Think Before You Pink

Excellent sentiments

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Breast_Cancer_Awareness_(263497131) Photo from wikipedia.

It is a feeling of hopelessness that brings us to this place. Desperate to save those who suffer. Determined to prevent those we hope never will. We are clawing and grasping to find any morsel of earth to hold onto when we feel like we’re spiraling out of control.

It is hopelessness. I know that now.

I used to think it was ignorance. Or lack of caring. I used to get angry. Every October when the grocery aisles started to display a sea of pink. “Pinkwashing” we call it now. Pink ribbons. Pink products. Pink everywhere. A tradition so old it has a name. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it used to make me so angry to watch the way we commercialize it.

Then my father has a brush with the C word. The word we don’t even want to spell because it feels too forewarning and…

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Things, memories, and what’s important?

It’s been an odd week. Work was very busy, and my knee swelled up very nicely (7 weeks post op ACL revision), so my ability to walk was greatly hindered as of Wednesday. With one kid recovering from strep, we find out he’s got mommy’s genes and is breaking out in hives from amoxicillin. Dang, never realized how difficult it is to spell amoxicillin if you haven’t typed it in a long time. Luckily, this kid doesn’t complain about much, so it hasn’t hindered him much at all. Then my acrobat 2.5 yr old daughter decides tumbling down the steps is fun. until she gets to the part where the steps end, and it hurts (we have a split staircase, so this sounds worse than it is).

So, bum knee since wednesday, strep and fevers for our 3.5 yr old, I got sick, now my wife is sick, and today we decided ‘what the heck, why not go to the pumpkin patch.’ Yes, we are crazy.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. We scrambled together all of our things. Double stroller, ergo carrier, DSLR, camcorder, diaper bag, extra layers in case it’s cold, snacks, our kleen kanteens for us and the kids, and bottles for the baby. Load up the car, brace for awful traffic and…it’s not that bad. Get there in 45 minutes and the local roads to Alstede’s Farm aren’t bad at all. So we pull in, park, and unload the kids with their things. So far so good. Two kids basically sleeping in the stroller, one chilling in the ergo, and we load everything onto the monster-stroller. I throw the camera bags in the bottom of the stroller, strap the diaper bag over my shoulder, and we’re off.

Hang out at the hay stack while we wait for all the folks we’re meeting. Then head over to the ticket booths to buy the activities we want. We settle on corn maze which includes the hayride to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch. Head to the corn maze first, so we can enjoy it while the kids are still mostly awake (except my two, who are nearly out cold in the stroller, but the infant was alive and kicking!). so we stroll through the children’s corn maze. the staircase in the middle was a struggle with a double stroller, but we made it up. with some older kids leading the way, it’s a piece o cake. We get out, start walking over to the hay ride area and park the stroller.

Kids get out, we grab sweatshirts for whomever wants one, and i reach down and grab the camcorder and….NOTHING. My Nikon D90, trusty family camera since the first little guy was born, was nowhere to be found. This is troubling, because I also made the executive decision to leave my 28-300mm lens on the camera for this excursion rather than swapping it out for my everyday lens. I’m not even an amateur photographer, but i love this lens because it’s such great quality and the utility of it is amazing. aside from weighing about a quarter ton, it’s great.

Camera and Kids

But you know what? All of this? Just things. Things can be replaced. That’s been my attitude in life for a long time, and it really helps me not be bothered by various events in life. We all have these events. Your first new car gets its first new ding. Those nice pants you bought for work get caught on the arm of the seat on metro north one day (sub in LIRR as well). Those cheap shoes you bought at Bass fell apart almost 2 weeks after you bought them. I could go on. Things are expensive. Things are cheap. But if they can be replaced with money, it’s really not that bad to have them damaged or lost.

But then, there’s the memory card. The memory card I’ve been meaning to plug into the computer for months now. I kept saying I’d get around to it. It takes 5 minutes. You just pop it out, pop it in, and import to whatever your preferred photo application is (I love Lightroom + iPhoto). I’ve imported some stuff. Like my son’s 3rd birthday (March). my second son’s birth/hospital stay/heading home (Dec/Jan 13/14). Christmas, 2013. That’s it.

