Monday, December 31, 2012

So Long, 2012!!!

It sucks getting old because the days, weeks, months, and years fly by. The more you accumulate the shorter each seems. Another year is about to come and gone. Holy crap, it's already almost 2013??!!??

Yep, it is. It was a good year for me. It usually is so long as I'm with my family and everyone is healthy. Our daughter was born in January so that made the year extra special.

So Happy New Year, everyone!!! May 2013 bring you love and joy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

To all those who celebrate Christmas, may you all have a Merry Blessed Christmas filled with love and joy.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, December 21, will be one week since the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Seven days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, and 604,800 seconds would have passed and for me and the nation, it has remained in our minds for much of that time. They started to bury the victims this week, the children and the heroic teachers.

Many people ask why, but the answers are quite simple. It’s understanding them that are hard. A mentally disturbed 20 year old man was given full access to an arsenal of military style weapons by his mother, although law abiding in her gun-loving, was incredibly irresponsible in allowing such access and essentially training her son to be a killer. That is a toxic combination which leads to tragic results. Assault weapons are weapons of mass destruction. They’re not for hunting animals, they’re for hunting people.

How you get these WMDs out of mentally disturbed people’s hands is again quite easy, by simply banning their manufacture, sale and ownership. To get the guns out of circulation the government should offer no-questions asked buy back programs. There should also be a ban on high capacity magazines. Again, that’s for people hunting. The Second Amendment gives people the right to bear arms, it doesn’t give them the unfettered right to bear any time of weapons they want just like the First Amendment doesn’t give people the right to yell fire in a crowded theater, threaten to kill the president, or own child pornography.

Dealing with the mental health issue is a bit more complex. Many states have cut funding for services and facilities, and psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers are woefully underpaid and, thus, make it a more difficult career paths especially with the skyrocketing higher education costs. So what we have are services and psychiatric institutions that are underfunded and understaffed and the goal is to shepherd the mentally ill out of the programs as quickly as possible so more can come in. The general rule is that “throwing money at a problem” never works, but in this instance it might.

I’m speaking from experience here as someone who has personally experienced the tragic outcome of gun violence and whose wife works in the mental health field. Solutions are out there. Do we, as a nation, have the courage to find them?

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy




Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island. Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between
the United States and the Japanese empire.
--December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressing the United States Congress.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

I continue my Christmastime tradition ...

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.

"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'

"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


"VIRGINIA O'HANLON. "

115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."



VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.



--Unsigned editorial, September 21, 1897, New York Sun--

Thursday, November 22, 2012

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! At this time we’re supposed to recognize the things we’re thankful for. My son is in 2nd Grade, but I remember a great art project he had three years ago in pre-K at this time of year. He had to do a collage of the things he was thankful for. He chose seven things: his family, his friends, his church, animals, flowers, clothing, and food. That’s a pretty good list and I’m adopting that once again for this Thanksgiving.

I’m also thankful for memories. As a kid my family used to always go to my grandparents apartment on 105th and 1st Avenue in El Barrio. The apartment was always jam packed with my extended family and the food was amazingly good. I never wanted to go, however, because I wanted to see the King Kong marathon on Channel 9 and the adults wouldn’t let me. Now that that time is long gone and my grandparents are in heaven I wish I had enjoyed those times more.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Honor of Veterans Day

Today is the 59th Annual Veterans Day, having replaced Armistice Day which had been first proclaimed by then President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. My father and I served in the U.S. Army, and uncles, cousins, and dear friends of mine also served in the U.S. armed forces. To them and all past and present veterans—especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice—I honor you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Forward

Every great political figure has an opposition which history has not looked kindly upon. President Barack Obama is an historic president, not simply because of who he is but what he has done. Healthcare, abolishing don't ask don't tell, getting bin Laden, saving the auto industry, etc. These are watershed events in our nation's history and they all happened on his watch. No president has ever done anything like that in a single term. With his re-election, the country is on the right side of history.

That's why I was so proud to wait on line and vote for him Tuesday morning. I would've done that even if I hadn't gotten power back. President Obama's detractors talk about "taking the country back," but this country is always moving forward. We don't look like George Washington and our Founding Fathers, we don't talk like them, or dress like them, or eat the same food as them, but we all are Americans. This country was flawed from the begining because of the original sin of slavery and the disenfranchisement of everyone but white males. Yet the Founders were forward thinking enough to recognize that society changes. The Bill of Rights is not a ceiling, but a floor which we build upon. 

A black man was re-elected president with the most racially, ethnically, religiously diverse voting block in American election history.  For the first time, the people of a state voted for marriage equality while previously it had only been through legislatures where it has passed. Yes, there are always steps backwards, but there are also always two steps forward. That is the beauty of America.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and the Shame of ConEd Indifference

As all of the country and probably the world knows, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were hit with the worst storm in memory, Hurricane Sandy that is now dubbed a "superstorm" because of it's merger with a nor'ester.  It has claimed lives, destroyed property, and shaken all of us here.  Millions were without power, including me and family until yesterday.  We had no electricity, no heat, and no hot water for over 7 days.  We don't live in a costal area and it wasn't because of Sandy why we remained without power.  It was because of our utility company, Consoldiated Edison, aka, ConEd.  Here's my quick story on them.

I live in Saint Albans, Queens. At 2 pm on Monday, October 29, a tree hit an electrical pole two houses down from ours, cut the wires, and knocked out the power for the whole block. From that time until yesterday, November 5, there had not been one ConEd rep come to my neighborhood. The ConEd rep finally did come yesterday, along with the Parks Dep't rep (they handle tree removal), and they were pointing fingers at each other.

ConEd: "We can't fix the electricity until the tree is gone."

Parks: "We can't cut the tree because there're wires on it."

This goes back & forth and an argument ensues with them and my neighbors. There's an argument with them and my neighbors. A neighbor calls ConEd again and then the rep on the phone puts in an emergency order. Soon after, contractors from Pacific Gas & Electric ("PG&E") come, yes, the utility company from California.  These were outside contractors called in to "assist" ConEd's recovery efforts, but it has turned out that they are doing the bulk of the work.

The ConEd rep says, "You'll get power in 48 hrs." My neighbors go ballistic, saying, "There're children and elderly in these houses. There's no power, heat or hot water. It's freezing at night and a nor'easter is coming."

The PG&E foreman comes up to the ConEd rep, points at the electrical pole with the tree on it and says, "Yeah, we can fix that now."

TWO HOURS. That's how quickly the PG&E crew took to rewire the whole block and put the power back on. From their experience in this crisis, they’ve learned that ConEd is lazy and all they do is try to find excuses as to why a job can't be done. That’s what the PG&E workers told us. The PG&E crew is also used to working 30 hr shifts in emergencies and thought they would do the same here, but no, ConEd said they only work 16 hrs.

Many places in the Tri-state area are absolutely devastated.  They've lost homes or their homes still stand but are uninhabitable.  In many areas power can't be restored because the electrical equipment was damaged by storm surges are they are still under water.  However, that is not the case for the majority of those without power.  People like me who are helpless until ConEd decides to get off their asses and do a two hour job.  We are or were without power because of of the indifference, neglect or incompetence of  ConEd.




Friday, October 26, 2012

Malala's Legacy

We all have heard the story about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani teen activist who was shot by a Taliban thug who wished to silence her because she advocated for the education of girls in her home town of Swat and her country. Thankfully, Malala survived the attempt and is recovering in a London hospital and was reunited with her father last night.  What we should also be thankful for is Malala's sweeping support in Pakistan with vigils and protests and the condemnation of the Taliban. It's obvious now that the Taliban had not anticipated the widespread condemnation by the Pakistani people because of their horrible act.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy or near tragedy like this to wake a people up, to open their eyes to the reality around them.  We can think of the 1963 church bombing in Alabama by the KKK, which killed four little girls. The deaths provoked national outrage and the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President Johnson signed into law.

