Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Super" Bowl???

Well, the Super Bowl is being played as I write.  Back in the day, seems like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team I rooted for, were in contention to appear in The Big Game pretty regularly.  Sometimes I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.


For that was before four separate women made four separate rape/sexual misconduct allegations against Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who, after receiving a very light slap on the wrist considering the amount of evidence NFL Commish Roger Goodell hinted he had gotten a gander at, was back on the job as Steelers' franchise QB.  That was the genesis of the alienation of affection between me, formerly a ferocious and loyal fan, and the Steelers.  And me and football.


Now, the latest.


I received an email Friday from Credo Action, a do-gooder group I have worked with upon occasion.  That email directed me to this website: 


http://www.credomobilize.com/petitions/end-the-nfl-s-charity-tax-break?akid=9865.1592822.LdHR1y&rd=1&suppress_one_click=true&t=4 


There, I learned, to my horror, that the NFL does not (and has not since at least 1966, when came the merger that created the modern NFL), pay federal taxes.  Yes, you read that correctly, the NFL does NOT pay federal tax.  During the aforementioned merger negotiation, the NFL was able to obtain a sweetheart deal from the IRS whereby they would wear the designation of a non-profit organization.




corporate welfare, n


financial aid, such as a subsidy or tax break, provided by the government to corporations or other businesses, especially when viewed as wasteful or unjust.
(thefreedictionary.com)


Or, for the hell of it, how about we try input from Wikipedia:


"Subsidies considered excessive, unwarranted, wasteful, unfair, inefficient, or brought about by lobbying are often called corporate welfare."


Well, considering that the NFL earns approximately $9 BILLION a year and has reportedly spent $12.7 million in lobbying efforts since 1998 and $2 million in campaign contributions since '92, I would certainly call into question their non-profit status and would feel comfortable connecting a few back-scratching, one-hand-washing-the-other dots, wouldn't you?


To me, it's bad enough when a corporation whose product or service we need gets these subsidies.  Like oil companies, for example.  But do we truly NEED football enough to justify this gross inequity?


I remember watching an HBO documentary program in the 80's (though the title escapes me now, and research into this title has so far proven elusive) about pro football players years after retirement who were crippled, or whose health was adversely affected by the grind of the NFL and how many felt the NFL didn't do much to provide for the needs of these players as their health and quality of life continued to decline.  Since then stories abound of many former gridiron heroes such as Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, who sustained several apparently undiagnosed concussions and consequently suffered from amnesia, dementia, and depression and was homeless for a time upon his retirement, dying at age 50.  Many players have been recently found to have suffered a similar fate.  The NFL is reaping a heaping of unhappy karma.


The Super Bowl, and the 2013 football season will be over tonight, bragging rights decided one way or the other.  But tax season is just beginning.  When I get done with this post, and my dinner, I'm gonna be on Turbo Tax filing my taxes, and knowing that I'm paying more because the NFL is paying nothing.  And I'm mad.  This post is just the beginning for me.  How about you?


A hearty thank you to Evan Sutton, who started the petition (may this post get you lotsa signatures, my friend), and Credo Action, for sending it along.


Good vibes to all of you,


Claudia


In addition to aforementioned citations, I used the following as sources:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Webster


http://millionairecorner.com/Content_Free/Did-You-Know-the-NFL-Does-Not-Pay-Federal-Taxes.aspx



Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Little More Holiday Cheer

So, back on November 19th's post I mentioned that I had a holiday Frappuccino in mind that might interest you.  Here's the story:

At work on the 18th, I had a bit of time on my hands after all of my duties were discharged, and fell to ruminating upon the twin glories of having fashioned a holiday drink enjoyed by customers and co-workers alike, and having succeeded in winning a place for that drink in immortality via "The Secret Menu".  I determined to do what I could to formulate an equally relevant cold holiday drink to complement the hot one already created.  "But what flavor?" I asked myself.  "Ah, peppermint is popular," I thought, "but alas, always combined with mocha...hmmm...what about by itself, like a candy cane?  Yes, that's the ticket!  A Candy Cane Frappuccino!"  So, like a mad scientist, I commenced to concocting.  Woo-hoo-hoo-ha-ha-ha!

