Moving Day

“Moving day” for this site…even though it isn’t going anywhere…yet.

If you aren’t following me over at sportsattitudes please do so. This site will remain (for now) as a historical reminder of what happens when an on-again/off-again blogger gets the “genius” idea to create TWO blogs.

One will do just fine now.

Hope to see you there.

 

 

Posted in Blog, Blogging, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Bridge (Plan) To Nowhere

Bridge Repair

Pennsylvania, as I have noted on occasion, is a very old state in many ways. It is not unique in that regard – there are other ancient states in the United States – but in fact a lot of stuff we use each day here is…old.

No shame in that…unless we’re talking bridges.

For as long as I’ve been alive the subject of aging bridges has been at the top of the agenda each year when the Commonwealth annually reviews what needs immediate attention.

It will be staying at the top of the annual agenda for a long, long, long time. At least as long as some of these bridges have been around…bridges I need not (but will anyway) remind you a lot of people drive across daily.

The residents of Chester County (a group including my wife and I) were recently notified vehicle owners will be required to pay a $5 additional charge each year – per car or truck –when annual Pennsylvania vehicle registration comes due. This is to help fund bridge repairs and reconstruction within the County. No problem there. Not a lot of money. Always glad to help improve our quality of life. Sounds like a plan.

These additional funds collected by Pennsylvania on Chester County’s behalf will be set aside in an account exclusive to County use. The County will then use those funds, estimated to be just north of $2 million, for those bridges deemed as “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.”

It should be noted we’ve been reassured these classifications don’t mean the bridges can’t support traffic. A curious choice of words if that’s the case. I need not (but will anyway) remind you those definitions apply to bridges a lot of people drive across daily.

I don’t know about you but “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” works much better for me when we’re talking a line of dominoes or Legos…instead of a line of cars or trucks.

According to information compiled by the West Chester Daily Local News:

Chester County has 94 bridges (including two shared with other Counties).

The life span of the bridges is generally considered to be 50 years.

The County Facilities Department previously had a goal of restoring or replacing two bridges per year.

As they “stand” 57 of the bridges are over 75 years old and 31 are over 100 years old. Of the 94 bridges…34 fall into the “structurally deficient” definition while 61 rate “functionally obsolete.”

And as for the Facilities Department performance…Chester County has only been able to meet its goal of restoring or replacing two bridges per year 12 times since 1980.

In 12 other years no bridge work was done in the County at all.

Even with this new influx of cash the goal for these bridges has to also cross a bridge of rising construction costs. Therefore the new goal is now to restore or replace one and a half bridges in the County per year. (I don’t even know where to take this with a “half” a bridge…)

Forgive us if we start diverting around these structures. These numbers don’t support our lifespans being extended by driving over these spans.

We’re quite behind on all this but at least there’s a new plan. How do we ever catch up?

Well…let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

Posted in Culture, Humor, Life, News, Opinion, Politics, Society | Tagged , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Supreme Court Squares – Republicans (And Democrats?) For The Block

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Image Credit Wikipedia.org)

In my last post I noted how the trend towards straight-ticket voting was helping to polarize politics and make it more “Us Versus Them” than ever in the US.

And then Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away over the weekend…

(Sidebar – he was 79. As for references to his “sudden passing” this isn’t the first time I’ve noted such language in obituaries and other articles about a man his age. Folks, that’s the life expectancy for males in our country. There is an expiration date on us all even if we aren’t living in a hospital or care facility. By all accounts Justice Scalia lived a full and rewarding life. RIP.)

If you thought the country was split into two before…watch what happens next.

The Republicans didn’t wait but minutes after news of his death before predictably screaming how we should wait for over a year for the next President to be able to make the all-important nomination of his successor.

The President and fellow Democrats simultaneously, predictably screamed back they most certainly will make a Justice nomination and seek a successor immediately in order to continue to ensure the integrity and performance of this all-important branch of the US Government.

