SHOPAHOLIC AT COSTCO

I don’t think that Carol will ever allow me to go to Costco alone again. Somehow, there is a strong addictive quality to the store that I have not experienced anywhere else, other than the casino. Yes, I have been to Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and BJ’s, but they have not affected me in that way.
Especially during the holiday season, when the temperature is a bit warmer than usual, I have this strange desire to look at the electronics at Costco. I usually begin my trek with the idea that we need to go shopping for food. After all, the 16 oz. bottle of ketchup is nearly half finished. Who wouldn’t want three bottles of Heinz Ketchup for the price of two?
The price of Jarlsburg cheese is about half the price of our regular super market. Why not by a 5 lb wedge and have it for about six months. I love Jarlsburg. Then there are the wonderful fruits and vegetables. So, there are only two of us in the house. How about a good dozen apples and for good times sake, a dozen navel oranges? How about strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in the wintertime? Aren’t they all anti-oxidants?
How many asparagus can you eat at one sitting? Let me tell you that it is infinite. Also infinite is what it does to your digestive system. We need eggs. There are two boxes with 18 eggs in each box. Just throw them into the shopping cart. They also have the most wonderful prepared items- steaks, already marinated, shrimp dishes, meatballs already to heat and serve, and so many more. I throw them all into the cart.
When I get to the dry food department, dry cereal and such, I am overwhelmed. How large a box of Cheerios or Life can I know shove into my cart? The coffee is on sale. Buy some decaf. However, they come in huge canisters. Buy them, you can never tell when we will have lots of company. Nuts, I love cashews and almonds and so does Carol.
Have I forgotten anything? I should have gotten a box of linguine, but I could not hoist it into the cart. It was too heavy. How about some steaks? I go back to the meat department and pick out about ten pounds worth of sirloin. After all, the prices here are amazing.
I wait on line and see what other people have bought. It is certainly much more than me. There are even people with two shopping carts filled with delectables. I get to the cash register and the total is $200. I blanche. I could not have spent that much for so few things. How could this happen to me.
I wheel the cart out to my car and it fills the little Prius trunk to the brim. I am saddened that I forgot toilet paper and paper towels (which would have never fit in the car). I drive home with a triumphant look on my face. I pull into the garage and start to put all of my winnings on the counter in the kitchen.
At that moment, Carol comes out and looks at the items and then looks at me and says. Dear, didn’t you remember that we will not be home all of next week?

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IT’S JUST A BUSINESS

Since the agreement between the players in the NBA and the owners, I have heard the expression, “It is just a business.” Players have been traded, or in some cases given away to other teams and that same refrain is heard from all sides, “It’s just a business.” Especially in the NBA’s case it is not a business. Any business that is exempt from the Anti-Trust Laws is not a business. It is something else.
The expression, “It is just a business,” is now a common cry from those who believe that anything that one does in the world of business can be rationalized by that phrase. In the current milieu, it can apply to Jon Corzine and his emptying of his clients accounts to make up for his own follies. It can be applied to the wholesale cheating done by some members of the Wall St. establishment. It can be applied to the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac execs, who have allegedly cheated their way up the ladder of success. It can apply to other countries stealing trade secrets from us or the Chinese hacking our intellectual property.
I was disturbed to hear that Steve Jobs was a meanie to his staff members. I guess I should read his biography to really understand what he did . I know that he revolutionized the current world of technology and ways of communicating. I see that Donald Trump subscribes to that phrase, as do some of the talking heads on television.
Is it really true that you can do anything in the name of business and it is o.k.? Are we now teaching that at the Wharton School- and by the way, what class is it Meaness 101 ?
Are all successful business people crass, grasping and mean sons/daughters of a gun?
I think we have all misconstrued what these words mean. If you substitute the word “tough” for all of the other adjectives, you will come closer to the real meaning of leadership in business. Donald Trump appears mean, but is he? Is Simon Cowell really as wretched as he appears? Have we gone off the deep end trying to equate meaness with success in life? I hope that we haven’t.

