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That’s The Way Things Are

Kindness is a Virtue

I survived!

Phew.

You clearly did too.

Damn Hurricane Irene.

The way they were talking on the news, it was like Long Island and other areas in the tri-state region might no longer exist after Irene made her way through. And they weren’t totally off base in that regard, unfortunately. Some parts of Long Island, and upstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as well, for that matter, were absolutely annihilated by the storm.

As we’ve all seen in the news, countless people across the region — including many on Long Island — lost power, phone services, running water, had massive flooding, lost countless household items and precious memories… Many are still without power even now, more than a week after the storm. The list goes on and on…

Now, I know that much of the time I write about things that piss me off. Yes, I’m aware of this, it’s not lost on me. Unfortunately, there are just a lot of things on that side of the fence that occur (for all of us) about which I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts. But it’s nice to also be able to talk about, and for me also write about, nice things when they happen as well.

No, I don’t mean the hurricane is a nice thing to write about.

I’m talking about something nice that I experienced as a result of the hurricane.

I live in the massive mandatory evacuation zone south of Sunrise Highway, and eventually I decided, unlike many other people, that I didn’t want to roll the dice and flaunt the evacuation order.

When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, she told me that my mother and I could come to her place to wait out the storm. Her mother had told her that any of her friends who needed a place to stay to wait out the hurricane were welcome at their home. After some slight deliberation about what to do in general about the hurricane and the weekend, my mother and I both decided to take them up on their kind offer, and …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

Dream On

Apple is freakin’ awesome.

No, not the fruit. The company.

Their products are pretty amazing, you have to admit. You can listen to music on players the thickness of two credit cards, some of which have widths as small as a large eraser. They have cell phones that do pretty much, well, everything. They have tablets that weigh nothing and do everything as well, and laptops that are just pretty cool.

In large part, we can thank Steve Jobs for all these amazing innovations and products. Of course, he passed away a couple of weeks ago from cancer but, he certainly made the most of his life while he was with us.

He had a dream and a passion, and overcame a ton to achieve it and follow his heart. He was given up at birth by his biological parents. He dropped out of college (to audit classes solely in the arena he was interested in) and didn’t get a degree. He went through multiple versions of his first product before finding one that actually worked the way he wanted. Oh, and not to mention he was kicked out of his own company after he’d found success.

Not bad, huh?

Everyone (or most people at least) have a dream of what they’d like to do with their lives. Much of the time, these aspirations are a bit more traditional, like becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Other times, however, as was the case for Mr. Jobs, the dreams we aspire to achieve and what we want to become are a bit more off the beaten path. Create a brand new product, put together a new computer program, come up with new ideas for television shows or movies…

I’m talking about innovation…

and not just innovation, but genuine creativity and following your passion.

This is such a genuinely two-sided topic, because innovation can be a real roll of the dice. On the one hand, if you go after your dream and fight through the frustration and leap the hurdles and achieve it, it can be terrific — not just for you, but as was certainly the case for …   More

Guest column

Is the bloom off the rose?

In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the song “Happy days are here again!” in his successful presidential campaign. The lyrics evoke both the optimism and buoyancy that was badly needed during the Depression years to restore confidence in government planning and policy.

In a press release issued on June 24, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also accentuated the positive, announcing “progress on historic initiatives, action on issues that have been left unresolved for decades, and a legislative session that has delivered results.” He also applauded both house leaders and members of the Legislature for passing these unprecedented reforms.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, for his part, said he was also “extremely proud of the many accomplishments the past several weeks have brought” and cited the passage of measures that will “create jobs, bring needed tax relief to homeowners and businesses, reduce the regulatory burden facing local governments, enable our state universities to grow and our students excel, and improve the process for creating more clean, reliable and affordable energy.”

Last, but certainly not least, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stated: “This has been a singularly productive session for the people of New York. On major issues which in the past have been stalled, we have settled our differences without compromising principles.”

I’m not quite sure we should all be enamored of what we are reading, or observing and, indeed, the bloom may already be starting to come off the rose.

Cuomo, in a New York Times column published on July 14, said he was “heartened by the accomplishments of his first six months — particularly the passage of a property-tax cap and the legalization of same-sex marriage — in a state capital divided by party and infamous for corruption and dysfunction.” But he attributed his legislative success to “a set of reasons that I don’t know are necessarily replicable.” He also highlighted …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

To Pray, or Not to Pray?

To all of my Jewish brethren out there, Shana Tova and I hope that you had an easy fast.

It is, of course, the High Holy Days for those of us in the Jewish religion, where we celebrate the new year, and repent for our sins of the last year.

For many of us, however, it’s also the first time we’ve been to temple since the High Holy Days twelve months ago.

I know that I’m in that grouping…

I’ve not always been that way, though. Up until a handful of years ago, I used to go to services a couple of times a month. Not even for holidays. Just to go…

No, I’m not apathetic, and no, I’m not lazy…

Fine, I’ll just say it… I have a problem with religion.