I have my memories of my daughter’s birthday party this summer. Of my trip to Yankee’s photo day, on the field before the game as players walked around, for my niece’s first Yankee game with my sister. Of our first vacation as a family of 5 to Bethany Beach, DE in August. That’s what I can remember was on the memory card. Jeter’s ceremony game on September 7th was on there also. I’m sure some things mixed in between.

The thing is, I remember all of those things because I try not to hide behind the camera when I’m enjoying life’s moments. But, I still love scrolling through my photos on a lazy day or evening, and having a photo fire a memory back to the front of my brain. I don’t need those photos. I won’t love purchasing a replacement camera and lens. But I’m lucky enough that I’ll be able to replace those things. I’m just holding out hope that some good samaritan will show themselves this weekend, because I walked that corn maze 4 times, and I didn’t see it once. That camera holding that memory card is out there somewhere. Maybe someone will view the photos and take it back to Alstede’s farm tomorrow. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find my good samaritan this weekend.

Ether way, we had a great time at the pumpkin farm. But you know what? I missed it, because I was looking for things and not creating memories.

 

pumpkin 2014

 

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It’s time….now is the time.

Image

“The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be.” Lao Tzu

It is often said that “now is not the time” to have this discussion. It’s often said because, well, frankly, there are so many tragedies that happen that there is a perpetual “cooling off” period of time that just keeps getting extend. Well, it’s been 4,996 days since the Columbine massacre. I pick that point in time because I was in high school, and could feel the impact of it in the days and weeks that followed. Calls for more security, which eventually faded as time passed on. Discussions on video games, movies, and music. When we don’t fully understand something, we come up with various ways to attempt to explain it. This manifests in multiple aspects of our lives. Our need to find answers.

Well, the plain and simple truth is that our society’s “culture problem” is the gun culture. Now, that’s not me saying we need to ban all guns. Few, if any, have made such a call. But as we get bombarded with diversions, let us remember some key points:

  • only 4% of violence in America can be attributed to mental illness.
  • Video games available in the U.S. are typically more censured than in Asia
  • Germany has the largest goth and heavy metal music scene in the world
  • The United Kingdom’s history includes the highest level of imperialism out of any current world power.
  • Most other countries have mandatory service requirements among young men, which results in a high degree of gun ownership but also a high degree of advanced training.
  • When Israel stopped allowing service members to take their pistols home with them, the suicide rate dropped 60%.
  • God has not been taken out of our schools. For one, if you’re Christian, you know that God is omnipresent. It does not require prayer led by the teacher for Him to be present. For another, if anything, all faith’s are more welcome in schools now, rather than being limited to only Christians.

OK, I could go on, but you get the point. The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre is a horrible event that has sparked deep and emotional reactions from many. Some say that should be suppressed, and we should wait. I say, don’t let emotions cloud your judgment, but there is no reason to wait. I grew up in an area where the first day of hunting season is still a school holiday. One of my best friends growing up lived in a house with a gun shop attached to it, run by his father. I shot my first .22 Semi-automatic pistol before I could drive. I was taught to understand and respect a gun, because guns are designed to do one thing and do it well: kill.

In my teen years, there was a lot of hoopla over a law that was passed, the assault weapons ban. Let’s be honest – assault weapons is a term that was used arbitrarily, and there was no real ban, as all existing guns were permitted, and guns already being manufactured were permitted to be sold under the ban. Where those rules were effective, gun manufacturers made modest changes to design (remove a pistol grip), to skirt the law. So whether crime went up or down during that period was very difficult to correlate to the law.

So, let’s get to the point. We need a common sense discussion on gun control in this country. It’s common sense because nearly three quarters of NRA members support the most basic actions we can take. It’s common sense because it helps law abiding citizens have the access they want, while ensuring proper controls exist to prevent inappropriate access to such items.

