6-15-2006 Gage's first big milestone

The whole bunch of us attended a birthday party up on Ice Lakes Road in Mountaintop last night. You see, Gage and Taylor have another set of grandparents, so they played host for the big bash yesterday. As hard as I find it to believe, Gage Andrew is 5-years-old already and just a few weeks from going off to kindergarten. The little guy is still little, but not so little anymore in a multitude of ways.

Sure, heís got warts just like any other kid his age would be expected to have, but heís personable, bright, astute and always inquisitive. Even at the tender age of five, I could see a bright future for him with the proper prodding and direction coming from his parents. And maybe even a little coming from his two sets of grandparents. Heís certainly as well-rounded as any five-year-old could possibly be when you consider all of the zany exploits and misadventures Iíve somehow managed to get him into.

How many kids have sane grandparents offsetting the influences of the insane versions? How many 3-three-year-olds even own a river horn? How many have kayaked on the Susquehanna? (Thanks, KD) How many have played make believe while seated in a state-of-the-art fire truck? How many have a favorite firefighter? (Thanks, Lar) How many have played street hockey in a firehouse? (Thanks, Heff) How many have police officers for friends? How many can say they partied with both Darth Vader and Spiderman? (Thanks, Al) How many have been manhandled by a future county commissioner? (Thanks, Skrep) How many kids have pedaled over 1,000 miles on a trail bike before their fourth birthday? How many have been given the opportunity (somehow) to interrupt a sitting mayor while he chit chats with his underling? How many kids have done internet radio well before they were three-years-old? How many were invited to do college radio? How many have quite literally grown up on the internet and met loads of good people as a direct result?

No matter how Gage ultimately turns out, Iíd say the lot of us had a hand in making him what he is so far. And so far, Iím fairly pleased with the program. And to all who have gone well out of their way to be nice to my smallish shadow, I offer thanks.

Itís cheaper than beer, so thanks.

Happy Birthday!

From the e-mail inbox Hi,
You seem pretty proud of your grandkids so maybe it is time to sit them down and tell them the "facts of life". Tell them that our generation (yours and mine) wanted a lot of things from our government but were unwilling to pay for them. Instead, we borrowed the money, mainly from foreign nations. Their share of this fun is now more than $156,000 each. Tell them that our president has to kow-tow to the Chinese because they alone hold more than a trillion dollars of our IOUs. Explain that two-thirds of our 8+trillion dollar debt was accrued under the last three "conservative" republican presidents. These sobering facts will sound so much better coming from their "grandpa".

I am proud of my grandrodents. They are a neat collection of little kids. Although, I think theyíre a tad young yet to be getting into the latest political talking points, or what have you. Gage had kindergarten coming fast. Taylor still canít pedal her two-wheeler. Zach canít operate a pair of flip-flops. And Jeremy is still working on the crawling thing. Iím pretty much limiting them to ďbe nice, say thank you, pick up that candy wrapperĒ and ďI donít touch your toys, so donít touch mine!Ē In due time Iíll get around to telling them about how our fedrule government has been coming off of itís rails for four-plus decades now. All in due time.

Tell them that our generation (yours and mine) wanted a lot of things from our government but were unwilling to pay for them.

My generation? Look, Iím not sure that I ever wanted anything from our government. By the arrival of my seventeenth birthday, the government had already paid for the bulk of my food, heat and housing for six years, and was poised to pay for some secondary educating. Iíve never been of the opinion that the government owed me anything after I escaped my childhood somewhat intact, and thanks in no small part to itís financial assistance.

Once I got to pretending to be an adult, I wanted nothing further from anyone. Thanks to my grandmaís constant penchant for looking out for me, I can remember qualifying for WIC when my eldest was born, but I refused to accept the vouchers.

I studied American history in both high school and college. And I took the political science course as an elective. Despite being an academic slacker, the history of our military, itís successes and failures absolutely fascinated me from a very early age. Iím no scholar, but the way I understood it, the govmint would provide for our sovereignty, work to maintain our standard of living and protect our freedoms. And all I had to do was work hard, raise some half-decent kids and try not to get arrested too often.

With that said, I think Iíve kept up my end of the bargain, but the govmint has failed miserably whereas itís commitments were concerned. Our sovereignty seems to be of varying importance depending on which way the political winds may be blowing at a particular time. Our standard of living is still the highest in the world, but itís built on an increasingly shaky deck of cards. And I do not consider confiscatory tax policies to be in step with the whole concept of freedom.