The first irony that comes to mind is the main reason (I think) of having Supreme Court appointments for life is to insure the integrity of the power of the Court and protect against interference from either the Legislative or Executive branches. That being said it should be noted a President nominates Justices and the Legislative branch approves or disapproves.

That sounds like interference to me…checks-and-balances to others, I suppose.

The second irony is you hear Republicans indicating we have to hold off on replacing Justice Scalia because the American people should have a say in who sits on the Supreme Court. Please. All we’re going to be doing (in November mind you) is electing a President who upon taking office (in January mind you) will make a Justice nomination (sometime next year mind you) and have it vigorously contested (immediately afterwards next year mind you) by the party who loses the Presidential election.

I would be remiss if not interjecting on this whole “job for life” thing I’ve always wondered how in touch Justices are as they advance in age…not only with present-day USA…but in general? And what if they did something really stupid or illegal while serving at any age…can you imagine the political circus of trying to impeach a Supreme Court Justice?

Good thing we’ve had Justices behave…and often retire without dying while serving.

The third irony is even if Republicans are rock-solid on locking out the vacancy being filled to see if they can reclaim the White House the President and fellow Democrats might be better off letting them take that position.

A divided court – and by all accounts the Court now is as “balanced” as can be based on prior decisions – favors the President and his party in that with only eight Justices split decisions are inevitable. A divided Supreme Court leaves prior lower court rulings in place…and a large majority of the U.S. Courts of Appeals holds a majority of Democratic appointees. Further, there apparently is no law or policy about what the Supreme Court should do with cases already argued and voted on when a Justice dies. (Yes, you read that correctly – nada…)

If we take all the rhetoric out regarding either party’s desired timing for a replacement…and whether or not Justices even deserve a lifetime achievement award…the bottom line is a vacancy is now open on the highest Court in the land and the world doesn’t stop spinning.

Cases have been argued and voted on, heard, are to be heard and are to be argued and voted on. Important cases.

It is a disgrace of American politics we are possibly now going to leave the Supreme Court short of having a full complement of Justices for over a year regardless of whose “strategy” prevails. Political gridlock at its ugliest…over a unique position that helps shape, define and clarify the law of the land.

It is also a disgrace of American politics the nomination process for quite some time now has been about parsing ideology first, qualifications second. Whoever eventually gets this seat – assuming someone gets appointed someday – will do so primarily because of party leverage and/or because of how it is perceived they will rule on key issues more so than on whether or not their careers have truly distinguished themselves to be worthy of the lofty position of a Supreme Court Justice. The President and the Legislative branch members will all get their crystal balls out and first try to figure out who’s the “surest” bet to advance their respective agendas well before then considering a nominee’s true ability to honor and carry out the position on behalf of all Americans.

All. Americans.

Qualifications are unfortunately guaranteed to not be the top priority when considering our next Supreme Court Justice.

A job mind you…guaranteed for life.

 

Posted in Culture, Life, News, Opinion, Politics, Society, Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Split Tickets Or Split Country – Straight-Ticket Voting Probably Polarizing

Political Discussion

(Image Credit MinnPost.com)

I rarely wade into the political pool but a column I read over the weekend provoked deep thought and consideration of others. Deep thought and consideration of others is not normally associated with our daily political news and hasn’t been for some time. Quite frankly I think many people are interested in politics more so now for the reality show aspect.

You come across an accident scene…it’s admittedly hard to turn away.

People seem to be watching the Democratic and Republican Presidential debates but it can’t be because they care about the issues of the day because the candidates rarely discuss the issues of the day. They’re way too busy insulting and yelling at each other…and most certainly degrading the other party at every opportunity.

Anyway, whatever your current take on politics is there has been an interesting trend which may help explain why we can’t seem to get compromise or agreement towards moving forward with issues in Washington and have instead become consumed with ripping everyone involved…about why we can’t seem to get compromise or agreement towards moving forward with issues in Washington.

