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The One About The End of the Year.

It is the last day of 2012.  I’m still here, the blog is still here and the world is still here. There’s a part of me that wants to ramble on about the things I learned, the people I met and the fun we had in 2012 but I’m not feeling overly rambly today. Even though it’s a workday for me, and I find it quite amusing that I am being somewhat productive, my head is already in 2013 mode and I’m looking forward to the challenges of the new year.

During a ride home from the in-laws yesterday, Earl made a comment: “which are the better years for us – the even ones or the odd ones?”  To be quite honest, I can’t remember which is which these days, partly because I have middle-age senility but also because I’m going to make 2013 a good year no matter what. Determination, coupled with a sense of relaxation (in the spirit of “what will be, will be”) is what is going to get 2013 off to a good start in my little head.

If I had to summarize 2012, I’d say that it was a learning experience. I learned a lot about people, I learned a lot about what money does to people, I learned a lot about big corporations and I learned a lot about our country. More importantly I learned a lot about myself and I like to think that I am starting 2013 a little smarter and more aware of my surroundings than where I was a year ago.

So tonight I’m going to raise my selected bottle of beer up in a toast to 2013 and welcome it with open arms. It’s going to be a hoot!

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The Social Interaction Situation.

My buddy Erik recently mentioned on Facebook that he was thinking about quitting the service and concentrating more on his blog and website. Like many things that Erik says (we tend to think alike), I could easily see where he was coming from on this thought process. After all, I have pondered the thought of giving up Facebook as well for a couple of reasons, but I’ve never gone through with actually deleting my account.

I’ve written before about my frustration with everyone writing is short blurbs these days. Corporate emails from people higher up the food chain contain little nuggets like “LOL”. The intrusion of Instant Messaging in the workplace has nullified many social norms, such as well thought out, professional communication. The biggest thing about Facebook and it’s arch enemy, Google+ is that all of their revenue is made via advertising. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you are not the customer on Facebook, you are the product. All that data gets shipped off to folks that want to advertise and all that data is provided so that ads can target you. As a person that used to write ad copy for a living (way back in the day), I have to tell you that that kind of sucks. I hate advertising and if there’s any way that I can buy a service instead of using an ad supported service, I’m going to make the purchase.

The one thing about Facebook that appeals to me is that it has connected me with many people. The other night I chatted with my former college roommate and friend. We haven’t seen each other since 1987. Earl and I have met quite a few people in person that we have met online and we are looking forward to doing more of the same in 2013. Facebook provides an excellent way to keep in touch with family that is flung both near and far. I have no issue with the service itself, it’s the data mining and the advertising connection that bugs the crap out of me. That’s one of the reasons I wiped out my Instagram account and started from scratch during the whole “we didn’t really say we were going to sell your pics to ad agencies” Instagram mess a couple of weeks ago.

When I try to give up Facebook the attempt is usually short-lived. Google+ is easy to ignore, there’s hardly anyone there that I know. Twitter doesn’t work the same; I can write all sorts of nonsense on there and god knows who will read it but I use that service with that in mind. But Facebook provides the easiest way to share photos from our vacations or to see what old high school buddies are up to. So it’s a balancing act of sharing what we want to share while weighing the ever present “don’t put it online unless you wouldn’t mind it on the front page of the New York Times” mantra.

I am willing to bet that Facebook could make a ton of cash if they offered a premium, paid service to their users. For example, sign up at $10 a month and we won’t share your data with anyone and we’ll give you privacy setting options that reinforce that fact. I think a lot of people would be willing to jump on that ship, especially since Facebook is starting to be the AOL from the 1990s, what people this is “the Internet” (but without the floppy disk shoved in everything from dish detergent to magazines).

So for now I’ll cautiously continue to use Facebook. And I’ll share my stuff knowing what I’m sharing and with whom I am sharing it (unlike Randi Zuckerberg).

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The Good Samaritan Rule.

The recent shooting of firemen in Webster, N.Y. had me thinking a little bit during my drive this morning. For those unfamiliar with the tragedy, an armed man set fire to a house and called the fire department. When the firefighters arrived on the scene, he shot at them, killing two of the men. He just wanted to kill people that day.

