Friday, May 29, 2009

Rant #21: Who Supports Those Who Pay Child Support?

Finally, after checking with Albany, the capital of New York State, for the umpteenth time, my child support notice came into my workplace, so I am officially finished with my child support payments. After more than 18 years of having this money taken out of my earnings, my paycheck will finally reflect my salary, not less what I pay for this support each week.

To get this done in as timely a manner as possible--it has been two weeks since my daughter turned 21--I had to use my own checks and balances system to make sure that Albany was doing what it should have been doing--and no, they weren't.

I discovered this early on, when one of their representatives gave me a very hard time, lied to me about sending out the notice, and was completely unruly on the phone. The second representative I got when I called a few days later was nice, but basically paid me lip service, and did not send out the notice (I don't know if the notice we did receive came from her or from the next person I spoke to).

Finally, I called a third time, and whether it was through him or the previous person, the notice came to my work today. I am ecstatic ...

Well, almost 100 percent ecstatic.

Let me explain. Several years ago, when my payments started to go through Albany (ordered by the court as a way to put a buffer between myself and my ex-wife, as I had been actually handing her a check each week), I was told that it would be in my best interests to set up an account with the state, so if, for some reason, payment from my employer came late to them, they could use the money in the account to make a seamless payment to my daughter through my ex-wife. This actually happened a few times for whatever reason. Once money was taken out, it would be replenished.

The account was interest bearing, meaning that whatever money was in there would accrue interest for the length of time I had the account. Since I have had the account for more than a decade, the interest might provide a tidy sum at the end of my responsibility.

Well, the end is now, and I checked up on this. I found out that the state is only obligated to pay me whatever overpayment I made for child support (one week) and the principle in the account. Whatever interest accrued goes to--

The custodial parent with physical custody (I have joint custody, but not physical custody), which is my ex-wife!

I questioned this and I was told that a reimbursement such as this will never include interest.

Now remember, I have been paying taxes on my child support since day one, have not been able to declare my daughter as a dependent, and have not had a clue about how my child support was being used for my daughter's upkeep. When I was briefly out of work in the mid 1990s, the state took two-thirds of whatever money I had coming in for support, and I had to pay back what I "owed" when I became employed (no, I am not a wealthy person, by the way).

Now, they hit me with this nonsense, which I can tall you was never explained to me when I set up the account.

Yes, Albany loves to stick the knife in and turn it counterclockwise.

When I was on the phone and found this out, I decided right then and there not to ask about exactly how much interest had accrued. I didn't want to aggravate myself even more than I was.

I guess the main thing is that this nightmare is finally over--although, obviously, the financial support I provide for my daughter continues.

But you know what? It's better to want to help out than be forced to pay out as a form of punishment for a marriage that failed. I always felt like I was being blamed for this failure, rather than both of us bearing this responsibility.

So be it. I am done!

(By the way, the poster that I have included in this rant has nothing to do with me--I just put it in to show that guys like this--and any gals out there who pull this crap--should be locked up for failure to pay their support. However, when you use support as a punishment tool, you are going to have people running away from their obligation. Laws should be changed so such payments are not punitive.

Anybody who says they aren't the way things stand now is an idiot, just plain ignorant, or both, plain and simple.)

Rant #20: I Hate Spammers

At one time, during the pre-Internet days, spammers were people who liked to eat Spam. I never understood the fascination with this processed food, but so be it, they weren't bothering anyone.

In this day and age, the term "spammers" has taken on a brand new meaning. Spammers are people who spread negative email about subjects that no one wants to read about. Some spammers also spread pornography and computer viruses, malware, trojans, and the like.

I don't understand the philosophy behind what spammers do. Why do they do it? What do they get out of it? What pleasure do they get in doing this, and more importantly, where do they find the time?

Most email programs now have some sort of spam protection, but the spam still manages to slip through from time to time. As the owner of two blogs and several other music-oriented sites, I can tell you that while spamming is down probably 90 percent of what it once was, it still exists.

Again, I don't have the slightest idea what drives these people to do what they do.

And now, about people who like Spam ...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rant #19: I Have Gas

Have you noticed how the price of gas has gone up and down during the past few months?

I don't truly understand why there is such fluctuation, but it is something that affects our pocketbooks, so it is something that I wanted to comment about.

Remember when gas, at least on the East Coast, was approaching $5 a gallon? The oil companies recorded record profits, while the rest of us swooned with misery every time we had to gas up. Some people were spending upwards of $100 per fill up.