We can throw around funny catch phrases like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” but that gets us no where. It shows either a lack of understanding of those calling for change, or a willful ignorance of the message being spoken. Yes, a gun is an inanimate object. It requires an operator, like many other objects. But unlike many other objects, it’s purpose is to kill – people or animals – or destroy property. It doesn’t transport people from point A to point B. It doesn’t cut steak or chop vegetables.

We can also throw around diversions, such as “drunk driving is illegal, but people still drive drunk and kill people, we don’t ban cars.” No, but we do ban drunk driving and have tight regulations around alcohol consumption and serving. Since the advent of MADD, drunk driving deaths have plummeted, even as more drivers are on the road today. Drugs are illegal, and people do drugs, but not all drugs are illegal. Prescription drugs are the #1 abused drugs in America, not drugs that are illegal. We have various levels of controls around both legal and illegal drugs. One could easily argue that those controls need to be improved. But that’s a different discussion – one that I would love to see happen.

Back to common sense. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) currently has no leader. Because of partisan actions on the Hill (both parties do this, so not pointing fingers), no one has been appointed since confirmations have been near impossible, and this position is seen as less important. It’s been more than 6 years since there’s been a Director of this office. For the rest, I’m simply going to point to words from Cory Booker’s recent post, which you can read in it’s entirety here, because it really says it all:

1.) Make background checks universal

There are fundamentally two ways to buy guns in this country: through a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), such as a gun store, or through a private sale, which includes gun shows, many internet transactions, and private owners who wish to sell their guns. Federal law mandates that any purchase made from an FFL include a background check of the purchaser under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Federal law, however, does not require NICS checks for private sales, allowing for an estimated 40% of all sales nationally to circumvent any background checks.

Even with criminals disproportionately seeking out private sale opportunities to avoid background checks — a DOJ survey concluded that 80% of inmates obtained their crime guns through private transfers — there were still 78,211 instances of NICS identifying and denying prohibited purchasers from buying one or more guns from an FFL in 2011.

And those 78,211 instances matter. For example, one in every two women killed with a gun is killed by an intimate partner. However, in states which require private sales to be subject to background checks, this number drops by 40 percent. This is in part because many with a history of domestic violence, even a misdemeanor, are identified as prohibited purchasers in the NICS system.

The idea here is quite simple and reasonable: every individual who wants to buy a gun in this country should have to undergo a comprehensive background check to ensure that they are not a criminal, mentally ill, or a member of another prohibited purchaser category. Note that contrary to the claims of many, these checks are not cumbersome or inefficient – last year, background check calls were answered in an average of 6.9 seconds and 91 percent immediately resulted in a proceed or deny order.

A poll conducted earlier this year by a Republican pollster found that 82 percent of U.S. gun owners — including 74% of NRA members — agree that we should implement background checks for all sales. These gun owners don’t want guns in the wrong hands for the same reasons as non-gun owners — they are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who care about the safety of family, friends and community — and they know their rights are made more secure by a sensible regulatory regime.

Existing law defines, quite reasonably, who should and should not be able to buy a gun. Let’s actually put ourselves in a position to enforce these basic standards by passing the Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R. 1781/S. 436), which is pending in Congress. Sign a petition here.

2.) Improve mental health and other prohibited purchaser sharing with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System

Providing for all sales to be screened for prohibited purchasers through NICS takes us a long way towards keeping guns only in the hands of the law abiding, mentally stable people who should be allowed to purchase them. The next step is ensuring that NICS has the mental health data — documentation of whether an individual has been, for example, involuntarily committed — it needs to make those determinations.

The Tenth Amendment restricts the federal government from compelling states to provide all necessary data, which has meant, for example, that 19 states have provided fewer than 100 records of individuals disqualified on mental health grounds since the implementation of NICS in the early 1990s. We can do a better job of inputting federal data into the system, and should start there, but the real gap exists because of several states’ failure to provide their data.