This got me to thinking a little bit. When I was commuting on a daily basis, it wouldn’t be a rare event to see a car off the road along the Thruway during the winter months. Driving in Central New York between November and April can be a challenge if you’re not accustomed to the adverse winter conditions this area is known for. I would often see cars with out-of-state plates sitting in the middle of the roadway or off in a median. If it looked like it just happened, I would stop and make sure the driver was ok and see if they needed to make a phone call or something. I’ve always thought that it was the right thing to do. I figure if people are driving on the Thruway with out-of-state plates and they’ve gone off the road, they’re probably not familiar with the area and could use a little help.

Here’s the thing. The shooting in Webster has me rethinking this. And quite frankly, that’s unfortunate. Who’s to say that there isn’t some maniac sitting in the car waiting for a Good Samaritan to stop by. Naturally one would hope that this isn’t the case, but with all the negativity in the world today, quite frankly it would be hard to know for sure. And to me, this boggles the mind and quite frankly it is very sad.

Ultimately I’ll probably take my chances if in that situation again. This morning I saw a car go sliding up the Thruway sideways because they were driving very fast and without their headlights in the unplowed left hand lane of the roadway. The driver righted the car and it looked like it was on its way again without incident, but had there been an incident, would people be inclined to stop and help them? Human Nature hopes the answer is yes, but with all the weirdness in the country these days, it’s hard to tell.

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The Life Less Challenged.

I have started watching “The Event” on Netflix while working out. I watched this show earlier in the year. Unfortunately, it lasted only one season on NBC and it doesn’t look like any other network is going to tidy up the loose ends. I reconcile the abrupt and unfinished ending by reading the comments of other fans on message boards and the like. A particular comment I read today struck a chord with me:

Are we living in a new dark age? Life is no longer about aspiring to learn more, to be better at science, to encourage diversity, to welcome challenges to our beliefs — but rather to gravitate toward the lowest common denominator. If you want an intellectual show about science fiction (as opposed to catechism) perhaps such content will eventually thrive via streaming. At present it seems the clowns are running the circus — meaning the networks are more concerned about selling a better laxative while dumbing down an already intellectually challenged audience. (How long can thinking people be entertained by reality TV? How many episodes of Cops can one watch before slipping into a coma?)

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I sometimes wonder what the world is going to be like in ten or twenty years, especially if current trends continue. The other night I watched a woman at the mall slip on some ice and fall on her backside, simply because it was 7:30 p.m. at night, she was wearing (apparently very stylish) sunglasses and heels and she couldn’t navigate the icy, darkened parking lot because she was more concerned with looking good in her sunglasses. While she looked good, she apparently had little to no common sense. I hope she wasn’t hurt.

People don’t think anymore. Technology does a lot of thinking for them, like cars that flash a warning that it’s dark out and you have to turn on your lights. This sets up an expectation and we end up with cups that let us know that the hot coffee was just ordered is hot.

I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. I’ll be the first one to admit that, but I still aspire to shine brighter and brighter each day, even as I grow older and grow more forgetful. I hope that others will continue to do the same, but thinking seems to be too hard.

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The Best Friend Connection.

It’s a lucky man that gets to wake up next to his best friend every morning. This morning I got to do just that and then the inevitable happened; I fell in love again. It happens every morning, I see the bear in bed with me and I fall in love. People think I’m crazy when I say I still see fireworks after all these years, but I do. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic.

Sixteen years ago today, Earl and I celebrated our commitment with a ceremony on Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. Witnessed by Rick and Helen (brother and sister-in-law), Earl and I exchanged vows and rings. While New York State granted us the right to make it all legal in 2011, Earl and I consider ourselves married as of 12/26/96. It was nice of the state to catch up to fact.

Many said it wouldn’t last, but you can’t interrupt fate, especially when you marry your bestest friend. I’m a lucky guy. I’m a happy guy.

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The Storm Anticipation.

The National Weather Service in Binghamton has issued a winter storm warning for our area. The warning interval is from 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon until Thursday morning. When all is said and done, we should have 12-18 inches of snow on the ground, with peak snowfall around 2 inches of snow per hour.

