Thursday, December 22, 2011

On Christmas Morning

I am not an electrician. I do understand basic wiring though. Over time I have installed an array of ceiling fans, exhaust fans, grounded outlets, programmable thermostats and dimmer switches in my home. Why then can setting up a Christmas tree baffle me?

In years past, my fair lady and I would take the kids, a thermos of hot chocolate and a bow saw for a long ride upstate to find a fresh tree we could fall in love with for the holidays. But that tradition came to an abrupt end one New Year's Eve when the live evergreen, smartly displayed in our living room, pushed the envelope of fair lady’s allergies too far and we found ourselves watching the ball drop in the emergency room at North Shore hospital. Hives, which were the size of quarters, combined with a general feeling of misery and ushered in our new tradition.

We now knock aside a few boxes from the garage rafters and I barely avoid a hernia while sauntering away with the biggest, most swollen, weathered and clumsy box of the bunch. Charged full by assorted metal rods and a simulated balsam I limp through our front door, release my grip and flinch from the thud of ninety-five pounds as it is plopped on my porch floor. We then begin the assembly.

There is a main wire running down the trunk of the tree and plugs labeled one, two and three need to be connected. Things get murky from here. I suppose the previous years of hurry up and get it done packing away have not helped and some of the labels from the remaining eight connections to be made are missing. Matching wires that read D9 and F21 also tends to frustrate me a bit when I would prefer color codes like black to black, white to white, or even red to red. And this year we ran aground at a new problem. We found four male connections to pair with five female connections. Evidently, somewhere in our aforementioned cramming we tangled a green wire so tightly among green branches that no matter how hard we looked or hobbled down under the needles the only result was simultaneous scratching of our skin and heads.

Thirty minutes later we nodded in unison and agreed that proper placement of the ornaments and beads would provide enough twinkling to offset the unlit lights in strand number two.

Luckily my wife has a special touch when it comes to decorating. The tree looks wonderful, though we know it’s not perfect. And that thought happens to resonate well with me and my understanding of Christmas.

For whether one is a believer or not, the story of Jesus is an important piece of humanity. The account of this great man among men, the prince humanitarian, whose birth is celebrated on Christmas day, and who would later be crucified, captures human existence well. Through it, we can see the best of mankind’s potential pitted against the worst of mankind’s imperfection.

So on Christmas morning when I am led down to the tree by my family, I will not be longing for memories of us and a couple of cats ready to pounce on the splendid re-creation of an Adirondack mountain scene commingled among string, bows and crystal decorations. Nor will my deepest joy arise from the sight of distinctive gifts left around our tree apron by Saint Nick.

Instead, a missing strand of lights will link what my heart feels and what my head should already know. I will be reminded that humility is the key to humanity and that, with grace on our side, any of us can achieve greatness. Yet, even with grace, none of us can escape the human element of our imperfection.

And perhaps there really is a Higher Power.

© Christopher’s Views 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

more focus needed

Maybe all the fast food that American’s consume will one day be discovered as the root cause for a decline in intelligence. Perhaps too many Egg McMuffins eaten under the Golden Arches or too many sausage, egg and processed food combos on flat bread, from where America runs, will be lamented as the culprit.

Heaven knows though, seriously faulty synapses are on the rise and trying to generate a coherent thought is on the wane.

As it is, I write quite infrequently here. In part, that is due to poor time management of my leisure moments. Some essays I put forth involve topics that are simple or comical in nature. Some of them are complicated and serious in nature. Lately a growing amount of the issues that perk my interest for writing are genuinely disturbing. Whether serious or disturbing I often acquiesce and post my views in a satirical, nonetheless benevolent manner in consideration of this forum.

Increasingly the task of being compassionate, on my part, is growing difficult.

The Penn State child sex abuse scandal is an example. How difficult, in fact, is it to not get outraged when learning that a 28 year old graduate assistant purportedly failed to intervene or call the police when witnessing the sexual assault of a 10 year old at the hands of a 57 year old former football coach? How can one hold back the ire when the athletic director seemingly lacked the common sense to call the police when confronted with the report? How disgusting is it to hear that the head coach and many others in charge allegedly did little more than trying to pass the buck, wash their hands and move on with business as usual?

