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That’s The Way Things Are

Free Your Mind

Washington D.C. is probably my favorite city in the country.

Behind Manhattan, that is, of course…

My girlfriend and I headed to D.C. last weekend to visit some of her college friends and get away for a couple of days. We hung out with her friends, went to a museum (the Newseum, to be exact, since I’m a big geek like that), went out to eat, went out for drinks, and just had a good time.

Which in a sense, is a challenging feat for me…

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the time I have to relax when I have it. It’s just difficult for me to let go of work to fully let go. I know that holds true for so many other people, as well.

We’re living in a unique time; not only are we — as a society and as a global community — in the midst of a technological and digital revolution and transition period, but it’s occurring during the worst economy and job market in almost one hundred years. Times haven’t been this hard since the nation was crippled by The Great Depression.

That creates an interesting, and at times, certainly unfortunate yield. Because of the challenging job market and economy, people are under even more pressure to perform at work and even excel, but without promotions or raises. After all, no one wants it to go the other way and be the one to get the axe if layoffs become necessary.

This, all the while, during a digital revolution, where to keep up with the newest technologies — ranging from something as simple as cable television (rather than a digital converter box for basic broadcast channels) to something a bit more intricate like a data package for an iPhone — incurs a monthly cost. Don’t pay it and you’ll fall behind the curve and get left behind. Not to mention that the technology that we all have at our fingertips also keeps us much more connected to our jobs, and our jobs much more connected to us.

That’s by no means the only rationale for why …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

Get with the times

If you’re a woman, don’t try to play a round of golf at Augusta National.

I mean, you can try, but it ain’t gonna happen. They aren’t going to let you.

The golf club founded in 1933 clearly thinks it’s still in the 1930’s. They don’t let women join the club, period. Not that their discriminatory membership policy against women was OK even then, but…

The most elite golf club in the country is also home to The Masters golf tournament which, of course, just concluded. IBM is the largest sponsor of the tournament, and traditionally, the CEO of the company is always extended an invitation to become a member of Augusta National. The computer giant, at least publically, has never voiced opposition to this policy.

But this year, there’s a new wrinkle. For the first time, IBM has a female CEO, Virginia Rometty.

What an opportunity for IBM to step up and take a stand for the betterment of our society and our country — to tell Augusta National and The Masters that if they don’t change their policy, IBM will pull its sponsorship dollars from the tournament.

It would have been nice if the company did so when they had male CEOs, or even if other sponsors of the tournament had done so, but there’s a window here now, with a female CEO who can’t be genuinely OK with this policy of gender discrimination.

As the CEO of IBM, Ms. Rometty may want to ignore being blackballed by Augusta National because sponsoring the tournament is good for business, but how good would it be if protesters decided to boycott her products?

Besides, as a female, Augusta’s discriminatory policy surely has to irk her. And as a person, she has to recognize that she’s now in a position to do a great deal of good, not just her gender, but our society and nation as a whole.

It’s amazing to me that in this day and age, a club in the United States of America, private or otherwise, still has a …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

It’s Always About a Girl

The Giants are Super Bowl champions again!

Great game, great win…

The same was true a couple of weeks ago when they won the NFC Championship. I watched that game with a bunch of friends at a Kodiak’s in Farmingdale, and the place was packed. Everyone was clearly having a great time and enjoying the game and having fun spending time with friends…

And then, the you-know-what hit the fan…

In the middle of the third quarter, we heard the sound of a glass breaking and yelling from the other side of the bar. Our eyes found the beginnings of a fight that had just broken out, and fists flying.

A fight… at a bar… during a football game. How cliché.

Cliché or not, however, it is what happened. It took about a half a dozen staff members from the bar to eventually separate the two guys. Luckily, after being separated, they dropped it and it was done and over with.

Well, one of the two guys dropped it and was done, anyway. The other gentleman, well, not so much…

After both were ejected from the bar by some of the larger waiters — who locked the side glass door behind them — one of them proceeded to punch that door over and over again until it broke. When the police arrived shortly after (you had to know that cops were going to enter the equation here sooner or later), the story of what had caused the fight finally made its way around the bar.

And this is the part that really pisses me off…

As it turns out, the guy who just wouldn’t let it go was at the bar with his sister, his girlfriend, and his buddy.

The story was that the guy who threw that first punch had been slapping around his girlfriend, and his buddy tried to get him to stop.

Apparently that effort wasn’t appreciated.

Obviously, a few ridiculous things are in play here, from the fight itself, to breaking the door, to not letting it go. But what aggravates me the most, of course, is that …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

It’s No Longer the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The break is over…

The holiday break that is… Not just for me, since clearly I’m back with a new column…

But for everyone… And I know this because everyone is back to being completely self-centered and obnoxious as they are during the remaining days, weeks, and months of the calendar.

Is this surprising? Drum roll please… no, not at all.

Unfortunately, this has been the pattern I’ve noticed over the last several years. The holidays roll around, and everyone is in a great mood and is all nicey-nice to one another… actually polite to one another… actually considerate of others. And then, as New Year’s becomes more of a distant memory, so does that behavior.

Case in point: I was in the library in the days leading up to Christmas, and a man rushed in to return his books. Smiling and happy, he told every person he saw “Happy holidays! Happy new year!” whether they worked at the library or not. But then, when I returned to the library about a week and a half ago, with the holidays in the rear view mirror, I witnessed a patron throwing a fit to a librarian about, well, I don’t even know what…

Shocker, shocker…

Clearly the holidays bring out the best in people quite a bit of the time, if not — dare I say — the vast majority of the time. But unfortunately, this is a temporary phenomenon. It comes and, of course, goes on a yearly basis. The consistent niceness and politeness comes every year along with the arrival of Christmas decorations and goes every year with the ending of the good sales at the mall.

I understand why the holidays always seem to bring out the civility, friendliness, and niceness in people. What just doesn’t quite seem to compute in my head is why it takes the holidays to bring it out in the first place, and why it can’t last all year round. I mean, if people have the ability to behave so well at one point in …   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

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

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

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

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

Kindness is a Virtue

I survived!


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

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