Then gas nose-dived. I remember just about six months ago, you could get regular unleaded gas for $1.70 here on the East Coast, and while traveling, I noticed that in Georgia, gas plummeted at some stations to the $1.50 range.

Now, as the summer season begins, I notice that gas is getting closer to $3 a gallon.

Do you notice a pattern here?

Notwithstanding the official explanations (which personally I don't believe a word of) from the oil companies, I would say that the price jumps during the heavier driving summer, and it falls during the lesser driving winter.

I know that is simplistic, but based on the past several months, it seems to be true.

I don't blame the oil companies for trying to make a buck (more like several billion bucks). But why can't they tell us the real reason why gas goes up and down like an out of control yo-yo? Don't tell us about barrel prices, wars in distant lands, or cutbacks or rollouts--just tell us that you are getting us when we need the gas, and letting us off when we don't need the gas as much.

I think the American public would have slightly more understanding of these fluctuations if the oil companies were straighter with us.

Rant #18: I Speak, But No One Responds

This was brought up by one of the people that responds to my posts--the only person to consistently make comments about what I am saying via this blog.

Yes, I guess I am venting a lot of steam in my blog. Sure, it is personal, but I do talk about general subjects that have probably touched everybody at one time or another.

However, the feedback has been minimal at best.

I have tried to expand the reach of the blog, but so far, to no avail. Maybe through you, the regular visitors to the site, you can electronically spread the word that this site is up and running and ready for comments.

Please, let me know what you think about the blog. What you like about it, what can be improved.

I have worked pretty hard on this site. I am trying to do something both fun and stimulating. But I haven't heard from enough of you to know if what I am doing is beneficial in any way.

I know that people from around the world are visiting the site. The counter tells me that the site has been visited several hundred times, and that is with minimum promotion.

So praise me, raise me, dump on me--but please let me know your opinions.

And again, thanks to those who visit on a regular basis.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rant #17: Don't Sell Me On Cell Phones

I know that we are in the high-tech age, where information is virtually at our fingertips.

I know that it is nice--and oftentimes a necessity--to be in touch with friends and loved ones.

However, I really can't stand cell phones and what they have done to society.

It would please me to say that most people are responsible with their cell phones, but alas, I really don't think I can ever make that statement. Most people that I know (and see around me) completely misuse this privilege. They use the phone during the most inopportune times, such as when they are driving, when they are at work, when they are food shopping, and when they are attending a movie or concert.

I have a cell phone, but it is an antique. I bought it a few years ago, and it really doesn't do anything but make phone calls. It doesn't take pictures, doesn't fold into my pocket, and doesn't do the myriad other things that today's cell phones do. And I like it like that.

I rarely use the phone. It has helped me out of a couple of scrapes, especially when my old car broke down. Other than that, I pay per use, so every three months I pay a flat fee and add x amount of time onto the phone. I have more than 700 extra minutes on the phone, and I will never use this time up.

I see people not paying attention to the road or anyone around them when they are on these things. Even though in New York it is illegal to talk on these phones (and text message) when you drive, I see countless people each day on the phone when they are behind the wheel. I have also nearly had a number of accidents because people can't talk and drive at the same time.

Not only that, but people use their phones in a rude way. The other day, I witnessed a woman having an argument with someone on the phone. I mean, does anybody need to hear someone else's personal business?

What did we do without cell phones? We made calls when they were necessary, mainly at home, but if necessary, at a pay phone. We did not yak about nothing in the supermarket or while driving.

I think the phone has become the new adult toy, but people act like babies when using these things.

I wish driving penalties, in particular, were increased for those caught using these things while driving. Since the cops are basically turning their backs on those using these phones, let's make the penalties stiffer, which would certainly give them more incentive to pull someone over when they are using the phone while driving. Let's make it a $1,000 fine for using the phone while behind the wheel, and the phone gets taken away, and has to be picked up at the local precinct the cop works out of.

I don't know if that would deter people from using these phones unsafely, but I know that it would scare the heck out of me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rant #16: No YES on Dish Network

As I have mentioned previously, I am a huge Yankees fan. One of my great pastimes is to watch the games on television, as I will do tonight as the game versus the Texas Rangers is on a local, non-pay channel in New York.

My problem is that as a Dish Network subscriber, I can't get the Yankees' YES channel.