How bizarre is it that college entrance criteria’s are supposedly so hard yet for many matriculated students the act of rioting in defense of a misguided coach and in ignorance of sexual abuse did not register as being contrary to a lesson in higher education?

But why would such behavior be a surprise in a world where money and power rule and where if a subject is too complicated to deal with in a 140 character tweet it’s often tossed to the side of the road.

Why would departures from common sense surprise me in the least? We live in a time where viewing the prolonged stare of a man running for president of the United States and struggling to explain simple thoughts that sadly are out of his league is also business as usual.

I sometimes stay away from my computer and the windows in my house to avoid spiraling into a viral variation of Peter Finch’s portrayal of Howard Beale in Network and start screaming how I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore.

Short essays (even if long for blog posts) no longer allow me to fully express my views on many events that occur day by day.

So…I have decided that I will write the predominant volume of my thoughts into a longer form for myself. Who knows…maybe in a year or so I’ll have something worth publishing in print.

I still enjoy this forum. And I especially love to read all of your post’s as well. I’m sure I will be posting some short pieces from time to time. Mostly though, I will be reading when here and writing when not.

© 2011 Christopher’s Views

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I can’t see that from over here

My right elbow is still a bit sore from unloading my own hellish version of the family truckster. Our all wheel drive vehicle had been piled to capacity with beach chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards, coolers, shovels, golf clubs, clothing, wind chimes, assorted crafts and 3 bicycles. Riding along with me was fair lady and budding son. We had been vacationing for 10 days along with my sister-in-law, her husband, their three children and an equally maxed out family fun vehicle.

A few days into the vacation I was feeling a bit guilty for taking more than a week away from work. Rarely do I think along those lines as I am confident that in my final hours I will likely reflect more on interpersonal times of leisure than career milestones. Perhaps I was temporarily influenced by some local papers and their coverage of President Obama’s vacation, which was just a ferry ride away from our cottage. Many Americans feel that the Obama’s should not be vacationing while the economy is in such bad shape.

Luckily the regret was fleeting and I spent most of my time walking in flip flops. When I slide my feet into other choices, golf shoes, running sneakers or bike pedals were the alternates. When not eating a lobster roll on the beach, our meals were either proceeded by or followed by admission to one of the ubiquitous miniature golf courses that prosper on Cape Cod. Sometimes we substituted the activity for an appetizer or dessert. Other times we just inserted it in before the hors d'oeuvres or after a late ice cream stop. My eight year old fell in love with that life. He was all hopped up on artificial turf and a salt water breeze. I lost some enthusiasm for the redundancy of the mini-golf after the second round. Instead I fell in love with the endless delight of a soon to be third grader for hitting under the bunny, around the pig, clanging the metal pail at the wishing well, holing the pirate’s plank and banking a shot off the treasure chest.

If polled I would certainly cast my vote for vacations in both good times and bad. And with the full knowledge that as sure as I replied to some e-mails and called on some business propositions, the president is never really not working. It’s just an illusion. It’s one of life’s false impressions that can only be seen from specific angles.

My son reminded me of that when he gleefully popped out of our all everything vehicle late one night when we chose the after dessert option. ‘Dad, come look, come look’, he happily insisted. I wondered and asked, ‘what is it Bud? ‘Look at all the stars up there’, as he pointed toward a spectacularly bright celestial show. Contrasting his experience of how living among the bright lights of New York dims out the heavenly night above, he was learning something new.

He was learning that our views of the world and that of reality can easily be worlds apart, as predicated by where we stand.

© 2011 Christopher’s Views

Thursday, July 21, 2011

glacial movement of a good idea

For these past few weeks of summer I have set my day in motion by driving my eight year old son to a wonderful day camp. The children that attend enjoy the benefits of an indoor and an outdoor pool. They are engaged with soccer, volley ball, kickball, wall climbing, zip lines, horse-back riding, crafts, wooded trails, a great staff and a mixed bag of other interests. The route takes me about half an hour out of my way in the morning. This is his third season, and on and off, I have considered saving time and spending the extra money to sign him up for the available transport. But as we bond a bit, sing some tunes and connect through some childish humor on our ride each sunup, it becomes clear it is not about the time or the money.