Something more extreme is necessary for the Taliban, however, who are essentially the 21st century version of the Nazi party. It should be criminal to be a Taliban not just in Pakistan but throughout the world. There is nothing redeeming about them. They butcher people, mainly women, and abhor anything that would rise to intellectual stimulation. To disagree with them marks you for death, as was the case with Malala. Civilized society cannot survive with groups like the Taliban in its midst determined to destroy it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

And So It Ends ... Again

Another year, another Yankee postseason cut short by the Detroit Tigers.  This was far more predictable, as I posted earlier, after Derek Jeter went down with a broken ankle. This team lacked mental toughness all year, as evidenced by their insane stat that up until the last week of the regular season they had been something like 0-54 when trailing entering the 9th inning.  They were also one of the worst hitting teams with runners in scoring position, in other words, pressure spots.

So it isn't surprising they scored 6 runs in 4 games against the Tigers, scored in only 3 innings and except for the 9th inning of game 1, they scored 2 runs in 3 other games.  Robinson Cano, their best hitter, was a disaster.  Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Rodriguez were as well.  Hopefully all 3 will be gone. It has to happen. They have been postseason failures since they came here, with the exception of ARod, but that was only the 2009 postseason.  In every other year he has been abysmal.

Now it's time to get really into the football season with the Giants and even the Jets, who are like an old girlfriend I still care about and only wish good things for but I've moved on with my life.  There is also the Knicks.  It should be an exciting winter in New York sports, it's just that the fall ended prematurely.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Captain

For a Yankee fan, this weekend was the proverbial whirlwind of emotion. There was the ecstasy of Friday's victory, winning the decisive Game 5 in the ALDS against the very tough Baltimore Orioles. Then after a listless performance for 8 innings against the Yankee killers, aka, the Detroit Tigers, the incredible Raul Ibanez capped off an another ridiculous comback in the 9th to tie the game. But then there was Nick "1-32 in RISP in the postseason" Swisher misplaying a fly ball to give up the lead, which led to the iconic Yankee captain, Derek Jeter breaking his left leg.

It has been since 1995 that the Yankees have  played a postseason game without Jeter.  They've been in the postseason for every year since then except in 2008.  Jeter has amassed a Hall of Fame career in that span, along with being the catalyst for 6 World Championships.  He is truly the heart and soul of the team. Unfortunately, not many of his teammates have been showing any heart this postseason such as Alex Rodriguez, whose advanced age, long and slow swing, and no steroid use have made him an automatic out.  There is Curtis Granderson, who led the team in homers and RBI, but swings through everything now. Then there is Robinson Cano, the biggest culprit, who as the Yanks best hitter and in his prime and had entered the postseason on a .615 clip in the previous 9 games, has 2 hits in nearly 30 at bats and is on an 0-26 slide, the longest hitless streak in Yankees postseason history.

The Yanks ended up losing 3-0 yesterday to the Tigers to fall to 0-2 in the best-of-seven series. Once again they got great pitching from their starter and once again their hitters were an embarrassment.  You would think that with their Captain going down they'd show some pride. But they don't.  It seems the Yankees pride went down with Jeter.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Toughest Division Title in Ages

As I've mentioned in prior posts, I've been blessed as a sportsfan. I grew up in a baseball split house. My mom, sister, and I were Yankee fans while my pop and brother were Met fans. But neither side hated the other team so we used to go to both Yankee and Met games all the time. Because of that, my first great sports memory was the dissapointment of the 1976 Yankee World Series loss to the Reds. It's more of an emotional memory than remembering events. I remember the dissapointment of my family. Then 1977 and the great penant race of '78, which both culminated in Yankee championships. I was also able to celebrate the Mets' triumph in 1986, unfortunately, their last championship.

Since I've been following baseball I've got to celebrate 8 championships in my lifetime (8 Yankee titles and 1 Mets). Now another postseason for the Yanks is upon us, the 21st in my lifetime. Amazing considering the Yanks missed the posteason for 13 straight years. This year was the hardest earned in my opinion, with the Baltimore Orioles chasing the Yankees from a 10 game deficit in mid July to be either tied or no more than a game back for most of September. This was a bona fide penant race because both teams wanted to avoide the new winner-take-all Wild Card game under MLB's new format.

The Orioles and Texas Rangers play that game on Friday with the winner meeting the game on Sunday. A tough matchup either way for the Yanks. I'll be rooting hard as I always do, but at the same time I'm eternally grateful for the wonderful memories I have of championships past.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Mom and Mitt Romney

My mom turns 70 today. I took the kids to see her this weekend at the nursing home. She seemed happy, as well as can be expected considering last year we worried that she was losing the ability to use her jaw as I blogged about. Multiple Sclerosis and dementia are a nasty combo. Fortunately, she can still eat on her own and doesn't need a feeding tube. She still can't use her right hand or her legs and I doubt she recognized us when we saw her. She's completely wheelchair bound. But there was genuine joy on her face when she saw my little girl again, regardless if she knew her. That we can be thankful for.

I hate to get political in this blog, but there are certain things that get me. It's the hidden things of this political season and President Bill Clinton mentioned it in his amazing convention speech.  If Mitt Romney is elected, under his VP Paul Ryan's plan, Medicaid will be gutted if not eliminated.  My mom needs 24 hour care.  She worked for the Board of Ed for nearly 20 years until her illness forced her retirement, and now her illness has devastated her quality of life. My mom couldn't get the services she needs without Medicaid.  There is no way my 78 year old father, my brother, sister, and me can afford on our own to take care of her. If Romney is elected, I wonder what will happen to my mom if he does what he wants to Medicaid. She is one of the 47% he derides.

Friday, September 28, 2012

You Learn Something New Everyday

I'm a sucker for random facts. I always like to learn something new, even if it doesn't impact my daily life. That's why I was a big fan of The History Channel, Discovery Channel, and TLC many years ago before they devolved into reality TV.  There was always something on that made me go, "Wow, I didn't know that." Well, that happened twice today and for a completely random reason to boot!

Anyway, going through my regular lunchtime political web reads (Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Slate, Politico, etc.), I came across this article on Slate comparing human births with other mammals. Being a father of a soon-to-be 9 month old, I was interested.  The article linked to another fascinating, but much older article in the New York Times on the same subject, which explained that human gestation is much longer than others because of the needed brain development, but the difficulty in birth (much longer for humans) is that the baby is born facing backward due to the smaller pelvice which is necessary for bipedalism.  So being big brained and able to walk screws us in the birthing process. But hey, it's worth it.

The article also mentioned the most difficult birth in the animal kingdom, that of the spotted hyena. Female spotted hyena don't have an accessible vagina, so they actually procreate and give birth through an elongated clitoris that looks like the penis of the male spotted hyena. This organ ruptures upon giving birth and up to 18% of first time spotted hyena moms die because of it.  That blew me away. But having cub hyenas that can fend for themselves (they're born with teeth) it's worth it.

That was the first random fact, but the second which really blew me away because it completely changed what I had believed all my life.  What is it?  Hyena are actually in the cat family in the animal kingdom rather than the dog family and the only reason they look like dogs is because of convergent evolution. Totally. Blown. Away.

So I went looking for info on the election and learned something new about hyenas.  Only on the Net.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What's In A Name?

My daughter just turned 8 months this weekend and, as I've mentioned before, her name is Elena Marie. My wife and I have named our children after the special people in our lives. Our son, Alexander Michael, is named after my parents Americo and Marion. We've been calling him Alex since birth, everyone else does, and he refers to himself as such, but in school he goes by the full Alexander. That was a good thing and I commended his Pre-K teacher for that. It made it easier for him to learn to spell his name.

Alex doesn't have any other name.  No, we're not going with Lex or Zander. Elena, however, has many different names.  She's named after my wife's sister and brother, Elly and Miguel.  My wife didn't want to give her a nickname like her sister because it would be too confusing, so she started calling her Laini (LAY-NEE). Alex calls Elena that too and, while I started off calling her Elly, I'm in the Laini crowd too. But it gets a little more complicated now. Our niece calls her Laila, and my wife has given her 2 alternate nicknames, one is Lulu (LOO-LOO) and the other, jokingly because of a friend from the neighborhood, Lailai (LAY-LAY) which is her "on the block" name.

