5 Things Important To Me

There are a couple of items that have been concerning me lately. I’m not freaked out, not bashing a politician, just want to put these things on the radar and am even offering a constructive way to proceed:

  1. Back in 2008, our financial institutions were pretty careless with how they were lending money and creating crazy unregulated schemes to bundle mortgages and essentially allow bets on if these bundles would fail. The ratings agencies who were supposed to be the referee and keep things fair/honest, were totally bought out and influenced to give favorable ratings. This unregulated environment led to a near collapse of the world economy. As a taxpayer, it was unpalatable to see my tax money bail out irresponsible bankers, but if we hadn’t the economy would collapse. As a result, rules/regulations were put in place to ensure we would not need to bail out institutions and mitigation our chances of economic implosion. My concern is that if we remove too many financial regulations, we will see short term accelerated growth, followed by popped bubble. Not saying that is going to happen, but this is an important concern to me. Proposed solution: Seeking an intelligent walk through of which regulations are being removed, why, and how it will help businesses moving forward. To date, I have only seen people in front of giant stacks of paper saying that there are too many regulations.
  2. I feel like there used to be two camps, raise taxes and offer more generous government funded stuff (education, defense, infrastructure, food stamps, etc.) or reduce government waste and cut taxes. My present concern is that we have created a Unicorn where we cut taxes and increased government spending, which will result in short term growth, but will be followed by significant financial pain for Americans who bear this debt in the long run. Not saying this is going to happen, but this scares me. Proposed solution: America really needs to take a look at this issue and align on how much debt we want, how much is sustainable and how much more/less debt we want in 1, 3, 5, and 10 years from now. Let’s align and hold ourselves/politicians accountable to those goals.
  3. I saw a bald eagle last year, it was glorious. We figured out where they were nesting and would park our car across the lake from them and admire them perched in the tree by their nest. I’ve hiked all over Pennsylvania, fished its creeks, lakes, and rivers. A clean sustainable environment is very important to me. I’ve detailed this in previous posts, but people did make a lot of money off of coal, but it also ruined a lot of lives, the environment (land + air), and people in Pittsburgh are still having homes collapse in abandoned mines under them each year. The mine companies do not pay for it, the home owners require special mine insurance. My concern is that we have really reduced the oversight at the Environmental Protection Agency and have made bold proclamations that we will allow drilling at National Parks. I am unsure if the economic benefit will outweigh the environmental consequences. It is easy for me to say “save the environment”, but I know some people will be pissed that this prevents them from making money off the land they own. My proposed solution: Have a strong EPA that makes people that care about the environment feel reassured that the people who are drilling and pumping on their properties are doing so in a sustainable fashion. Not saying you cannot drill, just saying you should do so in a way that keeps towns from having earthquakes, ruined water supply, toxic gases leaking from the ground, or houses caving in due to abandoned mines below.
  4. Too many people die from guns. Not saying they should be banned, but really think the issue should be studied, we should identify the exact reasons why so many people are dying and put some rules in place to reduce the number of gun deaths. The answers might be really simple, like we need better education around appropriate use and storage, maybe stronger consequences for shooting someone, or improved counseling for people experiencing depression. This is a big and scary issue, it deserves a more thoughtful evaluation than a black or white debate on gun ownership.
  5. There are a lot of communities that have been really hit hard by our changing economy. I am sure Walmarts put a lot of local general stores, grocery stores, and department stores out of business, primarily replacing those locally owned businesses with with low minimum wage hourly jobs. Rural towns that depended on mining are seeing less demand for coal and fewer jobs required/mines closing. There are kids that grow up in terribly poor neighborhoods in the city where the graduation rates are horrible. We need a pretty big disruptive force to break these cycles and advance them into the middle class. Food stamps are not the solution, making them work at McDonald’s, or making them pass a drug test are probably not the solutions. There needs to be a bigger vision and I think there are things we can do with all the government spending that we generate, that could help these cities/towns.

These are 5 things that important to me, I know there are currently a lot of scandals and we can get distracted by the newest news story, but I really hope these 5 things can be addressed.