For whatever reason, Dish Network does not carry the YES channel, has no intention to do so, and has stated so since the channel was created several years ago. When the channel was first made available, and it became apparent that Dish Network was not going to carry the channel, I voiced my disapproval to the satellite provider. By the way, Dish Network does carry the Mets' SNY channel, but will not carry the Yankees' station.

They claim that it would cost subscribers too much, because they would have to offer it as a regular sports channel as opposed to one that people would simply order if they wanted it. Supposedly, that is how it has been offered to Dish Network, and the satellite provider has balked at such a deal.

I enjoy Dish Network. The price is less than Direct TV, and at least with the package I have, you do get a lot of channels (of course, most of them you don't need, but anyway ...).

Well, another season, another washout with Dish Network and YES.

They have never explained to me or anyone else why they would not offer the channel as an add-on, one that subscribers could pay for if they wanted it. Heck, the offer Playboy Channel that way, and if one wants it, one pays extra. Why not for YES?

I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with Direct TV's supposed "satellite exclusive" on certain channels and events. Dish Network simply does not feel the need to challenge this exclusive, which I find perplexing. Among other channels, we can't get the MLB channel either, probably for the same reason. There are also various football packages that are exclusive to Direct TV.

Of course, I could switch to Direct TV, but I would rather fight than switch, even if I am punching a bag that doesn't exist.

I would think that Direct TV's monopoly on certain channels would be illegal. A few years back, I even contacted then New York Governor Elliot Spitzer's office about this, to no avail (I don't know where Spitzer was at the time, perhaps watching the Yes channel with one of his friends).

So, another year, another year without the Yankees. I just don't think this is fair, especially since I am more than willing to pay for the channel as an add-on.

Funny, I can get Chicago Cubs games, but as a New Yorker, I can't get Yankees games. It just does not make any sense.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rant #15: Have It Their Way At Burger King

This is a phenomena that I have experienced at numerous Burger Kings from New York to Florida, and I can't explain it.

Why when you ask for extra pickles on your Burger King sandwich do they not put any extra on?

I have eaten at hundreds of Burger King restaurants over several decades. I am the type of person who does not eat tomatoes, and I always ask for them to be left off my sandwich (certainly, Burger King likes this, because the cost of tomatoes has risen dramatically over the years).

When I order my Whopper, I always say, "No tomato, extra pickle." They abide by my wishes of leaving the tomato out of the sandwich, but when I open up the sandwich to check for extra pickle, I usually see a single pickle.

I experienced this same thing for the umpteenth time this past Saturday at a Burger King right around the corner from where I live. I know it is no big deal to ask again for the extra pickle--which I did--but why should I have to do this anyway?

Burger King supposedly prides itself as the fast food chain of choice for those who want to have their sandwiches their way, but when I ask for extra pickle, I have it their way, not mine.

I would say, if I didn't know better, that this was an isolated incident, but I have been at too many Burger King restaurants up and down the Eastern Seaboard to know that it isn't. I don't know what happens out West and overseas, but on the East Coast of the United States, this is what happens.

I want to know why? Why can't I have it my way?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rant #14: Time To Bust All TV Informercials

Television can sell anything--from diapers to pens to music. Television has been selling since it went on the air to the masses in the late 1940s, and it will be selling things way after we are all gone.

However, the recent rash (yes, I know I used that word) of infomercials is getting my dander up.

Why? Well, they say that "sex sells," so if you blend TV and sex, you see dollar signs

There is a group of commercials with the same spokesman that has really gotten me angry. I don't know the guy's name or the company, but these infomercials sell everything from get-rich-quick schemes to real estate on the cheap.

It's the same guy in each one, dressed to the nines in an expensive business suit, nice tie, and nice haircut. They guy probably is in his late 30s or 40s. He addresses the others in the informercial in sort of a teacher-student type of setting.

Well, if what he was selling wasn't bad enough, he is selling this stuff surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women that you could die for. And many, if not all of them, are wearing tight outfits. If one sneezes, I guarantee all of their real (or implanted) assets will pop out!

The one about real estate really gets my goat. He explains to two beauties about buying real estate on the cheap, and then the girls take over the screen, imploring the viewer to buy this system. They are wearing tops where their cleavage is ready to burst, and the more they implore, the more you see.

Again, I have no problem with watching beautiful women displaying their assets, but it really has been taken to a ridiculous extreme with these informercials.

And don't get me started on those male enhancement infomercials. I am happy that both the man and woman like the man's new-found strength and size, but don't poke me in the eye with it. I really don't care. (No cleavage in these, I might add.)