Luckily I've received the genes of talented cooks from both sides of the family tree, so with two tries, and some valuable feedback from co-worker Angie, I developed my one-of-a-kind Candy Cane Frappuccino Recipe, then went home all fired up to check starbuckssecretmenu.net to see if there was a precedent for my frap; and if there wasn't, to go back to work Thursday the 21st and try it out on a longer list of receptive co-workers.

Unfortunately, the very next day, I was felled by a stomach flu gifted to me by my mother, and between it and my scheduled days off, did not work again until Saturday the 23rd, when I eagerly went to work and began recruiting lab rats among thirsty Plaza inmates.

Voila!  Success!  My Candy Cane Frap was well-received, so I came home dying to put my new drink on The Secret Menu.  Can you imagine my astonished disappointment when I went on that website and found that a mere 5 days from the advent of my version, there was now a Candy Cane Frappuccino on The Secret Menu?  Oh no!  Had someone come up with my recipe already and beat me to the punch?  But when I looked, the recipe printed was different from mine.  "Well,"  I thought, "I'll send them my recipe and document my timeline a bit, and I'm sure they'll see that there's room for more than one Candy Cane Frap.  After all, you go on recipe sites and see multiple versions of the same dish, submitted by different people, and no one thinks that's strange.  People just try them until they find the one they like best.  Heck, dueling versions might even bring more interest to The Secret Menu!"  So, with that I submitted my version and prepared to wait the approximately 10 days it takes to receive a positive response from the website.  Alas, two weeks later, none has been forthcoming.

Why?  Who knows?  Although I couldn't find anything on The Secret Menu site that indicates it, maybe they only accept one recipe per entrant.  Perhaps they figured they had received their Candy Cane Frap recipe and were concerned about engendering confusion with another one.  But here's the deal:  I believe in my creation, and although hardly scientific, I have conducted three blind taste tests, with 70% of my subjects affirming their preference for my version.  And even one who liked the Secret Menu-endorsed version better did volunteer his opinion that mine tasted more like a candy cane.  Hmmm...so could be what we need is a grass-roots campaign.  So how about I publish my recipe here and you all can go to your local Starbucks and try it (or both), and if you like it, let me know, and we'll give starbuckssecretmenu.net a little prod, whaddaya say?


           Claudia's Ultimate Candy Cane Frappuccino

Milk to the first line (your barista will know what this means)

Tall - 1 scoop vanilla bean powder
Grande - 1 1/2 scoops vanilla bean powder
Venti - 2 scoops vanilla bean powder

Tall - 3 pumps peppermint syrup
Grande - 4 pumps peppermint syrup
Venti - 5 pumps peppermint syrup

Tall - 2 pumps crème base
Grande - 3 pumps crème base
Venti - 4 pumps crème base

Appropriate size scoop of ice, blend, top with whipped cream, and here's the awesome Claudia secret touch: one pump of raspberry syrup on top -- I use a sample cup, squirt that one pump in there and then very gently drizzle it over the whipped cream and down the sides -- and done that way, my creation definitely looks like a candy cane.  Have a look!  (Thanks, Matt, for helping me with the picture
when I forgot my digicam like a ninny):


Look yummy?  Well, go get you one, and let me know what you think, and maybe starbuckssecretmenu.net as well, OK?

And thank you for your support!

Good vibes to all of you,

Claudia

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Obvious Question...

Today of course is, "What are you grateful for?"  The list for most folks is typical: my family, my health, my job.  If it's not too far beyond the pale, nevertheless, my list, in no particular order:

1.     I'm grateful any day I wake up and the world doesn't spin.  Sufferers of vertigo know exactly what I mean.  For a control freak like me, nothing is worse for making a person feel miserable and out-of-control.  Take it from me.  If you don't suffer from vertigo, be grateful.