Itís ďClick It or TicketĒ this month. A consortium is pursuing ďfat taxĒ legislation against both Coke and Pepsi. Doctors are suing KFC over their use of trans-fats so as to end the growing obesity dilemma by next weekend. Weíve had sin taxes levied against cigarettes, alcohol and yachts; yet, they foolishly tell me that Bush is suddenly eroding away all of my freedoms. (?) Theyíve been taxing consumption, activities and behaviors for decades now, but Iím said to be unwilling to pay for what I want? In actuality, all Iíve really wanted for some years was the ďfreedomĒ to keep much more of my paycheck. I donít want much. I just want to be left alone to make a fool of myself as I see fit. In my mind, thatís freedom.

Iíve been hearing a lot of noise about how the Republicans, i.e., Bush, is spending us into damn near oblivion, but the federal pork cuts both ways each and every time a new budget is presented to the president. Article I, Sections 7 and 8, of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress authority to spend and tax. The president only has veto power that Congress can override. Bush has been tarred and feathered for not vetoing anything, but has sought out a line-item veto every step of the way. Meanwhile, minority leader Nancy Pelosi has forbade any Democratic member of the house from supporting such a line-item veto power. As things currently stand, neither party is leaning towards the fiscal responsibility routine, despite any hollow rhetoric they may be offering for public consumption.

Their share of this fun is now more than $156,000 each. (?)

Sorry, but thatís poppycock. That debt figure assigned to the future generations was all the rage twenty years ago, but that number grows and shrinks with each peaceful change in government. The Base Realignment Commission coupled with the Dot.com and stock market boom of the nineties made people forget all about the national debt for well over a decade as it shrank nearly out of view. Now, whether we like it or not, weíre right in the middle of WWVI. And if we remember correctly, Osama said his intention all along was to erode our economic might and thereby erode our capability to fund our vast military and project itís strength abroad.

To assign a debt figure to future generations is total fiction only because we have no idea what the immediate future has in store for us. Three short years from now, the War on Terror might be going swimmingly, and congress, or the congress after that might make debt reduction their top priority. We have no crystal ball worth itĎs weight in imported glass. The 2005 gross domestic product was $13 trillion? What will it be next year, or the year after that? We have no idea, so to say how much debt weíre assigning to Gage in the future is foolhardy at best. What if we eschew crude oil in favor of ethanol on a grand scale and stop shipping our dollars overseas just to be able to drive? What effect might that have on our economy, our GDP and our deficit levels? The fedrule govmint is raking in trillions with crude oil prices being what they are. Will those prices recede significantly? Or will they remain where they are for the foreseeable future and flood the fedrule coffers?

Look at it this way. If the GDP is $13 trillion a year, and the govmint has a debt load of $8 trillion, does that not sound manageable over the long haul if and when someone or other in Washington, D.C. gets serious about managing it? Itís comparable to guy who earns, say, $60,000 a year and then takes on a $250,000 mortgage. Over time, itís an acceptable debt load. But if heís oft-prone to chewing his nails, the debt load could seem almost suffocating.

As far as foreign nations buying or IOUs goes, thatís been going on since before CNN first hit the airwaves. In the early 80s, the alarmists were telling us about how the Japanese were doing much the same thing, and how it could one day lead us all to the soup lines. So whatís China gonna do with our IOUs? Call us on our debts and collapse not only our economy, but their economy and the world economy as well? A small ripple in the interlocking world economy usually results in a tsunami in some segment of that economy, so why would any foreign entity demand the mother of all economic tsunamis? They would benefit by crushing their largest trading partner--their largest importer of their own exported goods--how? Ainít gonna happen, so why fret about it?

The sobering fact is that both sides of the political aisle would be smart to adopt some fiscally sound policies, but the vast majority of their constituents are demanding nothing of the sort from any of them. Consider what Paul Golias, formerly of the Citizensí Voice had to say recently. Paraphrasing: If weíd stop wasting all of this money on a costly war, we could build wider and safer highways. Yeah, and we could spend more on education. Oh, and even more on drug treatment programs. And even more on (pick one). And yet more onÖ

Our deficits canít be blamed on one political party or the other, because the self-serving incumbents from both sides seem to think their job performance is measured by how many dollars they manage to procure for any number of unneeded projects. And their only proposed solutions to any given problem is to throw even more money at it. If we cut and run from Iraq tomorrow morning, not a single mention would be made of reducing the national debt with the unspent dollars already allocated to the war effort. Instead, the insulated, well-entrenched politicos would start jockeying for position at the pork trough all over again. Sadly, thatís what most of us demand of them.

And if what you truly want is to save this country from itself, youíd do well to start by checking your partisanship at the door.

The grandrodents and I will stick with Thomas the Train for a while yet. Theyíre just not ready for the ineptitude that is Washington, D.C.

From the e-mail inbox Hi Mark -

Want to let you know I still have been faithfully reading your site. I would just like to let you know you are totally right on how one goes about getting into shape. Counting the cals and exercise. I am sure with the workout you have your wife on that she will be thrilled with the results.

