April 2007


I cleared out my car today. I mean really cleared it out. There were things that were in the trunk of my 2001 Sentra that I’ve been vowing to remove/store/throw away for months. It’s interesting to see how my life has been going just by looking through the layers of junk I have in there.

A Franciscan priest and geologist about two hundred years ago discovered that one could get an idea for how old the Earth was by studying the rock layers that built up on top of each other. His name escapes me now, but he made the significant guess that by taking into account the millions of years rock layers take to form, one could get an idea of how old the Earth was. Billions of years, he postulated.

My trunk is similar in one regard. You can tell a little about me based on the layers of books, clothing items and coffee mugs piled on top of each other like sedentary rocks.

You can tell that I bite off literary wise more than I can chew. I have novels I picked up at flea markets or my parents’ house or from library sales that I will never read. Ever! Roman Civilization, A History of the Middle Ages 1030-1398, some book by Graham Greene (Power and the Glory was one of the best books I’ve read). Then there are those mugs. What the heck was I doing with all those mugs? And where are the tops? I have no clue. As my mother says, “off to the world in a little green boat.” I guess if they ever find that boat it will need a viking’s funeral because I threw some of the mugs away. So you can tell I used to drink a lot…of coffee that is. Then there’s the spare tire that I’ve been too lazy to put back into it’s container. I’m not sure that says too much about me until you see it was pinning things down in my car. There were socks and some women’s shoes (I have no clue on that one).

My most recent find was three sets of 1990 baseball cards: Fleer, Donruss and Upper Deck are in binders. I used to collect baseball cards and I specifically remember the 1990 season, which was when those cards, which detailed the 1989 season, were produced.

I should have chucked them.  A friend gave them to me when he moved out of his house before its closing date. I don’t know why I took them. What’s a 27-year-old man to do with a set of cards from when he was 10 years old? Nevertheless, I couldnt’ bring myself to chuck them. So, I held on to them. They’re still in the back of my car, but it’s a lighter trunk, so I suppose they will make the first layer in the geodesic record that is my life!

 A few of those guys are still playing, too: Tom Gordon, Moises Alou, Barry Bonds, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Julio Franco, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio and a few others come to mine.

 Maybe I’ll part with them when those guys finally retire. In Julio Franco’s case, I should probably not hold my breath.

I watched some jets take off and land at the airport in Albany. It was pretty nice, actually seeing the jets taxi down the runway, the engines picking up steam. Then they would turn on even harder and the pilots would shoot the jet fast, heading this time in the other direction. The planes would go out of my view and then suddenly, the nose of the aircraft would be visible to me, peeking above some treetops. The planes thrusted into the the sky and I watched each disappear to the clouds. It was quite beautiful, despite being grey and overcast. A few jets landed too. I’d never seen a plane land with my own eyes. It was scary, actually. The first one, a Delta plane, seemed to come in really hard, and the wings tilted a bit from side to side. It was quite beautiful, though, as with a loud screech their landing gears hit the ground and the planes shot quickly out of site. My heart pounded more watching them land than watching them take off. It was a little scary.

Some people may call me a coward, but I call myself a human being. I’m not thrilled at the prospect of flying down the road. I’ve always wondered if that is how I will meet my maker. The thought of meeting my maker is a little scary to me, actually.  I’m not sure where it comes from, this paralyzing fear of things. So weird because I’ve never been afraid of viruses, germs or even being punched for that matter. Airplanes however have always kept me up at night.

I have this dream sometimes that I’m waiting at the boarding area with a pass in my hand. I can’t seem to grab the courage to pass through the metal detectors, though. I don’t refuse to go. The dream just stops right there, though. On occassion, however, I say screw it, and I walk through the metal detectors and on to the plane, which takes off and lands. I feel so free, so great then. I don’t know if there is any meaning to this. Every time I try to address my fear of flying, I seem to conquer one aspect only to have another arise.

I guess we all die some day so I shouldn’t be too weirded out by the possibility of perishing in what is really the most infrequent of transportation accidents. Perhaps there is room for some spiritual growth here. One thing’s for sure: I have to face down this fear sometime.

I’m flying in September and I’m a little phobic of airplanes. Actually, a lot phobic. Perhaps because I’ve never done it before. A psychologist I go to suggested I visit the airport here in Albany to watch the airplanes land and take off. I’m going to to do that. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Dear Ms. Jones,

I read tonight that you had to resign from your job at MIT for lying for longer than I’ve even been alive about your qualifications working in the university’s admissions office. This story will be all over the news for the next three or four days and die out and you will be left to handle the aftermath.