The federal government has employed a carrot and stick approach to improve state participation, but the current incentives and penalties need to be strengthened. The Fix Gun Checks Act, mentioned above, will go some of the way in addressing this issue. The best solution, though, is for citizens in states that do not provide robust data to demand more of their state government (visit http://www.demandaplan.org/FatalGaps for an interactive map that will give you a sense of how comprehensively your state is reporting mental health prohibited purchasers).

A bipartisan poll released in January of 2010 revealed that 90% of gun owners supported addressing such data gaps. NRA leadership has actually shown glimmers of support for this issue, as recently as this morning’s press conference, and should make it a real priority.

3.) Tighten anti-trafficking laws

With all legal sales now running through NICS, and NICS now filled with more data, we can turn to defeating trafficking tactics. There are several options available, but here are two examples:

First, we need to pass a law that makes gun trafficking a clear, substantial, and practically enforceable federal crime. Law enforcement currently uses federal provisions that prohibit engaging in the business of selling guns without a federal license, which, as recently noted by the bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, carries the same punishment as for the trafficking of chicken or livestock. The impact has been that federal prosecutors do not prosecute these cases as often as they do many other significant crimes. While polling data for this specific question is not available, 99 percent of non-NRA member gun owners and 95% of NRA members have expressed support for punishing traffickers to the maximum extent of the law.

Second, one of the most common excuses provided by straw purchasers when questioned by authorities after a crime gun trace leads to them is that their gun was lost or stolen. While retailers are required to report lost and stolen guns, individuals are not. Requiring this reporting will provide an enforcement mechanism against those suspected of assisting traffickers. A 2009 bipartisan poll found that 78 percent of NRA members and 88 percent of non-NRA gun owners supported such a measure.

These reforms, aimed squarely at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, and aligned with the interests and preferences of law abiding gun owners, should be passed immediately by Congress and, where appropriate or necessary, the states. Congress and state governments have no excuse not to act: The majority of NRA members and non-NRA member gun owners support these measures because they are sensible and in no way threaten Second Amendment rights. You wouldn’t guess this from remarks made earlier today by NRA President Wayne LaPierre, whose underlying philosophy of a response to last week’s shooting was “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Most gun owners propose that we do all we can to stop “bad guys” from getting guns in the first place. The plan set forth by the NRA this morning — a woefully inadequate and misdirected response — simply does not venture to do that, and through that omission, fails its membership.

These reforms alone will save thousands upon thousands of Americans, and joined with other reasonable reforms, they can truly turn the tide on gun violence in this country. We owe no less to communities like mine, communities like Newtown, and to the next American community that will, within 45 minutes of you reading this, lose a citizen to gun violence.

Like Mr. Booker says above, comments from Mr LaPierre are woefully inadequate to address the problem. Not only are armed security guards not the only way to stop bad guys with guns, there are numerous instances where they have failed (Columbine being the most notable I can think of off the top of my head). We can spend billions of dollars beefing up security at schools (and why stop there?), but that won’t fix the problem. I’d love to go back to a time where the NRA’s primary purpose was education and training for gun owners and enthusiasts. I’d also love to see us take bolder actions, such as those taken by Australia and the U.K., among others. But I realize the latter is not likely to happen. In the meantime, we should pass the common sense reforms that do not harm law abiding citizens in any way, but would help law enforcement and would improve preventative measures that can be put in place.

Write your federal and state politicians, and demand action. The time to talk is now. Now is the time. “”Never put off tomorrow what you can do today”.

In the meantime, I’ve personally decided I will not be spending my money at Wal-Mart (which I’ve defended on a number of other topics) or Dick’s Sporting Goods as long as they continue to sell these weapons and ammunition. I also plan on writing letters frequently, multiple times per week, to my representatives, the NRA, and other organizations, to express my views.

As a parent now, I find anything less than the basic common sense reforms discussed to be a failure by us to those that come after us. Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Follow me on Twitter @bradykp

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Christmas, accumulation of ‘stuff’, and debt

Christmas Tree

Our family room decorated for christmas

As we approach the Christmas celebration, I have to ask myself: “Where did all of this stuff come from?” We have a 21 month old son and a 5 month old daughter, and the toys are starting to accumulate at an alarming pace. We are faced with the decision of what else to buy for Christmas day.