Elena's young and she'll get to chose her nickname and she has a lot to choose from.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Memoriam, 9/11

Eleven years. I don’t know if it feels like yesterday or decades ago. That day remains vivid in my mind, however. It was a clear blue Tuesday morning, just like today. What I have a hard time remembering was September 10, 2001. I remember going down to court the week before. The courthouse was not far from the World Trade Center. Coming out of the subway the Towers were to my left in the distance, dominating the skyline. I go to that same subway station and I have a hard time remembering how the towers looked from that view. It puzzles me. Pre-9/11 seems like a dream. Maybe that’s why I can’t tell if it feels like yesterday or in the distant past. There seems to be no prologue. Just the post-9/11 world that I’ve become accustomed.

I can look back on my life of the last elevn years and so much has changed. I got married, bought a house, we have a son and a daughter. Life has endured, as America has endured despite what had happened. That was probably the hardest thing to foresee on 9/11. How life would go on.

Nearly three thousand people were murdered that day and their loved ones have had to find a way to live on, and they have. There are countless articles and expos├ęs on them out now to commemorate the anniversary. To the survivors, this past decade has been an elegy.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Happy 46th Anniversary, Star Trek!!!

Forty-six years ago tomorrow on September 8, 1966, NBC aired "The Man Trap," for the original STAR TREK. It was the first episode of the series aired, but it was not the first produced. Back then, studios got to chose what episodes to air and NBC likely chose "The Man Trap" because of it's monster-on-the-loose storyline. The original STAR TREK lasted only 3 seasons, but as we all know it became a cultureal phenomenon in reruns. Since I was born after the series went off the air, that's how I became a fan and have remained such for all these years.

As I previously wrote, my moral framework was formed by STAR TREK. I was a toddler glued to the screen watching reruns of the original series on WPIX. Yes, that’s completely geeky, but so what? I remember when I found out as an early teen that the US didn’t follow the Prime Directive (i.e., all peoples—alien or otherwise—had a right to self determination) and was devastated by that. There is something inherently noble about the original STAR TREK universe. Dave Marinaccio’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek perfectly captures what I learned from STAR TREK and all what I needed to know how to live, what to do, and how to be:


- Each person or each species, no matter how alien, has the right to live their lives as they wish. (AS long as they’re not trying to take over the galaxy or eat you or something.)


- Everyone has a role in life. Sulu is the navigator. Uhura is the communications specialist. Do your own job and the ship will function more smoothly.


- Whatever you are doing, answer a distress call. The most important time to help someone is when they need it.


- If you mess something up, it’s your responsibility to make things right again (Say you disrupt history and cause the Nazis to win World War II. To correct matters, you have to let Joan Collins walk in front of a car even though you’re in love with her.)


- The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play


- If you can keep your head in a crisis you’ve got a fighting chance.


- The unknown is not to be feared. It is to be examined, understood and accepted.


- Close friends become family and family is the true center of the universe.


- End every episode with a smile.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. It was a sort of epiphany seeing this. Yes, this is how we should live. Thank you, Gene Roddenberry and STAR TREK, and happy anniversary!!!

[updated from my September 8, 2011 post]

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Farewell Summer

Jeesh, it's September already. Where the heck did the summer go? I do feel that as I've gotten older the days have become shorter (since I've accumulated so many in my existence) that a week is like a day and a month is like a week. For my son starting 2nd Grade this week, the summer was like a year. But, of course, he's lamenting going back to school. Don't get me wrong: he loves it, but he loves camp more.
 
Me? I didn't take a vacation this year. I hardly do anyway and work through summer. My time "off" was taking two weeks in January after my daughter was born. But I enjoy the sun waking me in the morning before I get ready for the day and still being out when I leave work in the evening. The nice temperatures (I can even deal with a heat wave). That is what I lament. Spring is my favorite season because I think of birth and renewal. Life begins anew. The fall, while beautiful with the comfortable temperatures (and football season, of course), is bittersweet. If makes me think of endings and death.
 
The official end of summer is not until the end of September, but Labor Day has always marked it for me (and millions of others, of course). So goodbye, summer. It was fun, but all too quickly gone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dreamin' & Thinkin'

I have my moments of clarity every now and then. It happened to me recently when I was discussing Sci-Fi with a couple of friends of mine on a message board. We were getting all old fogy ("Get off my lawn!") and saying how kids today didn't have the Sci-Fi that we did and I wrote without much thought, "Yeah, Star Wars allowed us to dream, while Star Trek allowed us to think." Everyone was like, "Whoa, you're right!"

I didn't mean to be profound, but it came out that way, and it's true. I grew up in the late 1970s and early 80s with two versions of Sci-Fi, the cerebral like Star Trek, Fantastic Voyage, Forbidden Planet, etc. and the fantastical Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Battle Star Galactica, etc. The two major influences were Star Trek and Star Wars, of course. I've blogged before on how the original Star Trek set my moral compass and how it's a pretty good foundation to build our lives upon morally and philosophically. Trust me, the world would be a better place if we lived our lives by Star Trekian code.

But then there is Star Wars, which expanded our imagination and made us wonder. There is so much more thrills and excitement we can have and we are only limited by our imaginations. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, anything is possible.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Seven Months

As this summer flies by and I'm busy with work and doing revisions to go back on submission with LISTEN, it's easy to forget little milestones and, being a bad daddy, I nearly forgot an important one today.  Seven months ago today my daughter Elena was born.  Happy 7th Month Birthday!!!

One of the main reasons I almost forgot it is because this has been a laid back week compared to last week.  On Saturday, August 4th we celebrated our son Alex's 7th birthday with a big party at our house. A lot of family and friends, a lot of games for the kids, a lot of food for everyone, and a lot of booze for the adults.  It took me a day to recouperate after that one. But, unfortunately, little Elena got sick the day after the party.  We thought it was just a fever and related crankiness, but a day later her fever spiked and wouldn't drop so we rushed her to the hospital.

My poor daughter was suffering from coxsackie A virus.  It was scary at the hospital and until the doctors figured out what was ailing her, but once they did it was relief.  When you start thinking about blood diseases and leukemia it is absolutely frightening, and she had showed some signs of that early.  But all turned out well.  She stood in the hospital for three days with my trooper wife spending the nights there and me with them during the day. By late in the week she was fever free and back home with her appetite back and her relentless spirit to crawl everywhere no matter the obstacle. 

Back to normal and it feels great. So normal that I almost forgot the importance of today. I love you, Elena.  Happy 7th Month Birthday!!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

Chalk this one up to the old saying, "you learn something new every day." I was originally going to write a blog post opening with some thing along the lines of, "In these dog days of summer ..." and then realized, I wasn't sure when the dog days actually are.  I just thought of it has some time in late July through August when it's really hot and humid. The paradoxical time when summer seems to drag because of the heat and when summer seems to have rushed by because you realize September is right around the corner. So wanting to find the answer as to when the Dog Days are, I, of course, researched it.

When is not nearly as fascinating as how the term "Dog Days" came about.  I thought it was something recent, but oh, no.  The term "Dog Days" has existed since Ancient Roman times.  Yep, the Romans gave something else that still exists.  The Romans associated the hot weather with the star, Sirius, the Dog Star, named as such because it is the largets star in the constellation Canis Major, aka Large Dog.

For the Ancient Romans, the Dog Days ran from July 24 to August 24. In later times, the period was pushed back or pushed up, depending on the culture or what calendar was used.  I like the Roman version, even if we account for the fact that we use the Gregorian rather than Julian calendar today.  Late July through August seems about right.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seven Years Ago Today

Seven years ago today was the happiest day of my and my wife's lives. Our son, Alexander Michael was born on a Sunday mornining at NYU hospital. It's been a wonderful seven years. Happy Birthday, Alex!!! We love you!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises was my most anticipated movie of the summer.  Second was The Avengers, but that came out on May 3, which is technically not summer yet but opened up the summer movie season.  Anyway, the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado tempered some of that.  No, I don't blame the killings on the movie or think the psychotic murderer was inspired by the movie or comic books.  He was a psychotic murderer.  That's what they do. 

