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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year's 2015

Happy New Year's 2015
Hard to believe but I haven't made a blog-post since the end of the summer, a full 4 months ago.  Life has been busy for me as my children grow and keep busy with school and their other activities.  I also experienced problems with my computer which kept me unable to easily post (it's not easy to blog using a phone).
Needless to say, the final months of 2014 have provided a rich bounty of news with which I could have commented on: Ray Rice, Ferguson, Michael Brown, Protests, NYPD Police Assassinations.  New Year's Eve provides a great opportunity to reflect and offer up the new hopes for the unknown year ahead.
I hope in the year ahead I can continue to blog and offer my unique voice to issues that I find interesting or entertaining.  I thank all readers who come to this blog, from near or far, and ask for their feedback. 
Finally a prayer for the new year:
God, thank you for a new year. May everyone be willing to begin anew with a clean slate. We know that you are always ready to forgive us. Help us to be willing to forgive ourselves and to forgive one another.

As we begin a new year, remind us of our truest values and our deepest desires. Help us to live in the goodness that comes from doing what you want us to do. Help us to put aside anxiety about the future and the past, so that we might live in peace with you now, one day at a time.
Have a great 2015

Friday, August 29, 2014

Vacation - 2014

With our family Mini-Van repaired it was time to take off for our vacation away from the hustle, bustle, and noise of the NYC area.  Earlier this year, my wife found a farmhouse in the Catskill mountains using a website called Flipkey.  The house, in Hobart NY, was located on The Rich Family Farm.  The reviews were positive and we placed our deposit for the days we wished to stay in late August. 

Our day came to leave, our bags were packed and off we went, over the GW Bridge, up the Pallisades Parkway to the NY State Thruway to Kingston.  From there it was local driving winding through the small towns along the way until we reached Hobart and found the farmhouse.

We unpacked and were surprised at how large the house was.  It had a spacious kitchen with a nice enclosed porch, perfect for morning and afternoon coffee.  The living room was tremendous as well with a large dining room table.  The living room was comfortable for all of us.  The first night, we turned off the TV and played games with the kids. 

The next day, we went out in the morning and visited Howe Caverns.  It was a nice tour underground with cool temps and a fun boat ride.  We got back to the farm house and rested and then used the fire pit to start a fire and make S'mores. 

On Wednesday, we slept in and went into town.  There we visited 2 of 4 bookshops located off the main street of the town.  My children got a kick out of the cats hanging out in one of the shops.  The staff of the shops were very nice and we found books for the kids.  We got back to house, had lunch and headed off to Cooperstown. 

Cooperstown was about a 1 hour drive from the Farmhouse and as we got to the town, we opted to park in the first parking lot suggested by the town trolley service.  Parking could be tough near the Baseball Hall of Fame.  We got on the trolley, drove past some beautiful homes in the village and was then dropped off in front of the Hall of Fame.  This is Baseball Mecca for any fan, passionate or not.  From a historical perspective the last 150 years of our country can be seen through the baseball lens displayed in Cooperstown: from its pastoral beginnings to its place in big business today.  We had a fun time checking out all the exhibits of the HOF.  There were so many to see.  We did get some nice pictures there. 

After leaving the HOF, we picked up dinner in a small local diner and watched some of the Little League World Series.  As we left the diner, it began to rain.  We got on our trolley and headed to our van.  As our drive to Hobart began, the rain became something biblical with a deluge of pouring bucketfull of rain.  I had to let Aimee drive as I couldn't see so well on the dark road out of Cooperstown.  We decided to take the way we took from Howe Caverns back to Hobart as we weren't familiar with the road we took to I-88 going to Cooperstown. This added a few extra miles but the weather was mixed all the way through until we got to Hobart.  Thankfully, the lights were turned on for us by our hosts otherwise it would have been hard to find the farmhouse on our return. 

The next day was sad as we had to pack up for our return home.  Our family had a fun and peaceful time at the farmhouse, I don't think I ever heard an airplane flying overhead the whole trip.  We regret we didn't get on the bikes to explore the hiking trail but who knows, maybe next year.


Mini-Van Repair - DIY Pt 2 - The Repair.

Just a brief post to update my loyal followers and visitors about the repair done on my wife's Mini-Van.  Just to recap, there was smoking coming from the van's engine.  It was determined that a heater hose Y connection was leaking coolant onto an exhaust manifold and would burn the coolant giving off the smoke and smell.

Researching this problem on the web, I came across quite a few Chrysler/Dodge owners who've experienced the same problem.  One website was useful in providing step by step instructions to replace the Y connection.