Of course, this is the society we live in. We measure consumer confidence on a regular basis as a gauge of how our economy is doing. If Americans don’t buy a whole lot more stuff, then things are bad. Really, really, bad. Or are they?

I just can’t imagine us continuing to fill up our house with all of these things. So, as we approach Christmas, we are trying to determine what Santa should bring a 5 month old who’s surrounded by every toy I can imagine a 5 month old can use, and a 21 month old who is old enough to really react to Christmas morning. He was fun at 9 months, but it’s going to be a lot more fun this year, so we want something to ‘wow’ him. At the same time, I’m tired of accumulating drawers and bins full of toys that hardly get used.

I recently read a an article about a father going through this same mental exercise (Married Father of two seeks Best Christmas Ever. No gifts allowed), and it really has some great points. Christmas should be more about spending time together, and less about accumulating more stuff. I want my children to experience Santa Claus, but doesn’t an annual family ski day sound like so much more fun?

The best thing we’ve done so far was take Patrick to the Bronx Zoo for his first birthday. We had such a great time, and I think about that day all of the time. What toys can produce that same effect? Yet, we’ll inevitably buy the toys. It’s impossible to live in this type of culture and not participate in it to some degree. Though, we certainly try.

So, our society has this consumerism built into it, and we’re constantly reminded that our economy can never recover if we don’t all head back out to the malls and buy more stuff. We were told that after 9/11. Then, through this economic downturn, the talking heads on every channel are telling us how terrible things are. People are retiring earlier than planned (god forbid!), and we’re just not spending enough. When will we get back to the good ol’ days of the early 2000s? People keep wanting to know. The average household with at least 1 credit card has $15,950 in credit card debt in 2012. I guess we simply are not going deep enough into debt, like we did in the early 2000s, to be able to get our economy “strong” again.

I think these things are closely related, especially now that I’m a parent. We’re pressured from every angle to buy more stuff. At the same time, we’re told constantly that we’re not spending enough to return back to a “healthy” economy. Well, if a healthy economy is returning to when households were bringing themselves as high as 140% leveraged, then I think we need to examine all the stuff we have and ask ourselves whether or not that really represents a healthy economy. Especially after seeing what happened with hurricane Sandy. I find myself watching many stories about all the “stuff” people lost in the hurricane. It’s a terrible thing, but I sit here contemplating, if I lost my house, and nearly everything inside it, what would I miss? It’s easy to say this without having to live through it, but I truly believe that the stuff in my house is just stuff. It can be left behind if danger threatens my family, and as long as I am surrounded by Patrick, Abigail, and Lisa, then all that stuff just doesn’t matter that much. Create more memories and worry less about stuff.

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Welcome to the Casuale Lodge!

Welcome to the amazing and lowly-anticipated blog I have finally got around to starting. It’s an idea that has been brewing in my head (among other things) for many years now, and it finally has come to fruition. Want to hear about a great beer? How about a fun local business in New Jersey? Happenings in Hoboken or West Orange? Personal finance tips? Frugal living ideas? My crazy experiences on a daily basis as a new dad, twice over? The highly anticipated political views of myself, or my opinions of someone else’s political views? Current events, or not so current events?

You’re probably shaking your head left and right, even as you say “Yeah! That’s Exactly What I Want!”. Well, listen to your words, and not what your brain is telling your head to do. This blog will be ‘Casuale’, which is the Italian word for random. It also loosely translates to aimless, or senseless, which describes what I have to say on numerous occasions. But – if you look closely, you just might see something you like.

I’m a fan of conversation, and will undoubtedly post thought-provoking words. But sometimes my posts will surely be nonsense. Saracasm is a favorite tool of mine, so lighten up before you get too mad at me. Sit back, grab an IPA, and enjoy the show…

To be continued…

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