Terry Madonna and Michael Young are highly respected political analysts who have pointed out we have become a nation of “ideologically driven, politically polarized partisans who increasingly eschew the bargaining and compromise that have historically lubricated politics. Not only are moderates gone from American politics; moderation is gone as well. Nothing illustrates this better or explains this more fully than the enormous decrease in ticket-splitting.”

For those of us doing it without even knowing it had a name…we’re talking here about the act of voting for a Presidential nominee of one party while also voting for one or more Congressional nominees of a different party. Madonna and Young report ticket-splitting dropped to a record low in the 2012 Presidential election. One study estimated at least 8 of 10 voters voted a one-party, straight-ticket. As recently as the Presidential election in 1972 more than 4 of every 10 Congressional districts – 44 percent – were characterized as ticket-splitters – voting for one party’s candidate for President and one or more candidates from the other party for the Senate or House.

In House districts alone now…the most recent number stands at 5 percent.

This straight-ticket voting – whatever cause you would like to attribute it to – positions our nation perfectly for a polarized political landscape.

And with no compromise or agreement towards moving forward with issues in Washington the true irony is we voters who have become completely perplexed with our government’s stalemate have potentially had the power all along to jump-start movement…injecting checks-and-balances in government by electing people…not parties. Or as Madonna and Young put it…

“Straight-ticket voting produces elections that only increase the virulent polarization infecting our politics. Worse perhaps, it undercuts ever further the compromise and accommodation so central to our intricate governmental system of checks and balances – inevitably unleashing more of the divisive and dysfunctional governance that increasingly alienates American voters from their government.”

Something to ponder as this 2016 Presidential reality show rolls out across America…and for future Washington-eligible elections thereafter.

Sounds like those of us looking for Washington to get things moving again might consider examining each and every contest carefully that sends someone to Washington and considering there are more qualifications to consider aside from just one – which party they belong to.

Posted in Culture, Life, News, Opinion, Politics, Society | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Birthday, Every Day, Forever And A Day

Cottage

In honor of my wife’s upcoming birthday (which also gets me out of having to find a parking spot among three-foot high mounds of snow…):

I was all set to seek a card,

To tell you how I feel,

But I say it to you every day,

And you know that it’s real.

 

We’ve been together all this time,

Years now approaching thirty-five,

But know that as they’ve rolled along,

My love grows deeper, more alive.

 

We cannot know tomorrow’s plan,

We cannot know of future things,

But know this my love for it is true,

Forever we’re one with what life brings.

Posted in Faith, Family, Home, Life, Love, Marriage, Personal, Relationships, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Drone-ing On

Drone

(Image Credit HuffingtonPost.com)

A few days before Christmas a World Cup slalom ski competition in Italy was racing along quite nicely when a drone, carrying TV equipment through in the air in an attempt to raise the intensity level for the viewing audience, leveled off, fell from the sky and exploded into pieces on a section of slope crossed a micro-second earlier by Austrian ski star Marcel Hirscher.

No sooner had the wreckage of the drone and its camera been scraped off the snow…the International Ski Federation had banned television drones for good.

This whole drone thing perplexes me. I have not been able to figure out in this age of heightened security and concern of terrorism how drones have been readily made available to anyone with little or no regulation. One day Amazon just up and announced delivering packages to people’s properties via drone was not just something for the day we all ride like “The Jetsons” to work…but for the here and now.

That must be one powerful lobby drone-ing on about drones in Washington.

Anyway, we finally appear to be on the road to regulation in the US via a lawsuit filed this month by the owner of a drone who saw his blasted out of the sky by a homeowner in Kentucky last summer. Originally, a judge ruled the homeowner was well within his rights to shoot down the $1,800 aircraft because it was over his property and he had no knowledge of its owner…or its intent.

