the sponsors who fled the Clippers would return.

Now there’s speech for you.


4.19.2014

Christian Muddle

When I was growing up, the advice on meeting girls was thus: If you wanted to meet a girl you’d be glad to take home to your mother, go to church. I recall some rather nice girls who fit that category, but I don’t think they thought the same thing about me. Maybe that’s because they never met me in church.

I’m reminded of the sage advice of my youth every time I see a commercial for Christian Mingle, the dating service. Mind you, I applaud the idea. You want to meet someone compatible, in this case a Christian, go through Christian Mingle.

But the two commercials I’ve seen send the wrong message because they emphasize the wrong attributes. Let me parse them for you.

The first one shows an older couple, probably in their 50s. It is clear from the beginning that the woman is heavily made up. He is a rather handsome fellow. At some point, she mentions that he has a great body, which merely calls attention to her body. And she also reveals that she’s older than he is, which calls attention to her heavy make-up.

That commercial appears to have been taken off the air.

But the other one, while more balanced, still sends an off-putting message. In this one, the couple is younger and seems physically about the same. You feel good about this pairing.

And then the woman says: “He’s my second chance.” The camera pans to a photo of the two on a table behind her and fades to Christian Mingle.

Again, it’s the wrong message. It has nothing to do with finding someone of faith, but finding someone who will be husband No. 2. I’ve dubbed this commercial “Second Chance” and when it comes on and I’m in another room, my wife will yell: “Here’s Second Chance.” Of course, I don’t run into the room to watch. I’ve given it many second chances and it never changes. (The much longer YouTube version makes many good points more in tune with Christian Mingle's purpose.)

I’m hoping now for a new commercial that’s doesn’t convey a mixed message. Perhaps you could call it a second chance for Christian Mingle.