A Significant Accomplishment

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It has been cold in Pittsburgh. We are fortunate enough to have a tranquil lake in the neighborhood with a trail around it. Benny walked on the ice and seemed to be surprised he was not getting wet.

A couple months ago, Jaclyn and I had a date night at Rusty Gold Brewing in the little town of Canonsburg, PA (birthplace of Perry Como!). When we were eating our foods and trying the beers, I saw a chalkboard advertising the 3 Rings of Death Challenge.

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Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-7,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-ve

This is not the kind of thing you do when you are on a pleasant date with your wife, so I stored it away in my memory and began drumming up interest for a competition amongst work friends. I convinced one guy to do it and we tried the challenge last night.

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Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-7,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,

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Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-7,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-ve

The challenge was brutal. The wings were coated in ghost pepper and Carolina Reaper sauce, it was horribly hot. My initial plan was to eat all 8 wings in about 1-2 minutes just to hustle through it and get to the burn portion as fast as possible. Unfortunately, after eating 4 of the 8 wings, my body decided it was not on board with this challenge and it became nearly impossible to eat them fast. I committed myself to powering through and finished the last wing with about 5 seconds remaining. The restaurant required I wear gloves and after the challenge, I was forbidden from wiping my face, drinking fluids or eating anything. I just had to wait for 5 minutes in excruciating pain. Where the sauce was on my face around my mouth, it just burned the heck out of my skin.

Wing

Finally, the 5 minutes went by and I was crowned champion of the challenge and they took my picture and gave me the free t-shirt. It was an awesome experience, I felt very triumphant. Jac was less enthusiastic as she thought I was going to die from the ordeal.

The kids got to watch me eat them too, they’ll have some funny memories of me when they grow up!

 

City and Tranquility

Traveled to NYC for work, stayed in the Financial District, which is my favorite part. This is the oldest part of NYC and a couple areas still maintain that vibe. Additionally, I switched to a Google Pixel XL 2 phone which can take better pictures than my old iPhone.

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It took a lot of waiting to find a time where the bull and girl were not surrounded by tourists, a 2 second window opened and I snapped the picture below.

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After a long day of work, I walked over 20,000 steps (according to my watch), I was heading back to the hotel and the light hit this building in a very warm way.

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The weather warmed up a little this weekend and I took Benny to Ohiopyle for a hike up to Baughman’s Rocks. My car was the only one at the trailhead parking lot, the town was in full hibernation except the General Store who sold me a bottle of water and beef jerky that I would share with Benny. When I hiked up to the overlook below, it was amazingly quiet. I start these hikes with so many tasks and thoughts scattered all over my mind, when I am home I feel like they are all organized and filed away in the right spots. Would love to see what tranquility I would find if I could ever hike the entire Appalachian Trail. It had been awhile since I last hiked, my legs were the tiniest bit tired the next day…need to get back at it.

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The picture below is from Manhattan in the Financial District, a Vietnam War memorial. This is just one letter of many inscribed on the illuminated wall.

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Indoctrinated

For a couple of weeks now, this is what I see every day. It is so darn cold, even though we shoveled, we couldn’t peel the layer of snowy ice from the walk/driveway. We start the mornings in single digits and get up to 10 or 15 degrees during the day. This weather ruins ambition!

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Had the opportunity to visit New Orleans for a sales meeting. We had a free night and I went to Frenchmen Street which is known to usually have good music. I walked into a bar that had a brass band blasting amazing music. I went up to the bartender and asked for a Coor’s Light and he gave it to me on the house, said it was a big celebration for a cigar company’s 50th anniversary. It was open bar with amazing music, a good deal. The band was doing an amazing show when they started marching off the stage (while still playing their hearts out) and then marched by all the people in the audience towards the back of the bar, people started to follow them, I followed too. They led us through a long dark hallways and we emerged in a courtyard (pictured below) where the band played a couple more songs and everyone was smoking cigars…New Orleans, I love that place.

