Friday, February 27, 2015

The Death of a Role Model

When I was in first grade my father was stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and we lived in neighboring Clarksville, Tennessee.  The family all talked about a tv show they really liked but my parents thought it might be too scary for me so I wasn’t allowed to watch.  Eventually, though, they changed their minds and one Friday I was allowed to stay up and watch with the rest of the family.  I remember the excitement and anticipation. 

It was “Star Trek.”  The first episode I saw was called “The Arena” and featured a reptilian race called the Gorn.  Capt. Kirk and the Gorn captain are transported onto an uninhabited planet and told that only one can leave and the loser’s ship will be destroyed.  Capt. Kirk wins by making a primitive projectile weapon.  As he walks around the area of the fight he finds all the materials he would need.  As I watched, captivated by the plot, I was sure that my older siblings and parents would have been smart enough to do just what Kirk did, and equally convinced that I would not. Clearly, I needed to pay close attention in school and read more books.   

Even more fascinating was the tall, slender dark haired man in the blue shirt.  His name was Spock.  He quickly became my favorite character; he was surely the smartest guy on the ship.  I wanted to be that smart and that probably provided additional incentive to study.  As a teenager I had a large poster of Spock in my room.  He was a role model and inspiration, at least as much as a fictional character can be. 

As an adult I read both of Leonard Nimoy’s autobiographies to learn more about the man who fleshed out the character.  I read the autobiographies of other cast members from the original Star Trek series and one thing that stuck with me are the positive things they had to say about Nimoy.  He stood up for the supporting actors / actresses in salary and other disputes.  I have remembered that and tried to emulate it.


Leonard Nimoy died today.  Mine was one of the millions of lives he touched.  My sympathies are with his family.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SEPTA Asks Regular Riders to Play Nice for Flower Show

from the inbox:

 Each year, the Philadelphia Flower Show (February 28 – March 8) attracts thousands of horticultural fans to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and SEPTA Regional Rail service. In anticipation of the increased ridership during the week of the Flower Show, SEPTA is asking its regular commuters to help welcome the new and infrequent riders.

“We want to remind our customers that there will be many new faces on regional rail trains,” Kim Heinle, SEPTA’s Assistant General Manager of Customer Service and Advocacy said. “Many of the show’s visitors are infrequent riders who may only take the train once a year or are taking it for the first time.”

Regular SEPTA commuters can welcome the new and infrequent riders by:
• Using overhead racks for large carry-on items
• Accommodating other customers that wish to use the middle seats
• Yielding priority seats to riders with disabilities and seniors
• Being courteous and patient with unfamiliar riders

The Quiet Ride Program will be temporarily suspended for the duration of the 2015 Flower Show beginning Saturday, February 28 and continuing through Sunday, March 8. Crews will be focused on safety, fare collection and announcements and will do their best to keep things from getting too noisy. SEPTA is asking regular riders to anticipate some conversation and commotion inside of the QuietRide Car during this heavy travel period.

SEPTA Ambassadors will also be out at Jefferson Station to greet and assist Flower Show visitors.

The 2015 ‘Celebrate the Movies –Lights, Camera, Bloom’ show will attract thousands of visitors. Held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the annual Philadelphia Flower Show is the oldest and largest event of its kind. SEPTA’s Independence and Family Independence passes offer a convenient, economical way to travel into Center City for the show. Visitors can also purchase discounted admission tickets to the Flower Show at SEPTA sales offices, Regional Rail ticket offices and online at shop.septa.org.

Wal-Mart Phone Survey

A few days ago I got a phone call, one of those automated surveys.  This one was odd because it was focused on my views of Wal-Mart's corporate citizenship.  Did I think they were good corporate citizens?  Did they pay their employees enough?  And so on.  Very strange.  It could have been related to their recent announcement of salary increases but the announcement was just a few days after the call.  They must have had the plan in place already.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Acosta Honors Aulston

modified press release:

State Rep. Leslie Acosta, D-Phila., today announced the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously adopted her H.R. 90, honoring the work and leadership of Frances P. Aulston of Philadelphia, during Black History Month. 

Aulston is a former research librarian for the Free Library of Philadelphia who founded the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance (WPCA) in 1984. Since its founding, the WPCA has worked with more than 80 organizations to promote the region’s cultural resources and support the professional development of local artists. Acosta also noted Aulston’s commitment to designating the home of civil rights scholar and activist Paul Leroy Robeson a historical place.