After obtaining the replacement parts, I chose a brass t fitting from Lowe's to replace the plastic Y connection as well as heater hose, clamps and anti-freeze, the repair was made.  Other than having to remove the battery from the van - it gave me a chance to clean it - the repair was straightforward.   Remove the connections from the Y cut new heater hose (I used a PVC cutting tool which worked great) make the connections and clamp down the hoses.  New coolant was added to the proper levels and the car was run with no evidence of smoking or leaking on to the exhaust manifold. 

Now, we would be ready to take our vacation upstate a few days later.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mini-Van Repair - DIY Pt 1 - Diagnosis

This post will describe the diagnosis of a leak in one of our heater hoses in our family mini-van and a plan to perform a do-it-yourself repair to correct it.  First some background.  The mini-van is a 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan.  It is similar to the Chrysler Town and Country and Volkswagen Routan.  Our mini-van was purchased in 2010 and has performed well for us in transporting our family of 5 on trips near and far and for my wife to use as her daily vehicle.  The engine is the 3.3 liter V-6 engine which doesn't allow for the greatest pick-up when entering an interstate but once it gets going it's okay.

Recently my wife, who drives the car, experienced problems with her brakes.  It was repaired and then within a month, she experienced a symptom of the original brake problem: smoking from engine after driving for awhile.  We returned the car to the mechanic who redid the brakes for no charge.  I also must add we found on the internet numerous complaints regarding premature wear on the brakes for these vehicles as well as questioning why Chrysler/Dodge and now Fiat has done nothing to improve the brake system.

Well after a week or so after the 2nd repair job was done, we were experiencing the smoke and smell in the cabin.  My wife took our kids to visit her sister's home for the weekend.  I noticed a small circular mark on the driveway after they left and while talking to her while she was travelling I suggested she ask her brother-in-law to investigate the small leak.

It turns out one of 2 heather hoses was leaking coolant.  These hoses connect by a plastic Y connector and the connector is situated above a large exhaust manifold and when it leaks it evaporates and begins to smoke.  Luckily, she was able to drive it home safely and I made sure to add coolant to her reservoir so she had enough coolant for the engine.  I also researched this new issue and, to some surprise it seemed to be another issue faced by owners of this vehicle.  However, this problem was one that could successfully corrected through a DIY project.  

I found a blogger who successfully replaced his y connector as well as a You Tube video of another Y connector repair which he modified his repair using a brass T connector he purchased at Lowes.

This is the DIY repair I plan on doing for our Minivan.  It's amazing that Dodge uses these plastic Y connectors that are prone for leaks early on in the vehicles life cycle.  I used to own a Ford Taurus and it gave me a lot of problems.  I swore off Ford Vehicles.  Now must I avoid Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep products as well?  So much for buy American.

Wish me luck. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

100th Post

Tempus Fugit, a Latin phrase that means time flies.  If a phrase encapsulates this blog's history, then that's it.  I have now reached a milestone as this is my 100th blog post.  Over the previous 99 posts and several years since this blog's humble beginnings, I have sought to stay true to my guiding principles to use this blog to comment on any and all that I find interesting, entertaining or amusing. 

Today, I don't want to talk about current events, as I find myself here on a Sunday morning disgusted with the state of the world and its decent into what I can only characterize as darkness.  One of my first posts was a comment on the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Arizona.  Sadly, these random acts of violence have continued in other public places such as movie theatres and schools.

I want to use this post to express my gratitude to several people in my life.  First to my wife Aimee.  Since our beginnings together, she has been a rock steady and supportive partner.  When I returned to school, during the last few months of her first pregnancy, she encouraged me to stick with it as she saw how happy I was with the rigors of study with the plan to change careers from the business world to one of a school teacher.  To my children, first Joseph and then your twin sisters Caroline and Samantha.  The best lessons are the ones you learn at home and I have three amazing, inquisitive, and tenacious children.  I am enjoying watching them grow. 

Finally, I want to thank all the great children I have worked with since beginning my teaching career in the Fall of 2010.  I graduated the previous spring with horrible job prospects.  For starters, there are just too many teachers here where I live for the limited amount of jobs out there.  I had many classmates unable to find work.  I even had difficulty finding employment in a local school district as any "connections" I had were ineffective, heck I couldn't even get one interview.  However,  I was fortunate and grateful to find employment at a school for special needs children and as I was dually certified in elementary education and special education, I was able to fill a position working with some super kids. 