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On my way to New Orleans, my flights were delayed. It was snowing and everything was freezing, this was the view outside my plane window. A briefly occurred to me that this is not ideal weather to fly or land a plane, but I pushed that thought away and listened to music. I’ve gotten super into the band called The National, I am not sure many other people will enjoy them as much as me, but I am feeling them now.

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My kids have shown on a number of occasions that they forget they are really from the eastern part of Pennsylvania, they are Philly kids. To them, they have spent the more substantial part of their existence in Pittsburgh and they much more identify themselves with that part of the state. To remedy this, I took them to Philadelphia to give them a deep indoctrination of what makes Philly great. We saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin’s printing press, made them try a cheesesteak at the Reading Terminal Market, and the were pretty much unsatisfied with the experience. On our way back to the car the kids saw the ornamental street decorations indicated we were a block away from Chinatown and they begged me to let them walk through Chinatown. I said, “Sure, you can go to Chinatown, but you will not like it. You’ll see dead ducks hanging in the windows and lots of advertisements for massages, nothing you’ll like.” The kids persisted and found the store pictured below, it was the most magical store the kids ever discovered, filled with all the things they loved. This was the highlight of their trip to Philly.

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Grueling

2017 has peppered my dome with gray hairs. The year started and ended with threats of layoffs looming, people who survived the layoffs received the work of the people who were let go. The house had an issue with the foundation, just the part under the front porch, but enough of a part to be fairly expensive. I did achieve some sort of balance, my career advanced a couple rungs throughout the madness, but it came at the expense of a little health and a lot of family time. It wasn’t all bad though, had a lovely vacation in North Carolina, nice hikes with the family, lovely dates with Jaclyn, and a medical miracle with my dog Benny. When I toast 2018, I will be wishing for one thing…a tiny bit more tranquility next year. I will post my favorite pictures of 2017 soon, but here is another batch from the past month and a half.

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In my new job as national sales director, I have to travel around the country. I have had the opportunity to visit places I have always loved (San Francisco – above) and get to see some places I have never been, like Oklahoma City (below). Oklahoma is a fascinating state, I cannot wait to someday go back. Saw lots of nodding donkeys, cowboys, and big signs for all you can eat catfish, the whole thing just seemed like a tall tale. I’ve traveled to San Fran dozens of times over the years and always see it in a different angle each time. This time all the hotel rooms were too expensive for my liking so I stayed outside of down in Berkeley. The hotel staff said if I need to be in San Francisco by 8AM, I should leave at 5AM to beat the traffic. Still being on Eastern Time, I was out the door by 4AM and wandered around a dark San Francisco for a couple hours until it was time for my appointment. I made myself at home in several coffee shops and hotel lobbies to kill the time. A stranger gave me an umbrella, a lifesaver.

The picture below if of Oklahoma City’s memorial to the hospital bombing. I drove into Oklahoma City after working in Kansas all day. It was a six hour drive and I arrived late at night, the memorial was open and I walked through it. You hate to give out awards for best memorial, I do not mean to trivialize it, but it was the most powerful, elegant, and thoughtful memorial I’ve ever seen. I also had a steak at the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in the Oklahoma City Stockyards. I was the only dude not wearing a cowboy hat, but they took good care of me and I enjoyed the meal. I’d go back to Oklahoma in a heartbeat, plus they have the best state flag I’ve ever seen. 44E0B941-9D4E-4F1E-8C73-0D0E2614DB00Image result for cattlemen's steakhouse

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The image above is the construction crew working on our front porch. Digging out the foundation and building a new wall under it. Home ownership is filled with expenses where you pay a lot of money and after all is said and done, your house looks exactly the same. 3028224C-D869-45CF-8D8E-5E7B9BC08D53

The picture above is one of my favorites. It was a freezing cold day in Ohiopyle, in fact, snow was coming down throughout most of the day. The water of this river, the Youghiogheny, is always cold, but I am sure it was even colder today. The river was higher than normal, an enormous boulder about 4 feet off the shore stuck out of the swollen water. Jaclyn turned away a second and I jumped out onto the rock. She yelled at me and the kids were in awe. It was definitely stupid, the water was freezing and cold and rushing like mad all around me. I stood on my own little island and snapped a couple of pictures.