Each day an intermittent caravan of school buses surround my sedan as we trek. Most of the buses are of the short bus type, which can hold about 20 children. When stopped at a traffic signal I can look and see that none of the campers are in seatbelts. A few days ago I was driving on a six lane roadway in the late afternoon, far away from my son’s camp. A school bus of the long type, holding about 60 children, passed me on the right. Again, there was no indication of seatbelts. And, seemingly, all of the children were standing. Many of the children had poked their heads out of the bus windows, as they screeched silly heckles toward the cars below, while the bus zoomed away.

The silliness I get. The big picture-I simply don’t get. Is this the epitome of oversight, the foundation of negligence or the exemplar of stupidity?

We have gone to great lengths trying to protect people and improve vehicular safety. Seat belts, car seats, booster seats, air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability control systems and early warning systems.

Even back in the 80s, when the first genuine push towards wearing seat belts became popular, the public service commercials featuring Vince and Larry often careening through windshields were clear: ‘You could learn a lot from a dummy’. The correlation that people were supposed to make is that heads, torsos, knees, backs and other body parts don’t necessarily have to be tossed around at high speed in an accident.

But fast forward all the way to July 2011. The seatbelt laws in NYS seem to me to be as confusing as they are reckless. While riding in the front seat of a car, both driver and passenger must wear a seatbelt. No one in the front seat is allowed to stand, move around or willfully risk the head cracking scenario. Yet if any folks beyond 16 years of age are traveling in the rear seat of a car driven by an operator holding a Class-D license (for persons over age 18), they are permitted to act like dummies. To smarten up the law though, if the driver holds only a Class-DJ license (for persons under age 18), then nobody in the front or rear of the vehicle is permitted to wager on the willfully ignorant body tossing.

Regarding buses, any large type school bus built after July 1, 1987 must have seatbelts. In both the long and short variety of school buses, the bus drivers are forbidden to go beltless. But common sense ends there. Short buses don’t need seatbelts. I suppose they should be retrofitted with bumper stickers that read: ‘Sit back, relax, and screw yourself into the seat just before impact.’ And no matter when the bus was built, or the size category, each school district can set its own policy over whether or not the kids are allowed to increase the risk of knocking noggins at high speed. Oddly enough though, it seems that many districts choose to roll the dice.

Do you plan to travel in a passenger bus, taxi or a car made prior to 1964? I will save you time-as I looked it up. Crack. Crash. C-r-a-a-a-a-c-k!

Now think of all the money spent over this period on school budgets, state traffic laws, and advances in restraint systems. Yet every day, in New York State, a disgracefully large number of children wear no seatbelts when traveling to and from schools and camps.

Yup, as I said….it’s not about the time or the money. It’s about cutting class. The first and last lessons each day are truly insane.

© 2011 Christopher’s Views

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pi is not the only constant

I let out a chuckle when I hear certain words, i.e. ‘fart’ and ‘wedgie’. I cringe when I hear other words like ‘gimp’ or ‘retard’. And when I hear the word ‘crater’ I think of the moon. I also imagine our orbiting partner in space when I hear the words ‘pole dancing’ and ‘cheeseburger’. That may sound crazy now, but someday that may change.

So why risk exposing these thoughts as a little wacky today? I do so as I consider my studied (albeit subjective) knowledge of mankind and a sense that if we ever colonize the moon, a strip club, ala a multi-location FlashDancers type, will set up shop instantly and simultaneously alongside a fast food joint, ala a McDonald’s type. Given that pre-existing viewpoint, my only surprise regarding the extensive array of adult videos discovered among the confiscated items in the compound of Osama bin Laden was that it was reported as shocking by many in the media.