2.     I'm grateful for people at my job -- co-workers, customers -- who care, offer their friendship, their companionship, and allow me to care for them.  I'm lucky to have them and even though, like most of us, I complain about my job, and sometimes, my customers and co-workers, not a day goes by that I don't feel warmed by at least one moment, one exchange sometime during the day.  And I know a lot of people can't say that; I'm grateful that I honestly can.

3.     My cat, the ever-handsome, ever-sweet, ever-mischievous Simba.  During a very black, but mercifully brief time a year ago, it seemed for awhile that Simba was the only one who loved me.  (And, boy, am I grateful that that time was brief; I can't imagine feeling that misunderstood, disrespected, unappreciated and abused all the time).  But I am fortunate to have an affectionate kitty who licks my face and literally hugs me.  Yes, I'm lucky!

4.     Even though she frequently annoys the crap out of me, I'm grateful to have my mother still alive and kickin' at age 75.  She's my role model for growing old, if not gracefully, at least with spunk, spirit, and defiance.  My mother follows the (Eight Is Enough TV family) Bradford formula of living: shoot from the hip, (often with highly amusing results) and then (maybe) say you're sorry later.  She's lost 166 lbs. since 2008, gotten totally off diabetes and blood pressure meds; she walks, to date, 25 minutes a day on the treadmill (and adding every week), and she reads voraciously, works very hard at nurturing connections with her friends.  Dreading the iron of her mind rusting into dementia, Mother deliberately watches crime shows and reads subject matter specifically designed to keep that mind active.  She frequently opines that even though a person may be old in years, "they don't have to act old," and believe me, she saves much of her choicest disdain for those who "act old".  But, Mother, we can't all wear Old Navy Rock Star skinny jeans in colors like purple and red -- especially when we're 75!

5.     I'm grateful to live in America.  The average citizen has a lot of opportunities he may not have elsewhere, the standard of living is high, and we have lots of choices.  A safety net to catch us should we become the victim of bad luck or choices.  Are we the best country in the world?  That's in the eye of the beholder.  Do some abuse the safety net?  Absolutely.  Are we guilty of laxness, softness, taking some benefits for granted?  IMHO, damn skippy.  But I've talked about that in other posts.  My very vocal regard for personal responsibility stands.  As does my gratitude.

6.     I'm grateful for the opportunity to air my thoughts on this venue, and to know that you are reading those thoughts.  Whether you agree or disagree, I'm fortunate to be able to communicate with you and know that I have been heard, by someone somewhere out there.  And maybe that I've touched you or made you think.  And this blog is my record, a way of saying, "Claudia was here."  Having not had children, it's very important for me to leave something that will hang around awhile.  Once it's on the Internet, it's forever, right? 


That's my list.  I hope we all, in our secret hearts, take a second or two, and really think about our list sometime today.  And maybe every day.  I believe what we feed, grows.  I hope the good stuff in your lives continues to grow.

Good vibes to all of you,

Claudia

Friday, November 22, 2013

Passing The Torch

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy.

As is the case every year, but most especially this anniversary, the inevitable:  pictures, films, stories, memories.  Every city, every person, it seems, citing an individual connection to the awful theme.

And this, as in every year, come the inevitable questions:  Was there more than one shooter?  Was Kennedy the victim of a conspiracy?  And if so, who were the conspirators?  What if Kennedy had lived?  Is there a Kennedy curse?

It is not my intention to participate in the above.  Instead, I'd like to share a memory, (not of the assassination or of JFK, but his brother, Ted) and issue a challenge.

In my life I have met no one as taken by the Kennedy Mystique than my friend, Scott.  So, picture it: the fall of 1983, both of us fresh out of high school.  Scott hears that Massachusetts Senator Edward M Kennedy will be appearing at the Gold Room of the Allegheny County Courthouse on November 21, for a hearing on world hunger.  This event will be open to the public.  Would I, his ever-so-frequent partner-in-crime, like to attend and, perhaps, snag an autograph?

Would I!