I also don't bother with the gun debate because it's futile.  Once the Robert's Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment as an unfettered right to bear arms, rather than in relation to militias (early US didn't have a standing army), the gun control lobby was toast.  Even if there were background checks and an assault weapons ban, the psychotic murderer would've still gotten guns and killed people.  Why?  Again, because he was a psychotic murderer. That's what they do.

Back to the film, and tempered excitement.  It really had to do with sadness over the whole situation. It ways on your mind and you feel for the victims families.  There was 24 hour news on it and it was hard to avoid, although I tried. Fortunately, I had my soon-to-be 7 year old son who was anxious to see the movie. He had no idea what happened in Colorado and that's a good thing.

I took him to the first showing on Sunday and we both loved it. It is such an epic film in scope and theme. Some critics have described it as "The Godfather of superhero movies" and I agree.  I loved The Dark Knight, but the late Heath Ledger's immortal portrayal of the Joker pretty much overshadowed the film.  Here, Rises does not have that issue (I, of course, would have loved to see Ledger in this movie but fate denied us that), and the movie succeeds on the collective efforts of the actors and film makers.

I've given up on the Oscars long ago.  It's nothing but a racket run by certain influential people that deem what should win and what should not.  Rises should be nominated, but who knows?  The Dark Knight got shafted out of a nomination.  Plus, there is some serious bias by the curmudgeon members of the Acadamy who vote.  They simply refuse to vote for a movie based on a comic book.  That's a shame because they'll be ignoring the best movie of the year thus far.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Golden Anniversary + 1

Fifty-one years ago today, Americo Cordero married Marion Ildefonso at Santa Cecilia Church in El Barrio, New York. The reception was at Marion's parents' apartment, which was too small for the festivities, so the party had to spill into the street.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Pop. I thank you and love you both dearly.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ST: TNG -- 25 Years Later

This coming September 28 marks the silver anniversary of the debut of Star Trek: The Next Generation, aka ST: TNG or simply TNG. Yeah, I know I'm jumping the gun here posting about this on July 11, but I got an email that reminded me of the anniversary.  I was like, "Holy crap, that was twenty-five years ago?"  Yes, it was.

Wow, time flies. Yes, people say that alot but it's true, mainly when you don't pay attention to something. Otherwise when you do, time seems to drag. That's a matter of human perception, but that is for another post. Anyway, back to the Next Generation which I hated at first.  Yes, I did.  I was an Original Series uber fan.  We call it now "The Original Series" because of the Next Generation, but for fans like me there was only one Star Trek. TNG was an interloper, an imposter leeching off the name of Sci-Fi royalty, no, Sci-Fi Scripture.

I watched every episode that first season, 26 in all and thought it pretty much sucked. It was crap. The special effects were nice, the best on TV at the time, but Star Trek wasn't about special effects.  It was about the big picture, the interaction of people you care about, and overall adventure. The characters were bland, there was no chemistry between the characters, and many seemed like knockoffs of the original (i.e. Riker for Kirk, Data for Spock).  It seems like the series creators thought it was crap too and made some changes, like late in the season killing off the annoying Tasha Yar (and they even gave her a lame death--jeesh, these wannabe Star Trek hacks can't even kill off a major character correctly). 

Anyway, things picked up in the second season and finally in the third season when we were introduced to The Borg as main villians the series hit it's stride.  So, yeah, I became a fan then.  Captain Picard grew on me, as did the Klingon Worf, who had the best story arcs in the whole series.  In fact, the series turned the corner when they abandoned the silly notion of kumbaya in space.  They needed conflict! And boy was there conflict throughout the third to seventh and final season.  It started with Picard's kidnapping by The Borg, through a Klingon civil war, and various other dilemma.  You cared about the characters because of who they are and what they endured.  That was the essence of Star Trek.

The series finale, "All Good Things," was one of the best Star Trek episodes ever, of any series.  In fact, it was better than any of the four TNG movies, which all should've been better than they were if they had better writing and better planning.  When it was over I was a full fledged TNG fan.  No, it was not the Original Series and it wasn't meant to be.  Yet it was worthy to stand along side it. Happy Silver Anniversary.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July, Independence Day +2

It is the 236th anniversary of the Second Continental Congress’ approval of the Declaration of Independence. The 4th of July is erroneously referred to as commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The document is dated July 4, 1776, but most delegates signed it on August 2. July 2 is actually the pivotal day in this nation’s founding. On that date, the Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence.

In fact, on July 3 the great John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

Poor John was off by two days. No one knows why July 2 was supplanted by the 4th, but it happened early. If anything, we can blame Philadelphia. On July 4, 1777 Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, then a year later General George Washington marked the holiday with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute on the 4th.

Since the celebration on the 4th rather than the 2nd happened so early, the myth of the 4th became firmly entrenched. Even John Adams had come to believe later on in life that he and the other delegates had signed the document on July 4.

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Baby's Baptism

Scheduling things when you need to coordinate three sets of schedules is tough, especially with a brother-in-law in Florida and a sister who is always busy on the weekends, the two Godparents. But we were able to work things out and schedule my six-month-old daughter's baptism for this past Sunday, July 1. Yes, we had to re-schedule it twice, but still.  It worked out well.

Except for the heat. And the fact that the Deacon is part of management for Con Ed and had come off a 12 hour shift at 7 am and had to go back to work at 7 pm in the evening. Didn't matter, because the Deacon was awesome in conducting the ceremony, along with our Pastor who presided over the mass. We also lucked out in having the choir director and whole choir participate. Yes, because of the difficult scheduling we had to do a private mass and we were able to get the different moving pieces to work. I'm so thankful to all of them.

I'm also thankful for the family and friends who braved the scorching heatwave and came out to the mass and the reception afterwards at our house. I had to make extra runs to the store to get more water, but it worked. And best of all, our little Elena Marie got Baptized. She'll get to chose her own religious path when she grows up. My parents did the same for me, but they gave me a foundation and emphasized my free will through out. I love you Elena and I'm so proud and happy to share this day with you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

First eAnniversary

I became a heavy fiction about 13 years ago when I graduated law school. Before that, I mainly read for law school and college, rarely reading for pleasure.  But with my first professional job I needed to find something to do on my hour long commute, so I did what most everyone else did on the train then--read.

I started off by reading successful books that became succussful movies (Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, Jaws, The Exorcist, etc.), being the movie buff that I am. Then I expanded my reading to include just about anything, be it family sagas, historicals, thrillers, scifi, YA, literary fiction, romance, or erotica. So long as I was entertained I was happy. The thing was, I was plowing through books and I always bought what I was going to read. That, of course, could be expensive so I focused mainly on paperbacks. Rarely did I ever buy hardcovers.  So if a new book came out that I was interested, I would just wait a year until its paperback release.

That all changed on June 21, 2011, the day I received my Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the mail.  The Tab was my first taste of tablets and I was in love. Surfing the web, watching videos, and yes, reading took up all of my time with my new device. I downloaded the Kindle and Nook apps and bought a couple of eBooks. I instantly loved the format, the ability to bookmark and highlight passages, and search the books for info. Surprisingly, it seemed that I was reading faster on my Tab than I was with physical copy of books.  That meant I had to buy more books that before, which, of course, I did. The beauty of it is that the books tended to be cheaper, which allowed me to buy a bunch of newly published books. No longer did I have to wait a year for the book to come out in order to afford it.

The Tab changed my reading routine. Now I read everywhere and at any free moment I had. That was probably why I read faster. There was so much ease in picking up the Tab, plopping down on the couch to check my email and news, and then hit the Nook app to start reading.  After a year I'm still in love with it.