Also, they are increasingly showing these male enhancement ads during televised sporting events. I often watch these events with my son, and when these ads come on (the shortened, minute-long version), it makes me a little uncomfortable.

Perhaps I should do what my son does: he laughs.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rant #13: Turn Off the Fawcett

I want to start out this entry by saying I have absolutely nothing against Farrah Fawcett. I have never been a fan of hers, never been enamored of her like so many people in the 1970s were. I respect her for what she is and what she has done.

But to record the near-end of your life for prime time network TV is a little much, wouldn't you say?

I don't want to be cruel. The woman is dying of anal cancer.

But, do we have to see this on network TV? Again, I don't want to be cruel, but is this the ultimate ego gratification?

You can say that this show exists to teach us something about the frailty of human life, or about a cancer patient's struggles to maintain dignity in what may be her final days. But do we have to see her throwing up on network TV?

Personally, I don't think this is educating us in any way. NBC is a fourth-place network, and in such a dire need for ratings that at this point, it will show just about anything.

And the ploy worked. NBC registered excellent numbers for the show ... and a sequel is planned!

My recent health issues aside, I don't think I will be tuning in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rant #12: Getting Old-The Eyes Have It

In another chapter of my unfortunate series about getting old, yesterday, March 19, became one of the most important days of my life.

I have been experiencing disrupted vision in my left eye for slightly less than two weeks. The only way I can describe it is that when it is raining, and you go in your car, you can see as the raindrops hit the window, but you can see better once you put on your wipers. That is what I have been experiencing for the past 10 days.

I went to my eye doctor, who sent me to a retinologist. I went yesterday, and just to make a long story short, I had the first of at least two procedures done to alleviate this problem. I later found out that without these procedures, I might lose the use of my left eye permanently.

Evidently, I have what is referred to as a "rogue vein" growing in my eye. It is sort of like a weed growing in the midst of a finely manicured field of grass. The vein was bleeding, but has now stopped, and the procedure I had will probably not restore my eyesight in that eye fully, but will alleviate it to the point where I can function pretty normally.

The first procedure involved lots of tests, pictures, and a ton of different eye drops, all leading up to a shot (not a hypodermic needle, but something similar for the eye) into my eyeball. The next is some type of laser surgery in two weeks.

I am resigned to living with this thing, but at least I can see to a certain degree. I do so much with my eyes--writing, proofreading, even typing this message out--and I have been so careful with my eyes for so long, that it is kind of depressing to know that something like this will impact my eyesight for the rest of my life.

The good thing, though, is that I was tested for glaucoma, and I don't have it. In fact, the doctor commented that my eyes, actually, were in pretty good shape for my age, other than this major problem.

I guess it is a sign that I am getting old. First the gall bladder, now this. It makes me wonder--what's next?

Hopefully good health.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rant #11: Heckling the President

President Obama walked into the middle of a storm over the weekend, and I think he pretty much got out of this storm unscathed.

However, the behavior of some people toward the President of the United States was a bit over the top.

The President gave the commencement address at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., which, if you want to be frank about it, is one of the great universities in our country, but is probably more well known for its athletic program (and Knute Rockne) than anything else it has done education-wise.

There has been great debate whether a pro-abortion, pro-stem cell research president should be making an address--or more importantly, and appearance--at a Catholic school, but he went anyway.

As he acknowledged the schism that existed between his Administration's views and those of the anti-abortionists, several people heckled him, and he had to stop his speech a few times, asking the majority of the crowd, which was now booing the heckler, that it was "all right," and that he could almost understand their disagreement with him.

He almost strode the middle ground by stating that everyone on both sides of the fence should work to reduce the number of women seeking abortions "by reducing unintended pregnancies and making adoption more available."

I have to agree, although I would have added that Hollywood is also to blame for the increase in out-of-wedlock pregnancies-- the glamorizing of this situation in both movies and television might add to this uptick in real life.

Back to the hecklers. Did they achieve anything? Well, I think they looked so stupid, and sounded so out of place, that they made our President look better than he has in a long time. Rather than get angry with their outbursts, he almost seemed to welcome them.

A better protest was adopted by several graduates, who respected our President but still disagreed with him by placing messages on top of their mortar boards.

Personally, I find hecking a tremendous waste of time, but in this case, it was great P.R. for a President who can use some slaps on the back every once in a while, telling him that he is doing a good job, especially with his plate brimming over like it is right now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rant #10: Getting Old One Step At a Time

Twenty-one years ago today, I became a father for the first time. My then wife gave birth to my daughter, and my life has never been the same since.