I remember very little of the event itself, only that it took place in the early afternoon on a rather raw and chilly Pittsburgh day and was, therefore, not widely attended.  I do remember Kennedy's startled reaction to a dropped briefcase, the sound echoing like a gunshot in the quiet room -- you can't tell me the impending 20th anniversary wasn't on his mind.   But he wasn't wallowing, he was out doing good.

Scott and I did get to meet Ted Kennedy, who seemed to me very tall with humongous hands.  It may be very hard for those who know me now to believe this, but I was at that time pretty shy (my Plaza persona is often, by turns, mischievous, boisterous, and shall we just say, assertive) and could not manage a word to this Famous Person (even though he was humanized somewhat by a spot of Wite-Out-type correction fluid on his face), while Scott effected the most adroit of discourses.

Eventually, everybody left the room but Scott and me, and we began to scavenge, uh, collect, yes, that's the word.  Scott got Ted Kennedy's coffee cup, and I got his pointer.  (Get your minds out of the gutter, I'm talking office equipment here).  Thirty years later and I still have it, along with his autograph.  A great memory and the closest we ever got to Camelot.

Ah, Camelot!  1000 days of a presidency that still haunts us.  It appears to me that America was cruising along, high on dominance in two World Wars, in a postwar boom.  It seemed like there was nothing that American ingenuity and muscle couldn't accomplish.  Then two Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated, the complications and consequences of Vietnam and Watergate came to our awareness and suddenly, the world as we knew it ground to a screeching halt.  And to me, it just feels like it all started with the assassination of JFK.  

We can debate the rest, but John Kennedy could make a speech, couldn't he?  In his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961, Kennedy talked of a torch being passed.  We in my age group are almost at that place now, with children that are or almost are adults.  Are we happy with the world we are leaving them?  What would we like to change about it?  Do our children know they can affect change?  Do they know how to?  These, and many more, are questions we must ask ourselves as we prepare to pass the torch.  Aren't these much more important than the other questions we usually ask anew this day every year?  I submit that answering them, and following up with real actions that resonate with our value structures, and teaching our children to do the same, will do more to honor our 35th president than the way we customarily spend this day each year.  If you agree with me, I hope to see you in the trenches.                                     

Good vibes to all of you,

Claudia





Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Little Holiday Cheer...

Just for the hell of it, I thought it might be fun to step out from behind the hidey-hole of where I work just this much:

Coffee Paradise has a yummy drink called the Caramel Apple Spice.  It's a hot non-caffeinated beverage consisting of Cinnamon Dolce Syrup, steamed apple juice, whipped cream, and caramel drizzle.  Very popular in the autumn.  When the components for the new holiday drinks came in, I fell to theorizing, and experimenting, and came up with a variation I call the Holiday Apple Spice.  I tried it out on many of my co-workers, and, convinced of my success, submitted it to The Secret Menu.  I hope you'll look it up on http://starbuckssecretmenu.net/starbucks-secret-menu-holiday-applespice/
and go to your local Coffee Paradise and give it a try.  I can't guarantee you (non-alcoholic) Christmas spirit in a cup, but I wouldn't bet against it, either.  Happy Holidays, and stay tuned -- I think I have a special holiday frappuccino in me, too.  I'll keep you posted!

Good vibes to all of you,

Claudia

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Say What?

So the news has broken today that the NCAA has reversed its earlier scholarship penalties against Penn State University for alleged cover-up in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/9716482/ncaa-reduce-penalties-penn-state-regarding-jerry-sandusky-child-sexual-abuse-matter?src=mobile

Coach Bill O'Brien is, I'm sure, very delighted that he will now have 75 scholarship football players on his team in 2014, 80 in 2015, 85 in 2016, and back up to his full complement in 2017.  Also, NCAA president Mark Emmert indicated that more scholarship cap reductions could be forthcoming a year from now.  NCAA officials also mentioned that the post-season ban punishments could be revisited.  Emmert, as the article mentions, was quick to insist that the reductions occurred not because it was felt they were too severe, but because those maintaining vigilance over this situation have decided that Penn state has done its due diligence in a good-faith effort to implement most of 119 recommendations issued by former FBI director Louis J Freeh in his eponymous report, issued more than a year ago, that led to the NCAA's punishments.