Each and every day, I have learned from them as much as I have taught them.  I have learned that for some, some progress, however small can be monumental.  For others, just taking the time and encouraging them to engage with someone else and participate makes the difference.  I have gained a strong respect for my student's parents and also reflect how lucky my wife and I are with our children.  Are there times when I wish I were in a local school district and on a long summer vacation (as I work a six week summer program beginning in a few days)?  Sure, but for now this is where I am needed and where I can make a difference daily. 

As Robert Frost once expressed so eloquently in verse comes to mind on how I feel at the moment:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Thank you to all those who have visited this blog and have read my posts.  I have loved all the comments I have received and would love to receive more. 
Also, thank you to those who have supported this blog via a donation on PayPal or by using the Amazon Links for a purchase through Amazon. 
Here's to the next 100 posts!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Social Media MIA - A Lenten Sacrifice

Tomorrow marks one of the holiest days in the Church's calendar: Good Friday.  It is recognized as the day Jesus fulfilled God's plan and sacrificed his life to redeem mankind from sin by suffering death on the cross.  While quite sad on the surface as Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with waving palms and cheers from the Jewish people, this mood quickly changed as Jesus was cursed and spit on by the same people who days earlier welcomed him as a King.  Good Friday is a solemn day but one we must remember is not the end of the story and in a few days we celebrate Jesus' resurrection and victory over death.

During the last several weeks during Lent as part of a Lenten sacrifice, I gave up the use of Social Media.  I made no posts on Facebook or Twitter.  Today, with the ubiquitous use of mobile technology, it was a great effort to refrain from using the assorted social apps to see what was going on locally and beyond.  The benefits to me were more time to devote to other activities with my family. 

I also haven't posted a new blog post for quite a while too, something I have missed as there is always something to opine about. 

In closing, I wish everyone a blessed holiday, whatever your faith.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On St. Patrick's Day

Here's a post I made last year on the eve of St. Patrick's Day.  My thoughts then are the same now in regards to the Irish in America. Enjoy

Happy St. Patrick's Day.  Yes tomorrow is a day for all of us of Irish heritage to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland and also reflect on the important contributions the Irish have made and continue to make in the United States of America.

The Irish in America have come a long way since the large scale waves of Irish entered "the new world" in the 1850's and 60's.  These poor people, fleeing their homeland due to the
potato famine and hoping for a new start in a growing country in need of their labor.   It's easy a century plus to romanticize the experiences of the Irish emigrating to a new country, however it surely was difficult and at times dangerous for them.

The Irish-Americans have contributed to most military campaigns in our history.  Here in New York, the Irish helped build the railways, tunnels, and bridges that form our region's vital circulatory system.  The Irish have made important contributions in politics and on of our own achieved the highest office, the Presidency in 1960. (Note to self: JFK a future post! Please see my post titled Camelot from last November!

The Irish-American immigration experience was probably no different than those people coming from non-English speaking countries today.  Certainly they share many commonalities:  hard work, love of family and to their church. 

I have always wanted to complete a genealogy for both my mother and father's side of the family.  The internet has been helpful with online census records in addition to other records.  I've been lucky having found census records showing my grandfather on my mother's side listed close to 100 years ago.  I've also was fortunate to have found a great blog:  I marveled that Mr. Tierney researched and found a picture of his great-grandfather, who was a New York City police officer at the turn of the last century.  I found that so cool, since both my grandfathers were NYC officers too.  Follow him on Twitter @JJT and check out his blog.

He's since offered me tips towards my own family history and he also gave me a link to an Irish Soda Break recipe:

Well whatever your background is, this weekend your Irish.  Let this St. Patrick's Day put you in a festive mood and thankful for the contributions your ancestors have made and be sure to toast one to them.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fun in the Big City...

Another Valentine's Day has come and gone.  While it's great to celebrate this holiday with your significant other, shouldn't the feelings and warm sentiments towards your partner last all year round?

This past weekend, my wife and I took advantage of her sister offering to watch our three children in order for us to spend an evening together.  We had been talking about traveling into Manhattan and checking out the TKTS booth in Times Square and seeing a show.  The TKTS booth offers discounted theatre tickets and is a good value for fans of Broadway. 

We had a few ideas about what shows we would like to see and we checked our train schedule for our trip to Penn Station and quick subway ride to Times Square.  When we left our home it had begun to snow but it wasn't too bad.  Our train ride to the city was uneventful and after arriving by subway to Times Square, it seemed we walked a bit to our exit on 42nd street.  When we got on the street, the snow was coming down hard and visibility was poor.  The first order of business was to get to the TKTS booth on 46th street and select our show. 

