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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.


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?


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

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

What’s The Real Bottom Line?

I stopped by the drive through window at Burger King on my way home one day last week to use a coupon for a free four-piece box of chicken tenders (I needed a snack to hold me over until dinner… I eat a lot… gimme a break). When I arrived at the pickup window, I asked for an extra sauce, and I was told it would be 25 cents additional.

An extra 25 cents? For one lousy extra sauce? Really?

I know the economy is in the toilet and the bottom line for all companies has become ever more important and they’re all pinching pennies — even big companies like Burger King. After all, we’re in what’s most likely the worst economy this country has seen since the Great Depression (which started back in October 1929).

But, is it really necessary to be THAT frugal? With the bulk amounts that Burger King purchases EVERTHING in, relative to the amount of business they do, they surely get everything at an incredibly cheap per unit price, including those sauce packs they dispense. And while I, of course, have no precise numbers to go on, if each of those sauces cost the company more than two cents I’d be shocked.

I was listening to CBS News Radio during a drive home a couple of months ago, when they broadcasted a report on a new economic study. They said that the average American currently eats out approximately three times a week. With the poor economy, though, fast food chains are getting a lot of that business. So, with the traffic for those restaurants remaining relatively steady even in this poor economic climate, obviously, business isn’t that bad.

So where do companies draw the line between pinching pennies (literally, pennies, at times) and customer satisfaction and loyalty? In this economy, many companies are offering discounts on their products — whether it be clothing, electronics, or food — to generate increased revenue, while others take the opposite route and …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

They’ve Got Driver’s Licenses?

Driving turns people into morons.

OK, maybe that’s a little harsh.

I mean, being behind the wheel turns a lot of people into morons, I suppose I should say.

Maybe not you, perhaps, but certainly a good number of our fellow drivers.

This topic is consistently on my mind and shown to be true, unfortunately, because of the consistency with which I encounter ridiculousness on the road. But it really jumped a bit more to the forefront of my consciousness again after something that occurred at the end of last week.

I was at my library here in Hewlett doing some work, in a study room with a window that looks out onto the parking lot. I heard some honking out there so I turned to my left to see out the window a silver Toyota cut off — of all people — my mother, to slide into a handicapped parking space.

Irate, I jumped out of my seat and walked out the front door. The driver of the car in question, a man in his 60’s or so, was still outside, in front of his car, and I told him I had just watched him cut off my mother’s car to take the handicapped spot in which his car now sat. He insisted that he hadn’t cut anyone off and that he zipped over to the spot from the other side of the lot — despite seeing my mother’s car sitting right there with her signal on — because he’d been “waiting 20 minutes” for a space.

I explained to him that a person couldn’t “steal” his space just because he had been waiting far away at the other side of the parking lot, and to my surprise, he actually grudgingly moved his car. I couldn’t believe what I’d seen, nor his ridiculous response and rationale. And perhaps what was most shocking to me… he actually seemed to genuinely believe what he was saying to me.

This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Like me, I’m sure you all have seen a plethora of different …   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

That’s The Way Things Are

Who’s Really Chicken?

I’m back from a brief hiatus, and just in time in fact, to see the United States default for the first time in history.

Oh… Wait, what?

We didn’t default? A last–minute deal was struck to avoid the default?

Oh, ok, thanks for straightening me out on that.

I mean, it seemed that we were destined for a default, considering how our duly elected representatives in Washington DC were playing a game of political chicken with the negotiations. Watching the back and forth between the parties, it appeared that getting the edge on the political front was more in play than actually coming to terms on a compromise and keeping the country fully operational.

Really? That’s your priority? Advancing the cause of your respective political party, not keeping your nation properly fiscally functional? Not to mention trying to make the opposition party look bad and blaming them for the mess with some political cheap shots, in an effort to help your re-election cause, even while knowing that something like 96% of incumbents retain their seats.


This is just one instance, however, of the bigger issue — we are an extremely polarized nation, politically.

This is a “chicken or egg” situation though. Which came first — the intense animosity in Washington magnified through the lens of the media and then rubbing off on the population? Or, the public at large becoming more and more intense and politically motivated in over-the-top ways, and politicians recognizing that and trying to give their constituents what they want?

That’s not precisely the bigger issue though.

The issue isn’t which came first or why it occurred in the first place. The issue is that, it is, in fact, the current political climate in our nation. For a number of years now, the level of venom in play in our national discourse has risen to an unprecedented level. The only thing that outpaces the hatred the right …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

Where, O Where Art Thou?

A couple of years ago, a buddy of mine told me that he obviously loves hanging out with all of us, meaning our group of friends, but he’d like to find the right girl and get married eventually. In that instance, it meant he was going on a first date that weekend instead of hanging with us. We’d all done that many times, which he pointed out as well.

The concept of “the one” is a hard one to wrap our minds around. There are certainly a few different ways to look at it, and the way each person chooses is determined by individual beliefs and experiences. For me, though, I’ve noticed that my views on the topic have changed a bit over the years.

Up until a few years ago, I had the belief that everyone (or at least the vast majority of people) has that one, individual, special person out there who’s “the one” for them. That one person who is the perfect fit for them in every way, who makes their heart sing and makes them happy in every way. And that they’re out there, waiting to be found.

Hmmm… maybe not.

Looking back on that now, for better or worse, I view that perspective as being rather naïve and, point blank, just young.

As you know from what I’ve mentioned in a few of my previous columns, over the years I’ve frequently had some rather, um, interesting experiences in my dating life. I’ve certainly had some immensely positive experiences in this arena, but I’ve also definitely had some that fall on the negative side of the spectrum.

I’m a big believer in trying to make something positive out of negative things if at all possible, and I’ve used those more negative dating and relationship ventures as learning experiences… to take a second and step back and evaluate what happened and why, and also re-evaluate my thoughts about things in the big picture.

And through the experiences I’ve had over …   More

That’s The Way Things Are

Don’t Take It For Granted

There’s really nothing to write about this week.


I mean, I know it’s weird for me to say that but, nothing major happened this week that stood out in my mind.

Usually, of course, there’s something poignant on my mind that I then write about and share with all of you…

But this week… Yeah, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong… on the whole, it was a fine week… there was just nothing extraordinary that happened.

That was my thought process when I was thinking about this week’s column, even when I opened my laptop to start to write. But then I got to thinking… why do we always need “something” to happen?

So many of us are conditioned to needing and expecting something extraordinary to happen at least every bunch of days… whether it be something strange, or exciting, or dramatic, or even positive, that we get upset if it doesn’t occur.

But why do we feel that need? Or more importantly, should we really have that mindset and mentality and feel that need to always have “something” occur?

I mean, I get the appeal of something happening, whether it’s positive or negative; it gets the blood flowing, the adrenaline going, and invokes emotions in us… it makes us feel something, even if it’s negative, and gets us excited.

But, again, why do we need that? Why isn’t everyday life enough for us, even just from time to time? We (hopefully) have jobs that we like and enjoy and find fulfilling…

OK, OK, that one can be a hard sell at times, and not everyone is fortunate enough to have that be the case for them, I’ll give you that one…

BUT… the vocational aspect certainly isn’t the only element of our everyday life which, I hope, brings us all joy and pleasure. We have the simple things like the music we enjoy and the TV shows we watch. We have the restaurants 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

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

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