Let me start by saying, Ms. Jones that although I guess I agree with MIT that it’s not good for people to lie about their qualifications, I fully support you in whatever your endeavor is. I guess you lied about graduating from Union and RPI, which are nearby here, but you clearly did it to find work in a field you enjoy, which is to help people get into the school of their dreams. I can’t begrudge you the work you did for nearly three decades. Personally, I don’t care. My admissions process was pretty stressful. Not that I was trying to get into prestigious schools, unless you count Keene State College, SUNY Cortland and SUNY Oneonta or Emerson College as such. I ended up graduating seven years later with a degree from Brooklyn College, by the way. Anyway, there were some people in my high school who actually had good grades and got into good schools and for some of them I felt really awful. They seemed so miserable, so stressed about the whole affair. Who knows why. Maybe they thought that their value was only in getting into a school and neglected their other strong points or maybe their father and mother were just uptight yuppies. Either way, I’m sure that in your time heading up the admissions department there at one of the hardest universities to enter in the nation you encountered not a few kids who felt life would end if you didn’t accept them to school. Some you accepted I’m sure while others you didn’t. One kid who went to my high school for a while who did get accepted ended up drinking himself to death, some say because of the stress of your university. I’m sure, Ms. Jones that you did your best to let in the best and the brightest and also the most stable, and I think your college owes you that credit. I hope the state of Massachusetts leaves you a good severance. Anyway, I wont join any bandwagon of people who create Sunday morning chatter about the “hypocrisy” of what you did. Certainly, you’ll be talked about for a while by the likes of commentators and radio talk show hosts and your story will circulate through the email chain for a few days and then your affair will be an afterthought. It’ll be mentioned in a few books about ethics, but believe me, Ms. Jones, you have nothing on any presidential administration, ours included.

So, hang tight while some may try to vilify you. I for one wont. I understand. I’ve embellished a few job applications in my life, adding an extra month to a previous job or making a friend a supervisor–this was back in the day. Anyway, in that regard, we are certainly no different. Do you know how many people lie on job applications? Hundreds of millions here in America, I’m sure. There was a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays who told the organization that he’d served in Nam, for crying out loud. You’ll be fine. Your book will sell well, I should say, except perhaps with those parents who emotionally shame their children for not getting into the top schools out there, forcing them to take extra violin lessons or go to computer camp, when really no one wants to go to those places.

Be proud of the work you did, and think about reorganizing your financial situation. Relax. Do a talk show. Defend yourself if you have to. Sure, you lied, but we all do. What you likely did was for the good and imagine how many scientists, researchers and educators have sprouted in part because of your encouragement. I stand with you, Ms. Jones. You may have not done the right thing, but you clearly did better things too.

Good luck,


Former CIA director George Tenet is now passing the buck for Iraq back towards Dick Cheney, probably the war’s biggest supporter. In a new book written by the ex-spy chief, Tenet argues that Cheney, former Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz and others within the Bush administration mishandled the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Saddam Hussein did indeed possess unconventional weapons and misused his “slam dunk” statement to support the weapons surveillance.

Tenet’s book, certainly not the first from a former administration official or ally, unfortunately serves as another example of someone directly involved with the war passing the buck up the chain of command. So much do people do that that it seems no one wants to take responsibility for this garbage. Cheney, several months ago during one of his softball batting practice sessions with Tim Russert, asserted that he had been influenced by the national intelligence estimate so much as to support the invasion.

Well see what happens. Naturally, this book will be all the chatter, but isn’t it just another example of people washing their hands of what is rightfully their responsibility. This attitude of exculpation has come from active war supporters including Colin Powell and Richard Pearl.

This however all comes as the Democratic House of Representatives considers issuing more subpoenas to the Bush administration for documents and testimony relating to U.S. Attorney firings as well as well as pre-war intelligence.

As I predicted, the paranoia surrounding the Virginia Tech shooting has come here to Upstate New York. SUNY Cobleskill, a four-year college 45 minutes from Albany, has suspended Tharindu Meepegama, a 20-year-old student at the college for posting photos of himself online holding a shotgun. Meepegama told the Times Union of Albany that he posted his picture on the social networking site Facebook. He is undergoing a psychological evaluation at a hospital in nearby Oneonta.

The college says that it takes threats seriously, regardless of what happened at Virginia Tech, where more than 30 people were killed nearly two weeks ago in the nation’s largest killing.

I really doubt that their claim that the suspension had nothing to do with VT is valid. Clearly, they are avoiding what they see as a possible threat. Ordering the student to go to psychological counseling/evaluation appears to be a part of the insipid paranoia that is circling around this event.

Next week, the New York State Senate, ever the body most hysterical about crime, will hold a hearing on campus safety to address what can be done to prevent another Mr. Cho. Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno is also urging Gov. Elliot Spitzer to join them in efforts to reinstate the death penalty in the state.

This week, an interesting thing will likely happen in Mexico City. It looks as if the city will be the first and only abortion zone in Mexico. I don’t know much about abortion or the politics behind it–particularly in Mexico–but this seems like a strange phenomena to me; a local area that permits abortion, in spite of the rest of the nation’s policies. That would be like having prostitution legal in Reno or alcohol illegal in Oberlin, Ohio, despite it’s permission in the rest of the state.

I think abortion is revolting, so I’m not happy about Mexico City, but I can assure you that I’m losing no sleep over the matter. The Pope made a statement, essentially asking the city council there to reconsider, but being as liberal-minded as they are, it appears that they may not reconsider their tentative approval for the matter.

Just strange, I guess. Oh well. Our country permits it everywhere. It will be interesting to see what happens in this.

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