No, I am not going to bring up the previous rant about child support (although I was assured again today that my stop-payment notice was in the mail), but I would like to talk about getting old.

(No, I am not the guy in the photo.)

Although I am not ready for the scrap heap yet, I feel that at 52, my body is beginning to betray me a bit. My hearing appears to be fine (although at times I do turn up the TV sound a little bit), but my eyes aren't doing as well. I have worn glasses since I am three years old, so that's no big deal, but I simply don't see things as clearly now as I did a few years back. I am going to the doctor tomorrow to have myself checked out, but my eyesight just isn't as good as it used to be.

After somehow managing to avoid a hospital for my first 50-plus years of life, last year, on my birthday believe it or not, I had my first surgery. After experiencing terrible pain in my stomach, my wife took me to the hospital and without going into great detail, I will tell you that I had my gall bladder removed.

But, still basking in my youthful dreams of not doing anything I am told to do, I actually tried to get off of the operating table during surgery, only to be restrained by the doctor and nurses. Now, an older person would not have had the strength to do such a thing, would they?

Today, current cultural references often pass me by, I often have to wait a split second before I get up off the sofa, and I have been called an "old man" by someone yelling out the window after I beeped him as he was cutting me off on the road.

Maybe I am not as old as I think I am. My hair went years ago, but what I still have left hasn't turned gray.

The last time I went to the doctor, he asked me a question that he had never asked me before: "How is my sexual performance?" I know that sometimes men lose their ability at my age--hence, Viagara and all the knockoffs--but at least right now, I can still do it with the best of them (what's the comparison--a porn star?).

I look in the eyes of my daughter and my teenage son, and I see youth and great potential. Me, I've been there, done that, and would love to retire in a few years.

Fat chance. My luck, I will be too old to enjoy it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rant #9: Digital Television Changeover

Why are they changing the way we receive television? The changeover from analog to digital reception is one of the most ridiculous things that has been foisted on the public in years.

Yes, digital transmission brings better picture and sound to your television, but honestly, if you don't have a large-screen, top of the line receiver, you will never know the difference.

I understand that the government wants to use the analog channels for other things, but as the date grows closer to full digital transmission — June 12, I believe — does the general public really need this?

Cable and satellite viewers are pretty much covered during this shift, but those receiving their signal from the old fashioned rabbit ears are in for a shock when they can't get television by mid-June. And even if they sign up and get the converter box, from what I hear there is no guarantee that they will be able to receive the broadcasts, because the digital signal does not travel as well as the analog signal does.

The government has funded a program to allow the public to buy the converter boxes at little or no cost, and when the program ran out of money, the President pushed back the changeover date from February to June. But I will bet that many people still don't understand what will happen on June 12.

Not only that, but don't you think the consumer electronics companies had something to do with this changeover from analog to digital? I mean, they are benefitting from the hysteria around this, as people trashed perfectly good TVs to purchase new ones that can get the signal, and for this ability, they paid five or six times what TVs used to cost.

The whole thing seems to be unnecessary. Why can't stations have both analog and HD transmissions? The public won't have to cave into hysteria, and there is plenty of available bandwith for the government to do whatever it has planned for the analog area.

Yes, sometimes I long for the old-fashioned Channels 2 to 13, the rabbit ears, and the old circular UHF antenna. It just seemed so much easier — even with the ghosts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rant #8: Employers Taking Advantage of Employees In Down Economy

This is a real touchy subject, but I am going to pursue it anyway, because that is what Ranting and Raving is all about.

I have found, though personal experience and through the experiences others have told me about, that many companies are taking advantage of employees due to our lousy economy.

This is not the second coming of the Great Depression, as so many would have us believe. The economy goes up and down every several years, and although this downturn appeared to be huge, I personally don't think it was as bad as some might claim. And what is wrong with pulling back spending a little bit, and putting more in the bank?

My problem is that companies continue to make money during this downturn, but because their profits are not as high as they had been, a total panic has set in. And in my experience, this has filtered down to the employees, who are being held accountable for any lessening profits that companies may have accrued.

Companies are blaming their employees, giving them extra workloads and things to do (and think about) because they are not making as much money has they had been making. Of course, the company's hierarchy is never to blame for the excesses of the past — look at what the banks have gotten away with until recently (and to a certain extent, are still getting away with).