There, are you happy now?

And to clarify, I don’t have a problem with just my religion, but religion in general, across the board.

It just doesn’t feel right to me. So many elements of the empirical beliefs of all religions, whether Judaism of Catholicism or Mormonism or any of the others, and the idea of religion as a whole, that I can’t wrap my head around lately. As hard as I try, it just doesn’t add up and make sense for me.

And let’s be clear, it’s not an arbitrary, non-sensical issue with religion. I have what I consider to be some genuine beefs with the concept of religion, and believing in a “higher power” and “all knowing entity” so to speak.

I have issues believing that if I simply pray for something, it will help it to actually happen. What about our own actions? Don’t they matter? Doesn’t our behavior, or lack thereof, have relevance? Doesn’t logic suggest that our actions would be the much more dominant and overriding factor in what actually does and doesn’t occur?

I have issues buying into the idea that religions have as a tenet, whichever religion you subscribe to, that G-d, regardless of which G-d you believe in, needs …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

Gluttons for punishment?

I tell my friends I think a girl is cute all the time…

And I’ve never been accused of sexual harassment…

A couple of weeks ago, a 9 year-old 4th grader in North Carolina did just that. He told a friend in his class that he thought a girl was cute. In this case, the girl in question was his teacher, who happened to be out that day. His substitute teacher heard this comment made to his friend, and reported it as a complaint to the school’s principal. The school’s principal then in turn, suspended the 4th grader.

Take a second and think about that.

Really think about that for a second…

A 9 year-old boy… was suspended, for sexual harassment… He’s 9 years old! He doesn’t even know what sexual harassment is!

Unless he’s Courtney Love’s son or something… which certainly doesn’t seem to be the case…

And yet, this 9 year-old boy, for making what in his mind was surely an innocent, innocuous comment, was punished and given a 5 day suspension.

Now, a few days later, a higher power stepped in and wrong was righted when the district overturned the suspension, expunged it from his record, sent a formal letter of apology to his mother, the principal resigned, and the boy was given additional instruction assistance for the time he forced to miss in his class.

But all of this makes me wonder: Have we taken things too far in regard to rules and regulations, and do we take the execution of them to a ridiculous extent at times?

There’s been some ridiculousness at the TSA over the last few weeks as well. Three elderly women and grandmothers, all of whom were over the age of 65, and all of whom have medical conditions, were forced to submit to strip searches at JFK airport here in New York.

Really? Grandmas? You’re going to go after grandmas? They’re now the big threats to our national security? Is it the sucking candies or reading glasses …   More

The way things are

Who's got your back?

I’ve been thinking a lot about loyalty lately.

Not just the last few days or weeks or so, but for a few years now it’s been a consistent topic on my consciousness.

I’m what I’ve noticed is a bit atypical on this topic. Now, I understand that there’s a reason that the “survival of the fittest” theory exists (thank you, Charles Darwin). After all, there is some logic in play there. But, at the same time, there’s gotta be a line where you still feel a loyalty to your friends and loved ones, and act on it.

Doesn’t there?

For me, I think it’s pretty logical… If someone does something detrimental or negative to a friend of loved one of mine, I think ill of that and also think ill of the person who engaged in that behavior. And I take that approach regardless of whether the person committing the infraction, so to speak, is a friend of mine or someone close to me.

After all, wrong is wrong. Just because I’m close to someone and we have a relationship of whatever sort, that doesn’t magically make the behavior acceptable.

And OF COURSE, the same concept applies to me. Logically, I’d expect my friends and loved ones to hold me to the same standards. I’m no different so…

Now, of course there are lines and limits here. Naturally, the degree that I look negatively on a detrimental action and the person who commits it differs based on what it is and how legitimately bad it is. There’s a difference between bumping into someone and not saying “excuse me” and simply not showing up for a close friend’s birthday without a word… Between forgetting to call someone back and constantly bad mouthing someone behind his back with facetious comments… Between being a few minutes late to pick someone up, and treating a former boyfriend or girlfriend like crap.

You get the idea…

To me, this is all just very logical. It’s …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

My World

Screw you.

No, I’m serious.

I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.

I mean, I might as well take a page out of everyone else’s book and at least even the playing field.

After all, this is the mentality that an awful lot of people abide by, and I had a personal experience again last weekend which is a perfect illustration of this unfortunate trend. I was at the beach club in Atlantic Beach, sitting in an open area doing some work on my laptop. For years I’ve done this at the club without incident. But in the middle of the afternoon, four or five little kids came running through, maybe six, seven, eight years old or so. One little boy with a water gun — looking right at me and seeing a laptop — fired his water gun and sent water all over my keyboard and mouse pad.

Now let’s be clear, right from the start… This isn’t about the kid. He’s eight years old. Kids make mistakes and that’s how they learn — I hope — so that they don’t make the same mistakes when they get older and become adolescents and then adults.

This is about the parents.