You are not alone on people thinking you do some strange thing to win the battle of the bulge. At one time I was 100 lbs overweight. Once I summoned the will I managed to lose 71 lbs in the last 3 years. And it would have been faster if I didn't cheat on weekends. (Got to live a little.) I have 30 more pounds until I reach my goal weight. I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. LOL.

People have been asking over and over how I did it - almost like a waved a magic wand and BAM it happened. I don't think so. I got responses such as "Oh, your are eating right and exercising. Never mind. I thought you might be doing something different". Too funny. Thing is, I know why I get those responses. At one time I was one of those people. But all my hard work so far has been paying off. Even though I live out of town and drive my SUV around. LOL.

You would love what they are doing in Mountain Top. A bike trail is currently being installed on 309 all the way thru the city. However, I won't hold my breath that it would encourage you to get packing and relocate. By reading your site enough I realize that just ain't gonna happen! Hats off to you though for stirring up the idea in your own hometown. Keep up the good work on the site and good luck to your wife on her experience w/ you as her trainer!

71 pounds!?! Holy frig, girl! Thatís outstanding. Despite your obvious dedication, Iíd bet that three years ago you probably thought losing 71 pounds was darn near impossible. Iíd also bet that youíre glad you stuck it out, while itís so damned easy to quit.

And you nailed it. Whenever people asked how I did it, theyíd frown and frump away just as soon as I mentioned eating much less and exercising a lot more. Truth is, there ainít no magic pill, no low-whatever miracle diet, or overpriced exercise do-dad that is going to do it for you. You wanna lose weight? Eat less calories, crank that metabolism up a few notches and force your body to cannibalize itself. It may not be easy, but it sure is simple.

But you were right to cheat on the weekends. Otherwise, youíd never have been able to keep at it for three years. That would have been drudgery. When I dropped down in weight class, I was close to anorexic Sunday through Friday, but Saturday was beer and pizza day and then some. It kept me sane. Well, thatís probably debatable, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, stick with it. Youíre almost there.

A bike trail running the length of Mountaintop is an outstanding idea. If I lived up there, youíd sure as heck know where to find me on most days. Itís a shame Wilkes-Barre couldnít do something along those lines, but, then again, thereís money being invested all over the freaking place down here, so who am I to complain? Although, I still say we should have a bicycle parking facility in the downtown. And a bike trail running the length of the city right beside Wilkes-Barre Boulevard would be quite an enhancement, if not another reason for folks to embrace an urban setting over a rural setting.

Wifey and I pedaled 5 miles earlier today, had six-inch Subway tuna hoagies on the square and then just relaxed and watched the sea of humanity hustle on by. The downtown may be dead at night, but during the daylight hours it is one busy place. I love it down there and I always did.

By the way, the pool hall on the square is looking like itíll be ready to open real soon. The Flashbacks dance club is suddenly becoming a beehive of activity with lots of construction workers running in and out, plus plenty of cartons containing brass fixtures and mahogany something-or-others piled just inside. The parking lot at Kirby Park is being repaved. The new sidewalks are in place on Northampton Street, the street is being prepped for a massive repaving real, real soon like, and decorative bricks are being installed at the edges of the new sidewalks. ďWilkes-Barre Movies 14Ē is now being advertised on WILK radio. The fire department very recently undertook a tour of the theater complex in the event that they need to respond during an emergency. Crews are working on the installment of more streetlights in the downtown. A camera crew was filming directly in front of the old Woolworthís building this afternoon. Probably something to do with the coming two-story bookstore and the rumored Starbucks.

Decorative bricks going in

Needless to say, itÖis finally happening. Iíve been amazingly patient, Iíve been steadfast--rock solid--in my belief that Tom Leighton would deliver where others before him had failed to do so. He has been all-inclusive whereas the long-envisioned rebirth of Wilkes-Barre is concerned. He has cozied up to Democrats and Republicans alike. He invited those who could contribute in any way to be a part of the process. I figure heíd likely swap spit with the devil if he thought it would end up benefiting this city, but donít tell him I said that.

It was frightfully easy for so many others to say they didnít believe, but some of us did believe and had enough gumption to say as much. I guess it was much easier to stick with the negative mindset, rather than thinking positively for the first time and ultimately being proved wrong in the end.

All I know is, I backed the right candidate and now all I have to do is enjoy the results of all of his hard work. Come June 30, Gage, Taylor, Zach and I will be throwing down some really gross amounts of Junior Mints, spilling popcorn all over the place and watching some rather large animated cars on a digital screen. For the first time in a long, long time, the residents of Wilkes-Barre will have some things to be proud of again.

Now all we need is that fountain turned on so we can all get cooled off.

RC Theatres

Nintendo Gameboy

Themís my thoughts.