And the incredible amount of layoffs ... how many layoffs did it take to pay for Citibank's naming rights for Citi Field, the Mets' new home?

it is so easy to blame the little guy, that company's are doing just that, rather than looking inwardly at themselves and the polices that they put into practice that created this mess that we are in. Bernard Madoff aside, the little guy is not the one to blame, and there is certainly no need for panic.

The institution of proper business practices — on every level — will return our economy to what it was. Dumping on the little guy is fashionable, but it accomplishes absolutely nothing positive.

I know that what I said was pretty simplistic, but it is time for the big shots to look at themselves and see what they did wrong — not to their employees, who simply followed their policies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rant #7: The Downfall of Space Exploration

As the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from its Florida launch pad on Monday on an 11-day mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, does anybody out there get the chills, is proud to be an American, and will remember this day forever?

The only reason that I ask is that when I was a kid, when our space exploration was at its zenith, I felt those emotions when we would send astronauts into space. It is an emotion I doubt anyone feels today.

When we reached the moon in 1969, I think most people thought that outer space was our oyster: we could go anywhere in space, and would do so during the next decade. Well, the 1970s started out fine, and we had several more missions to the moon.

Then the whole thing seemingly stopped. I know there were public outcries about the money spent to go into space (and there still are), but everything basically came to a halt by the middle of the decade, and really has not picked up again.

During the past 30 years, the rest of the world has caught up to us in space flight, and we have had numerous cooperative missions. We have had the space shuttle, and we have had numerous unmanned missions.

And yes, we have had accidents — far too many.

At least public relations-wide, I don’t think too many people have gotten too excited over NASA’s recent missions. Several of our past presidents have given out some weak mandates for further space travel — didn’t the younger Bush put out some type of mandate about reaching Mars during his second term? — but I don’t see much making anyone too excited.

President Obama is a trailblazer. What I would love to see is for him to be a trailblazer for space exploration. Like John F. Kennedy, make a firm mandate about revisiting the moon — and also about going onto Mars — and make the powers that be stick to this mandate.

In 1969, our country and the world stood as one as Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. It can be done again, and not only can it be done, it should be done. The benefits far outweigh what some consider to be the excesses of such missions.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rant #6: Child Support As Punishment

After more than 18 year, I am rapidly approaching my final child support payment. I have been happy to provide for my daughter, but as of mid-May — when my daughter turns 21 — this part of my life will finally be over.

However, don't confuse child support with providing the usual financial support that most parents provide for their children.

Of course I will continue to give her money when she needs it — I have given her thousands of dollars for her education, both directly from me and through money that has built up over the years.

However, child support is often used as a punishment, and it certainly was in my case. I have provided for my child even when I was out of work--through no fault of my own--and did so without remorse.

However, the system puts people like me in a predicament. I get fully taxed on the child support, but I cannot claim my daughter as a dependent because she does not live with me. Thus, I have paid for upwards of nearly two decades without receiving any help from the government.

I have never argued against the child support, and have had it increased several times during the past few years. But the time comes when children need to be independent of their parents financially, especially with the state factored into the equation.

I will never not give my daughter the money she needs; however, I have not seen a full paycheck paying me my full salary (less taxes) in nearly 20 years.

I think I have earned that right, and I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A fairer system would be that both parents are obligated to set up accounts for their daughter, and the child can use the money when he or she needs it. Money gets taken out of both paychecks either weekly or monthly or per paycheck. This is a much fairer way, because in the current system, guilt is directed at the paying party. I have seen it, witnessed it, and been part of it.

It has not been easy (especially when the state took nearly my entire unemployment when I was out of work (and yes, I was obligated to pay arrears when I found work), but I have done it, and I am happy that I have reached the point where the end is near.

I will never financially abandon my daughter, but there comes a time when that need should be because you are obligated as a parent to do this, not because the state tells you to do this. There is a great difference.

And for every guy like me, there's dozens that don't pay a quarter in support, many times because the custodial parent has never legally asked for any payment from the other spouse.

I could go on and on how I was treated during the past nearly 20 years by my ex, and how I have joint custody of my daughter, but that is possibly another rant.

Right now, I am looking at the end of the tunnel, and liking what I see.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rant #5: The Demise of the Local Record Store

Having been a record collector since the 1960s, among the most pleasurable experiences of my life has been to go to the local record shop, sift through the new releases, and purchase and bring home some new music.