Benny loves Ohiopyle and the Youghiogheny River more than anything, he ran around all over the place, tearing up the river banks, rolling in the sandy gravel, bathing himself in the dirt and debris. Then he casually walked into the water and took a long dip to rinse himself off – completely unphased by the freezing temperatures.

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Visited Columbia, SC to see my sister-in-law’s family. I got a kick out of how much Columbia’s monuments and historic plaques criticized Sherman for destroying their city. I guess I really am a yankee as I was not at all sympathetic. These turkeys fired the first shots of the civil war at Fort Sumter and I would think they should have anticipated some terrible consequences of picking a fight with the United States. I would have love to hear a debate between Sherman and Lincoln on what America should have done post the Civil War and what they would do differently.

I look forward to seeing friends and family next week during Christmas, cannot wait to rest, relax, and spend time with those who matter most.

Went to Coudersport, PA a couple weekends ago with my family and my parents. It is known for its dark skies which are perfect for star gazing. We got there on a beautiful Friday night and to top it all off, we were there in prime time for a meteor shower. Not long after settling in round a camp fire, we saw a ball of flaming rock tumbling over the horizon for a good 2 seconds before it disappeared. It is such a startling sight, seeing the flaming object with a long tail of light behind it, it seemed like it was inevitably heading for earth and would wipe some town off the map, but I guess it just burnt up in the atmosphere as the failing NY Times did not report any catastrophes caused by meteor.

Later that night, I remember hearing the sound of a cooler being thrown violently to the ground. Like a giant picking it up over their head and slamming it onto the ground. The next morning we observed the cooler had indeed been tossed around, complete with teeth punctures from a bear. Inside the cooler was a styrofoam container housing leftover turkey, the styrofoam was neatly opened and licked clean, looked like it was never used used, not a single dent or hole, the bear tenderly consumed the turkey. The bear did bite into a giant can of Fosters beer, would have loved to have caught that on camera!

Our route home to Pittsburgh had us zigzagging through Elk County and we did our best to stop off at observation points to find a grazing herd of elk. We did not see any elk, but Jaclyn, the kids, and I all did our best to cajole the elk to us with our best elk bugle imitation. It was to no avail, but we were somewhat satisfied to come across some elk scat.

My iPhone is the primary navigation tool and we were now way outside the realm of cell phone signal. We used the car’s compass to head into the right direction for about 45 minutes until we got signal and our navigator back.

I like to admit when I am wrong about things and I was really wrong about Netflix. A couple years ago, I remember Netflix mentioning that they were going to produce their own show(s), perhaps it was House of Cards. I think I said something like this, “That is the dumbest idea ever, no one will ever subscribe to Netflix just for their own shows, they will always have to rely on big mainstream produced content.” I was totally wrong and have nowhere near the time to watch all the original Netflix content that I would want to watch.

Went to Michigan for work last week, drove all over the state. I saw lots of trees and the sign for the road “8 Mile” that Eminem made famous. Will be visiting again for fun sometime, but will hug the great lakes when there for recreation.

We turned our backyard into a haunted forest trail for the neighborhood on Friday. It was so wonderful to have all the neighborhood parents participate (their performances were wonderful, loved the jokes, pirate acting, and scares). I always tell Jaclyn that I do not vote in elections because I just want to be president of my backyard, I have been very proud of our backyard & entire community the past couple of years.

My new job will be wonderful, but I have a lot to learn as this role is very different from my last job. As a result, I will be cramming through the end of the year, but 2018 should be one of the best years yet.

 

Frederick

A friend of mine, who is black, mentioned that they need to start exercising again. I asked what they plan to do. The person replied, I will definitely join a gym, if I am going for a jog in the public, the police will interpret as me running from something. As I ran that scenario through my mind, it almost seemed comical, but my friend was serious.

All this heated debate about kneeling during the National anthem has me thinking of Frederick Douglas speaking about the Fourth of July, I had to give it another read.

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/douglassjuly4.html

Not saying anyone is right or wrong, just saying it would go a long way to seek to understand versus yelling into the ether of the internet.