 “I know one of Fran’s most proud accomplishments is helping to preserve Robeson’s last residence on Walnut Street for generations to come,” Acosta said. “Not only did the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission declare the Paul Robeson House a historical landmark, but the house has also been designated a National Historical Site in the National Register of Historic Places. None of this could have occurred without Fran’s tireless dedication to educating the public about this significant participant in the Civil Rights movement.”

What is Jared Solomon Up To?

From the inbox, a mass email note from Jared Solomon, who ran for the state house in the May primary:

I am treating my campaign as a pact with my community. We talked about improving the security in our region during my campaign. So we are partnering with a security firm that will work with local law enforcement to increase patrols in our neighborhood. In addition, we talked about increasing after school programming. So we are collaborating with a corporate sponsor and 'Legacy Tennis' to provide summer enrichment programs for kids. We talked about failing infrastructure. So we are creating a public-private partnership to revitalize our local recreation center. These are just some of the initiatives that I am working on.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Campaign Donations and Charter Schools

PennLive has a great article and charter on the connection between campaign donations and votes on charter school issues.

Take a look:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/02/following_the_money_that_has_a.html

Medtronic and Inversion

Some things are just infuriating.  For example, reading "Medtronic Avoids U.S. Taxes While Saddling Shareholders With a Hefty Tax Bill," by Rakesh Sharma on Philly.com on 1/28/15.  The article starts with this:


Medtronic's $49.9 billion acquisition of Dublin-based Covidien -- the largest tax inversion deal ever -- will leave shareholders with a big tax bill, while allowing the Minnesota-based company to pay little or no U.S. taxes.


To make pour salt in the wound, note this:

The Medtronic acquisition saddles shareholders with a capital gains tax accrued as part of the transaction. Under IRS rules, this is typical for inversion deals in which the acquiring company holds 50% or more of the shares of the acquired company. Medtronic reimbursed $63 million to senior executives last year to offset their tax liability as a result of the merger. However, individual shareholders did not receive the same courtesy.

Just truly annoying.

Monday, February 02, 2015

PCOM Goes Smoke Free

The Philadelphia College of Osteophathic Medicine has gone smoke free:

In Philadelphia, PCOM will be only the second college or university to implement such a policy. A tobacco-free policy is more comprehensive than a smoke-free policy in that it prohibits the use of all tobacco-related products. Those include cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, dip, snuff and electronic smoking devices.

Feb. 1 was chosen as the launch date for the policy as it coincides with the start of National Heart Month. Smoking significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis and peripheral arterial disease.
 I think this is an excellent idea.  Should you need incentive to stop smoking, take a look at this photo of the father of the man who founded osteopathy.  This is a scary looking guy.  If he (or his son or a college based on a medical practice started by his son) tells you to do something you should probably do it or, coincidentally, something unfortunate might happen.

Montco Dems Recommended Slate of Candidates

from the inbox:

The Montgomery County Democratic Party Executive Committee, led by Chairman Marcel L. Groen, selected a distinguished slate of candidates Thursday night to present for endorsement by the entire party committee on February 17.

The historic Democratic successes in Montgomery County in recent years have been fueled by the party's strong and unified leadership, its ability to attract the best possible candidates, and its tremendous fund-raising and field work in election campaigns.

"The quality of the candidates we get to run for office increases with every election," Groen said. He praised the diversity and strength of the slate, and said of Montgomery County Democrats: "We are the standard that the rest of the state would someday like to emulate."

Groen said he expected County Commissioners Josh Shapiro and Valerie Arkoosh, the party's standard-bearers, to retain a Democratic majority on the Board of Commissioners in this year's election. He said he also expected the party to sweep the nine county "row offices" that are on the ballot, five of which are currently held by Democrats, and to elect four additional Democrats to available seats as judges of the county's Court of Common Pleas.

Selection panels appointed by Groen spent "three weeks of nights and weekends," as he termed it, looking in depth at the qualifications and personal qualities of numerous individuals who sought endorsement. Their recommendations were approved unanimously Thursday by the Executive Committee, which packed a large room at the AFSCME District Council 88 offices in Plymouth Meeting.

The Executive Committee recommended the following candidates for full party endorsement:

COMMISSIONER

Josh Shapiro. As chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Shapiro has led in reforming county government, boosting services, and balancing the budget -- all while holding the line on taxes and restoring the rainy day fund. Shapiro and Leslie Richards in 2011 became the first Democrats to win control of the courthouse in 150 years.

Valerie Arkoosh. A medical doctor with a nationally-recognized name in healthcare and also a strong record of organizational leadership, Arkoosh was recently unanimously chosen by the Common Pleas court to become a commissioner in place of Richards, who resigned to take on the job of PennDot secretary.