Beyond any misguided flabbergast, there may also be a lesson here that can be applied when sizing up the latest foe. Or perhaps even two lessons, in that one person’s pornography may be another’s art.

History tells us that since way back in time sexually revealing material has been a constant focal point.

Archaeologist’s put a time stamp of about 35,000 years ago on sexually explicit stone carvings that were found in 2009. The Secret Museum in Naples is stocked well with graphic sculpture from the Roman Empire. And let’s not forget how quickly Stag films emerged after the introduction of motion pictures in the early 1900’s.

The ubiquitous sexual content on the web is all just a progression from the first desktop boot up. Way back in the early 1980’s, while working on Madison Avenue, I remember when the company I worked for initially set up a DOS based system and placed a monitor at everyone’s location. Within hours, interoffice messages of a remarkably uninhibited nature were electronically sent between colleagues with about the same frequency that sixth graders passed paper notes during class in the 60’s. All as a way to flirt, excite, arouse and titillate coworkers that were alienated down the hall and holed up in a trap of cubicles.

Even just the day after the recent Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it was reported that a proposal was sent by Vivid Entertainment to Pippa Middleton for a starring role in an adult film.

Why not use this knowledge of a constant that, contrary to rhetoric, spans true over religious, cultural, and political lines to our benefit? Hold the bombers, the warships, the missiles and give the Marines some rest. The first order of managing a conflict should involve air-lifting large quantities of the most top rated erotica available. Then rain it down from the sky along all the strategic hot spots. Name it: Operation Diffusion by Distraction.

Of course Congress would never approve of such folly. We will surely continue to fund the opposing constant and spend millions and billions and trillions of dollars on the most expensive and technologically advanced machines of destruction that we can imagine.

But if we live past the Doomsday, predicted by some to be tomorrow, the folly of today’s thought has only to await the future. And a time when surely one day our kin will inhabit and bask in the glow of the moon while placing orders for a burger and a lap dance. While on the dark side a war will be surging over whose God, creeds and morality should rule over the most prized craters of all.

© 2011 Christopher’s Views

Friday, March 18, 2011

security blankets

For those of you who follow my postings I am sorry that my work has been weak and infrequent of late. A few months ago I took on a new position that requires more of my attention. And, in the same time frame, additional time had to be given to my parents as well. My father recently died. He lived a long life and was a great man. I did take the time to write a tribute for him. He knew of my blog and I spoke with him once about the style and contents. He politely listened, but he would not have wanted me to deliver homage of him on the web. Hopefully, in due time, I will be able to get back to a routine of more regular rambling.

A member of the IT team where I work vaulted into my office recently to instruct me about making sure my e-mail password was secure. Without hesitation I told him not to worry. I informed him of one of my many odd characteristics, or perhaps character defects. That is, while I may not be able to remember if I’m suppose to pick up apples and bananas or bread and milk, I have a very good ability to create complicated codes of symbols, letters and numbers that I can effortlessly retrieve from my memory banks. As he milled about, checking my PC’s tower and hodgepodge of cables, my mind digressed on how even I was surprised that I recently remembered the combination for a bicycle cable lock I found in my garage after thirty years missing. “And your off-site password too”, he continued. “Yes”, I said, “very complicated”. He exited my office with a sigh of relief and headed straight toward the customer service department with the same line of questioning and palpable anxiety in tow.

Security on the web, in paper trails, and in our personal lives is understandably of great concern. Certainly it would be foolish to avoid taking the many modern day threats in our lives seriously. However, I think that more than a sprinkling of naivety has been mixed in with the hyper focus.

This thought occurred to me on my way to pick up a strawberry-rhubarb pie last week at a shop near a strip mall. It is not terribly uncommon for me to see an automobile donning a cover, when parked for an extended period of time, in the driveway of a meticulous owner’s property. But when parked outside of Old Navy or Stop & Shop, I wonder if the blanket enhances security or makes it a target.