It’s about time!

While I have seen Mother Nature do much worse and give us much more snow in the same amount of time, I have to admit that I’m rather excited about this predicted snow event and I am looking forward to it feeling “really like winter” tomorrow.

The Jeep and Earl’s car are ready with an extra hat and mittens in each. Shovels are primed and ready to go and we have plenty of Christmas cookies to last us the duration.

Eat, drink and be merry!

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The Holiday Weekend Documentation.

So, like most people in the United States, Earl and I have been very busy during this holiday season. In fact, this somewhat frenetic pace has kept me from blogging on a regular basis for the past three days. This runs contrary to one of my goals for 2013, where I hope to be blogging more. Let’s see if I can reverse this trend.

Saturday we took our annual mall road trip and found ourselves in Danbury, Connecticut. This decision was influenced by wanting to meet a fellow blogger/tweeter/Facebooker and his husband, and we had a lovely lunch with Kevin (FearTheDrumMajor/drummajorkev) and Brian. Having lunch with them was liking have lunch with old friends. We are looking forward to seeing them again in 2013. Online friends that become new friends are a beautiful thing (and quite frankly, they are two very handsome men)!

 

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After lunch and milling about Danbury Fair (where I officially completed my shopping chores), we completely lost our mind and headed downstate a bit to the Palisades Center, where the accent was thick (and somewhat grating on my nerves), parking was at a premium and so we had to scale a wall, climb over a fence and around a guide rail to get to the last available spot.

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This activity earned me this…

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… which was Phin and Matt’s Extraordinary Ale from the Southern Tier Brewing Company in my own stomping grounds of Lakewood, New York. Having tried some wines and such during our vacation at the beginning of the month, I’m more of a beer drinker if I’m going to drink alcohol at all and quite frankly I like a good beer. I’m developing an interest in craft beer and this beer, which was enjoyed at the Yard House in the chaos of the Palisades Center. This particular Yard House had 180 beers on tap, but I only had one. We did have a long drive home, after all.

Sunday was wrapping and cookie creation day!

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Jamie and Earl did the baking, I did the inspection and taste testing. After getting through the stress of wrapping presents (which I am very bad at), it was good to relax with a cookie treat or two.

I worked yesterday. I think I was the only one working yesterday, but I was able to get things done from my home office, which is always a good thing.

Last night we had my mom, sister and nephew over for a Christmas Eve gathering. Mom and I snapped a photo with my iPhone while sitting on the couch reminiscing about Christmases of the past and present.

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This morning Earl, Jamie and I woke up and did the traditional family Christmas morning thing.  It looks like Santa Bear and his Cub Elves were very busy about The Manor last night. Today we are trying on clothes, playing with some new gadgets (I am an Apple boy through and through, though sometimes I won’t admit it) and checking out our presents.

Oh! Last night Mom told us that she gave me the one gift that I really wanted and she made a donation to the Ali Forney Center. She’s a cool mom and even more so for doing that.

Family. New friends. Old Friends. All in the spirit of the holiday. It is a great way to spend Christmas. Life is good.

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The Family Connection.

There are families we are all born into. If all goes well, and for the most part in my case it did, the biological bonds of our family are replaced by a bond that exceeds that biological connection. That’s what I think defines a family. But I fully believe that a family can include those that, while they don’t have that biological connection to you, they do have certainly have that stronger bond that most of us experience in a family. And it is without any hesitation or doubt that I am a lucky man to a couple of people in my life that I call family.

Last night, Earl and I, along with our friend Jeff, watched a family member graduate from college. That’s right, Jamie (or as we call him, Cub), walked across the stage as he received his Associate’s degree from Mohawk Valley Community College. Last night was the result of a lot of hard work, hard knocks, dedication, worry, stress, joy and just plain ol’ learnin’. 

After the ceremony the four of us went out for dinner and celebrated the way family and friends do.

Earl and I are very, very proud of him and are looking forward to watching our family member continue on his journey as he enters this next phase of his life. He has a plan and I have no doubt that he will fulfill his dreams. If any man defines the phrase “reach for the stars”, it’s Cub.