The Federal Aviation Administration has always said it has sole authority over the national airspace. (They say a lot of things, don’t they?)

Kentucky state law provides for landowners the right to use force if necessary to prevent trespassing on their property.

According to a recent story in USA Today the Supreme Court has not addressed air space issues since 1946 when a North Carolina farmer was ruled able to claim property rights up to eighty-three feet in the air – and get compensated by the military – for aircraft flying so low they were annoying his cows and chickens. (Eighty-three feet is awfully specific…but it’s a start…)

The problem is these drones just showed up and were embraced by a number of groups…including law enforcement…ironically under the premise they would help make all of us “more secure.”

This drone privacy issue is very much up in the air right now but I’ll say this. The fact there is a drone industry and the average man or woman is able to buy one and send it aloft without significant checks and balances is one of the great embarrassments of this so-called Homeland Security effort we allegedly have in place in this country.

Boggs (drone owner) vs. Merideth (“drone slayer” – he calls himself that) will likely be the start of a flight to the Supreme Court…not a minute too soon. Boggs’ lawyer, (in the understatement of the New Year…or any Year for that matter) citing Amazon’s master plan to have drones deliver packages onto people’s lawns…

“If every property owner has a right to take a shot at them that pretty much ends that business model.”

Do you recall the Secret Service recently went on high alert after one guy flew a drone over the White House…while another crash-landed one on that same property owner’s lawn?

What is the world of our nation’s common sense is happening here?

I refuse to drone on because we’ve got a long way to go until this gets settled…and considering the way drones just showed up one day it’s now guaranteed a portion of the populace will steadfastly declare their right to bear drones…oh yeah, we’ll be hearing much more about this going forward.

Fasten your seat beats…it’s going to be a bumpy flight fight.

 

Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Humor, Life, News, Opinion, Society, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Movies Need Supported Not Awarded

Print

(Image Credit FreeDesignFile.com)

According to my trustworthy daily Peanuts desk calendar January 19th is National Popcorn Day. That’s appropriate for this post for a couple reasons. One, popcorn’s association with movie going is well-known and two, everyone has their individual preference as to how much butter and seasoning is required to satisfy their personal taste.

So you may have heard this year’s Academy Award nominations are out. Some are not happy with them. Well, that’s every year…but this year is a little more intense with talk of a boycott due to a lack of diversity among the top contenders.

I don’t know about you but while I watch the film Award shows – including the Oscars – I don’t put stock in any of them. That is to say I don’t feel we should single out such subjective works as worthy or not, better than others or not, etc.

I would much prefer, like paintings in a museum, we wander in and out of the cinema and just enjoy or not enjoy what we saw. It’s good to hear other’s opinions of movies after we’ve seen them because we may learn something we didn’t see or some theory about a film we didn’t consider. But even reviews after our views need to be cautiously considered because to me…movies remain very personal experiences…and even a seasoned film critic trying to be objective can’t help but bring “life” into their opinions. The reactions we all have about movies can’t help but be intertwined with our prior, unique experiences.

This stretches back to my college days where I took courses on Film Criticism. That’s where my painting analogy originated. Films are art that get “one shot” with me…just like a painting would.

Can you imagine what I think of all these alternate endings they stick on films when releasing them after their days on the big screen have come to an end? A travesty.

Coloring black and white films? An abomination.

Movies certainly don’t need to be benchmarked against each other. Film making (and TV too for that matter) should not be reduced to these pseudo-competitions.

This protest stuff is nothing new for the Academy. You know, if you insist on having these Award things in the first place at least be inclusive. Maybe that diversity issue is never going to change when it comes to the Oscars…whose voting block is 94% white and 77% male.

They did hire Chris Rock to host the ceremonies.

I believe this nonsense helps make my point. If we didn’t insist on having these faux competitions in the first place we wouldn’t have these types of faux pas situations.

