Saturday, July 4, 2015

We're Something To See...

Oh but ain't that America, for you and me
Ain't that America, we're something to see baby
Ain't that America, home of the free, yeah...
- John Mellencamp

America is two hundred and thirty-nine years young today.  As is the case with if not all of us then pretty damn close to all of us, its two hundred and thirty-nine years have included years that have been better than others.  Every year includes moments that are unforgettable.  Sometimes for an extraordinarily beautiful reason.  Sometimes for a reason that is decidedly less so.   

For generations, we the people of these United States have prided ourselves on our willingness to think big and then to do the work necessary to accomplish a goal that others might consider unattainable.  In fact, writing checks with our mouths that our hands CAN cover has been a defining characteristic of Americans for at least two hundred and thirty-nine years.




A wise man once reminded his audience that, "In the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins."  Food for thought on this, our Independence Day.  

Indivisibility.  It is a hell of a thing.  Tricky to spell.  Harder still to maintain.  But maintain it we must.  

One Nation.  

One Canoe.  




-AK 


Friday, July 3, 2015

Vinko Bogataj, Forever Man

At 5:00 EDT on Sunday, the Women's National Team of the United States shall play the Women's National Team of Japan, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the Final of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.  This Sunday's match is, of course, a rematch of the 2011 World Cup Final in which Japan defeated the United States in a penalty kick shootout, a method for resolving the outcome of an evenly contested sporting event that has always struck me as asinine (even when the team for which I am cheering triumphs).  

The United States vanquished the world's top-ranked team, Germany, in its semi-final match on Tuesday night.  The 2-0 victory marked the fifth consecutive game in which the United States posted a "clean sheet", which is soccer-speak for "a shutout".  Through three games in Group play, its Round of Sixteen match against Colombia, its quarter-final match against China, and Tuesday's semi-final match against Germany, the USWNT has allowed a single goal.  

Should the American side win the World Cup on Sunday and do so while posting its sixth consecutive clean sheet, then Lisa De Vanna may very well end up being the answer to a trivia question:  Who was the only opponent to score a goal against the USWNT during the 2015 World Cup?  De Vanna, captain of the Australian team, scored in the twenty-seventh minute of the Cup opener, which goal tied the score.  Since then, the ball has not found its way into the American net - not even off of a penalty kick.    

I shall watch the game on Sunday evening and shall root enthusiastically for the USWNT.  And while I hope that the 2015 World Cup Final is not decided by penalty kicks as the 2011 World Cup Final was decided, I hope that its outcome is not decided in a way similar to the Japan vs. England semi-final was, which game was played on Wednesday night in Edmonton.  With approximately forty seconds remaining in the match and two fifteen-minute overtime halves beckoning, Laura Bassett of England - while attempting to break up a pass into the penalty box - inadvertently redirected the ball into her own team's net.   It was one of the most heartbreaking ends to a sporting event I have ever seen - and Kara and I were in Giants Stadium on a cold, rainy Sunday a lifetime ago and watched the Giants fumble away a victory to the Eagles in that game's final seconds. 

Victory's thrill.  Defeat's agony.  Flip sides of the same coin.  


-AK 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ordering Something Not On The Menu...

Yesterday was not the typical Wednesday.  At least, it was not my typical Wednesday.  

I had a meeting in New Brunswick that wrapped up at three o'clock.  Rather than trek back to the office I ran over to Bridgewater to visit Joe at his in-patient rehab.  I had not been over there in slightly more than a week.  The principal reason I do not stop by very often is that since Margaret spends so much of her time there, I focus on making sure that things on the home front remain status quo.  The secondary reason is that I am not a fan of such facilities.  

But yesterday neither reason prevented me from checking on the Pilgrim's progress.  And was I ever glad that I did.  His progress is remarkable.  He attacked his therapy with vigor.  It did me good to see him in action.  And I think that perhaps it did him some good to know that I was there. 

Nope.  Not the typical Wednesday.  Instead, it was one hell of a day. 

-AK 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Only Way To Get There Is To Take That Step

You either are a runner or someone with seriously unresolved mental health issues - presuming that those two things are mutually exclusive (a point Margaret is prepared to argue quite vociferously I assure you) - when the calendar transitions from June to July and your thought turns not to the upcoming 4th of July holiday weekend but, instead, to the fact that it is now time to begin training for the 2015 New York City Marathon.  

Today is 07/01/15.  On Sunday, 11/01/15 I shall resist the temptation to hurl myself off of the Verrazano Bridge in response to the sound of the starting horn and instead move forward off of the bridge for a 26.2 mile trek through New York City.   I kid, of course, although I do so only to have a bit of fun at my own expense as a marathoner and not because even someone as obtuse as I am thinks that someone hurling himself off of a bridge - or taking his own life by any means - is a laughing matter.   Believe me, I do not.  In the course of close to a half-century of life thus far, I have known too many families comprised of really, really good people that have suffered the loss of a loved one - also a really, really good person - by suicide.  

All poor attempts at self-deprecating humor aside, I am very much looking forward to November's first Sunday although there is more than a little part of me that finds the prospect of participating in this marathon to be significantly more terrifying than any other one in which I have run previously.  I am both eager and anxious to be a part of it.  If only the course map was to scale.  I have every confidence that if it was, then I could complete it in less than one day's time.  

I have been on cruise control - in terms of running - in the two months that have passed since the 2015 New Jersey Marathon.  July's entry onto the stage signals the end of my vacation.  As the song says, "It all begins anew once more.  It all begins anew."