 

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Jamie shows his Straight Edge pride. He was one of three that augmented his mortarboard, as shown by the “X” seen in the front row of the class, third from right.

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The Psychic Connection.

Since this week seems to be about metaphysical stuff in some ways, I thought I would share with the class an adventure that I shared with my sister yesterday.

Our father passed on a little over a year ago when his home-built airplane (the second plane he built from scratch) crashed into a wooded area near the airport he was testing the plane at. This occurred during the second flight of the plane. Earlier this year I came to terms with the loss of my father. I had had a couple of dreams about him including one very vivid dream in particular where he told me what had happened and that everything was okay. While I will always feel sad that I can’t call him up and tell him the latest road trip adventure that Earl and I have gone on or reminisce with him about something, I know that I’m beyond the grief and pain. I have accepted and I have continued with life, the way I know that he would want it to be.

My sister wanted to see a psychic. I didn’t really feel the need to see a psychic, because of the dreams and the way I was feeling, but I agreed to go along with her for moral support. I had been to a psychic before. This first psychic told me that I was a “bright star that would burn out quickly” and when he tried to cleanse me chakra he felt compelled to hit me upside the head a couple of times. This all took place in the back of a hair salon, so I should have known something was fishy about this guy.

I’m digressing.

The psychic we went to see is pretty well known. She has been doing her thing for a long time. My aunt is her virtual assistant and my aunt assured us that she knew nothing about the people she was going to meet. I met my sister at her office in a hilltop business park.

When we stepped into the entrance of her professional suite it was pitch black. There were no lights on anywhere in the room and there were no windows to let in any natural light. I figured that this must be significant so we propped the door open a little bit so we could see each other with light from the hallway, but otherwise it was completely dark. There was a little sign on the conference room table urging us to just wait and she would be with us in a bit. Sounds of a reading came from an adjacent room. The mood was interesting with the pitch darkness of the room. Come to find out, the building was experiencing electrical problems, there was no other significance to sitting in the dark.

When we met with the medium, she asked us to naturally say our full name and our birth dates. She didn’t bolt out of the room to Google someone, she didn’t speak into a hidden microphone and I scouted the room out for signs of wi-fi. None of this was present. She simply sat in the chair across from us and explained that she would go into a trance-like state and she asked we not bounce our legs from nervousness or fidget in our chairs as that would make her nauseated and she could potential throw up.

Ok, then.

After saying a silent prayer her whole demeanor changed and her face lit up in a very beautiful way. Gazing upwards about two feet above our heads, she smiled and said hello to several souls that had come to visit.

That’s when Dad arrived.

I’m not going to get into the details of the reading because, well, it’s kind of personal, but some things that she did get completely right:

“He says he fell from the sky. What does that mean?”

“There was nothing he did wrong, it was the engine. ‘The bastards rebuilt it wrong.’ There was no way he could recover.”  (Interestingly, my dream journal of that dream says, “There was no way I could recover.”)

“If he had to go, this was the best way to do it because he was doing what he loved. He thinks that everyone should go this way.”

“He was there in the dream that you about him. He was really there. He knows you already know what happened.”

The medium accurately conveyed things about Dad and our family that she couldn’t possibly know. No Googling or anything would give the details of some of the things she mentioned. His personality came through what she was telling us. His sense of values was accurately portrayed. Names were said without coaching or input. Long story short, I fully believe that we talked to our Dad yesterday. I feel more comfort than I did after my own grieving process. 

As the medium went into the trance I felt goosebumps and a radiance in my body that I have felt only two other times in my life and it was absolutely amazing. I may have gone into the room a skeptic (as learned from that other experience from the psychic that wanted to beat on me), but I left yesterday knowing that Dad was with the other family members that have passed on and that he was doing just fine. He was a little startled from having arrived there so abruptly, but he was just fine.

There’s a lot of people that don’t believe in life after this life or that folks have the ability to see the other side. Dionne Warwick, Ms. Cleo and their ilk have kind of turned everyone sour and cynical when it comes to psychic phenomena, but I feel that what we experienced yesterday was real.

If you feel the need to visit a medium, please send me an email and I will share her contact information with you.

Thanks for the visit, Dad.