I have scoured the available outlets for reactions to this news, and besides what I consider to be the appropriate response, namely that this is a travesty of justice, a slap in the face to sex abuse survivors everywhere, I also saw a handful of other reactions quite repetitively, which I will list, with my responses underneath in red:


1.   "Good!  Now restore the vacated wins and the chance to play in bowl games!"

Are you freakin' kidding me??!!  Hardly worth dignifying with a response; if I had one, it would be something along the lines of, "I really hope none of your near and dear ones is ever the victim of a sexual crime, because I fear your return from the planet you are currently on will then be a particularly bumpy ride".


2.   "The NCAA didn't have a right to punish Penn State.  This was not an athletic matter; this was a criminal/state/civil matter and the NCAA overstepped itself by sticking its nose in".

The abuser was a member of the athletic department, the whistle blower, Mike McQueary, was a member of the athletic department, and Tim Curley, one of the alleged cover-up artists in this scandal, was the head of the athletic department.  Some of the abuse took place at the athletic complex of the University and on trips involving the athletic department.  PSU belongs to the NCAA, which organizes the athletic programs of its members and in turn, the members agree to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the NCAA.  "Ah," some of the commenters said, "Penn State didn't violate an NCAA rule by having a coach showering with, and behaving sexually inappropriately with boys at the Penn State facility and elsewhere, so the NCAA has no jurisdiction in this case!"  Well, The Plaza has no rule specifically against me donning a chicken head, moving tables in the lobby and doing gymnastics on its dime, either, but you can best believe that if I did, I'd expect my lovely 16-year tenure there to come to a speedy and abrupt halt.  It is just understood that we must conduct ourselves a certain way when we work/hang out somewhere and if we don't, some entity will appoint itself to make sure we don't work/hang out there anymore.  It certainly should be understood by a reasoning individual that if there are no specific rules in the NCAA charter against sexual abuse, the NCAA will still punish this because most reasoning people understand that no one should sexually abuse anyone, particularly an adult should not abuse a child; no self-respecting university would want to be known as Ped State; and no governing body, such as the NCAA, would want to be affiliated with such a member university without taking a moral stand on its own behalf.  What is wrong in the world that this has to be explained?  But if a school doesn't like the punishments levied for wrongdoing, let them feel free to leave the NCAA, or file suit against them.  And any fan who doesn't like the NCAA's punishments can feel free to quit watching college football.


3.   "The athletes and alumni of Penn State are innocent -- why should they be punished because some administrators failed to do their jobs?"

I addressed this previously in my post Hopeful, Part 2.  The football players with scholarships at PSU had choices.  Most players talented enough to be recruited by a Division 1A school have lots of choices.  How many choices did the victims have?  I said, "...what about all the thousands of students, employees and others who benefited all these years from an opulent football program that prospered on the backs of at least ten innocent abused boys?...I believe the message Penn State and our society in general needs to receive here is to get our priorities in order.  Football is not more important than education.  And nothing is worth the sacrifice of one precious soul to abuseNothing!!"  (As proof of the first part of my observation, interestingly, a PSU student commented today that the effects of the sanctions had trickled down to the non-athlete alums as well.  Why do we not acknowledge the benefits they accordingly reaped during the time the abuse and alleged corresponding cover-up transpired?)  I went on to say that many innocent people in our society are sacrificed to sexual abuse, such as a survivor's partners and children, because we have not risen up righteous to rid ourselves of it yet.  I wish I heard nearly as much sympathy for them as for the innocent athletes and alumni at Penn State!


4.   "Sandusky had left PSU as coach in 1999; nobody at the university should be considered responsible for anything he did there after that".