Indeed it does.  So shall I. 

-AK 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In the Skeleton Frame of a Burned Out Chevrolet...

At some point this morning, on the grounds of his high school Alma mater, our Governor shall formally announce his intention to seek the nomination of the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States, which shall bring an end, finally, to the worst-kept secret in Jersey politics.  It has been so poorly guarded that it has reminded me - and likely me alone - of the story that Carlos Marcello, the long-time Don of organized crime in Louisiana, reputedly had a sign on prominent display in his office (on the wall behind his desk directly above his his head), which sign served to remind the person or persons with whom he was meeting of Marcello's credo:  Three Can Keep a Secret...if Two of Them are Dead.  Don Marcello's sign can find no wall space at the Governor's campaign headquarters.   

For reasons not entirely clear to me, the Governor and his advisory team long ago abandoned the pretense of surprise surrounding today's announcement while simultaneously choosing/refusing to make his intentions known.  I read somewhere over the weekend that by officially cannon balling his way into the festivities today, he becomes the fourteenth GOP candidate in the Presidential pool.  Fourteen?  And worse yet, more are on the way.

This election cycle, in spite of the almost zero likelihood that whichever one of them wins the nomination shall carry California in the general election, the GOP field has taken on a characteristic usually associated with fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers:  They arrive late.  A significant number of them, of course, shall inevitably take on another signature characteristic of the Dodger faithful:  They shall leave early.  

I suspect that our Governor shall be among the early exits.  He does not call upon me for advice, of course, but if he did I would have recommended to him to sit this one out.  I say that as a New Jersey voter - and a registered Republican - who voted for him in 2009 and, again, in 2013.  I say that as someone who has previously contributed financially to his election efforts - and who receives a Christmas card each year as an acknowledgment of that fact.  I say that as someone who does not know the Governor but who suspects, based upon - if nothing else - our shared passion for Springsteen's music, if I did that we would probably get along just fine.  

I say that because when I voted for him in 2013, I voted for him to continue to work at the job to which we the people of the State of Concrete Gardens had elected him.  However, in the almost two years since he handily won re-election, his focus, his energy, and his time has been devoted not to the job he presently has but, instead it has been devoted to the job he covets.  It is a devotion that over the course of the past two-plus years, at times, has been both naked and blind.  It is devotion that will have him on the road to his newly adopted home-away-from-home state of New Hampshire almost immediately after formally announcing his candidacy in his hometown of Livingston, New Jersey this morning.   

As a reasonably-informed member of the electorate who has supported the Governor politically, I had spent some time and energy over the course of these past several months hoping that someone in his inner sanctum would speak the plain truth to him.  I had hoped that someone he trusts would go all Adrian Balboa on him.  Either such a conversation did not happen or it happened and he ignored it. 


And not a moment sooner.

-AK 


Monday, June 29, 2015

Houston, We Have an Anomaly

SpaceX is one of Elon Musk's companies and - according at least to what I have read - passions. Musk, whose bank account is almost as large as his IQ, has a contract with NASA (SpaceX does I should say) to resupply the International Space Station. SpaceX also has a contract with NASA to develop a capsule that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station.
Yesterday morning, the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its destination? The space station. However, slightly more than two minutes and thirteen seconds into flight - at an altitude of approximately thirty-two kilometers - the rocket blew up. Its 4,000+ pounds of food and supplies for the space station reduced to tiny debris particles in a matter of a few seconds. Thankfully as it is still 2015 and not yet 2017, no lives were lost. The Falcon 9 Rocket was unmanned.
I understand completely that such catastrophic events occur in the space business. I was a freshman at the University of Colorado, Boulder when Astronaut and fellow Buff Ellison S. Onizuka was killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. I also understand that when something occurs for which no one has a good explanation, being the person called upon to say something - anything - to the waiting world can be a daunting task.
However, the official SpaceX Tweet in response to what occurred on Sunday morning, which was sent out not too long after the incident occurred struck me - and perhaps me alone - as being too cute by half. "An anomaly on ascent". Really? Their gadget blew into a gazillion fucking little pieces. If that is what SpaceX considers "an anomaly" I sincerely hope that none of us lives long enough to see SpaceX have to respond to something even they would consider to be a problem.

-AK

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Greater Union...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, 
That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...

Two hundred and thirty-nine years ago this Saturday, Thomas Jefferson penned those words as the heart of the Declaration of Independence, to which he and fifty-five other hardy souls signed their names.  Had the American Revolution ended badly for the home team, those who signed it would have likely been rounded up, tried for treason, and hanged.  

Eight days shy of America's two hundred and thirty-ninth birthday party, a five-member majority of the Supreme Court of the United States in the matter of Obergefell, et al. v. Hodges, Ohio Director of Health, et al., took a significant step towards delivering on Jefferson's promise.   One might have thought - based upon the language used by the Core Four who not only dissented - but who each authored his own separate, dissenting opinion - that the Court's decision suspended fundamental, individual liberties or something similarly drastic.  For any among our number who read any of the dissenters' opinions (to the surprise of no one, Justice Scalia's was the most "colorful") on Friday, the mere fact that the Sun arose in the east on Saturday morning must have come as an enormous relief.

The Court's opinion, which Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy authored (Notice his initials, anyone?), concluded with this paragraph, in which - at least to my eye and to my ear - Justice Kennedy achieved harmony between the beauty of the language and the power of the ideals it was written to convey...


#LoveWins.  And there is not a goddamned thing wrong with it doing so.  

Not a goddamned thing. 




-AK