Due to the snow and tremendous crowd, Aimee and I walked west on 42nd street and made it to 8th avenue.  We then back tracked on 43 and walked up Broadway to 46th Street to the TKTS booth.  The crowd in Times Square was large (so much for thinking the bad weather would lessen the crowds).  We saw at the TKTS booth that our first choice was sold out, the musical ONCE.  Our second choice was still available at a 50% discount.  This was the Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie.

With our tickets secured we walked back west to have some drinks and dinner at The House of Brews, 46th Street between 8th and 9th Ave.  The walk was made in the slushy slop of the sleety snow joining the melted puddles from the previous storms we've endured this winter.  We arrived at the House of Brews and quickly got a table and orders for drinks and a look at the menu.  We had plenty of time to eat and drink before our trek to see the show at the Booth Theatre on 45th street.

The House of Brews - 46th Street

The Booth Theatre is near several other theatres including the one housing ONCE, which had a huge crowd standing in front to get in.  We arrived at the Booth and went right inside.  After settling in at our seats, which provided a stellar view of the stage, another spectator came into our row and he found his seat next to my wife.  He was very nice and explained to us that his wife was about 12 seats to his left in the same row and his daughter was on the same level but on the right side section of seats.  He explained to us that he and his wife were visiting from Oklahoma and they had seen their daughter perform at the Met in Price Igor.  The theatre filled up with an additional standing room only just two rows behind us. 

Zachary Quinto, Mr. Spock in the rebooted Star Trek films comes out and begins the play, a memory play - one of Williams' most autobiographical works.  Cherry Jones stood out in this production  portraying Amanda Wingfield, the aging matriarch who clings to her past glories as a Southern Belle with visits from her "gentlemen callers" reduced now to selling magazine subscriptions by the telephone.  Now this family, including damaged daughter, Laura yearn for a life different from the one they currently find themselves in.  For Quinto's character Tom, he sees the path of his father who abandoned his family as one he will take.  He seeks escape in the form of trips to the movies or escape in the form of drink.  He wants to be a writer but hides that ambition from most of his co-workers at his shoe warehouse job.  The past glory and future desires collide with the tragic difficulties this family faces in their present in this Depression era St. Louis setting. 

These characters are joined by the "gentleman caller", O'Connor, a former schoolmate of Laura who has also fallen from the heights of his High School days.  However, he has a plan of self-improvement via public speaking courses he is taking. 

I recall having this play as part of my English-Literature class at St. Dominic's High School, either in 9th or 10th grade.  My teacher, Mr. Cambisio really liked presenting classic works of American literature and this play was no exception.  He also used the VCR to present a televised version of this play in conjunction to the text. 

Aimee and I really enjoyed this production.  The lighting and music played added to the stark material and tragedy unfolding in this play.  In addition, the acting was top notch with well choreographed movements on the stage.  This production has been playing since last fall and will close next Sunday, February 23.  If you happen to be in New York City before then get tickets and see it, you will not be disappointed. 

Our fun in the big city concluded with a subway ride back to Penn Station and a LIRR ride back to our home station.  The LIRR ride was hilarious as we had several loudmouths on the train, heckling others as well as a girl who was quite loud who rambled her discourse on what Hispanic group lived in the following towns: Mineola, Westbury, Brentwood, and Islip.  Her mouth was annoying to another rider who sat behind us and he was muttering to himself some actions he wanted to take against this loudmouth but I can't print them here on an all ages blog.  Fortunately the woman with him was able to pull him back from the brink before an action was taken. 

Always fun in the big city...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

It was 50 years ago today...

It was 50 years ago today
That The Beatles came to the states to play
They've never gone out of style
and there always sure to bring out a smile
So let me reintroduce to you
A band you've know for all these years
The Beatles, the greatest rock and roll band.

My apologies to those fans of the classic song  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band but today this post celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival across the Atlantic from Britain.  This evening, 50 years ago,  much of the country witnessed the shrieking, boisterous Beatlemania that had taken hold of teens in New York as they viewed the Sunday Evening Ed Sullivan Show.  It certainly marked the end of the quieter portion of the 60's and nothing would ever be the same again. 

Our country just lost its shining, youthful prince only a little over two months previous to the Beatles arrival.  The youth of the country needed something to rally around as an escape, for lack of a better word, from this recent tragedy.  Now, the Beatles arrive in New York, at the airport now named after our slain leader, JFK.  Once again, nothing would ever be the same again. 