I still buy physical copy of books, mainly from authors that I know and at book signing for authors I enjoy.  But I'm still all-in on eBooks. The future is now and it couldn't be better.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!!

To my father, uncles, brothers-in-law, friends who are fathers, and all fathers going strong or dearly departed, Happy Father's Day!!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writing Paralysis

We always hear about writer's block, how writer's are stumped and don't know what to write.  Fortunately (and in no way am I bragging), I don't suffer from that and I always have something to write and when I don't I go research. My main problem is writing depression which brings on writing paralysis.

Writing depression is depression brought on by all the negatives surrounding this profession--the rejections, the delays, the long waits, the feeling that what you do isn't good enough, or on the flipside it is good enough but no one will get to see it for a myriad of reasons. It's a bleakness of our being.  The problem is compounded because not only do I feel like crap because of it, I can't write while I'm feeling like that.  I can't create a new story or tackle revisions, which is my dilemma right now. 

After I went on sub for LISTEN, I planned to tackle the intensive revisions for DRAGORO, but I've been sitting on that for a while now.  It had gotten so bad recently that I sat in front of the computer with the Word file open for a couple of hours and didn't type a thing.  I stared at the screen for a while, surfed the net, left the computer, came back and still couldn't do anything.  That's writing paralysis.  I just couldn't do anything and that pissed me off and made me more depressed.

The only thing I can do is try to fight through it.  Fortunately last night, in between watching the NBA Finals, I had a breakthrough.  A small one, but still a breakthrough.  I was able to finish the revisions on the first chapter.  A start, but it means I was able to write again.  I'm still feeling depressed, but writing helps to lift that.  That's how I was able to finish LISTEN.  I started off slow because of the paralysis, but built up steam to get it done.  I have to do the same on these revisions.  I had a breakthrough last night, and hopefully I can continue that momentum tonight when I get home from work.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

BEA Week/Teen Author Carnival

Yep, the pub industry's uber trade convention, Book Expo America, aka BEA is going on now at the Javits Center. Unfortunately, I don't have a ticket this year so I can't attend, but BEA can be followed on Twitter, on blogs, word-of-mouth, etc., so you can get filled in on all the details as the convention goes on.  Fortunately, writers/authors/fans like myself who haven't gone to BEA, can see many of our favorite authors through the Teen Author Carnival series with this year's installment being held last night at the Jefferson Market Library.

It was great to see so many authors and sit in on their panels. There was an impressive list of YA authors, who spoke about their experiences, did Q&A, and book signings thereafter.  This is the second year I've gone and I plan to do it again next year. Best of all, however, I got to hang out with authors Gretchen McNeil, Zoraida Cordova, Karsten Knight, and Scott Tracey afterwards in a bar in the West Village. They each have books either already out or coming out that I've enjoyed or extremely excited to read.  It was an amazing evening and one I look forward to repeating.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Derek Jeter, Twenty Years Later

On Monday, June 1, 1992, I was in the Army stationed in Camp Castle, South Korea, ten miles south of the DMZ.  I was probably out in the field that day doing training.  We were usually out in the field every two weeks.  If not, I was on post doing maintenance on our broken down armored personnel carrier.  The APC was usually broken down so that's how I know I was probably doing that. Thousands of miles away, the future of my baseball fandom was changing. Of course, I didn't know it at the time.  In fact, the MLB draft was little publicized then.  Heck, it's really not publicized now, unlike its heavily promoted counterparts in the NBA and NFL drafts. Even back then they were huge televised events with picks announced on live TV and the drafted players coming on stage to take pictures with the commissioner.  MLB? The draft is done on a conference call and no players are in attendance.

Well, on that Monday, the New York Yankees got a little bit of a baseball miracle.  The Yanks, who were terrible at the time, had the 6th selection in the draft and their highest rated player was a skinny high school shortstop out of Kalamazoo, Michigan named Derek Sanderson Jeter. The first five teams surprisingly passed on him.  The Houston Astros had the top pick and, famously, their top scout and Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser quit in protest after the draft because his superiors failed to heed his pleas that the team draft Jeter.

Jeter slipped passed the other four pics and when it came to the Yanks, the team officials were giddy beyond belief. Yet there was some reservation because Jeter had a scholarship in hand to go to Michigan. Yankees longtime scout Dick Groch, who had had followed Jeter the most, allayed his superior's fears by proclaiming, "He's not going to Michigan.  He's going to Cooperstown."  And Mr. Groch proved precient, because once Jeter's stellar career is over he'll be inducted to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

The Yankees were terrible back in June 1992 and I was having a bad time of it myself, having just turned 20 and being alone and so far away from home. Things turned out pretty well for me and the Yanks over the next two decades I would say.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Forty-one years ago this weekend, the United States celebrated its first Memorial Day as an official federal holiday. Hard to believe that it took so long for such a holiday commemorating the U.S. men and women who died while in military service to become official, but it did. The holiday original began in the 1860s to honor the Union soldiers of the American Civil War and was then known as Decoration Day. Many states of the U.S. South refused to celebrate Decoration Day. The alternative name of Memorial Day was first used in 1882 and did not become more common until after World War II. It became the official name by Federal law in 1967 and by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday. The act took effect in 1971.

Friday, May 25, 2012

"The Force Will Be With You Always" ... 35 Years Later

Thirty-five years ago today, May 25, 1977, 20th Century Fox released a space western by an ambitious young filmaker that would change cinema forever.  The studio gave little marketing help beyond licensing T-shirts and posters and was afraid the film would be beaten out by other summer films like SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, so they upped the release to the Wednesday before Memorial Day Weekend.

I was 5 years old at the time with a 14 year old and 15 year old brother and sister. They wanted to go see it and take me along.  They had to convince my mom to take us, but we had to wait.  It wasn't until August that we saw it in a movie theater in Manhattan, and it blew me away like it did a generation of kids, teens, and adults.  Anything seemed possible in movies now.

Happy 25th-Anniversary STAR WARS, the Force will be with us, always.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Wrong Side of History

History hates bigots, because bigots never look better with age.  Do we look fondly on Segregation? Jim Crow laws? The Southern Manifesto? Women denied the right to vote?  This is just the 20th Century in the U.S.  The best defense anyone can muster is, "that was a different time," as if if saying, "Yeah, I know they were outright bigots then and were dead wrong, but a lot of people were like that then."

That legacy plays out in the political arena on two fronts. First is with President Obama, who if you really look at it, embodies the greatest of America.  He has lived the American Dream, a dream many detractors lament as a myth.  Yet with him it's true. A mixed child of a single mom on public assistance who goes to Harvard and becomes president of the sole remaining super power.  Those who believe in American supremacy should be lauding him, but of course, they seek to tear him down at every turn. That's the great irony of the GOP today.  It's not just policy difference.  They hate him, they deny he's American, or a Christian, they make him into the black boogie man like their predecessors in history have done to the proverbial "other." When my young children grow up and their children, they will look on them as we look on the segregationists now. They are on the wrong side of history.

Then there is the issue of marriage.  Yes, those against "gay" marriage are bigots. There is no way around it.  Marriage is a civil institution, just like getting a driver's license, or work permit.  The government cannot legislate religious morality.  Any push for equal marriage has been civil.  No one can force a priest, rabbi, or cleric to officiate a marriage between two men or women.  Religious institutions, preciding over a religious ceremony, can decide who they conduct those ceremonies for. That is the separation of church and state. But somehow, the U.S. Conference of Bishops and other religious leaders are up in arms over gays getting married by a government official, which makes no real sense.  They appear to have no problem with aethiests and Satan worshippers getting married, so long as they're straight.  Gay marriage doesn't affect straight marriage, but the religiously leaders still push against it, leading to that ridiculous vote in North Carolina.  A majority should not vote on the rights of the minority.  Otherwise, would segregation have ended?  The Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress ended it, not the voting public because that public would have likely voted to keep it in place.