Well, I haven't been able to do this in some time, because it seems that all the local record shops, or at least a number of them, have closed.

I know we live in a world where a digital file is valued by some as much as actually having a record in your hand, but I miss the days when you would go into your local record shop and be surprised at what you would find.

You don't get that experience today because so many of the local, mom and pop shops have closed. They simply can't compete with the chains like Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

Actually, I don't have a problem with those chains. If you are looking for pretty standard stuff, they are fine, and their prices are decent. However, you definitely won't find any obscure stuff there. And, even more importantly, their sales help doesn't know a thing about the records or the music.

I had an experience a few years ago that illustrates this point. I went to my local Best Buy and was looking for a particular Elvis Presley recording. I couldn't find what I was looking for, so I asked a salesperson, "Where are the Elvis CDs?" Well, I was taken to Elvis, but not Presley--Costello. I like Elvis Costello, but any music person worth his salt knows that when you ask for "Elvis," you are asking for Presley.

In a Virgin record store a few months back, I asked the sales person where the Judy Garland stuff was. He asked me again who I wanted--I don't know if he didn't hear me or didn't know who I was talking about--and then said, " I don't think we have anything from her--her recordings are too old." Left to my own devices, I did find Judy Garland CDs. He should have known that although she has been dead for 40 years, Garland has numerous releases out, and every year new ones come out.

You would not get this type of "service" in a local record store. People who run and work in these stores know the business, know the artists, and know what you and they are talking about.

In my community, we have one last local record store left. They sell mainly used vinyl, but they do have some new releases. When I have been there, people come in looking for everything from the Monkees to John Coltrane, and never do the salespeople flinch--they know just what you are looking for.

I also know that Record Store Day, highlighting local venues, just passed. I am glad these stores are getting some recognition.

And again, that is not to put down all the chains. The late, lamented Tower Records chain had staff who knew what they were talking about too. I really miss Tower Records ...

But I miss those local record stores too.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rant #4: Kindle and College Textbooks

My nearly 21-year-old daughter is in college, and each semester her professors give her a list of textbooks that she needs for her courses.

The same thing happened to me 30 years ago when I was an undergraduate. My professors gave me their lists, and I went out and purchased the books that were required for the courses.

There is a difference now, of course. Along with the skyrocketing cost of actually going to college are the ridiculous costs for textbooks. Each semester, I pay upwards of $1,000-plus dollars for textbooks for my daughter.

I find this absolutely outrageous.

Anyway, Amazon's Kindle is being launched in a larger screen, and some pundits have theorized that they are trying to grab the college age market by making deals with textbook publishers so that their books will be available via Kindle.

Read about it here:

I don't have the least bit of a problem with this if it cuts costs. Sure, the Kindle itself in this version will cost nearly $500, but if it cuts down the cost of textbooks, then you will make your money back in no time.

Of course, there are some who are "ranting and raving" about the evil that Kindle is bringing upon the world of the college student, but if they were so concerned, then textbooks wouldn't cost $100-plus dollar apiece on the low end.

What I am saying is that the textbook publishers made their own bed--and now they are going to have to account for the excesses.

More power to Kindle if it is able to bring down the cost of textbooks!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rant #3: The "New" Yankee Stadium

Everyone that knows me knows that I am a died-in-the-wool Yankee fan, and have stuck with them through thick and thin for the past more than 40 years. I will defend them to the death, and even though the team stinks right now, there is nothing like the Yankees in the pantheon of American sports.

However, their new stadium, and the policies that govern that stadium, stink worse than a week old bologna sandwich.

Why they even needed such a stadium with the cathedral that they already had is an argument for another time, but now that they have a new stadium, it seems to have been doomed from the get go.

The latest snafu it has found itself in is tickets and their pricing policy. I am not going to get into the prices for the field level seats, because those are seats that I will never sit in, not at more than $1,000 a pop (down from more than $2,000 each!).

What I need to vent about are the upper-level seats, commonly referred to as the 'nose bleed seats." The Yankees will tell you that these seats are available on an affordable basis, but the fact of that matter is that you can't get the cheaper prices unless you come to the stadium without a ticket, park in their over-priced garages, and see if the cheaper tickets are available on the day of the game. If there is nothing available, you have wasted your time and money.

Also, most of these "affordable" seats are available during the week, and sorry, I work so I can't take my family to those games. My wife works too, and of course, the kids go to school.