THE RED GOALIE

The arena is a myriad of color, both around the balconies and on the ice. The advertisers have cleverly embedded their symbols under the surface of the rink. The Zamboni crawls along the ice making dark watery marks as it glides on the surface. The game is afoot as the two referees glide onto the playing surface and test the ice to see if it is smooth. Someone brings out the goals and the two referees attach them to the posts on the ground.
After a short delay of a few minutes, the players in red come out onto the ice and skate around. The lone figure with seemingly endless padding, skates slowly to the goal at the left. He stands in front of the goal and scratches the blue rectangle in front of him with his skate. He is determined to give himself more traction when the game begins.
Of a moment, the red skaters swoop down on the padded figure and begin to pepper him with shots. The pucks are hardened circles of an unknown black material. He manages to stop most all of them with his glove, his leg, his stick and any part of his body that is handy. He gets down on his knees for some and does an almost split for some others. As the other goalie on the team goes into the net, the first goalie does splits on the ice to warm up.
The blue team then comes out onto the playing surface and magically replicates the red team’s actions. They fly around the ice and then begin to shoot at their goalie. It is rumored that their best player is their goalie. He stands tall in the net and makes most of his stops while standing. It may not be stylish, but it is effective.
Goalie is a fascinating job. One can lose as much as five pounds each game. The red goalie has said that he is famished and thirsty after each game. He consumes copious sports drink to rehydrate himself both during and after the game. The padding is simply onerous. The red goalie is about five feet two and looks to have about one hundred pounds of equipment on him. I am surprised that he does not wilt under the load.
The referee calls the two teams to the middle of the rink. The teams take their positions, sometimes angling each other while two of their rank, face each other with their curved sticks on the ground. The referee drops the puck and all hell breaks loose. There is much fast skating and passing and lots of activity in front of the red goalie’s space. He kicks away everything and probably wonders what happened to his defensemen, or to the red offense.
By the middle of the first period, the red team scores a goal on the blue goalie. A scramble had ensued in front of him and he was unable to see the puck go through to the net. The majority of the period was given to the red team’s offensive charges and their speedy little forwards. It appeared from that moment that the red goalie was going to have some easy times, but he was continually moving back and forth in front of the goal, always ready to pounce on a shot.
The first period ended with the score in favor of the Red team. The break was only one minute, a change of sides and the game was on again. A number of minutes into the period, the Blue team struck back. Although they were not in control of the game at that time, they placed the puck in an area that the red goalie could not reach. He was not happy with the outcome and you could see it. However, he let no other shots past him the rest of the time.
As the 2nd period passed its halfway point, the Red goalie gave way to a successor. This is a planned strategy. Each plays approximately ½ the game. The second goalie allowed the 2nd blue goal. With the score 2-1 the Red team pulled the goalie and played with six men to no avail and that was the final score.
The first red goalie was not happy, nor is he ever when he loses, or does not do well. He is the ultimate team player. He could hit four home runs in baseball, strike out 10 mean, score many baskets, but if his team loses, he is not happy. I love him for that for he is my grandson, the ultimate team player and red goalie.

HOLY S**T I’VE GOT DYSTHYMIA

Frankly, I have been feeling quite crappy for the last month or so. I am normally a pretty upbeat guy with a positive outlook on life. I have been battling this morose and mordant feeling for the past four weeks and did not like it. I wasn’t barking at anyone, sitting and sucking my thumb, throwing dishes, or flagellating myself with a cat-o-nine tails. I was just really down.
Carol noticed it pretty much when it started to happen. Her first conclusion was that I was not eating properly, next was exercise and the third was my heart surgery last January. I was thrilled with all of those conclusions, but not enough to follow up on any of them. I limped through the daily chores of doing the laundry (in trade for handling the money), scooping some cat poop, filling the cat’s food bowl (somehow, never the water bowl) and assorted household things.
My happiness over the past month was picking up where I left off years ago, working for the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools in my capacity as lobbyist. I thought that I would be happy with that activity and at moments, I was. I would go into town, climb the stairs to the capitol building and go about my merry affairs annoying legislators, members of the administration and newspaper people (the fount of all knowledge).
I came home every night feeling as lousy as I felt the moment I got into my car in the morning. I began to feel that I was digging myself a hole in the ground. I am not someone who refuses to go to a doctor when there is something wrong with me. Hell, I take 21 pills a day to forestall a number of eventualities. However, my first reaction was not to go to a physician.
A few days ago, I was turning the dial and happened upon a talk show with Robin Williams. He had heart surgery at some point not too long ago. He talked about his bouts of despondency and inability to get out of it. He eventually went to a doctor and spent quite a while dealing with the problem and then coming out of it.
Wow, if Mork felt the need to go to a doctor, how can I but follow his example? After some prodding from Carol, I finally got up the nerve and called our family doctor (who happens to be a very nice guy). I spoke to his scheduler and found that they had no appointments until after the first of the year. I told her my problem and she said she would have the doctor call me.
A few hours later Doctor E. called me and said that the scheduler told him what my problem was and that, “We can fix this.” I was incredulous. I was taken aback by his certainty. I did not even know what it was (and it is my body) and he was certain that he could cure me of this unknown affliction. I was bewildered and somewhat upbeat. What could he have up his sleeve and how could he diagnose over the phone.
He fit me in on a Thursday morning. The nurse did the usual weight and temperature. I was ushered into the examining room and asked some perfunctory questions. I was settling into my chair, reading a book on education, when a knock came to my ears and in walked Dr. E. He smiled at me and immediately began to tell me what was wrong with me.
“Arnold, there are various forms of a depressive state; some are caused by the change of seasons, changes in the chemistry in the brain and some as a result of heart surgery. I am thinking that you have Dysthymia caused by an imbalance in a chemical in your brain called Serotonin. It is within reason that you began to feel this just when the winter was coming on and the days started to get shorter.”
His conclusions seemed to be right on. If I was truthful, I was not happy when the sun went down at 5:30, then 5:00 and now even earlier. He told me that I should go out when it is sunny and do more exercise. I believe that I can do that. He also suggested medication that is part of a family of drugs called SSRI (I think). One of them will suit you and get you back to that normally happy you.
After all, I am already taking 21 pills, what could one more mean to the regimen. Hardly anything, I would think. The medication would take about 2 to 3 weeks to reach a positive level in my system. It appears to have little or no side effects. The nice thing is that it goes generic in January. I have often wondered why all medications seem to have negative side effects. How about a pill that you take with a positive side effect, like enabling you to be a concert pianist (even if you could not play the piano at all).