Besides geeks and IT teams, the medical community has a stepped up intent on security to boot. I was reminded of this twice recently. My first encounter wasted about eight phone calls and stripped away nearly eight hours of a work day earlier this month. While attempting to fill a prescription for my mother through a pharmacy, I was told that the coverage had expired and the script could not be filled. Aware that we had just transferred from one plan administrator to another I knew it was simply a system problem. A new id number was issued but we hadn’t yet received it in the mail. So I called the health plan to get the new information. Unnaturally, but expectedly I suppose, I was subjected to spending 20 minutes in the queue before I was told that HIPAA laws prevent me of that privilege. “Yes, but I have power of attorney”, I informed the representative. “Yes, but I don’t have it recorded in the system”, came the retort. I asserted, “I have a copy in my briefcase. Surely, we should be able to transact this by fax or scan within a few minutes, right?” “I can give you our fax number, but it will take one to three business days to process your request”, replied the rep. Feeling defeated, I simply hung up.

But after lunch, I decided on one more try and one more plea. After waiting the obligatory 20 minutes in another IT holding pattern I reached out to another representative and stated my need. I again got the HIPAA response. Not wanting to wait for the mail or a three day process I proposed reason, “instead of specific information, which of course you can’t provide, can you give me any general knowledge which may be of help?” “Well yes”, she thought. “A member’s social security number plus a zero and one will work as an alternate id.” Loving the presence of a back door, I called back the pharmacy and was done in a flash.

A few days later I was back in the medical info arena again. But this time I was there for myself. The medical assistant behind the desk handed me the standard three pages and a clipboard to be completed as it was more than a year since my last visit. Then she continued with a new request. “I need to make a copy of your driver’s license please”, she said in a matter of fact manner. Understanding that my body defaults into freeze mode when asked something that I can’t compute, I said “I can’t do that.” “But we need it for security reasons” she plodded. “Securing what possible occurrence”, I quipped and sensed that the whole waiting room of patients were now curiously waiting for either an intelligent result or a crash and burn. “Sir, we need to scan your license and picture into our system so that someone can’t pose as you for medical reasons!” “Well now I’m definitely not giving you a copy of my license”, I chuckled.

Confused and upset she demanded an answer. “Simple”, I said. “I feel a lot less secure having a copy of my picture and license, along with my already ubiquitous social security number and other identification markers, in your vulnerable to hackers computer system than I do by just keeping it in my wallet.” “Besides”, I now edgily went on, “I think the odds of someone my exact height, weight, blood type and medical history pretending to be me in front of a doctor that is supposed to know me is rather low.” “Okay sir, but you are going to have to present that license every time you come in for a visit”, she ended.

Just then my name was loudly mispronounced from the nurse’s station and it was time to go. On my way to see the doctor I somewhat fretfully realized that I have more of my father’s skeptical nature in me than I probably know. And I remembered one of his creeds. “We plan as if we are in control, but I know that we are not.”

© 2011 Christopher’s Views

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

mid winter reflection

Punxsutawney Phil, reportedly, did not see his shadow on the ground today. Courtesy of an ice storm, however, I did see my reflection.

In the glimmer of the broken glass-like and mosaic pattern deposited on the walkway to my home, I discerned the melancholy state of my being since the longest winter I can remember since 1996.

Besides the cold weather and record snowfalls of that season, I remember losing a dear friend who was still in his mid-forties when brain cancer claimed his life.

So far this winter, in ironic harmony with the harsh elements, the husband of a long and very dear friend succumbed to cancer before the age of 50. As well, a former colleague and friend who broke me into the business that I manage a staff for today died in his mid-fifties while shoveling snow. And there is a good chance that my father, battling his own cancer, won’t make it to the vernal equinox.

I do like to ski. I do enjoy snow tubing. Sometimes, I spontaneously find fun in just throttling up a snow covered hill behind the controls of a 4-wheel drive crossover.

In the recesses of my mind I realize, that in the end, this Arctic shift of cold and power will be the cause of more twisted or broken ankles and dislocated shoulders than of death.

But in the spring, when by the grace of a higher power I am afforded a gaze into a beautiful shoreline sunset, I will remember and wonder of the lives lost rather than the bones broken or of the slopes mastered.

© 2011 Christopher’s Views