ROW OFFICERS

* Incumbent D. Bruce Hanes for REGISTER OF WILLS. An attorney, he has served two terms as Register of Wills and also currently teaches part-time at Philadelphia University. As the issuer of marriage licenses in the county, he has led the fight for marriage equality.

* Incumbent Dr. Walter I. Hofman for COUNTY CORONER. Dr. Hofman is the only forensic pathologist to ever serve as Coroner in the county and one of few in the state to ever do so. This unique qualification has enabled him to personally perform more than 11,000 autopsies and to certify the death of over 18,000 people.

* Incumbent Mark Levy for PROTHONOTARY. In his two terms of experience as Prothonotary, Levy has offered exceptional public service and introduced innovative technologies, especially with electronic court records. A former platoon sergeant in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, he earned his college degree at Temple University.

* Incumbent Jason Salus for county TREASURER. A former businessman with a degree in finance, Salus has brought private-sector financial acumen to the office of Treasurer, identifying new sources of revenue to help balance the county budget, making smart investments and reducing his own department's budget.

* Incumbent Ann Thornburg Weiss for CLERK OF COURTS. An attorney by training and practice, she has twice been elected Clerk of Courts. She has introduced numerous innovations to the courts, including more user-friendly services and streamlined work processes.

Sean P. Kilkenny for SHERIFF. An attorney and expert in municipal law, Kilkenny serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve's Judge Advocate General's Corps. He has served as Council president in Jenkintown and as a trustee of Montgomery County Community College.

Karen Geld Sanchez for CONTROLLER. A partner in a large law firm, she holds both a law degree and an MBA. She has been recognized as a "Pennsylvania Super Lawyer Rising Star" by Philadelphia Magazine and as a "Lawyer on the Fast Track" by The Legal Intelligencer.

Jeanne Sorg for RECORDER OF DEEDS. Currently the Mayor of Ambler, Sorg has pushed for smart development and economic growth initiatives while working with homeowners to solve decades-old issues. Her performance in office helped the Democratic Party gain a majority on the Ambler Council.

Kevin R. Steele for DISTRICT ATTORNEY. As the current first assistant district attorney of Montgomery County, Steele oversees a staff of 145 prosecutors, detectives and administrative personnel that handles 10,000 criminal cases per year. He personally leads the Homicide Unit in all of its investigations.

JUDGE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

Todd Eisenberg. A trial lawyer, he is lead claims counsel for Peco Energy Company. He formerly handled legal matters for several local townships and boroughs. He works in a voluntary capacity for children's advocacy, support of the homeless and Legal Aid of Montgomery County.

Wendy G. Rothstein. A partner at the Fox Rothschild LLP law firm, she has achieved numerous "firsts" in her career as a leader at law firms and other legal organizations. She has been secretary and a board member of the Norristown Zoological Society and an advocate for women in business.  

Natasha Taylor-Smith. As assistant solicitor in the Montgomery County Office of the Solicitor, she is responsible for providing legal counsel to several county human services departments, including those serving older people and people with behavioral health issues or developmental disabilities. She formerly was a public defender for financially-indigent clients and also operated her own law firm. She manages a girls' softball team and is a ministry leader at Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown.

Daniel J. Clifford. A partner at the Weber Gallagher law firm, he has served as chair of the Family Law Section of both the Montgomery County and Pennsylvania bar associations. He has served on the board Adoptions From the Heart agency and on the board of the Equality Forum.

Angie's List on Electricians

The Jane household is an Angie's List household.  We don't hire anyone for a home repair project without checking their recommendations on Angie's List and frequently use that website to find craftsmen to hire.  The company sends out a short magazine to subscribers.  This month's issue had an article on a predicted shortage of electricians.  The same or a similar article was published on their website a few months ago.  ("Shortage of electricians may cause homeowners to wait for service," by Paul F. P. Pogue).  Home repair is something that can't be outsourced -- you can't mail  your electrical system overseas to be fixed.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Inky Article on School Libraries

Kristen A. Graham wrote an excellent article in today's Inquirer on school libraries and librarians (and the lack thereof) called Shelved.  For a few years when my kids were in elementary school I would volunteer in the school library for an hour a week.  The support staff person in the library didn't start work until an hour after school started.  Most other days of the week a parent would come in and volunteer for that hour.  I was impressed with the work the librarians did, not having given much thought about school libraries since I had been in school myself.  They read to the younger kids, taught the older ones about plagiarism and copyright issues, research skills, evaluating sources, and things like Power Point.  Students of all ages learned how to find books and how to evaluate them.  I wasn't introduced to most of those items until college.