GOOD PEOPLE IN POLITICS

You heard me. There really are good people in politics. I know that this will surprise most of the readers of these blogs, but it is true. As someone who has lobbied for rural education since 1977, I can tell you that all of the members of the state legislature in Pennsylvania are not crooks, soon to be crooks, charlatans, or inhabitants of jail cells somewhere in the Commonwealth.
Yes, there are some who fit the above category. I have always tried to keep away from them for fear that they will do me a favor and want one back in return at some future time. Since the organization that I am lobbying for (PARSS) has no money to give for elections, nor has a large membership ( mostly hovering about 200), there is no practical reason for legislators to listen to us most of the time.
There is however, one good reason for them to listen and that is common sense and the welfare of their constituents. That’s about all that we have to sell. Would you believe that many times that is enough? I know that is hard to believe.
For those of you who do not know, Pennsylvania is pretty much a Republican state right now. The Governor, state senate, state house, most congressman, and statewide office holders are R’s. There is even some thought that the future Republican candidate for President of the United States might carry Pennsylvania. Those are the realities of this time at the end of 2011.
All of that said, however, there is something else going on in the legislature. Firstly, the top leadership of the Republican Party comes from very rural areas of the state. I have known both of them for quite a number of years and find them to be pretty reasonable at times. Their actions are mostly party driven, but they also have an eye to the folks back home. That is where reason steps in.
It is difficult to be in the party of the governor and refuse to do something that he has run on. The current crop of members of the House of Representatives is now sprinkled with over 75 members who are new and those who are serving their first terms. They are not yet convinced that the administration or the leadership can tell them what it is that they must do. I have been surprised that there are so many questions on each issue.
This is not to say that this is true only on the Republican side. It is equally true on the Democratic side, but they do not have control of either of the two houses or the Governor’s chair.
Since most of our constituent school districts are rural, they are represented by Republicans. Many of them reflect their areas- conservative in many ways, but not ideologues. They have their constituents in mind most of the time and get a great deal of response on issues from the people in their communities. They do a great deal of traveling because of the size of their districts and see many of the small towns and townships that they represent. They have a feel for their communities.
After spending three weeks in the capitol, I am impressed with the many newer members that I have met. Most of them are not didactic, or ensconced in their philosophies. Yes, they do use the conservative terminology that really describes very little, but they listen and they listen carefully and argue. I was told this morning that I was very blunt. Yes, that is probably true, but it was in the context of a discussion (read argument).
My advice, if you can call it that is not to tell them how to vote. I implore them to ask questions, and they do. They are not fearful of retribution from leadership, nor from the administration. One rural legislator told me that the governor called him on his cell phone. Somehow, he knew that the governor was in Philly and he noticed a 215 area code (that’s Southeast PA). He was tempted not to take it, but did and told the governor that he was not on board with the program.
Do I hold hope for the future on many issues that I hold dear? I am not sure, but I know that these guys and girls will, at least, give any of these issues a fair hearing. That is what they want for their own ideas and bills.