There's many reasons I'm proud to live in New York, one of them that one of the last vestigious of inequality has been done away. It was up to the state legislature to do that, to protect the rights of the minority. That is democracy, because it protects against mob rule.  Those against it arel surely on the wrong side of history.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sports Summer of '94

With the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils facing each other for the first time in 18 years for a birth into the Stanley Cup Finals, I'm reminded of that magical sports summer of 1994 in the city and what could have been the greatest summer of our sports lives.  The unforgettable parallel would-be championhsip runs of the Rangers and Knicks consumed May and June and the Yankees were the best team in baseball at the time, something that hadn't happened since 1978.

The Rangers were able to finish the deal, with their incredible comeback against the Devils down 3-2 in the series with The Captain Mark Messier guaranteeing the victory in game 6 and having a hat trick in the process and the "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" goal in double overtime to win the series.  The Stanley Cup Finals was a bit anti-climactic although that series went 7 games as well, mainly because the Rangers blew a 3-1 series lead but were able to finish the deal.  If anything, the series was more frustrating than anything else because after such an epic run it'll piss you off to no end if the Rangers lost to the inferior Canucks.

The excitement in those 2 weeks of June was in the Knicks-Houston Rockets NBA Finals.  And it was also surreal because during Game 2 on a Friday Night there was OJ's infamous white Bronco car "chase."  With the Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals going on at the same time with the two teams that call Madison Square Garden a home, the city was in an absolute frenzie.  By Friday, June 17, the Rangers had won their first Cup since 1940 (finally ending those annoying "19-40" chants by Islander fans), and the Knicks had taken a 3-2 series lead.  The greatest sports summer of our lives was upon us ... but just like that, it wasn't.

The Knicks would lose the series in excrutiating fashion, losing both games 6 and 7 in Houston.  And the Yanks, finally playing winning ball after so many years had their chance at a World Series title snuffed out by the the baseball strike.  On June 17, everything was so glorious, but then it was gone.  At the least--and it wasn't really a least--the Rangers had finally won the Cup.  Fans had to wait 54 years for that one, and now hopefully the 18 year wait is over.

The Knicks are relevant again and the Yanks had their dynasty, but it is full circle for the Rangers. For them, let the Cup runneth over.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!

To my mother, wife, sister, aunts, sisters-in-law, friends who are mothers, and all mothers going strong or dearly departed, Happy Mother's Day!!!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers!!!

To celebrate my birthday, my son "took me" to see The Avengers. Yeah, technically I drove and bought the tickets, but it was still his idea and a great idea at that. Of course, were were going to see The Avengers even if he hadn't suggested it, but still.  I love the fact that my son and I share the same interests so what excites him excites me so it's like living two lives. I'm enjoying the moment as a father and as a son through his eyes.

Now, of course, my wife came along too ("What am I, chopped liver?" she'd ask if I didn't mention her). We all loved the movie and a job well done by director Joss Whedon and incredible cast of Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and others. This is how comic movies are supposed to be made and lends further credence to the notion that comic book fans are the ones that should be making these movies. It's been a remarkable run by Marvel Studios, who gambled and won in making it's own cinematic universe in six films.  We can't wait to see what they do for an encore.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stupid Mistakes

Considering that Amar'e Stoudemire's incredibly stupid and selfish actions in punching a fire extinguisher glass ruined any chance that the Knicks could make a series of their first round playoff matchup with the uber talented Miami Heat, just like his stupid and selfish actions in trying to do a circus dunk ruined the Knicks chances in last year's playoffs, I'm trying to think of the incredibly stupid things I have done in my life.

No, I'm not going to list them because they may or may not have involved things that may be construed as illegal activity (I'm really not sure), but I know I have acted reckless in the past. Yes, I've disregarded my safety and the safety of others without thinking things out. Thankfully, I and others escaped any harm. Usually afterwards I'm thinking to myself, "Damn, you're such an idiot!"  The benefit of getting older is that those instances are now few and far between and I can honestly say I don't remember the last time I was in such a situation. Usually, the common sense part of my brain kicks in and stops me saying, "Hey, dumbass, what the hell are you thinking." I also know when I'm getting really angry and I stop myself from lashing out. The immediate gratification of the anger release is never worth the consequences.

So you can say I've found that happy place away from self destruction. Amar'e, despite the millions of dollars he's earned and the year's he's been in the NBA, still hasn't found that place. It's a shame because all of us--his teammates, the die-hard Knicks fans, and basketball fans in general yearning for a good series--is the ones to suffer.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Farewell, Ol' Buddy

As I mentioned in my previous post, my wife and I celebrated our Tenth Wedding Anniversary on April 26. We couldn't do anything special that evening because I had to go to night court, which sucked, but I was able to get home not too late so we could share some Chinese food. Not overly romantic, I know, but it was all good (and I got to see the Rangers win a thrilling game 7 after my wife and kids went to sleep). Luckily, I had set it up that our real anniversary celebration was the Saturday before where I took my wife to see Mamma Mia, which was amazing, and had a great dinner afterwards at my wife's favorite restaurant. A wonderful day all around.

Besides getting married ten years ago around this time, I also bought my second computer as a birthday gift for myself (yes, I do that occasionally). My first computer was a Packard Bell in 1996, which had as much computing power as some cheap smartphones today.  My second computer was top of the line in 2002, a Dell Dimension 4400. The problem with technology, of course, is that it tends to be obsolute as soon as you buy it.  I made the Dell last ten years and it's still going today, barerly. I survived a major crash in 2007 where the Blue Screen of Death nearly claimed another victim, but I was able to rebuild the computer to make it last until today.

Ten years of marriage, ten years older, it was about time to get a new computer. I ordered a top-of-the-line HP over the weekend and I should be getting it this week.  I'll miss my Dell. Heck, I've written all my manuscripts on that computer and it was there from my first book until going on submission two weeks ago.  It's had a good computing life. Thanks ol' buddy.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26, 2002

Ten years ago today, on a Friday evening at Holy Family Church in the Bronx, I married the love of my life, Betsy Morales, whom I had met at John Jay College of Criminal Justice six years earlier.  Thanks for the best 16 years of my life with two wonderful kids. Happy Anniversary, Betsy!!!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Today in History

As we all know, 100 years ago today the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic, and 1,500 passengers and crew lost their lives. A tragedy forever immortalized in history. Yet history played out slowly that fateful night/early morning and the news trickled out to the world.

How different would it be today with the instant news cycle? We would hope that help could arrive quicker as passengers would take to cell phones, Facebook, and Twitter to get the news out about what was happening.On the flip side there'd probably be live streaming of the sinking and ensuing chaos with the world watching. Modern media cuts both ways.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Here. We. Go ...

Back on March 30th I mentioned that my agent and I were switching gears and focusing on my YA paranormal thriller LISTEN. Well, we are in full swing now because I am officially on submission! Yes, it's exciting and a little scary, but it's the point I've waited so long for that many times I didn't think it would come. Now it's here and I'm going to celebrate a little with my wife and two kids tonight. A nice dinner with one of my favorite foods (fried pork chops) and just lounge for a bit before I watch my Knicks take on the Bucs in the biggest game of the season.

After that I'll begin the waiting part and keeping myself busy writing-wise. That shouldn't be too hard because I've started plotting out the two LISTEN sequels (come on, you know this had to be a trilogy) and have a heavy dose of revisions to work on for DRAGORO.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

HAPPY EASTER!!!!

To all those who celebrate Easter, may you all have a Happy Easter filled with love and joy.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good Friday, the True Date

Tomorrow is Good Friday, the solemnest day in the Christian calendar, which commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The traditional year for the date of Jesus’ crucifixion is 33 CE (Common Era, aka AD), but this is based on the false premise that Jesus was born the year before 1 CE and died at the age of 33.

The actual date for Jesus’ crucifixion is Friday, April 5 in the year 30 CE. Matching the Gospel accounts with the Hebrew and modern-day calendars, the year 30 CE is the sole viable choice because that was only year in Jesus’ late adult life where Friday was the end of the first day of Passover (which began Thursday evening). According to Scripture, Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew Calendar. Passover in the year 30 CE was on the night of April 4 (Nisan 15, 3790) and the Last Supper was a Passover Seder.