When I found his parents and went over to them to discuss what happened, their response was beyond obnoxious. Since it was a child and since it occurred in a public area, they insisted, they aren’t at all responsible. And they had a major attitude about it, telling me I could even talk to cops and lawyers if I’d want to see that they’re correct.

Really?

You really believe that you have no responsibility for your child, because, in effect, he is a child? And also tossing in for good measure, since it occurred in a public area for club members?

REALLY?

You don’t think you’re accountable for your children and their behavior? What the hell goes through your mind that you actually believe…

No, never mind. I’m not even going to go there. That’s another column in …   More

Guest Column

As promised: keeping tabs

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “We made a difference.”

That quote appeared in a June 27 Newsday story explaining how Andrew, Dean (Skelos) and Sheldon (Silver) fared in the tumultuous legislative session that came to a close last week. The paper’s overall assessment is positive, with the New York Post also crediting the governor with “political skills, the likes of which [haven’t] been seen in the Capital for 50 years.”

On the assumption of truly achievable results, the accolades being expressed are warranted, at least for the time being. But I tend to be a bit more pragmatic in assessing performance. Cuomo did indeed push through a reduced spending budget without new taxes and also a game-changing property tax cap, the ramifications of which have yet to be realized. He accomplished (for the most part) what he promised to do when he ran for elected office, like it or not.

Despite those achievements, we are still light years away from actually realizing real reform. A number of examples come to mind. I mentioned in my column, “Stop the shenanigans,” (June 23-29) that the governor’s approach to pension reform avoids dealing with many of the well-publicized absurdities in the current system. A recent New York Times editorial disagrees with my assessment, suggesting that Cuomo’s approach, while more conciliatory than that of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is as effective. I suggest Cuomo should examine the legislation just approved by the New Jersey Assembly. This law specifies adjustments that might just save $132 billion in labor costs over the next 30 years. Of particular note, if approved, these changes will affect more than 500,000 New Jersey state, county, town and school district employees, imposing mandatory pension and benefit funding requirements.

With state spending in mind, I also question whether the governor’s Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission will ever accomplish anything productive. Why? It appears to be …   More

The way things are

Real Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year…

Time for the proverbial “it’s Thanksgiving, so that’s what I’m going to talk about” column…

But I don’t want to do the usual. I kinda want to do the opposite, since I hate doing “the usual.”

We’ll see how that goes now, I suppose…

So, aside from the upcoming holiday, I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about the idea of hope. It’s not a concept new to my mind, though. It’s definitely something that’s entered my consciousness a fair amount.

I’ve noticed through the years that hope is a funny thing. It’s of course, not something tangible or literal. You can’t touch it, or hold it. And yet, it’s something that so often, gives so many people a positive mindset that they’ve been in search of, and are perhaps in need of.

People have problems in their lives. Come on, admit it, you do. Hell, we ALL do. Any person you meet who says they have no problems whatsoever in their life is either lying to you, or is the luckiest person on the planet. And, I’ve not met that person yet, or even come close. We’ve all got problems and issues to contend with, and that’s just part of the deal and part of life.

And of course, sometimes those problems can be somewhat overwhelming, and persistent and constant, more than the average. Enter, hope.

Hope can keep people going, fighting through those difficult circumstances each day. Hoping for a better circumstance, for things to get better, for things to turn around, envisioning that arena of their life the way they want it to be… It can allow people to temporarily escape from their present reality which they don’t like, and give them the push to continue on.

I know what you’re probably thinking… “What a bunch of crap!” And the cynic in me would venture to agree with you, quite frankly. I mean, I’m …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

Free Cookies!

They look so good and tasty…

And they’re just sitting out there, in the open, for anyone to take.

The cookies and doughnuts at the bakery… at the supermarket… are what I’m talking about, of course.

The pastries at the supermarket are put into unlocked shelves in the front of the bakery section and people are trusted to not steal them and eat them as they shop.

But when I was in the supermarket the other day, I saw a woman who took it upon herself to just grab a few of those cookies and scarf them down, at no cost to herself.

Yes, that’s my politically correct way of saying she didn’t pay for them.

Now, obviously, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen something of this sort in the supermarket, whether pastries in the bakery, or a piece of fruit, or even a bag of chips. But this instance got my mind moving again on the topic. Not necessarily the “stealing” of the cookies in and of itself but, rather, the whole taking without paying thing.

As a society — globally, not just as a nation — we all enter into a social contract with one another (thank you, John Locke). Basically, what this means is, all of us, as people living in the same community and world, agree to abide by certain rules and standards and accept responsibility in many situations to protect other people from things on the negative side of the spectrum.

Clearly, that woman — and the others I’ve seen doing the same in supermarkets — didn’t get the memo.

People break that contract all the time, and on bigger scales, certainly. People steal from electronics stores, clothing stores, rob other people’s homes… and just the other day, a popular jewelry store in Hewlett was robbed, with its staff still inside and working.

And let’s not forget the even bigger fractures of the social contract: people harass, …   More

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