GINNY AND THE BOOK

I have never had a book published. I have had a number of articles placed in educational magazines, self published, “There are no Subways in Lickingville,” but never anything more. Although my record remains clean, I now have a book of my blogs created, edited and placed in book form by our good friend Ginny.
I was shocked when we visited Ginny and her five dogs (4 saved Greyhounds and a fuzzy mutt) the other day and she presented me with my birthday-Chanukah gift. I unwrapped the silver paper and blue bow and beheld, “The Musings of Jean Jacques Crawb,” a three hundred page book of my scribbling. I was shocked and then warmed over by Ginny’s gift. She had edited my writings and had found a company that makes the most beautiful published works.
There are wonderful and soothing pictures on each blog. Fortunately, Ginny is a writer of consequence and an editor of great skill. She is also one of the nicest and kindest people that Carol and I know. She and her daughter Mariah have been part of our family for over twenty years.
Ginny is also the most successful grant writer that I have ever met. When I was the I.U. Director, she worked with me and created programs in special education, pre-school, curriculum, and many others. You must understand that most rural school districts do not have access to grant writers. They are too small or too poor to hire someone like that. Ginny has provided this service to a myriad of school districts across the state.
She spent time acquiring a Master’s Degree in Philanthropy a number of years ago. She has contacts across the country and has tapped a number of Foundations in her efforts to secure programs for rural schools. Her heart and her work always seem to wind up in the poorest and most needy places in our Commonwealth.
Actually, Ginny does not come from a rural area. She was raised in suburban Philly and went to Chestnut Hill College. Her life took her to Brockway, PA in Jefferson County and a marriage that later ended in divorce. Her understanding of rural places comes from her own experiences with family and work. Her future husband was director of a tourist agency in a large section of rural Northwest Pennsylvania.
During her tenure at the Intermediate Unit, Ginny gave birth to Mariah, who is now twenty two years of age. After a number of years of difficult times, Mariah now seems to be on her way to a fruitful and satisfying life. Mariah has been a steady fixture at many of our family events and is part of our lives and our children’s lives.
I am not sure how to react to the book that Ginny has given me. In some ways, it is startling to see your words in official print on glossy paper bound in a single volume. In other ways it appears to be something that I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I have had the book in my possession for only one day and it has already had some effect on me. I cannot thank Ginny enough for her warmth and her kindness. Carol and I think of her as part of our family. Only someone close to you would ever give you a gift like this

ISMS

Of late, many of the isms have appeared in the media in ever increasing volume. As the election draws nearer, there will be deliberate use of these words in a number of contexts. They will be used to heap scorn on an opponents. They will be used to explain our way of life, our governmental structures, our economy, our science and our mores.

In no other country does this vast array of words get tossed around with so much abandon, and I do mean abandon. There are so many views as to what these words mean that sometimes I am not even sure that I learned what I learned. Let’s take the simple word, capitalism.

You may be familiar with Adam Smith- British guy, strange way of speaking, used to come into the store and not buy anything. He wrote a book called the Wealth of Nations and he proposed a system that the means of production, the land and the wealth of the country should be in private hands. In more recent times, it has included the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few (yes, that is part of the definition) and some governmental control over excesses. The adjective, “laissez-faire capitalism,” has come to mean that government should not interfere with the market place and let things just go as they go. The laissez-fairers, believe that the market wills always even things out.

Socialism is just about the opposite- the means of production and wealth are in the hands of the community and there really aren’t any private holdings. So, let me ask you, what socialist country in the world has a real socialist state? I can’t think of any. If you are going to say, China, that doesn’t really work, because socialism is just one step in the process of getting to communism. The heyday of socialism was in the 19th century (which was the birth years of many social and economic movements).

Karl Marx is said to be the father of socialism. His early life was spent criticizing Hegel and his dialectic view of history and then using it himself in his writings. Actually Marx was not the first socialist. There were a number of Utopian Socialists, like Robert Owen, who actually started communities, such as New Lanark in Scotland, Fourier and Saint- Simon. Engels, Marx’s co-author wrote that Utopians (from Thomas More’s Utopia) were not scientific and had no idea about class struggle.

Marx’s ideas about the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and then the overthrowing of the capitalist system and the dictatorship of the proletariat, gives way to Communism. In Communism, there really is not government (it withers away) and people live happily ever after, working for their needs, not for their wants or their efforts.

Anarchism comes later in the 19th Century with Bakunin ( sometimes called Bakunism). It was the followers of anarchism, where not governments should exist at all, that many assassinations took place. The Czar of Russia and the President of the United States as well as others were done away with in order to destroy governments.

Libertarianism has had many definitions over the years. In the U.S. it is thought to be those with conservative views of government and liberal views of social issues. In other countries it is seen as left wing anarchism. It relies and mutual consent to be governed, a voluntary aggregation of people who want to do things communally or associatively. It has its roots in the arguments that ensued in the 1840’s between the socialists who did not believe in either Hegel or Marx or Proudhon. It was coined by Joseph De Jacques in 1857 to distinguish his views from other Socialists.

Nihilism is the belief in absolutely nothing. It was made popular by a book by Turgenev in Russia in which the main character negates everything that there is. Hard to understand someone who does not believe in existence (giving rise to existentialism). So, nihilists do not believe in laws, the state, governments, morals, religions and pretty much everything else including all the above definitions.