The parent volunteer worked the circulation desk, checking books in and out and shelving returned books.  I got to know a lot of students that way.  Once or twice a  year a stack of bookmarks would appear and the kids would get very excited about them.  I took a cue from this and would look for opportunities to make bookmarks for a kid's classroom.  (One year one of the kids was in room 314 -- I made them special bookmarks for Pi Day).  The teachers were always receptive to this.

School libraries can make a real difference in the life of the students.  Look at any school or school system that is considered a "good school" and see if it has a school library with a certified librarian.  I think any school you would want to send you child to is likely to have both.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Firearms Legislation Introduced

The Pennsylvania State Senate introduced five new firearms bills in the past few days.  I'm including just a few words on each, but this is my impression after skimming each bill.  Interested readers are encouraged to review each bill for themselves to get a fuller understanding.

Senate Bill 98 focuses on penalties for carrying firearms on Philadelphia streets without a license.  Introduced by FARNESE, HAYWOOD, TARTAGLIONE, HUGHES, LEACH AND KITCHEN,

Senate Bill 309 seems to be another pathway to thwarting straw purchases.  Introduced by HUGHES, HAYWOOD AND FARNESE

Senate Bill 310 does something but I'm not sure what -- it refers to other sections of the law.  Introduced by HUGHES, HAYWOOD AND FARNESE

Senate Bill 311 calls for people applying for a gun license to have completed a firearm safety course.  Introduced by HUGHES, FARNESE, HAYWOOD AND WILLIAMS

Senate Bill 312 adds in several things.  I couldn't follow all of them.  Introduced by HUGHES, HAYWOOD, FONTANA AND FARNESE

Cillizza's Best State Reporters List

Chris Cillizza, of the Washington Post's The Fix blog has issued his 2015 list of best state political reporters.  Pennsylvania is well-represented.  If you want to follow the state's political stories, the folks on that list and the ones to follow.

Three Media Notes

An assortment of media / literature notes:

Betsy Fisher Martin is joining More Magazine.  I used to subscribe because there was usually at least one politically related article in each issue and then at some point it seemed to fall back into the standard fashion / makeup / relationship black hole that so many publications aimed at women inhabit.  I let my subscription lapse.  Martin, former "Meet the Press" executive producer is joining the magazine as the Washington editor.  Her addition means More magazine is worth another look.

Patrick Murphy, who represented Pennsylvania's 8th district (primarily Bucks County) for two terms, has a regular show on veterans issues on MSNBC.  On Sunday's show he had a strongly worded response to Michael Moore's comments on the "American Sniper" movie.  (video via PoliticsPA)

Spider Robinson, one of my favorite science fiction writers, has been having a tough time lately.  Every now and then I check his website for updates.  He hasn't published a book in some years and has had health problems.  His latest entry spells out some of the issues he's been dealing with later.  Read this next time you think you are having a bad day.

Some WSJ Notes

I caught up on reading the Wall Street Journal over the snow days.  Here are some interesting tidbits:

Several Pennsylvania companies are mentioned in “Companies tiptoe back toward ‘made in the USA,” by James R. Hagerty and Mark Magnier (1/14/15), among them are Thorley Industries LLC of Pittsburgh, K’Nex Brands LP of Hatfield, and Lasko Products Inc of West Chester.

Strong dollar forces factories to lose flab,” by James R. Hagerty (1/21/15) mentions Oberg Industries of Freeport

Comcast’s lobbying machine faces test in Washington,” by Shalini Ramachandram, Gautham Nagesh, and Brody Mullins (1/23/15) discusses the Philadelphia-based firm and David Cohen, “head of Comcast’s lobbying.”


Two articles in this past weekend’s edition (1/24-25/15) seemed a real case of compare and contrast.  “Morgan Stanley joins rivals with raise,” by Justin Baer reported that James Gorman of Morgan Stanley has “a pay package that will exceed the $18 million took home a year earlier, ….” Some other Wall Street CEOs and their compensation.   “Beekeepers sour onprofession” by Tennille Tracy notes that the number of beekeepers had dropped by half in the last 20 years.  Honey bees “pollinate more than $15 billion of crops each year” including “one-third of the American diet.”  With the puzzling continued collapse of bee colonies it is growing more expensive to keep colonies.  I don’t understand how one man’s annual pay can be such a large percentage of an industry that supports one third of country’s diet.