When Jerry Sandusky retired, Number 5 on his list of requests as part of his benefits package was to have "access to training and workout facilities".  Joe Paterno's response:  "Is this for personal use or 2nd Mile kids?  No to 2nd Mile.  Liability problems."  Yet University President Graham Spanier overruled that opinion, granting Sandusky the emeritus status that allowed him to bring children to Penn State grounds long after his official retirement to abuse them, as Mike McQueary witnessed.  Are we to believe that nobody who knew his history saw him there with kids?  This is why, as much as I would like to believe in Joe Paterno's innocence in allowing this matter to perpetuate, I just can't quite let him off the hook.  What I think is more likely is that he was getting older, being perceived as a has-been in the coaching biz, he nonetheless tried to exercise his influence in this matter, but his influence had wound down.  And I doubt that he was the only one who knew and saw.  My experience with molestation tells me otherwise.  And I also still can't get past the fact that none of these mandatory reporters, including Joe, notified the proper authorities at any point.


5.  "Well, since Penn State is catching a break, why not USC with the Reggie Bush incident?  All he did was get a little rent money."

Hmmm, you may have a point.  I don't know as much about the USC thing as the PSU scandal, only what I have read today.  But based on what I have read, I think the punishments of both schools ought to stand.


6.   "Why should Penn State be punished when even a couple of the victims said they shouldn't be?"

Gee, what a great idea!   Tell ya what, while we're at it, from now on, we'll just eliminate jury trials -- they're so expensive, such a bother, and no one really likes to miss work to serve on a jury.  From now on we'll just ask the victim, "What do you think we ought to do to his guy who molested you and 99-299 other kids?"  Blood and body parts would run in the streets.

All sarcasm aside, as a survivor I can tell you, at this stage of the game the two overriding thoughts these victims have is: How soon can all this weirdness be over and I get my life back?  (And the answer, from my experience is, life as you knew it is over forever.  Prepare for the New Normal.  Get yourselves some supportive people around you, people you can call at 2 AM, crying; who will never get tired of hearing you talk about this subject; people who will hold you and never let you go.  They'll be tough to find, if you can find them at all, but worth it when you do.  You'll need them).  And the second is, as mentioned in Hopeful, Part 2, some of these kids had death threats levied at them.  What the hell did you think they would say?


It goes without saying I am deeply disappointed in the decision of the NCAA.  Another case of money talking.  The message to society:  Sex abuse is no big deal.  Money is more important.  The message to sex abuse victims:  Nobody cares.  You don't matter.  Your pain and suffering are nothing.

Well, you do matter and I care.  Recently, I became aware of the possibility of yet another molester (for a grand total of three) in my extended family.  I am fed up to HERE with the prevalence of molestation in the world and the totally impotent attempts to end it.  I have decided to do something to try to help all victims, which I have alluded to in the final paragraph of Hopeful, Part 1.  I will have more details for how those interested can help after I assemble a plan and a team.

More Later,

Claudia

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Little Good News

Thirty years ago, Canadian singer Anne Murray won a Grammy for a song entitled "A Little Good News".  The songwriter opined that when you dial in for your nightly dose of local news, weather, sports, etc., the vast majority of what you'd see and hear would be bad news, and

How I want to hear the anchorman talk about a county fair/
How we cleaned up the air/How everybody learned to care.

How many of us feel the same?

So when I opened up an email from my local Plum-Oakmont Patch yesterday, I expected the usual: area arrests, construction, the typical divisive commentaries about the upcoming election, etc.  Instead I had the privilege of reading about little Kylie.

Kylie was 8 years old May 6, and she had a birthday wish.  I know, you're saying, let me guess, she wanted games, toys, a humongous cake, a pizza party with a pony.

No, Kylie wants water for the people of Rwanda.  Yes, you read that right, water for Rwanda.  No, I don't think I'll explain any further -- Kylie can do that much better than me -- this is Kylie's page, I hope you'll pay it a visit:  my.charitywater.org/kylies-birthday-wish

Not a dry eye in this house, I can tell you.  What an inspiring little girl!  I will be donating to Kylie's Water Campaign this Thursday when I get paid, and I pray you'll join me.

"And a little child shall lead them".

Good vibes to all of you,

Claudia