My wife and I met while both working at a movie theater. We’ve never lost our love for film and try when possible to see movies the way they are crafted to be seen…in a movie theater. We calculated we were fortunate enough to see forty-seven films on the big screen in 2015.

I hesitate to say which movies I enjoyed the most or liked the least because I really don’t get any of these “Best Of” or “Top Ten” lists or rewards when it comes to film making. I am a true purist who believes each film should stand on its own merit and people should either love ‘em or not.

Everyone has their own taste towards what makes a great movie (as well as great popcorn).

I enjoy dishing about movies. I respect other people’s opinions and most often learn from ones that differ from my own take. Discuss this year’s films in the comments if you like. Ones you liked, ones not so much. It’s always interesting to me to hear others’ tastes towards film.

Do take in all the Award shows, even the Oscars, for they ultimately celebrate the art of film making and that’s a good thing…but my opinion is to not take seriously the nominations or the winners. But do see the movies you want to see regardless of what anyone else “rates” them.

Movies are a truly subjective experience and I don’t believe we need to rank, rate or reward them.

Just enjoy them…along with some popcorn if you like.

Made to your own taste of course…

Posted in Cinema, Culture, Entertainment, Film, Life, Media, Movies, News, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Challenge Of Tweaking Twitter

Twitter

It is my belief the fundamental charm of Twitter is as much its brevity as its immediacy. Writing in 140 characters or less has become an art form for users. A skill. The national news, entertainment, weather and sports media can’t get enough daily Tweets to put up and across their screens and sites.

The powers-to-be at Twitter have floated the idea in the media this week of doing what they apparently have already been allowing on Private (Direct) Messages since July…a 10,000 character limit where users simply click a link to expand a Tweet and see the rest of the Tweet’s text.

Why change? Why take such a risk alienating users?

Well…to turn a profit for the first time might be at the top of the list. It appears growth has slowed and its stock has subsequently declined some 40 percent from where it stood last summer.

Twitter – and some in the media – claim at least part of its user base truly want this. They want to eliminate having to design “Tweetstorms” where users are forced to send out multiple Tweets to get one thought or message or whatever out.

My guess is the powers-to-be wish to make room for advertisers to more easily use the service. And make more money.

I had two “runs” on Twitter. One several years ago when it first came out and one a couple of years back. I didn’t stick with it either time for a variety of reasons. But in those moments of participation I did get a big kick out of the challenge of sending out a well-crafted, brief message.

So why post about a service I don’t use now? Because as a Journalism Grad (albeit in a galaxy far, far away) and having a continued interest in all things media I am eager to see what happens if this comes to pass. So many media organizations show Tweets.

Reporting Tweets has become a way of life.

Now, if the character limit is expanded to this extent and someone sends out a gigantic Tweet someone at each of these media outlets will have to parse through it all, deciding what to pull out…and put out.

When quoting Tweets now there are no editorial decisions to be made. Sure…a chance the user saying post-Tweet they were taken out of context. Some users even say someone took over their account when things don’t go favorably. But the point is just like fast food, the media can pretty much take a Tweet and run with it. Unlike fast food, at absolutely no cost.

What will happen if this actually happens will fundamentally have to change the way media reports on Twitter activity. They’ll have to read the entire Tweet, “edit” it, etc. and at that point you then have yet another example of the media dictating what is newsworthy and what is not. And in fairness to all Twitter users, a great case for saying if they send out one exceeding the current limit and it isn’t shown in its entirety they were quoted out of context because…drum roll here…their entire Tweet wasn’t presented.

I don’t particularly enjoy being bombarded with Tweets as part of my evening news, entertainment, weather and sports coverage. But I do think doing this will rob Twitter of its very soul.

I wonder how the majority of users really feel?

I will be interested to see how the media reacts if this goes down…and the character limit on Twitter goes up.

 

Posted in Business, Culture, Entertainment, Home, Life, Media, News, Opinion, People, Politics, Society, Television, Thoughts, TV, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments