Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Fantastic Four - Dancing On Air

Tomorrow, a TV staple of my teenage years returns to the airwaves as WPHL-TV 17 revives 'Dancin' on Air' at 10 am.  The original show, much like its predecessor 'American Bandstand,'  featured local kids dancing to the latest 80s dance and pop hits. While I never appeared on the show due to my hereditary inability to dance, I do know several folks who appeared on the show.

The show helped make Madonna, Kelly Ripa, Duran Duran and others big stars and later went national as 'Dance Party USA,'. I was working as  DJ at the time and it was always great to see how crowds reacted to new music on the show.  While I will be busy tomorrow night for the new show's premier, I will definitely DVR it. 

All this got me to thanking about other things that I would bring back from my teenage years ...

What are the top four things you would bring back from your teenage years?

  1. Pulsations - a great place to dance and party all night, but not as great a place to work!
  2. Cruising In the Jeep - Top off, George Thorogood blasting, was a great way to start the weekend!
  3. The Big Green, '77 Chevy - If Goot hadn't totaled it the day he bought it, the thing would still be running.
  4. The Wharf - oh wait!  The Wharf still exists (Sort of)  And I was NEVER there as a teenager!

It's a big weekend for the Final Four, College Open Houses, Baseball Opening Days, Xfinity Live opening and so much more.  Relax and enjoy!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

On Government and Health Care

If you are a Supreme Court junkie, as I am, it's been a pretty interesting week.  three days of oral arguments before the court over The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has had NPR's Nina Totenberg breathless since Monday.  I followed closely the radio and print accounts of the arguments and all of the analysis that came afterwards.

There were three basic areas of dispute.  The first, seemingly dismissed by the Court, is that the an obscure federal tax law from 1867 called the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) essentially bars bringing a case against Obamacare.  The law prohibits tax protesters from filing suit against a tax until the tax has actually been paid.  The Supremes seems dubious that there was even a tax involved here, even given that when the act is in force those who do not have health insurance will have to pay a penalty, which the IRS will collect.  It's a fine point I guess, but that's why lawyers are involved.

The second day was really where the fireworks were, with Obamacare opponents making the argument that the law is unconstitutional because it forces everyone in America to purchase health insurance.  Their essential argument was that the constitution does not permit the government to compel a citizen to purchase anything and that if the government could do this, it could compel people to buy anything at all, including broccoli.

The government's counter to this argument was that broccoli, no matter how much you like it, does not provide for a basic human need like access to health care does and that the government certainly has the right to regulate trade in such a huge area of the economy.  The government also argued that the only wa for health insurance to work was to have everyone in it all the time or else only sick people would buy it, making the whole system a horrendously expensive mess.

The final day's arguments were based around the complaint to the states governed by Republicans that the regulations that the act placed on Medicare were an unconstitutional violation of states rights by the federal government. The states also made the argument that the entire act must be struck down if any portion of it were deemed unconstitutional.

In the end, despite favoring universal care on a human rights basis, I found the arguments presented against Obamacare to be compelling.  I specifically agreed with the idea that individuals can't be told to buy a product, no matter how useful the product is or how much the product is needed to provide for the common good.  While we all agree that everyone should have access to comprehensive, affordable healthcare, we can't provide it by requiring everyone to buy personal coverage.  It's not who we are as a nation.  We don't solve our problems by mandating behavior.

So a government-funded, single-payer insurance system like Canada's must be the answer, right? 

I will surprise my libertarian and conservative friends (and my liberal friends too, I guess) by saying no, I think that government control of the healthcare system is not the answer either.  I work in higher education, where I have seen first-hand how the government can take over programs that have some problems but are working and regulate them into a costly, inefficient mess in a matter of years. Government can't even figure out how to collect trash efficiently and we want to entrust 1/6 of the economy and our health to its organizational ability?  I think not.

The real answer is that the solution is a lot harder than a health care bill. It will added efficiency such as a realization that not every hospital needs every new device. It will take philanthropy.  One of the reasons that health care has gotten so much more expensive is that non-profits and religious groups have been driven out as healthcare mega corps have been able to outbid them for top docs, leaving only charity care for the NPOs to provide. 

America has to invest in itself to get though what I consider a health care crisis.  That means those who have resources making a concerted effort to voluntarily provide for the less fortunate though philanthropy.  It's not good enough to buy proton guns for major research hospitals.  Someone has to be willing to subsidize mammograms and and infant care for folks who can't afford it on their own.

It also has to start with individual responsibility. One of the reasons that health care is so expensive is that we are so out of shape. Obesity, heart disease and diabetes are epidemics in the country, starting with toddlers. You don't have to join an expensive gym or hire a personal trainer, but it's time to get off our butts and go for a walk, to volunteer to clean up a park, or to coach a youth team.  We're lucky enough to live in a country with abundant access to clean, fresh water.  We should be drinking more of that and a lot less soda and juice.

I know I sound a lot like a small government conservative here, but I think that a regulated private healthcare system with significant philanthropic care is the best way to solve this problem. People also have to realize that their choices affect the community at large.  The Supreme Court is going to gut Obamacare when the justices rule in June. But that's not a bad thing.  It was a bad compromise on a grand idea.  Now it's time to more forward with a better plan.


Monday, March 26, 2012

On Atlantic City

image from www.flickr.comI spent two days last week in Atlantic City for a conference.  I tend to get there every year or so for one meeting or another.  Of all the vices I have, gambling is not among them, so it's not a place I generally go out of my way to get to.

Lured by $55 room rates (plus $10 per night fees) the conference this year was at the Tropicana, the Boardwalk casino complex best known for its addition of 'The Quarter,' a zone of restaurants, nightclubs,and boutiques as well as the hotel's problem with bedbugs. It was a nice place ot stay for a night or two, but the constant need to walk though the smoky casino to get anywhere and the uncomfortable accommodations for a meeting make it unlikely I will head back there for a meeting.

The breakfasts were good, but the dinner left me scampering to Red Square, where the food was better, the company was excellent and the TVs were showing March Madness.  People watching at Tango's, a lobby bar, was fascinating but the Boardwalk was really the place to be on the first few days of spring.  Day time highs were in the upper 70s, with mild evenings under a canopy of stars accompanied by crashing waves.

And as long as you don't stray from the boards and your hotel, AC doesn't seem so bad.  There are clearly corridors designed to get you safely from the Expressway to your destination, with giant signs pointing the way.  Even the Revel, set to open next week, already has its own giant 6 lanes of lighted safety to get even the drunkest gambler past the badlands and headed home.

It's a surreal town, with the wind turbines and downtown outlet mall, old and new convention centers, sprawling casinos bracketing vast stretches of poverty all set along a grand stretch of white sand. As much potential fun as AC seems to hold out as a possibility, I leave somewhat sad every time I am there.  I'm not good with being told what to do, and sometimes stray outside the guided tour of the city to see things that the casino folks would prefer we didn't realize were there.

Things like the closed baseball complex that has never been able to make a go of it, the eerily disused golf course, the rows and rows of empty houses, the massage parlors, and head shops. The vacant lots though aren't the part that bothers me the most. It's the slack-jawed vacant looks of those legions who sit tethered to a blinking machine, pressing a button all day and all night, silently watching their Social Security checks disappear.

Maybe it's not quite as gritty over at the Borgata, but the giant room size, gilt paint and high-gloss wax wasn't able to hide the uneven floors, raucously drunk herds of kids and vomit in the fake plants. Boarwalk Empire this ain't! I didn't see a tuxedo or even a tie on a guest in 2 days. Many folks are wearing thier best yoga pants and sweat shirts, casino loyalty cards ringing each wrist and neck.The younger crowd makes Snooki and The Situation look modest, staggering from club to casino in the most mini of skirts and the barest of chests.

I like to have a good time as much as anyone, but I can think of about a million places I would rather be than down in AC.  If they connected you better with the ocean and the Boardwalk, I might be swayed, but instead the casinos ignore their location once you are there, forcing you to wander the floor looking for an escape hatch.

REM's 1991 hit 'Shiny, Happy People' was playing as I soldiered to the conference Friday morning.  As I looked around at the rows and rows of slot machines, table games and security guards, seniors and slackers, bar maids and porters, I could not think of a more inappropriate song for the beginning of the day at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Friday!

These folks may be rushing beach season just a bit, but it IS spring and there are plenty of people enjoying the warm temperatures here in Atlantic City. With the high headed to near 80 degrees today and clear blue skies above the boardwalk, it's a great day for a walk by the ocean.

Everyone have a great weekend!


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hello From Atlantic City!

The fog is burning off and it is turning into a very pretty day in Atlantic City, New Jersey! Weekday room rates at the Trop have dropped to $55. No truth to the rumor that rooms without bed bugs have a $10 surcharge!


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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quite A Line For Free Water Ice!

This line starts a half block up the street, turns the corner and goes for another full block. I think I will wait until tomorrow and pay for my first Rita's of the spring!


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Monday, March 19, 2012

General Update

Hello everyone! 

I am back home after a long weekend of basketball in Salem, Virginia and baseball here in South Jersey.  I'd love to do a full post tonight about my alma mater's run to the brink of a national championship and all of the great people I saw at the Final Four.  I could also post a bit about the highs and lows of coaching youth baseball, but alas I cannot.

With the warm temperatures and nice weather comes my nemesis, pollen.  I'm having some pretty tough days right now with my contacts not wanting to stay in my eyes, so my thoughts and photos from this weekend will have to wait.  Sue Serio on Fx29 tells me the pollen counts will be lower later in the week, so hopefully I will get back to posting then!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Fantastic Four - Salem D3hoops Edition

I am down in Salem, Virginia covering the NCAA DIvision III Men's Basketball Championship weekend, so we have a Final Four edition of the Fantastic Four:

What Four Things Do You Love About the Final Four?

  1. Senior Guards - They always seem to rise to the occasion this weekend, and I am hoping that this weekend is no different!  It's also great to have a senior all-star game where small college greats like Paul Kouvaris get one more moment in the sun.
  2. Crazy Fans - From TitanQ to Mailsy to guys with wigs and army fatigues, it's a festival of fandom this weekend!
  3. Great Coaches - I will put the guys in town this weekend up against most of the D1 coaching fraternity any day.
  4. The Walnut and Bronze - It's why we're here!

Everyone enjoy the games and your weekend! Thanks to all the great folks at the ODAC, the Salem Civic Center, Mac and Bob's and Awful Arthur's for all your assistance this weekend!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Heading to the Final Four

 

image from www.flickr.com

Later today, as the whole nation is glued to March Madness, I will be headed south along I-81 to the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball championship weekend in Salem, Virginia.  It's my seventh Final Four and fourth as a member of the media covering the biggest weekend in small college basketball.  And I already know it will be a special time.

 

Improbably, my alma mater, Cabrini College is making its first appearance in the national semi finals.  The carry the nation's best record into the weekend, entering play at 31-1.  Led by senior guard Cory Lemons, the Cavs score 82 points a game and stormed through conference play undefeated.  Lemons is everything you could want in a point guard, strong with the ball, a dangerous outside shooter and quick enough to blow by nearly every defender around. He's a lock for several post-season All-America honors.

The Cavs are coached by 4th year head coach Marcus Kahn, the Middle Atlantic region's coach of the year.  He's got just over 100 wins in his 4 years and has restored a storied program that had fallen on hard times when he arrived.  Freshman sensation Aaron Walton-Moss's fortuitous recruitment has been the difference between this squad and a team that had a lot of weapons but fell short last year.

I am too much of a realist to think that the Cavs will win a national championship this weekend.  Their opponent tomorrow night is the bracket's true Cinderella, Illinois Wesleyan, an unranked, at-large selection to the D3 tournament who had to beat #1 Hope College to even get this far.  They are fast and tall and deep, well-coached with experience in the CCIW, the toughest conference at this level.  They'll be the best team that the Cavs have seen all season and are certainly good enough to send the boys back to Radnor without the hardware.

On the other side of the bracket, things don't get any easier on the quest for the Walnut and Bronze as the MIT Engineers lead the nation in scoring margin, giving up only 57 points a game.  They take on another stingy defense in the University of Wisconsin Whitewater Warhawks, who only allow opponents 59 points per game.

Regardless of the outcomes, it will be a great weekend of basketball and fellowship.  For the first time in seven years, Cabrini coaching legend John Dzik will be in Salem (and at Corned Beef), supporting the current version of the program he built into a national power.  Super fans Paul and Darnelle Engle will also be down south along with hundreds of others making the trek.

I'll see you in Salem!  Go Cavs!!!!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

'The Great Leader' - A Review

I like cop books.  I read a lot of them, Sandford and Connelly and even Cornwell. At it's most simple, Jim Harrison's 'The Great Leader' is a cop book. A retired state police detective from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the hunt for a cult leader who takes advantage of his young female followers.

But the pursuit of the criminal is only a single thread in the cloth of this novel, which weaves together sex, fishing, history, alcohol, reading, aging, family, longing, nature and travel in a compelling 288 pages.  Author of 'Legends of the Fall' and 'The English Major,' Harrison certainly knows how to build characters who resonate.

The protagonist in this book, Simon Sunderson, seems more than a bit autobiographical and as a reader I wondered throughout the story how much of what Sunderson was thinking and feeling was actually coming directly from Harrison's life experience and how much of it was part of the character creation.  The emotions seem so deeply considered, so strongly felt and vividly conveyed that it seems almost impossible to believe that they could be constructs and not drawn from real life.

Sunderson is a horny old dog, staggering though the early days of his retirement, often in a drunken stupor, lusting after virtually every woman he meets and reading history until he passes out every night.  Trailing the suspect to the desert Southwest, he gradually falls under the spell of the harsh and unfamiliar landscape.  His interactions with the other minor characters of the novel are well-scripted but the supporting cast is pretty one-dimensional. 

A 16 year old next-door Lolita is the best-developed of the characters, but we never really find out what makes her tick.  Sunderson's ex-wife, sisters, love interest and best friend all seem to be merely creations to further the plot incrementally and give things for Sunderson to think about.  None really develop into someone memorable after the book is put down.

The outdoors scenes are particularly well-described.  The cold, wet piney scent of the Upper Peninsula practically leaps off the page when you read the passages.  I even imagined what it would be like to have the patience to actually fish. Harrison's imagery of Arizona and New Mexico easily called to mind my visits to that area. The descriptions of Sunderson healing from an injury were sharp enough to make me wince a few times.

Ultimately the book gives us a peek into the mind of a man at a crossroads.  His professional life complete and his family life a shambles, what is there to live for at 65 years old? Harrison gives us a long look at our own mortality while also creating a solid cop story.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Glorious

Walking from one meeting on campus to another can sometime be a bit of a drag.  I pretty gladly walked up and down Broad Street for my midday meeting today.  72 degrees, slightly hazy sunshine and the promise of more to come this week had everyone out and about at lunch time.

There were the usual lunch truck crowds, smokers and homeless people.  But today they were joined by thousands of people who seemed enlivened by the simple act of getting outside and walking around on a beautiful (nearly) Spring day. I was among them, taking a few extra loops around blocks to extend my walk for a scant few minutes and enjoy all that mid-March in a mild Philadelphia winter has to offer.

And the best part is that tomorrow will be even better!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Dinner!

Bopper and I conspired to create dinner tonight in Swarthmore. Mmmm! Good!

image from www.flickr.com


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wordful Wednesday - It's a Small World

image from www.flickr.com

Robert Sherman, who, with his brother Richard, created dozens of songs for Disney over the years, died yesterday at 86.  Today's Wordless Wednesday is pre-empted for a Wordful Wednesday to note his passing.

The Sherman's songs mean a lot to me as the father of an 8 year old girl, who, despite her recent interest in the more daring rides at Disneyworld, still loves the 'It's A Small World' ride with the heart of a little girl.  We've been on the ride dozens of times in our visits to the park, and this image is from our December, 2010 trip..  It's with a bright gleam in her eye that she joyfully claps her hands and sings the lyrics even today, when she is just as likely to shoot you a doleful look if you ask her to sing for you.

The man who gave her just a bit of that joy passed away yesterday. He also had a hand in many other Disney classics, notably 'Mary Poppins,' which won him an Oscar, and "Winnie the Pooh.'  While you can debate the musical merits of 'Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang,' you've got no heart if you don't love 'It's A Small World!'


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Spring Break

The students at work are on Spring Break, and so I have given the blog a few days off as well.

I have been writing a lot for the last 6 months or so and just needed a bit of a rest.

March Madness is underway with Division III in the Sweet 16, including Cabrini for the second straight year.  D1 conference tournaments are in high gear and Spring Training ball is on TV.  Dads are headed to the fields to clean and rake them for kids to play some baseball. Daughters are preparing for their recitals and trying on costumes and thinking about makeup.

It's a great time of the year.


Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Fantastic Four - March!

It's the first Friday in March.  March is one of my favorite months of the year, full of anticipation and ohpe for the end of winter and the start of spring.

What are your four favorite things about March?

  1. Spring Training - It's pretty incredible how much news comes out of Florida every day about the Phils.  I am ready for Opening Day!
  2. The Flower Show - America's premier flower show takes place right here in Philadelphia and it's always something special to see.
  3. Spring Break - Two long weekends in a row and no students on campus is not a bad way to start the month!
  4. March Madness - Whether it's small college conference championships this weekend, the D3 tournament the next three weekends or the Big Dance, this is the best time of year for college hoops!

Have a great weekend!