Knowing the precise date is easier than knowing where the term Good came from. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Some say it is from ‘God’s Friday’ (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Boys Are Back!

Wednesday marks the start of another season of Major League Baseball and my Yankees open up in Tampa on Friday. The start of the baseball season is the unofficial start of spring for me, so it's always filled with anticipation and excitement, especially with this glorious run we Yankee fans have had since the start of the 1993 season. I was in the Army back then when the team finally had emerged from the few dark seasons and laid the foundation for the late 1990s dynasty and the 2009 championship squad.

NFL hall of famer, Howie Long, perfectly contrasted baseball and football. In his hall of fame induction speech he said that while baseball was America’s pastime, football was America’s passion. I agree with that. I’m passionate about football, but love baseball. Someone else described the distinction as football being the way life is while baseball is the way life should be. No matter how much the owners and players try to screw it up, and the media criticizes it, baseball is still a great game. A game to enjoy for the whole family, and my family surely does.

The thing I cherish most about baseball is the nostalgia, both in the game and in your own experience. The game is a time machine where you can envision the players of the past playing the same game as today, and the players from today playing in the past, even with the whole steroid issue. The personal nostalgia is the memories I have, of my parents being big baseball fans (they still are), but my father being mainly a Met fan, and my mother being a die-hard Yankee fan. I was born in 1972, so I never got to see the original Yankee Stadium, but my mother did. She also got to see Mickey Mantle play. My mother suffers from dementia, but while her memories have left her they remain with me from the stories she shared. That’s the beauty of baseball

Friday, March 30, 2012

Switching Gears

A week ago I blogged on the Promise of Spring and how this is my favorite time of the year. Of course, we hit a cold spell and it hasn't felt like Spring much, although it remains sunny. But Spring for me is more about something I feel. Growth, change, and hope. I mentioned the possibility of switching gears on DRAGORO because it's hit a snag, well, my agent John and I have decided that the possibility is now a reality.

While I was trudging through the odyssey of revisions for DRAGORO I had written another book called LISTEN, a YA paranormal thriller. I sent it to John last week and it was agreed to do some revisions and get that book ready to go on submission in a short period of time. It's exciting and sad, because I wanted to see DRAGORO through, but there is still much work to be done while LISTEN is pretty much ready to fly. So, DRAGORO will remain on hold for the time being while we concentrate on doing everything we can to sell LISTEN. That's exciting and fits perfectly into the Promise of Spring.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Promise of Spring

Spring is my favorite time of the year, especially now with the unseasonably warmer weather. The sun shines more, the air is warmer, and everything seems more alive. There's always a sense of promise, a promise that things will get better. It's not always the case, of course, but it just seems that way.

I'm thinking about that now because of the contrast to the dark clouds in my life. A dear friend of mine, only 40, was recently diagnosed with cancer. He goes into surgery next week. You think how young we are and how much life still has to offer, and then mortality slaps you in the face. I can't help but think of my own. My baby girl is just 2 months and my son will be 7 by the end of summer. There's no guarantee I'll be blessed enough to watch them grow up. I'm also going through a transition writing wise, as DRAGORO has hit a snag and shifting gears to another project may be the best bet. Then there is the still shaky job market. I'm lucky to still be in the same job after 12 years, but who knows what next year will bring if business doesn't pick up? There are other things, but you get the point.

Yet there is still the promise of Spring. Life renewed. We'll get through all this the best we can.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

March 17 has come again and that means another St. Patrick’s Day, one of my favorite holidays of the year. The holiday is named after the patron saint of Ireland, who was born in Roman Britain circa AD 387, was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland where he lived for six years before escaping, became an ordained priest when he returned home, and returned to Ireland as bishop and Christian missionary. Legend has it that me died on March 17, but there is debate as to whether it was AD 460 or AD 493.

St. Patrick’s Day began as a purely Catholic holiday and became an official feast day in the early 1600s. Today—except in Ireland where it is a holy day of obligation—it is a secular celebration of Irish culture. A little known tidbit is that the original color associated with St. Patrick was blue, but over the years the color green became associated with the holiday. Blue St. Patrick’s Day? Nahhhh.

My office always has a breakfast spread for the holiday and I never miss it. I love office comp! A few years back the office administrator got creative and had all the bagels and muffins dyed green. She also had the milk for coffee dyed green. It looked great, but no one dared eat or drink any of it. She insisted that the food in milk didn’t taste any different, but our stomachs couldn’t overcome the barrier our eyes had set up. We'll have the little celebration on Monday because, with St. Paddy's Day on Saturday we're out of the office, of course.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

4:01 Just Doesn't Have Same Ring as 12:01

The NFL decided to do things different this year. Rather than start it's league year on March 1 and at 12:01 a.m., they are starting it two weeks later at 4:01 p.m. That simply doesn't have the same ring to it. The start of the league year means the start of free agency. I've blogged on this before, how legions of NFL fans (me included) would stay up past midnight to get the latest news and rumors on what team is signing which player. Now, we have to wait late in the work day for such news. Bummer.

The local teams are not believed to be that active in free agency. The defending Super Bowl champs, the New York Giants, didn't do much last year and got killed by the media and fans alike. Of course we know how that turned out. The best news thus far is that they re-signed a key member of their secondary, albiet, one that was injured last season.

The other team in town, the New York Jets is an enigma in free agency this year. They have more salary cap room than the Giants, but no one is sure who they'll target. So it will be exciting to follow later this afternoon, but not like years past. Oh well. Times are a changin'.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

I haven't done many book reviews on my blog. Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I did one. I read alot, of course, mostly via my Galaxy Tab 10.1 (which I LOVE!!!) while commuting (bus/subway, not driving). I also read some hard copies, but mainly for the books of my author friends. One of the many benefits of the Tab is that I get to read a lot in a short period of time. I don't know why that is so. The book lengths aren't any shorter electronically. But, anyway, with the Tab, I finish books within 10 days tops, which means I've plowed through a lot since I bought the Tab in June 2011. The best of those books is John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

Come to think of it, STARS is one of the best books I have ever read in any medium or genre. It's a dramedy about two extremely likeable teens Hazel, the narrator, and her love interest, Gus, both stricken with cancer. Hazel is terminal while Gus is in remission. Hazel is still alive because of a wonder drug keeping her cancer at bay, but it's not a cure. Gus lost his leg to the disease. The book follows their romance and how each deal with their own and the other's mortality. What is wonderfully ironic thing about the book is SPOILER ALERT:

Gus uses his Wish (like Make-a-Wish foundation) to take Hazel to Amsterdam to see her favorite author and find out what becomes of the characters in her favorite book. The author turns out to be a complete ahole and tells Hazel, essentially, that it's just a book and it's fiction and nothing becomes of the characters. The irony, of course, is that when reading STARS, you fall utterly in love with Hazel and Gus, which makes the heartbreak that much worse, because, of course, they are the proverbial star-crossed lover. Hence the title, which is a play on the famous line from Shakespeare's JULIUS CAESAR.

The book is funny and gutwrenchingly real. Or as Hazel says, "You have a choice in this world, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice." An increadibly good book that made me laugh and cry throughout, I'm so glad I read this. Great books not only entertain you, but they change you after having read it. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS did just that.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Yes, I'm Linsane

Being a longtime (and at one point closeted) Knicks fan, I've purposely have not posted on Linsanity. Yes, I am All Lin on the Knicks right now, thoroughly excited about what Jeremy Lin has brought to my favorite basketball team. I just want to see how it all plays out. No, I'm not worried about Carmelo Anthony, who has been wrongfully vilified by the media. He has played hurt for most of the season and was saddled by the worst point guard tandem in the NBA (Douglas and Bibby) before Lin's miraculous emergence.