After prodding from my son, I did get tickets to a game in July, and yes, not only did I pay through the nose (and don't get me started on taxes, handling, and the other fees they put on these things), but I had to get the tickets through a secondary source (once known as a scalper). And yes, I paid more for the tickets than their original price.

I think the Yankees (and to a lesser extent, the Mets with their new stadium) have done a disservice to the real fans, the ones who have been with the team for years and who are the real baseball fans, not corporate types who feel being seen at a game is paramount to going to a board meeting--when it's time, they get up and leave.

This might be the final time I go to a Yankee game, so the four of us should savor that game.

(By the way, when we are on vacation in Florida, we are taking in a Tampa Bay Rays game. I paid about half of what I paid for the Yankee tickets for these tickets, and we will be much further down than in Yankee Stadium.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rant #2: Entertainment Tonight

Like many of you, I have watched Entertainment Tonight for years. It is sort of like TV white noise, where you feel the need to have the TV on but you don't really have to watch it too closely. The show was fun, nothing more, and the 30 minutes passed pretty quickly.

A few years ago, a companion show, The Insider, was added, so that stations carrying the show would have a one-hour block of time that they could fill after the local and national new.

Since this show has been added to the mix, I have noticed a general degrading of the product to the point that both shows are impossible to watch.

Both shows feed on celebrities and gossip, and that is all well and good, because that is what they should be spotlighting on these shows. However, the other material that they have cast their eyes on has made the programs the TV equivalent of World Weekly News and that ilk.

They have at least one porn story each week, related to movies emulating old TV shows, or most recently, a porn queen whose implants went awry. Then there is the coverage of the octuplet birth, where the brain damaged (and that is high praise for this dummy) mother was made into an instant celebrity--I am pretty sure ET paid her for her so-called "exclusives."

There have been many others, including the coverage of the woman who has had plastic surgery to increase her breast size into another dimension (don't get me wrong, I like big breasts as much as the next guy, but if you saw this woman, you would know what I mean), as well as their fascination with Oprah Winfrey. Heck, they hit their jackpot last week when they profiled Kirstie Alley's amazing gaining of weight--and had clips from Oprah's interview with Alley.

The shows have become trash TV at its worst, and they have become highly unwatchable.

Oh, for the days of Dixie Whatley and John Tesh (I can't believe I just wrote that!).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rant #1: Today's Music

I was born in 1957, right in the middle of the first era of rock and roll. We are talking about Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry, and all the rest.

Fast foward. I just turned 52. My wife and I are raising a son in the current era of rock and roll (if that is what you want to call it). This era's musical heroes: 50 Cent, T.I., Coldplay, Pink ...

Get the picture? I cannot stomach today's music, if that is what you want to call it. There are no melodies, nothing to sing along to, and well, to me, the music is crap (get it c-rap=crap).

Yes, I guess I am an old fuddy duddy, but how can you compare the trash around today with what we heard when we were kids?

My son listens to all different types of music, but like most kids today, he leans toward what is currently popular, meaning rap and what I like to call yelling and screaming music. These "artists" complain about everything under the sun, but do they really know what suffering is?

Yes, I know there were probably similar complaints when Elvis became popular, and when the Beatles came on the scene. Certainly, our parents turned their noses at the Rolling Stones and any music with drug references.

But c'mon--you could chide those artists' appearance, but could you really argue that their music was unlistenable?

I know what my son is listening to, but it is very hard to police. He is 13, and this is what kids are listening to. I can't really argue with him, because he also listens to the aforementioned Beatles, and a lot of 1960s and 1970s artists.

And, by the way, while I am ranting, wasn't it more fun--and more artistic--to sing about the "act" rather than say it right out loud, and do it so vulgarly?

Everyone knows what the songs are about, and have been about for generations. But to come out and say it--well, that is just not very artistic, is it?

I blame both the artists and record companies for allowing this trash to rear its ugly head, but we as a society have to take the blame too, because we allow this garbage into our homes.

Believe me, I am not for standing over artists, telling them what to say, and threatening lawsuits and other actions. It is just that the artists of other generations, with less artistic freedom, got their point across in a much more elevated fashion.

Is there any music out there today, being created by younger artists, that is listenable?

(By the way, I don't want to make this another music blog, this is just a subject that I would like to address here--other subjects will follow, I promise!)

Welcome to the Ranting and Raving Blog

I have created this blog because I need an outlet to vent my frustrations with everything in this crazy world we live in.

Please feel free to reply to my vents and add your observations, even if they run counter to mine.

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