What follows is a post I wrote last year with my reflections regarding the Beatles:

What more can be said about the 4 young lads from Liverpool, England who took the world by storm "all those years ago".  My first exposure to the music of the Beatles came several years after their break up.  Capital records produced complilation albums, the famous Red and Blue Albums. 

These two albums were my introduction to the Beatles and looking back on it today, I marvel at the changes in each of the members of the band through those years 1962-1970 (look at the two covers!).  In the late 1970's, Capital released Beatles Love Songs (I believe it's out of print) and all of the Beatle ballads and slower songs were given their rightful spotlight.  I remember an older sister who had that album and I liked many of the songs on that compilation.

As I got older, I clearly remember when John Lennon was assassinated, miles away from my home, on December 8, 1980.  That was quite sad as he was only 40 years old and just coming out of a five year break where he was raising his son Sean having released Double Fantasy with his wife Yoko Ono that October.

I was only 10 years old when John Lennon was killed but at that young age, I began to discover more about the history of the Beatles and the solo careers of each member.  I also set out to own their music.  This was during the late 80s with the release of their music on CD.  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was an essential and first addition to my Beatles discography.  Even today, I can play it and find some subtle nuance I may have missed in previous playings.  I enjoy all of the songs on it and admire the guts they took to retreat from touring completely and making this record.
In the 1990's, the survivng members of the Beatles worked together and the Anthology series of albums were released.  For Anthology 1 and 2, John Lennon demos were completed by Paul, George and Ringo and produced by George's fellow Travelling Wilbury - Jeff Lynn.   Free as a Bird and Real Love were the two songs completed.  The Anthology albums also included alternate tracks and demos of familiar songs.

In 2000, The Beatles "1" was released and it showcased 27 Beatle number 1 songs that hit the US and/or UK charts.  This compilation was released on the 30th anniversary of the bands breakup. The compilation is a great introduction to the band much like I was introduced to them via the Red/Blue albums.  This year, 2014, saw the release of the Beatles US albums.  When the CD's were released, they were released in the format they were released everywhere else but America.  In the USA, the Beatles releases were in a different sequence and now Capitol records have released the US versions.

Flash forward to today and the Beatles continue to remain relevant.  All of their music is now found on I-Tunes.  Paul and Ringo continue to make new music and perform.  George's son Dani Harrison has a band of his own and is following in his Father's footsteps.  Sean Lennon also is a muscian and social activist like his Dad.  He is currently protesting against the process of Fracking in upstate New York. 

I recently came across an Italian musician who has a number of YouTube videos where he dissects the vocal harmonies of Beatle songs.  Galeazzo Frudua truely enjoys what he's doing and it's a fitting tribute to a great band.  His videos are also fun to watch.  Follow him at his YouTube Channel - The Beatles Vocal Harmony and at Twitter - @Frudua


I think the Beatles could be summed up with one word: LOVE.  As in "All You Need is Love".  Sometimes a simple message, such as this, can have a profound effect on the world.  The Beatles were harbingers of the social and consciousness change that occurred in 1960's.  Yes, our world has changed since then, for good, for bad, that's a point to debate, but how we treat others remains relevant today as it did during the Beatles heyday.  I still believe the Beatles will be discussed and studied hundreds of years from now and I'm happy their music remains to inspire and influence the world. 

What's your favorite Beatles song or album?  Do you like their solo efforts?  I'd love to hear back from you so be sure to leave a comment.

Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Day - 2014

Here is a blog post I wrote three years ago to commemorate the MLK Holiday.  In those years since we are still engaged in overseas wars which have proved harmful to our country's talent and treasure.  Let us all reflect today how we can be agents for change and warriors for peace as modeled by the late Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King. 

Today, after a peaceful three day weekend, I have decided to reflect a little bit about the man today's holiday is named for: Dr. Martin Luther King.  Dr. King led a peaceful civil rights movement whose ultimate aim was the equal treatment of all African-Americans under the law. 

Dr. King's pursuit of this goal came with a cost.  On April 4, 1968, while in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers, he was assassinated outside his motel room.  An article I read today noted a hateful  letter sent from an anonymous FBI agent to Dr. King some time in 1964.  Dr. King's courage in the face of such fierce opposition is amazing. The article also, in my opinion, guesses as to what Dr. King would be most vocal about today.  They are:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are unjust.
The disparity of wealth between the rich and the poor in America is unjust.
The influence of corporate money in American politics is unjust.

A leader like Dr. King doesn't come around often, but his example and message are relevant today as they were 42 years ago. 

To close here are a few quotes from Dr. King:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one's whole being into the being of another.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.