I'm mainly concerned about Amar'e Stoudemire who looks 100 years old right now and the Knicks owner, the Scourge of New York sports, James Dolan. Amar'e needs to regain his old form while Dolan needs to not revert to his old form. Both scenarios, however, may be unlikely. So right now I'm cautiously optimistic. They are only 18-18 at the moment, but they were 10-5 in February, which is a very good record. They're a deep team with a dynamic player at the point in Lin, an elite scorer in Melo, and a good defensive mentality overall. In other words, they should go on a good run in the second half of the season, but you never know with the Dolan Knicks. So I'm filled with Linsanity and hopefully, can ride the wave into the summer.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!!!

I started this blog in February 2009 (yes, this is the 3rd anniversary-ish), which means it didn't exist in 2008 for the last Leap Day. So, of course, I couldn't miss posting on February 29th!

According to Wikipedia (duh, the repository of all knowledge): "February 29 is a date that usually occurs every four years, and is called leap day. This day is added to the calendar in leap years as a corrective measure, because the earth does not orbit around the sun in precisely 365 days."

Little known/useless facts: Every year divisible by 4 is a leap year under the Gregorian calendar (the current standard calendar for most of the world). But years divisible by 100 are not UNLESS they are also divisible by 400. So, 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. The same for 2100.

Also according to Wikipedia: "The Gregorian calendar was designed to keep the vernal equinox on or close to March 21, so that the date of Easter (celebrated on the Sunday after the 14th day of the Moon—i.e. a full moon—that falls on or after March 21) remains correct with respect to the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox year is about 365.242374 days long (and increasing)."

So Happy Leap Day everyone!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Oscars? Who Cares?

Since I've started this blog in 2009 I've posted my Oscar predictions. Prior to that I participated in an Oscar pool at my wife's job and we won a couple of times over the years. Not to pat myself on the back, but I was pretty good at predicting the winners. But I've lost interest in the Oscars as the worthy winners have continued to be ignored by the Academy.

The year THE DARK KNIGHT didn't get nominated for Best Picture was the beginning of the end of me. It was a complete joke and led the Academy to expand the Best Picture category from 5 nominees to a maximum of 10. Last year was the final straw. The best film of 2010, INCEPTION, got Weinsteined (i.e., the Weinstein brothers' Oscar push which always seems to manipulate the final results), and it lost out to the far inferior THE KING'S SPEECH. Worst of all, THE KING'S SPEECH beat out INCEPTION for Best Original Screenplay, which was a complete travesty. Seriously? Writing about a well known public figure for a boring as hell movie is more Oscar worthy to a magnificently original story and compelling narrative?

Go to hell, Academy, and continue your road to irrelevance and consistently declining ratings for your over produced self important award show.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Remembering Malcolm X





Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. Personally, the most influential book I’ve ever read (besides the Bible) is The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I read it back in 1991 when I joined the U.S. Army. It had a profound impact on me, and Malcolm X remains one of my idols. I collected documentaries on him, and videos and audio tapes of his speeches. I even had a poster up of him in my barracks room (which confused many of my platoon mates—White, Black, and fellow Latinos alike). He’s a misunderstood figure to many, regardless of race or ethnicity. For instance, he is known for the saying: “By any means necessary.” It’s viewed positively and negatively depending on your POV. It’s ironic that his famous—or infamous—saying is taken out of context. He said it to mean that Blacks should defend themselves by any means necessary.

Many of his views were harsh, but he was willing to reassess them as he gained more knowledge. As he wrote, “My whole life had been a chronology of—changes .… Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.”

There’s a subtle, but important event in the book. A white female college student had been so moved by Malcolm’s speech at her New England school early in his ministry that she flew down to New York to see him. She found him at the Nation of Islam’s restaurant in Harlem and asked him what she could do to help the plight of African Americans in this country. Malcolm bluntly said, “Nothing.” She burst out crying and ran out the restaurant. Later on in the book after Malcolm had embraced the idea of the kinship of all peoples and the races working together to end racism, Malcolm reflects that he regretted telling her that, thought about her often whenever the topic arose, and wished he knew her name to write or telephone her. It troubled me that in Spike Lee’s movie he put the rejection scene in without the context of Malcolm’s later regret in how he dealt with the situation.

A month before his murder in February 1965, Malcolm said during an interview on Canadian television: “I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being—neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.”

This was at a time when intermarriage was not only taboo in the U.S., but still illegal in some states. It was actually counter to his previous views on interracial marriage during his early times with the Nation of Islam. This was a man who evolved in his ministry and world view and recognized this evolution. It is this evolved Malcolm—El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz—who is one of the forefathers of how we view race today.

Ash Wednesday

Later today I'll be going to the Cathedral of Saint Patrick in NYC to get my ashes, as I’ve done for years past on Ash Wednesday. I’m a life long Catholic, with—admittedly—periods of agnosticism and atheism (a long story for another blog post). But I’ve been back to the home town religion for the last 25 years or so. I had been getting my ashes for so long, that I had lost track of the reason behind it. That’s a big no-no in Christianity. Jesus explicitly distinguished His followers from the pagans by noting that the pagans followed ritual without worship. In other words, they went through the motions without understanding why. For His followers, however, Jesus wanted them to know and understand by worshipping in their hearts and by their deeds. So a few years back I researched Lent and Ash Wednesday to make sure I knew what it was really about.

Yes, I know that Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season in the Christian calendar, the 40 day period of preparation for Good Friday and Easter, but I had wanted to know more. According to the pamphlet handed out in St. Patrick’s, in explanation of Ash Wednesday:

“The ashes of Ash Wednesday not only describe our humanity, more emphatically, they are a proclamation of hope, reconciliation and peace. Ashes give symbolic expression to our trusting dependence in God’s merciful love.”

Okay. Now for the explanation for Lent in the pamphlet:

“Lent is the period of forty days during which we examine our lives in order to renew our faith. Through acts of love, we become more like Christ in our attitude toward God and one another. Let prepares us to take part fully in the celebration of the Easter Mysteries during the Triduum (3 days) of the Lord’s Supper, his Passion, Death and glorious resurrection on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, the holiest days of the Christian year.”

Being a history buff, I didn't stop there. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Lent and Ash Wednesday first arose at different times. The word Lent is Teutonic in origin and referred originally to the spring season. The significance of the number 40 invokes both Moses and the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus fasting for 40 days in the desert in preparation of His ministry, and Jesus lying 40 hours in the tomb.

A preliminary 40 day fast for Easter arose in the Fourth Century. This was not inclusive to the then separate custom of fasting during Holy Week. This preliminary fasting period became known as Lent. By the Fifth Century, Lent lasted for six weeks including Holy Week, but there was actually only three total weeks of fasting excluding the weekends. Soon there was a split, with some Christian communities insisting on 40 actual days of fasting and, thus, Lent would last eight weeks (40 days plus non-fasting weekends) with other communities sticking with the six week tradition. By the Seventh Century the six week tradition won out, but with six days a week fasting for a total of 36 fasting days. The tradition of beginning Lent with Ash Wednesday began in the Eighth Century. It arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. The ashes themselves are from the previously blessed palms from the prior year’s Palm Sunday. By the Middle Ages, Lent consisted of forty weekdays which were all fast days, and six Sundays with Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent.

As to the fast itself, there has never been a hard tradition. Some Christian communities abstained from eating anything that was once alive, others abstained from all living creatures except fish, and others only ate birds and fish. There was a consensus, however, that for fasting days there was only one meal a day and it was taken in the evening. Over the years, the fasting requirements were relaxed and now in the United States no meat may be eaten on Ash Wednesday, Lenten Fridays including Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. The origin of making a Lenten sacrifice is more obscure, but probably arose with the relaxation of the fasting requirement.



Finally, now that we know about Lent & Ash Wednesday the the last big question is--why is Easter at a different time every? Is there a hidden Church calendar we don't know about? Does the Pope pray for divine inspiration when to set it? No. Easter is reckoned to the traditional start of spring, March 21 and the first full moon thereafter. Generally, Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon following March 21. This year the first full moon after March 21 is April 6 and Easter Sunday is on April 8.